A WINNING HAND
THESE S&W MODEL 19s—ONE CLASSIC, ONE MODERN CARRY—ARE MORE THAN JUST TWO OF A KIND.
Smith & Wesson released two Model 19 updates: the Performance Center Model 19 Carry Comp and the
Model 19 Classic. But they’re more than just two of a kind.
There’s something very comforting about holding a .357 Magnum revolver in your hand ... especially when you’re betting your life on it.
Through the years, one model in particular has been prized for achieving a good balance of size and power: the Smith & Wesson Model 19, also known as the Combat Magnum.
Recently, S&W began offering two new Model 19 revolvers. One is an addition to the company’s Classic line. The other is the Performance Center Model 19 Carry Comp. As much as they are the same, they are also very different.
Both of these guns are stamped with “19-9” on the frame inside the cylinder yoke, meaning they are the ninth iteration of the Model 19. The Model 19, of course, is built on S&W’s midsized “K” frame—larger than the “J” frame” but smaller than the “L” or “N.”
Each features a carbon-steel frame and a six-shot carbonsteel cylinder that rotates counterclockwise. The front edges of the cylinder are rounded nicely. Each has a stainless steel barrel insert within a barrel shroud. Unlike early versions of the Model 19, the ejector rod no longer locks into the shroud under the barrel to secure the cylinder at the front. Instead, there is a ball detent on the frame in the recess where the cylinder yoke engages it—probably a stronger setup.
Each of these .357s features S&W’s excellent adjustable rear sight; this is important on a handgun that can fire such a wide range of ammo—from .38 Special to .38 Special +P to .357 Magnum—with conventional bullet weights from 110 to 180 grains. The top strap of each gun has longitudinal serrations to reduce glare. The smooth trigger and checkered hammer of each are color case hardened. Each revolver has S&W’s onboard lock with a key hole just above the cylinder release on the left side of the frame that locks both the trigger and hammer. I’ve heard many negative comments about the inclusion of such a lock. It doesn’t bother me; on the contrary, I’ve used it as secondary lock at times I had to secure a gun in my vehicle. I’d activate that lock first and then place the locked handgun in a lockbox chained to something in the car or trunk. If it bothers you, don’t use it.
THE CLASSIC ISN’T AN EXACT REPRODUCTION OF THE ORIGINAL MODEL 19. GONE ARE THE ONE-PIECE PINNED BARREL AND RECESSED CHAMBERS, ALTHOUGH THE OLD-STYLE
THUMB PIECE FOR THE CYLINDER RELEASE HAS BEEN RETAINED.
The new Classic Model 19 is a polished, blued-steel revolver with a 4-inch bull barrel. It features all of S&W’s updates over the years. In other words, the Classic isn’t an exact reproduction of the original Model 19. Gone are the one-piece pinned barrel and recessed chambers, although the old-style thumb piece for the cylinder release has been retained.
The metal ramp front sight has a red plastic insert for better visibility. The custom, combat-style, two-piece wooden grips are very attractive and are checkered for a sure grip. They feature inlaid, gold-colored-metal S&W logos. While the shape of the grips might lead you to believe the gun has a squarebutt frame, it is a round-butt frame—something you need to know if you ever want to order aftermarket grips.
The trigger is excellent on this gun. I measured the doubleaction pull at about 9 pounds. It was very smooth. I measured the single-action pull at about 3.5 pounds.
THE CARRY COMP
There’s nothing retro about the Performance Center Model 19 Carry Comp. It has a 3-inch barrel with a full underlug and a single PowerPort vent atop it—intended to reduce muzzle rise— just ahead of the front sight. The metal ramp front sight is pinned and features a tritium dot insert for use in low-light shooting situations. The finish of the handgun is a subdued matte black.
The cylinder release thumb piece is the angled version the company has been using for some time now. The checkered hammer is tapered and rather leaf shaped. It still provides plenty of surface area for the thumb to cock it for singleaction use. The trigger features an overtravel stop at the rear.
This gun comes with two sets of grips: an attractive set of laminated wooded grips and some cushiony rubber grips.
As a Performance Center gun, the action on this Carry Comp was to have been tuned by S&W gunsmiths. But I found the trigger of the Classic model to be better. The trigger of the Carry Comp was smooth all the way through the pull in doubleaction mode, but it was heavier than the Classic. I measured it at about 10.75 pounds. When fired single-action, the break was light and as clean as a small, dry twig snapping on a cold winter day. However, at 4 pounds, it was also a bit heavier than the Classic’s trigger. I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. The triggers of both guns were excellent.
Shooting these S&W revolvers is not exactly like comparing apples to oranges because they are, after all, both S&W Model 19 revolvers. Maybe it’s more accurate to say they’re different types of “apples.”
I’m reviewing them side by side, but I see them as having different intended roles. The Classic is more akin to its size and looks like one your dad or grandpa might have carried on duty. It would make a great trail gun or a backup to your hunting rifle, or a house gun.
The Carry Comp, on the other hand, with its shorter, ported barrel and tritium front sight, is clearly intended as a concealed-carry gun for defensive use—a role I think it could perform very well.
HOW THEY PERFORMED
For those who lament that S&W has changed the design of the Model 19 over the years, let me just say that these new releases are as handy and as accurate as they’ve always been. In addition, the .357 Magnum is as snappy a cartridge as it’s always been, bull barrel or porting or not. The cartridge and the double-action revolver can be mastered, but practice is required.
These revolvers performed well, and much of that has to do with the K frame that, as Goldilocks would say, fits “just right.” It’s easier to carry and faster to handle than a larger gun, yet it is more pleasant to shoot with .357 loads and easier to control than a five-shot J-frame.
I shot each revolver with three Winchester loads: .38 Special 110-grain Silvertip hollow point; .357 Magnum 125-grain jacketed hollow point (JHP); and .357 Magnum 158-grain JHP.
Then, I changed things a bit. Because I see the Carry Comp as a legitimate concealed-carry gun, I fired some Federal Premium HST .38 Special +P 130-grain JHP cartridges through it. Its hollowpoint bullet is seated entirely within the shell case like a target wadcutter. However, it’s purely for defensive purposes. It’s designed to expand reliably and dramatically when fired from short-barreled handguns.
For the larger Classic, I chose to shoot some Federal 180-grain JHP rounds—a heavy load you might choose for keeping big cats and other critters at bay.
For accuracy, I shot the Carry Comp at 15 yards, the higher end of typical defensive distances. I shot the Classic, with its longer sight radius, at 25 yards. Not fair! you say? Remember, I see these guns as serving very different needs.
The bottom line is that both guns will shoot 1.5-inch groups from a rest if you do your part.
Offhand, I was able to keep a 5-inch, self-healing target ball rolling from 15 through 30 yards with each gun. Shooting rapid singles at a silhouette target at 15 yards double-action, I was able to keep my shots landing center mass in the ninering (until I got cocky and went too fast). Aimed head shots were no problem.
GOING THE DISTANCE
At the end of my last shooting session, just for the fun of it, I tried my luck with the Classic model on a 12-inch steel plate at 100 yards. I hit it three times out of five firing with a two-handed hold and standing with no rest. And my two misses were close enough to worry it. Just luck? Maybe, but the excellent trigger and fine handling qualities of this revolver sure helped.
CHECK YOUR AMMO
One of the biggest advantages of revolvers is that you can feed them just about anything and they’ll go bang! every time, right? Not so fast.
I had about a half-dozen failures to fire with the Classic model, with light hits on the primers. I diagnosed the problem as ammo related. The failures were only with the Winchester 125-grain JHP loads.
On examining the casings in that particular box, I found that the case rims were noticeably thinner than the other loads I was using. That meant the primers were just a bit farther away for the firing pin to reach, leading to light hits and misfires. The lesson learned was to test the ammo you intend to carry, even if you intend to carry it in a revolver.
THE CARRY COMP ... IS CLEARLY INTENDED AS A CONCEALED-CARRY GUN FOR DEFENSIVE USE—A ROLE I THINK IT COULD PERFORM VERY WELL.
PICK YOUR PASSION
So, which one might you choose? If you want a great gun for the trail, for home defense or as a sidearm to accompany a long gun when hunting, you might take a hard look at the Model 19 Classic.
If you want a handgun that is small and light enough to carry concealed but big enough to shoot well, and with the reliability of a revolver and the benefit of a wide range of defensive ammo options, the Performance Center Model 19 Carry Comp might be the one you pick.
Either of these guns should provide years of service. They might not be your dad’s Model 19, but they could be your son’s. GW
At first glance, the Model 19 Classic appears the same as the early Combat Magnum handguns, but this is a Model 19-9 with all the updates. The Carry Comp, intended more for concealed carry, has a tapered, leaf-shaped hammer (right), while the hammer of the Classic is more traditional.I
The Classic displays “Combat Magnum” on the right side of the barrel. The Model 19 Classic has a pinned front sight with a redplastic insert. It is also fitted with S&W’s old-style cylinder release thumb piece.I
The combat-style wooden stocks of the Model 19 Classic provide a good grip and are shaped to keep the hand where it should be: high on the back strap.
A look at the muzzleof the Model 19 Classic reveals that as on all newer S&W revolvers, there is a barrel insert surrounded by ashroud.
Both the Classic and the Carry Comp make use of S&W’s excellent adjustable rear sight—a nice thing to have on a handgun capable of firing such a wide range of ammo.
The Performance Center Model 19 Carry Comp is a good-looking handgun with seriousintent.
The Carry Comp has the more-modern angled cylinder release thumb piece. The keyhole for the internal lock is just above it.
The Carry Comp proudly displays its Performance Center origins on the left side of the barrel.
Because it is a Performance Center gun, the CarryComp had some extras, including an overtravel stop on the back of the trigger.
The Carry Comp came with two sets of grips: one wooden and one rubber. The rubber set provided a bit more room for a full grip.