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(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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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While the grouping is a sight far better than the DAO only group, it wouldn’t do to call the 910 a tack driver.

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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.

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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

Caliber: 9mm
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.

 

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30 Responses to Gun Review: Smith & Wesson Model 910

  1. Id like to add a little addendum. The magazine disconnect on these guns is very easy to diable, if you remove the rear sight you’ll see a little slot with a spring/plunger in it, remove the spring and plunger (it should be the white plastic one, the metal plunger is the firing pin block) and it deactivates the disconnect. Ive got several variants of these pistols and i did it to them as soon as i learned how

    • First gun I owned (and this is from the UK) was a S&W 4506. Wasn’t ideal for Practical Pistol, as it turned out – so I traded it for a Glock 21 – but it was reliable, accurate, looked and felt good and didn’t let me down.

      The only issues I had with it were magazine capacity and price (where I needed 20-30 rounds for a course of fire and was looking at $60 per eight-round magazine to add to the two it came with, compared to $15 per 13-round mag for the Glock), and the DA trigger with decocker safety – fine for normal range work but didn’t suit IPSC.

  2. I’ve never completely understood the aversion to the magazine disconnect safety feature in S&W’s defense pistols.

    After seeing some gun owners drop the hammer on a live round in a 1911 when they thought they had cleared the chamber, but had not, the mag disconnect feature seems like a pretty sound idea to me – as tho S&W actually knows what sort of common failures people are guilty of.

    The S&W semi-auto line, from the Model 39 onwards, has always been a quality product – until recently, when S&W decided that they wanted to imitate Glock’s “perfection.” Just as I recommend with the police trade-in S&W revolvers, the trade-in semi-autos are often a very, very good “bang for buck” gun purchase in the used market (pardon the obvious pun). They’re a quality firearm, with proven designs, good parts availability and they’re easy for gunsmiths to work on.

    • Does it affect the trigger feel? It does on the Browning Hi-Power – and getting rid of it made the trigger worlds better.

      Also, I hate not being able to dry-fire after a clearance drill.

      For those who want to practice dry-firing, put a dime or penny into the top of an empty mag, so that the elide won’t hold open on the empty mag.

      • Everything in the path of making a trigger break affects the “feel” of the trigger.

        For me, the S&W semi-auto triggers can be made to be quite nice, and that’s been true since the Model 39. The S&W Model 52 has a trigger that is legendary, as does the Model 41.

        You should know that I’m a trigger snob. For me, the ultimate in triggers is the two-stage trigger on my Anschuetz 18xx rifle, which is set to, oh, about six ounces. Everything, and I mean everything, is downhill from there. The S&W triggers on the Model 41’s and 52’s are about on the third step down from the Annie’s trigger. A Series 70 1911 with lots of TLC would be one level better than the S&W’s triggers.

        The S&W SA/DA defense (as opposed to the 41 & 52 target) pistols can have triggers nicer than anything available in a striker-fired pistol today. They just require a little work, similar to what you see in a S&W revolver. The DA trigger in a S&W revolver can be a handful, but the SA triggers are typically quite nice from the factory. A little TLC and loving attention from a competent ‘smith and you have excellent triggers.

  3. Good review on an underappreciated line of guns. But there are not several options of sights available for the 910. Trijicon makes a set of very expensive night sights and that’s it. HiViz made a fiber optic front that is out of production and the low-bid plastic factory sights are hard to find new and unfortunately damage easily.

  4. I’m a big fan! My personal carry guns are the M&P shield 9mm and the S&W 3913LS Ladysmith in 9mm which is the sexier more refined version of the 910. I also own a regular 3913 and am on the process of getting a better than average 910. I love how they handle and shoot. I have never had a misfire from the Ladysmith, it is rock solid and reliable! From what I have seen at the range, the value line 910 is just as good!

  5. Police trade ins are a steal. I got my m10 for less than 2 bills and tho it had lots of holster wear it was damn near new where it counts.

    Also, if you’re on a tight budget and want to defend yourself and your loved one’s and only have the funds for one handgun a duty sized pistol is probably the way to go. It’s not as easy to carry as a pocket rocket or j frame but it is more versatile.

    And if you have to teach non gun members of your family to defend themselves a duty size gun makes sense.

      • The 915 is a true S&W 3rd Gen without Novak sights and a lower cost finish. The 910 is a budget gun that is 3rd Gen-like and has more plastic parts. Both are fine guns and good shooters, but the 915 is the better gun. There are a lot more spare parts for the 915 as well.

  6. Thank you for your great review. I found the website iammo the other day and they have several s&w trade ins including the 910. Your review has led led me to believe I in fact do need one of these pistols for a range gun.

  7. I have an S&W 915 that I purchased new 20+ years ago. A few years ago I purchased some extra MecGar 17 round & 20 round mags, a couple years ago I installed new Trijicon night sights, and this year installed Crimson Trace laser grips.
    I love this gun. Yes the DA first pull is quite long, especially compared to my Glock 19, but I will never get rid of my 3rd Gen S&W 915! Quality gun, alloy frame, steel slide, high capacity, what’s not to like?

    • Pick up a reduced power hammer spring 17-18 lbs from Wolff and you can quickly drop the DA pull on your 915 by a couple pounds without affecting reliability.

  8. The 915 and 910 are great pistols along with the whole 2nd & 3rd generation S&W double/single line and they made their impact which began in the mid-1980s. I got a 2nd gen. S&W 669 in 1988 and carried this and other S&W 3rd generation throughout the 90s as a cop. They are great guns and shunned by newbies today because they are afraid that double/single as well as metal frame guns aren’t “tactical” enough for them. I out-shot cops with Glocks in range competitions and the author is right, the single action triggers are great. Marlin used to make 20rd magazines for their Camp 9 carbines which took the same magazine and they were of very good quality – I carried two on my duty belt. The first generation model 59 is also a fine pistol.

    • Pick up a reduced power hammer spring 17-18 lbs from Wolff and you can quickly drop the DA pull on your 915 by a couple pounds without affecting reliability.

    • IN ADDITION TO ABOVE: Also, my groups were about the same or tighter than the author’s groups are and at twice the distance shooting the 3 1/2″ barrel model 669 with a two-hand hold. I would say that accuracy is well above average of 9mm pistols at least with the ammo and model S&W I used from this pistol series.

  9. Awesome! I love the whole Smith “police pistol” series. I just don’t know what to call them.

    How about the “garbage number” series, since the number scheme is so hard to figure out.

  10. The 2nd and 3rd Gen. S&W’s are among the best self defense guns ever made. Love my 645’s 669, and DA only 3953’s. Can’t beat the reliability and build quality for the prices they’re going for. Can’t say I love the DA/SA rigger……but the safety of it is without a peer. Practice makes it work just fine.

  11. I have no personal experience with the S&W 910, but I’ve met two fellows who owned them. One says his 910 shoots about a foot high. I watched the other shoot his 910 about a foot high while warming up before a CHL qualification. (I offered him the use of my pistol, but he applied Kentucky windage and was able to qualify with the 910.) So were these guys doing something wrong, or is the 910 sighted in for 300 meters?

  12. I have a Value Line 457 I carry infrequently, almost like new. Also, a beater 5904, a nice 5904, a pristine 5906TSW, nice early 5906, nice 6906, very nice 3913. It’s a sickness. Even picked up a Camp Carbine 9mm to share the mags! I’ll take a 910 or 915 if I find one.

  13. I love the S&W metal semi autos in all generations and in all formats. I have a Model 909 which is a single stack version of the 910 and only in production for about a year.

    There are significant differences between the 910 and 915. The 915 is a true 3rd Generation pistol. The frame is not as machined, no Novak sights, dull finish, and the slide rails go the entire length of the slide. It is analogous to the Model 28 and it’s relationship to the Model 27, mechanically identical but less refined in finish. The 910 uses a modified Sigma slide which is squarer and the slide rails do not run the length of the gun. Put a 910 up to the light and you will see daylight between the frame and slide. Sights are Sigma and I believe the guide rod.

    With regard to the mag safety Mas Ayoob has documented cases where police officers lives have been saved by rendering their pistol inoperable by releasing the magazine. The kill switch was not the original intent of the mag safety.
    In 2nd and 3rd Gen guns use the the frame mounted safety/decided as a device only. The firing pin is held in place until the pistol S fired. Not so with the M39/59 which uses an inertia firing pin.

    The only thing I would do when acquiring one of these fine underrated pistols is replace the recoil spring and if a really old pistol (M39) all the springs which are available from Wolff’s.

    These are great guns collectively and I do carry my 1st Gen M39 on occasion. No other handgun has better ergonomics for me. Regardless of which generation you get (I own and collect S&W metal Semis and have examples of all three Gens) you are getting an excellent pistol usually at a good price, provided the pistol is in good shape. S&W will produce 3rd Gens on agency request on a limited basis. A few years ago the West Virginia Hi Way Patrol after careful evaluation decided to stick with the 4506 and ordered a special batch which S&W was only too happy to oblige. I wish they would do a production run of either the 5906 or 659 or 439(my preference) in their Classics Series.

  14. Old semi-auto Smiths are still very good pistols. I got my wife a 5906 (police trade-in) that she loves. Little or no recoil due to the weight. I bought my father a 4506 for x-mas one year, nothing but good things to say about them.

  15. Very happy with my 3913, which replaced my previous 439. It is handy, robust and accurate. As noted in the Lucky Gunner link above, these were available in several calibers and finishes, and many configurations including the Ladysmith, NL, DAO and TSW variants . There were also limited production models such as the “Shorty 40”. Safety/decock and DA/SA operation is similar to the familiar PPK and others.
    The Chiefs Special and DAO (slick side) models are good options for EDC.

    I don’t care for ambi safeties, but I found the safety lever(s) afford a better purchase for racking the slide. So I split the difference by simply bobbing the right side lever flush with the round safety body that protrudes on that side. I will not comment on the mag safety.

    The action can be slicked up if necessary. There is a good series of YT videos that will serve as a guide for those who may be interested.
    Even if you do not contemplate any modifications these worth watching:

    There is not a huge aftermarket for these pistols, but grips, springs and sights are easy to find. Factory mags. with and w/out finger rests are available from CDNN at reasonable prices. I do not recommend substitutes.
    It is unlikely, but if you manage to break one of these, parts are available at Numrich. Some parts are interchangeable between models, and limited factory support is still offered.

    For those of us who prefer all-metal pistols, these are worth a look. Prices are hovering around 400 bucks on the internet, less common variants at a premium.
    Enjoy your classic!

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