Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Sunday Smith #29: Model 19-5, 1988.


When Smith & Wesson introduced the .357 Magnum cartridge in 1935, many viewed it as an ideal law enforcement round. The only problem was that the only revolver chambered for it was prohibitively expensive for most law enforcement agencies, being carefully fitted and finished and positioned as the "Cadillac" of the S&W line. After World War Two, S&W attempted to rectify this by introducing the "Highway Patrolman", later known as the Model 28, in 1954. This was essentially the same revolver as the .357 Magnum/Model 27, but with various cost cutting measures like a matte blue finish and elimination of the fine checkering along the sighting plane.

While this solved the cost issue, it didn't change the fact that the .357 cartridge was only available in a big N-frame revolver that weighed in at over two and a half pounds, which was quite a burden to lug on a duty belt already encumbered by handcuffs, nightstick, and all the other items on the ever-growing list of impedimentia considered necessary for police work. Behind the scenes, Border Patrol officer Bill Jordan had been pressing S&W to take advantage of advances in metallurgy and heat-treating of steel by releasing a .357 Magnum version of their midsize K-frame revolver. In 1955, they did just that, and thus was born the Combat Magnum, soon to be dubbed the Model 19 when the transition to model numbers was made in 1957.

Immediately a big hit, the Model 19 offered the more compact dimensions of the medium-frame combined with the hard-hitting .357 Magnum chambering and was used by any number of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, ranging from the Dayton, OH Police Department to the United States Secret Service. Initially offered with a 4" barrel and square-butt frame, variations with other barrel lengths soon became available. The most common were the 2.5" guns with round-butt frames and square-butt 6" guns, but 3" and 5" examples are known to exist. The revolvers went through the litany of engineering changes denoted by "dash numbers" after the model number, with the "-5" variation marking the abandonment of the pinned barrel and countersunk chambers in 1982. Production of the Model 19 Combat Magnum continued through November of 1999 when it was finally discontinued, its sales having slipped precipitously in comparison with its stainless offspring, the Model 66.

The revolver in the above photo, a 19-5 dating to 1988, is unusual for combining the 4" barrel length with a round-butt frame. This configuration first showed up in guns issued to the Office of Naval Intelligence in 1965, and those guns were marked "ONI" on the frame. A later run of 4" round-butt guns was done in 1988 for the U.S. State Department, and this revolver would appear to be from that batch, as its serial number bears the correct prefix. It was acquired from a friend in 2003 for about $325, and would bring probably over $425 in today's market, given the aftermarket Hogue monogrip and the lack of a factory box. Standard 4" Model 19's will run anywhere from not too much over $150 for a tired shooter to as much as five bills for a pristine early example with box & docs. Variations in barrel length, commemoratives, and odd Law Enforcement or foreign-contract guns can sometimes be worth substantial premiums, but research is in order before laying out the cash, as always.

As a purely side note, if I could only own one handgun, the above revolver would probably be it. Able to shoot anything from .38 snake shot to .357 loads appropriate for deer hunting, and small enough to be carried concealed in an inside-the-waistband holster, the 4" Model 19 is maybe as close to a "Do Anything" handgun as has ever been made.

15 comments:

WmEarl said...

Well, you have almost conivnced me to run out and buy one, just because it would be the perfect 'if one only had one'. Thanks, I need temptations to resist just to prove I am alive once in awhile. Still, if I win the Lotto I will look at this with more favor and likely buy one, because you said it was really worthy.

AJDshootist said...

Thank you Tam one of my all time favorites along with
Model 14 K38 i bought one of each on one weekend in May 1980 both great revolvers sadly missed.

alex. said...

Pretty gun. It's hard to beat a k-frame Smith. I picked up a beater of a six inch Model 19 a while back. The prior idiot of an owner had left it in a wet holster, resulting in a bunch of surface rust, but also resulting in a very low price. A good cleaning revealed some pitting, but some range time revealed that the damn thing can shoot rings around any glock ever made.

Who is..... Carteach0? said...

That might be my favorite of all you have written up. Classic lines, and surely a sweet shooting pistol.
No character flaws at all......

Nice, and thanks!

Matt G said...

Tam, I usually don't bother clicking on your Sunday Smith photos to expand them and look at their higher-resolution versions.

Today I did. And I gazed.


Longingly.

Jason said...

Cautionary Tale:
Oy, another beauty that I let walk away. I bought this very gun new in 1990, Greentop Sporting Goods in Hanover, VA. Wore it open carry here and there, no Shall-issue law yet in 1990... did tons of plinking, somewhere along I wanted a high capacity wonder-9mm... oh why did I trade her in?
- Jason in Iowa

Jay G said...

That's scary, Tam. I've got that gun's square-butt twin - got it this past year, and it's in my year-end round up I posted Monday...

Needless to say, I like it...

Timmeeee said...

Makes a fine desktop too!

Crucis said...

I have a 4", Model 19-2, square butt. It has the best trigger I've ever felt, even beating my Kimber 1911.

I'm still looking for a 19, round-butt in 2.5"/3" for carry.

Crucis

john said...

Got that one! goes through the 250 round boxes of practice ammo at a frightening rate. wanted to get my dad a 642 for xmas. had to settle for an open-hammer Taurus clone. Will get one eventually got a request in at the pawn shops

Alex said...

Please excuse me as I wipe the drool from my keyboard...

Assrot said...

You know the Smiths are one of the finest handguns on the market. What about adding the "Friday Colts" or the "Saturday Winchesters" to the mix?

I love your writing and your guns. If I was single and 30 years younger I'd be knocking on your door sweetie.

You are one of a kind. You make me think of them fine "Georgia Peach" women from my younger days. I get a lot of good "Deja Vu" from this blog in more ways than one.

Thanks for helping an old fart relive his dreams and his younger days.

:-)

Joe

Jim said...

I shot one of these in Air Crew school -- Naval Aircrew Candidate School, to be exact -- back in 1995. Apparently, the S&W 19 was the standard issue sidearm for Naval Aircrewmen until 1996 or so. Now the Navy issues a compact Sig 9mm (the P225 I think).

I thoroughly enjoyed shooting the Model 19 that afternoon in Pensacola and I've longed for one of my own ever since.

Anonymous said...

Tam: Should you be in a forgiving mood, please do not post my ignorant "late to the party" comment about the circular engraved Smith Trade mark on side plate being invisible in the pic for this post.

That comment was another HUA whatchmacallet based on my modest collection* of Smith round guns.

I assumed. I was doomed. I'll stay in lurk mode for another year or two.

*14-2, 15-3, 17-4, 66-1 (all have the circular engraved S&W TM on the side plate.)

AFan

wv: ghted. How I look after being ignorant in public AND late to the party. Sorta like seppuku with a short handled shovel.

Tam said...

Heh.

For some reason, I never even saw the comment.

Don't worry, I've made many a Very Confident Assumption myownself, quite a few of which are preserved for posterity in the archives of TFL and THR...