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The 1950 Marketing Contest to Name the S&W Chiefs Special

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Today we’re taking a look at a Smith & Wesson Chiefs Special, but not just any Chiefs Special. This is serial number 29, factory engraved and gifted to Chief Edward Book of Passaic New Jersey in 1950. When S&W introduced the new revolver to compete with Colt’s Detective Special, they simply called it the “Model J” (it was the first of the J-frame S&W revolvers). They released it at the 1950 annual conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and ran a contest among to attendees to name the new gun.

Chief Edward Boyko’s suggestion of “Chiefs Special” was (perhaps unsurprisingly, given the audience) voted winner, and S&W gave him a personally engraved example as a prize. He would carry that gun for another 10 years as Passaic Chief of Police before retiring in 1960.

The Chiefs Special was essentially a slightly scaled-up I-frame revolver, strengthened to handle the .38 Special cartridge instead of the previous .38 S&W option. This extremely early example has a number of features not present on standard production guns, including the small trigger guard, large cylinder release latch, and semi-circular front sight.

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