Smith & Wesson Model 19

Smith & Wesson Model 19

Photos by Mark Fingar

It began life as the Combat Magnum, a K-­frame in .357 Magnum designed in consultation with legendary Border Patrolman Bill Jordan. The concept of the Model 19 was to combine the power of the company’s N-­frame revolvers with the portability of the smaller K-­frames. The first models that came off the line in Springfield in 1955 all wore 4-­inch barrels. Several variations evolved over the years with barrel lengths eventually ranging from 21/2 to ­6 inches.

Although, it was one of their great guns, the production of Model 19s slowed to a trickle during the 1990s, eventually ceasing altogether. However, just last year, Smith & Wesson reintroduced the classic Model 19 .357 Magnum.

Tony Miele, general manager of Smith & Wesson’s Performance Center, gave us a look into the window for the return of these guns.


“The Model 19 revolver was a popular choice for both law enforcement and civilian customers for nearly 40 years,” said Miele. “After many requests, we decided to reintroduce it to the product line in both Classic and Performance Center models.”


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Smith & Wesson Performance Center Model 19 Classic, .357 Mag.: $826

Current-­production M19s represent the ninth change in the revolver since its introduction and are therefore, technically, called the 19-­9. These revolvers are available in two formats, with distinct models envisioned for different roles. They are the traditionally-­styled Model 19 Classic and the Performance Center Carry Comp.


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Smith & Wesson Performance Center Model 19 Carry comp, .357 Mag.: $1,092

The revolvers’ carbon-­steel, forged K-­frame is a close facsimile of the original, with a few notable changes. For starters, all Model 19s produced since 1996 have featured round butts. The reality is that grips can be used to effectively convert round butt guns to a square butt, but the inverse is impossible. So, to streamline production, all of the frames are made round. The new revolvers also incorporate the design changes made during the late 1990s, including the updated lockwork.

Smith-Wesson-Model-19-13
Unique to the Model 19-9, the cylinder’s yoke locks into a detent-spring assembly inside the frame, above the serial number.

Yes, this means that they feature the much-­maligned internal lock. This round lock, which sits in the frame just above the cylinder release/thumb piece, allows the user to lock the action using a counter-­clockwise twist with a proprietary key. Actuating the lock prevents movement of either the hammer or trigger, effectively rendering the gun inert.

Like all models produced since 1997, new guns are fit with metal-­injection-­molded (MIM) hammers, thumb pieces and triggers. Both the hammer and smooth-­faced trigger are finished in a manner that roughly approximates the company’s traditional case colors, though they lack the swirling blues and purples that made early generations really pop.


The firing pin was deleted from the hammer back when the 19-­8 was introduced and the new M19s are produced the same way. A floating firing pin is housed inside the frame and a transfer bar is used as an additional safety feature.

Smith-Wesson-Model-19-9
The blued and polished cylinder is chamfered and still carries six rounds of .357 Magnum or .38 Special.

The cylinder latch is another area that departs from the company’s age-­old design. Instead of locking into the barrel shroud at the forward end of the ejector rod, the yoke locks into a detent ball arrangement inside the frame. Ironically, this locking location was eliminated more than a century ago with the Second Model Hand-­Ejector. Apparently, someone found a more cost-­effective way of locking the cylinder at that position. Despite all of these changes, we found the actions on the new versions to be quite smooth.

Vintage Throwback 


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The M19 Classic is a throwback to the original 1950s’-­era revolver, complete with the “Combat Magnum” rollmark on the barrel. This is a very traditional-­looking firearm, albeit with some modern design elements. It sports a polished blue finish, a chamfered cylinder and walnut stocks.

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Viewing the muzzle, the two-piece barrel-and-shroud system eliminated the labor involved with timing a one-piece barrel.

It’s available in a single 41/4-­inch barrel length with a profile that closely matches the original contour. While previous M19 barrels were made of a single steel forging that included the ejector shroud and often the front sight, the Classic uses a two-­piece arrangement. The two-­piece design allows for the factory to install a stainless steel cylindrical barrel that is covered by a blued, steel shroud and capped at the muzzle with a flange. This eliminates the need to time the barrel threads precisely to the frame so that the barrel cinches-­up with the sights in the correct position. Though traditionalists might look down at the two-­piece barrel arrangement, the truth is that it results in a tighter cylinder gap than many one-­piece versions. Using a feeler gauge, I measured the gap on the test gun at .004 inch. In comparison, the gap on my 1960s-­vintage version measured .009 inch.

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Along with the hammer, the trigger is a MIM’d part that’s color-cased hardened. The colors are subdued.

To the end user, it is sights and triggers that really matter when it comes to hitting with a handgun. S&W’s adjustable revolver sights have been the standard by which other handgun sights were judged for decades. The current-­production sights have not lost that magic. The Classic wears a red ramp front sight pinned to the barrel shroud, along with a plain black micrometer-­click rear sight that is adjustable for both windage and elevation. Our test gun’s double-­action (DA) trigger broke at just under 10 pounds with only the slightest hint of grit near the end of its pull. The single-­action (SA) pull was an even 4 pounds with very faint creep.

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Sights on the Model 19 Classic feature the legendary, red-ramped front that aligns within the a fully adjustable rear notch.

S&W’s factory grips have always felt big in my hands and the checkered hardwood set on this gun were no exception. That said, the grips controlled recoil extremely well and muzzle flip was evident with only the most powerful loads tested. Accuracy ranged from good to great with Hornady’s 158-­grain XTP JHP load standing out as a clear favorite.

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The Model 19’s round-butt frame is apparent when looking at the backstrap that curls inside the walnut stocks.

The Carry Comp 

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S&W’s Performance Center produced a revolver known as the “K-­Comp” back in 1994. So, when the company revived the M19, they brought back an updated version of it.

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The “Comp” is the port ahead of the front sight that redirects escaping gases up and helps handgunners to manage muzzle flip.

The M19 Carry Comp is an upgraded, purpose-­built revolver designed with everyday carry in ­mind. The revolver is fit with a 3-­inch, ported, stainless steel barrel with a full-­length underlug. This combination of porting and added weight at the muzzle are designed to effectively manage the gun’s recoil and muzzle rise, which they do well. The Carry Comp uses a two-­piece barrel arrangement similar to that on the Classic, but, due to the porting, there is no visible seam at the muzzle.

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The Carry Comp’s rear sight is the same fully adjustable notch as the Model 19 Classic. The front is black with tritium.

The majority of the basic features on the Performance Center M19 are identical to those of the M19 Classic. The Carry Comp’s front sight is pinned just to the rear of the barrel port and is fit with a small green tritium insert for low-­light use. Though this is a great feature on a carry gun, it is worth noting that when we zeroed our test gun at 25 yards only half of the tritium bead was visible above the rear sight notch.

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The single- and double-action trigger is wonderfully tuned by the Performance Center and features a file-fitted roll pin for an overtravel stop.

The action was tuned by the Performance Center and the trigger is fit with an overtravel stop. The SA trigger broke cleanly at 33/4 pounds and the DA pull was a smooth 12 pounds. The Carry Comp ships with two sets of grips, a nicely fit pair of slim checkered wood grips and a synthetic boot grip with finger grooves.

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The Model 19 Carry Comp is given a custom-wood laminate grip and includes a spare synthetic that’s more comfortable with hot loads.

Shootability

I shot this revolver with loads designed for self-defense. While there’s nothing mild about shooting 100-plus rounds of full-power .357 Magnum ammunition out of a 34-ounce revolver, the porting did help keep the Carry Comp’s sights on target. Though accuracy was fine at close range, I found that groups were too large at 25 yards when using loads that featured a light-weight bullet. However, the sights and excellent trigger made shooting other loads at extended ranges a real possibility. Given the threat of active shooters, there’s something to be said for a handgun that can be shot with precision.

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Notes: Accuracy is the average of five, five-shot groups at 25 yards. Velocity is the average of five shots recorded by a LabRadar chronograph adjacent to the muzzle.

Aside from all that is new and different about these guns, I can report that shooting them was very much the same great experience. The revolver is back and, thankfully, so is the Model 19. 

S&W Model 19 Classic
Type: Revolver; single action (SA), double action (DA)
Cartridge: .357 Magnum
Capacity: 6 rds.
Barrel: 4.25 in., stainless steel
Overall Length: 9.9 in.
Height: 5.75 in.
Weight: 2 lbs., 5.2 oz.
Material: Carbon steel; stainless steel
Grip: Walnut, checkered
Trigger: 9 lbs., 15 oz. (DA) 4 lbs. (SA)
Safety: Transfer bar; internal lock
Finish: Blue
Sights: Red-ramp (front); adjustable notch (rear)
MSRP: $830
Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson,
800-331-0852, smith-wesson.com

S&W Performance Center Model 19 Carry Comp
Type: Revolver; single action (SA), double action (DA)
Cartridge: .357 Magnum
Capacity: 6 rds.
Barrel: 3 in., stainless steel
Overall Length: 8 in.
Height: 5.75 in.
Weight: 2 lbs., 2.1 oz.
Material: Carbon steel; stainless steel
Grip: Laminate hardwood, checkered; synthetic (included)
Trigger: 12 lbs. (DA); 3 lbs., 12 oz. (SA)
Safety: Transfer bar; internal lock
Finish: Matte blue
Sights: Serrated, tritium ramp (front); adjustable notch (rear)
MSRP: $1,100
Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson,
800-331-0852, smith-wesson.com

 
 
 
 

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