Gun World - - Contents - By Steven Paul Bar­low

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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.

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