Why s&w over xyz service size?

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Why s&w over xyz service size?

Postby jeep45238 » Thu Dec 07, 2017 7:29 am

I’m pretty new to revolvers and own a SW 64 that I’m happy with. I’ve also noticed that when it comes to revolvers, there’s a large trend towards S&W, especially with double action revolvers. Prefer to limit this to the major makers with strong QC (even if that limits to pre-1990’s), especially if issued to police.

I can see how the cylinder release is a part of this, but knowing very little about revolvers in general let alone other brands, why go towards SW specifically for service size (k/l/n ish size) models?

My understanding is Ruger models are built like tanks with multiple locking points for the cylinder, Colts have delicate lock work and a (seemingly) backwards cylinder release, Dan Wesson has a stronger cylinder locking mechanism and is inherently accurate due to barrel mounting/tuning with their wrench.

So, why SW over other models, including older revolvers? Is there a balance issue, are the internals easier to tune, etc? Are the stronger lockups more prone to failure due to complexity, or not worth it until getting to X caliber/Y frame?
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Re: Why s&w over xyz service size?

Postby Brian D. » Thu Dec 07, 2017 8:34 am

For me it's better/more tweak-able actions. (I was going to just post "Jerry Miculek says so" and nothing more.)

Also some fiscal consideration: When Colt was their main competitor, S&W was less expensive. Ruger might have given them a run for the money if they'd come along sooner. Smith was pretty dominant by then, and had more models to pick from than Ruger, in more calibers.
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Re: Why s&w over xyz service size?

Postby jeep45238 » Thu Dec 07, 2017 9:45 am

So, glock of the era?
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Re: Why s&w over xyz service size?

Postby Brian D. » Thu Dec 07, 2017 11:30 am

That's a valid analogy.
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Re: Why s&w over xyz service size?

Postby evan price » Thu Dec 07, 2017 12:59 pm

The Smith K-frame goes all the way back to the original 38 Military & Police...of 1899. The hand ejector with swing out cylinder was an improvement over the untraditional single action revolver that had to be individually loaded by a gate. They also chambered it in a new powerful cartridge, the 38 s&w Special (which was black powder originally.)

The Smith action was relatively simple with only a few parts to tweak and a simpler design than Colts. (By the way, Colts aren't weaker but they are more mechanically complex which means more sensitive to maladjustment.)

Colt's New Army & New Navy were from 1892 and were the first "hand ejector" used by the US military.

In 1896 Colt introduced the New Police double action revolver, which was personally selected by Teddy Roosevelt to be the official duty weapon for the New York City Police. Colt updated it for 1907 as the Police Positive aiming right at law enforcement of the day and it carried through to 1947.

In 1908 Colt redesigned the Army model to use the then-hot-new-caliber, 38 Special, and brought us the Army Special. Unfortunately it was never used by the Army. In 1911 a new pistol was chosen we all know.

At any rate Colt continued trying to sell Army Specials until they realized where their cash cow lived, and gave up in 1927 and re-named it Official Police. They built the Official Police until 1969. The Army Special had a sister known as the New Service model of 1917. These guns were the precursor to the Model 3 5 7 which was the precursor to the Python of 1955.

I can go on about Colt's Mk3 action, the rise of the Snake guns, Smith's Registered Magnums, 38/44 Heavy Duty, and the L frame. It's all a fascinating history.

Where am i going with all this history?

Ruger didn't exist until 1949. Their first revolver in 1955 was the Blackhawk, a single-action design which was NOT what police and military had been using for over 60 years. Ruger's first double-actions, the Security-, Service-, and Speed-Six, didn't come out until 1972. By that time three generations -over 60 years- of lawmen had retired after a lifetime of using Smith & Wesson or Colt revolvers.

Rugers were a good study gun. A bit heavier. A bit chunkier. A bit less visually appealing and svelte. A good bit more expensive to manufacture, given the fact that Smith and Colt had long since paid off their engineering, tooling and designs. The sunk costs for a Ruger were a level of magnitude higher. In contracts where money was a major point Ruger just couldn't compete profitably.

And that goes even more so for Dan Wesson (who was related to Wesson of Smith & Wesson and worked there most of his life before founding DW Arms.) Dan Wessons were what happens when you take a revolver design and tend towards a pure match/target gun and not a Service weapon. Look up the Smith & Wesson CS1 story sometime for an interesting view of design gone wrong despite doing everything right. In the end it's a beautiful piece of engineering that had priced itself right out of a job, because service-grade weapons don't need what Dan Wesson had created.

By 1972 the Smith and Wesson Model 59 had been out for a year. It was one of the first of what the gun magazines would call "Wondernines", high capacity service pistols in 9mm. The Beretta 92 came out in 1975.

Regardless of one's opinion of revolvers, the entire gun industry and law enforcement and military markets were changing forever. Ruger and DW were too late, too expensive, and fighting the twin juggernauts of gun companies that had been around for over a century before they were even opened and were literally a household name.

By the 80s everyone wanted Wondernines. Ruger released the Model P85 in 1985. Sig P226 was 1984.

But who would predict what would happen in 1980, that would turn the entire gun world around and still to this day be the gun that is the standard by which its peers are measured against? In 1980 the Austrian Army announced that they wanted a new handgun. In 1982 an unknown engineer designed a gun to win that contract. In 1983 a few samples went to the US military. By the late 80s the gun was ubiquitous and famous world-wide.

Of course I'm talking about Gaston Glock.
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Re: Why s&w over xyz service size?

Postby Javelin Man » Thu Dec 07, 2017 2:42 pm

Evan,

All you need is a Header page and reference page and you can turn that in for a term paper. :)
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Re: Why s&w over xyz service size?

Postby Sevens » Thu Dec 07, 2017 5:01 pm

Oh I love that post! 8) :D
I like to swap brass... and I'm looking for .32 H&R Mag, .327 Fed Mag, .380 Auto and 10mm. If you have some and would like to swap for something else, send me a note!
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Re: Why s&w over xyz service size?

Postby Brian D. » Thu Dec 07, 2017 5:47 pm

It's a small footnote, but Colt also hurt themselves a few times with labor strikes/management lockouts. They couldn't fill contracts when that went on, or they'd try to send out guns that weren't built or finished properly. No police department is going to put up with that for long.
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Re: Why s&w over xyz service size?

Postby Sevens » Thu Dec 07, 2017 7:47 pm

Umm, if we are going to make a list of "Colt failures", every instance where Colt screwed the pooch... we will need a new thread and OFCC may need a new server.
I like to swap brass... and I'm looking for .32 H&R Mag, .327 Fed Mag, .380 Auto and 10mm. If you have some and would like to swap for something else, send me a note!
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Re: Why s&w over xyz service size?

Postby evan price » Thu Dec 07, 2017 7:48 pm

Brian D. wrote:It's a small footnote, but Colt also hurt themselves a few times with labor strikes/management lockouts. They couldn't fill contracts when that went on, or they'd try to send out guns that weren't built or finished properly. No police department is going to put up with that for long.

Absolutely. We could alsotalk about Smith & Wesson selling to Bangor-Punta and the continuous engineering revisions to drive down price by eliminating the little details.
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Re: Why s&w over xyz service size?

Postby Sevens » Fri Dec 08, 2017 2:49 am

Sorry Evan, loving revolvers is one thing and S&W FOR SURE isn't flawless, but S&W cannot carry Colt's jock when it comes to adding up all the "face down in the gutter" epic failures.

Sorry, not a close race.
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Re: Why s&w over xyz service size?

Postby evan price » Fri Dec 08, 2017 11:16 am

Sevens wrote:Sorry Evan, loving revolvers is one thing and S&W FOR SURE isn't flawless, but S&W cannot carry Colt's jock when it comes to adding up all the "face down in the gutter" epic failures.

Sorry, not a close race.

I'm not trying to equate the two, just point out that Smith isn't faultless.
The All-American Two Thousand nearly sank Colt but at least they tried.

I never even brought up Lear-Siegler buying out Bangor-Punta and then selling to Tomkins PLC in 87, a date which will live in infamy for S&W fans...Tomkins PLC and their sell-out to the Clintons rivals nearly anything Colt did wrong!

Tomkins bought S&W in 87 and sold in 01 to Saf-T-Hammer for $89 million..that supposedly booked them a loss of nearly $100 million! They only (only...)paid $112 million for S&W in 87.
The decision to bend the knee to the Clinton White House nearly killed the company.
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Re: Why s&w over xyz service size?

Postby Mr. Glock » Fri Dec 08, 2017 6:02 pm

Mixed bag really.

The lessons learned by british-run S&W running to the Clintons does tend to keep firearms makers inline today.

And Saf-T-Hammer has brought out some interesting designs, although today’s internals are not quite the same.

But, Saf-T-Hammer invented the on board lock, and the original STH execs/owners get a royalty on each one. The real reason it appeared and continues to appear on S&Ws (nope, Hillary had nothing to do with it). I finally broke down and bought an OBL SW because I couldn’t buy it used (design didn’t exist pre-lock).

If Rugers had a better trigger, I’d buy those instead. I just shoot SWs better.
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Re: Why s&w over xyz service size?

Postby Sevens » Sat Dec 09, 2017 2:30 pm

There is sooooo much discussion we could have about revolvers, but I'm trying to stick somewhat close to the OP's actual questions.

Why a S&W in service/combat/duty size (basically, a S&W that is not in pocket or deep cover size, and isn't a Bear defense gun)
Why a S&W, even pre-1990, over others?

Well, lots of reasons but if we are talking you, now, with S&W versus the other options, it may simply default to S&W based on some of the other options.

The Colt revolvers that can hang in this arena of duty fall in two classes for your use: OLD and either frail or needing work, which is a money pit and/or damn difficult to do. The other class is "GOOD GOD, look at the price!" The prancing horse all on it's own has some aura that other firearms cannot claim. That beautiful logo brings value and high price to every firearm on which it is engraved. I also believe it is gorgeous, so I definitely look at them and I look at pictures of them and then I spend my money on guns I would much rather own that aren't Colt.

Ruger brings a damn good revolver to the table but as has been stated, the double action trigger stroke typically falls short of the feel of the S&W and the tuneability of the S&W. The GP-100 basically runs more L-frame sized (think S&W Model 686) which makes it chunky and thicker than a K-frame, not nearly as svelte as your Model 64. Ruger also does the SP-101, which is somewhere between J-frame and K-frame size. I have never in my life met an SP-101 with a double action trigger that I liked, but opinions vary. A real (and nearly forgotten) gem here is the long-discontinued Ruger Security Six series. (also the Service Six and Speed Six) These were the fore runner to the GP-100 series and were discontinued when the GP-100 hit the market.

These a fantastic service sized revolvers and do compete well against your Model 64. A shame that we didn't have this conversation 5 years ago, they were nearly giving old Security Six guns away. These days the prices have inched upward and they now carry prices very similar to formerly issued S&W K-frames. They are terrific guns if you find one you like with a price you can deal with. Again, the DA trigger stroke doesn't match the S&W in my opinion (and the opinion of the lion's share of wheelgunners) but the guns are rugged and work well. Also, if I have to find their best quality -- I'd say their timing is more solid than S&W, isn't as prone to wear or issues as the S&W is. Not that the S&W timing is a huge problem, but saying that if you dug up 500 examples of each and running the full spectrum of condition, in that sample size you would find a slew of S&W revolvers where the timing is slightly off (or worse) but good luck finding a Security Six (or GP-100) where the timing is bad, because you just rarely ever see it.

To expand on Evan's great post with a slightly more modern look, we need to go back to around 1980 to compare a couple. 1980 was the debut of the L-frame S&W, with the 586, 686, 581 and 681 revolvers. Basically, they beefed up the K-frame and also made the cylinder larger, and they added a full underlug to the barrel. These guns are irrationally popular -- okay, bad word choice, it is entirely rational. They are hugely popular, but if you pick one up with a 4-inch barrel like your 64 has, you may think "WHOA, too much beef here." Especially if you have grown used to the heavy barrel 64.

The L-frame came out to "address the weaknesses associated with full .357 Magnum in a K-frame." <--- this is a monumental discussion that deserves it's own thread.

In any case, the L-frame has been a raging success and Ruger answered that success when they debuted the GP-100, I wanna guess it was about 1985 or 1987 or thereabouts. The GP-100 is more similar in overall size to the L-frames. Ruger fans seem to love to point out that the frame is larger, fatter, beefier and appears "stronger" than the L-frame, and they were spurred on by many Ruger print ads back at the debut of the GP-100 that pointed this out visually. Smith & Wesson fans counter with the fact that the L-frame (well, ALL S&W revolvers...) are forged steel while the Ruger is investment cast. The Ruger needs to be thicker and beefier because it isn't forged steel. Either way, that argument ends up being codpiece waving, since both revolvers will take a beating beyond what most shooters have the time, ammo, money and wrists to put through them.

Back to your opening post. Why a K-frame over others for what you are doing right now? Well, a USED, formerly issued K-38 (10, 15, 64, 67) is just easily the MOST gun for the money and it has millions of examples to prove it's success. If you are buying new, I'm looking hard at a GP-100 because the S&W they ship today are shoddy, IMO. QC has seemingly been outsourced -- directly to the end buyer. Their customer service at S&W continues to enjoy a solid reputation, and WOW, they sure get to exercise it. A fly on the wall might suggest that the guns coming in for warranty work outnumber the new guns coming off the production line. But alas, that too is likely it's own thread.

What else is new in revolvers on the market right now? Well, Dan Wesson is back, under CZ-USA production, and these have stuck totally to the original DW design, but they are better built and finished. The price tag is HEAVY, a new one runs some $1,300+ MSRP. Colt has reintroduced the Cobra, and so far, no other double action revolver. That is J-frame sized or smaller, so it doesn't fit the criteria for this discussion. Taurus makes a crapload of products... and if you have a dozen given to you, I am certain that you could find a good one or piece together a good one. Life is too short to bet your life on one unless/until you can beat the crap out of it for a few weeks and see how it responds. Under Taurus, file Rossi and Charter also. The Rock Island Colt copy and EAA Windicator, a German made budget gun, these aren't serious contenders in this role.

Korth is not only still making top-drawer revolvers, they now have a US importer deal. Unless you have $3,000 and up, we can save this for another thread. Manhurin has also began making the MR-73 again, with a price that rivals the Korth. Kimber has a new revolver out, it is also on the smaller side. I played with one a couple weeks ago, it seems solid, heavy DA and pricey. Not exactly 4-inch K-frame sized.

Chiappa has the Rhino. A big departure from what we know and expect from a revolver. The quality is suspect and the price is double what you spent on your Model 64.

Options for a contender to your Model 64?
Security Six (adjustable sight), Service Six (fixed sight) Speed Six (round butt grip frame) if you find a decent price. Maybe some Colt revolvers that I am not qualified to suggest by model, assuming you bump in to a widow that is selling them according to the original price tag on the box, not adjusted for inflation or collectibility. Otherwise, nothing from Colt.
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Re: Why s&w over xyz service size?

Postby Mr. Glock » Sat Dec 09, 2017 6:17 pm

The OBL SW I purchased, which was a full blown Performance Center model, took the trip back to SW. Easy to do, but shouldn't be so common.

The Ruger Security/Speed Six guns also mirror the K-frames in the sense they were not developed for constant 357 use, both Ruger and SW made those guns at at time when practice was with 38s and carry was 357s. They don't have the exact same issues, but faster wear and strain do cause issues. Some of the Ruger fanboys disagree, but it is in Ruger and His Guns book chronicling the development of the GP-100.

I don't own GP-100s or Redhawks, but I mirror Sevens comments that the Security/Speed Rugers are a very nice guns. And, both K-frames and Service/Speed Sixes fit the same holsters but the Ruger is very slightly larger. I'd rate that family as the best handguns Ruger every made.

Also, the Wilson spring kit works wonders in SP-101s and don't have ignition issues like the Wilson kits for SWs.
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