The Cadillac of Snub-Nosed Revolvers

The Smith & Wesson Model 19 is the Cadillac of Snub-Nosed revolvers.One of my favorite handguns started life as the Smith & Wesson Combat Magnum. Back in the 50’s, Bill Jordan was approached by the wheels at Smith & Wesson and asked to give his thoughts on the perfect revolver for police officers. The result was the Combat Magnum revolver that soon came to be known as the Model 19. It was later produced in stainless steel and called the Model 66. Of course, Bill’s idea was for them to build a 4-inch barreled revolver and that, at first, is exactly what Smith & Wesson did.

However, my favorite Model 19 has always been the 2 1/2” barreled version. It featured a 2 1/2” barrel with the integral ejector-rod shroud and a round butt. Along with that, it incorporated the ramped front sight and adjustable rear sight that was standard to all Model 19s. I’m sure the idea was to build a Model 19 that would be more suitable for criminal investigators to carry concealed. However, we quickly found out that the little sixgun was capable of very fine accuracy and our qualification scores did not drop drastically, if at all, shooting the shorter barrel.

In the above photo, the gun on the right is a Model 19-3 and the one on the left is a Model 19-4. Both have pinned barrels and recessed cylinder chambers. They were made during the heyday of Smith’s revolvers. For your interest, I have compiled a little timeline on the 2 1/2” Model 19.

  • 1955: The Combat Magnum goes into production and the first production model is given to Bill Jordan. This gun ultimately ended up in the collection of Col. Rex Applegate.
  • 1963: A run of 50 Model 19’s are made with the 2 1/2” barrel.
  • 1966: The 2 1/2” Model 19 becomes a standard production item.
  • 1967: The Model 19-3 is produced. The rear sight leaf screw is relocated.
  • 1968: The diamond insert grip is discontinued.
  • 1977: The Model 19-4 is introduced, changing the gas ring from the yoke to the front of the cylinder.
  • 1982: The Model 19-5 is introduced, doing away with the recessed chambers in the cylinder.
  • 2005: The Model 19 & Model 66 are discontinued.

In my view, and that of many others, the glory years for the 2 1/2” Model 19 were 1966 to 1982. From that time on, Smith & Wesson began to cheapen their revolvers and a reduction in performance resulted. Fortunately, these great snub-nose revolvers can still be found at gun shows and in the used counter of many gun shops. Handy little six-guns, if you ask me.

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32 Responses to The Cadillac of Snub-Nosed Revolvers

  1. Bruce Beckwith says:

    I really wish S&W would bring back the 2 1/2″ 19. I’d buy one! Been considering a 2 1/2″ 686 (six shot), but it’s not really the same.

    • Sid Welch says:

      I just bought a Smith and Wesson Model 19-7 in the 2 1/2 inch barrel. It is blued with 99% and no holster wear. Someone put Pacmyers on it, so I will take those off and dress it up with the original wood grips. I just got it and have not had a chance to shoot it.

      • richard says:

        “Someone put Pacmyers on it…”

        That would be someone with good sense. The original “popsicle grips” make the M19 a wretched revolver to shoot.

        If your pistol is collectible show-piece only, original hardware might look good. If it’s to employed as a respectable combat weapon, the original grips are a very poor choice.

        • Specialist38 says:

          I prefer the magna grips with a T-Grip adapter.

          Much easier to control the revolver.

          • John Pereira says:

            I have a nickle plated .357 Model 19 Smith and Wesson in the 21/2″ barrel.
            It is fitted with round butt packmayr grips.You are right.
            Shooting it with the original wooden grips is very unpleasant.

  2. I wish that Colt or S&W would produce a quality version of the Charter Arms .44 Bulldog revolver.

    • Kevin Buller says:

      It would cost twice as much as a Charter if they did it.

      • CWH says:

        But neither the Colt nor the S&W would loosen up and become untrustworthy like the Bulldog does. I have owned two over the years, but they just didn’t hold up to the repeated many shots. The tight tolerances became worn and loose.

  3. Mark says:

    I’ll really love to have a 3 inch pinned & recessed model19. But then again I’m wishing my Sheriiff would issue stag grips and Stetsons. But I ain’t holding my breath.

  4. Ken pruitt says:

    I love my mod.19 snubby…wish I had a stainless 66 too….

  5. Tex says:

    Howdy, what brand of grips are on those 19’s?

  6. Great article. What grips are those!

  7. Al Booth says:

    Having owned all of the barrel lengths, I would disagree slightly and say the one you want is the 3″. Balances better, longer ejector rod. I have never seen one in blue, only stainless. If I could have only one all-purpose revolver, that would be it. In fact, other than some J-frames, a 3″ M66 is one of the only revolvers I own now.

  8. Kevin Buller says:

    I think the 2 and a half to 3 inch round butt K frame revolver is the perfect concealed carry revolver. Wish I had about 6 or 10 of them.

  9. Peter Caroline says:

    Back in the 1980s, I had a 2 1/2″ nickel-plated Model 19. I passed the Essex County Sheriff’s shooting test with it. I traded it for I forget what, and I’m still kicking myself for being that damn dumb!

  10. guy hayes says:

    Just purchased the Model 19 Carry Comp, 3″ barrel. It is one fantastic shooter and beautiful to look at.

  11. Tony Chisholm says:

    I still have the Model 19-5 I bought in 1983 as my off-duty gun. I still have more faith in it than any other handgun I own, including my Sigs.

  12. Les Neeley says:

    I have a nickel plated Model 19-3 with the 2 1/2″ barrel. I bought it in the mid 1970’s from a guy who needed money. It’s an awesome shooter and still quite a looker. I have a tan colored Smith & Wesson basket weave holster for it as well. When I wear it, I get lots of complements!

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  14. Tom RKBA says:

    I hated mine and went back to N Frames.

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