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Smith and Wesson 3rd gen autos

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by Kyle, Mar 22, 2009.

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  1. Kyle

    Kyle Member

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    Is there a chart somewhere, or could someone explain the various models? I am trying to figure out which one I should be looking for. I know I want a 9mm, but some are alloy frame, some are steel, some are short barrelled, and some are longer. What is the difference between the 5903,5906,3913, etc. I went to S&W's website, and they also have different letters after the numbers, could someone give me a primer to decipher the differeneces between all of these guns? I think I heard the numbers are some kind of a code to tell you the size, frame material and caliber is that correct? What do the letters mean? What are considered 1st and second gen s&W autos?
    Thanks in advance for any help you can give me.
     
  2. Rob P.

    Rob P. Member

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    I am not a S&W expert but I can give you some hints.

    There are 2 numbering systems in play here. You have one numbering system in which there are only 2 or 3 numbers for the gun model. This is the "old" system and has been "updated" to 4 number designations. They are the same model line, just older in design, manufacture, and metallurgy.

    That being said, the "39" series is a single stack 9mm compact. The 59 series is a full sized lineup. The 69 series is a double stack compact. The 3913 is a lightweight alloy frame. The 6906 is also a lightweight alloy frame. The last 2 digits in the designation means the frame material type. XX03 means stainless steel. XX04 means blue. Letters after the 4 numbers are just accessories added onto the weapon. (ie: "TSW" means Tactical Smith & Wesson or some nonsense like that because the pistol has a light rail. LS means "Lady Smith" and the weapon usually has some performance center work as std for the model and other design cosmetics.)

    There are some DAO models as well which are 4 digit but these are numbered "higher" in the same series designations. (ie: 5945 or something like that.)

    Also, there are different calibers which have their own model designations. For ex: 4006 is .40. 4506 is .45 etc.

    1st generation models are considered to be the first models with the new 4-digit model numbers. Second gen models are the same with "updates." Third gen models are the latest generation and are considered to be the most "reliable" as they "fix" some of the issues from previous generations. Some people don't like the "fixes" so they prefer older models. Whatever floats your boat is my opinion on that (It's like a: if you like nuts and chocolate syrup on your ice cream, that's fine if you enjoy it that way. If you prefer plain vanilla, buy that instead sort of thing.)

    For most of the 4-digit handguns, any of the 3 generations are modern firearms with modern designs which can handle modern cartridge pressures. (ie: +P ammo.) The older 2 or 3 number models are NOT rated for +P.

    Sometimes you can tell the generation of a pistol by looking at it. The 1st gen compacts had a "square" trigger guard while the 2nd and 3rd gens had a trigger guard which is more "rounded" but it is not "round." (The sq trigger guards have a really sq profile almost like a snout at the bottom.)

    You can type the model numbers into gunbroker to get familiar with the various models. There is also a S&W handgun forum which you can find by googling for it.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2009
  3. The Lone Haranguer

    The Lone Haranguer Member

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    That is difficult, because of the sheer number of variations, and several inconsistencies within the numbering system. Very broadly speaking, Third Generations have a four-digit model number with the various numerals denoting sizes, metals, finishes, calibers and action types. At one time there was even a rotating wheel chart, shown here.

    In response to those specific guns, the 5903 is a full size (4-inch barrel), double-stack magazine (15 rounds), stainless steel slide and alloy frame, traditional double action, in 9mm. (If you want to see what it looks like, a member here has a thread with pictures about the one he just bought.) A 5906 is identical in size, operation, caliber and capacity but is all stainless steel. A 3913 is a compact (3.5-inch barrel), single-stack mag (8 rounds), stainless slide/alloy frame, traditional double action, also in 9mm. And that model has some variants of its own, notably the LadySmith.

    To make things even more interesting, there was a "Value Line" with three-digit model numbers, but these are a variation on the Third Generation guns, not the second.
     
  4. ugaarguy

    ugaarguy Moderator Staff Member

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    I'll give it a shot on the 9mm models.

    59xx - double stack full size
    69xx - double stack compact
    39xx - single stack compact

    xx4x or xx5x - DAO
    xx0x - DA/SA

    xxx3 - aluminum frame
    xxx6 - steel frame

    Examples - model 5946 is a double stack full size, DAO, steel frame; and model 3903 is a single stack compact, DA/SA, aluminum frame.

    Edit to add:

    All the 45xx and 10xx were single stack guns 45 ACP and 10mm respectively. The odd variant there is the xx7x, like a 1076, which is a 10mm, frame mounted decocker DA/SA, steel frame.
     
  5. The Lone Haranguer

    The Lone Haranguer Member

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    ugaarguy: That 3903 you mention is actually the 3913, one of the inconsistencies.

    Then there are guns like the 1076 and the 4586. :confused::banghead::D

    Uncommonly encountered are models whose third digit is 2. This is a frame-mounted decocker. These models were only made about a year and had a recall for disabling parts breakage.
     
  6. ugaarguy

    ugaarguy Moderator Staff Member

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    Lone Haranguer, you're right; I messed that one up.
     
  7. The Lone Haranguer

    The Lone Haranguer Member

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    I tried making such a reference chart myself and nearly drove myself crazy. :D
     
  8. The Lone Haranguer

    The Lone Haranguer Member

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  9. jmr40

    jmr40 Member

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    And to confuse the matter more there are the budget guns with 3 digit numbers.

    457 compact 45
    411 11 shot 40
    410 10 shot 40 (sold during the AWB)
    915 15 shot 9mm
    910 10 shot 9mm (AWB gun)
    908 compact single stack 9mm

    I'm sure I missed something as well.
     
  10. Gixerman1000

    Gixerman1000 Member

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    Here’s the rest of the codes for any one who wants to know

    Chambering is known from the first two digits

    39XX = 9mm single stack
    59XX = 9mm double stack
    69XX = 9mm double stack * see note
    10XX = 10mm single stack
    40XX = 40sw double stack (with some older single stack compacts)
    45XX = 45acp single stack

    The type of action, the size and over all configuration is know by the 3rd digit

    XX0X = Standard size, standard action, standard slide mounted safety
    XX1X = Compact, standard action, standard slide mounted safety
    XX2X = Standard size, with frame de-cocker
    XX3X = Compact, with frame de-cocker
    XX4X = Standard size, Double Action Only
    XX5X = Compact, Double Action Only
    XX6X = Non standard size, standard action, standard slide mounted safety
    XX7X = Non standard size, with frame de-cocker
    XX8X = Non standard size, Double Action Only

    Non standard size is usually a shorter barrel and slide on a standard frame, this somewhat mid size class is basically only seen with the 45acp and 10mm guns, for the 10mm guns this is as small as it gets.

    The finish and material used is know by the 4th digit

    XXX3 = Aluminum frame / Stainless steel slide (the frame is gray to match the slide)
    XXX4 = Aluminum frame / Carbon steel slide (the frame is black to match the slide)
    XXX5 = Carbon steel frame and slide.
    XXX6 = Stainless steel frame and slide

    Once you get an under standing of the numbers it’s not that bad and with the wide range of models and options I guess they had to come up with something.

    Note* The 69XX is about the only one that brake these rules, for example the 6906 is basically an aluminum framed compact 5906 (or compact 5903), the aluminum framed compact version of the 3906 is the 3913 so I have no clue why S&W just did not call the 6906 a 5913.
     
  11. jjester56

    jjester56 Member

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    I just traded a sw40ve for a 6906 cause i did not like the trigger pull on the sigma. I havent had a chance to get out and shoot the 6906 yet but am looking forward to it.
     
  12. Dr.Rob

    Dr.Rob Moderator Staff Member

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    You know as popular as these are I never saw one in IDPA?
     
  13. ATW525

    ATW525 Member

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    Of the original 3rd general pistols, the 6906 was the only compact and the only one with an alloy frame. Basically there were only two versions in each series to start: xx04 that was blued and xx06 that was stainless.

    When S&W decided to add alloy framed and compact versions of the other pistols in it's lineup, they decided to expand on the numbering system rather than introduce new series. Since all the rest of the original 3rd Generation autos were full sized, steel framed guns S&W was able to do this while maintaining consistancy between them (by making xx04 mean a fullsize steel frame blued gun, and xx06 mean a full size, steel frame stainless gun). However, the 6906 no longer fit into this expanded numbering scheme.

    S&W did maintain constancy within the 69xx series however:

    All 69xx are double stack 9mm compacts with an aluminum frame.

    The third number designates the action type:

    690x - Traditional double action w/ slide mounted safety/decocker
    692x -Traditional double action w/ frame mounted decocker
    694x - Double action only

    This last digit represents slide finish type (frame colored to match):

    69x4 - Blued
    69x6 - Stainless
     
  14. Confederate

    Confederate Member

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    Whatever kind you decide on, I think you'll like. I was so ticked off when the Ladysmith came out because I wanted one. I just wasn't going to walk around with a gun called a Ladysmith!

    The 59 was the first of the series and had a reputation of being a jamomatic. Agencies that switched to it for its high capacity magazines went nuts trying to get the guns to where they'd work. Finally, after S&W had gained a truly awful reputation in the semi-auto market, they finally managed to get their act together. Still, so many people didn't trust them that they decided on a second generation.


    [​IMG]

    An old magazine I have actually ran an article entitled, "Why a $49
    Raven .25ACP is Better Than a $220 Smith & Wesson 9mm 59." The writer
    argued that the Raven worked every time the trigger was pulled, but
    that the S&W 39/59s would not.



    In one of the military trials, the S&W 459 (aluminum frame) actually came in second place to the Beretta 92. The 459 jammed, or malfunctioned, once in an average of every 952 times if I recall correctly. That's very good. But the 92 malfunctioned on an average of once every 2,000 rounds, which tipped the hat to the Beretta. Nothing else came close to these, and the Colt 1911 was so far back in the bus that it just didn't make a showing at all.

    In subsequent tests, the Sig 9mm made a great showing and even today it's got a reputation of being ultra reliable and ultra strong, with excellent accuracy.

    Meanwhile, S&W pulled another rabbit out of their hat. They came out with the all stainless 659/639 pistols and later the 645 .45ACP, all of which exhibited excellent reliability. The 659 and the newer 5906 were such attractive guns that the producers of the X-Files made them the team's standard autos and featured them in all sorts of creative shots during the third season. The fact that they were stainless and highly visible also were probable factors. The two later switched, I think, to the Sig.


    [​IMG]

    The series does not admit to using the 659, but I've seen Mulder use one that
    had the characteristic round spacer for the left-sided hammer drop, as shown in
    this photo of my own 659:

    [​IMG]


    Of the two guns, I prefer the 659 because it has a stronger grip. To cut
    corners on the 5906, S&W made the plastic grips cover the spring housing. The
    first guns tended to break in the grips if dropped. In fact, the company
    later sent replacement grips (made of a more robust polymer), but I made sure I
    kept the originals, just in case. (If you have an early 5906, the company will still
    send you replacement grips.)


    [​IMG]

    S&W 5906 (top) and 659. Both are great pistols, though some
    with smallish hands found them to be a bit "boxy."


    .
     
  15. Dr.Rob

    Dr.Rob Moderator Staff Member

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    Thing is these SW autos are becoming widely available as police trades and might be a great deal for someone on a budget.
     
  16. Janos Dracwlya

    Janos Dracwlya Member

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    Don't forget that the S&W DAO guns aren't actually Double Action Only. They are actually single action guns - pulling the trigger does not cock the hammer.

    Does anyone know which generation was the first with the firing pin safety?
     
  17. ir3e971

    ir3e971 Member

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    You are correct. I have a police trade in 5906 and have over a 1000 rounds in it. It seems to feed everything, is reasonably accurate, and solid as a rock.

    Great value for the money, I think I paid 325.
     
  18. Dr. Fresh

    Dr. Fresh Member

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    Confederate quote:
    Was that a magazine issue? I own and carry a 59 that has NEVER given me problems.

    I use a 15-round magazine. The originals had a 14-rounder. Could that be it?
     
  19. spiroxlii

    spiroxlii Member

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    I have a 3rd gen S&W auto. It's a 5903 (full size double stack 9mm with alloy frame and steel slide). I love this thing. It's very reliable and more accurate than I am. It was a Gwinnett County Police Department trade-in. I got it for around $200, and I'm never getting rid of it! It's the only gun I have that is equipped with tritium night sights.
     
  20. ATW525

    ATW525 Member

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    The trigger still has to cock the hammer the rest of the way before they will fire, so they're not really single actions. In concept they work like a hammer fired Glock, but the actual trigger pull feels much closer to a double action revolver with a similiar weight and length of travel (the length of travel is a bit longer on the TSW guns, because they pre-tension the hammer to a lesser degree). They do lack a second strike capability for people who care about such things, however.
     
  21. novalty

    novalty Member

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    I used to have a 459 and it was an extremely reliable gun, however, it was my first gun to start shooting and with the straight backstrap common to the second gen S&W I couldn't get the accuracy down. The accuracy issue may be because it was my first handgun, but I also shot my friends fullsize S&W Sigma 9mm, and with the arched backstrap myt accuracy was a lot greater, but I didn't care for the DAO of the Sigma. So I ended up selling my 459, and getting a NIB 5906 from CDNN, 4 big reasons for the change: arched backstrap, traditional double action, stainless steel, and Crimson Trace grips are available for it. Only down size is that the 5906 weighs 33% more than the 459. Hopefully, I will be able to get the accuracy down, but with only a box of ammo left, and none left on the shelves at any local stores, doesn't look like I will get much practice in.
     
  22. jackstinson

    jackstinson Member

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    Yep! I paid $275 for my police-trade 6946 in 2007. You can still pick them up for $300-$350 now. Mine was essentially a "new gun"...apparently had not been fired much, if at all.
    And yes, as was mentioned, the DAO action on it is not a "single action"...it is similar to the Kel-Tec or LCP; racking the slide will pre-load the hammer, you still need to fully cock and release it with the trigger. Mine is quite smooth, accurate, and has been 100% reliable. Not one single malfunction over a couple of years now. I bought it for the DAO, spur-less hammer, and no safety levers to think about.
     
  23. Storm

    Storm Member

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  24. The Lone Haranguer

    The Lone Haranguer Member

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    [​IMG]

    A somewhat blurry picture, but that is a 3913 LadySmith. (It was not two-tone, as the pic makes it appear.)
     
  25. Janos Dracwlya

    Janos Dracwlya Member

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    Thank you for setting me straight on that. I looked at one a long time ago and I only remembered that it wasn't really double action. I ended up not buying it because I wanted the second strike capability, though I've thought about getting one since.

    Oh, here's another picture of a 3913.
     
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