S&W’s Per­for­mance Cen­ter has res­ur­rected the M19—and it’s CCW friendly.

By Dave Work­man

It’s a de­fen­sive clas­sic with mod­ern touches.

Among the all-time clas­sic dou­ble-ac­tion re­volvers ever to serve po­lice and pri­vate cit­i­zens, one of the in­dis­putably best of the bunch was Smith & Wes­son’s clas­sic K-frame Model 19, a six-shot hand­gun that was, and re­mains, a work­horse that has earned a place of re­spect among shootists.

It was a fa­vorite of the leg­endary au­thor and Border Pa­trol­man Bill

Jor­dan (1911-1997), a man so fast on the draw that it seemed some­times im­pos­si­ble to see his hand move. The Model 19 was the ser­vice sidearm of choice among so many po­lice and sher­iff’s de­part­ments that it seemed to be ev­ery­where you looked, typ­i­cally nes­tled into a black leather hol­ster with a bas­ket weave pat­tern stamped on the front. The first magnum hand­gun I bought was a Model 19 with a 6-inch bar­rel and square butt, and later on my carry gun of choice was the round-butt model with a 2 ½-inch bar­rel that still goes along on the trail, the cham­bers stoked with 158-grain JHP hand­loads. They both came out of their re­spec­tive blue card­board boxes (which I still have!) wear­ing that in­cred­i­bly eye-catch­ing deep blue S&W fin­ish.

Well, time marched on. But the rep­u­ta­tion of the Model 19 re­mained. And now, this su­perb carry re­volver is back in a Per­for­mance Cen­ter in­car­na­tion that should de­light wheel­gun afi­ciona­dos across the land­scape.


Enter the Per­for­mance Cen­ter Model 19 Carry Comp, a re­volver for to­day’s round-gun devo­tee. It’s got that same smooth ac­tion, the same six-round ca­pac­ity, the same color case fin­ish on ham­mer and trig­ger, the same click-ad­justable rear sight, the same round butt and some things that ear­lier mod­els didn’t have. Heck, it works just fine with my HKS speed load­ers, too, but there the re­sem­blances start shift­ing into the 21st cen­tury.


The fin­ish on this new model is a deep matte black that, on my test sam­ple, was uni­form from the rear of the grip frame to the muz­zle of the 3-inch Pow­erPort vented bar­rel. Speak­ing of the bar­rel, ac­cord­ing to S&W, it’s stain­less steel, where the frame and cylin­der are car­bon steel.

In­stead of a plain black ramp front sight on my per­sonal gun (onto which

I added a bit of red-over-white nail pol­ish many years ago to make it more vis­i­ble), this one has a Tri­ji­con Tri­tium in­sert for im­me­di­ate sight ac­qui­si­tion in low light con­di­tions. That is a vast im­prove­ment that will ap­peal to any­one who car­ries this sidearm for per­sonal pro­tec­tion.


Years ago, S&W shifted the fir­ing pin from the ham­mer to the frame. While the older ham­mer re­bounded to keep the fir­ing pin away from rounds in the cylin­der un­til the trig­ger is pressed, this new model doesn’t al­low the

ham­mer to strike the fir­ing pin un­til the trig­ger is fully pressed.

There’s an over­travel stop on the trig­ger, which is smooth on the front sur­face, just like my vin­tage 1980s snubby, so it felt like an old friend to my in­dex fin­ger. S&W ships the Carry Comp with a hand­some set of wood grip pan­els, plus a syn­thetic re­place­ment grip that I sus­pect a lot of peo­ple will in­stall be­cause it soaks up the re­coil, which can be rather, uh, “brisk” when us­ing full house .357 Mag­nums in any K-frame.

When I or­dered a test gun, I con­tacted the gang at DeSan­tis Gun­hide for a Speed Scab­bard pan­cake-style hol­ster. I have one of these rigs for my 2.5-incher and it’s a de­sign that I find very ac­com­mo­dat­ing to the Model 19 for a strong-side carry and fast pre­sen­ta­tion.

The Per­for­mance Cen­ter model is heftier than my snub gun, hit­ting the scale un­loaded at 34.1 ounces. My 2.5-incher weighs just over 30 ounces with factory grip pan­els, but they went away years ago in fa­vor of a set of Her­rett’s stocks.

And there’s that top front bar­rel vent. When this Per­for­mance Cen­ter re­volver goes off, the ef­fect is…well, let’s just say…in­ter­est­ing. You might be able to light up a dark room.


Let’s talk a bit of his­tory, which will ex­plain why so many hand­gun­ners in search of a ver­sa­tile re­volver will grav­i­tate to the Model 19 plat­form. The .357 Magnum came along in the early 1930s, but in the larger S&W mod­els, now known as the N-frame configuration. It wasn’t un­til the mid-1950s that Jor­dan be­gan con­sult­ing with S&W to come up with a less bulky six-gun on the K-frame that be­came the Model 19. His­tory tells us that the first of these guns was pre­sented to Jor­dan on Nov. 15, 1955.

The Model 19 went through sev­eral changes as it evolved through the years, so many that I can’t even list them all. The first snubby ver­sion with a 2.5-inch tube and round butt ap­peared in 1966 as a stan­dard of­fer­ing (though 50 were re­port­edly built three years ear­lier, ac­cord­ing to an on­line his­tory of the model).

In 1999, the 2.5-inch bar­rel was dis­con­tin­ued. By that time, the shoot­ing pub­lic seemed en­am­ored with the stain­less Model 66 vari­a­tion, and in the 80s and 90s, the blued mod­els seemed to grad­u­ally van­ish, ex­cept in the hands of peo­ple who al­ready owned them. I rarely see one for sale at a gun show or shop, and when I do,


they fetch a pre­mium price.

Hand­gun pop­u­lar­ity seems to flow and ebb. So, it must be said about the Model 19. Sure, the compact semi-au­tos with their shorter grip frames carry a cou­ple of ad­di­tional rounds, but there is the ar­gu­ment that six is plenty if you can hit that at which you are aim­ing.

That brings us around to the ad­justable sight on the test piece. Some­body at the factory cranked the rear way to the right and down be­cause my first shots at the range struck low and right at 15 yards, off a rest with a two-hand hold. That, of course, was an easy fix with a small screw­driver. Part of that might have been due to the top port in front of the front sight, which does pre­vent re­coil flip, but the low shoot­ing was con­sis­tent with ev­ery round I fired dur­ing chrono­graph tests.

One small thing I had to get used to was the dif­fer­ent ham­mer shape.

The new model’s ham­mer is ta­pered, where the ham­mer on my snub gun is a tar­get-type with a bit more sur­face area. It would not be a big deal to any­body who hasn’t spent years fir­ing an ear­lier model. Of course, the most im­por­tant thing about any hand­gun de­signed for carry is that it shoots. There is noth­ing to worry about here.


Over the course of a cou­ple of shoot­ing ses­sions, I learned two im­por­tant things about the Per­for­mance Cen­ter Model 19 Carry Comp. First, it han­dles ev­ery .357 Magnum load I could scrounge up. The se­lec­tion I ended up with rep­re­sents what might be a typ­i­cal cross-sec­tion of the loads av­er­age cit­i­zens might se­lect for their own use.

From high to low, the best av­er­age ve­loc­ity I scored over the screens of my chrono­graph, set 20 inches ahead of the muz­zle, was 1,381 fps us­ing Winch­ester 125-grain JHPs, fol­lowed closely by the new Sig Sauer V-Crown 125-grain JHP at 1,330 fps.

The 125-grain Fed­eral Hi-Shok warped through the screens at 1,201 fps, with the 125-grain Speer Gold Dot close be­hind at 1,184 fps.

Fed­eral’s 158-grain Hy­dra-Shok scooted out at 1,183 fps, and the Black Hills 125-grain JHP moved out at 1,170 fps, ac­cord­ing to the chrono­graph.

I had about a half-box of Hornady 125-grain XTP rounds that clocked 1,123 fps, and sur­prise of sur­prises, the CorBon Hunter 180-grain JSP and the Black Hills 158-grain JHP both av­er­ag­ing 1,029 fps.

Un­der­stand­ably bring­ing up the rear was a Black Hills 158-grain lead pill that av­er­aged 937 fps.

And the good news with all of these rounds is that at 12 yards, I man­aged to keep some pretty tight groups us­ing a two-hand hold on a rest, the

Be­low: Check that full un­der­lug bar­rel and muz­zle, with the port be­tween the muz­zle and front sight.

Com­pared to au­thor’s clas­sic Model 19 from the early 1980s (top), the new Per­for­mance Cen­ter model is heftier, with a full un­der­lug bar­rel, matte fin­ish and more.

The back­strap on this new model is smooth, and the wood grips make for a compact pack­age for max­i­mum con­ceal­ment.

Bot­tom Left: Old and new, the Model 19 has an ad­justable rear sight even on short-bar­reled mod­els.

Bot­tom Right:One no­table dif­fer­ence is the ham­mer. On the new model (left) the ham­mer ta­pers to the rear, while on the older model it was a squared tar­get-type.

Above: Look closely. There’s a tri­tium lamp in­sert in the front blade sight.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.