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Old December 29, 2012, 10:59 PM   #1
DTrain
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S&W 5904/5906 Questions

Are all S&W 5904/5906 pistols considered 3rd Gen? If not, is there a way to tell for sure what generation a given pistol is. I read about a square trigger housing but I don't know what the significance is.
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Old December 29, 2012, 11:33 PM   #2
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Whew! Ya gotta be fast to get in here before carguychris, but it's all folly anyhow because he can do a much better job at it. But hey, my post will bump it so it's easier for him to find it!

All the four-digit semi-auto pistols are 3rd Gen pistols. There are a couple 3-digit pistols that are also 3rd Gens, they were the "Value line" guns that S&W marketed at a lower price. They were very plain...value kinda pistols. The 908 and 915 are examples, they're a 3-digit model number but surely are 3rd Gen pistols.

The 2nd Gen guns typically can be spotted by the raised rib on the left side of the frame by the top rear of the grip area. I've not had the pleasure of taking apart a 2nd Gen, so I can only assume that the visible part has something to do with the safety system or hammer/spring of the pistol.

All 5904 and 5906 pistols are 3rd Gens. Same for the 4506 and it's cousins, and the 4006 and it's brethren and the 10mm pistols of course (my favorites), the 1006 and the other 10xx pistols.

As for the square-ish trigger guard, the early 3rd Gens had a more squared front contour and it was rounded out a bit later in the series. It's subtle, but noticeable.
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Old December 30, 2012, 10:42 AM   #3
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Quote:
Whew! Ya gotta be fast to get in here before carguychris, but it's all folly anyhow because he can do a much better job at it...
Relax! You did good. Well, except one thing that's kinda got me confused...
Quote:
The 2nd Gen guns typically can be spotted by the raised rib on the left side of the frame by the top rear of the grip area.
I'm not quite sure what you're talking about! Here's my list of 2nd-gen spotting features.
  • 2nd-gens have visible metal backstraps and separate grip panels that attach with screws. This is IMHO the most prominent and unmistakable distinguishing feature. The 3rd-gens have wraparound one-piece plastic grips that attach with a pin at the lower rear corner. (There have been a few aftermarket wood grip units marketed for the 5900-series, but these still wrap all the way around and attach with pins rather than screws.)
  • The 2nd-gen front sight is integral with the slide, whereas the 3rd-gen front sight is dovetailed.
  • The red dots indicating that the decocker/safety levers are in the FIRE position are on the slide of a 2nd-gen but on the frame of a 3rd-gen.
  • The RH-side decocker/safety lever on a 2nd-gen, when present, will usually be attached with a large, prominent, and somewhat unsightly Allen-head or Philips-head screw. Very late 2nd-gens and all 3rd-gens use a much more clean-looking tab that fits into a slot and is retained with a hidden spring-loaded plunger.
In terms of standard-production M5906 non-TSW production changes, there are 3 important ones.
  1. In 1990, S&W switched from a vertical blade-style rear sight on the fixed sight pistols to a steeply slanted Novak Lo-Mount sight. The optional screw-adjustable rear sight was not changed. (Make note that the three types of sight do NOT interchange due to different-sized dovetails in the slide!)
  2. Around 1992-1993, S&W changed from the square trigger guard to a round trigger guard. Round guard pistols will generally fit in square guard holsters but NOT the reverse. FWIW S&W later made a couple of minor changes to the shape and checkering on the round guard, but these changes are subtle and probably inconsequential unless you're a collector.
  3. Between 1993-1996, S&W started using MIM hammers and triggers on many 3rd-gen pistols, and by 1997 they seem to have switched to MIM more or less exclusively. (According to collector research- i.e. "this is what my gun has on it, how about yours"- there does not seem to be a hard-and-fast cutoff date.) Unlike the constant wailing and gnashing of teeth about MIM on S&W revolvers, most 3rd-gen fans seem to agree that the MIM parts were a Good Thing, because they give the MIM guns smoother, more consistent, and seemingly lighter triggers. The MIM parts can be ID'd by mottled dark grey finish, skeletonized or cutout sides on the MIM hammers, and a slightly different shape to the step at the top of the MIM triggers. (Be aware that dark finish is NOT a surefire indication of MIM on stainless guns, because S&W also used 5904-type blued parts on the stainless guns from time to time!)
Hope this helps!
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Old December 30, 2012, 12:36 PM   #4
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Great picture in the first post in this thread:
The little piece I'm always looking for is that small piece of flat metal under the grip panel on the left side (pictured) of the pistol. Maybe it's a piece that is connected to the slide stop retainer?
http://thefiringline.com/forums/show...&highlight=659
YES! It's silly that this small piece is what I look for to know instantly that it's not a 3rd Gen, especially with your comprehensive list of differences -- the grip panels being most obvious.

But it's that little piece...it looks out of place, like an afterthought. Not that it's an "ugly mark" or anything, simply that it just looks like something they forgot to "clean up" between final design and production.
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Old December 30, 2012, 03:06 PM   #5
DTrain
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Thanks guys. What do you think of $325 for what appears to be a 5904 in very good condition with two 15 round mags?

http://www.migunowners.org/forum/sho...highlight=5904
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Old December 30, 2012, 03:22 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sevens
The little piece I'm always looking for is that small piece of flat metal under the grip panel on the left side (pictured) of the pistol
That piece is the sideplate assembly and it is present on 2nd and 3rd generation guns. If you look at the shape of the part in the picture of the 2nd generation gun, you will see that S&W simply made the grips for the 3rd generation guns to barely cover the part; you can see the edge of the part hiding just behind the grips in the picture of the 3rd generation gun.

One of the more prominent differences between 2nd and 3rd generation guns is that 2nd generation guns have straight barrels and 3rd generation guns have barrels with a smaller "waist" near the end.
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Old December 30, 2012, 03:30 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by carguychris:
In terms of standard-production M5906 non-TSW production changes, there are 3 important ones.

In 1990, S&W switched from a vertical blade-style rear sight on the fixed sight pistols to a steeply slanted Novak Lo-Mount sight. The optional screw-adjustable rear sight was not changed. (Make note that the three types of sight do NOT interchange due to different-sized dovetails in the slide!)

Around 1992-1993, S&W changed from the square trigger guard to a round trigger guard. Round guard pistols will generally fit in square guard holsters but NOT the reverse. FWIW S&W later made a couple of minor changes to the shape and checkering on the round guard, but these changes are subtle and probably inconsequential unless you're a collector.

Between 1993-1996, S&W started using MIM hammers and triggers on many 3rd-gen pistols, and by 1997 they seem to have switched to MIM more or less exclusively. (According to collector research- i.e. "this is what my gun has on it, how about yours"- there does not seem to be a hard-and-fast cutoff date.) Unlike the constant wailing and gnashing of teeth about MIM on S&W revolvers, most 3rd-gen fans seem to agree that the MIM parts were a Good Thing, because they give the MIM guns smoother, more consistent, and seemingly lighter triggers. The MIM parts can be ID'd by mottled dark grey finish, skeletonized or cutout sides on the MIM hammers, and a slightly different shape to the step at the top of the MIM triggers. (Be aware that dark finish is NOT a surefire indication of MIM on stainless guns, because S&W also used 5904-type blued parts on the stainless guns from time to time!)
Wow, thanks for this. I was unaware that the timeframe for the rounded guards and MIM change-over was so tight.

The two 5906s I have (round trigger guards, non-MIM hammers/triggers) were purchased during the late 1992 - early 1993 timeframe within a few months of one another. One was a duty weapon, the other remains NIB to this day waiting for my son to inherit it when he comes of age.
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Old December 30, 2012, 08:08 PM   #8
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Quote:
One of the more prominent differences between 2nd and 3rd generation guns is that 2nd generation guns have straight barrels and 3rd generation guns have barrels with a smaller "waist" near the end.
This is closely related to one of the other prominent differences: most 2nd-gen guns (the 645 and 745 excepted) have a M1911-style removable barrel bushing. The M645, M745, and the 3rd-gen pistols have fixed bushings.
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Old December 31, 2012, 12:29 AM   #9
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Ha ha, you'd think I'd know my OWN GUN well enough to know that a 3rd Gen has that also. True story--I own only one 3rd Gen. (always have wanted more...will work on that, always have planned to do exactly that...)

Mine is a 1006. Back in '92 I had a buddy who wanted his first handgun, wanted my opinion. "Get a .357 Mag revolver, for sure" I said.

"I want something powerful!" he said.
".357!" I said.
"yeahbut, I want a pistol, not a old style revolver..."
"get a .45!" I said.
"I want something really powerful!"
"Get a TEN MILLIMETER!"
Made sense to me... my dream gun, I couldn't possibly afford to buy or feed one. Why not steer HIM toward one?!

It worked. He bought a brand new 1006. Got married shortly thereafter. Didn't take long after the baby before his wife "didn't feel comfortable with THAT in the house" and he offered it to me for a cool four hundred. That was in like '95, IIRC, still big bucks for me at the time, but a no-brainer. Of course I bought it.

Here's the relevant part. It wears the big rubber Hogue grip, and he bought the grip in the first week he had it and I was the one who installed that grip. I was also the guy that cleaned that gun and made the ammo for it, too, since the day he bought it. So I had seen under that big rubber Hogue grip only in that week before I put it on and it's never been off the pistol since that day, like 22 years ago.

So yeah, I know my gun pretty well, but haven't seen under the grip since I was a kid.
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Old December 31, 2012, 08:52 AM   #10
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Thanks guys. What do you think of $325 for what appears to be a 5904 in very good condition with two 15 round mags?Great gun and fair price. I'd go for it . They aint makin no more
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Old December 31, 2012, 10:16 AM   #11
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Quote:
What do you think of $325 for what appears to be a 5904 in very good condition with two 15 round mags?
It's certainly a very good price, albeit not a "You Were Stupid To Walk Away, RUN Back There" price.
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Old December 31, 2012, 12:00 PM   #12
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Thanks for all the info guys! I am a proud new owner of S&W 5904! The one linked above. I paid $315. I offered $300, but he had another offer of $315, but they guy wasn't firm about getting there in a timely manner, so I went this morning and picked it up!

Can't wait to shoot it!
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Old December 31, 2012, 12:22 PM   #13
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A little late but I think you did good. I paid some where around 350 to 400 for my 5906 with 2 mags. It's one of those 'am i ever glad i bought that gun!' moments. I really like the 3rd gen smiths and like lunger said, they ain't makin' them no more. Get one while the getting is good. These are a must own pistol in my book.
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Old December 31, 2012, 05:54 PM   #14
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Quote:
It's one of those 'am i ever glad i bought that gun!' moments. I really like the 3rd gen smiths and like lunger said, they ain't makin' them no more. Get one while the getting is good.
Good deal! Let us know how it shoots.

New Owner Field-Stripping Tips:
  • It's much easier to remove and reinsert the takedown pin (slide stop) if you cock the hammer beforehand. The decocker/safety levers must be in the FIRE position to do this.
  • The easiest technique for holding the slide back during this procedure is to point the muzzle about 45 degrees to your left, insert your left thumb through the trigger guard, then wrap your left palm and fingers over the slide while drawing it back with your right hand. The takedown pin can then be pushed out with your right thumb. (IIRC the more recent S&W manuals illustrate the correct hand position.)
  • Some of the recoil springs are tapered. Pay attention to which way it's pointed as you remove the guide rod.
Cheers!
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Old January 1, 2013, 10:15 AM   #15
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Thanks for those tips! I am sure they will come in handy!
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Old January 1, 2013, 03:55 PM   #16
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You got a good deal! Hard to find a 3rd Gen in good condition
for that kind of money. And with two fifteen round mags...the
way things are going nowadays those are getting harder to find.
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