The Smith & Wesson Model 19 Classic--an analysis  

 

The Evil Genius
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25/04/2019 9:22 pm  

Let me begin by saying I'm a wheel-gun guy at heart and the model 19 is one of my favorites.  The K-frame Model 19 combat magnum in .357 was born in 1957. It was the benchmark firearm for civilians and law enforcement. Due to the transition in law enforcement from revolvers to semi-auto pistols Smith and Wesson ended production of the model 19 is 1999. However sustained interest in this firearm resulted in Smith and Wesson re-introducing it in May of 2018.

To be clear the new "classic" model 19 is NOT a replica of the old model 19. thus it is not a reproduction of the vintage classic. So is the new "classic" better than the old standby? Lets take a look.

  1. Although the hammer and trigger have a color case-hardened finish--they are not case hardened. Rather they are manufactured using a metal injection molding process.---And S&W lauds this as an improvement because it eliminates the need for "hand-fitting" the parts.  Translation: much weaker and open tolerances.
  2. The old model 19 employed a 4 inch heavy barrel and rib with an integral ejector shroud. The new 19 uses a 410 stainless steel barrel threaded into a carbon steel barrel shroud. The machine that cranks these out supposedly eliminates the "hand-fitting" required to clock the front sight and insure the right cylinder gap. The barrel length is also been lengthened to 4.25 inches.
  3. The ejector locking bolt has been eliminated and replaced with a "ball-detent" on the revolver's frame. The ball snaps into a recess on the yoke. This alteration supposedly reduces cylinder drag when firing double action. (Frankly with the 9 lb trigger pull I for one have never noticed any drag in the first place.) And ball detents are notorious for weakening either from deforming the ball over time or again the tiny spring weakening.
  4. The hammer mounted firing pin has been replaced with a spring loaded frame mounted firing pin. Why this was deemed a necessary development is left to the imagination by S&W. From my experience with other firearms using the spring loaded frame mounted pin; the spring can give out and after firing the firing pin remains forward locked in place in the primer of the round fired. The only solution at that point is complete disassembly in order to even unload the pistol.
  5. Akin to all new S&W revolvers there is a key-lock system built into the frame. (This of course adds to the mechanical complexity and the price--as opposed to a $5 trigger lock.)
  6.  The new model also widens the front sight a bit in an effort to improve accuracy. I have found practice improves accuracy more than a little larger sight.
  7. Finally the frame is a round butt---something I personally dislike, but oddly the grips are squared off--like a square butt frame. OK so why bother making it a round butt if you are going to negate the entire effect with square butt grips?

OK MSRP on this about $800. Is it a reasonably functional well built .357? Probably but is it better than the old Combat Magnum? I don't think so. The changes appear to me to be largely cosmetic and contribute nothing special to function--but they DO contribute to price. Two years ago I bought another old model 19 for just over $300. Sure I had to do some cleaning up and the timing was a little off but replacing the cylinder paw fixed that and cost about $15. To be sure I got a deal and it is a fact that my other model 19 is an original 1961, in the original box and in mint condition and on the open market it would sell for between $800-$1000. But you don't need to spend that much for one of them. They are built like a Sherman tank and repairs even IF there is a problem are usually a pretty easy fix. Sorry S&W but that is my take on your "Classic". In auto terms this would be like taking a 67 Mustang and putting a 4 cylinder rice burner under the hood.


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Uly The Cunning
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25/04/2019 9:31 pm  

This is an interesting synopsis. Sounds like their classic is only so by name, and not by design. I wonder why the changes if they were marketing the classic approach?

"Remember, you're fighting for this woman's honor, which is probably more than she ever did."
Groucho Marx: Duck Soup (1933)


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The Evil Genius
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25/04/2019 9:44 pm  

They are trying to score on the name/reputation and hoping no one looks deeper at the cost-cutting changes that reduce production costs but not the price thereby increasing the marginal profit. We saw this same scenario play out when poly-frames were introduced. Customers were told that the poly frame was cheaper than metal, no hand-fitting etc and thus the price would be lower---has that happened? No the price point didn't change, only the production costs which again gave them a larger profit margin. Its all a scam. 


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Uly The Cunning
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25/04/2019 9:47 pm  

Just another product to avoid until they focus on quality again, I suppose. I like this post. We could have reviews on many different firearms, providing an insight that would benefit many looking for a quality purchase. 

"Remember, you're fighting for this woman's honor, which is probably more than she ever did."
Groucho Marx: Duck Soup (1933)


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Old Buck
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27/04/2019 1:51 pm  

Smith & Wesson, like Remington and others, have been cheapening their firearms for years.  The quality and craftsmanship from years ago is almost non-existent.

I had bought a small S&W aluminum frame .38 special 5 shot when I was working in firearm retail & gunsmithing.  It was not as accurate as my Glock or 1911, but is was lighter for conceal carry use at work.

That little pistol went back to S&W 2 times before I ended fixing it myself.  The barrel was not pressed in at the correct rotation, leaving the front sight to time at 1:00.  Every shot at 25 yards ended up high left, over the shoulder of a would be attacker.  The first time it was returned with a note saying it was in factory specs.  I called and wrote a nasty letter stating I was a gunsmith and I was very displeased in their quality and craftsmanship.  I stated that I used this firearm in the shop, and if they didn't fix it I would no longer sell their pistols.  The second time it was adjusted, but only about half way from top dead center.  I ended up putting the barreled frame in the mill, shaved one side of the sight, deepened the rear sight and shaved its height.  After that it would hit center body mass every shot.

I will no longer buy a recently made Smith and Wesson firearm, nor will I recommend ANY to my fellow brothers.  Buy an older revolver.  The finish is nicer, they are all hand fit, and the people who made them were highly skilled.  

The employees are mostly button pushers with zero knowledge of their own product.  I see that in the machining industry today.

Winchester (owned by Browning) moved their production to a different plant with new CNC machines.  The quality of Winchester rifles and shotguns are WAY better.  I just might go out and buy a new SX3 shotgun!

Click the firearm to visit the website!

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Do NOT chase tail. Turn yours around and live FREE!


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Xanthine
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Joined: 12 months ago
Posts: 162
20/07/2019 5:20 am  

Sounds like the best bet is generally to find an older model S&W; like so many other manufactured products, price has only gone up while quality and craftsmanship has declined. Those stupid key-lock holes alone are enough to turn me off buying a new one, but I had no idea how many other features they changed, and not for the better.

Excellent review.


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Umbra Ascensor
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Joined: 6 months ago
Posts: 115
20/07/2019 3:03 pm  

Sad but true. I know I search for quality when I buy something since I plan to use it until either the item is so worn out that fixing it is not an option or I just have to straight-up upgrade since repair parts are no longer available. Typically its usually the later for me. Then again, I haven't had anything old enough or long enough to cause it to start wearing out.


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GregBO
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27/07/2019 6:01 pm  

Steel is where it's at unless you need a short distance, last resort throw away piece.  Mass consumption ensures that quality and satisfaction are fond memories.

Great post T.E.G.

​"What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal." -Albert Pike

​"​My father didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.​" - Clarence Buddinton Kelland


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