(This is a reader-submitted review as part of our gun review contest. See details here.)
By Carter Ramsey
Ah, the good old Smith & Wesson double/single action guns. Woefully under appreciated and confusingly named (numbered?), these pistols kept many a beat cop company during the 1990’s and early 2000’s before being supplanted by Gaston’s gat.
Many of these PD trade-in guns, including even the gorgeous 5906 TSW, find themselves tucked away in the used gun cabinet of misfit pistols at local gun stores. Gun shoppers, their eyes aglow with the latest tiny niney or mortgage-sucking AR, pay no attention to these perfectly capable handguns.
Saddest and most neglected of all is the Model 910.The 910 is part of the short-lived “value line.” The gun gets its name from being chambered in 9mm, and having 10-round magazines. The 910 came to life in 1995, shortly after the miserable Assault Weapons Ban took effect, and as such was manufactured and shipped with 10-round magazines.
Smith & Wesson saved money in several other ways, replacing the guide rod and magazine release with plastic parts instead of metal, and the gun features more simple machining than its fancier brethren. It still has a certain air of Smith & Wesson quality to it, despite being one of the most inexpensive guns they’ve produced. The 910 does not feel cheap, and has a great looking classic 90’s cop movie look to it. The slide is steel, and the frame is a metal alloy.
The 910 was manufactured between 1995-2004. I was lucky to acquire one several years ago for a cool $200 from a police department that was apparently quite late to the Combat Tupperware party. My particular example came with pretty heavy holster wear, and if you run across one of these in a gun store it most likely will as well. No matter, the 910 is anything but a safe queen. It is a beater gun extraordinaire, and despite being a value gun, the fit and finish are quite good. Luckily, my gun came wit three 15-round magazines instead of 10-rounders.
The slide racks as smooth as silk, and the stainless steel barrel reeks of quality. I have no clue how many rounds this gun has through it, but the barrel looks to be in tip-top shape for a gun that is at minimum a decade old.
The 910 sports plastic Novak sights, which get the job done, though if you wish to switch the sights out there are many aftermarket options available. The 910 rocks an external slide safety that is large enough to be engaged and disengaged easily, even under duress. I’m not a huge fan of manual safeties, but at least the 910’s is intuitive. The safety also functions as a decocker, so you cannot carry the 910 cocked and locked, typical of most DA/SA guns.
The gun also unfortunately features a magazine disconnect safety. The idea behind this is that if an officer is grappling with someone over the gun, he can eject the magazine, effectively disabling the gun and giving the suspect a nice piece of metal to beat him with.
Having been in multiple aggravated physical confrontations before, I can tell you hitting that switch in that situation is easier said than done. My other issue is that I am a huge fan of dry fire for practicing, and having to have the magazine inserted during dry fire is disconcerting. I just use the gun as a range toy so all the safety “features” aren’t really an issue for me, but if you plan on buying the 910 as a self defense gun on a budget, keep those considerations in mind.
I haven’t shot the 910 often the past several years as I have focused most of my shooting time and money with GLOCKs, since they are what I use for my job, but relished busting the 910 out to put some rounds through it for this review. When I first picked up the gun, extended my arms and pointed it down range, the front sight was nowhere to be found.
Perplexed, I canted my wrists up and, voila, there it was. The grip angle of the 910 is nearly vertical, and after shooting so many GLOCKs and M&Ps for so long, my natural instinct is to angle the gun with the front end pointed towards the floor. After some minor correcting I got it squared away, though when I pulled my GLOCK 17 out later in the day I had it pointed nearly at the ceiling after shooting the 910. Not a deal breaker by any means, but another factor to keep in mind when considering a purchase.
The initial double action trigger pull feels like shooting a revolver. The pull is smooth and refined, as expected from Smith & Wesson, but very long and heavy. After what feels like an eternity, the shot finally breaks. The double action pull isn’t the worst trigger in the world, but the 12 to 13 pound trigger pull inhibits accuracy somewhat.
Not to toot my own horn, but I am a competent pistol shooter, and as you can see from this DAO slow fire grouping at seven yards, the trigger is tight grouping prohibitive. I was aiming center mass, and I shot low with the double action. Note that all testing was done with cheap Wal Mart Perfecta ammunition. Hey, gotta keep the “shooting on a budget” thing going, right?
The single action trigger, on the other hand, is phenomenal. There is zero take up, just a light, approximately 3.5 pound pull and the gun fires. The trigger reset is out of this world. After pulling the trigger, all it takes about an eighth of an inch forwards motion and you’re ready to roll again. This makes follow up shots with the gun quicker than a jackrabbit on a hot date. Check out the difference in the group.
While the grouping is a sight far better than the DAO only group, it wouldn’t do to call the 910 a tack driver.
It would probably far better with better ammunition, but the gun is plenty accurate with the cheap stuff, and for a gun that sells at around $300, it certainly is more than acceptable. Reliability has never been an issue, as I have put over 500 rounds of the crappiest ammunition I could find through it with zero hiccups. It also cycles Gold Dots just fine. The metal frame sops up a lot of the perceived recoil, making shooting it a pleasant affair.
In my humble opinion, a used 910 makes a better budget self/home defense gun than a lot of cheap new guns that are available. I’ll take the 910 over a Kel-Tec any day for all applications other than concealed carry.
The all metal frame makes the gun heavy for carrying concealed. It can be open carried comfortably, but concealed carry will either require some serious fat pants or a heavy coat. Luckily, a plethora of holsters are available, as the 910 will fit most holsters made for the Smith & Wesson 5906.
On a similar note, the 910 is surprisingly customizable. Most parts that fit the 5900 series will work on the 910, so the sights and grips can be swapped out. If the plastic magazine release and guide rod bother you, a simple swap with a metal part designed for the 5906 will alleviate your concerns.
I left mine plastic, but I also just use mine for plinking. These parts are still widely available online, and Mec Gar still makes new 5906 magazines that will work excellently in the 910. Smith & Wesson made a sharp looking 910s that comes in stainless steel, but I have yet to see one of these in person. In fact, the 910 is a relatively rare gun in most stores and shooting ranges. I hadn’t even heard of it when I bought mine, but I’m glad I did.
Disassembly and maintenance are easy, for the most part. The slide stop pops out and off the slide goes. When removing the guide rod, it more often than not goes flying across the room. The guide rod consists of a large primary plastic piece, and a smaller piece that fits inside it. The smaller piece can be difficult to locate when catapulted across the room, so be careful while disassembling it.
Reassembly is about the same level of difficulty, though there are three small springs on the back of the frame that need to be depressed to make the slide go on the gun. You don’t need an engineering degree from MIT to figure it out, but it’s slightly more complicated than your typical GLOCK or XD.
Overall, the Smith & Wesson 910 is an absolute steal of a gun. Despite being available from 250-325 in stores and online, the 910 is a reliable, accurate, quality firearm that can hold its own as a self defense or range gun. If you’re looking for an affordable gun but the low budget guns with polymer frames give you nightmares, the 910 is worth a look. Though mine has been relegated to range duty, it’s still a blast to shoot.
Specifications: Smith and Wesson 910
Capacity: 15 rounds
Weight (unloaded): 1.75 lbs.
Overall Length: 7.2
Width: 1 in.
Barrel Length: 4 in.
Price: $300 +/-
Ratings (out of five stars):
Fit and Finish: * * * 1/2
For a gun that is over a decade old, the fit is superb and the finish has held up pretty well. The Smith & Wesson lettering is faded and there is definitely holster wear, but overall it’s still a sharp looking gun.
Customize This: * * *
Being able to swap out the grips, sights, and innards with 5906 parts is nifty, and a wide range of holsters are available. Between the age of the platform and a lack of a rail it has aged in the customization department, however.
Accuracy: * * *
The first double action shot quite frankly sucks. The follow-up shots with the single action are much improved, but there are better (and worse) shooting guns out there. Accuracy is par for the course.
Ergonomics (firing): * * * *
Minimal recoil and just the right amount of beavertail make the 910 a pleasant pistol to shoot.
Ergonomics (carry): * * 1/2
The 910 is as thick as War and Peace and weighs about as much. Concealed carry is theoretically possible, but if you’re looking for a concealed carry gun look elsewhere. Open carry is viable, however.
Value: * * * *
$250-$325 for a reliable, reasonably accurate pistol from a reputable manufacturer? Yes please.
Reliability: * * * *
I’ve personally put over 500 rounds of varying quality with nary a hiccup.
Overall: * * *
The 910 is an affordable, quality gun that get’s the job done. If you’re looking for an inexpensive nightstand gun or range toy you’ve come to the right place.