by Tiger McKee
Last week a friend stopped by and we were doing the show-'n-tell thing with S&W revolvers. He pulled out a "K" frame - three inch barrel and round butt - and handed it over to me for inspection. I'm thinking Model 13, which already had me drooling, but then I notice a short, stubby hammer that looked factory. There were funny looking holes in the cylinder and a strange looking extractor. With a questioning look I glanced over and he said, "Model 547, 9mm." Not only had I never seen one, I didn't even know there was such a thing.
The 547 was developed by S&W in the late 1970's for the French National police, who were looking to standardize their arsenal. Basically it was the F.B.I. model 13 modified to fire 9mm. Two versions were produced between 1980 and '85; a three inch round butt and a four inch with a square butt. (According to my Standard Catalog Of Smith & Wesson only about 10, 270 of these pistols were built.) After tests the French went another route, and the 547 never really caught on with revolver shooters or fans of the 9mm.
In order to run the 9mm the 547 had several unique design features. The extractor is grooved, and inside the grooves are six spring steel fingers that pop out to engage the extractor grooves in the 9mm case. A flat hammer, without a firing pin, strikes two pins, a free floating firing pin and a cartridge retaining pin. The retaining pin prevents the case from bouncing back as it's fired, resulting in the firing pin punching a hole in the primer, and maintains the proper headspacing for the cartridge. A stronger mainspring was used to ensure ignition of primers, especially the harder primers found in most European ammo.
"If you ever decide to get rid of this," I told Tim, "..." A few minutes later I was the proud owner of a 547. Finally, today, I hit the range to test fire it. The very first thing I notice is the short trigger pull, which I guess is due to the design of the pistol's action. I also figured out real quick that my speed loaders for .38/357 wouldn't work on the 9mm case. (If anyone has any HKS #547 loaders out there for sale let me know.) My quick solution was to use a 9mm magazine to feed the cylinder.
At seven yards, using double action, the pistol shot extremely well, more accurately than I could fire it. The trigger pull is stiff than due to the mainspring mentioned above. It never failed to eject empty brass. Feeding the rounds from a magazine, keeping the revolver in the strong hand, worked well because you have to kind of wiggle the rounds into the cylinder. Plus it's an easy way to carry lots of reloads for the revolver.
I've never sent a revolver to S&W to have it reworked, but I think this will be the first. The 547 is cool, you don't see many of them, and it's one I'd like to get reblued and looking sharp. I'll let you know how this turns out.
Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama. He is the author of "The Book of Two Guns," writes for several firearms/tactical publications, and is featured on GunTalk's DVD, "Fighting With The 1911 - http://shootrite.org/dvd/dvd.html Website: www.shootrite.org