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The Smith & Wesson Model 19 “Combat Magnum” was one of the most beloved handguns ever made. Produced continuously from 1957 to 1999, tens of thousands of police officers carried a Model 19 on their hip, including US Immigration and Naturalization Service and the US Border Patrol agents. While larger departments could afford to issue Model 19s as duty weapons, many smaller PD’s gave their officers guidelines asking them to buy their own weapons. The Model 19 was frequently the best revolver these officers could afford.

The Model 19 for this review is a used gun, manufactured sometime between 1967-70. It’s an attractive gun, still sporting the original checkered walnut grips with round S&W medallion, and a 6″ barrel (introduced in 1963). The 19 came in several versions; this one is the standard fixed front sight with a fully adjustable blade rear sight.


Beyond .357 Magnum caliber and affordability, the Model 19’s ergonomics was the key to its popularity. It’s hard to describe just how well and intuitively the Model 19 handles. The first thing you notice is the grip. Wide, thick, and with a great shelf for the thumb, the standard wood grips look good and provide excellent control of the gun.

Even with a six-inch barrel, the gun draws well and points even better. Transitioning from one target to the next is fast; the 39oz revolver moves remarkably well for a .357 Magnum. When everything is a game of compromises, the Model 19 was the first revolver to win that game, measuring weight against caliber in a perfect blend.

I usually head right to the range with a pistol. Because of the Model 19’s history and my love of wheel guns, I spent a few nights practicing my draw, dry fire and reload drills. (Unfortunately, I didn’t have any speed loaders.) I carried a Smith & Wesson J-frame for a couple of decades, and still carry a Model 29 when I hunt. So I wasn’t exactly starting from scratch.

Still, it took some getting used to. After I was happy with my basic performance, it was off to the range.


The Model 19 has something of a checkered past for reliability, one that’s likely due more to rumor than actual experience. The 19 isn’t the heavy N-frame my Model 29 is. The six-inch K-framed 19 weighs six ounces less. The reduction in metal exacts a price in the thickness and strength of the frame’s top strap.

Over time, using the .357 Magnum load, the temperature and pressure caused by these rounds will erode, cut into, and weaken the frame of the gun. For re-loaders, some powders have a little more of a history of this unfortunate degradation than others. The workaround: shoot range sessions with .38 specials, carry .357 Magnums for hunting and self-defense.

Used that way, it’s highly unlikely the gun would experience any significant erosion or cracking. I was interested in how long it would take a Magnum-only diet to damage a Model 19, so I asked around. I spoke with two long retired officers who carried (and loved) the four-inch Model 19. They verified what I had already found searching the S&W forums: the top strap erosion and frame cracking was only an issue after firing thousands of  rounds of .357.

Most officers simply never fired enough rounds through their revolvers during their careers for this to be an issue. But if you want to become really proficient shooting this gun, the .38/.357 combo is the way you want to go.


As an aside, I had a conversation about this gun with a younger but experienced shooter. He claimed that with today’s modern loads, the .357 Magnum offers relatively little “stopping power” improvement over the 9mm+P. I’ve heard similar statements in the TTAG comment section and it seems to be a popular myth running around many forums.

If you’re talking about most commercial loads in a very short-barreled revolver, like a 2 1/2″ snubby, this statement is true. The .357 Magnum just can’t burn all that powder in such a short barrel. So you get some advantage, but not much.

However, once that barrel length increases to service pistol size, and certainly once you hit the four-inch mark, the .357 Magnum offers a tremendous advantage. In a six-inch barrel, it’s absolutely ridiculous. Using the same bullet weight and barrel length, the standard .357 Magnum is still travelling as fast or faster at 100 yards than the 9mm+P is at 50 yards. There’s just no comparison.

Back to the review . . .

I put 270 rounds of commercial .357 Magnum through the gun over four days of shooting. I experienced no reliability issues whatsoever with any of the rounds tested. No flame cutting, erosion or apparent weakening of the frame. Unlike most of my reviews, I had to leave the gun idle for a couple of weeks between sessions, so I did a basic field cleaning at round 150 and a full detail strip and clean once I finished.

As a note, good on whoever owned and maintained this revolver before I got it. Although a used gun, it was in exceptional condition. I’ve never cleaned a gun I’ve reviewed before before, but I felt duty bound to put this one back in same shape in which I got it. To do that, I would highly recommend The S&W Revolvers; A Shop Manual by Jerry Kuhnhausen.

As far as accuracy, the Model 19 shot well. But I have to admit, I was expecting a little better. Using a wide variety of ammunition, none of my five-shot groups shot from a sandbag were larger than two inches at 25 yards. Using the factory Hornady 125gr. FTX round, I got 1.5″ groups, with one as small as 1.25″.


That’s plenty good for self defense work, and also good enough for any hunting of light skinned game within the ballistic limits of the round. But I felt like the Smith & Wesson Model 19 could do better. The single action trigger never moved the sights, the sight radius is long for a pistol, and the grip gave me a rock solid hold. Try as I might, though, I only got one group out of 10 smaller than 1.5″.

Despite plenty of time on the range and a lot of time dry firing, I still can’t shoot this gun fast. Shooting from a leather holster I use for my seven-inch Ruger Bisley Blackhawk, my best draw and fire of one round into an eight-inch circle at 15 yards was 1.36 seconds. My best draw and fire of six shots into the same circle at 15 yards was 4.17 seconds.

Clearly, I’m no Jerry Miculek. I’m going to blame this on clearing six inches worth of barrel. (I’ll take whatever excuses I can get.) You might expect that the longer times, such as a .4 split time, were because of the recoil of the gun. Absolutely not. Considering the caliber, the Model 19’s recoil is very manageable. Part of that is due to the barrel length, but that grip plays a big part in double action fast (fastish?) fire.

Two-handed, it gave me plenty of real estate for an absolutely rock-solid hold on the mid-framed Magnum. It put my finger in an ideal position on the trigger, and gave me a great platform for my thumb for either hand.

My slow times were simply due to the trigger’s cycle time. I just couldn’t get the cylinder to turn fast enough. That was one of the places where I can certainly notice the difference between this gun and my Model 29. An object in motion tends to stay in motion; once it starts, the big .44 caliber cyclinder wants to keep on spinning. The trigger itself, however, is clearly superior on the older Model 19.


In single action, the trigger supposedly breaks at 4lbs. I don’t have a trigger gauge, but I would seriously doubt the SA pull weight was that heavy. Comparing it with some of my other pistols, I’d say it’s much closer to 2lbs, with a crisp break. Two-handed and in single action, this gun is giggly-fun easy to shoot.

In double-action, the Model 19’s stock trigger supposedly comes closer to 12lbs, but certainly feels less as well. The pull is smooth, with some stacking just before the hammer breaks. In fast fire I had to learn to feel for it, but it certainly lets you know right before the hammer falls.

What about single hand fire with a medium-framed .357? This is one place where this revolver absolutely shines. For someone like me, with size large hands, the Model 19 is simply a joy. It just points beautifully and with all that real estate in my palm, I found it very easy to hold the gun steady. The revolver simply falls into the hand naturally and I imagine it would be even more so in a four-inch model.

Back in the day, the Model 19 was described as the “perfect combat Magnum.” For a service grade carry revolver, the 19, especially with a 4″ barrel, is ideal. Plenty of caliber to get any job done, light enough to carry all day on the hip, and completely reliable. It’s accuracy is better than good enough, but not great. The pre-1971 Model 19 is a classic that earned its reputation.

Specifications: Smith and Wesson Model 19 Combat Magnum

Barrel Length: 6″ (others available)
Weight: 39oz as reviewed
Finish: factory blued steel
Grip: factory walnut (others available)
Capacity: 6 rounds
Caliber: .357 Magnum/.38 Special/.38 Special+P
Sights: fixed front, adjustable blade rear (others available)
Price Used: $800-$900 as reviewed, available online

Ratings (out of five stars):

Customization * *
Without a competent gunsmith, there are relatively few things you can do at home with this gun. With a competent smith, the options are limited only by their time and your money. But if you know what you want, shop around. Over the decades that this revolver was produced, many different variations came from the S&W factory.

Accuracy * * * *
Either two-handed or one-handed, double action or single action, this gun shot very well. But it never got close to breaking that 1″ mark.

Reliability * * * * *
Zero issues with a variety of rounds and a lot of magnum caliber shooting.

Style * * * *
This is a working man’s revolver, the Glock 17 of it’s day. And it certainly outclasses any of the common modern service pistols in fit and finish. A very good finish, but no deep pools of gleaming blue. No tool marks or poor fitting, but no embellishments either. Wood you would probably have to pay extra for nowadays, but was the standard when people cared about more than whatever was $5 cheaper than the gun next to it.

Overall * * * *
Only a few years ago you could buy this gun for $500-$600. I should have bought one then. The cost has risen substantially, as more and more people recognize a classic, and pay for the quality.

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  1. The Model 19 has a flat spot on the bottom of the forcing cone. That’s there most, if any K-frame magnums failed. Also, I have only seen a model 19 with those squared front sights one other time. Usually they have the ramp with the orange insert.

    • Mine, bought new in the early 1980s, looks just like this one. The only change was to substitute grips that better fit my small hand. (I kept the factory ones.)

      Rather than shoot .38 special, I would rather shoot .357 loaded down to .38 velocities.

    • Mine, bought new in the early 1980s, looks just like this one. The only change was to substitute grips that better fit my small hand. (I kept the factory ones.)

      I prefer to shoot .357s loaded down to .38 velocities. That keeps the front end of the cylinder clean.

      I tend to replace guns when I find something better. The only candidates to replace my 19 are heavier framed revolvers in the same caliber from the S&W Performance Center.

      • I’ve always had a problem maintaining accuracy when I load magnum rifle calibers down like that. Do you experience the same problem with magnum pistol calibers?

        • I don’t shoot well enough to notice the difference. Regardless what I shoot, the best I can do is to stay inside the 5″ bullseye of a B-16 target at 25 yards. The front sight wanders around too much for me to do better. I do all right in my gun club’s practical pistol matches. The ranges are shorter and all that matters is hitting the target somewhere. A hit dead center is counterproductive if you spend extra time to get it.

    • The flat part of your forcing cone is normal for this revolver and is one of the reasons the guns fail when one puts a steady diet of .357s through their guns. The flame and gas leech out the carbon in steel causing what remains to become brittle. Stainless steel contains chromium, which resists the leeching, and this makes stainless a better gun steel, in my opinion. Does this mean the steel guns aren’t tough, and can’t take magnum loads. No. The leeching problem occurs even in stainless, but in each type of steel, thousands of rounds must be fired. But the ground off portion of the forcing cone makes it the weakest part, and that’s normally where cracks begin.

      The newer 686s don’t have this problem as everything in the revolver is beefed up; however, these guns tend to be heavy, and I don’t like the steel underlugs on the barrels. In my view, S&W needs to reissue the Model 19/66s, only beefed up in the right parts, without turning the guns into boat anchors! The 686s are astoundingly accurate–more so than the Ruger GP-100, which replaced one of the finest .357s ever made, the Security-Six. That gun had much better balance and was far superior to the GPs.

      The Model 19/66 also was one of the finest guns ever made. I’d take the 6-inch in stainless steel, though I’ve always wanted a 4-inch too. So many guns, so little money!

  2. K-frame Smiths are the best. Not sure why the author feels it is slow. I can fire mine faster than any handgun I have ever fired. Bill Jordan was very fast with the K. A little practice, perhaps…

    • I never said the gun was slow, I said I was slow with it. Awesome if you aren’t though, and glad your practice is paying off for you. My best time with this 6″ revolver, from the draw, into an 8″ circle at 15 yards for all 6 .357magnum rounds was 4.17 seconds. Not great. What’s yours?

  3. When I was younger, I couldn’t understand the appeal of a wheelgun, when semi pistols could be had. As I get older, their looks grow on me with each passing year. I’ve only ever owned one revolver, and I regret letting it go. But it was nowhere near as classy as this thing looks.

    • Warren,

      It is hard to describe the appeal of revolvers. I think their appeal comes from the fact that you can see and actually feel the mechanics involved as you fire them. They often have nice, polished metal with smooth lines that are visually and even tactilely appealing. Of course they often come with outstanding grips that feel really nice. Finally, they are solid … you can rap them with your hand or shake them and nothing rattles or shimmies.

      Contrast all that with a semi-auto pistol. They are often chunky and have harsh lines. You cannot see nor feel the mechanics as you fire. If the pistol has a striker, you cannot feel anything as you pull the trigger other than taking up the often considerable slack and spring tension. (Pistols which have hammers sometimes feel a little better.) And pistol grips can often be considerably less than comfortable. Finally, they are not solid … the slides have some slop in them and pistols rattle if you rap them with your hand or shake them.

      • My lightweight polymer auto-loader seems a bit more soulless every time I look at it. It does everything I required of it when I bought it but I didn’t include pleasure to hold and own in the requirements. I bought my wife a steel revolver last winter and have been a bit envious since. I don’t know that I will indeed make it my EDC but I ordered a high quality 5″ .357 last month to explore the idea. I think this is rational thinking since I will very likely never need the 7th through 21st shot of my current EDC but I will certainly enjoy the fuzzy warmth of hand fitted steel and ivory (I bought some a few years back) every day when I get the new gun.

        • A high quality .357 Magnum revolver with a 5-inch barrel … (starts daydreaming about it)

          (snaps back to reality) … That will be a fine firearm. I happen to think that a 5-inch barrel on a revolver might just be the perfect barrel length. First of all a 5-inch barrel just looks beautiful. It is the right length to provide excellent balance. And it provides a nice increase in muzzle velocity over 2-inch and 3-inch barrels. Of course the greater sight radius is nice for accuracy. Finally, it isn’t so long that it becomes overly difficult to carry or draw.

          I sure wish that I could get a new Ruger GP-100 in .357 Magnum with a 5-inch barrel. I love their satin finish on their stainless steel frames and barrels. Of course they are built like a tank and stand up to thousands of rounds of full power loads.

  4. ‘…shoot range sessions with .38 specials, carry .357 Magnums for hunting and self-defense.’

    And watch the bullet sail right over the deer’s back because the .38 specials are going to hit 8 inches higher than the .357 magnum rounds…

    …or just buy a Ru ger.

    • Of course you should adjust for your round accordingly. However, at 25 yards, there is only a couple 10ths of an inch difference in trajectory, at most. Using the Applied Ballistics Shooter program I have both rounds hitting within a 10th of an inch of each other at 25 yards. All the way out to 100 yards, they are only 3.6″ apart, if the gun is zeroed at 25 yards. What is your 8″ based off of?

      • Because the .38 bullet spends something like twice the time in the barrel as the .357 bullet, the barrel rises more under recoil before the .38 bullet leaves the barrel than it does with .357 loads. A similar situation exists with .44 special in a .44 magnum revolver. The exact difference varies with different barrel lengths, bullet weights, revolver weights, etc, but my observation (from a good many years ago) was that the .38s hit way high.

        • As I pointed out below the true full pressure stuff is the Buff alo Bore, Double Tap, etc. which I would avoid in the J and K frames. But it would take many, many thousands of rounds of the lighter stuff to destroy that 19 so I wouldn’t bother with .38s myself. It’s my hypothesis that these Smiths (not that the Colts were probably much stronger) are the reason the common factory loads were neutered in the first place.

  5. ‘…the .357 Magnum offers relatively little “stopping power” improvement over the 9mm+P.’

    Another pet peeve of mine, people who don’t know that those Federal, Hornady, etc. .357 loads are not full pressure .357 loads and the Buffalo Bore, Double Tap, etc. loads are not +p but just standard full pressure loads which every revolver is proofed to 130%. I’ve found that my 3″ GP 100 carries much like a 4″ semi-auto. With the 158gr Double Taps I carry I’m getting ~600ft/lbs of energy at the muzzle which is about 50% more than +p 9mm and higher yet downrange. That’s a pretty substantial improvement in ‘stopping power’.

    • JWT makes a point – regarding 1 7/8″ .357s vs. 9mm +Ps. Give that .357 more room to run and it’s got a lot more power than the 9mm. The .357 out of a lever gun is even more stout. Without the barrel / cylinder gap, it can low end .30-30 energy levels. Anyone with a chrono and the appropriate guns can confirm that.

      And as you’ve said before, the .357 has a bit more powder capacity than the 10mm. The .357 is still a righteous self defense round.

      I’m thinking about selling my J frame 340 PD for 5″ Smith 8 round revolver or the new Ruger .45 Colt / .45 ACP combo gun. Revolvers are still cool and the classic Smiths definitely still qualify.

      • True, and I’m not much of a fan of the 1-7/8″ rev olver. But in all fairness, you need to compare that snubby to a 3″ or shorter 9 mm. The .357 still has an edge but not by much. I’m equally not much of a fan of 9 mm carbines since they don’t generate much more energy than a 5″ pis tol.

        From what I’ve seen it seems that vented and non vented barrels are a wash in mid length barrels (a 5″ Coonan generates velocities similar to a 5″ revo lver) but the longer the bullet stays in the barrel the more is lost out the gap, so snubbies don’t lose as much. While the .357 lever gun would make an excellent self defense rifle at modest ranges the .30-30 has a huge advantage downrange. When I bought my .30-30 I thought about going with a .44magnum but while the right load will produce more energy, that advantage is gone by 75 yards. With the right load a .30-30 can take deer out to 300 yards.

        Both the 8 round Smith and the .45 Colt/ACP Rug er might be a bit bulky and heavy for CC, but both would make an excellent woods gun. If you ever get into Grizzly territory you’ll want the .45.

    • Agreed to this day based on FBI shooting data no other normally carried SD or LE duty cartdige comes close to the one shot stop data of the full power 357 loaded with 125gr JHP of old. This load sent a 125 jhp at over 1400 fps from 4″ Colt Python or S&W. In a day where 4″-6″ barrel revolvers were found in duty holsters. They had over a 90% one shot stop record. Since then even though 10s of 1000s of revolvers safely ate these with boring regularity once lawyers starting dictating policy and buisness cartidge performance went down not all at once but a bit yr after yr and to this day is still happening. Yet the 9mm they have allowed to creep up more and more trying to get this cartridge to a decent level.

      Can you imagine what given the huge jump in tech of bullet construction a 110-125gr full house max psi load would do by the old loading standards. 110@1600 125@1475 from 6″ barrel ouch!!

  6. If the 19 is a Glock 17, then the Model 13 is a Glock 19. Just picked one up last week. Thanks for a wheel gun article. And get yourself a damn trigger scale!

    • Thanks RobC, I actually have one available at the shop, but ultimately, I find little use in them. How the trigger pulls through the entire cycle and that pull’s effect on the sights is ultimately what matters, not what a scale says. I think we’ve all shot heavy triggers that kept on going smooth through the cycle, and lighter weight triggers that were gritty with multiple stops and stacks. That heavier, but smooth trigger is the one you want to keep the gun on target.

      • In S&W revolvers, what you want to ask a ‘smith for is an “action job.” Kuhnhausen describes this a bit in his book. All the pivoting/bearing surfaces are smoothed up and polished, and the rebound spring is lightened by trimming a coil or so off of it. You can also buy lighter rebound springs for the S&W. This brings the DA pull down to 9 pounds, and the trigger pull becomes much smoother. On any of my S&W revolvers that I shoot regularly, they get an action job.

        • Yes sir. 10 Ring out of San Antonio did the complete action job on my 29 a few years ago. It was less than $200 and worth twice that.

  7. No speed loaders, no trigger pull gage, and no 4″ barrel which is the length everyone carried back in the day when the Model 19 (and Model 66) was the preferred duty revolver for many in law enforcement. Sounds like you pulled out all the stops for a comprehensive review Jon.

  8. No speed loaders, no trigger pull gage, no full power loads, and no 4″ barrel which is the length everyone carried back in the day when the Model 19 (and Model 66) was the preferred duty revolver for many in law enforcement. Sounds like you pulled out all the stops for a comprehensive review Jon.

    • I have a Model 66 no dash 4″ made in the early 70’s. It has the square butt. Shoots like a dream. Trigger feels wonderful. I had a -3 round butt that I couldn’t shoot worth a darn. Just didn’t fit my hand. Still they were/are wonderful feeling guns.

  9. I’ve got 2 of these model 19’s. My shooter is a 19-3, and my show off is a 19-4 (Detroit Police 1978 Commemorative) which has never been fired.

    I’ve been told the weakness issue at the forcing cone was rectified with the introduction of the 19-4.

    I must also say there’s a Way Big Difference shooting 38 spl v/s 357 Magnums, mainly the recoil & muzzle rise.

    Still, I normally practice with 38 spl, but often run a cylinder (or 2) of 357 just to keep me honest. Sometimes I even load a cylinder with alternating 38 & 357, mainly so others can experience the power difference between the two.

    The reviewer tested a 6 inch barrel, and claims there’s significant stopping power difference at 25 yds over that of a 4 inch barrel. I can appreciate this comment, however, I’ve always considered my sidearm (pistol) as a close quarters (probably within 10 yards) defensive weapon. Yep, I’ll take the 1st shot at 25 yds, but if the beast keeps charging, I’ve got 5 more that I can get off in the next few seconds.

    Note: The 19-3 revolver with 357 magnum self defense loads is always on my hip while hunting, just in case I run into an overly aggressive (or hungry) bear that wants to mess with me.

    Threats that might approach while hunting should give me time to discharge a formidable scoped 30-06 or AR. I may want to re-think this logic during Archery season though.

    Great article about a great gun!

  10. Thanks for the great review JWT! I enjoyed it, and that is a beautiful revolver.

    $800-900. WOW! That is a lot of cash. I just recently bought a 4″ stainless Ruger Security Six in great condition for $325. I know that was a bargain, and that the Ruger isn’t as classy as the Smith.

    Still, the Ruger gives you more bang for the buck (back then, and now).

    • I keep telling you folks that people are willing to pay for quality.

      It’s like you just won’t believe me.

      $800 to $900 for a Model 19 in that sort of condition is actually quite reasonable for that vintage of S&W revolver. The models of S&W that were produced in smaller numbers cost far more in the used wheelgun market.

  11. My plan was to cut this revolver neophyte some slack until I got to this part:

    “My slow times were simply due to the trigger’s cycle time. I just couldn’t get the cylinder to turn fast enough. That was one of the places where I can certainly notice the difference between this gun and my Model 29. An object in motion tends to stay in motion; once it starts, the big .44 caliber cylinder wants to keep on spinning. The trigger itself, however, is clearly superior on the older Model 19.”

    He obviously doesn’t realize that the cylinder comes to a complete stop when the hammer is falling and stays that way until the noise happens and the bullet is long gone. Accelerating the “big .44 cylinder” from a stop takes much more energy than the svelte cylinder on the model 19.

    Aside from that blunder, I’d also wager that he did better at home economics than physics in high school. No mention needs be made of the absence of a pistol team at that obviously limp-wristed alma mater.

    • Since the TTAG editors cut my last comment, I’ll be nicer this time.
      The same energy that started that “big cylinder” moving, continues to make it move. (That’s the Law of Conservation of Momentum, Newtonian fans.) I’m convinced that’s at least part of the Model 29 action’s smooth, and fast, cycle. I would expect that anyone with even a fundamental grasp on English would not have read my sentence on the cycle of the 29’s cylinder as the notion that once the trigger is touched, the cylinder just spins on while firing, as you apparently have. But I am often surprised by the stupidity of others.
      As far as my high school pistol team, no we did not have one. I always saw those as more for city kids that grew up without guns at home, or who didn’t carry and hunt with them almost all year round, like we did. Then again, I don’t think we had “home economics” either, as girls learned to cook from their moms. Maybe it was different where you grew up.

  12. The factory spec for trigger pulls on S&W’s is about 2.75 lbs for single-action mode, about 12 lbs for DA mode.

    The K-frame is, IMO, the less desirable frame than the L frame in .357’s when hurling the 158’s downrange with a stout load of powder behind them. Still, the 19’s are a nice revolver. People who load their own should be aware that the worries about the flame-cut of the topstrap is only one issue with stout loads. You can also stretch the topstrap, such that the window changes in dimension. You’ll spot this by the increase in end-shake on the cylinder.

    • that’s why I don’t bother with home brew re-loads. I DO realize there’s some cost savings, but is it really worth it? I guess that depends if you just shoot a few hundred rounds per week, or you go for the gusto with 5000 rounds per month!

  13. I really enjoyed this review and appreciate such a classic. One thing that struck me was that you were disappointed with all sub 2″ groups from 25yds – from just a bag even. You have some tough standards!:-)

  14. On top strap flame cutting: Is there a way to add a reinforcing plate in that area that can act as a replaceable sacrificial surface?

    • Not really.

      If you used TIG to add material to the area, the length of the top strap will tend to shrink which will throw your cylinder out of alignment with the breech (or, actually, the breech will no longer be coaxial with the bore of the cylinder).

      If you tried to drill & tap the top strap so you could use a screw to hold a piece of material in that area, you’d weaken the top strap’s tensile strength.

      The best thing to be done is make the cylinder gap as tight as possible, so as to limit how much heated gas can escape the gap. On a S&W, that’s 0.002″.

  15. I see these S&W wheel guns and it all comes back from my impressionable youth,

    “One Adam-12, One Adam-12, see the man….”

    • Those were model 15s, another k frame chambered in .38 special. If I had to pick a favorite pistol type it would be the k frame S&W. I would probably go all in for the .38. But my needs are different from other peoples.

      It has been said of the k frame. Every thing you need in a fighting pistol and nothing you don’t need.

      I agree with this more than I fault it.

  16. When I came home from VietNam and became a cop, I was urged to get an S&W Model 19 but being young and therefore “all knowing” I bought a Colt Trooper. Then a couple of years later, I wised up and got an S&W 19 four inch and carried that until my wife bought me a Model 66 with a six inch barrel, the stainless version of the Model 19. (The first time strapped it to go to work, she asked me if I didn’t think I needed a wheel on the end of the holster.

    I still love all of the Smith K frames and the L frames are a close second.

  17. Loved the article JW. In my ignorant youth, I wanted hi cap semis only. Mostly Glocks. But my first wheel gun many years ago was actually calling to me from the gun case at my buddy’s shop. It was a 4 inch blued model 19 the had Idaho State Police on the side of it. It made me realize how good I could actually shoot a pistol. Of all the guns to pass through my hands over the years, that is the one I most regret letting go. I have several S&W revolvers now, but damn, would I like to have that one back.

    • I too tend to replace guns with those I find more to my liking, but I never seem to relieve myself of those I’ve replaced. That said, I’ll NEVER relieve myself of any of my 19’s. They’re a true shooters shooter.

  18. My ugly Glocks sit at my bedside. I guess, I think I’ll somehow get into a 34 round gunfight someday.

    That said, Beretta’s are what you show your freinds, Glocks are what you show your enemies!

    But, I’ll never be ashamed to show off my S&W wheel guns!

  19. Sweet gun and cool review. I agree with JWT regarding barrel length and DG regarding quality. The .357 definitely benefits from room to run, even more so in a lever gun. I’m looking at a revolver after I make some more optics purchases. The old Smith revolvers are definitely cool, and polished internals make them even more so. Kudos to the gunsmiths making the sweet old guns even sweeter.


  21. I will likely be forever conflicted about this gun. Mine is a 19-4 from 1980, blued, with a 4 inch barrel. It’s a beautiful gun, much more refined than the Ruger Security-Six I have from the same era. What I can’t decide is whether the Model 19 is $300 better than the Ruger.

    While not nearly as pretty as the Model 19, the Ruger is not likely to wear out from a steady diet of .357’s. It can also be taken apart with no tools in about a minute or two, and can be put back together almost as fast.

    Still, the Model 19 is just soooooo beautiful….

    • it’s my understanding the weakness issue at the front of the top strap was solved with the 19-4.

  22. I first started with a revolver in the USAF as aFlight Crewmember, and qualified Expert with the S&W model-15. This was all I had in over 100 combat missions in Nam. I started my 43 year Law Enforcement Career with a stainless model-19 4″ barrel. Over the years I used 4″,6″,2 1/2″ 19 and various others as assignments needs required. I retired as aFederal Det/Lt carrying a Sig P228.

    I HAVE A NICE COLLECTION OF GUNS WITH SOME EXAMPLES OF MODELS I USED IN MY CAREER. I RECENTLY PURXHAAED A 6″BLUE MODEL -19-3 AND A 4″ BLUE MODEL -19-3. BOTH ARE IN 100% condition. I regret firing the 6, but I will no fire the 4″. I love the 19 more than anything and prize them, evwn over my new Sig P226, Mt25 Romeo, I will pick up next week when I get back home from a cruise. YOU CANNOT BEAT THE MODEL-19-3. The only complaint I had was knoxing the site out of line getting in and out on the stwering wheel off the Patrol Car, and the grip size, which was too big for my hands, but was corrected when I went to Firearms Instructor School, with Hogue rubber groves grips.

    • Yep, I agree with ya. Those patrol car steering wheels can play havoc with the rear sites on a “right handed” shooter carrying the revolver on his/her right hip.

      My dad was a right handed shooter, and routinely carried his duty revolver on his left side, with the butt of the gun facing forward, so he could easily “Cross Draw” for just that reason. It worked well for him.

  23. Whether the .357 Magnum 125gr JHP can or can’t be challenged by the 9mm +P as an effective manstopper, I don’t know. What I do know is that it’s difficult to find 9mm +P in any sporting goods store or gun store, period. The only place I’ve been able to get any is through buying 10-20 boxes online, and even then it’s difficult to know what one is getting or how effective it is.

    As for the .357 Magnum itself, the Model 19 is, in my mind, outclassed by the Model 66, its stainless steel twin. Not only is stainless steel more rust resistant than blued steel, the chromium content is greater and greatly reduces the amount of gas leeching, thus reducing the wear caused by flame and gas cutting. And as far as the forcing cones are concerned, I’ve never found out why S&W forcing cones on K-frames erode so much with magnum loads, and yet the cones of similar size in Ruger Security-Sixes don’t. It’s not that I haven’t seen cracked cones in the Rugers; they’re just very, very rare. Yet the Rugers, with about the same weight and balance as the Smiths, tend to go for hundreds of thousands magnum loads, whereas the Smiths don’t.

    As much as I love the S&W 686 revolvers, they just aren’t 19/66s. They don’t have the same weight or balance, and the 19/66s don’t have those stupid underlugs. I wish S&W would go back to these earlier designs and improve them. And give us the shining gems of the earlier days. Instead, all we get are 686s and GP-100s and the added weight that keeps them from being good field guns.

  24. Every group from all variety of ammo loads are smaller than 2″ @25 yards and you were disappointed? What exactly is you expectations for a mass produced 100% stock revolver or any handgun for that matte!?!

    I am surprised with precision standards as high as you seem to have you did not bother to try the ammo that bullseye comp shooters use to leg out in Distinguish Revolver division that requires ub 2″ groups @ 50 yards….. Simple 38 special 158gr Remington Target or Federal 158 LRN Champion even Magtech 158 LRN will work. Not only will these shoot sub 1.5 @25 yd they will shoot sub 2″ @ 50 yds. But you have to know how to bullseye shoot and or be off a rest or full ransom. As support to these claims do a quick search on Google ” DR 158 LRN revolver ”

    But if you want the best ammo try Atlanta Arms .38 SPL 158gr LRN load or 110 or 125 gr jhp match ammo this will shoot sub 1.5 @ 25yd in any ‘in spec’ 4″+ barreled S&W revolver. Usually 1″ @ 25 and sub 2″ @ 50

    Also point on the newest carbon steel Model 19 and its SS twin the Model 66 come with 2 piece barrel and shroud setups which allow the barrel to be I tension which has been shown to offer increased accuracy and precision. They also allow for setting min cyl gap. They both also use the full diameter forcing cone which removes the weak link of a notched cone for cyl clearance creating early cracked forcing cones.

    The only handguns guns with regular accuracy that can reach sub 1.5″ @25 yd that are budget friendly CZ P-09 but it really needs trigger work. HK VP9 and again needs trigger work. These are both polymer frame one being a hammer fired DA/SA and the latter single stage striker fiire meaning the striker is fully cooked by the slide cycle not trigger pull. Yet still they have less that great SA triggers. Certainly not close to the almost glass break SA of the S&W revolver usually 3.5lb. Now both the P09 and VP9 are capable of 1′ groups @ 25 but no way do they run sub 2″ with a bunch of various SD or other loads. But you can find commercial loads like those from Atlanta Arms example 9mm 115 HAP match ammo.

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