Affordable Handgun Review: The Smith & Wesson 5906 9mm Pistol
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By Austin Knudsen

I return to these pages with yet another entry into my quest for quality, affordable handguns for the budget-minded shooter. This time, it’s a used Smith & Wesson 5906 chambered in 9mm. Built in the 80s and 90s, this “Third Generation” Smith & Wesson semi-automatic is likely a former police/law enforcement trade-in that found its way into the retail marketplace.

First a little background before we get down to brass tacks, as the history of Smith & Wesson’s semi-automatic pistols can be a little confusing. Smith collectors generally divide Smith & Wesson’s now-discontinued metal frame semi-auto pistols into three “generations.”

The “First Generation” guns were, naturally enough, the earliest versions and have two digits in their model numbers, such as the model 59 and 39. The “Second Generation” guns have three digits in the model numbers and contained engineering updates and improvements.

The final, “Third Generation” guns were the final run of metal framed semi-autos from Smith and have four digits in their model numbers. The model number can be decoded by the initiated, and tells you exactly the specifications of the pistol based on the model number.

While I won’t break it all down here, suffice it to say you could have a blued or stainless, full-size or compact, single-stack or double stack, DA/SA or double-action only, pistol. Available chamberings were 9mm, .40S&W, 10mm, or .45 ACP (not all variations were available in each chambering).

For those who are interested, the folks over at Lucky Gunner put together a handy visual guide to the confusing Smith & Wesson model number system on its 1st, 2nd and 3rd Gen semi-auto pistols. Bottom line: big blue finally quit manufacturing its metal framed semi-auto pistols in 2010 in favor of the polymer-framed M&P line.

I ended up with this particular well-used 5906 (so, 3rd Generation) in a trade. The 5906 model number means it is a full-size, double stack magazine, DA/SA, in stainless steel.

This was a very popular pistol in the late 80’s and through the 90’s, as many law enforcement agencies around the U.S. adopted this pistol as their service weapons. As these agencies transitioned to GLOCKs and other similar weapons in the 2000s, the used market was flooded with truckloads of used 5906s (and other similar Smiths) traded in and subsequently put up for sale.

I can remember not that many years ago seeing used 5906s for sale by wholesalers or in pawn shops for around $250. Nowadays, 5906s can still be found, but not in the quantity or at the price they could ten years ago. And there are minor cosmetic differences within particular models, too.

Smith made these guns with square and round trigger guards, with fixed Novak sights and with adjustable sights protected by large “ears” protruding up from the slide. Don’t be surprised to see different permutations, such as this one with squared trigger guard, adjustable rear sight with “ears,” and a rounded rear grip strap.

Affordable Handgun Review: The Smith & Wesson 5906 9mm Pistol


My 5906 is a later model, with a fixed Novak no-snag rear sight and a round trigger guard.

Affordable Handgun Review: The Smith & Wesson 5906 9mm Pistol

The trigger guard is coarsely checkered on the front for the 80’s-90’s era shooting style in which the off-hand index finger was placed on the front of the trigger guard.

The front strap has well-executed vertical grooves to aid with grip, and the trigger guard is nicely undercut to allow a higher grip on the pistol.

Affordable Handgun Review: The Smith & Wesson 5906 9mm Pistol

My 5906 has definitely seen some use and even a little abuse. As you can see in this picture, it was dropped on the muzzle at some point in its career.

My 5906 came with one factory 15-round magazine. When I acquired the pistol, it had a set of thick Hogue rubber grips on it, which made the grip circumference much too big for my hands. A little eBay shopping, and I found a decent set of the original S&W Delrin straight back strap grips that fit my short, fat fingers a little better. But honestly, the S&W double-stack pistols have always felt too big in my hands, kind of like holding a baseball bat by the wrong end.

The 5906 (and most of the metal-framed S&W semi-autos) is equipped with a magazine safety. This means the gun will not fire with the magazine removed. The idea here is that a cop who’s wrestling with a bad guy and is about to have his service weapon taken away from him can hit the magazine release, drop the magazine, and render the gun inoperable so he isn’t shot with his own gun.

Today, magazine safeties are controversial. I personally don’t care for them, but I understand the logic behind them. In any case, Smith put them on almost all of these guns (I believe), so just be aware.

The 5906 is a DA/SA (double action/single action) operating system pistol with an ambidextrous de-cock lever located on both sides of the back of the slide. This means the pistol can’t be carried “cocked and locked.” Rather, the pistol is designed to be carried hammer down on a loaded chamber.

The operator chambers a round (which cocks the hammer), and then “de-cocks” the pistol using the aforementioned lever located on the rear of the slide. This safely drops the hammer – or de-cocks – the pistol, now placing it in double-action mode, and it can be safely holstered and carried.

Upon drawing the pistol, the first shot is fired with the hammer down with a long, heavy trigger pull which first cocks the hammer and then drops it, firing the gun. Hence the term “double-action.” As the gun has then been cycled, any subsequent shots are fired single-action, until the pistol is empty or the shooter is done shooting again de-cocks and holsters it.

I dislike DA/SA pistols personally. While originally designed by the Germans for the Walther P-38 9mm during WWII, DA/SA pistols were largely a fad in the 80s and early 90s. This era saw many law enforcement agencies transitioning from double action revolvers to high capacity semi-automatic pistols. Our own U.S. military transitioned from the single action semi-automatic .45 ACP 1911 to the DA/SA Beretta 92FS (M9) 9mm.

In my opinion, military and police brass at the time felt that the single-action trigger system found on semi-automatic pistols of the era (namely the 1911 and the Browning/FN Hi-Power) were “unsafe” due to their single action triggers and cocked hammers, and therefore perceived a liability issue. I grew up in this era, and was taught the same thing.

I can remember my father purchasing his first major-caliber semi-auto when I was a kid, a Beretta 92FS (we were always revolver shooters), and being taught that the double action/single action with a de-cock lever was much safer than a single action pistol. But experience, as they say, is the best teacher.

During college, I decided I needed a semi-auto pistol, and was convinced I needed a high capacity DA/SA 9mm. Manufacturers were nearly legion: Smith & Wesson, Beretta and SIG Sauer were the big three, but there were also a number of other quality DA/SA pistols.

After much experimentation, however, I found that I had the same problem with all of the various manufacturer’s DA/SA pistols: the grip frames were all too big and the DA trigger pulls were too far to reach with my short, fat fingers. I couldn’t get a comfortable grip on the pistols, and it was impossible for me to accurately fire the first, heavy, double action round when the tip of my trigger finger couldn’t adequately reach and controllably fire the DA trigger.

So, I abandoned the DA/SA platform and purchased a single action Hi-Power instead. To this day, it’s a rare DA/SA pistol that finds a permanent home in my safe.

So why did I acquire a DA/SA 5906? First of all, it was a helluva deal. Even today, these things can be had for quite a bargain. Second, Smith & Wesson makes a quality gun. These pistols are built like tanks, machined and assembled beautifully, and go bang every time. And third, I think there’s value to being familiar with and training with different operating systems. Besides, can a man own too many quality defensive pistols?

Nut Cuttin’

A handgun without a holster is of no use as far as I’m concerned. Finding holsters for Third Generation S&W semi-autos isn’t impossible, but certainly not as easy as it used to be. I lucked out and walked into a well-stocked gun shop in Helena, Montana, which still had an old Uncle Mike’s polymer belt slide holster in stock, with a faded price tag that still said “$14.99.” Home with me it went.

I tightened the tension screws, ditched the chintzy plastic retention strap, and was in business. The Uncle Mike’s certainly isn’t a concealed carry rig, and if I was going to carry the 5906 concealed, I would invest in a quality leather pancake OWB rig. But for wearing around the range or for general woods-stomping purposes, the Uncle Mike’s fits the bill just fine.

Affordable Handgun Review: The Smith & Wesson 5906 9mm Pistol

As an aside, the 5906 is probably not the best choice for concealed carry nowadays. This is a big, heavy, full-size steel pistol, and frankly there are too many better alternatives for concealed carry today for me to recommend the 5906. However, concealed carry can certainly be accomplished with the 5906, and many a LEO carried this very model for many a years. You certainly won’t be under-gunned with a 5906 on your belt.

So how does it shoot? I accuracy tested my 5906 with six different loads; five commercial, and one reload. The loads tested were the PMC Bronze 115 grain FMJ, Blazer Brass 115 grain FMJ, American Eagle 147 grain flat point FMJ, Federal Hydra-Shok 147 grain HP, Speer Gold Dot 124 grain HP, and my bulk reload consisting of a 115 grain Rocky Mountain Reloading 115 grain plated bullet propelled by 4.6 grains of Bullseye.

Affordable Handgun Review: The Smith & Wesson 5906 9mm Pistol
Factory ammo tested in the author’s S&W 5906

Accuracy testing was done while seated, from a rest at 25 yards. Five-shot groups were fired, with a sixth round loaded in each magazine to maintain consistent pressure on the bottom of the barrel hood (if you believe such things make a difference). All shots were fired single action.

Here are the results, from best to worst:

Affordable Handgun Review: The Smith & Wesson 5906 9mm Pistol

1. American Eagle (Federal) 147 grain flat point FMJ. This heavy target load put up a pleasing 2½-inch group at 25 yards, and began to show me that the 5906 prefers heavy bullets.

Affordable Handgun Review: The Smith & Wesson 5906 9mm Pistol

2. Speer Gold Dot 124 (not 127) grain +P hollowpoint. This premium defense load was my runner-up, with a decent 3½-inch group. Three shots of the group put up a stellar ½-inch group. If we use the Massad Ayoob “shoot five, the best three is probably what the gun is capable of” theory, this could be a real winner.

Affordable Handgun Review: The Smith & Wesson 5906 9mm Pistol

3. Federal 147 grain Hydra-Shok hollow point. Another premium defensive load, this was putting up a respectable 2-inch group that was spoiled by a flyer.

Affordable Handgun Review: The Smith & Wesson 5906 9mm Pistol

Affordable Handgun Review: The Smith & Wesson 5906 9mm Pistol

Affordable Handgun Review: The Smith & Wesson 5906 9mm Pistol

4. Tied for last: PMC Bronze 115 grain FMJ, Blazer Brass 115 grain FMJ, and author’s reload of 115 grain plated Rocky Mountain Reloading bullet and 4.6 grains of Bullseye. All equally crappy. This gun REALLY doesn’t like light bullets. ‘Nuff said.

For a defensive pistol, my 5906 performed acceptably. It definitely prefers heavier bullets, with the 147 and 124 grain loads showing the best accuracy performance. As a plus, it performed quite well with two premium commercial defensive loads, the 124 grain +P Speer Gold Dot, and the 147 grain Federal Hydra-Shok.

I was quite surprised that all three of the 115 grain target/plinking loads grouped so poorly out of the gun, even the normally well-performing PMC Bronze load. The pistol’s sights could probably use a little touch-up with a sight-black marker to sharpen them up a little, but they’re still very good for defensive use. They are a little too thick and coarse for target shooting, but serviceable.

The 5906’s single action trigger pull is a bit heavy at over five pounds (it maxed out my trigger pull scale). However, there is zero creep and it breaks cleanly. You have to concentrate when shooting for groups with the 5906, but it can be done.

SPECIFICATIONS: Smith & Wesson Model 5906 9mm Pistol

Sights: White three dot: Novak rear, dovetailed front post
Weight: 38.3 ounces
Length: 7 ½ inches
Height: 5 ½ inches, from top of rear sight to bottom of inserted magazine
Slide: stainless steel
Frame: stainless steel
Barrel: 4 inch, stainless steel
Grips: S&W Delrin one-piece
Magazines: one 15-round
MSRP: We’re way past MSRP. Used prices on GunBroker range from $350 to $550, depending on condition. Bud’s Gun Shop has them online in stock listed for $419.00.

Ratings (out of five stars):

Ergonomics * * *
The metal-framed Smith & Wesson double-stack semi-autos always felt slightly strange in my hand. The 5906 is no exception. They are very thick through the grip and frame, and then quite narrow in the slide. This is the exact opposite of the SIG Sauer “top-heavy” problem, so muzzle flip is minimized, but it still feels a little strange. Controls are workable and not offensive. There are no sharp edges that irritate the hands while operating or shooting. The slide-mounted de-cock levers are a bit of a high reach to operate, but nothing I’ll downgrade the gun for. If I have one gripe, it’s that I have to be careful that my thumbs-up shooting style doesn’t inadvertently rest on the large slide stop and prevent an empty magazine from locking the slide back.

Cosmetics * * * * *
I’ll rate the model, not my particular used/slightly abused specimen. This is a good-looking, all-business pistol. The Novak rear sight looks great, and I love the bead blasted matte stainless finish. Even the factory plastic grips I think add to the no-nonsense appearance of this pistol.

Accuracy * * * 
Accuracy is relative. Were the 5906 a target pistol, I would have been harsher and dinged it more. But this isn’t a target pistol, nor was it ever intended to be. This is a duty pistol that was/is meant to be carried a lot, function in all conditions, and deliver acceptable combat accuracy. The 5906 does just that, especially with quality ammunition. Honestly, I probably could have done a little better off the bench with a lighter single action trigger pull.

Trigger * * * *
For a pistol built and designed as a cop’s sidearm, the 5906’s trigger is actually quite good. The double action first shot is smooth and not stagey or creepy (though it does stack a little under spring pressure, which is common). The single action trigger is a bit heavy, but the weight is probably appropriate for a service weapon. The single action trigger is consistently crisp and breaks cleanly every time. This means quality manufacture.

Reliability * * * * *
I’ve owned my 5906 for over a year now, and had no reliability issues with it. In full disclosure, I haven’t carried it much, and it’s basically just a plinking/utility pistol. However, it’s functioned with everything I’ve put through it, from premium hollow points to reloads to the cheapest range ammo.

Overall: * * * *
I’m generally pleased with my used 5906, and can recommend it. These are brute tough, heavy pistols that were well-built right here in ‘Merica. They come with decent sights and a useable single action trigger. It’s also 100% reliable and acceptably accurate for defensive use. Certainly, this is not a target gun. A $350 used police trade-in isn’t going to be confused for a target pistol. The 5906 is a solid, dependable, affordable tool that you can use to defend yourself and your family at a hell of a good price. A great buy, highly recommended.

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  1. I have quite an assortment of S&W third generation pistols. I also have an assortment of Glocks which I enjoy shooting. However; I am far to cowardly to carry a Glock. That manual safety/decocking lever which rotates the firing pin out of alignment with the primer ensures that this pistol will never, ever fire unless I want it to. The magazine disconnect safety is added insurance against gun accidents as well as ma be being disarmed in a struggle. The risk of an accidental shooting, especially to those of us with children or grandchidren, far outweigh the perceived inferiority of that double action first shot in a defensive shooting situation. That spur on the hammer that enables manual cocking of the pistol mitigates that concern.

    My favorite S&W pistol is a 1006. It once belonged to an FBI agent who had to trade it in for a .45 because he was too limp wristed to control the recoil.

    God this article makes me feel old.

    • Lol you don’t understand guns well do you? Glocks have a firing pin block and it won’t hit the primer unless the trigger is pulled. That is why a glock is considered a DAO pistol.

      P.s. – Magazine safeties suck.

      Walther p.p.s. – You are old

      • That’s the problem with Glock’s (and their clones). There is nothing to prevent the trigger from being pulled, except for that dingus, foolishly installed on the face of the trigger. I have several power tools that require you to depress a safety button before you can pull the trigger. None of them mount that safety button on the trigger. Glocks would be safer if they had a thumb or grip safety (Google Glock leg for details).

        • People have NDs with all firearms. Revolvers didn’t have safeties and they were in use as duty guns for decades. Glocks use the exact same concept as a double action revolver except for added piece of mind they put a safety on the trigger. Your shirt can go into the trigger guard and fire on just about any gun even an XD if you have a master grip while you are putting it away. Grip safeties obviously don’t work on 1911s because most are not drop safe…,so there is that. While I google “Glock leg” you goolge “Tex Grebner”. Tex’s incident happened with a 1911.

          Carry what you are comfortable with, but its not a bad design just because you don’t understand it. As long as you pay attention when you are holstering and unholstering, and keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot the gun will not go off….unless it is a 1911, pre update P320 or walther PPsM2 then they might fire if dropped.

  2. Yup. It’s 9mm. And I M O not to accurate. …… .. My sentiments exactly on the Glock or for that matter any striker fired pistol. I call it Glocks No Safe Saftey and can only attribute the lack of ND’s to damn fine gun handling. You know, if I cock the hammer on my Blackhawk and never pull the trigger, it shouldn’t go off , right? ,,

      • I said the 5906 was a nine, and I couldn’t shoot them accurately. Gee whiz . Then I got to rant on Glocks to piss everybody off.And brag that I’ve got a Blackhawk, a Super Blackhawk at that, the silhouette model, with a ten and a half inch barrel so I don’t have mental anguishe of inadequacy.

        • Then you don’t know guns very well or can’t shoot worth your salt the 5906 is very accurate I’ve owned about 12 in my day never had one issue with them at all if you think it’s inaccurate then it’s just you whow can’t shoot

  3. Prices are climbing. A few years ago they were $275 with two mags. Almost all the guns out there are PD trades ins, in what will probably be the last batch of them as they cycle out of most departments. For many reasons, the 5906 is one great gun to buy. When you get one, go over it with a magnifying glass. You’ll probably find some PD engraving marks on it. For some reason a lot of PDs couldn’t just the serial number.

  4. I had one. I loved it. It was great —– 25 years ago.
    It was actually my first pistol. Built like a tank. Never had a hiccup. Can’t say anything bad about it, other than it’s weight. I echo the sentiment of Mr. Crawford above – God this article makes me feel old.

  5. I have a newer S&W SD-VE 9mm. It is a reasonably capable semi, stiff trigger, a little loose, and a 10″ group at 15 yards is about as good as it gets. ONTH, 16 rounds in the mag, fast reload, light weight, and dependable action, makes it a good concealed carry gun at a very modest price. I bought mine new two years ago for $280, and careful buyers can still get one for about the same.

      • More like quarter. I’m not a great shooter, but I can easily manage sub-2” groups from my SD9 (first gen) at 10 yards all day. Hell, I shoot it nearly as well as my AR’s off-hand at 25 yards, but that’s more because I REALLY suck at shooting rifles, lol.

  6. Why are you so in love with SHIT AND WESSON and their products at all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    SHIT AND WESSON forced the 10 round magazine, ban on the US people, during the Clinton times.

    SHIT AND WESSON, and Clinton went together and decided that civilians did not need more 10 rounds in any gun!

    Then they passed the ten round rule magazines for all civilian use!

    SHIT AND WESSON then got rich off government monies and contracts supplying the
    FEDERAL Law Enforcement Offices with millions of New Guns and Stamped HIGH
    CAPACITY MAGAZINES for Federal personal and officers. (ONLY)

    SHIT AND WESSON threw the CIVILIAN MARKETS AND PEOPLE under a buss and lost there focus for them at that time.

    The real stupid part of this article is that when that, SHIT AND WESSON 5906 9mm Pistol was built the 10 round magazine, ban was in affect, and you could not buy that gun, in CIVILIAN MARKET, and it only came with 10 round magazines in the gun at that time.

    So putting more that 10 magazines in that gun, was illegal for a civilian to do, at that time.

    The only good part is was that when the SHIT AND WESSON guns were so
    bulky and heavy, that when you shot your 11 rounds, at someone, and ran out of
    ammo, you can use the empty SHIT AND WESSON GUN as club and, hope you stop,
    attackers then.

    SHIT AND WESSON AND THEIR PRODUCTS, needs just go away, from the, gun world.

    We have a very short memory how we were treated, when Clinton was in office and
    several gun companies, that did nothing to stop or try to change the 10 round magazines bans.

    What I Know

    • Ain’t much. S&W has changed hands a couple of times. And thanks to us that do know there isn’t a clinton in the white house.

      • OK, I want everyone to remember this the next time that I go on a rant about Hillary Holes, on/off switches, MIM parts and two-piece barrels; Clearly, by comparison, I am NOT completely deranged, unlike some people.

        I wonder how he feels about the NRA? Or vaccination?

    • And they paid the price. As jwm stated they ended up with not just new management but a complete collapse and rebuild. The <> who did all those things you remember so vividly got theirs in large doses. No reason to punish the new owners who are reviving the name.

      We are however all waiting for Springfield to suffer the same fate. Hollow apologies in press releases full of lies don’t quite cut the mustard. You would do better to direct your ire their way these days.

  7. Mags are also still available thanks to mec-gar.

    Unfortunately the 69 series doesn’t use the same mags. Those are impossible to find.

    • 5906 mags will work in a 6906 they just stick out a bit. The 5906 mag is the extended mag for the 6906. The 59/69 mags will not work in the 39 series.

  8. I own one of these. Mine is accurate and very reliable. I bought it at auction and it was a Cobb County (Georgia) Sheriff’s pistol. The trigger is great. Mine came with a 14 and a 15 round magazine.

  9. Never liked the Smith autos. Single action was squishy but they shoot ok.

    Glock came along and made the Smith, Beretta, and Sig SA/DA trigger seem pretty good in comparison.

    I wouldnt mind having a 669 or 3913 but I will take my Beretta 92 over the 59.

    Starsky made it look cool to blast out a bunch of rounds though.

  10. Post WWII, the Army decided the 1911 had seen it’s day. While there were nearly 3 million in stock, the design was nearly 40 years old and counting. A good quarter of the inventory, and soon, most, were scheduled for refurbishment. They wanted something smaller, lighter, with a DA trigger. Something along the lines of the Walther P38.

    Colt came up with a 4″ barrel prototype, something that was a handsome version of a Sturmgewehr pistol with folded metal frame. Another small maker threw in, too, and at the last minute, the newly elected president of S&W signed on. They created the M39.

    Testing went on and in the grand traditions of the War Department and fiscal responsibility, the tests conducted, called the 1954 Pistol trials, were finally cancelled. 3 million beater 1911’s had the final say.

    But the M39 was put into production – a risk that the solidly revolver oriented LEO’s and public would resist for decades. Colt had offered the Commander as an alternate choice, and it too was put in the catalog and sold to the public. And nothing much happened until the late 60s, when the Illinois State Police in 1967.

    After that, S&W sold most of the automatics that departments were buying to replace the aging and slowly obsolete revolver fleet. In 1984, two things happened – the Army finally adopted a replacement for the 1911, the M9, a Beretta – which is also strongly based on the Walther P38. And Glock started bidding on LEO contracts. It was the end of S&W having the upper hand, altho to this day some departments still specify ONLY S&W automatics and those are made on contract in Houghton, ME. On a rare day you can find NIB overruns which are sold to smaller S&W dealers across the nation.

    Do we owe a lot to S&W? Sure. Did foreign buyers of the company lead it astray with all sorts of politically unacceptable modifications, like, the Hillary hole on revolvers for a lock? Sure – the company who bought them owned the patent rights. They had a literal right to do that.

    DId Colt also play up to a President with mixed size takedown pins and shelves left unmachined to prevent using full auto parts in their civilian rifles? Yep, Colt AR’s are a legacy of weird features, too. In point of fact, you could probably call out most makers in that regard – nobody has been unaffected. Even those who still sell in AWB states are considered working with the enemy to arm the very people attempting to oppress our 2A rights. In this day and age, it’s a minefield for those with idealistic views.

    I bought a 4566TSW , a shorter barreled 4″ with ten shot mag as the final result of looking for a 1911 type handgun, and glad I did it. It’s a better gun – catcalls expected – and for someone not expecting to wear it out in his lifetime it will do fine.

  11. Good review. I’d like one of these, but I’m not quite sure why-other than 90’s nostalgia. I know I prefer a heavy stainless-steel device to a plastic one. I wish I’d jumped when they were still $250.

    By the way I saw one (I think the 4-inch version) on the hip of a senior law enforcement figure recently. Looked quite sharp and businesslike, and not at all out of date.

  12. My dad was a big fan of the S&W autos. He had multiples across model years, going back to a 639, I think. My first carry gun was a S&W 3913. I wasn’t a good shot then and blamed the pistol, and kind of regret selling it.

    They’re all going up in price, and I think that’s because people are getting tired of polymer. I have a Kahr K9, and shooting it is a pleasure compared to polymer guns.

    Steel is real. Aluminum is still real.

  13. I have a 5904 I bought new in 89. I will never sell it. Great double action trigger. Decent single action. Utterly reliable. Never had a hiccup in all these years. Good looking handgun. I have some holster wear and I’m on my second set of grips. I carry it IWB quite a bit. Very much a good concealed carry pistol. Underrated by Glock fan boys. These pistols are still in use by police. And there are lots of us private citizens who have them and love them.

  14. I’ll just say this: 5906, 5906TSW, 5904 (2), 6904, 3913, CHP4006TSW, 4026, 410, 457… and they are all awesome with 0 malfunctions. And I’m not done. I want a 4506 and MAYBE a 1006, my “unicorn” guns for now.

  15. While the 5906s supplies are drying up and the prices are going up, The Aluminum Frame Blued 5904s are lagging a little behind and can still be found below 400 dollars.

    At least that is how I scratched my S&W 3rd gen itch.
    And who has watched Miami Vice and didn’t want Sonny Crockett’s 4506? or Bren Ten for that matter.

  16. I’ve wanted one of these ever since the gang got one in Always Sunny in Philadelphia (“Gun Fever” – Season 1, Episode 5).

    • I own a S&W 9m model 669, bought it from my law enforcement nephew in mid 80’s, $225.00, with pancake holster and three magazine’s, it is a heavier sidearm, but when called upon, fires actuality all the time, using Remington HTP JHP 115 G +P for self defense, practice with Winchester 9mm FMJ 115 grain

  17. good choice; well reviewed. i think many here are interested in the second hand market.
    i thought i only disliked the slide safety/ up for fire thing. now i have to research if these are all decockers. if so a dao might be the way to go.
    i’m not surprised to read here that these are tough. they definitely look good.

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  19. I hate the slide mounted safety/decocker. I understand why it’s slide mounted and not frame mounted, and I understand why it works 180 degs opposite a slide mounted safety, but I hate it anyway.

    Otherwise, third gen Smiths are great guns.

  20. Had one and couldn’t like it. Mushy trigger, too heavy for a 9mm, barn door accuracy.

    You speak of “improvements” over time but IMO they just kept getting worse. The original 39s, despite the tool marks inside and other “flaws,” were better guns and certainly with the times.

    The 2nd Gens were obsolete when introduced and the 3rd Gens even more so. Again, just my opinion, but ALL DA/SA guns with slide mounted safeties were obsolete by the early 1980s. This doesn’t mean they didn’t work…it means there wasn’t much point in coming out with new ones.

    I should mention I’m a S&W collector…

    • I’m also a collector and I have to say I completely disagree the 5906 is a fantastic firearm and very accurate people love the trigger when I let them fire it

  21. I just recently bought a S&W 4506-1 and am very happy with it. You see these for sale less and less often now and I was glad to get a decent deal on one.

  22. I recently purchased a 4046TSW that was an old Brinks gun. Love it! I like the full weight but it’s not my carry gun.

  23. I bought a 5906 about a year ago, mostly because I wanted a pistol that used the same magazines as my Marlin Camp 9 carbine. I found mine in the used display case of my local gun store. It was wrapped in the brown waxy paper that came from the factory, in the factory box with 2 mags. Still had the owner’s manual and warrantee card. The price was a couple of ticks north of $400 which I thought was a fair deal. I think it had been shot a little as there are minor scratches on the slide near the muzzle. I wanted the carbine/pistol combination so I could carry one kind of ammo that I can shoot in both, and magazine interchangeability was a big bonus. I haven’t had a chance to shoot it yet, but I appreciate the weight and quality of manufacture.

    • exactly why I am looking to buy one…to share mags with my Marlin Camp 9 Carbine!
      Great review. I could do without all the Glock comments though…not a Glock! LOL

  24. Had one of them “Last a Lifetime” PLASTIC water pipe connectors crack on my kitchen faucet recently. Made a he.l of a mess! Got me to thinking about my PLASTIC 9mm frame. Went to the L.G.S., found a nice S&W 6906 (Alum. Frame) compact 9mm (to compliment my Beretta 92A1). They give me a SOLID rest at night (almost). Still got some da..ed PLASTIC grips on em’ though! Interesting thread on the ‘Smiths’ guys. A side note: As a reloader, I found the barrels on these ‘Smiths’ got ‘real short’ throats, so ya gotta load H.P.s ‘short’, just like the Hornady manuals say!

  25. OK you don’t know much about the 5906 obviously I have owned at least 12 of these in my day and not a single one had a magazine safety in fact every single one had a warning stating it could be fired with out the magazine and to be carful maybe you are talking about the 5946? That does have a magazine safety but the 5906 does not Ibe owned at leat 12 and have seen hundreds of them threw out the years never a magazine safety I hat those things

  26. S&W autos have the ability to change the mag safety feature. IIRC the mechanism is under the rear sight and amounts to removing a part. Armorer’s are knowledgeable and it’s a modification for those who prefer to delete it.

    It became popular when some PD’s found it a potential asset when an officer struggling over control of the firearm could push the mag catch and render it safe. It begs the question why that became a lethal situation in the first place. EU firearms use it as an additional safety feature to guard against mishandling – yet a certain Austrian maker has the temerity to require a trigger pull to release the slide during disassembly.

    It remains a fact that S&W supplied the changeover from revolver to auto in American LEO firearms – it was the beancounters and a competitors unethical handling of PD purchasing agents who finally overcame their dominance. Later in the game, when you have a lighter cheaper gun designed for “revolver users” replacing a DA/SA already in service it’s really about the lap dancers in Atlanta who made the sale.

    Has that replacement actually proven to be as SAFE as they claim? Track record of ND’s and the use of soft holsters against the recommendation of the maker’s stated requirement for hard shells shows that “experts” aren’t common at the user level. And yet the prose in the brochure is all about user safety at the boots on the ground level.

    S&W was definitely a fine firearm in it’s day, when a patrol officer had a reload magazine and a set of cuffs on his belt as the normal carry. Unfortunately too many PD’s and city councils have forced liability gear on an officer contrary to the long expressed writings of military experts from the 1930’s: “The Soldiers Load” tells the continuing story of too much gear and how police have arrived at plate carriers, multiple reloads, breadth of force options, commz, and restraint options burdening our officers. A full stainless pistol is the least of their issues.

    BTW, a loaded 4566 weighs less than a 1911A1. They aren’t the bricks that some make of it.

  27. Back in 1989, I helped my step mom pick out a 5906 for my dad as an anniversary gift. It feels like just yesterday I was at that small local gun shop (now long gone) drooling over the display case, dreaming of going to the range to shoot that pistol with my dad. But what I really couldn’t take my eyes off was that brand new, stainless Ruger M77 Mark II .308 with the black polymer skeleton stock, on the rack behind me! Lol! I never did get that Ruger, and it’s still on my “must have” bucket list of guns I will someday own – along with that 5906. My dad traded in that pistol long ago to help fund the build of a Springfield Armory 1911 that was tricked out for IPSC competition shooting. I wonder if he ever thinks about that 5906 as much as 18 year old me did so many years ago?


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