Which S&W Auto Loader to buy?


Anna's Dad
March 7, 2009, 11:05 PM
I'm thinking about acquiring a steel or alloy Smith & Wesson auto loader in 9mm as a friend for my polymer M&P. There seem to be some pretty great prices on used Smiths.

There are so many different models out there I don't know where to begin so I figured I'd solicit opinions from my THR friends. Looking at the CDNN catalog, for example, I see 5906, 910, and 908. Logging on to Smith's site, I can add 3913, 5903, 952 and CS9. I'm sure there are probably many other older models as well.

Do you have a favorite metal framed Smith auto-loader and, if so, why? Are some of them to be avoided for any reason or are they all pretty much on par in reliability and performance?

This would be primarily a range / fun gun for me. I'm not sold on a particular action type, size, weight, capacity, material, etc. All I know for sure is I'm not interested in polymer nor a 1911-style gun at the moment.

Love to hear some opinions.

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March 7, 2009, 11:27 PM
5906, owned one, it was one of the most accurate guns i ever shot ,it was also the heaviest. i wish i kept it......oh it was a police trade in with novak night sights.

March 8, 2009, 02:25 PM
the best out there is the 952 which will give the Sig 210 a run for it's money. i like the balance of the longer slide/barrel better and the action comes already tuned most of the way

The Lone Haranguer
March 8, 2009, 02:29 PM
Most of the remaining new metal-frame pistols are in TSW trim. You will pay dearly for a riveted-on, vestigial gadget rail and the word "Tactical" emblazoned on the slide. Used older ones are in abundance. My personal favorite is the 3913.

March 8, 2009, 02:58 PM
it has been my experience that the TSW guns and Performance Center guns are more than just gussied up versions of their autoloaders.

their frames and slide are spec'ed differently

more like a BMW "M", a Benz "AMG" or a Lexus "F"

Rob P.
March 8, 2009, 04:01 PM
Alloy S&W choices are 3913 or 6906. Both are compacts (3913 is single stack 6906 is double stack.) You can get either for under $500. For this price you're looking at used guns but you can find nearly new in box ones for that price too.

5904, 5906, etc are a full sized versions. Like has been said, they are heavy. The trade off is that they are dead on reliable, like almost all S&W's.

I daily carry a 6906 in an IWB holster without pain or discomfort. 12+1 is a good feeling.

I would not daily carry a Performance Center handgun. They are nice, but for daily carry I want something absolutely reliable, trustworthy, TOTALLY factory stock with no modifications or tuning, and "disposable" in the event that I have to use it some day.

March 8, 2009, 05:42 PM
I've owned a few -- sold'em. From my experience, if the grip doesn't fit you, keep looking. If you need the metal Smith, get the one that fits & feels best for you ;)

March 8, 2009, 05:46 PM

Ala Dan
March 8, 2009, 07:25 PM
Hard too find, but I favor the old Smith & Wesson model 39-2 in 9m/m~! ;) :cool:

FWIW, Best $150 I have ever spent, in my entire lifetime.

41 magnum fan
March 8, 2009, 07:34 PM
My pick would be the model 39-2.This pistol fits my hand better than any other auto.Other good choices are the 439,539 and 639.

March 8, 2009, 08:53 PM
SW 1911 commander in Scandium frame and stainless slide. What a beautiful gun! Eats anything you put in it without a burp.

March 8, 2009, 09:37 PM
Is their a budget range ?

Personally, I'd like a NIB 908 for CCW.


March 8, 2009, 11:30 PM
As a range gun, the 5906 would be tough to beat. They're accurate, ergonomic and probably one of the toughest 9mm handguns ever built. You really can't hurt them.

March 9, 2009, 09:14 AM
ill take my 5904 over any other maker,i just used a electric sander on the back palm swell to make it straight like the .40 caliber smiths.then i stippled the back to a medium sandpaper finish,feels great in the hand,5904/5906 great guns i paid 269.00,got to fish through a box full of police trade ins.good luck.

March 9, 2009, 10:05 AM
Back in the the day (about 1986 or so) I was all about hi-cap and bought IIRC a 459, the 14+1 9mm. Right there in the case were about 10 model 39s. They were beautiful with pretty wood grips, very ergonomic, but they were single stack and that wasn't cool enough for me so I bought the 459 which was a good gun but had a grip like a 2x4. Of course I sold that about 4 or 5 years later to get on board the bus and buy a 2nd Gen Glock 19...which I still have and like.

But...with hindsight, I wish I had bought one of those beautiful 39s which of course were about 100 cheaper than the 459 as well. Oh the folly of youth. I am quite sure I'd still have that but who knows.

March 9, 2009, 11:02 AM
For range and fun I'd recommend the 5906 (higher capacity) or 3906 (single stack) which are full sized guns and all stainless steel. The grip is more slender on the 3906 which might be good depending on hand size. Both guns are outstanding. Being all stainless they will be heavier which isn't a bad thing for the range if the guns will not be carry guns. Also, if you pick up a police trade-in gun the stainless frame will allow you to do more to re-furb the gun, much of it easily done with Scotch Brite pads and steel wool/Brillo pads.

While many go for the 5906, I think that the 3906 is the real winner here, by a nose, assuming that higher capacity isn't a priority.

If you have any notions of carry then I'd look at the 3913 or CS9. Either of those guns, especially the 3913 (a classic) would also make a good range gun. The 3913 is an exceptional gun and a very smooth shooter. I'd give it the edge to the SIG 239, and that is a great gun.

March 9, 2009, 11:06 AM
Are the 39s Steel or alloy frame? I was thinking Steel.

March 9, 2009, 11:31 AM
I just picked up a 6906 on Saturday. I had been looking around for one and found it at a local shop for $450 with three factory 12 round mags. A bit pricey but it's in nice shape and I know the 12 round factory mags are expensive. It fits my hand perfectly and from dry firing it points very well. I can't wait to get to the range with it.

Ala Dan
March 9, 2009, 11:33 AM
Very few S&W model 39's were all steel; most where alloy framed weapons. :scrutiny:

FootNote* - a total of 927 units were produced in the mid 1950's, but were not
actually sold until 1966.

Source: Standard Catalog Of Smith & Wesson 3rd edition, by Jim Supica and
Richard Nahas

Anna's Dad
March 9, 2009, 11:42 AM
One of the best things about this thread is that there seems to be a lot of love for a variety of the models. That makes me think that whatever I choose, I'm probably going to be pretty happy.

I wasn't even aware of the model 39-2, so I'll definitely do a little research on that one.

As to budget, I don't have a set number, obviously like to get the most bang for my buck but if I fell in love with a particular model, I'd be willing to pay more of a premium if necessary.

I must say that I have liked the look/feel of some 3913 models I've seen at gun shows in the past. Heck, I wouldn't even mind if it said "Lady Smith" on the side like that beautiful pic posted by Geronimo45! :D

Thanks for all of the information on the different models so far. I've got so more homework to do, but I really appreciate the education.

March 9, 2009, 05:43 PM

For those 6906 lovers out there, consider increasing your capacity from a factory 12+1 to 15+1 by using the 5906 (15rd) mag with the S&W grip extender.

I personally prefer the "feel" of the grip of the 6906 w/the adapter & the 5906 mag over the standard 12+1...

Just another option.. Three extra rounds is never a bad thing...:)

Best Wishes,



March 9, 2009, 11:12 PM
If you plan on carrying concealed and want a reliable, compact pistol that has ample ammo on board, you could do a lot worse than toting a Smith 6906.

March 9, 2009, 11:21 PM
SW 1911 commander in Scandium frame and stainless slide.

A fine choice; gets my vote, too.

March 15, 2009, 09:41 AM
Purchased a 908 back in Sept for $395 or so...this weapon has been reliable as the sunset with any type ammo shoved into it! Also, it has been very accurate and easy to shoot, due to the heavier frame. As an added bonus, it is simple to clean and maintain. But one thing I feel I must mention that is of importance here is the fact that when buying any Smith and Wesson gun, you will have the added benefit of aftermarket part/accessory availability as well as S&W service, parts and support, which are 2nd to none!!!

March 15, 2009, 03:49 PM
I have a 5906. It is a great weapon; awesome trigger, good capacity, rugged as a tank. Very easy to be very accurate with it.

Rob P.
March 20, 2009, 04:32 PM

For those 6906 lovers out there, consider increasing your capacity from a factory 12+1 to 15+1 by using the 5906 (15rd) mag with the S&W grip extender.

I personally prefer the "feel" of the grip of the 6906 w/the adapter & the 5906 mag over the standard 12+1...

Just another option.. Three extra rounds is never a bad thing...

Best Wishes,


I WISH I could do this. But being in California I have to rely on my pre-ban 12 round mags only.

Any new mags will be 10 rounds max.

March 20, 2009, 08:22 PM
My favorites - 3904/3906

March 21, 2009, 11:38 PM
I don't think there are better single stack 9s than an S&W 3913 and it's value priced brother blue steel 908. Great carry weapons. Also, as soon as I can see my way financially, I'm going to latch on to a second gen 669 or 3rd 6906.

March 22, 2009, 01:02 AM
I read an article where a gun writer reviewed the 908 S&W. He chronicled
the generations, it goes
the original 39 that had some problems
but S&W worked them out for the 39-2
then the next in this pregression was the 3913
the Chiefs SPecial - CS9 followed the 908
with it's economy finish is the latest that line in
the family tree. However, it does only have a 3"
Bbl. length, so it's a CCW size gun perhaps you are
looking for a longer Barrel/slde model?

but the 908 does have an attractive price at CDNN.


March 22, 2009, 01:20 AM

I'm really pleased with my 5906 Tactical Service Weapon [TSW] with it's Novak low mount adjustable carry sights. Its barrel diameter is just a little larger than the standard 5906 has, and there's also slightly more contour where the trigger guard meets the front of the grip frame. :)

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