Sunday, April 8, 2012

Smith & Wesson - A Tough Success Story - Part 3

As promised, in this article, I want to go into Smith & Wesson's contribution to the semi-automatic pistol and tactical rifle market.

The first center fire S&W semi-automatic pistol began in 1913.

The result was the Smith & Wesson Model 1913. It was also known as the Model 35 and was produced from 1913 to 1922.

Approximately 8,350 were built and this gun was chambered in the .35 S&W Auto cartridge.

It featured smooth wooden grip panels, a fully grooved slide with cross-bolt lock stud, and an ambidextrous safety that was operated with the middle finger of the shooting hand. grip safety was operated by pressing it to the rear.

Supposedly, the US Army was looking for a pistol to replace my beloved M1911A1 semi-automatic pistol as early as 1948.

To obtain a bid from the US Government, Smith & Wesson began working on a design similar to the German Walther P-38.  The development of the model 39 began in 1949, and first production pistols saw the market in 1953.

The S&W Model 39 pistol was the first product Double Action pistol made in USA. It was first U.S. designed double action pistol in the 9 mm Luger or Parabellum round.

The Model 39 would come to be known as a first generation pistol. Since the Model 39 first debuted, Smith & Wesson has continuously developed this design into its third generation pistols now on the market.

Produced from 1970 to 1988, Smith & Wesson put out its Model 59. This was essentially a high-capacity double-action Model 39 pistol again in 9 mm Parabellum. Its first of the high-capacity guns to hit the market. It used a double-column magazine.  

Supposedly, according to two sources, the Model 59 was designed for the U.S. Navy as a large-capacity version of the S&W Model 39.  It was the basis of their Mark 22 "Hush Puppy" silenced pistol.

The story goes that in 1965, the U.S. Navy sought out Smith & Wesson and requested a version of the S&W Model 39 that could take the 13-round magazine of the FN Browning HP35.

S&W Model 59
 The FN Browning HP35, first designed in 1935, was the first military pistol to have high capacity, staggered column magazine for 13 rounds plus one loaded in the chamber.

Because of it's reputation for tough reliability, for many years it was one of the standard weapons of the CIA. They used the FN-Browning HP-35. 

The result of the Navy's request came in early 1970, when a dozen experimental all-stainless-steel prototypes were made and were issued to Navy SEAL commandos for evaluation in the field.

Though the Model 59 was not adopted for the Navy, it went on the civilian market in late 1970 with great success.

The Model 59 was manufactured in 9mm Parabellum caliber with a wider anodized aluminum frame (to accommodate a double-stack magazine), a straight backstrap, a magazine disconnect (the pistol will not fire unless a magazine is in place), and a blued carbon steel slide that carries the manual safety.

The grip is three pieces made of two nylon plastic panels joined by a metal backstrap. It uses a magazine release located to the rear of the trigger guard similar to the M1911A1.

The Model 59 went out of production when the improved second generation series was introduced as the Model 459. Smith & Wesson Model 459 was Smith &Wesson's entry into the US Army's XM9 program.

The S&W Model 459 was an updated version of the Model 59 with adjustable sights and checkered nylon grips. This model was discontinued in 1988. About 800 of these pistols were manufactured with special grips made to FBI specifications.

One interesting Smith & Wesson semi-auto was the Model 61 which came out in 1970.  It was a pocket pistol called an "Escort".  It was a tiny .22 caliber semi-automatic pistol. It was designed to be cheap and easily concealable. It was available in blued or nickel-plated with black or white plastic grips.
Production stopped just 3 years later in 1973. Most of their semi-auto pistols used the Model 39 and Model 59 design and were have been out of production for many years. 
The third generation of Smith & Wesson semi-autos was introduced in 1990 by four digit numbered models.
The Smith and Wesson Model 1006 is a recoil operated double-action semi-automatic handgun chambered in the powerful 10 mm auto cartridge. It is constructed entirely of stainless steel, has a 5 inch barrel, and a 9 round single column magazine.
Its safety is a slide mounted de-cock/safety, internal safeties are a magazine disconnect and firing pin block. This is when Smith & Wesson introduced ambidextrous safety / de-cocker levers and double action only and de-cocker only models.
Smith & Wesson also introduced a .40 S&W, 10mm auto and a .45ACP. These weapons also included the new Novak lo-carry three dot combat sights, and the three-piece grips were replaced by polymer one piece wrap-around grips.
The Model 1006 is generally considered reliable and accurate.

The 10mm semi-auto, built on large .45ACP frames, was adopted by FBI and a few Police Departments, but it didn't really do very well in the civilian market and was discontinued from production in mid-1990s.

The .40SW caliber line, on the other hand, was built on the 9mm frames, and is still in production today.

Later, S&W improved the third generation with introduction of TSW (Tactical Smith & Wesson) modifications, that featured accessory rail, mounted under the frame, ahead of the trigger guard.

Here comes the Sigma!

Smith & Wesson introduced the Sigma series of recoil-operated, locked-breech semi-auto pistols in 1994 with the Sigma SW40F in 40 mm, followed by the Sigma SW9F in 9 mm, which included a 17 shot magazine.

Glock initiated a patent infringement lawsuit against Smith & Wesson. Smith & Wesson paid an undisclosed amount to settle the case and for the right to continue producing models in the Sigma line.

Technically, Sigma pistols are recoil operated, locked breech semi-auto pistols, built on modified Browning-style linkless locking principle.

All Sigmas feature Glock-type single action-type trigger with automatic half-cock and manual striker cocking during trigger pull. Sigma pistols had no external manual safeties. The gun frame is manufactured from polymer, while the slide and barrel use either stainless steel or carbon steel in so called "Value" models.

In 1996, Smith & Wesson updated the Sigma by adding a compact model by shortening the barrel (from 4½ to 4 inches).

In 1999, Smith & Wesson improved the Sigma series. The main change was shortening the barrel and the slide by half an inch. Other improvements included more comfortable grip checkering, slightly enlarged ejection port and addition of the accessory rail at the front of the frame under the barrel.

The Sigma can be had in the Model SW9 in 9 mm Luger Parabellum, the Model SW40 in .40 S&W, the Model SW357V in .357 SIG, and the Model SW380 in .380 ACP.

As for the SW99 Series, S&W reached an agreement with Walther to produce variations of the P99 line of pistols. They branded it as the SW99, the pistol is available in several calibers, including 9 mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP, and in both full size and compact variations.

Under the terms of the agreement, Walther produced the frames, and Smith and Wesson produced the slide and barrel. The pistol has several cosmetic differences from the original Walther design and strongly resembles a sort of hybrid between the P99 and the Sigma series.

When I fired a friend's Sigma, I was honestly impressed by the shooter. I shot his .40 S&W and found it's action smooth.

The M&P Pistol Series

The "Military and Police" pistol is Smith & Wesson's latest offering. The "Military & Police" name was the trade mark of S&W for some 80 or so years, being permanently linked to the most successful double action revolver of the company - the S&W Model 10.

The jury is still out as to whether or not the new M&P will have the success that the original did.

The M&P Series first appeared on the scene in the summer of 2005. It was actually intended for police and military sales, but also became offered for civilian markets.

The M&P Series debuted a new polymer-frame pistol intended for the law enforcement market. The M&P is a completely new design with no parts interchangeable with any other pistol including the Sigma.

The new design not only looks completely different than the Sigma but feels completely different with 3 different back straps supplied with each M&P. Many of the ergonomic study elements that had been incorporated into the Sigma and the SW99 were brought over to the M&P.

The improved trigger weight and feel, and unique take-down method not requiring a dry pull of the trigger were meant to set the M&P apart from both the Sigma and the popular Glock pistols.

The M&P is available in 9×19 mm Para, .40 S&W, and .357 SIG. A .45 ACP model was released in early 2007, after making its debut at the SHOT Show. In addition, compact versions are available in 9×19 mm Para, .40 S&W, .357 SIG, and .45 ACP.

And yes, the M&P series feels great in hand! It has a real nice balance and it designed to resist dirt and grim. It is a real nice pistol!

The Smith & Wesson SD9

The Self Defense / SD Series of pistols is one of the new product lines from Smith & Wesson that was introduced in 2010. 

These pistols are specially designed as affordable, yet effective and reliable weapons for civilian users and security use. Smith & Wesson SD9 and SD40 Self Defense pistols are based on the already proven design of the Smith & Wesson Military & Police / M&P pistols, with certain cost-saving measures which, however, do not affect the practical utility of new pistols.

Smith & Wesson SD9 and SD40 Self Defense pistols are similar in design and differ only in caliber used.

SD pistols are short recoil operated, locked breech weapons that use Browning-type locking system with tilting barrel. The trigger is of double-action only type, striker fired, with pre-cocked striker system. No manual safeties are provided, but guns are fitted with automated trigger and firing pin safeties.

Pistol frames are made from impact-resistant polymer, barrels and slides are manufactured from stainless steel. Double stack magazines hold 16 rounds of 9mm ammo or 14 rounds of .40SW ammo, the 10-round magazines are offered as well.

The magazine release button is located at the base of the trigger guard. Smith & Wesson

SD9 and SD40 Self Defense pistols are shipped from factory with fixed three-dot sights - front sight is provided with luminous tritium dot, and the rear sight is provided with white dots.

An integral Picatinny rail on the frame set below the barrel allows for easy installation of useful add-ons - such as laser-aiming module or tactical flashlight and that sort of thing.

The SW1911 Series

 In 2003, Smith & Wesson introduced their variation of the classic M1911A1 .45 ACP semi-automatic pistol. gun, the SW1911. This firearm retains the M1911's well known dimensions, operation, and feel, while adding a variety of modern touches. 

Updates to the design include serration at the front of the slide for easier operation and disassembly, a high "beaver-tail" grip safety, external extractor, lighter weight hammer and trigger, as well as updated internal safeties to prevent accidental discharges if dropped.

SW1911s are available with black finished carbon steel slides and frames or bead blasted stainless slides and frames. They are available with aluminum frames alloyed with scandium in either natural or black finishes.

These updates have resulted in a firearm that is true to the M1911 design, with additions that would normally be considered "custom", with a price similar to equivalent designs from other manufacturers.

Smith & Wesson's Performance Center produces the top of the line hand fitted competition version known as the PC1911.

While most 1911s run around 38 to 39 ounces, the PC 1911 is heavier coming in at about 41 ounces. The full-length guide rod adds some weight, and so does the add-on magazine well.

Smith & Wesson Rifles

During the early years of World War II, Smith & Wesson manufactured batches of the Model 1940 Light Rifle under request from the British Government.

The Model 1940 Light Rifle was a carbine manufactured in a desperate attempt by Smith & Wesson under request from the British government who wanted a short barrel, pistol calibre carbine.

It was designed around the 9x19mm Parabellum cartridge, initial British trials proved the action unsuitable for a special high pressure 9mm cartridge the British Forces wanted to use.

Although a strengthened Mark II version was produced, and the original subsequently referred to as Mark I, the program was axed and the bulk of rifles produced were disposed of by the British.

A small number of rifles remained in the U.S. and sat around until they finally received a C&R designation and were sold off through an arms dealer in Atlanta, Georgia.

The M&P15 Rifle  
In January 2006, Smith & Wesson re-entered the rifle market with its M&P15 series of rifles based on the AR-15 platform.
Unveiled at SHOT Show 2006, the rifle debuted in two varieties; the M&P15 and the M&P15T. Both are basically the same rifle, chambered in 5.56 NATO, with the T model featuring folding sights and a four-sided accessories rail.

At its debut, the M&P15's suggested retail price was $1,200, while the M&P15T retailed for $1,700. Their current line consists of four models, ranging in price from $1,049 to $2,200.
These rifles were first produced by Stag Arms, but marketed under the Smith & Wesson name. Currently Smith & Wesson makes the lower receiver in house while the barrel is supplied by Thompson/Center Arms which is an S&W company.
In May 2008, Smith and Wesson introduced their first AR-variant rifle in a caliber other than a 5.56 NATO round.
The M&P15R is a standard AR platform rifle chambered for the 5.45×39mm cartridge. In 2009, they released the M&P15-22, chambered for .22 Long Rifle.

The M&P15 Sport

The new M&P15 Sport rifle joins Smith & Wesson’s popular line of M&P15 semi- automatic tactical rifles. With its 5.56mm round, and its ready-to-go design, the M&P15 SPORT benefits from accurate 5R rifling, a durable Melonite coated barrel, adjustable sights and a single stage trigger.

It is a versatile, modular, exceptional piece of equipment.

As a point of full disclosure, since I was trained to use the M16 rifle in the Marine Corps, and honestly have never really been a fan of the M16 design, after shooting the M&P15 for the first time - I instantly knew that this is one gun that is perfect for the shooter out there interested in a great tactical rifle. 

Its key features are a 6-position collapsible stock, Magpul folding MBUS, a forged integral trigger guard, a high temperature polymer handguard, an adjustable A2 front sight, flash suppressor compensator, an Extended Life Melonite Barrel Coating with 5R rifling.

In most other states, a shooter can get one with a 30-Round Magpul PMAG Magazine - but for the insane gun restrictions in California, they make one model which is called a California Compliant gun that comes with a 10-Round Fixed Magazine with Bullet-Button Technology.

The S&W Model 76 Submachine Gun

In 1967, Smith & Wesson produced a 9mm submachine gun because they wanted to capitalize on the increasing U.S. sales of the Israeli Uzi and HK MP5.

They borrowed the magazine of the Carl Gustav M45 submachine gun which had been popular with the U.S. forces in Vietnam as the "Swedish K". It was made with a similar side-folding stock - but the rest of that straight blow-back weapon had no parts in common with the earlier Swedish gun.

The S&W Model 76 submachine gun was made in limited numbers and was primarily used as a police weapon. Because all of them were made prior to 1986, many of them made it into civilian hands in the USA and are commonly used in submachine gun competition.

As for rifles, Smith & Wesson makes a line of bolt action rifles called the "i-Bolt." These all have synthetic stocks and are available in both .270 Win and .30-06 caliber.

Next month, in my last part of my four part series on Smith & Wesson, I'll discuss the importance of Smith & Wesson in the American Gun Industry, talk about how this great company is staying afloat, and I'll also try to answer a few e-mail questions - including one special e-mail that you might find very interesting.

Smith & Wesson - A Tough Success Story - Part 1

Smith & Wesson - A Tough Success Story - Part 2

Smith & Wesson - A Tough Success Story - Part 4

Story by Tom Correa

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