CARRY COMP CLASSIC
S&W’S PERFORMANCE CENTER HAS RESURRECTED THE M19 AND IT’S CCW FRIENDLY
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.
THE NEW CARRY COMP
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.
“...SMITH & WESSON’S CLASSIC K-FRAME MODEL 19...WAS, AND REMAINS, A WORKHORSE THAT HAS EARNED A PLACE OF RESPECT AMONG SHOOTISTS.”
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.
SHORT CCW BARREL
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,
“...THE .357 MAGNUM IS A POTENT COMPANION ANYWHERE YOU MIGHT ENCOUNTER SOMETHING WITH CLAWS AND TEETH.”
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.