Smith & Wesson M457 No. 104804 .45 ACP
The Model 457 is one of the oldest remaining products in the Smith & Wesson catalog. Also available with a matte stainless finish (model number 457S), this design is closely related to the Second Generation pistols that were popular with law enforcement when semi-automatics first replaced the revolver. What we liked best about the 457 was the way it lined up in our hands.
The distance between the face of the trigger and the rear of the grip was just right, even when the trigger was in its rearward position for single-action fire. The plastic grip looked and felt like it was part of the aluminum frame. The seven round magazines included a basepad with a pinky rest, so even those shooters with the largest hands were satisfied.
The stealth black finish turned out to be very durable, and it remained unmarred throughout our tests. The right side of the gun was devoid of graphics and levers. We did however spy an externally mounted extractor flush fit with the slide, which also featured cocking serrations to the rear only. The left side showed silver-colored lettering, a slide stop, and a decocker/safety lever mounted on the slide. The decocking lever was used to drop the hammer safely over a chambered round. After pressing the decocker, the lever would remain in its downward position deactivating the trigger. To return to safe-off, first shot double action required that the shooter manually push the lever upwards. The hammer on the 457 was without a tang or spur, and after decocking remained nearly flush with the back of the slide. An additional safety was the magazine release. With the magazine removed or simply ajar, the trigger was once again disconnected.
Sights were a low-mount snag-free design mounted via dovetail cuts in the slide at both the front and rear. Sight acquisition was aided by white dots on the front blade and the rear notch. Firing single action only from support, we established two benchmarks of note. The measurement of our five-shot groups averaged 1.7 inches firing both the Hornady and Winchester WinClean ammunition and 2.0 inches across shooting the Winchester Silvertips. The length of the 457s barrel was measured to be slightly less than 3.75 inches and the Glocks barrel measured slightly more than 3.75 inches. Overall average velocities for both pistols were about the same. But in terms of recoil control, we felt that the Smith & Wesson far outstripped the Glock. Naturally, the metallic frame of the 457 furnished more weight than either of our polymer pistols, but we think the larger contributing factor was the superior grip of the Smith & Wesson that we felt provided a more natural angle than the Glock.
In our 557 test, the Smith & Wesson was the top performer, even though our shooters were challenged with a transition from double to single action after the first shot of every group. Group size averaged about 3.75 inches across. What distinguished these groups from those fired by its competitors was that they were centered on the point of aim. The consensus of our staff was that of the three test guns, the Smith & Wesson offered the least variation in feel from the moment the trigger was acquired to the point of dissipation of recoil, and that the transition from double to single action forced only minimal adjustment upon the shooter. What we did argue about was the additional step presented by the combination decocker/safety lever. For example, during a training exercise, once the gun is taken off target, the command is, Finger off the trigger, outside the trigger guard. Safety on if you have one; decock if you have decocker. The 457 design offered two choices here. They were to decock and raise the lever manually for next shot double action, or to press the decocker and leave the safety on.
For members of our staff favoring todays double-action-only pistols, the extra step seemed unnecessary. The intention of this design was to add an extra layer of safety. So was the magazine release, which disconnected the trigger. This feature has been used to foil gun grabs. Rather than prolong a fight for the weapon, the gun could be rendered useless by hitting the magazine release while the officer goes on to acquire an alternate weapon. Operators that would rather have the ability to fire an emergency shot in the middle of a reload should, however, be comforted by the fact that we thought the Smith & Wesson 457 was the most controllable of our test guns when fired offhand.