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New S&W 396 Night Guard Woes

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by The Filthy Spitoon, Mar 2, 2010.

  1. For my birthday, I ordered the above alloy-framed 2.5" L-frame .44 Special. The concept is fantastic, and I am really pleased with the overall "package", with the Big Dot tritium front sight, the Pachmayr Compac grips, and the overall compact size and lightness of the gun.

    I was going to post a review of it, but haven't shot it.

    Unfortunately, the ratchet is defective, having peened, razor-sharp uneven/irregular/mis-shapen edges. It seems functional, but cocking the trigger in SA is too hard and crunchy, and the DA is somewhat heavy and unpredictable. Sometimes the cylinder won't close completely without simultaneously wiggling it and applying excessive force to close it.

    As a huge fan and supporter of S&W products, I can't understand how this gun ever left the factory. I detected the problem in the first 3 seconds of handling, and someone actually fired the gun at the factory. What a tremendous disappointment for what I paid for it. I would expect this from Charter Arms, but not Smith.

    I e-mailed them today explaining in detail my problem and requesting a UPS shipping label be mailed to me. We shall see if I get it.

    Having salivated over this gun for a while, I can't in good conscience recommend it yet. I have not fired the weapon yet due to massive disgust with it. Something tells me I should shoot it just to make sure nothing else is wrong with the damned thing.
  2. aHFo3

    aHFo3 Well-Known Member

    That has got to be frustrating.

    I have only ever purchased 1 new S&W, the others have all been used, and I was a bit disapointed by the feel of the action until someone told me to clean it and apply oil.

    Have you done that?
  3. You know, that was my first thought - that maybe something was just gumming up the works, even though the ratchet damage was pretty obvious.

    So I cleaned it thoroughly in the desperate hope that sending it back wouldn't be required. Unfortunately, it didn't change things much.

    The sad part is, the gun is probably functional, it just doesn't function smoothly like a revolver should. I realize this because I've owned countless sixguns, especially S&W's. So even though it is technically functional, it is far from acceptable. I actually have a sore thumb from trying to cock it and the hammer resisting. And there aren't any sharp edges on the hammer.

    My overall impression is that someone at the factory hoped the action would sort itself out with use while discounting the inevitable problems caused by errant slivers of metal breaking off inside the revolver.

    I am so sick of "good enough" workmanship in guns these days.
  4. So what is an acceptable time frame for S&W to reply to my e-mail? No experience with this, so I don't know how long to give them before I break down and call.
  5. Monster Zero

    Monster Zero Well-Known Member

    I heard a guy talk about Friday afternoon guns one time - The guy working on it at the factory was itching to go fishing or whatever and hurried up and forgot about QC. This must be an example.

    I suggest calling them on the phone. You paid too much for this piece for things to happen just as they get around to it.
  6. duns

    duns Well-Known Member

    You emailed S&W on Feb. 25th. I assume you haven't heard back yet since you posted today without mentioning a reply (today is March 3rd). I think this is way too long. I suggest to get them on the phone. Emails tend to get transfered from one person to another... A phone call should get their attention. Stay calm and polite but let them know how disappointed you are. (Maybe allude to the fact that you've raised the problem on an internet forum and lots of people are waiting to see what response you get from S&W!!!. The possibility of bad publicity usually does wonders for customer service.)
  7. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Well-Known Member

    Today's CNC machined parts do tend to have "crisp" edges, and guns are now assembled without any skilled fitting with "perfect" MIM parts. Inspection has been reduced to a minimum... All this in the name of cost-cutting. :banghead:

    Am I picking on S&W? Not at all. The procedures mentioned above are used by just about everyone in the industry. Most of the guns will turn out to be at least functional, but a percentage won't. "Modern" manufacturing technologies have brought some advantages - especially in holding down costs, but sometimes at the expense of quality.

    Return the revolver to S&W and they'll fix it, and remind yourself that what you got has to be expected.

    As for myself, my compact 5-shot / .44 Special snubby is an all-steel Taurus model 445 that works fine. Yes it is heavier, but I want the weight to counterbalance recoil. Most of the other guns I have were made during the 19th and 20th centuries (mostly the latter) when hand workmanship was still affordable. To each their own I always say... ;)
  8. Guillermo

    Guillermo member

    My experience with new Smith and Wesson revolvers has been abysmal. The last 3 new S&Ws that I touched had a blatant manufacturing flaw. Obviously this is not typical or they would be no mas.

    In their defense, (which I HATE to do do to their collusion with the enemy) they fixed the gun properly and quickly at no expense to me. If memory serves it was less than a month when I got the gun back.

    With this in mind I expect that they will make it right in a reasonable amount of time
  9. duns

    duns Well-Known Member

    I'm sure it's not typical but it does suggest the quality control is substandard. What were the flaws in these thee guns and what models were they? My M&P340CT bought a few weeks ago has been faultless.
  10. MachIVshooter

    MachIVshooter Well-Known Member

    Just curious, but what's the possibility some yahoo at the gun store was playing cowboy with it, spinning the cylinder and slamming the crane shut by snapping the gun, or holding the hammer just right to spin it within the frame? That's a real quick way to damage any revolver.

    Either way, call S&W. If you haven't heard back by email, my guess is it either didn't go through or got incorrectly routed. S&W has always had CS that is second to none. They'll make it right, I'm sure.
  11. ArkieVol

    ArkieVol Well-Known Member


    Hi Filthy,

    I just bought the same gun about a week ago and it functions just fine; smooth trigger pull in DA, smooth but slightly stiff to cock in SA. I've fired only 25 rounds through it so far but handles well. I also bought a Ruger Rerdhawk at the same time and it cocks easier in SA than the 396 but has a "clunkier" trigger pull. Both function and shoot well but the S&W is a bit smoother.

    Bought a new mod 617 last year, checked it at the store, took it home and, after cocking and releasing the hammer two times, the gun locked up and was unusable. I called S & W right then and was sent a shipping label, took it to the FedEx store, and shipped it direct. Got it delivered to house one week later, bolt and something else replaced, and it works fine.

    I've owned S & W's for over 45 years and never had a problem with any of them until the 617 but S & W corrected that situation right away. Can't complain.

    I would also suggest a phone call. They are easy to deal with and the one rep I talked to was interested in getting my problem solved. Interested in hearing how yours turns out.
  12. Guillermo

    Guillermo member

    All were variations of Model 66. One was a buddy of mine's. He bought it from McBride's in Austin and brought it to me immediately because he was excited. The Frame/Yoke fit was horrible.

    He brought it back and they replaced it on the spot. The replacement hat the barrel set slightly askew. The front sight was a couple of degrees to on side.

    My current wife HAD to have a 3 inch 7 shot Model 66 and when she got to the range we couldn't get it on the paper. I mean a foot off from bags at 5 yards! Several people shot it and it became an object of entertainment.

    Again, I loath Smith & Clinton but I have to admit that they took care of it immediately. Mailed a pre paid shipping label out the same day and as soon as we got it to them they reset the barrel and offered apologies. Even had a brief hand written note from the fellow that worked on it.
  13. OldCavSoldier

    OldCavSoldier Well-Known Member

    I purchased an S&W M686 on 24 Feb even though I saw a flaw in the finish near the "hammer slot." The trigger and action were THAT good. I e-mailed S&W QA thenext day (25 Feb) and asked their recommendation for how to fix the finish issue. They e-mailed me back the next day (26 Feb), asking that I telephone them to talk about it. I did. The person in Customer Service was most helpful. He said that S&W will make it right and asked me if I would send it back to them. I said yes and he told me that they would send me a return label. Today is Wednesday and I think I should get the label in the mail today.

    Yes, it IS slightly frustrating, especially in the fact that the area of blemish to the finish is plainly obvious to anybody who test fires the piece....and they STILL let it out of the factory. I am wondering if they will do anything "extra" to the gun to kinda "make up" for the fact that they screwed up in the first place.

    Many will say that I did not have to buy the gun in the first place, but, I say to them, "if you had felt that trigger and action, and knew the price I paid for the gun, YOU'D have bought it, too!"

    I will keep the forum informed as to further actions regarding this issue.
  14. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Well-Known Member

    Well they are supposed to give the gun a 100% check-up, and fix any and everything that they find which doesn't meet factory specifications and standards. Hopefully they won't make any adjustments to the action/trigger pull that you like so much.
  15. TexasBill

    TexasBill Well-Known Member

    Smith & Wesson has a lifetime warranty on all of their revolvers. I've lost count of the S&Ws I have had over the years, but I've never had a problem. This is probably why, given a choice, I only buy Smith & Wesson revolvers. Well, that and I love their actions.

    Call them; unlike a lot of companies these days, the Customer Service people at Smith & Wesson not only speak English, they can help you get your problem resolved.
  16. jfh

    jfh Well-Known Member

    My experience with S&W and factory customer service has been excellent. The only issue I've ever had is that CS customer service by email is slow. Try calling.

    Last week I called to get a RA for two revolvers--a new 360 with a sticky chamber, and a 640 on which I wanted a "go-over"--it has 20,000 rounds through it. That two firearms were to be shipped necessitated issuing a different FedEx prepaid label. The information was taken and the e-mail with the FedEx Label attached was received while I was still on the phone.

    That was last Thursday. On Monday, I called FedEx for the pickup--and, based on previous experience, I expect to see these revolvers back here in about ten days--say, by March 12.

    As for needing CS--Old Fuff explained the current issues well. What S&W is saving by the new production techniques is greater than the cost incurred in fixing the unsatisfactory issues after purchase.

    Jim H.
  17. Thaddeus Jones

    Thaddeus Jones Well-Known Member

    Why would the current company calling itself S&W bother to improve QA/QC, or its designs?

    Evidently people will spend a lot of hard earned cash on the junk they push out the door. Why change? Seriously. TJ
  18. Well not all their guns are this way, so I wouldn't say they produce "Junk" exclusively. In December I bought an SW1911 es that is fantastic.

    Also, I watched the gun come out of the carton and was the first to handle it.

    Thanks for the advice about the slow e-mail. Tomorrow I'll break down and call if no reply.

    I will post my results here.
  19. jfh

    jfh Well-Known Member

    just don't call too late in the day--e.g., remember, they are EC and that they tend to work better earlier in the day....

    Jim H.

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