Tag Archives: Smith & Wesson

18 Months with a Mini Bull along for the ride

I’ve been living with the Taurus GX4 micro compact 9mm for a year and a half on a daily basis and put well over a thousand rounds through it. It has surprised me, for sure.

Taurus introduced the GX4 to the world in May 2021, and I was able to get an early test model from the company slightly before. A good sequel to the company’s budget line of increasingly well-made and dependable G2 and G3 series pistols, the GX4 was more of the same, only smaller and with a better trigger.

When compared to more recently introduced double-stack micro 9s with similar magazine capacity, the GX4 was smaller than a lot of the big names, seen stacked side-by-side with the Springfield Armory Hellcat Pro, SIG Sauer P365 XMacro, and Kimber R7 Mako.

Designed for personal carry, the GX4 proved such an easy carry – just 24.8 ounces when fully loaded with 14 rounds of 124-grain Gold Dot– that it has become my go-to of late. Of note, that is the same magazine capacity as on the vaunted Browning Hi-Power, my first carry gun back in the late 1980s.

I’ve been carrying the GX4 in a DeSantis Gunhide Inside Heat, a bare-bones minimum IWB holster built from black saddle leather, and it just disappears. The pistol is, realistically, just slightly taller than a pocket gun but comes ready with 13+1 rounds.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Going Behind the Scenes at S&W

In the Select Fire series over at Guns.com that I host, I really dig factory tours of gunmakers as each will have a different way to run a shop. Speaking to this, I recently got to visit Smith & Wesson’s historic Springfield, Massachusetts factory to see what goes into making some of the finest revolvers in the world.

Celebrating 170 years in the firearms industry, the company gets its name from the 1852 partnership between Horace Smith and D.B. Wesson. Just two years later, the company debuted the .41 Magazine Pistol, best known as “The Volcanic” — the first repeating American firearm capable of successfully using a fully self-contained cartridge. By 1857, S&W was producing the Model 1 and Model 3 revolver, guns that soon marched off to war and one that Mark Twain carried in his early travels in the West, writing in his 1872 book, “Roughing It,” that, “I thought it was grand.”

Fast forward to the present and Smith is still rocking and rolling. While they have made moves to shift black rifle construction and headquarters to a new factory in Tennessee, the company’s legacy plant in Springfield is still working around the clock and will continue to house its traditional revolver line.

With that, I got the rundown on the process from beginning to end and cover it in detail in the above 18-minute factory tour.

One thing I noticed during our time in Springfield was that, especially when it comes to revolver work, the more things change the more they stay the same.

Check out these images of S&W workers from 1956 compared to ones on the line today. While the machines and safety equipment have been upgraded, the invaluable human factors of attention to detail and quality endure, despite the generational change.

Anyway, the 18-minute tour is here:

Smith expands the EZ to become the ‘Equalizer’

On a visit to Smith & Wesson late last month, I got a sneak peek at a new pistol that became public knowledge this week– the Equalizer. While the name of the gun may sound a bit intimidating, it’s designed to be anything but. The newest member of an ever-growing concealed carry lineup, it sports a 15+1 capacity, but it comes with a 13 and 10-round magazine option as well, both of which are also included with purchase.

S&W Equalizer, photos by me

S&W combined the Shield Plus grip width and magazine footprint with the popular EZ technology up top. They switched up the grip texture a bit but still kept the same width as the Shield Plus, thus allowing it to use the same mags. On the grip, it keeps the same grip safety as the EZ series, though you can also purchase options with an additional thumb safety if you’re into manual safeties.

Anywhoo, we shall see how the market takes to the newest entry in the big capacity/small frame “micro 9” race.

S&W Goes Full Circle in a very Metal way

Founded in 1852, Smith & Wesson is one of the oldest American gunmakers, only narrowly bested by Remington who claims a circa 1816 origin. While best known for their revolvers, Smith is also one of the oldest makers of semi-auto pistols in the world, having placed Belgian engineer Charles Philibert Clement’s interesting .35 S&W blowback autoloader into production in 1913. This later morphed into the Model 35, for obvious reasons.

The M1913/M35

Then came the Army’s canceled X100 program in the late 1940s and early 1950s to replace the M1911, which led S&W to release the Model 39 and super-size it (at the request of the Navy in the 1960s) to the Model 59.

Model 39 ad

In 1979, Smith & Wesson began to introduce a better machined and more evolved series of improved 9mm pistols while putting the Models 39 and 59 out to pasture. This saw the carbon steel-framed Model 539 (single stack) and 559 (double stack), the alloy-framed Model 439 and 459, and the stainless steel Model 639 and 659 (see = Reservoir Dogs) arrive on the scene.

Notably, the 459 competed against the Beretta 92 in the Army’s 1980s pistol trials, in sort of a repeat of the old X100 program, although it worked out better for Beretta than Smith.

Smith Wesson third generation “Wondernines” circa 1989

As S&W’s 2nd Gen 9mm pistols became an all-out hit with police forces across the country, Smith further refined their semi-auto pistols and expanded the number of configurations available when they introduced their 3rd Generation line in the late 1980s. In 9mm format, this included the 12 pistols in the compact Model 3900 series, another 21 pistols in the full-sized Model 5900 series, and 9 pistols in the Model 6900 series. Obviously, with some 40 different 9mm semi-autos in their catalog offering a variety of finishes, barrel lengths, magazine capacity, sights, and actions, Smith had a “Wondernine” for every occasion and customer.

Then came plastic.

The “SWock” or S&W Sigma series, debuted in 1994– and later spun off into today’s “value-priced” SD/SVE series– while the M&P line of polymer-framed striker-fired handguns hit the market in 2006.

Smith’s original 2006 ad for the M&P

Smith & Wesson is good about listing to user feedback and in 2017, after getting 10 full years of it on the original M&P series pistols, introduced the M&P M2.0 which upgraded nearly every aspect of polymer pistol.

Today, technically Smith’s 6th generation (or 7th if you count the early Clement guns) of semi-auto pistols in over 109 years, the M2.0 M&Ps are at the top of the company’s food chain when it comes to fully evolved handgun designs.

And, true to form, they have now come full circle by taking the M2.0 M&P9, dropping the polymer frame, and swapping it for one crafted of T6 aluminum. The new M&P9 M2.0 METAL is still striker-fired but is optics-ready and, with a Tungsten Gray Cerakote finish, has a unique aesthetic from America’s oldest pistol maker. Still capable of fitting standard M&P9 compatible holsters and using the same magazines, the gun offers a more rigid feel for those who are fans of the model but don’t love the “whip” of a polymer-framed firearm.

The new S&W M&P9 M2.0 METAL runs a 4.25-inch barrel, for an overall length of 7.4 inches. Weight is 30 ounces, unloaded. By comparison, the standard polymer-framed M&P9 M2.0 with the same sized barrel and magazine runs 24.7 ounces. (Photo: S&W)

More on the move back to METAL in my column at Guns.com.

For those who always wanted a Bull Shark Gray S&W

Smith & Wesson just dropped a new M&P Spec Series gun, an M2.0 Compact, that runs a factory threaded barrel, is red dot-ready, has 23-round mags, and uses a “Bull Shark Gray” scheme.

All this is very anti-S&W-like, and the 9mm doesn’t look that bad.

The M&P Spec Series kit includes an M&P knife that features a 4-inch Tanto-style blade, window breaker, and seat belt cutter. The folder has an overall length of 9 inches. Plus, you get a die-struck M&P Spec Series Challenge Coin. It all comes in a custom-fit case. Oh yes, there’s also the two 23-round 9mm magazines and one flush-fit 15-round magazine as well. (Photo: S&W)

The MSRP on the limited-edition Spec Series Pistol Kit is $799, which is almost double the amount of a standard M&P9 M2.0 Compact, but you don’t get the threads, the shark, the coin, the optics cut (chicks dig optics cuts), the extendos, or the blade for that price.

More details in my column at Guns.com.

Taurus goes TORO with the GX4

Taurus’ micro-compact 9mm just got a little better as the company on Friday announced a new optics-ready TORO model addition to the line.

The increasingly American-based company debuted its new micro pistol in May with an 11+1/13+1 capacity and a sub-$400 asking price. This made the gun– which I found dependable in testing— a budget competitor against similarly-sized contemporaries such as the Sig P365 and Springfield Armory Hellcat, with about the only rock that could be thrown against it is the fact that it did not come with a slide cut to support popular micro-red dot carry optics.

Well, that has now changed as the new Taurus GX4 TORO series has a factory cut and mounting pattern that supports Hex Wasp GE5077, Holosun HS507K/HS407K, Riton 3 Tactix MPRD2, Trijicon RMR, Shield RMSc, Sig RomeoZero, and Sightmark Mini Shot A-Spec M3 sights.

At an asking price of $468.


More in my column at Guns.com.

In ‘Optics-Ready Micro 9’ news…

Smith & Wesson this week announced a new version of its “micro 9″ M&P9 Shield Plus 3.1 that comes with a 13+1 mag (which is comparable in capacity to the vaunted old Browning Hi-Power in a much smaller frame) and a factory slide cut for micro red dots. Sure, S&W could have just released the Shield Plus with an optics cut when it debuted earlier in the year– like Ruger did with the MAX-9– but where is the fun in that?

Further enhancements from past Shield models include a flat-face trigger and an optimized grip texture designed for concealed carry. It ships with two magazines: an extended 13+1 round magazine that adds to the overall grip length and pistol height, as well as a flush-fit 10+1 round magazine. The pistol features the M&P hallmark 18-degree grip angle, which S&W argues lends to a more natural point of aim, therefore helping to better manage recoil, and get back on target quickly.

For those keeping count at home, Ruger (MAX-9), S&W (Shield Plus), Taurus (G3C TORO), Springfield Armory (Hellcat OR), and Sig Sauer (P365 XL and P365 SAS) all now have optics-ready double-stack 9mm micro compacts that offer at least a 10+1 capacity in a gun roughly the size of a Glock 43. Meanwhile, Glock’s smallest answer to the micro-9 trend is the G43X MOS, which is only slightly larger.

Talk about the golden age of carry pistols.

Anywhoo, more in my column at Guns.com.

Ask Yourself One Question…

Smith & Wesson’s large N-frame revolvers are a favorite among handgun hunters, competitive shooters, and classic wheel gun enthusiasts.

With a basis in the old school circa 1908 Hand Ejector First Model “New Century” double-action revolver, the first handgun chambered in .44 S&W Special, this early S-frame morphed during World War I into the Model 1917, chambered in .45 ACP, and a series of similarly beefy descendants such as the Model 27 – the world’s first .357 Magnum – and, the subject of our tale, the hand-filling Model 29.

I recently got to handle these bad boys while I was in the Vault in Minnesota. There is a reason these have been in production for over 60 years.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Of My Time with the GX4

Taurus announced the new micro-compact semi-auto pistol, the GX4, in May, billed as an 11+1 shot 9mm that was roughly the size of a traditional .380 pocket gun that had half the capacity. The specs of the polymer-framed striker-fired handgun– 5.8-inches long with the small backstrap installed, about an inch wide, and 4.4-inches high with the flush-fit magazine inserted– put it in the same boat as the Ruger MAX-9, Sig Sauer P365, Smith & Wesson Shield Plus, and Springfield Armory Hellcat line.
I’ve been kicking around the new Taurus GX4 over the past couple of months, having run some 500 rounds through it, and have some things to say about it.

The 11+1 shot Taurus GX4 is definitely compact. Micro compact, you could say.

Have $400 and Want a Micro 9 with Change Leftover?

Taurus is looking to take on the big boys with its new micro pistol, which is designed to deliver maximum concealment without sacrificing capacity or ergonomics – the GX4.

Getting the specs out of the way, the 11+1 shot 9mm is the size of popular .380 “pocket guns,” using a 3.06-inch barrel to tape out to a maximum 6.05-inch overall length. The gun is slender, at just over an inch wide, and it is 4.4 inches high at its tallest. The unloaded weight is 18.6 ounces. Fully loaded with 12 rounds of 147-grain JHPs, I found my test gun to hit the scales at 23.9 ounces.

Compared to other recently introduced micro 9s, such as the Ruger MAX-9, Sig Sauer P365, Smith & Wesson Shield Plus, and Springfield Armory Hellcat, the GX4 is a dead ringer as far as size goes. Plus, its flush-fit mags hold one extra round over the Sig or S&W’s comparable magazine while being on par with the Springer and one less than the Ruger.

However, where the GX4 cleans house is the price: $392. That’s the MSRP, meaning that “actual” prices at your local gun store will probably hover closer to “Three Fiddy.” 

More in my column at Guns.com.

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