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For most of its history, Smith & Wesson had been known for producing high quality revolvers. When the polymer pistol craze began, S&W jumped on the bandwagon as well and, while they still make a wide variety of revolvers, are mostly known for their pistols and AR-15 rifles – at least to the younger generation of shooters.

There was, however, a brief period of time where Smith & Wesson thought about offering high quality, American-made bolt-action rifles. The project began in S&W’s Engineering Department in 1972. The idea was to determine the feasibility of producing rifles at their Springfield, MA plant instead of importing them from Japan.

The design was known as the Model 125. The rifles were slated to feature a select European walnut stock with contrasting rosewood fore-end tips and pistol grip caps. The bolt was fluted and chromed, and featured a 60-degree short lift with three solid locking lugs. The bolt fit into the “Accu-Guide” bolt slide slot for a “smoothness you’d expect in custom grades only.”

The rifles were to be offered in .30-06 and .270 Winchester, with five-shot magazines and 24” barrels. The deluxe model mentioned above had an MSRP of $174.95 and the standard model had an MSRP of $169.95.

Unfortunately, the gun never got off the ground. Testing and market evaluation proved that it was not a practical move for the company and that a “cheaper and better rifle” could be imported and sold by S&W instead. As such, the project only lasted a year and was abandoned in 1973. The unfinished barreled actions were reportedly sold as scrap.

Even so, it seems that the gun lingered for a couple years in various pieces of gun literature. Two years after the product was scrapped, the 1975 Guns & Ammo Annual advertised the gun for sale.

Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson, regarded as “The Bible” for all things S&W, has very scant information on the gun’s production. The authors note it as being an incredibly rare model with as few as five having been made. It’s possible that even fewer survive today.

Logan Metesh is a firearms historian and consultant who runs High Caliber History LLC. Click here for a free 3-page download with tips about caring for your antique and collectible firearms.

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  1. S&W was already importing & branding rifles from Husqvarna as their “letter” rifles – A, B, C, D, and E. These were available in the late 60’s, in .270 Winchester, ,30-06, .308 and .243, as I recall. The Huskies were solid actions, Mauser-ish, but the stocks were a bit off in their lines and execution from the two I’ve seen.

    S&W also re-branded some bolt action rifles as the 1500, 1700, etc rifles. I think these were Howa, but I can’t recall for certain just now.

    S&W also produced a pump shotgun during this period. I’ve never seen one.

    The two best-known handgun companies (Colt and S&W) both dipped their toes into longarms several times in the past, before they both got wrapped up in making AR’s/M-16’s.

    • I remember firing a Smith shotgun when I started with the sheriff in the early 90s. We had a couple that were hidden away in the back of the arms locker and one of the old timers said that they dated back to the 1970s. They were rusty and very beaten up. I dug the best of the lot out and took it to the range just to see how it would shoot. The gun was so bad that I couldn’t get five rounds through it without a jam even after I cleaned and oiled it – and pump guns shouldn’t jam unless they’ve suffered major league abuse or were badly designed to start with. I put the gun back and went back to my Mossie 500. I’ve been told that the Smith shotguns were made in Japan – probably by Howa – and were purchased by law enforcement agencies in the 1970s on the strength of the Smith and Wesson brand name. I see a police model occasionally at a gun show – they’re priced significantly below similar Mossberg and Remington guns and that says most people know what they’re worth. I don’t know what happened to our department’s guns – they may still be buried in the back of the safe for all I know.

    • I know someone at my range who has a “Smith & Wesson” rifle that is used occasionally on scoped rifle matches. He said it was a Howa that was rebadged by S&W. So a few even made it out to Australia.

      Has anyone over there seen the Remington badged SAR Leader rifles? I did see a few that were either from the US by F-Troop or customs and returned.

    • I bought a S&W Model 3000 factory riot gun from a friend in 87 or 88. It’s been a long time but I seem to remember it was stainless but maybe not. Decent shotgun and I kept it for several years and then sold it. I’ve always wished I had kept it.

    • I had one of the letter rifles in .30-06. don’t remember which one. What I do remember is it was all over the paper. could not hold a group. I know it was not me because I got it gone for a 7mm magnum, Remington 700 that I used for groundhogs and only seldom missed with the big 7. The S & W was a good looking gun but that was all.

  2. Sure will be glad when terms like Mossy, Remmy, Winnie, etc., get forever banned from shooters’ vocabularies. I’ve never heard of a Kalashie, Rugie, Coltie, Glockie, Savie, Berettie, Kimbie or Kriegie so why do these three companies constantly get stuck with names that would be more at home in The House At Pooh Corner or Now We Are Six?

      • And we’re all off to Dublin in the green, in the green
        Where the helmets glisten in the sun
        Where the bayonets flash and the rifles crash
        To the rattle of a Thompson gun.

        Just had to……

    • My father lovingly doted on his Krieghoff trap piece and spoke of “Kriegie” with affection. I always found it grating to the ears. After inheriting her (and learning to appreciate the finer things), I can forgive the old man for that one.

    • My apologies Al – I grew up in the People’s Republic of New Jersey. By state law all names must end with an “ie” or “y”. I escaped Jersey 37 years ago with very little save my wife, beagle, and Mossberg 500. I’ve tried hard to repent of my Jersey ways – for example I haven’t voted for a Democrat since Jimmy Carter – and be a better person. Even so I sometimes lapse back into my Joisey talk and I hope youse guys don’t got a problem wid it.

      • Thanks Dave. No apologies necessary. If you managed to escape New Jersey and remain a free man for 37 years you’ve definitely earned the right to call any gun by any name you choose. I just hope you made it all the way to a state like Arizona, Wyoming or Utah where you can actually stand beneath that big, blue sky and smell freedom in the air!

  3. Don’t forget about the Colt-Sauer rifles, which is another case where a US company tried selling an overseas product as their own.

    The Sauer 90 actions were amazing; the rotary hammer-forged barrels on the European Sauer rifles were amazingly beautiful things. I rather wish I’d bought one, instead of the Voere I did wind up buying over there in the 1980s. Alas, the money wasn’t there…

    Gorgeous guns, though.

  4. I recently saw an S&W Model 1500 in 270. A nice looking rifle. It seems it said that it had been made in Japan to S & W specifications. By Howa?? Are they not good?
    We should refer to brands (Ruger, Winchester, etc.) respectfully. We can and do refer to these rifles that we own and shoot and are the apples of our eyes—affectionately.
    Kinda like with cars!!!

  5. Smith and Wesson indeed marketed rifles made by Howa. I know one is up for bid on Gunbroker as I type this. I’ve never owned one but I’ve handled a few and always thought they were fine rifles.

    I owned a 12 ga semi auto S&W model 1000 for a long time. It was absolutely a fine gun. Never jammed and was deadly at ridiculous yardages. I sold it a few years ago because I just wasn’t using it anymore…getting old and there just aren’t many birds or bunnies around now.


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