Retro Photo:
Fit for a Lady


The first magazine devoted exclusively to handguns, American Handgunner has been educating and entertaining firearm enthusiasts and professionals for 45 years and remains a reliable source of handgun news and reviews.

With an extensive archive of classic issues, ‘Retro Photo’ is a regular series digging up photos, ads and graphics from the print pages of American Handgunner dating back to 1976.

Smith & Wesson Ladysmith ad, American Handgunner Jan/Feb 1990

Beginning in 1902, Smith & Wesson produced a series of rimfire revolvers built on the small M-size frame. Designed for use by women for self-defense, these revolvers were marketed under the moniker “Ladysmith” until they were discontinued in 1921. However, they wouldn’t be the last of the signature name revolvers.

Some decades later, Smith & Wesson revived the LadySmith name with new models based on the popular .38 Special Chief Special and others chambered in .32 H&R and .357 Magnum. But, unlike the early .22 Long variants, these LadySmiths featured short 2- and 3-inch barrels to accompany their slim grips, improving carry ability and reducing trigger reach for smaller female hands.

Appearing in the Jan/Feb 1990 issue of American Handgunner, Smith & Wesson played up the differences between men’s and women’s hand sizes in an ad for their Ladysmith revolvers.

“We couldn’t think of any reason why a woman should have to adapt to a handgun designed for a man. That’s why Smith & Wesson developed the LadySmith series.”

While not a proponent of viewing history through a modern lens, the notion firearms are designed specifically for men likely wouldn’t be well-received in 2021, especially since women are the fastest-growing segment among gun owners. However, Smith & Wesson did acknowledge at the end of the ad “a handgun should fit the hand that’s actually going to hold it” — a statement that remains true.

Perhaps more telling, though, is the fact Smith & Wesson still produces various models of the Ladysmith revolver, including the 60 LS and 642 LS, further proving the LadySmith continues to fill a need in the modern handgun market. For women or men with smaller hands seeking a carry-size revolver, the LadySmith is a great option — now, that’s obvious.

Read American Handgunner Jan/Feb 1990

Read American Handgunner Classic Issues