Tag Archives: S&W

Great War Echos along the Copacabana

When the U.S. entered what was then termed the Great War and is now better known as World War I, the country’s Army went from an oversized border defense force to one capable of taking on the Kaiser. In April 1917, when Congress at the urging of President Woodrow Wilson declared war against Imperial Germany, the U.S. had a standing Army of just 127,500. By the end of the war the following November, this grew to a force of well over 4 million.

All those troops needed weapons, and they needed them fast.

Just as the M1917 “American Enfield” .30-06 manufactured by Remington, Eddystone, and Winchester augmented the standard M1903 Springfield rifle, the Army turned to Colt and Smith & Wesson to produce a revolver capable of firing the same .45 ACP rimless ammo that the standard M1911 Government used. For Colt, that meant a variant of its M1909 New Service chambered in .45 ACP. For Smith, this meant revamping the Hand Ejector 2nd Model from .44 Special or .455 Webley to the shorter .45 ACP.

While only something like 15,000 S&W 1st Model Hand Ejector revolvers – known as the Triple Lock because its cylinder locked up with the frame in three places – were made between 1908 and 1915, the simplified 2nd Model (which deleted the third lockup point) saw a bit more success. This was because the British government had ordered almost 70,000 modified guns chambered in their standard .455 Webley for use in the Great War before America joined the conflict. A quick redesign to allow the 2nd Model to run .45 ACP, and Smith soon had their M1917 revolver in production for the U.S. Army.

Over 160,000 S&W M1917s were delivered before the end of the war, and they were often standard issue for specialist soldiers such as dispatch riders, military police, and machine gunners, while the M1911 automatic was more traditionally issued to officers. (Photos: National Archives)

While over 160,000 were constructed for the U.S. Army, and they served through not only the Great War but also through WWII– making it the first truly popular S&W N-frame on the American market– the Brazilians really loved the big .45 ACP. Ordered as the Modelo 1937, the Exército Brasileiro took possession of 25,000 commercial grade M1917s before WWII, carried them to war in Italy, they bought another 12,000 in 1946– taking all Smith had in stock or could make.

The Brazilians liked the revolver so much that, while the 25,000-strong Brazilian Expeditionary Force that fought in Italy with the Allies in WWII was largely equipped with American small arms, its officers often carried their Modelo 1937s to war. (Photos: National Archives/Exército Brasileiro)

Brazil only fully replaced the Modelo 1937 in the late 1980s with Beretta/Taurus-made Model 92 9mm semi-autos, keeping them in service for some 50 years.

This Model 1917 is from Smith’s second batch sent to Brazil in 1946, as it has a serial number outside the original run, the commercial round bottom U-notch rear sighting notch, and the standard Modelo 1937 national crest. It wears a CAI ST AL VT (Century Arms International St Albans, VT) import mark on the bottom of the barrel, and was likely from the batch of 14,000 surplus guns brought in from Brazil in 1989-1990. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

Speaking of keeping dated small arms in use, the Brazilians still run Great War-era bolt guns behind the scenes.

As a bit of a backgrounder, the Brazilians loved them some Mauser rifles. They started with the M1904 Mauser-Vergueiro rifle then went all-in with the Model 1908 rifle, similar to the Gew.98 with a 29-inch barrel. After WWI, in the 1930s Brazil bought the unlicenced Czech 08/34, a K98k clone with a 22-inch barrel chambered in 7mm as well as genuine Oberndorf-built M1935s.

Supplemented by a homegrown variant of the FAL made by the Itajubá-based IMBEL after 1964 and more recently by the IMBEL IA2 in 5.56, Brazil’s Mausers linger on as the homogenized “Mosquefal” M968, converted to 7.62 NATO, used in both training and parades.

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.

You get an optics cut! You get an optics cut! Everyone gets an optics cut!

Smith & Wesson continues with the industry-wide trend towards carry optics by adding new M&P9 M2.0 variants with factory MRD cuts.

The two new pistol variants– the full-sized and Compact M&P9 M2.0– ship complete with Smith’s C.O.R.E. system of seven mounting plates, allowing the user to mount a wide variety of popular micro red dot optics. Tall optics/suppressor-height three-dot sights co-witness through MRDs. A further upgrade is the company’s new M2.0 flat face trigger, a design that S&W says optimizes trigger finger positioning and delivers consistency for more accurate shot placement.

Which has to be a good thing, right?

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.

Or are you happy to see me?

One of the oldest forms of walking around with a concealed handgun, the practice of pocket carry has been around for centuries and is still alive and well today but needs a few tricks to pull off properly.

While owning a gun isn’t for everyone, the prospect of carrying a gun when outside of the home is for an even smaller subset of the population. Keeping with that mantra, toting around a gun in your pocket is really not for everyone. Some will advocate against it, full stop, while others have successfully used the method for years and it is their primary method of carrying.

I weigh the good with the bad, in my column at Guns.com.

Glad Big Blue is getting with 2019

For the past two years, I have probably spent more time with my S&W M&P9 M2.0 4-inch Compact (what a mouthful!) than any other pistol I own.

In all, I’ve dropped more than 4K rounds through it with no issues worth noting and, on most days, it is my EDC in addition to whatever gun I am T&E’ing at the time (yes, I believe in the concept of the New York Reload aka “dressing for success”).

My M2.0 chilling, also, forgive the homage to Alex Colville’s The Pacific. 

I personally think the M2.0 4-inch Compact is a Glock 19 killer as it does everything the G19 can, only slightly better from the factory. With that being said, I am glad Smith finally figured out that they should market an optic-ready model, able to take a variety of seven different red dots, with an MSRP of around $600~.

More in my column at Guns.com

From Hush Puppy to Starsky & Hutch

In the late 1960s, Smith & Wesson started a project to provide Vietnam-deployed SEAL Teams with a modified S&W Model 39 9mm pistol that included a slide lock and threaded barrel for a suppressor as well as a 14+1 magazine capacity, a big jump from the Model 39’s standard 8+1 load.

The gun, intended for NSW use to silence sentries or their dogs, became dubbed the “Hush Puppy.”

Note the chest holster…Hush Puppy inside

Well, by 1971, Smith thought the basic model, sans suppressor-ready features, would make a good gun for LE and the consumer markets and introduced it as the more polished S&W Model 59, which soon saw some serious success in the hands of Disco-era police, including a regular appearance on cop shows of the era.

More in my column at Guns.com.

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