The S&W Model 13 – The FBI’s Last Revolver

Smith and Wesson are the revolver guys, and it seems fitting that their revolvers were often the last revolver issued to numerous police and military agencies. In the case of the FBI, the last revolver they ever issued was the Model 13. Prior to the Model 13, the FBI had issued the Colt Police Positive and then the S&W M&P .38. When we came into a new era of revolvers, the Model 13 just made sense.

What’s Different About The Model 13

The FBI seemed quite partial to the six-gun, medium-frame revolver. Their caliber of choice with the Colts and later the S&W M&P (AKA the Model 10) chambered the classic .38 special rounds. That’s fine. Admittedly, it’s not a bad cartridge, but it was showing its age in the modern era. The Model 13 offered the FBI a .357 Magnum that wasn’t too tough to carry.

Most FBI agents aren’t gunfighters. You’ll likely find five accountants and lawyers for every HRT guy. They don’t have to use their guns often, so selling the FBI the big Model 27 in .357 Magnum likely wasn’t going to fly. A lot of this era’s .357s were N-frame or L-frame guns, making them large, heavy beasts.

The Model 13 was a K-frame. It’s not quite compact, but it’s much smaller than the bigger frame models. The Model 13 still chambered six rounds. It was essentially the Model 10, but in .357 Magnum. The Model 13 and Model 19 are nearly the same gun, but the Model 19 features accessible sights and an underlug. The Model 65 is the same as the 13, but stainless steel.

The FBI Model

The FBI Model 13 features a blued finish with fixed sights and the lack of an underlug. They utilized a 3-inch barrel and a round butt model. S&W also offered 4-inch models and square butt versions as well. This version would be quite handy and easy to tote in a suit for day-to-day investigative work. The revolver was first issued in 1981.

The FBI wasn’t the only person to issue the Model 13. The New York State Police issued the weapon to replace their Model 10s. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol liked the weapon but wanted it in stainless, so S&W Produced the Model 65. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice also issued the Model 65. Way across the world, the armed officers of the ICAC of Hong Kong issued the Model 13 as well.

It was a popular revolver, but admittedly, it came around at a time when the world was moving to automatics. It served with the FBI until 1991 before being replaced by a semi-auto pistol.

Why It’s the Last Revolver of the FBI

In 1986, the FBI was chasing two bank robbers in South Florida. It ended with a brutal gunfight that’s famously known as the 1986 Miami Shootout. Eight FBI agents faced off against two bank robbers. The majority of the FBI agents were armed with revolvers. The shootout was brutal and ended with two FBI agents killed and five wounded. In the aftermath, the FBI moved to semi-automatic pistols, as did the rest of law enforcement.

The Model 13 was a fine revolver, but for law enforcement, it was outdated. Sadly, its no longer produced, but maybe S&W will toss it into their classic lineup one day.

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.