June 10, 2012

Smith & Wesson 10mm Model 610

The shooter who wants a lot of power without too much barrel length doesn’t have a lot of choices among revolvers. Most of today’s bigger-bore revolvers are more commonly outfitted with barrels measuring 5 inches or longer. Instead, Gun Tests magazine wanted to find a gun with a good old fashioned “duty length” 4-inch barrel for easier carry, but that was chambered for rounds that will do everything from self-protection in the urban wilderness to self-protection in the traditional wilderness.

Toward that end, they recently tested a larger-framed (but not super-sized) model chambered for 10mm Auto — the Smith & Wesson Model 610 ($831). It also fires .40 S&W cartridges.

Here’s what they found.

Perhaps the best-known revolver that adapts auto-rimmed ammunition for use in a revolver is the Smith & Wesson Model 625 chambered for .45 ACP. But another big-bore revolver from the Springfield, Massachusetts-based manufacturer that loads its rounds in a moon clip is the 10mm Auto 610. The 10mm Auto round was originally designed to work in the now defunct Bren Ten semi-automatic pistol by Dornaus and Dixon. Whit Collins, John Adams, Irving Stone and Jeff Cooper developed the 10mm round in 1983. This was one of the first attempts to bring .357 Magnum revolver power to the semi-automatic pistol. By 1990 the 10mm Auto cartridge had found a home in the 1911 frame of Colt’s Delta Elite model, which was adopted by the FBI. But the 10mm Auto round was ultimately judged to produce too much recoil. Incidents of mechanical failure followed. The 10mm Auto round was subsequently dropped in favor of the more compact .40 S&W cartridge. It should be noted that the .40 S&W and 10mm Auto rounds use straight-walled cases that feature an extractor groove just in front of the case head, the profile of which remains even with the diameter of the case. Moon clips that grab each round by the extractor groove and bridges across the rear of the cylinder are necessary to hold the rounds in position. After ignition the extractor pushes on the moon clip to clear the spent cases en masse from the cylinder. The loading and unloading of the clips can be accomplished by hand, but there are tools available to make the job easier.

The 610 revolver was built on the “N” frame, which until the arrival of the Model 500 Magnum was the largest revolver platform available from Smith & Wesson. It had a round-butt frame to offset some of its size and to give it a little help in terms of concealment. The 610 is all stainless steel, and with its full-lug barrel and non-fluted cylinder, has the look of one solid piece of hardware.

Gun Tests May 2004

Although there may not be a big selection of the more powerful10mm rounds, the wide variety of available .40 S&W rounds makes the 610 an appealing weapon. Accuracy was exceptional.

Our 610 had a wide target hammer checkered to make setting or releasing the trigger from single-action fire sure and easy. The cylinder release was also checkered for sure operation. The release was relieved on the bottom to offer additional clearance for loading and unloading rounds. This is helpful because rounds are not to be loaded individually but as a unit of six rounds at a time fixed inside the moon clips. Just above the release was a hammer lock, for which two keys were provided. The rear sight is the familiar Smith & Wesson adjustable unit that requires only one size screwdriver to change windage and elevation. The rear notch was outlined in white, and the carrier was lined to reduce glare. Up front was a black-serrated ramp pinned into place. Subtle touches include a modest beveling of the cylinder edges fore and aft plus a well-defined crown on the barrel, whose wide mouth boldly displayed the lands and grooves of its bore.

Unlike some semi-automatic pistols, double-action revolvers do not have a mechanical safety to prevent unintentional fire. But the hammer on the 610 will not fall without contact with the trigger first lowering the hammer block. Furthermore, today’s Smith & Wesson revolvers operate with an inertial firing pin. This means the contact point of the firing pin is independent of the hammer. Years ago the hammer and “nose pin” were one, and without a hammer block in place, it was possible for the hammer, even from the rest position, to drive its pin into the primer. Today the firing pin rests in a channel and requires a hammer strike with significant velocity to overcome the spring that holds the firing pin back from the primer.

We measured the double-action trigger to break at 14 pounds. This may sound heavy, but the action was very smooth and consistent. We also felt that the taper and swell of the Hogue grip helped us reach the trigger with a strong index. The back strap of this grip was cutaway and the grip frame polished. None of the rounds we fired were heavy enough to cause discomfort with this design. In fact we were surprised just how tame even the heaviest of the 10mm Auto loads felt when fired from our 610.

Our accuracy data was collected firing single action only. We used sand-filled pillow bags on a bench with Midway USA (800-243-3220) pistol targets mounted 25 yards downrange. The bull measured 4 inches in diameter and we used a 6 o’clock hold. We fired three different rounds of .40 S&W and three different rounds of 10mm Auto. Both jacketed hollowpoint (JHP) selections from Black Hills Ammunition, with slugs weighing 165 and 189 grains respectively, proved more accurate than the 180-grain full metal jacket (FMJ) round from the white Winchester USA box. The top choice was the Black Hills 180-grain hollowpoint with groups that varied from 1.7 to 1.9 inches. The 165-grain hollowpoints, however, produced the most power in .40 S&W. At an average velocity of 1096 fps, muzzle energy computed to 440 foot-pounds. Actually, only one of our 10mm Auto rounds proved more powerful than this round. That was the 200-grain Hornady Custom JHP/XTP rounds that traveled an average velocity of 1096 fps. Muzzle energy worked out to 464 foot-pounds. But only one of our 10mm Auto groups measured less than 2 inches. That was produced firing a High Antimony Lead target load from Federal American Eagle. Federal’s Premium Hydra-Shok was surprisingly soft, and we barely managed to print groups measuring 3 inches in diameter.

Gun Tests May 2004

The Hogue Monogrip slides on from the bottom and is connected by a yoke. This adds some length to the grip, but it is more secure than separate panels that can loosen up and shift. The narrow profile and gentles well gave the shooter a very strong index in relation to the trigger.

In terms of power we were not impressed with any of our choices of ammunition, save the Hornady Custom rounds. But we were sure there was plenty of head room left for loading more aggressive rounds in 10mm Auto. What we did learn was that the 610 revolver is very capable of soaking up recoil. The hottest .40 S&W round we tried would likely convince the average semi-auto shooter to take a rest after a couple of magazines worth of shots. But these same rounds felt like .38 Special in our stout 610. Nonetheless, compared to the .44 Magnum rounds, the hottest 10mm Auto rounds we tried were just beginning to get our attention.

The Smith & Wesson 610 offers a great deal of versatility. From shot to shot it can be a popgun or cannon. Having to fill and empty moon clips may seem like a chore, but charging the gun or emptying the cylinders can be achieved in a flash. This makes loading the weapon after storing gun and ammunition separately all the more convenient.

Gun Tests Recommends: Smith & Wesson 610 10mm Auto, $833. Buy It. Although there may not be a big selection of the more powerful 10mm rounds, the variety of available .40 S&W rounds, target to frangible, makes the 610 an appealing weapon. Accuracy with both rounds was exceptional.