S&W’s Forgotten Guns

Courtesy Guns.Com

Smith & Wesson is a legendary American brand. It’s one of the few gun companies that is a household name. Everyone knows the name Smith & Wesson. The company started in 1852 and has produced firearms ever since. When a company has been in business for 172 years, you know they’ve done things right. While they’ve had an excellent run in producing firearms, they’ve produced a few forgotten guns.

S&W’s Forgotten Guns 

Hidden in the annals of Smith & Wesson’s history is a collection of forgotten guns. These firearms, while not in the limelight, are no less impressive. Let’s delve into these unsung heroes and explore why they might have slipped from our collective memory. 

S&W Model 30 

The S&W Model 30 and the Pre-Model 30 Model .32 Hand Ejector stand as poignant examples of S&W’s forgotten guns. This I-frame design played a pivotal role in the creation of the J-frame, a term now synonymous with small, concealable revolvers. The Model 30, available in various barrel lengths, is most renowned for its 2-inch model, an early snub nose revolver.

These were six-shot .32 S&W Long revolvers. The little .32 S&W Long is no bear gun but was potent enough with the right round to reach 12 inches of penetration through ballistic gel. It wasn’t impressive, but it was fairly capable. The Model 30 had excellent accuracy, and that’s why the 6-inch version exists. The little .32 S&W Long cartridge was notable for its accuracy and is still used by Olympic-level shooters. 

The recoil was very slight, and the gun was remarkably easy to control. The I Frames were notably smaller than the J-Frames but were limited to lower-powered cartridges like the .32 S&W Long. As the industry embraced the .38 Special for concealed carry, plainclothes work, and detectives, the .32 and the I Frame faded away. 

S&W Model 52 

How often do you hear the term semi-auto .38 Special? It’s likely not all that often. The S&W Model 52 was a handgun produced from 1961 to 1993 but in relatively small numbers. The Model 52 wasn’t a defensive or duty pistol but a weapon designed explicitly for Bullseye shooting. 

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The Model 52 used a typical S&W 1st-gen autoloader and seemed to be a very heavily modified Model 39. It used a short recoil system with a single-action trigger. It’s designed for competition shooting, so features like adjustable sites are standard. A five-round box magazine kept the gun fed with .38 Special wadcutter rounds. 

Due to the length of the cartridge, the gun could not cycle a standard .38 special. If we trimmed the bullet back to a wadcutter, it would fit perfectly in the magazine without making the grip absurdly long. This 40-ounce pistol is noted for being super accurate and very light recoiling. It’s certainly an interesting and niche design that falls into the forgotten guns realm. It was always niche, and as Bullseye shooting became less popular, so did the Model 52. 

S&W M&P15R 

The S&W M&P15 refuses to join the world of forgotten guns. It’s one of the most common AR-15s on the market, and the Sport Models likely rival PSA ARs in popularity. The M&P15 series might be popular, but have you ever heard of the M&P15R? 

The M&P15R is your basic S&W AR-15, chambering the 5.45x39mm round. S&W released the M&P15R in 2008 as their first non-5.56 AR-15. The gun was all AR and odd for its caliber. It’s kind of cool in an odd way, but I understand why it faded from relevancy. 

The Obama-era ban on imported cheap 5.45 killed off most 5.45 designs. Lots of AK companies quietly ended or reduced the production of 5.45 guns. As the industry leaned into ARs, the 5.45 just didn’t have much appeal compared to a 5.56 rifle and its stable source of ammo. 

S&W Light Rifle 

We have to go back to World War II for this one. During the War, the Brits needed guns. They needed them so bad Americans donated guns to British citizens to fight the Nazi threat. The Brits wanted a light rifle design in 9mm, and S&W got the contract and a 1 million dollar advance. 

The Light Rifle was a semi-auto-only, blowback-operated open bolt gun fed from a 20-round box magazine and somehow weighed nine pounds. The M1 Garand, for reference, weighs 9.5 and shoots .30-06. Anyway the not so Light Rifle went to the U.K. for testing and quickly failed. The U.K.’s 9mm ammo was much more powerful than the United States 9mm and the guns fell apart. 

S&W designed a stronger model to withstand the hotter 9mm, but the contract was canceled. S&W marketed the gun around the United States, but it didn’t appeal much. The guns were mostly destroyed, although some 217 were released as Curio and Relic firearms in 1975. 


AS stands for Assault Shotgun and was a 12 gauge, selective fire shotgun. It was built to resemble the M16 and featured a similar overall design. The gun fed from a 10-round box magazine and fired up to 375 rounds a minute. S&W Designed three models of the AS and they all became forgotten guns. 

The AS-1 – Semi-Auto Only

The AS-2 – Semi Auto With a 3-Round Burst

The AS-3 – Full Auto Only 

Only a few prototypes were made in the 1980s. The Army was big on the idea of a full-auto shotgun in this era, and several companies designed their own. The reason it’s forgotten is pretty clear: The Army realized full-auto shotguns were silly. 

Gone, But Never Forgotten 

Nothing stays forgotten because nerds like me will dig it up and enjoy the weirdness of these forgotten guns. I’d happily own any of them and have my eyes on a Model 30 at the moment. Every company has some duds or just forgotten about guns in their inventory, and I’m planning to chase them down. If you have any favorites you’d like to see, please let us know. 

Travis Pike
Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.