If you are a fan of the .41 Magnum, you may recognize the late gunwriter Frank W. James. Other than Elmer Keith and Evan Marshall, it is hard to think of any other gunwriters who were so attached to the cartridge. Today, we are going to look at three of Farmer Frank’s custom Model 57 revolvers, which are now in the possession of fellow gunwriter Leroy Thompson.
First up is a five-inch barrel example. For the life of me, I can’t remember who was responsible for shortening the barrel. Frank preferred the five-inch barrel over the factory standard four- and six-inch lengths for the combination of portability and practical accuracy.
While Frank preferred the five-inch barrel overall, there were times when it was simply too long for concealed carry. As a result, Frank had a four-inch Model 57 customized by Fred Sadowski of 300 Gunsmith Service. The completed revolver was then chrome-plated by Armalloy. Frank carried and used the revolver for over 15 years, before it began to shoot loose. Frank was about ready to send it back for a tune-up, when he heard of Sadowski’s 1987 death. Frank didn’t feel comfortable sending the revolver to another gunsmith, partially out of respect for Sadowski’s original work, and for fear that the new ‘smith would somehow wreck it. The beloved revolver was thus retired. Curiously, Leroy Thompson hasn’t mentioned the revolver being worn out. Perhaps it was later refurbished between 1990 and 2015?
Frank’s quest for a replacement four-inch Model 57 started at a firearms trade show, circa 1988-’89. Jack Lewis had already put a bug in Frank’s ear about having a custom handgun made for a feature in Gun Digest’s related annual publication “Handguns.” At the trade show, Frank was talking with Smith & Wesson’s international marketing manager Bill Jenson and gunsmith Wayne Novak, mulling over the details of his dream gun. British gunwriter Rob Adam then joined in, asking if Novak could make two to that specification.
With that, the project was set in motion. Two Model 57 were sent to Novak, and Novak forwarded them to Final Option Enterprises. Frank’s revolver would be built by Randy Traska, while Rob’s matching revolver would be built by Nick Weidhaas. The factory stocks were reworked by Craig Spegel.
The Union Jack marking next to “Smith & Wesson” was in deference to the nationality of both Rob and S&W’s new owners. The US flag was placed next to the “.41 Magnum” for both the nationality of Frank and the cartridge. Jenson and Novak suggested the marking “I of II For Two of a Kind.”
As you can see from the photos, Frank definitely used his example. I think it was ultimately displaced in his carry rotation by a four-inch Model 657 Mountain Gun tuned by Cylinder & Slide. I shudder to think of Rob Adam’s example being confiscated by the British government. Hopefully, it was spirited out of the UK prior to their 1997 handgun ban.