April 2005

Short Shots: 04/05

S&W’s New Products 2005: Interesting Choices In Store
The January 2005 SHOT Show saw longtime revolver maker Smith & Wesson introduce a range of firearms products ranging from the Model 460XVR (eXtreme Velocity Revolver) to the extension of the 1911 pistol series. Strolling through the S&W booth brought on a feeling of extreme anti déjà vu — utter surprise at the company’s rebound from a few years ago, when gunowners were boycotting the firm.

But it seems time heals all wounds, and the 2005 new Smith products suggest the company is following an ambitious expansion plan.

Said Mike Golden, Smith & Wesson’s president and chief executive officer, “We are actively exploring category expansion into less-lethal weapons, long guns, ammunition, ranges and security systems. Any such expansion could be done directly, through licensing agreements or other cooperative agreements.”

Herewith, then, are what we think are the hits and misses among the new S&W products:

Model 460XVR
The new Smith & Wesson Model 460XVR shoots what is claimed to be the highest-velocity production revolver cartridge, the .460 S&W Magnum. The 73-ounce revolver has an 8.4-inch-long barrel, and it fires a .45-caliber 200-grain bullet at 2,300 fps and above, developing more than 2,400 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. Sorbathane recoil-reducing grips and an interchangeable muzzle compensator are two necessary features for the hard-kicking gun. The Model 460XVR is built on the company’s X-frame and has a five-round capacity. The gun’s “Gain Twist” rifling is an interesting technical addition to what is likely to be a hunting handgun.

Our Take: The Model 460XVR has way too many hosses for 99 percent of the shooters, and the hardcore recoil junkies who are left already have a variety of hand cannons to choose from.

Model SW990L
The full-size SW990L is available in three calibers, 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP. Magazine capacities vary from 10 or 16 in 9mm, 10 or 12 in .40 S&W and 9 rounds for .45 ACP. As a compact model, the SW990L is available in 9mm or .40 S&W with magazine capacities of 10 and 8 respectively. Barrel length for the compact models is 3.5 inches. Common features of the compact and full-size models include black polymer frames, stainless-steel barrels and slides with a black Melonite finish.

Our Take: This series’ biggest selling point will be its Double Action Only firing system, which is said to offer a constant trigger pull of 6 to 8 pounds and a shortened length of trigger reset after firing. This is getting nearer to tuned DA revolver trigger performance, and could make the DA pistols much more acceptable to shoot.

Models 619 and 620
Chambered in .357 S&W Magnum/.38 S&W Special +P, the Model 619 and Model 620 share common features including a two-piece, semi-lug barrel for enhanced performance and durability. Weighing 38 ounces, these medium-frame (L-frame) revolvers are constructed of stainless steel and have a satin finish. Capacity: 7.

Our Take: Supposedly, new manufacturing processes make these guns more durable than their predecessors. But we don’t recall too many people wearing out S&W’s steel-frame guns anyway.

Model 1911
Smith & Wesson has added new editions to the 1911 series with the Model SW1911 consisting of a blued carbon steel frame and slide and the Model SW1911PD manufactured with a scandium alloy frame. Both models are large frame .45 ACP Single Action pistols holding eight rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber. A external extractor for high reliability has been added on both pistols. The Model SW1911 weighs 38.5 ounces. The Model SW1911PD comes with a scandium alloy frame and carbon steel slide. The 1911PD weighs slightly less at 29.5 ounces.

Our Take: Hmm. The lighter scandium gun is interesting, but it will likely cost plenty. If weight (and size) are issues, why not buy a less expensive, smaller Commander instead?

Models 1911PD and 1911
Smith & Wesson has added a new edition to the 1911 series with the Model SW1911PD, available with Desert Tan Crimson Trace lasergrips, and the Model SW1911 with Olive Drab Crimson Trace lasergrips with a rubber overmold front activation button. The Model SW1911PD with Desert Tan Crimson Trace lasergrips is manufactured with a scandium alloy frame and weighs 28 ounces. The stainless steel SW1911 with Olive Drab Crimson Trace lasergrips has a 5-inch barrel and weighs 39 ounces.

Our Take: Cool minimalist colors. Downside: Using those laser grips in a dusty environment like Irag will give away your position.

Model 1911 .45 ACP Doug Koenig Professional Series
The single-action pistol is manufactured with a 5-inch barrel and holds eight rounds in the magazine plus one in the chamber. The .45 ACP features a Doug Koenig speed hammer, flat competition speed trigger with overtravel stop, and a black blade front sight and an adjustable rear target sight. The pistol is designed with an oversize magazine well, ambidextrous safety and external extractor. Weight: 41 ounces.

Our Take: We’ve praised the SW1911s, and if Koenig actually has input into tweaking the line, we would have confidence in the additions found on the new model.

Model 625 JM Jerry Miculek Professional Series Revolver
Our Take: We lauded the appointments on this gun in the March issue.

Model 410S
Smith & Wesson’s Model 410S is now available with factory-installed Crimson Trace lasergrips.

Our Take: The laser-lover will love these.

Model 60
Smith & Wesson’s Model 60 with a 5-inch barrel and adjustable sights may fill a niche in the handgun market. With its small frame and longer 5-inch barrel, it is small enough for easy carry in a backpack or on a belt and long enough to develop the energy potential of its .357 Magnum chambering. Weight: 30.5 ounces. Capacity: 5.

Our Take: We would probably prefer to shoot .38 S&W Special +Ps in this gun.

Model 637
Modeled after the original Smith & Wesson Model 60 Chiefs Special, the Model 637 Airweight combines lightweight aluminum alloy and stainless-steel materials. It now is available with Crimson Trace lasergrips. The small frame Model 637 weighs only 15.0 ounces and measures 6.3 inches in total length with a 1.9-inch barrel.

Our Take: We’re not trying to pick on the concept of built-in lasergrips, but this gun is really more suited to close, fast defensive work where lasers aren’t all that helpful.

Model 22A
This .22 LR semi-automatic is now available in two new styles including a black barrel and slide or a black stainless slide with polished sides of the barrel and slide. The Single Action Model 22A comes standard with a 5.5-inch barrel and weighs 32 ounces. The Model 22A with black barrel and slide features a black blade front sight and an adjustable rear sight.

Our Take: Many years ago we opined that the Model 22 line should be retired, since the Model 41 was a massively superior .22. But the little plinkers soldier on.

Model 500
The gun’s 8.4-inch barrels are now available with two interchangeable compensators.

Our Take: Compensation on this gun is a very good thing.

Model 432PD
Smith & Wesson has reintroduced a small, lightweight concealed carry/personal protection handgun for the recoil-conscious person. The Model 432PD Airweight with hammerless design is now available with Crimson Trace lasergrips. Chambered for the mild-recoiling .32 H&R Magnum, the Airweight is made of aluminum alloy and carbon steel. The 432PD weighs only 13.5 ounces with a 2-inch barrel. The Model 432PD is a DAO small-frame, six-shot revolver with a non-reflective black-matte finish. Low-profile fixed sights, combined with a non-exposed hammer, reduces chances of snagging in pocket or purse.

Our Take: A great gun that doesn’t require a holster to carry. For a real laugh, carry it on top of your money clip and accidentally pull it out when you order your double-tall nonfat Chai latte at Starbucks. The Baristas will always remember your drink order!

Models SW9GVE and SW40GVE
The Sigma Model SW9GVE in 9mm and the SW40GVE in .40 S&W are Double Action Only pistols with a NATO green polymer frame and a matte stainless steel matte barrel and slide. The SW9GVE weighs 24.7 ounces and has a 10+1 or a 16+1 capacity. The SW40GVE weighs 24.4 ounces and has a 10+1 or 14+1 capacity. An equipment rail for tactical lights or lasers have been added.

Our Take: The rail is a handy upgrade if you like that sort of thing.

Model 500 Performance Center
The Smith & Wesson Performance Center builds this gun with a barrel length of 10.5 inches for increased velocity. Also, a recoil compensator and a Hogue Dual Density Monogrip have been added for muzzle control. A Performance Center gun rug and swivel mount bolt sling have also been added.

Our Take: Senior Tech Editor Ray Ordorica wonders when S&W will offer wheels as an available accessory.

Smith & Wesson Model 945
The Performance Center’s Model 945, previously available only from selected distributors, is now available as a regular catalog item. Custom features include hand-lapped and fitted barrel, frame and slide, and hand-polished and -fitted spherical barrel bushing and feed ramp. The single-action 945 has a 5-inch barrel and weighs 40.5 ounces. A serrated match hammer and a competition match trigger with overtravel stop are included.

Our Take: Shooters will appreciate this pistol’s 3.5- to 4-pound trigger pull, beveled magazine well and ambidextrous thumb safety.

Model 1911 .38 Super
This Doug Koenig model is a single-action .38 Super with a 5-inch barrel. The stainless-steel handgun features a hand-lapped and fitted barrel, frame and slide. The pistol comes standard with a Performance Center–style slide with glass bead and satin stainless two-tone finish, 30-lpi frontstrap checkering, oversize magazine well extension, and an oversized external extractor. The .38 Super pistol is designed with a Doug Koenig Speed Hammer, full-length guide rod and Doug Koenig logo on smooth black micarta grips.

Our Take: Sweet. We want one.

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Assault Pistols To Be Banned?
New Jersey’s U.S. senators plan to introduce a bill that would make it illegal for anyone, except a police officer or military official, to purchase or use an assault pistol that fires bullets capable of penetrating a bulletproof vest.

The Five-SeveN gun, which we recently tested in Gun Tests, is made by FN Herstal of Belgium. The handgun is small and lightweight.

Democratic Sens. Jon Corzine and Frank Lautenberg plan to introduce the Protect Law Enforcement Armor (PLEA) Act to ban the sale, purchase and use of the handgun and its ammunition by anyone other than a police officer or military official.

Our Take: We had concerns about the self-defense uses of the FN pistol in our test, but our worries had to do with a lack of power, not too much. This bill is grandstanding by two toothless Blue Staters.

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Yearbook Photo Censored
A New Hampshire federal judge recently rejected a Londonderry High School senior’s request for a preliminary injunction to compel school officials to publish his submitted yearbook photo, which features a broken-open shotgun slung over his shoulder.

The student, Blake Douglass, is suing the school district in federal court. Douglass’ lawyer argued that the district’s refusal to publish the sports shooter’s chosen photograph in the senior portrait section of the yearbook amounts to unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.

But in U.S. District Court in Concord, Judge Steven McAuliffe ultimately disagreed. McAuliffe noted that the yearbook student editors were vested with “editorial discretion and they apparently made the controlling decision not to publish the photograph Blake originally submitted. Absent state action, the students’ decision not to publish Blake’s chosen photograph . . . cannot be said to have violated Blake’s First Amendment rights.”

Our Take: The judge’s ruling is reasonable and right. The real issue is the censorship of the Douglass shotgun-prop photo by the school publication’s editors. They should fit right in at most major media outlets.