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Smith & Wesson model 619.

For decades the standard police sidearm was the fixed-sighted Smith & Wesson Military & Police six-shot double-action .38 Special revolver. Built on the medium-size, easy-to-handle K-frame, the M&P (later called the Model 10) was often the first Smith & Wesson product many officers and ordinary shooters encountered. It served law enforcement agencies, as well as many segments of the military exceedingly well for much of the first half of the 20th century.

The Model 10 is in the Smith & Wesson catalog to this day, but there is also a new and improved variation of the basic revolver, and it features a more powerful chambering, .357 Magnum. It also has a seven-shot cylinder and is called the Model 619.

Smith & Wesson is no longer offering several famous K-frame revolvers in .357 Magnum, like the Model 19, the 66 or the 65. The latter was a fixed-sight version that evolved out of the original Model 10, and this new Model 619 is supposed to fill the hole left by the Model 65 in the product line. However, it is built on the slightly larger L-frame.

WHY FIXED SIGHTS ON A REVOLVER?

Initially, of course, all revolvers sported fixed sights. The cap-'n'-ball Colt Navy .36 had a brass bead at the end of its barrel. There was no notch on top of the revolver, but there was a notch found on the hammer nose. The idea was for you to use the notch on the end of the cocked hammer as part of the sighting system.

When solid-frame revolvers were introduced, the notch was moved to the back portion of the frame. When the M&P Hand Ejector double-action revolvers came along, the top of the frame was milled with a groove to keep the sight line closer to the boreline, and the top rear of the frame was milled with a semimoon-cut recess and a square-cut, U-shaped notch.

It was a good system for close-range work, but the introduction of the fully adjustable Smith & Wesson rear sight proved more advantageous with different velocity loads or target ranges. Target shooters were the first to endorse the fully adjustable rear sight, and law enforcement officers soon followed. To many, it just made sense to have every revolver equipped with a fully adjustable rear sight because of the gain in sight definition and adjustment over the older system.

However, as with everything in life, there was a hidden cost involved with even the excellent Smith & Wesson fully adjustable rear-sight assembly. Compared to the old fixed-sight system, the fully adjustable S&W sight assembly was more impact-sensitive. Notice, I didn't say "fragile" because it is a pretty robust unit. Yet if a handgun with adjustable sights is dropped onto a hard surface, the result could yield a broken sight blade or a broken screw that holds the whole assembly on the gun. As a result, many lawmen and other experienced shooters well versed in the fine points of Murphy's Law learned to prefer fixed sights on a duty revolver.

The fixed-sight system as found on a Smith & Wesson revolver like the Model 619 is extremely rugged. It is their ability to withstand abuse that endears fixed-sight revolvers to a number of armed professionals yet today.

The front sight is .13 inch in thickness and .183 inch in height. The back face to the stainless steel blade is serrated to improve visual acquisition. The contrast between the stainless steel front-sight blade and the stainless steel barrel is limited, however, due to the nature of steel's color, and this hinders quick acquisition of the front sight. A flat black serrated front-sight blade would have been better.

ONE MORE ROUND

Seven-shot .357 Magnum cylinders on an L-frame Smith & Wesson are not new or revolutionary. When they were first introduced, the trigger-action mechanisms felt strange to me because the movement was much shorter in terms of the overall trigger travel. That was one of the reasons I didn't find them to my liking, but the test Model 619 exhibited a trigger mechanism more in line with that seen with the traditional six-shot, double-action revolver.

The double-action trigger pull scaled in the neighborhood of 12 pounds, plus or minus .2 of a pound. The single-action trigger pull was far more consistent, and it scaled exactly 3.8 pounds with every pull.

A TWO-PIECE BARREL?

Since the Model 619 is an L-flame revolver, it avoids the major problem experienced with the K-flame .357 Magnum revolvers. The K-flame guns like the long discontinued blue-steel Model 19 and the stainless steel Model 66 all had forcing cones at the back of the barrel that proved thin and prone to cracking if they were fed a constant diet of high-intensity, high-velocity magnum loads. This was the major reason the L-flame revolver was introduced.

Some may question how Smith & Wesson can discontinue the K-frame .357 Magnum revolvers while offering multiple K-frame .357 Magnum revolvers. The answer is that the rear of the K-frame barrel required a "flat" be filed on its bottom to provide clearance for the gas ring on the front of the cylinder when was it was closed. The L-flame has the barrel slightly higher than the K-flame, and there is no need for a flat to be filed on the bottom of its barrel to make room for the gas ring. The same is true with the current J-flame examples.

Another major change in the way that the L-flame revolvers are manufactured is seen with the introduction of the two-piece barrel. It is not actually new because Smith & Wesson has been manufacturing revolvers with two-piece barrels for some time. They were only seen on the scandium/titanium-flame guns or the PD series of both large- and small-flame guns.

The two pieces are the outer shroud and the inner barrel. If you examine the muzzle of the barrel carefully, a thin line is noticeable just aft of the crown; this is the junction of the outer shroud and the front of the inner barrel. After making sure the revolver is empty and with the cylinder open, a look down the barrel from the muzzle end will show you the rifling doesn't come all the way to the end of the barrel. It stops short of the muzzle for a recess. This recess provides purchase for the barrel-tightening tool used in fastening the barrel to the frame and outer shroud. The rifling is cut with an EDM process and not with a rifling button, but the EDM process duplicates the groove depth and width exactly to that seen previously with the traditional rifling method.

The outer shroud has a bull-barrel profile and measured .755 inch in outside diameter at the engraved portion of the tube. In a break with revolver caliber markings used in the past, the caliber designation is seen on the left side of the barrel, while the manufacturer's logo is found on the right. There is no underlug to protect the ejector rod, as it is fully exposed. This is probably the first L-frame revolver from Smith & Wesson that has neither an underlug nor a full lug barrel.

Of course, like all new Smith & Wesson revolvers, the Model 619 comes with the key-operated trigger lock. Though the lock is scorned by purists, the fact remains that this feature is here to stay due to the legal atmosphere all firearms manufacturers must presently endure. Two keys are provided with each revolver, and when they are engaged, a flag on the left side of the hammer is raised, indicating the mechanism is locked and the gun is incapable of firing.

The L-frame on the Model 619 has the round-butt configuration, but the gun comes with a set of synthetic Uncle Mike's grips that approximate the square-butt profile to which so many Smith & Wesson users have become accustomed over the years. They are comfortable and welcome during long range sessions with the more powerful magnum loadings.

Many would argue that the double-action revolver's time has come and gone, but the double-action-revolver design remains one of the most reliable forms of armed self-defense available to human beings. The Smith & Wesson Model 619 simply represents the latest and most advanced version of this basic self-defense tool.

SPECIFICATIONS: Smith & Wesson Model 619

Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson Dept. HG 2100 Roosevelt Ave. Springfield, MA 01104 (413) 781-8300 www.smith-wesson.com

Mechanism Type: Traditional swing-out cylinder, double-action, medium-frame revolver

Caliber: .357 Magnum

Capacity: Seven rounds

Barrel Length: 4 inches

Overall Length: 9.375 inches

Finish: Stainless steel

Weight, empty: 37.5 ounces

Front Sight: Stainless serrated ramp blade

Rear Sight: Milled U-notch in top of frame

Grips: Synthetic Uncle Mike's finger-groove square-butt-profile grips

Price: $615
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Title Annotation:FIRING LINE REPORT
Author:James, Frank W.
Publication:Handguns
Date:Feb 1, 2006
Words:1442
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