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GUNS Magazine January 2010 - Page 18
HANDGUNS • MASSAD AYOOB • Demand for established guns delayed the new crop, but they’re worth the wait. t the SHOT Show last January, Smith & Wesson had lots of cool A new handguns to show us, and they were scheduled to be in the gun shops soon thereafter. Unfortunately, unprecedented demand for their mainstream defensive handguns in the post-election firearms purchasing frenzy set the new models half a year back on the production schedule. In August ’09, at a company seminar at the splendid United States Shooting Academy range in Tulsa, Oklahoma, S&W at last had the new stuff coming off the line for us to try, and soon for you to buy. Consumer demand, channeled to S&W through their annual roundtables with assorted dealers, now brings you the Model 438. It’s the shroud-hammer 5-shot Bodyguard Airweight, with single action cocking option, executed with a blackened aluminum frame. It’s the same motif as the popular Centennial 442 “hammerless.” Our test gun “shot to the sights” and recoil was mild with their latest “rubber” grips. The “retro” lemon-squeezer guns, load. The report was sharp, though. This would make a neat little trail gun for small game. Conceptualized by Jim Unger, product manager for S&W’s revolver line, the young Night Guard line is the first new S&W series to cross the lines of frame sizes. They range from the 315 model (6-shot K-frame .38 Special) through L-frame 7-shot .357 Magnum, to N-frame in .45 ACP, 8-shot .357, and even .44 Magnum. New this year is a 10mm Auto variation. Too big for the pocket, these are ultra-light belt guns made of exotic metals, with humongous Cylinder & Slide rear sights and XS Big Dot fronts. The ones I tested last year didn’t shoot to the sights, but the ones at the seminar from the 2009 crop did, and that’s a clear product improvement right there. The expensive Night Guard appeals to the discriminating revolver enthusiast who wears a belt holster all day, every day. The Classic line now includes oldstyle K-38s and K-22s (see John Taffin’s feature in November’s issue). There’s also a “Back To The Future” Model 57 in .41 Magnum, and a fixed-sight Model 58 reincarnation should be on dealers’ shelves by the time you read this. SMITH & wESSON’S LATEST with the old-style grip safety in lieu of the internal lock which S&W purists have come to vehemently hate, is now available in an Airweight configuration as the Model 42-1. It shot well despite its old-fashioned wooden “splinter” stocks, and like the 438, the test sample’s sights were perfectly registered for point of aim/point of impact. Perceiving pent-up demand for a 6-shot J-frame chambered for the lately introduced .327 Federal Magnum, S&W offers the Model 632 CarryComp. Its 3" barrel has an integral recoil compensator at the muzzle, and between that and the rubber grips, our test sample exhibited surprisingly mild recoil with the high intensity Speer 115-grain Gold Dot DefensiveAutos Smith & Wesson now offers an ambidextrous frame-mounted thumb safety on all calibers and sizes of their polymer Military & Police pistols. This has struck a responsive chord in the marketplace. S&W execs tell me some 30 percent of M&Ps are going out of the shipping room now with this optional feature in place. There’s lots new in the company’s excellent SW1911 line. Master pistolsmith Jim Garthwaite has been credited with the concept of the 4.25" “Commander” slide atop the compact “Lightweight Officers” frame, and as originally rendered by Colt in their old CCO it proved to be a perfect size “carry .45” in the 1911 format. S&W now offers the same combination as their SW1911 ES, and it is sweet. Recoil and muzzle jump are distinctly less than with the new 3" subcompact Muzzleflash,andahitonthetarget(above).Masfindsnew4385-shot.38SpecialBodyguard Airweightsatisfyinglyaccurate. Dr.georgeDvorchak(below)showscontrollabilityofnewWalther PK380(notespent.380ACPshellcasing). 18 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • JANUARY 2010