Sunday, July 02, 2023

Sunday Smith #74: .32-20 Hand Ejector Model of 1905 - 3rd Change, 1910

Smith & Wesson made literal millions of their famous Military & Police model medium-frame revolver in the .38 Special caliber, but only a little bit more than a hundred thousand in .32-20 Winchester.

The .32-20 was a popular round for small game in Winchester and Marlin lever action carbines, and matching revolvers from Colt and Smith enjoyed a brief period of popularity in the early 20th Century.

While Neal & Jinks's indispensable book claims the Model of 1905 - 3rd Change only came in four- and six-inch barrel lengths, this example is quite clearly a 5" gun and Paul Scarlata wrote up a 6½" model in his review for Shooting Times, so take the Jinks info with a grain of salt.

The pictured revolver is one of 20,499 Smith & Wesson .32-20 Model of 1905 - 3rd Change revolvers made between 1909 and 1915.

Sunday, June 04, 2023

Sunday Smith #73: Model 639, 1984

From its introduction in 1955 until its production ended in 1982, Smith & Wesson's first generation of single-stack nines saw only minor changes. In 1957, it became the "Model 39", with some improvements to the extractor and safety lever. Then in 1971 further design changes to the extractor and feed ramp rated the "Model 39-2" nomenclature.

Starting in the early Eighties, Smith began marketing a whole new generation of its pistol, and added a third digit, so the aluminum-framed Model 39 with its carbon-steel slide became the Model 439, and the same gun with a carbon-steel frame and slide was the 539.

In 1984, Smith leveraged its experience in working with stainless steel revolvers into an all-stainless version of its 9mm pistol: The Model 639. This was something of a novelty at the time, since Smith was one of the only manufacturers of the era who sold stainless self-loaders that weren't plagued by galling issues between the frame and slide.

The most notable change in the mechanicals of the Second Generation pistols was the addition of a firing-pin safety that rendered them more drop-safe. They also had optional ambidextrous safety levers, a checkered backstrap, and the adjustable rear sight on models so equipped was protected by sturdy "wings" rendering it less likely to be knocked askew when carried in a duty holster or dropped.

The first few hundred 639's off the line had a short, wide extractor before it was changed back to the proven type found on the 39-2. After the first year of production, 1985 and later guns had a square, hooked trigger guard of the sort that was popular in the '80s. Those two factoids (plus the "TAA" serial prefix) date the 639 in the pictures to 1984.

Notable Hollywood 639 toters include The A-Team's "Hannibal" Smith and Harvey Keitel's Mister White in Reservoir Dogs.

Production of the Model 639 continued through 1988, when it was replaced by its heavily-revised Third Generation successor, the Model 3906.

The pictured pistol was acquired from Indy Arms Company for four fifty in summer of 2023.

Monday, April 24, 2023

Sunday Smith #72: Model 469, 1984

Smith & Wesson launched upgraded versions of their original Model 39 and Model 59 double-action semiautomatic 9x19mm service pistols in 1981.

They featured several detail upgrades, most notably a plunger-type firing pin safety for added protection against unintentional discharges when dropped. On the double-stack models, the thickened section of the frame was extended forward past the hole for the axle of the slide stop for additional strength.

The nomenclature was changed from two to three digits: The original Second Generation single-stack pistols were the model 439, 539, and 639, while their double stack equivalents were the 459, 559, and 659. Respectively, these denoted an aluminum alloy frame with a carbon steel slide, a carbon steel frame & slide, and a stainless steel frame & slide.

During the 1970s and early 1980s, custom smitheries like Armament Systems and Procedures (ASP), Devel, Trapper Guns, and Austin Behlert offered cut-down versions of the Model 39 with shortened slides and grips, but along about 1983 that market got wrecked when Smith debuted their own factory-made mini pistol: A cut-down variant of the double-stack 459.

Dubbed the Model 469, it featured an alloy frame and carbon steel slide, a 3.5" barrel (shortened a half-inch from the duty-size 459), a shortened grip that accommodated a double-column twelve-round magazine (reduced from 14 rounds in the original), that oh-so-disco-era hooked trigger guard, and low-profile sights, safety/decocker lever, and slide stop.

The regular cataloged ones were all finished in a matte blue finish, but the pictured one is one of a 1500-piece distributor exclusive run done in matte nickel for Ashland Shooting Supply in the summer of 1984. It was acquired from Indy Arms Company in the spring of 2023 for four hundo.

Total production of the 469 was 97,261 pistols from 1983 until 1988, when it was replaced by its Third Generation successors, the alloy-framed Model 6904 and the all-stainless 6906.


Monday, March 06, 2023

Working Classic

When is something a classic? The state of Indiana lets you put Historic Vehicle plates on a car when it passes the quarter century mark, so there's one benchmark.

You know what else is over a quarter century old at this point? Most Gen1 and Gen2 Glock pistols, like the G19 in the picture.

This one was made in 1996, meaning it's not too far off from its thirtieth birthday. If you remember the internet firearms discussion groups at the time, there was a lot of talk about "Well, how well will these plastic guns hold up over the long term?"

So far, so good.

The big differences between the Gen2 Glock 19 and its Gen3 replacement are deeper than just the obvious addition of finger grooves on the frame and an accessory rail on the dust cover.

From top to bottom: Gen4, Gen3, and Gen2 Glock 19s

Later Gen3 G19's incorporated the third pin in the frame, the one added to accommodate .40S&W in the G22 & 23. (Gen3 Glock 17s did not, I believe because their specifications were frozen by big contracts.)

You'll notice that, in addition to the finger grooves, the later Glocks have a divot where the thumb would rest. This makes those "Thumbrest Target Grips" for extra BATFE import points, needed to allow the tiny G26 & G27 subcompacts importable.

One unusual and little-noted difference is that, around the time of the introduction of the Gen3 Glocks, they went to a shinier finish on the slide. You can note the difference in reflectivity even in the potato-quality iPhone 7 photo.

Scuttlebutt on the 'net at the time was that this was in response to complaints from federal law enforcement agencies about how the old matte phosphate-like finish was almost impervious to fingerprints. There was much griping on GlockTalk back in '99-'00 about how the more slippery new "fingerprint-friendly" was just Glock knuckling under to the feds.

This Gen2, on the right in the photo above, also lacks the bevel on the chamber hood added to later G19s as part of an attempt to solve the NYPD's mysterious "phase 3 malfunction" complaints.

Vintage or not, a Glock is just a utilitarian working gun. Oh, sure, there are some collectible ones, but a generic 19 is just a generic 19, whether it's a Gen2 or a Gen5, and this one's been modified to suit my tastes in a carry gun: Tango Down slide and magazine releases, a "Gadget" Striker Control Device, and the factory grooved G19 trigger (needed to get the compact 19 the extra BATF import points) has been replaced with a stock Glock 17 trigger, with a smooth trigger shoe.

The Meprolight tritium sights have almost completely ceased to glow and are due to be replaced. The fact that they were glowing at all when I bought it five years ago indicates they're almost certainly not the factory sights.

Keep anything long enough and it becomes a classic, I guess. 

Heck, these days people collect Smith & Wesson police revolvers, which would have been weird when this Glock was new and you could buy department trade-in Model 10s for less than a c-note.