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S&W's Seven-Shot Medium-Frame Revolvers

The author says that if you try out these double-action revolvers you just might find that seven is your lucky number.

Smith & Wesson Model 619 (left) and Smith & Wesson Model 630 (right)

At the 2005 S.H.O.T. Show in Las Vegas, the folks at Smith & Wesson unveiled a variety of new handguns. The ones that drew my immediate attention were a new pair of seven-shot revolvers: the Model 619 and Model 620.

Smith & Wesson recently announced that it would be discontinuing the .357 Magnum K-Frame revolvers, including the Model 65 and 66. For decades these stainless-steel round guns were extremely popular with American police agencies, but problems arose with some when they were fed a steady diet of Magnum ammo. In 1981 S&W announced the L-Frame revolver that, while only slightly larger than the K-Frame, was capable of standing up to all the .357s you might care to launch out of it.


Both of the new seven-shooters are chambered for the .357 Magnum cartridge and can also fire all types of .38 Special ammunition. As do all current production S&W revolvers, the new Models 619 and 620 feature an internal security system. Activated by a special key, it locks the hammer and trigger to prevent unauthorized firing.

In 1996 S&W began offering the L-Frame revolver with the option of a seven-round cylinder. By reducing the chamber wall thickness from 0.177 to 0.055 inch, S&W's engineers squeezed seven rounds into a space where previously only six resided. In addition, the redesigned lockwork provided a slightly shorter trigger stroke. The Model 686-Plus became popular with competitive shooters and police officers.




SPECIFICATIONS
S&W Model 619 .357 MAGNUM DA REVOLVER
MAKER: Smith & Wesson
MODEL:619
ACTION:Double-action revolver
CALIBER:.357 Magnum/.38 Special
CAPACITY:7 rounds
BARREL LENGTH:4.0 inches
OVERALL LENGTH:9.5 inches
WEIGHT:37.5 ounces
SIGHTS:Integral blade (front); groove in topstrap (rear)
STOCKS:Uncle Mike's rubber
FINISH:Satin stainless steel
SAFETY:Internal security lock
PRICE:$615

To replace the venerable K-Frame Magnums, S&W wisely chose to use the seven-round L-Frame platform but with cosmetic changes that were guaranteed to appeal to fans of the discontinued models. Thus it is that with its four-inch, heavy barrel and fixed sights the Model 619 apes the appearance of the Model 65 while the Model 620's adjustable sights and underlug barrel are reminiscent of the Model 66. Readers should know that the Models 619 and 620 will fit most holsters designed for K- and L-Frame revolvers.

Where the new Models 619 and 620 L-Frames differ from their L-Frame predecessors is that they lack the full-length underlug barrel that is one of the 686 line's most distinctive features. The barrels on the new Model 619 and 620 revolvers are S&W's two-piece design with an inner rifled sleeve and a stainless-steel outer shroud. As the sleeve is screwed into the frame, the flared muzzle end secures the shroud in place against the frame.

As do all current production S&W revolvers, the 619 and 620 have an internal security locking system that uses a special key to immobilize the trigger and hammer so as to prevent unauthorized firing. When engaged, a wing is elevated alongside the hammer to provide a visual and tactile indication of the revolver's condition. When locked, the cylinder can be opened for loading or unloading.

Shooting The New Seven-Shooters

A few weeks after the S.H.O.T. Show, I received samples of both revolvers to evaluate for Shooting Times. As one would expect of products from the world's premier revolver manufacturer, both displayed first-class materials and excellent workmanship. Their stainless finishes were clear of any machine marks, and while there was a bit of "new gun" stiffness in them, their DA trigger pulls were smooth and stage free and both were fitted with recoil-absorbing rubber, finger-groove grips.

VELOCITY & ACCURACY

Model 620Model 619
Factory LoadMuzzle Velocity (fps)25-yard Accuracy (inches)Factory LoadMuzzle Velocity (fps)25-yard Accuracy (inches)
.357 Magnum
Remington 125-gr. JHP14712.38Remington 125-gr. JHP14511.75
Winchester 145-gr. Silvertip12872.50Winchester 145-gr. Silvertip12502.88
Black Hills 158-gr. LSWC9522.75Black Hills 158-gr. LSWC9452.50
.38 Special
Corbon 110-gr. JHP+P11612.00CorBon 110-gr. JHP+P10891.50
Federal 158-gr. LSWC+P858268Federal 158-gr. LSWC+P8392.38
NOTES: Accuracy is the smallest of three five-shot groups fired from a sandbag benchrest at 25 yards. Velocity is the average of five rounds measured 15 feet from the gun's muzzle.

Though I am a longtime revolver fan, I was not offended that these new guns are seven-shooters. Having used S&W 686-Plus revolvers in competition for many years, I can assure you that extra round has come in very handy on a number of occasions.

The new Model 619 (T) replaces the K-Frame Model 65. With its fixed sights and plain barrel, it is intended as a rugged, service-type revolver. The new Model 620 supersedes the popular Model 19 and 66 revolvers and comes standard with adjustable rear sights.

I gave my friend Rusty Rawson a call and asked him if he would help me put the new S&W revolvers through a shooting test. "Your ammo or mine?" was his response. When I assured him that I would be supplying all of the test-firing fodder he may care to expend, he said, "I'll be there tomorrow!" By the time he arrived I had gathered up a selection of .38 Special and .357 Magnum ammunition from Remington, Winchester, CorBon, Federal, and Black Hills. (Full details are listed in the accompanying charts.) After setting up a series of targets at 25 yards at the local shooting range, Rusty settled down to shoot for score. As can be seen in the charts, the best performing Magnum load was Remington's 125-grain JHP; in the .38 Special class honors go to CorBon's fast-stepping 110-grain +P loading.

After chronographing all five loads through each revolver, we got ready to have some real fun. HKS Products (Dept. ST, 7841 Foundation Dr., Florence, KY 41042; 800-354-9814) had supplied me with a number of the firm's No. 587 seven-round speedloaders while Kim Fiedler of Gould & Goodrich (Dept. ST, 709 E. McNeil St., Lillington, NC 27546; 800-277-0732; www.gouldusa.com) provided a Model 803 holster so I could evaluate the new guns in drawing drills. Once I had filled sufficient speedloaders, a pair of D-1 targets was set up, and the Models 619 and 620 were put through the following drills:

The author and his shooting partner fired the new Models 619 and 620 from the bench and also put them through offhand shooting drills. They found the guns to be accurate, smooth functioning, and comfortable to shoot.

1. Four yards: Draw revolver and engage each target with three rounds firing unsupported (one handed). Perform a combat reload and repeat.

2. Seven yards: Draw revolver and double-tap each target. Holster the gun and repeat twice, reloading between strings of fire as necessary.

SPECIFICATIONS
S&W Model 620 .357 MAGNUM DA REVOLVER
MAKER:Smith & Wesson
MODEL:620
ACTION:Double-action revolver
CALIBER:.357 Magnum/.38 Special
CAPACITY:7 rounds
BARREL LENGTH:4.0 inches
OVERALL LENGTH:9.5 inches
WEIGHT:37.9 ounces
SIGHTS:Ramped blade with red insert (front); fully-adjustable white-outline (rear)
STOCKS:Hogue rubber
FINISH:Satin stainless steel
SAFETY:Internal security lock
PRICE:$669

3. Ten yards: Repeat drill No. 1, firing the revolver supported.

4. Fifteen yards: Draw revolver and fire three rounds on each target. Slow, aimed fire.

Both revolvers handled...well, as I expected them to handle: beautifully. For out-of-the-box guns, both had very good DA triggers. (I had lightened their mainspring tension adjustment screws about two turns before shooting.) The sights were fast to pick up. (I put a dab of Day-Glo orange paint on the 619's blade.) Thanks to their excellent ergonomics and rubber grips, recoil control was above average. My shooting partner and I had little trouble keeping our shots in the higher scoring zones of the targets.

We then gave the guns a workout on one of the range's steel plate racks. I would like to be able tell you that we always ran six plates for six rounds, but that ingrained sense of honesty that all gun magazine writers possess forces me to admit that on a few occasions that seventh round came in very handy.

We came away with nothing but positive opinions about this pair of seven-shooters. If you are in the market for a powerful, reliable, fine-handling revolver for hunting, home defense, target shooting, or police/security work, you could not go wrong with either of them. And who knows, if the situation calls for it, seven may just be your lucky number.

DISPELLING SOME REVOLVER MYTHS

When it comes to the subject of revolvers, lines from a Bob Seger song describe my feelings: "Call me a relic, call me what you will. Say I'm old fashioned, say I'm over the hill."

That represents for me a cry of defiance against the uninformed shooters who labor under the misconception that the revolver is an anachronism and that those of us who champion its use are dinosaurs. Phooey!

These persons will tell you that the revolver is obsolete, displays poor ergonomics, is overly complicated, lacks reliability, is too bulky, and (the one that really gets me going) doesn't hold enough rounds. Let me address these criticisms one at a time.

Obsolete: Explain to me how a firearm that is capable of handling any task that a handgun might be called upon to perform can be obsolete? And let us remember that the basic technology behind the modern DA revolver and semiautomatic pistol both date from the late 19th century.

Ergonomics: When you find a handgun that can equal the balance, handling, and shootability of a fine, medium-frame, DA revolver tell me because I want to buy it. Unlike their self-loading brethren, revolvers can be adapted to a wide variety of hand sizes simply by changing the grips--a procedure that requires the removal of one screw. One might also keep in mind that all handgun speed-shooting records have been set with DA revolvers.

Overly complicated: Unlike pistols, the lock mechanism of a revolver is well sealed against dirt, debris, powder residue, and fouling. Normal cleaning only requires one to open the cylinder, brush out the barrel and chambers, and wipe clean.

Reliability: A revolver's functioning is not influenced by variables in ammunition, bullet shape, magazine feed lips, recoil and magazine springs, or the shooter's grip. The round gun has a 100 percent ammunition tolerance, and as long as the shooter's trigger finger functions, chances are his revolver will also. The oft-repeated axiom "Six for sure!" has its basis in fact.

Too bulky: Take a micrometer to a medium-frame revolver and a service-size pistol. I'm willing to bet there is very little difference in girth. And what little there might be can be neutralized by the use of a well-fitting holster.

Ammunition capacity: I'll admit that a full-size pistol will hold more rounds than a medium-frame revolver. So what? As those of us who have not been mesmerized by the high-capacity myth like to point out, if you can't handle a defensive situation with six rounds of .357, you don't need a handgun. You need a SWAT team! As it is highly unlikely that I will ever be confronted by a howling mob of juramentados, I feel quite well armed when I carry a revolver.

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