In the Spring of 2001, Lew
Horton Distributors and the Smith and Wesson Performance
Center announced the Heritage Series.
This consisted of a wide assortment of anachronistically
styled hand-ejector revolvers, and a couple of divergences
including a version of the old .38 Combat Masterpiece as well as
one of the late 19th Century break-top revolvers.
The first entry into the field was a .44 Special with the
full Doug Turnbull color-case and blue finish on top of
some very superior metal work and polishing by the Performance
before the Lew Horton series, there was a blue.45 Colt Model 25
"Hand-Ejector" and a Model 10 with the parti-colored
treatment. Some observers include these earlier, limited edition
revolvers in the Heritage Series and, given the similarities in
style, this seems to be a reasonable interpretation.
Now, in October 2005, the remnants of the series still
appear on the Horton web page (www.lewhorton.com)
and include the Model 15 Combat Masterpiece, the Ed McGivern
K-Frame and a couple of variations on the K-22.
The large framed revolvers have been sold off to various
distributors and both Horton and Smith and Wesson have moved on
to other projects.
The overall concept and each
of the features of this series met with a very polarized public
response. Some potential buyers loved every single thing about
the series while others hated them with equal intensity.
"I'm sorry, but that's the butt-ugliest gun I've ever
seen" cried a post from the Smith and Wesson Forum.
One gun magazine appointed the color case/blue Model 25
in .45 Colt the title of " Handgun of the Year" while
other publications merely mentioned or else soundly ignored the
series. The politics of the moment were not auspicious for
healthy marketing. The powers of darkness were feverishly
genuflecting before the ghost of Karl Marx, S&W was owned by
an Internationalist conglomerate based in England and Smith
& Wesson, to avoid being sued into oblivion, had hastily
entered into a devil's compact with the Clinton Administration.
The gun-buying public was not happy about any of the
My personal Model 24 was among
the first to arrive at the Lew Horton concern.
A secondary number series seems to put it at number 130
of the first 150 with total numbers of the Blue/Case hardened
variety eventually reaching 308. Fit and finish were flawless and the revolver emerged as a
true mechanical marvel. Like
many new revolvers, initial cycling was less than optimal. Carry up on each of the chambers was a little different
making for a heavy 4.5 pound, variable trigger pull.
This is no bad thing as a modicum of cycling and firing
allows all the parts to seat to perfection.
After a couple of hundred rounds, the 24 became as smooth
and well timed as any revolver can be.
The trigger pull settled in at 3.5 pounds and I further
reduced it by another pound by judiciously shortening of the
trigger return spring.
I temporarily mounted an electronic dot sight on the 24
and shot a series of one inch (and under) 25-yard bench groups. At
the onset, I had visions of outrageously fine off-hand accuracy
and in fact, did produce some very nice targets from the
6.5"-barrel. My interest in this type of shooting is shared
by almost none of the revolver shooters of the past two
"normal" is only the second half of a word - the first
half being "dull". I like to shoot one-handed and so, I do. Even
with the small, round-butt grips, some of my initial slow -fire
one-handed groups rivaled those of my K-22s - particularly when I
was using loads that only slightly exceeded the factory .44
Special RNL loading. Nevertheless,
the thin lightweight barrel lacks the confidence-building
steadiness of the more modern ramped and lugged 6- 8 3/8"
N-Frames. This makes the trigger pull seem heavier than the
actual weight. Over
time-and with various more hand filling grips, I still find that
I tend to pitch the occasional round out of an otherwise
satisfying off-hand string.
Traditional Factory Level Loads and High
Remington 246 RN
|669 fps 245 fpe
W-W 246 RN
|719fps 282 fpe
RN - 4 grains Bullseye
|764fps 324 fpe
250 - 6 grains Alliant Unique
|754 fps 313 fpe
250 -7 grains Hercules (old) Unique
New Tech Anti-Personnel and Utility Loads
fps / 586fpe
|159 gain over 4" Model 29
fps / 325fpe
|38 gain over 4" Model 29
|Speer Gold Dot 200
fps / 338fpe
gain over 4" Model 29
fps / 272fpe
|39 gain over 4" Model 29
|Federal LHP 200
fps / 381fpe
|76 gain over 4" Model 29
With the standard, frame-sized
round butt grips, shooting the 24 much resembles the sensation
of shooting early hand ejectors like the .38 M&P - the ones
with round butt frames or those with the pre-WWII service
stocks. The set of
full-sized "target" grips as issued on some of the
Heritage Series 44 Magnums change the overall feel of the
revolver. They do not quite make it the equal of a target
stocked 8-3/8" Model 29-2 when it comes to landing rounds in the
center of the black with total and predictable repeatability.
With the more accepted practice of shooting from a two
handed grip and Isosceles stance, the whippy barrel takes on
lesser significance and practical shooting in the single and
double-action modes improves in a fairly dramatic way.
The Model 24 becomes a reliable center-mass driller and
Front Sight: This is a very
high Patridge sight with a "gold" bead mounted on the
visible face. Due to the lack of a sighting rib, it looks overly
tall - somewhat reminiscent of some of the target-sighted
revolvers of the 1930s but prompting one critic to say, "Whattaya gonna do? Hide behind the front sight?" It would, perhaps be more visually pleasing with a thin rib
and the extra weight would add to steadiness.
The gold bead can produce solar flares in bright sunlight
but is often the saving point of the sight picture when the
contrast is low.
The Barrel: As noted, it is as
skinny as the first Hand Ejectors that came along at the crux of
the 19th and 20th centuries.
It has a pronounced retro effect as intended. The ejector
rod is enclosed by a short under-lug sans locking bolt. On this particular Heritage revolver, the crane lock is a
spring-loaded ball bearing that impinges a hole in the back of
the shroud. This
arrangement seems to be working on the newer X-frame revolvers
and affords a strong two-point, fore and aft locking system for
The Frame is nicely shaped -
rounded at the top and mating esthetically with the barrel. It
has a rib running upward between the cylinder opening and the
cylinder latch. This item is variously explained as adding
strength to the frame or being a cheaper way of retaining the
open cylinder. The first interpretation seems to suit the
S&W Marketing people, while the second is quite pleasing to
grumpy, aging revolver enthusiasts (are there any other kind?)
The Hammer: Like many of the
Performance Center offerings, it is the "tear-drop"
The Trigger: This is the
modern smooth "Combat" trigger - a legacy of the gun
writers who foisted it off just before switching over to
off-hand groups (and my double action strings) would improve
markedly if it had the old wide-grooved target trigger of the
early .44 Magnums. The
trigger has a stop threaded into the back to prevent
The Grip/Grip Frame:
It's of the modern round-butt variety - a source of
moderate to high irritation for traditional revolver shooters.
The grips supplied are small and frame-fitting, nicely
checkered and having pronounced mineral streaks.
The finish is a very rich deep reddish brown.
This set-up is quite usable - particularly with target
velocity loads. With
slightly heavier loads, the exposed frame top smacks the web of
my hand with resounding unpleasantness.
After the Heritage Series ran
its course, some of the larger round-to-square butt target
stocks appeared on the Smith web page.
They are nicely cut, fitted and checkered, figured
walnut. They are
narrow at the top and taper toward the bottom and would be more
useful if they tapered in the opposite direction or retained the
profile of the old N-Frame Target stocks held in low esteem by the
pre-semi-auto combat "experts". While nicely cut, this set of
Altamont-made grips displayed a sickly gray caste in bright
sunlight and had been finished with a thin application of
something like spray lacquer.
I abraded the surface enough to retain stain and overlaid
the grips with a few coats of Tru-Oil. This stuff is actually a light varnish and sticks very well
to the modern Jiminy Cricket, who-gives-a-flip wood treatments.
This treatment brought out the underlying richness of the
grips. The target
grips wrought a substantial change to the profile and handling
characteristics of the revolver.
The Heritage series predates
the current ownership of the Smith &Wesson Company and
likewise - the current and much-despised key-lock.
It came in during the transition to Metal Injection
Molded lock work and retains the traditional pre-MIM hammer and
Smith and Wesson advertising
from the 1930s and '40s emphasized the satisfaction inherent in
marksmanship practice with the large bore .44 revolvers.
The .44 Special, the direct heir of .44 Russian continued
the heritage of the target revolvers popular in the late 19th
from the longer Special case was virtually identical that that
of the Russian chambering - 'though it is likely that the general
shooting public considered it a ballistic improvement.
While the Heritage 24 is certainly strong enough to
handle the more powerful loads that made the Special so
appealing to the upper crust of handgun hunters and
experimenters, the grip options true to the Series do transmit
recoil from these heavier loads most unpleasantly.
For pleasure shooting and personal challenge, I prefer
loads that approximate the original performance parameters of
the .44 Special or the more modern factory loads primarily
intended for the current, short barreled concealment revolvers. So loaded, the Heritage Model 24 is an interesting blend
of the traditional and modern and a welcome, if offbeat, addition
to my modest stable of working revolvers.
The Heritage 24 retailed for $1100. My distributor
provided me with one at $100 under the list price. Almost immediately, examples of the other 307 revolvers and
the all-blue variation of the 24 began appearing on the gun
auction sites at one to three hundred dollars less than I had
looking for short-term capitol gains were sorely disappointed
and only the passage of time will reveal whether or not those
pristine, boxed revolvers will ever turn a profit for their
owners. Shortsighted owners like me are just shooting them - doing our
part to make the unfired ones even rarer and potentially more
NOTE: All load data posted on this
web site are for educational purposes only. Neither the author nor
GunBlast.com assume any responsibility for the use or misuse of this data.
The data indicated were arrived at using specialized equipment under
conditions not necessarily comparable to those encountered by the
potential user of this data. Always use data from respected loading
manuals and begin working up loads at least 10% below the loads indicated
in the source manual.
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