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Old December 8, 2018, 12:33 AM   #1
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New vs. Classic S&W Model 19

I was discussing my newfound appreciation of revolvers while shooting with my father-in-law. He worked as a police officer for a few years after returning home from Vietnam, and mentioned how he loved shooting his duty-issued Model 19 (most likely an early 70's model). The way he raved about that pistol made me consider picking one up. Are the current Model 19's significantly different than the one he carried? If picking up an older Model 19 is recommended, are there any versions or production years that should be avoided? Lastly, was the gun really that good, or has his fondness for the pistol been affected by nostalgia?
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Old December 8, 2018, 01:45 AM   #2
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The classic 19's reputation kinda grew bigger than the pistol in some ways. It is, and was, a very fine handgun. It fit the hand well with a whole slew of grips available, and it was unheard of to have accuracy issues. It's drawback was it's frame strength. S&W recommended that they be shot way much more with .38SPL loads and only qualifications be carried out with full house .357 loads. They were a far sight more comfortable to carry than the bigger N-framed pistols. I wouldn't give my 19-4 up for a whole truck load of speckled pups.

The smoothness of the action was better than the Ruger. And, in my experience, they felt better than a great many Colt Trooper I's, II's, and III's that I've felt. A good trigger job could bring it on par with some of the other Colts. The benefit over the Colts were the number and operation of the interior parts- there were fewer and simpler parts in a S&W. The Colt had a habit of making parts do two or three different things, and it took a fairly well trained man to diagnose and correct Colt problems once they wore 'out of time'.

And, I wish I could remember, but early Silhouette and/or other target shooters use to either put Colt Barrels on S&Ws or vicey versy.

I assume the new ones are as good or maybe even better than the old ones. I just can't bring myself to appreciate not seeing a firing pin nose on a new hammer. And, there are still plenty of folks who bemoan the MIM parts used on modern firearms. I don't like it, but then again- I have never seen such a part fail.
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Old December 8, 2018, 06:44 AM   #3
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There is nothing like an early vintage Model 19 in terms of a quality, classic, classy wheelgun.
Say when.....
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Old December 8, 2018, 08:31 AM   #4
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There has to be at least one M-19 in the DFW area you can try out. Call around to the different ranges and see if there is one you can rent.

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Old December 8, 2018, 11:10 AM   #5
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The Model 19 is still my favorite handgun. I have a 6" and a 2-1/2", need the 4" but I have 2 4" L frames and a Model 15. An older S&W revolver, K or N frame , are the best there is. The newer ones I have are dang good too. The later L frame guns are also shooters, again the older the better. I have a 586 no dash that prolly shoots better(double action) than anything else I own. Colt and Ruger guns are good but the S&W action is way better.
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Old December 8, 2018, 11:14 AM   #6
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This is my Model 19-3 that I bought brand-spanky new in 1975. The action is still as silky smooth as it was when I bought it.

It's drawback was it's frame strength. S&W recommended that they be shot way much more with .38SPL loads and only qualifications be carried out with full house .357 loads.
Not quite correct. It is not the frame, it is the forcing cone that can be the issue. S&W K frame 38 Special revolvers have a clearance cut at the bottom of the forcing cone. They have had this feature since about 1905. The reason is there needed to be clearance for the gas ring on the yoke to clear the bottom of the barrel. With 38 Special revolvers this was never a problem.

This is a photo of the clearance cut on the forcing cone of a S&W K-38. You can see the flat cut reduces the thickness of the forcing cone at that point.

This is the clearance cut on my 19-3.

What can happen with a K frame revolver that is chambered for 357 Magnum, if firing high velocity, light weight bullets, such as 125 grain bullets, the forcing cone can crack at its thinnest point. This is a well documented problem with K frame 357 Magnums and light weight, high velocity ammunition.

Like this:

I have had my Model 19 for over 40 years and it is still going strong. However I will admit that the great majority of ammunition I have put through it over the years has been 38 Special.

S&W developed the L frame for exactly this reason. It allows for a little bit more space for the gas ring, and it is not necessary to relieve the bottom of the forcing cone.

Regarding the Model 19s presently being offered by S&W, they may have addressed this problem, I am not sure about that.
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Old December 8, 2018, 11:26 AM   #7
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I'm not the guy to ask if one is "better" than the other. I've got an "old" one, and a "new" one. I think they're different, but I couldn't tell you which one is "better."

I like both.



Many years ago, a guy named Skeeter Skelton convinced me that the best all around handgun was a medium frame 357 with a 4" barrel. I haven't seen anything since then to make me change my mind.
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Last edited by CajunBass; December 9, 2018 at 10:45 AM.
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Old December 8, 2018, 11:52 AM   #8
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This is my 19-3. I recently got. I love it.
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Old December 8, 2018, 04:11 PM   #9
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I have two Model 19’s, a 4” 19-5 former duty piece which is very smooth with an excellent trigger and noticeable holster wear; and a 6” 19-4 with target sights & trigger, and no holster wear. I shoot .38 Spl +P in the 4” 19-5 and .38 Spl target ammo only in the 19-4. Neither is really better, they’re just set-up differently.

The .357 Mag ammo here is all 158 gr., but is only for my L and N-frames.

Last edited by riverdog; December 8, 2018 at 07:10 PM.
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Old December 9, 2018, 07:42 AM   #10
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Bill Jordan was responsible for S&W introducing the model 19, as a Lawman's sidearm. As previously mentioned, it was designed primarily to be shot with .38's, and used sparingly and carried with .357 Magnums. I have owned quite a few 19 and 66's over the years and belted tons of 125 Magnums through them too (before knowing any better... LOL!), without any issue, aside from ringing ears. Now my vintage 19-3 Combat Magnum snubby and 80's Taurus 66, 6"(copy of 19), are regulated to only .38's and occassionally 158 Magnums.
My Ruger GP-100 3" can shoot up all my remains stock of 110 and 125 .357 Magnums.

Last edited by shurshot; December 10, 2018 at 05:26 AM.
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Old December 9, 2018, 10:08 AM   #11
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The current Model 19, like the reintroduced Model 66 that preceded it, has a two piece barrel. It sort of reminds me of the Damon Wesson revolver that had a reputation for accuracy.
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Old December 9, 2018, 08:06 PM   #12
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My first center fire handgun was a model 19. I still have it, still take it to the range (today in fact), and once cleaned it goes back on my nightstand. Action is smooth as silk. I qualified for my Florida carry permit with it (despite the range officer telling me how much better I would do if I were using one of their rented Glock 17s).
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Old December 9, 2018, 08:27 PM   #13
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They're the greatest, my favorite Smith after the Model 29's. Currently have a stainless 2 1/2 inch and a blued 6 inch. Both were made in the the 80's.
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Old December 19, 2018, 08:03 PM   #14
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Take a look at the Model 19 Carry Comp.
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Old December 19, 2018, 11:38 PM   #15
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I have two of the "classic" Model 19s, one with a 4-inch barrel and one with a 2.5-inch barrel. I purchased the new Model 19 Carry Comp (3-inch ported barrel) a while back and have been very pleased with it. The SW Performance Center does a trigger job which smooths it out. It is still on the heavy side but I learned to shoot a handgun by shooting a revolver (a Model 27). I just needed to get re-acquainted with the revolver trigger after mostly shooting 1911s for several years.

The problem with the forcing cone has been fixed with the new model 19s and it was the weak spot on the classic 19s when firing a steady diet of 125-grain .357 magnum loads.
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Old December 20, 2018, 02:10 AM   #16
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wmg, FWIW I had 2 1/2", 4" and 6" Model 19s back in the day. The new 19s are likely perfectly serviceable, and may actually be more durable than the originals. I don't know. But were I currently in the market, I'd have to go with one of the earlier models.
I just can't get past the change in the rear frame profile to accommodate the internal lock, the internal lock itself, and the two piece barrel of the current models.....ymmv
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