When the movie Dirty Harry came out in 1971, it became an instant classic. Now, 40 years later, you can quote lines from that movie, and you don’t have to explain them. Just about everyone has heard them, and knows where they came from. Clint Eastwood did for Harry Callahan what Arnold Schwarzenegger did for a robot from the future, with his "I’ll be back" line. And Eastwood was more believable.
A couple of the more memorable, and over-used, quotes from the movie are "Go ahead, make my day" and "Do you feel lucky, punk?" The second one is not an accurate quote, but that’s generally the way folks remember it. What Eastwood really said, as he pointed his big gun at a crook who was reaching for a shotgun, was, "I know what you’re thinking. ‘Did he fire six shots, or only five?’ Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kind of lost track myself. But being this is a .44 magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question, ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?"
There was even a song written around the Make My Day quote. Of course, no one could ever deliver those lines with the same venomous contempt Eastwood did in the movie. Harry hated everybody, and it showed. It’s probably a good thing that Frank Sinatra, John Wayne, Steve McQueen, and Paul Newman all turned down the role.
Eastwood’s statement that his gun was "the most powerful handgun in the world," wasn’t technically accurate, but it wasn’t far off. Actually, the .44 Remington Magnum was a wildcat cartridge developed by Elmer Keith in 1955, and Keith talked Remington into making the cartridges and Smith & Wesson into making the gun. And the .454 Casull, developed in 1959, is a little more powerful, but we’re splitting hairs here. Besides, it probably would blow your head clean off.
The important thing is that Dirty Harry made the Smith & Wesson Model 29 revolver a ‘must have’ gun overnight. When the movie came out it wasn’t actually in production, but since there were people lined up at gun stores, waving money, wanting to buy one, Smith must have decided, "Why not?" Plus, the .454 Casull was a custom only gun at the time, so the .44 was the world’s most powerful production handgun, once Smith started cranking them out.
And people didn’t just want a .44 Magnum, they wanted a Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum (not that anyone else made one). The name Smith & Wesson is synonymous with quality, and it has always been particularly synonymous with revolver quality. Smith has traditionally made the best, most reliable, most durable, and nicest looking revolvers in the world. They also, incidentally, still make the world’s most powerful handgun, the 500 Smith & Wesson Magnum, which doesn’t kick quite as much as you’d think.
But lately Smith has been branching out into areas I’ve always thought of as non-Smith territory. In 2006 they offered the M&P15, a top quality AR-style .223 rifle that features typical Smith excellent fit and finish. The test model I shot typically turned in 5-shot groups in the inch and a half range at 100 yards, sometimes smaller. The rifle is offered in several configurations now, including, thoughtful folks the Smith people are, models with fixed stocks and fixed magazines, so they’re legal in communist countries like California.
That was followed by the M&P15-22, a .22 long rifle version of the .223. It’s a scale model of its big brother, and all the controls and knobs and such work the same, so it’s a great way to get used to the bigger rifle without spending a ton of money on ammo. Plus it’s a lot of fun to shoot, and the railed fore end makes attaching lights and lasers and such a snap.
The big news lately, of course, is Smith’s Governor, a huge revolver, the size of a Christmas ham, that fires .410 shotgun shells, .45 Long Colt cartridges, and .45 ACP cartridges. You don’t want to drop a Governor on your foot, but it would probably clear the bad guys out of a living room chop chop.
Personally, I’m far more impressed with Smith’s new E line of 1911 pistols. While Smith has been making 1911s for a long time, and their SW1911PD is one of the finest .45 ACPs I’ve ever shot, their redesigned E guns are definitely a cut above.
The E series is not even made on their old machines. All new CNC machines were installed in their Maine factory, and some interesting changes were made to the 1911 design. Some of these are way too technical for me, but the ejection port has been improved to cut down on dented brass. The most notable changes involve appearance.
The E series 1911s look like custom pistols, with beautiful fish scale cutouts on the slide in place of the old serrations, and impressive custom grips. But the most noticeable feature is the bobtailed frame. The butt of the pistol is rounded slightly, which makes it more comfortable to carry, and less likely to cause clothing to ride up and turn a concealed pistol into an unconcealed one. Plus it looks fantastic.
To borrow a phrase from the old Oldsmobile commercial, this is not your father’s 1911, and Smith is not your father’s gun company, except in quality. Get hold of a new Smith & Wesson firearm, and you will definitely feel lucky, punk or not . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who never travels without Charmin and Smith. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org