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Old October 15, 2013, 01:39 AM   #1
LockedBreech
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The Million-dollar question about the Smith & Wesson lock

So, we all hate the Smith and Wesson locking mechanism. It represents a political compromise that we loathe, it's aesthetically devastating, and it theoretically is designed in a way that could allow it to engage inadvertently upon firing.

But...is there any evidence of that accidental engaging ever happening with any regularity, or at all?

The concern has thus far stopped me from buying a Smith & Wesson. I know there is a robust used market but I greatly prefer factory new guns with the exception of a few models no longer in production.

Last edited by LockedBreech; October 15, 2013 at 01:06 PM.
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Old October 15, 2013, 01:44 AM   #2
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--IF-- you can get past anything/everything else about the lock, and your -ONLY- real roadblock is concern over the lock somehow engaging itself...

...please stop worrying and go enjoy a great revolver.

It's almost absurd how many guns today employ internal locks, but S&W revolvers are the only ones that have folks thinking they'll engage themselves.
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Old October 15, 2013, 01:51 AM   #3
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I've never heard anything but stories about "this one time my friend..." This topic has been covered at length, both here and on the S&W forum.

That being said, I have the exact opposite philosophy on buying firearms. For less than the price of cheap Taurus, I can get well loved S&W from the 1970s before the lock came into being, before MIM parts came into being, before all the rumors (unfounded or not) of quality control issues, before all of that.

For the price of an average new S&W, I can get a quite nice example of just about any S&W model made in the 1960s or 70s (excluding rare models).

Plus you get character and sometimes a bit of story. It's a S&W, if it passes the revolver checklist, it's unlikely to suddenly break. My model 36 and 10 will outlast me.
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Old October 15, 2013, 06:26 AM   #4
radom
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you can also pull the locks out of them too and its less work than the mag locks on a FN browing..
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Old October 15, 2013, 06:33 AM   #5
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Just another 'overblown problem" that gets pecked to death.
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Old October 15, 2013, 07:06 AM   #6
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actually on a local forum i belong to, a guy had a X-frame locked up while shooting it at the range, it was a 500 S&W IIRC, and was he was using handloads also IIRC.
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Old October 15, 2013, 09:08 AM   #7
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Non of my Smiths have the IL but it certainly wouldn't keep me from buying one with it on. After all, if you don't like 'em, they can be disabled and plugged. I've had IL on other makes - I never even pay attention to 'em. To me, they are like the LCIs (loaded chamber indicators) - I have those on several handguns and I don't notice them either - I was taught to always "check" to see if a weapon is loaded so that's what I depend on. Some folks have a fit about 'em and have to remove 'em and plug 'em.

Yea, I've heard all of the "hoopla" about "they could lock up" and "they could do it and I could loose my life if I needed to use my handgun", etc., etc.

T think it's pretty simple . . . if you don't like 'em, don't buy 'em. If you buy one and don't like it, then have it disabled and plugged. Life is too short to worry about trivial things that can easily be taken care of.
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Old October 15, 2013, 10:47 AM   #8
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I own 2 S&W lock guns 460xvr and 686+. I have many rnds through both at this point. I run them clean and dirty, I dont baby them at all. If a lock such as that would fail I would expect it to do so under heavy recoil. I like the lock. Its there if I ever find a reason for it and it doesnt bother me for anything else.
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Old October 15, 2013, 11:31 AM   #9
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They sure ugly up the looks and ruin the shape of the frame. Aesthetics count a lot with some people. So far, I have avoided the lock, but would consider purchasing a Model 63-5 which does have it.
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Old October 15, 2013, 12:26 PM   #10
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If it happened with any regularity, you'd see/hear a lot more about it. I mean, I suspect there are a hundred, or a thousand, "I heards" on the internet for every one occurence of anything, and since you hardly ever see even an "I heard" here, it is a pretty good indication that lock malfunctions are extremely rare.
The "I heards" that I've heard all involved guns in very hard-kicking calibers (including the I-heard related above).
I have a few thousand rounds through my M22, and have had no issues with the lock.
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Old October 15, 2013, 01:11 PM   #11
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I bought a S&W Mountain Gun with a lock. So far, there have not been any problems. It is no worse in my opinion than a bunch of stamped warnings.

Yes, the hole is obvious but rather small and not nearly as noticeable as an elongated beavertail on some 1911's. I don't think I would ever buy one of those.

There are some ugly handguns out there that seem to sell without any difficulty like the Glock and a few other makes. Other than the small hole, my S&W revolvers looks just like the same model without the Internal Lock.
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Old October 15, 2013, 01:14 PM   #12
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Thanks for the input, folks. I don't often wander into wheelgun world and I apologize if I have dredged up a beaten-to-death issue.

I will also have to reconsider my view on used guns based on what ckpj99 posted rather persuasively. After all, my Mosin and 1968 Colt are both used (my only used guns) and they are both outstanding.
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Old October 15, 2013, 01:28 PM   #13
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No apologies needed. We must all remember that while some have had the same conversations and issue pop up thousands of times, others are new to the idea that some subjects have been LONG-argued. For example, I know some new folks to handgunning will ask "how do I pick between a 9mm or a .45?" and others will roll their eyes or go running away with their hair on fire, but it doesn't mean that everyone has already seen or had the debate.

For me, I've bought and owned Smith & Wesson revolvers since I first began shooting over 25 years ago. I own MANY and though I do have a few double action revolvers that aren't S&W, S&W is what I love the most, by far, and it's not close. In all my years (not as many as some, but a significant volume of owning and shooting), I have only owned one S&W with the internal lock.

I found that it was a FINE revolver, incredibly accurate with a terrific feel of quality & workmanship. I had zero reservations about how well it would "work" in any situation but in the end, I had to move it out of my collection because it was a five-shot J-frame .357 Magnum and it was outrageously uncomfortable to shoot. In retrospect, I could have found a genuine place for it in my world if I had explored different aftermarket grips/stocks, but I never bothered to go that route because it seemed to be perfect for concealed carry but I had no intention of ever doing so, thus I let it find a new home.

When I shop for revolvers, Smith & Wesson specifically, I shop used because that is (by FAR) where the deals are. So much value in a used revolver and the range of prices are almost without limits, where all NEW revolvers have similar prices. And when I shop for a used S&W revolver, I only ever shop pre-lock.

For me, it's not because of the lock, it's simply because the lock shows me easily and from afar that it is a newer S&W revolver and I prefer older ones. I cut my teeth on revolvers from the 1980s, so I love those, and I have found great joy in revolver from the 70s as well. I am certain that I would love some from the 60s, and I have a few from the 90s that make me happy also. I typically don't care to shop for S&W any earlier than the 1960s nor later than the 1990s, but simply because I can find so many in that span of roughly 40 years that I love so much for so many reasons.

Would I trust my life to a lock-equipped Smith & Wesson revolver made today?
Absolutely, without a doubt. Like any handgun I might put in that role, I would thoroughly test it to my satisfaction, and then I would go forth.
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Old October 15, 2013, 02:10 PM   #14
stormyone
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When I see that lock, that hole is as huge as the Grand Canyon.
I hate the lock and everything it represents.

Last edited by stormyone; October 18, 2013 at 01:59 AM.
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Old October 15, 2013, 02:37 PM   #15
MrBorland
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stormyone
I hate the lock and everything it represents.
This is a very common sentiment.

As for me, all else being equal, sure, I'd opt for the lock-free gun, but The Lock certainly isn't a deal-breaker. As it is, I prefer the other features on newer guns (e.g., frame-mounted firing pin, pinned front sight, etc), and there aren't many pre-lock variants out there so equipped. I just semi-retired my IL-infested 686 from match shooting after 80k-ish hard rounds, and The Lock has been a non-issue.

If one doesn't like The Lock, Sevens summed it up nicely, and buying a used pre-lock gun is sound advice.
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Old October 15, 2013, 02:51 PM   #16
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There really aren't very many reports of spontaneous engagement of the lock. But... that didn't stop me from disabling the lock on my 642, when it found its way into my possession. I'm a bit of an "eliminate the variables" kind of guy.

I would have prefered an older J-frame, but I couldn't pass on the deal. So, I just disabled the lock.

If I decide to sell or trade it, I can just reinstall the parts and have the lock fully functional again (albeit, without a set of keys ).
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Old October 15, 2013, 03:52 PM   #17
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There have been plenty of "reports", many from one source who simply hates S&W and will "dis" the company at every opportunity, using truth, half truth, and just plain lies. (One incident related repeatedly is physically impossible.)

However, I did study that mechanism and think it could lock up with sufficient recoil, and I note that later guns have a modified lock that cannot possibly lockup. Whether S&W fixed a problem that didn't happen out of concern that it could or whether they fixed a problem they knew they had and denied, I don't know. I never personally saw a genuine case.

But I do know that the issue sent some folks right over the edge. One person made threats against the company to the extent that the FBI was reportedly called in to investigate. Over a lock!!

Jim
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Old October 15, 2013, 07:44 PM   #18
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We all hate the lock but any concerns with it engaging on its own are way over blown. I have a 637 and have never had any issues with the lock. Personally, I just over look the damn thing and don't worry about it.

If you like a S&W buy one, you won't regret it.
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Old October 15, 2013, 07:58 PM   #19
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I have a new Smith with a "lawyer lock." It's a 686+ w/3"bbl. For reference, I have two other 686's - purchased in 1984, and 1986.

I like my new 686. Very accurate. The trigger is a little "grindy" just before hammer fall, and if it doesn't smooth out soon, I'm going to take it in to S&W for them to trick it out. We'll see.

It's my nightstand gun - I have that much faith in its proper function.

I have never engaged the lock. I saw the keys for the lock in the case, but I just put them in my safe and haven't seen them since. They've never touched the gun.
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Old October 16, 2013, 04:35 AM   #20
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The back-story of the lock system....

I don't think many TFL members or S&W owners in 2013 know the full history of the gun lock issue.
To my limited understanding, S&W was going through tough economic issues in the early/mid 1990s. The company changed hands a few times & for a brief period in the late 1990s, early 2000s, they were under a AZ based firm that produced security locks/safety locks.
The company combined these locking devices into the S&W firearms, some say to appease anti-gun political factions & public safety officials. Smith & Wesson then changed ownership again into what is known today but maintained the "lawyer locks" on many of the DA revolvers.
Even the magazine safety seemed unpopular with US gunners.
S&W redid the firing system of the DA revolvers too(which I like more than the older style).

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Old October 16, 2013, 07:08 PM   #21
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There is no mystery and the facts were well known at the time. IIRC, the story, much abbreviated, goes like this.

Andrew Cuomo, then Clinton's HUD secretary and a fanatic anti-gunner, was crusading against guns, especially easily concealed small revolvers. He first threatened Colt with lawsuits intended to bankrupt the company. Already losing money on their small guns (Cobra, Detective Special), Colt folded and just stopped making all its double action revolvers.

S&W was in better financial shape and tougher but, faced with the full power of the federal government, unfriendly courts, and the potential of losing millions in hostile lawsuits, they finally gave in and signed an agreement with the feds. It called for a number of changes in their sales policy and in the guns themselves, specifically the installation of some form of locking device that could be engaged to keep unauthorized persons (mostly children) from using the gun. (Other companies were also coerced to install a lock, but most managed to make them less conspicuous than the S&W method.)

S&W set out to redesign their line to accommodate a lock. In the meantime, the anti-gun Democrats lost the next election and the new (Bush) administration indicated it would not hold S&W to the agreement, even though the company did make some other changes in their sales policies. AFAIK, the agreement is technically still in effect, since any contract by a company is automatically assumed by a successor company.

Then S&W changed hands, but with the agreement still in effect, even if not being enforced, and the major re-tooling costs already done, S&W went ahead with the lock.

Many gun owners saw the lock as a "sell out" (even though the new company had no part in the agreement) and really went after S&W, in often extreme ways. Swearing never to own another S&W product was common, and a valid method of complaint. But at least one person threatened to blow up the factory, and another said he would kill S&W employees and dealers. Rumor had it that federal warrants were served on some web sites to identify posters and some people were arrested, but I can't confirm that.

Is the above accurate? Perhaps not, but it is the way I recall it. Maybe others will comment.

Jim
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Old October 16, 2013, 08:48 PM   #22
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Quote:
--IF-- you can get past anything/everything else about the lock, and your -ONLY- real roadblock is concern over the lock somehow engaging itself...

...please stop worrying and go enjoy a great revolver.

It's almost absurd how many guns today employ internal locks, but S&W revolvers are the only ones that have folks thinking they'll engage themselves.
S&Ws are better than ever. The lock is a minor annoyance that I rarely or never actually think about or let annoy me. I enjoy my S&W handguns and the lock makes no difference. And no, they do not accidentally engage themselves.
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Old October 16, 2013, 08:57 PM   #23
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Quote:
Is the above accurate? Perhaps not, but it is the way I recall it. Maybe others will comment.
It is, with one modification. Saf-T-Hammer, the company who manufactures the locks, is the owner of Smith & Wesson. They have gone on record a couple of times saying they have no intention of honoring the Clinton agreement.

Additionally, the agreement was supposed to be administered by HUD of all agencies, and they have no interest in enforcing it.
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Old October 16, 2013, 09:28 PM   #24
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While I understand that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I have never understood the whole "ugly" thing about the lock. To me it's no uglier than any other pin or screw in the side of a gun. <shrugs> Just something else there.

I've owned a couple of S&W's with the lock. They never bothered me a bit. I might buy another one one if that 44 mountain gun at my LGS doesn't get out of there soon.
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Old October 16, 2013, 10:08 PM   #25
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I have a model 18 with the lock. If I was asked to choose to keep it or make it disappear I would choose the later. With that said, I hardly notice it. I do think it stands out a bit more on stainless guns but I never worry about its function. Of course with a K-frame in .22lr there is almost no recoil.
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