A Nurse with a Gun

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Smith & Wesson Model 19-4 Nickel

In 1954, Smith and Wesson asked Bill Jordan of the US Border Patrol to design the ultimate peace officer's sidearm. Jordan simply took the K38 Combat Masterpiece and directed S&W to chamber it in .357 magnum. The Model 19 Combat Magnum was born. Over the years, the Model 19 was available in blue and nickel, with wood or rubber grips. It was truly a wonderful compromise between a midsized carry gun and a powerful magnum revolver.

As with all compromises, some problems did occur. The Model 19 developed a history of cracked forcing cones, usually occurring at the 6:00 position, where the barrel is relieved for the cylinder rod. The cracks occur much more frequently with 125 grain .357 magnum ammo, as does flame cutting of the top strap. Over time, problems with excessive endshake will develop on a steady diet of full house .357 magnum. The Model 19 was meant to be carried with magnums, but it needs .38 specials for practice. Smith and Wesson later concurred with this opinion. Today, there are no more Model 19 barrels at S&W. A cracked forcing cone means the demise of a fine gun. Care must be taken not to use 125 grain .357 magnum ammunition.

A couple of weeks ago, I found this pristine example of a nickel Model 19-4 Combat Magnum in a local pawn shop for $279. I did not hesitate to place it on layaway. The seller even threw in a suede lined holster to go with it.

Today, the Model 19 remains the epitome of S&W craftsmanship and design to many shooters. It is built on the beloved K frame, and has all the features of the hallowed K-38, with the addition of occasional .357 magnum capability. Yep, I finally got my nickel Model 19-4 off layaway. It's a good 'un!

Butch Kent's research on the forcing cone issue.

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8 Comments:

Anonymous matt said...

HHHHHMMMM A revolver that self destructs when firing the caliber it was chambered for. Would you love it as much if it was a Taurus??

1:32 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

;-) Probably not.....

2:06 PM  
Anonymous bob said...

As I appreciate it, the Model 19 was designed when .357 loads were only available in 158 grain, and the problems arose when the 125 grain cartridge was developed afterwards. There are a number of articles on this issue at Gunblast.com. So, if that's the case, it seems unfair to complain that S&W design is not adequate for the cartridge it was "chambered for" when it was perfectly adequate for the only .357 cartridge then in existence. The advent of the 128 presumably was the driver for S&W to design the heavier L & N frames, which are perfectly capable of handling those loads and have not experienced the Model 19 problems. Taurus, of course, not being a leader in design at the time, never had to deal with this problem.

8:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Model 19 is not unlike the J-frames in that you are gaining increased portability at the price of a bit more fragility. Nonetheless, the Model 19, like it's K-frame brethren, is a magnificent shooter, and I would not feel underarmed carrying one in a social encounter.

Keith in Cowtown

9:39 PM  
Anonymous Another Keith said...

Sounds like a market opening for a small machine shop to make fresh barrels.

I've got to say that the occasional cracking shows GOOD design.

How?

It shows that they didn't put excess weight in. Any fool can build a gun weighing 56 pounds, building a good light weight gun is an artform.

6:33 AM  
Anonymous Keith said...

Let me qualify that. Cracking because someone with baboons up his family tree, has left stress concentrating sharp cut outs in the design are bad.

Examples would be berretta and Walther p38 slides. (for goodness sake, one of the prime purposes of a slide should be that it stays on the pistol, not in your eye socket).

Such designs are not necesarily even light weight.

Cracking because some pond life left rough machine marks or used poor metal or heat treatment is almost as great a sin.

Making a gun that is light to carry, and with no excess metal, wood or plastic is an art form.

Such a gun is meant for long, comfortable carries and occasional use, if a bobbyana decides to stick thousands of rounds of plus p through it, they are making a statement about themselves.

That the gun shows its distress with a little crack, again shows good design and manufacturing.

12:08 PM  
Anonymous John said...

You're right the S&W 19 is a beautiful gun. I was lucky enough to pick up one recently for under $800 overall that was A Grade engraved in a presentation box. What a beaut this one is.
John

11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just bought an S&W model 19-4 off my brother for (can you believe this?) $50.00 which included a gun rug and a box of 125grain JSP Winchester rounds. (he's not a gun guy) This weapon has never been fired. I also have a Taurus model 66 which is identical except for being in stainless steel and the transfer bar ignition system. Shot the heck out of it and it's still accurate and reliable with a very smooth trigger. Both have smooth triggers and I wouldn't feel under-gunned with either revolver. This new revolver will hold a special place in my safe with the model 10 S&W 2" snubbie I got off another non-gun guy for $36.00. (transfer fees only). It only had 24 rounds put through it all those years. It's good to have a real appreciation for quality workmanship in these weapons.

8:08 PM  

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