Are Smith & Wessons diminishing in quality?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by heavyshooter, Dec 14, 2009.

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  1. btg3

    btg3 Member

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    Au contraire !!!
    Impose no limits. You'll need S&W, Colt, and Ruger revolvers before you can be inducted into the circle of true gun guys. I thought everyone from Denver knew that! :D
     
  2. w_houle

    w_houle Member

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    S&W has a bottom line, and that bottom line is to strike the best balance between quality and quantity. They are also going to lose some quality as their workforce ages and retires.
     
  3. heavyshooter

    heavyshooter Member

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    This is the very reason I asked the question. My only Smith was a 637 and it was a pure crap. I switched over to Ruger and never looked back. I have seen some reviews of older Smiths and I concluded that I should not judge S&W based on the one experince I had.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2009
  4. Guillermo

    Guillermo member

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    nor do new Smiths
     
  5. unspellable

    unspellable Member

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    quality

    I've had issues with S&W, Ruger, Taurus, Colt, etc. They are all capable of turning out the occasional lemon.

    Some of S&W's tolerances have improved, some have gotten worse. It's now their official policy that the cylinder gap is in spec up to 0.010 inch. In my book that's just flat too much.

    What really bugs me are the design changes. Going to round butt N frames was ridiculous. Starting with reducing the model 29's barrel from 6.5 to 6 inches. It looks like somebody sawed half an inch off. Dropping the pinned barrel for a crush fit was sets the wrong way with me. I liked the recessed chambers on certain models for cosmetic reasons. I've seen more come out of the box with end shake than I've seen develop it from wear. And with all the changes I don't like, so far as I know they still haven't beefed up the end of the yoke that limits forward cylinder travel, the Achilles' heel of a S&W.
     
  6. gmh1013

    gmh1013 Member

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    Im not really a S & W guy....I will take a Colt ....O.K. older Colt anyday over a new Smith
    they are just way overpriced IMHO....Smith makes a real good 425/450 dollar Model 60
    not 700+ bucks and 800 list for a model 36 is crazy when You could get a real nice KC
    IMHO for that.....they are OK just overpriced.
    Im for Amercian Guns etc but If I pay 700 to 1200 bucks I want 1960's QC and no lock.
    Smith just does not deliver anymore IMHO
     
  7. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    Guillermo:

    You forgot to mention that I do this point shooting, and all double-action... :what: :D
     
  8. sw282

    sw282 Member

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    I have/had a couple of the lock guns. Their quality is not as good as the older ones. The newer guns sn's are neater than the pinned guns. A new M29 costs double an older pinned gun in the same condition. I hate the rubber grips of the newer ones.
     
  9. Guillermo

    Guillermo member

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    Well of course double action Old Fuff...you hacked and cobbled up what had been a beautiful Detective Special and made it DAO and chopped off the hammer before you installed a flash suppressor and a bayonet lug before putting a bright pink and neon green digi camo finish on it.

    A tear traces its way down my cheek at the very thought.


    .
     
  10. Brian Dale

    Brian Dale Member

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    Not at all, but it can be a lot of fun. There's a lot of neat old stuff out there, and you'll be able to find some terrific deals.

    :what: Wait...did I type that out loud? Nooooo...send all of those dirty, nasty old S&W and Colt revolvers to Meeeeee! :evil:

    Note to newer folks: pinned barrels, yes; take into account that S&W only recessed the chambers on .22s and Magnums, if I'm not mistaken.

    ...while sipping a glass of iced tea. :D

    :eek: Too much information. :eek:
     
  11. Guillermo

    Guillermo member

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    face cheek!!!

    Freak
     
  12. Brian Dale

    Brian Dale Member

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    Whups! I'll just sit over here quietly now. :D
     
  13. Oro

    Oro Member

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    And I've had that same experience with S&W's from the 1970s. Shocking errors that if they left the factory today it would be all over a number of forums. There are qc and manufacturing errors anytime post about 1967 or so... It's the facts of life, whether you are Ruger, Colt, S&W, Ford, Chevy, etc.

    The saving grace has been CNC machinery, which has pulled errors back into the acceptable range, and I think rcmodel's first post is still the truest so far in this thread.

    To heavyshooter: If I were to tell someone what the best and most cost/effective S&W revolver was to buy as a collector piece/shooting piece, I'd say this (and I've said it before): But a WWII-era 4" or 5" Military & Police .38 special. Either a true 4" US military one from WWII in .38 Special (beware of .38 S&W caliber UK model guns), or a civilian one from right before or right after the war. The "K" frame is where the modern S&W action shines, and the "long-action" variant from before 1948 is the best. The WWII military guns, if in original condition, will have less attractive finishes but still be superb guns; the pre-war and immediate post-war guns will have excellent fit/finish and the same mechanical fluidity. One of these in excellent or better condition can be had for $300 to $400 if you shop hard and take your time (or $500 to $600 if you are in a hurry!)

    This would be the one gun in .38 Special or .357 I would hand to someone else, loaded with 148gr wad cutters, if I wanted them to "feel" how nice a S&W revolver could be. I have a wide range of S&W's in J, K, L, and N size in .38 and .357. But if I had to choose the "sweetest," it would be one of the post-1930, re-1948 K-frame Military & Police models in .38 Special.

    Poor picture, great gun. 1947 M&P 5". Unfired until I owned it!
    IMGP2665.jpg

    Another candidate, a 4" US "Victory" model M&P, 1st Navy contract from early 1942:
    IMGP4254.jpg
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2009
  14. Guillermo

    Guillermo member

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    Concerning the last 3 Smith revolvers with defects

    This "impressive" run was in the 90's and in no way am I suggesting that it was common.
     
  15. danbrew

    danbrew member

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    I like the steel guns, yet it's pretty much hit or miss with the light-weight guns coming out of S&W these days. I've had to send back three light-weight guns for performance problems. All involved situations where the gun went click instead of boom. Pretty scary. Sooner or later, I predict, S&W will be involved in a lawsuit because somebody gets killed when they needed their gun to go boom and it went click.
     
  16. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    Some people put a lot more faith in CNC machined parts then I do. The idea is that a computer program can run a machine (or bank of machines) with absolute precision. But this is true only if the computer is correctly programmed, and the old adage, “garbage in – garbage out” still holds. Also you have to keep the machine’s cutters sharp and to tolerance. If inspection isn’t on the ball you will get a whole lot of parts that are absolutely and precisely… not what they should be. :eek:

    Case in point: some owners of S&W 1911 style pistols complained that there was too much “wiggle” between the trigger and frame. A check of part dimensions against USGI blueprints showed that the slot in the frame for the finger piece was out of tolerance in being too large, while the finger piece was too small. Both, one made by the gunmaker, and the other by a vendor, were wrong, at least so far as government service pistol dimensions were concerned. :uhoh:

    It can be argued that the older revolvers had more tolerance issues then the new ones, but some of this was addressed by selective fitting of the parts, and when this was done right tolerance stack could be reduced to almost zero.

    I have noticed that owners that have to return guns for warrantee service sometimes (maybe often) have then come back with notations like: “cylinder replaced,” or “yoke replaced” or whatever. I would think that with CNC programmed machines turning out perfect parts, one after another, that this sort of thing would never happen. :scrutiny:
     
  17. Guillermo

    Guillermo member

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    even after his desecration of a nice DS

    STANDING ON A SOAP BOX CHEERING FOR OLD FUFF.

    Great Post...knocked that one out of the park
     
  18. CorpITGuy

    CorpITGuy Member

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    I could have predicted how this thread would go.

    People who own S&W's: NO, their quality is great.
    People who own Rugers: YES, Smiths suck. Buy a Ruger.
    People who own Colts: YES, Smiths suck. Buy a Colt.

    See the common thread?

    In my experience, new Smiths are as good as old ones. That is limited to my experience, however, and there is nothing scientific about it. My FIL's much older Smith doesn't seem any better made or more accurate than mine. That's about all I can say.
     
  19. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    Say what!! :what:

    Please explain???
     
  20. snooperman

    snooperman Member

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    "OLD FUFF" said it very well

    I have several older S&W that I have used for the past 45 years or so and the quality is excellent in these guns. I have a total of 27 revolvers used for hunting , target work , plinking , and conceal carry. They include, Colt, S&W . Dan Wesson, Ruger, Charter Arms Taurus, Rossi, and Uberti. I like them all, but for different reasons. That said, I have seen many of the new S&W, and while they function well, I do not beliueve they are worth the price they are asking and would much prefer to purchase the older guns which I find as a better bargain, in a Colt, Dan Wesson, Ruger or S&W. And I do believe Taurus makes a better gun for the money than S&W does today, for the money.
     
  21. Guillermo

    Guillermo member

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    Old Fuff

    see Post #34
     
  22. jdh

    jdh Member

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    snooperman,
    There was a time when I would have agreed with you. For a while Taurus did make a better Smith & Wesson than Smith & Wesson did. That time has passed. I spent a good bit of time recently comparing the J frames in the display case. The worst S&W trigger of the lot was much lighter, smoother, and crisper in both single and double action than the best Taurus. Paid the extra $100 and chose the real S&W.
     
  23. Hawk

    Hawk Member

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    Given that new M29s are street priced at around 840, allow me to be the first to offer 420.00 for an ANIB (you did say "same condition") pinned M29.

    Better still, if anyone has an ANIB M58 for 415.00 (half of Able's listing for a new one) I would be pleased to hear of it.

    I doubt I could offer anything fresh in the "is S&W circling the drain" threads but I do wonder how the "better and cheaper" part of the older model description survives knowledge of current pricing. The last pinned M29 I saw for 420.00 was carried in a tackle box for a decade or so.

    M10s and selected other models might still fit the "cheaper" criteria but I'd bet their time is running out. The model 29's time of being cheaper than new in the same condition has already run out.

    Anyone wishing to prove me wrong may sell me their ANIB with box and papers 29-3 with 4" barrel in blue with all original parts for 420.00. I'll even cover the freight. Offer is good for the first responder only - I'd enjoy being proven wrong but not multiple times - that could get expensive.
    :eek:
     
  24. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    It all depends on how you define "good."

    I have been fortunate in that I've had the opportunity to examine and often disassemble Smith & Wesson handguns running from the Civil War to present. Consequently I can look at the issue of good, bad and indifferent over the company's whole history. I can say the same concerning Colt, Ruger (I've lived through they're whole existence) and others as well.

    In terms of accuracy, today’s guns are probably as good in at least some cases, but Smith & Wesson’s recent if not current method of rifling leave grooves that are shallow, and work better with jacketed bullets then those made out of lead – especially soft lead. But any revolver that locks the chambers concentric with the bore, and has chamber throats that are correct for the bore’s groove diameter should be more accurate then most, if not all users can hold.

    In this respect I might note that at the end of the 19th century, American marksmen beat European counterparts who were using the best single-shot target pistols available (where there was no misalignment between chamber and bore) with S&W top-break target revolvers. The matches were usually conducted at 50 yards.

    In terms of internal machining and external finishing there is no contest at all. The older guns were better. Sometimes sideplates were so closely fitted you couldn’t see a line between the frame and the plate. Not so today, but sideplates are no longer hand fitted to each individual gun. Hammers and triggers were highly polished on the sides, before they were case hardened. Other parts, such as cylinder stops and hands were polished on the sides to literally a mirror finish, the stocks were individually fitted to each frame for a perfect fit, and I could go on and on…

    On the other hand some will point out that today’s materials are better. Absolutely true! Prior to World War Two the company never considered making a J-frame sized revolver in .357 Magnum, not out of steel, and certainly not with an aluminum frame and titanium cylinder. If this is what floats your boat the new guns are the only way too go.

    And if you belong to the “a gun is only a tool” school of thinking the refinements of yesteryear may not matter, although you may be missing out on the best double-action trigger pull ever seen on a production revolver.

    But from my perspective these refinements do matter because they represent real craftsmanship, and gunmaking at its finest. They represent a time when bean counters and attorneys didn’t set manufacturing standards. They are something much more then simply being functional (at least most of the time).

    Your mileage may vary…
     
  25. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    I missed this one, and it's probably a good thing... :eek:

    Now you've really gone and done it. My Detective Special is hiding in the closet and won't come out... :uhoh:
     
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