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3rd Generation S&W's- what is/was the impression?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by lsudave, Mar 29, 2015.

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  1. lsudave

    lsudave Member

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    I recently added a S&W 915 to my collection, my first Smith autoloader (ok, I have a 22A, but that doesn't count). I got it for under $300 total, including shipping, FFL etc.

    Now, I'm old enough to remember the pre-Glock era, when local PDs had S&W autos. I also remember seeing a lot of ads in gun magazines back in the 90s; and the guns showed up fairly often in TV and movies- I think Don Johnson carried one in Miami Vice (although I thought he also had a Bren Ten), and I know Will Smith had one in MIB (this was when he was still a cop, you can tell it's a S&W when he tucks it into his waistband).

    What was the general consensus on these, when they were still in production? What was the price ranges, and were they as good/better than similarly priced competitors? I'm not interested in hashing out the "it's heavier than a Glock" arguments, I guess I'm trying to determine- did they match up with SIGs, Berettas, CZ's etc? Cheaper, more expensive? A worthy choice, or a piece of crap?

    I think it's a shame they're not made anymore. My Value Line 915 seems very smooth and well-made, and it would be nice to see more, not less, metal guns on the market.
     
  2. ColtPythonElite

    ColtPythonElite Member

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    I carried a 5906 for a duty weapon for 7 years or so. It was reasonably accurate. It fed any ammo with little trouble. I hated the DA/SA trigger pull. I don't miss it a bit.
     
  3. jmr40

    jmr40 Member

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    The 915 was one of the budget models with aluminum frames. They were decent guns that were not quite as nicely finished as the top end guns, but most I've used were just as reliable. Comparable magazines interchange. I had one of the 457's and one in 40 S&W at one time in addition to several other 3rd gens in 9mm and 45.

    The gun you have will probably be just as good and reliable as any other aluminum framed S&W from the same era. The steel framed 3rd gens were built like tanks. Our local city PD recently changed over to G-17's, but carried 5906's for years. Some officers were carrying guns almost as old as they were and they just wouldn't quit.

    Smith technically no longer makes them, but as of 2-3 years ago offered to make a special run to replace the worn out guns in our PD. In a lot of ways many wanted to stay with them, but the price was simply too much. Almost 3X more than they paid for the Glocks.

    Don Johnsons character started out with a Bren in 10mm. Fairly early in the series he changed to the 4506 in 45 ACP.
     
  4. RustyShackelford

    RustyShackelford member

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    First of many ....

    I read over your post and wanted to share some input from the era.
    Id start by saying a good resource for film/tv stuff & firearms is: www.IMFdb.org . It's handy and mentioned often on this forum as well as others.

    Smith's J character packed a S&W 5946 9x19mm which was & is a approved NYPD sidearm. The Glock 19, the SIG P226R DA only(interestingly not the DAK or newer format) & the S&W 5946 were picked by the NYPD for sworn personnel to carry.
    Don Johnson's Sonny Crockett character did use a 10mm Bren 10 semi auto pistol. The weapon/prop guys converted it to .45acp for the standard blanks/SFX to save $$$. The producers & armorers later armed Sonny with the S&W 645 .45acp & the big 4506 for the last Miami Vice episodes.
    For most of the series, Don Johnson wore a tan leather Galco shoulder holster.

    The S&W third gen series was very popular when it came out around 1988 or so. By the mid 1990s, S&W 3rd gen models in 9mm, .40 or .45acp became common. S&W went all out, trying to please every cop & customer. :rolleyes:
    They had semi auto pistols in different sizes, styles(stainless, carbon, alloy), grips(straight or rounded), sights(fixed or adj), calibers(.40, 9mm, .45acp, 10mm).
    As the 1990s rolled on, interest in the S&Ws slowed. Glocks & SIGs started to out-pace the S&W 3rd gen line then S&W started to scale back the 3rd generation. The company had major problems & the large scale pistol line wasn't cost effective. :uhoh:
    Many cops, target shooters and hunters praised the S&W 3rd gen pistols for what they were. I shot a few too. I used a rental 3913 9mm that if I were to grade it, Id say C+ or maybe B-. The 4506/4546 series was a good pistol & the 5906/5904 9mm was very popular in the early 1990s.
     
  5. NIGHTLORD40K

    NIGHTLORD40K Member

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    Had a 3913, 5906, 4566, and now a 645- Glock like reliability, decent accuracy (except the 4566 which was a tackdriver), triggers feel gritty and ratchety but you wont notice while shooting- overall good pistols with personality. Just be prepared when people stop you at the range to talk about them.....
     
  6. CNobbe

    CNobbe Member

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    Never cared for double stacks, had a 5906 which I received from a family friend after he retired and didn't keep it long. I also had a 3913 which I still kick myself for selling, always thought it was a nice CCW option.
     
  7. msmp5

    msmp5 Member

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    Been carrying a 6906 and a 3913 as primary off-duty and plainclothes guns for close to 20 years. Accurate, reliable, and once you get used to the first shot DA trigger pull, it's really not a big deal at all. Lots of new guns "out there", but I see no reason to change from these two favorite carry guns.
     
  8. Goju

    Goju Member

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    I CC a 3914. I've no experience with CZs, but the machining and build quality is on par with my Sigs. My pistol has been totally reliable with any bullet type, and is as accurate as it needs to be. While it is pretty easy to carry, the ergos -for me- are really mediocre. The grip begs for an arched backstrap. If my R51 would have had the 3914s build quality, it would have been the cats a$$, and if my P6 were the same size as the 3914, I would CC the Sig. So my limited 3rd gen experience gives a grade of good, but not great.
     
  9. HankB

    HankB Member

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    Though they seem to work well, I don't like them, because in my hand, their "pointability" is poor.

    Same thing with most SIG pistols other than the P210.
     
  10. USAF_Vet

    USAF_Vet Member

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    I have a 2nd gen, 469, compact double stack wonder nine. Has been 100% reliable in my hands, with all sorts of ammo. 3rd gens were a slight improvement, naturally.

    As mentioned, the 915 was the economy version, along with the 910, but they are still quite functional. I keep my eye on the used rack at my LGSs for 2nd and 3rd gen S&W autos.
     
  11. .455_Hunter

    .455_Hunter Member

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    Double post
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2015
  12. .455_Hunter

    .455_Hunter Member

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    The ONLY reason that Glock took over the LEO market was their "ink jet" pricing model of low inital cost and making-up the difference down the road with accessories/servicing/etc- makes the bean counters happy.

    The Glock and similar poly/strikers do nothing better than quality metal frame, hammer fired guns like the S&W 3rd Gens, Sig P2XX or Beretta 9X, and several things significantly WORSE.

    The entire S&W 3rd Gen family are OUTSTANDING firearms, are far superior to most products on the market today.
     
  13. RustyShackelford

    RustyShackelford member

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    SIGs, S&W 3rd gen pistols(rounded style frame) ....

    In the late 1980s/early 1990s; Id say the rounded type Smith & Wesson 3rd gen pistols & the SIG Sauer P series(P226, P225, P228) were the best grip in terms of feel/ergonomics. ;)
    S&W scaled back on the choices for frames & grips by the late 1990s.
    The S&W 3rd gen pistols(round grip) felt great in either hands(left or right).
    About 90% of most semi auto pistols I've handled feel much better in my right mitt more than my left but S&W's engineers & designers really got the round grip S&W 3rd gen models right.
     
  14. agtman

    agtman Member

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    Agree with others' comments on the durability, reliability and good accuracy of Smith's all-steel 3rd Gen line of autoloaders (although some models I've shot exhibited great accuracy).

    At least until a couple of years ago, your best source for snagging one of these S&W models relatively cheap was the police "trade-in" market. Although they were technically "used" guns, most cop guns if you didn't know are carried a lot more than they're ever shot - the exception being the annual departmental ritual of qualification.

    Back then, compared to the popularity of polymer guns, the prices on these 3rd Gen cop trade-ins, at places like CDNN, were quite reasonable, like in the high $300s, IIRC.

    That's where my dealer snagged this one for me. Cleaned up well, and it's a pure shooter since. Night sights still had some life as well.

    S&W 4566
    SW-5.jpg
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2015
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  15. JTQ

    JTQ Member

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    I've had a 4506 since the late 1980's. It's a good gun, but big. I bought a 1911 about a year after the 4506 and it hasn't seen much action since then. The S&W Traditional Double Action (TDA) autos have been out of production for several years and parts availability has been drying up.

    We have a parallel thread about 3rd Gen mag availability that may be worth reading if you are considering getting one.

    http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=776833

    I haven't looked real hard for mags, but about five years ago it seemed you could find them fairly easily at places like Brownell's and even direct from S&W. However, I haven't seen mags anywhere recently.
     
  16. MedWheeler

    MedWheeler Member

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    I had a Gen2 one, a 659, that I bought used in around 1990 from another cop. Previously, I'd only trained in DA/SA revolvers (our then-current sidearm) and could barely hit the broad side of a barn with the Smith from inside the barn. But I fault my lack of training more than the gun. It otherwise ran flawlessly with the ammo I fed it, and I did shoot it quite a bit.

    Shortly after, I transitioned to an agency already issuing a 9mm semi-auto, so the Smith got set aside, and eventually sold, before I ever got a chance to get any good with it. I have since regretted no longer having it.
     
  17. Wishoot

    Wishoot Member

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    My 4006 doubles as a hammer, club and boat anchor.

    It's a very reliable, well made pistol. It weighs a ton and I wouldn't want to carry it however. Honestly, I doubt I'd be heartbroken if I traded it away. That's more a function of the caliber than the gun. I'm just not a 40 s&w fan.
     
  18. snooperman

    snooperman Member

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    I have the 6906, 3913 and 5906 and find them to be very reliable across a broad spectrum of ammo. They are accurate enough and make great personal protection pistols. S&W still services them and I wish they still made them. Mine are keepers and I enjoy shooting them.
     
  19. mavracer

    mavracer Member

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    they were and are very reliable and durable, not the best triggers but servicable. I have a 1076 and a 6926 that aren't going anyplace.
     
  20. Wreck-n-Crew
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    Wreck-n-Crew Member

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    I can say that a 3rd gen 5906 has never failed me (even with hand loads) and I have had a few of the 3rd gens (#3 5906's) including a 5903 and a 915. The 5906's ate everything I fed it. Just does not care. Right at 100,000 on one gun alone over the many years I owned it and much less in the most recent ones (15,000 or so combined).
     
  21. HDCamel

    HDCamel Member

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    I used to have a 5906.
    Nothing wrong with it, but nothing special either. Sold it 2 months later at a profit.
     
  22. farscott

    farscott Member

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    In many ways, the S&W 3rd Generation guns were way ahead of the times in which they were offered. Some examples:

    1) Guns were offered in DA/SA and in DAO long before the SIG DAK and HK LEM were cool. Decock only options were also offered.

    2) The factory offered two different grips, straight and rounded, to better fit the spectrum of hand sizes long before the polymer guns offered different pieces to do the same thing.

    3) A wide variety of construction (blued steel, stainless steel, and alloy frames) and sizes (single-stack full-size, single-stack compact, full-size double-stack, compact double-stack) were offered.

    4) First guns to really use Novak sights.

    5) Very durable guns. Not too much breakage with these pistols.

    The biggest issues with the guns were the placement of the safety/decocker lever on the slide, the weight of the guns, and they were not Glock. There are some minor nits like the magazine safety and keying the magazine caliber, (for example) wiping out the ability to run a 9x19 conversion barrel in the .40 S&W 4006. These are features that either alienated customers or lessened the flexibility of the platform.

    Compared to the Glock, the 3rd Generation guns were heavier, more expensive, held slightly fewer rounds, and much more complex. While field stripping is roughly the same, detail stripping of a 3rd Generation gun is much more involved than the same with the Glock.

    I like mine.
     
  23. armedwalleye

    armedwalleye Member

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    I have a 5904, a 5903, a 6904, all of which are round trigger ambi decocker 9mm models, and a 4013tsw which is the same format in .40.
    I keep buying them on the used market when I see them. I've been happy with them all, and, yes, a little heavy, a little older, but low recoil and solid shooters, similar to their operator.... BTW, to each their own, but I think the square triggers are ugly. There is something about these that calls to me. I've passed on Berettas because the 3rd gen Smiths are solid performers, as are the 92 Berettas, but its what you love.
    I believe the third gen Smths are under rated, and have fallen out of favor in the plastic fa tastic world.
     
  24. Hangingrock

    Hangingrock Member

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    My example of S&W Gen3 is the 4506 early production with the step-side frame, concave faced trigger guard, and non Novak sights. I later milled the slide to accept the rear Novak sight and contoured the trigger guard front to a rounded smooth face.

    Yes the S&W 4506 is a big pistol but only slightly bigger than a 1911 series government model.
     
  25. RustyShackelford

    RustyShackelford member

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    Smith & Wesson, US law enforcement ....

    Prior to the rapid rise of Glock USA, S&W was really helped by their size/resources to quickly gain 100s of new contracts-purchase orders for their 3rd gen series pistols.
    Larger PDs and federal agencies needed guns that could be fixed or get new magazines/barrels/parts quickly. Smith & Wesson offered 9mm, .40 & .45acp choices.
    A federal LE agency I was offered a police job with used 4006 .40 duty pistols.
     
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