S&W's Model 625-5 on top and the Model 4506-1 on the bottom.
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Ahhh, the 1990s, a decade of good and bad.

When The Rachel was the haircut that all the women wanted, Grunge replaced Metal in the music world, and the Clinton Assault Weapons Ban happened.

Wait, err…. I said good things happened in that decade too, right? So what were the good things you ask? Well, other than my beloved Florida Marlins coming into existence and winning the 1997 World Series along with the 16-bit console wars happening. The 1990s brought us two guns, well, kinda.

In reality, the 1990s was leeching off the last little bit of awesomeness that was the 1980s since the two guns we’re talking about today were both developed and released in the late 1980s. They just happened to really hit their stride in the 1990s much like the tv show Baywatch.

Today, we’re talking about two totally bodacious stainless steel wonders, Smith & Wesson’s Model 4506-1 and the Model 625-5.

Both are massive chunks of stainless steel, both are chambered in .45 ACP, both have five inch barrels, and both are awesome guns from Big Blue before lawyer locks and polymer took over the product lines.

December 1988 issue of Shooting Times magazine showing S&W’s new Model 4506 .45 ACP automatic. Notice the “step” in the frame just above of the trigger guard.

The S&W Model 4506-1 is the evolutionary offspring of the Model 645 of Miami Vice fame. The third iteration of the company’s full-size five inch .45 automatic, the Model 4506-1 is a Third Generation pistol that shares its roots with the 10mm.

Original S&W print ad for their 10mm Auto Model 1006 pistol and Model 610 revolver. Notice the pistol frame doesn’t have the “step”.

When Big Blue decided to make a 10mm automatic lead slinger, they took the Model 4506 as the starting point but reworked and strengthened the frame. They beefed it up and got rid of the “step.”

And since the desk shackled white collared bean counters in management liked saving money, they figured why make two separate frames? It’s easier and cheaper to use one universal “large frame” for both the .45 ACP and the 10mm Auto. So that’s what they did, and the Model 4506-1 was born.

A traditional double/single action design, the Model 4506-1 has a capacity of 8+1 of good old American goodness.

Eight round dispenser of .45 ACP goodness.

Made completely out of stainless steel, this gun is HEAVY and weighs in at over two-and-a-half pounds.

But that’s good and bad. Good because it soaks up recoil and if you run out of ammo you can bludgeon your attacker to death. Bad because it is a boat anchor and will kill your hip if you wear it all day, or it’ll simply drown you if you fall into Biscayne Bay.

Anyway, the Model 4506-1 served in a number of agencies across the country including the Los Angeles Police Department.

Commemorative Model 4506-1 made for the LAPD.

Production of the five inch .45 automatic boat anchor ended in 1999. The commander sized Model 4566 stayed in production for much longer.  But overall, while heavy, no one really complained about the gun having issues. As a mater of fact, the LAPD still authorizes their officers to qualify with the Model 4506-1 and carry it to this day.

The other gun we’re looking at is the Model 625, a gun with a proud and storied ancestry. The Model 625 is a N-Frame wheel gun that is the spiritual successor of the Model 25, which is a commercialized version of the WWI Combat Revolver, the US Army Model 1917.

S&W M1917 on top with the Colt M1917 on the bottom. Yes, the LAPD even issued the S&W M1917 after WWI.

The Model 625 was Big Blue’s answer to a capable and accurate revolver for International Practical Shooting Confederation in 1988. This wasn’t their first gun made for IPSC; the Model 745 Automatic was a IPSC inspired gun, too.

Original ad of the S&W Model 625.

What made the Model 625 a really in-demand gun was its adjustable sights, stainless finish, a full under-lug on the barrel for better balance, the great trigger you’d expect from a S&W revolver, and it was a six shot .45 ACP blaster with the ability to use moon-clips for quick reloads.

Weighing in just under two-and-a-half pounds, this gun wasn’t a featherweight. But as a competition inspired gun it wasn’t meant to be: weight was seen as a positive in the gun games since more weight meant less recoil. But the Model 625 didn’t just become popular in the gun golf leagues. It became very popular in police circles, too.

A double action revolver in .45 ACP with a stainless finish is something that wheel gun carrying beat cops were happy to have. Back when hollow point ammunition was still not 100% capable, the .45 ACP chambered revolver was a very popular gun, especially since the Model 625 can fire loads that would choke a 1911.

Much like the Model 4506-1, a number of police departments allowed their officers to qualify with and carry the big brute. Even in the 2010s, the Model 625 was on the approved roster of duty guns with agencies like the Whately Police Department in Massachusetts.

Unlike the Model 4506-1 and the Third Generation automatics in general, the Model 625 is still being made to this day in one flavor or another.

Model 625 Jerry Miculek Special, courtesy of Smith & Wesson.

Except now it has been cursed with a lawyer lock.

My two ’90s Stainless Metallic Fantastics.

This particular Model 625-5 was made in 1998 and purchased around 1999 at a gun shop that I honestly can’t remember anymore. I do recall it was near or off Le Jeune Road in Miami, FL. The -5 shows that there’s been some upgrades to the gun since its original release. But it is still before the dreaded lock was added. I’ve spent the past two decades enjoying this gun and I’ll continue to do so.

This Model 4506-1 was born in 1994. I found her at Lou’s Police Supply in Hialeah, FL. She was sitting there, alone and unwanted in the used handgun counter over a decade and a half ago priced for the minty sum of $200. I just had to give her a good home, how could I say no to such a good looking gal?

Both are great shooters and wonderful home defense guns.

While these guns are easily outclassed for general duty use and even concealed carry, they’re still more than capable of defending hearth and home along with being up to the task of outdoor defense from some four legged predators.

With a simple spring swap, the Model 4506-1 can shoot .45 Super and that gives you some great self defense loads against critters you might run into on the trail. The Model 625 can also shoot some potent loads and .45 Super is also doable in that gun. Plus, you can even shoot .45 Auto-Rim and .45 GAP in the Model 625 if .45 ACP is hard to find or you’re just a weirdo.

I have mine defensively loaded with Speer’s .45 GAP 200gr Gold Dot since I found that ammo dirt cheap and collecting dust in a local shop.

Out on the range at Talon Range in Midway, FL, both are great shooters as you can see here.

The groups and targets speak the truth.

All in all, these are two great guns from a bygone era. Back when Big Blue didn’t just make the striker fired M&P, 1911, and AR-15. These were guns from an era when they stood out from a crowded industry and tried to forge a path based on their own design and not simply do what the herd did.

While S&W today is still in the gun game making some great 1911s, I wish they brought back the Third Generation of automatics and I wish they made revolvers like mine. No lawyer locks, no two piece barrels, and just all around smoothness in the trigger.

If you stumble across either of these guns, snag it. You won’t be disappointed.

Luis Valdes is the Florida Director for Gun Owners of America.

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  1. I have a 4006 sitting in my safe and I love shooting it! I would like to come across a 4506 to give it company. I don’t have to carry it all day on my belt in service, so I look a the weight as just a steadying force to add to accuracy and softer shooting.

    • I have a 5906 and a 4006 which I both carried on duty for a while, until we went to Sigs. Like you I’d like to have a 4506 and a 1006 just to round it out.

  2. A few years back, I found a 625, without a Hillary hole, that had the full performance center treatment in a used gun case for $750. I talked them down to $650. It’s an awesome revolver.

  3. Ah yes good stuff. I never got the 4506 because I had the 645. Also having a 1006 I just didn’t need a third one. That 625 would be great. I have the smaller 625-10 PC finished in Birdsong Green/black. Still though, the 686+ ranks right up there with all of these.

  4. “Grunge replaced Metal in the music world”

    You say that as if it were a *bad* thing… 😉

    AIC FTW!

  5. What’s funny is I believe that’d have MIMed parts in it. Some people talk bad about them which I flat out never got. I have a 66-5 and a 66-1 and the trigger on the -5 is my favorite over the -1.

    Both are guns of a bygone era though and I’d be surprised if we ever saw return of the semi autos short of something happening like the TDP getting released to the public so their aftermarket took off. Even then, I’d think that they’d face a lot of resistance in established markets. Plastic is just too deep into the market these days as are other platforms like the CZ and 1911.

  6. The Hillary Hole is largely a political football tossed by an older generation who reacted against S&W new owners appearing to cooperate with Clinton. If Americans would support American manufacturers, then they wouldn’t be financially stressed nor would mulitinational corporations prey on them for revenue. Like Congress, you get the corporate owners you deserve. How many loyal Remington owners worked to change it’s direction.

    As for the 4506 being an 80’s boat anchor, not so much. It weighs about the same as the venerable 1911 when full up, yet I almost never hear the term “boat anchor” associated with them. There is a continuing trend in the gun media to misrepresent these as being “bricks” etc yet when compared to other full sized .45 ACP duty pistols they are all a bird of the same feather. Ruger P89 platforms aren’t lightweight, toss in a HiPower and it’s much the same.

    Now, move to a 4566 and you start drifting toward what the original concept was – a replacement for the 1911. Post WWII Army Command was seeing the entire fleet of 1911’s as overweight, oversized, and even with the millions made during the 1940’s, overworked. They created a new Pistol Trials with the following specs: 4″ barrel, 9MM, DA/SA. From that the S&W belatedly offered the M39, Colt offered their spec 9mm, plus the Commander, and IIRC, another smaller maker submitted theirs. What did Army suggest as the source of these specs? The Walther P38.

    With 2.5 million 1911’s and no real need to spend the money, the 1954 Trials were tabled and Army kept what they had, along with the millions of rounds of ammo stockpiled in ammo dumps around the nation. Colt went commercial with the Commander, S&W the same with the M39, and both barely kept the lines running with the few they sold for 15 years.

    At that point, the Illinois State Police adopted the M39, and America’s love affair with .38 revolvers as LEO first line issue began it’s sunset. The M39 had distinctive issues which helped, it was more compact, could be carried off duty, and that meant more accurate than the bulk of off duty guns most officers could NOT qualify with but carried. Yes, the ISP actually tested that to see how officers were doing, and it highlighted the real issue – poor shooting with a personal pistol was a liability for the State.

    S&W grew to own the auto pistol market for LEO’s and a lot of those weren’t full sized .45’s. I own a Texas LEO’s 4566 TSW – in later years S&W pioneered the inclusion of a Weaver rail to mount a light. And S&W also introduced the M59’s, a double stack 9mm. If anything, they paved the way for Glock to introduce their pistol, “designed” to handle like a revolver, and their lapdancing contract solicitation at their favorite Atlanta night spot has become legendary in the LEO buyers community. American’s wouldn’t buy American under those conditions.

    In the meantime the Army soldiered on with the 1911, eventually conducting more trials and finally choosing Beretta’s submission, the M9. Along with the Italian governments caution that if they didn’t get the contract, DOD would have issues with the Italian refueling site for our Med fleet, along with having an Airborne Brigade stationed there. After a 30 year delay, we got a design based on – wait for it – the Walther P38.

    I got into this because of the CMP offering the last 200,000 of the 1911’s, and having initially trained on them in my early years, wanted to procure one. The CMP responded to the Army’s insistence on political roadblocks and I discovered the 4566 was a lot more affordable, was NOT a brick, handles and shoots well, and was the nearly the potential GI weapon had Army not allowed pistol trials to become a budgetary football. History has shown we went there anyway, a P38 derivative became issue. History also shows that despite our love affair with handguns, on the field of battle, they don’t amount to much. It’s those of us who carry here at home who depend on them more. Rifle rank pretty far down the list of lethal weapons used nationwide, rocks are used twice as often.

    I can only speculate how effective a Hillary Hole would be on a rock. It wouldn’t make much difference than it does on a revolver. For all those who shy away, thanks, you help keep the prices down on the S&W collector community who snap them up left and right, hole or not. Something something cut off your nose something. As for plastic, well, they even make plastic revolvers now, all our issue handguns for the field are SIG plastic, and I suspect a new battle rifle will have a plastic trigger housing. It’s an extension of the engineering Stoner used to design the M16 – with it’s plastic furniture – in the 1950s.

    • @ tirod3….what Airborne Brigade were you referring to that was stationed in Italy at that time frame? Just wondering because 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment (one of my old units from the 80duce) were reactivated in 1996 in Vicenza, Italy, by reflagging the existing 3rd Battalion, 325th Infantry, an airborne battalion combat team, and was expanded in “June 2000” to become the reactivated 173rd Airborne Brigade……. It was earlier In 1979, the Joint Service Small Arms Program began searching for a replacement for the venerable M1911, and the 9×19mm Parabellum round was selected for compliance with the NATO Standardization Agreement (STANAG). In 1980, the Beretta 92S-1 design was chosen over entries from Colt, Smith & Wesson, Walther, the Star M28, and various Fabrique Nationale and Heckler & Koch models.
      The result, however, was challenged by the US Army, and new tests were done by the Army. In “1984”, the trials started again with updated entries from Smith & Wesson, Beretta, SIG Sauer, Heckler & Koch, Walther, Steyr, and Fabrique Nationale. Beretta won this competition, but there was a new trial, the XM10 competition, in 1988. This resulted in two different trials that were more limited, but resulted in the Beretta being chosen—albeit with an updated design.

    • That ugly hole in the side of the frame directly above the cylinder release. New S&W’s come with a key you can insert into the hole and engage a mechanism to lock the hammer in place, rendering the gun unusable. I call them Hillary Holes.

  7. Millenial here who daily carries a stainless steel revolver or 1911.

    Because nothing beats a beautiful trigger and heavy metal.

    You can keep your plastic guns and tupperware triggers.

  8. We all have stories about the gun “we wish we still had”…

    Well, the revolver that I truly wish I had never even thought about getting rid of was my S&W 625-4 Springfield Armory Commemorative .45ACP.

    Alas, she’s gone. I should kick myself daily for that bonehead move.

  9. Plastic fantastic is here to stay, and the plastic will presumably improve as technology marches on. The steel frame firearm will go the way of the flintlock eventually… I prefer all-stainless firearms, but at my stage of life the plastics will all outlive me anyway…

    • Mr. McGuire : I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.

      Benjamin : Yes, sir.

      Mr. McGuire : Are you listening?

      Benjamin : Yes, I am.

      Mr. McGuire : Plastics.

      Benjamin : Exactly how do you mean?

      Mr. McGuire : There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?

      Peter Gunn : In reality, they’re really not any softer under the pillow. Can’t say I’m a Plastic Fantastic Lover.

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