Maybe the title of this review should actually be “Sometimes, You CAN Go Home Again (or at Least Make It Into the Driveway)” because that is what the Classic Smith & Wesson Model 19 .357 Magnum revolver does for those of us who carried the original.

The Model 19 .357 Magnum six-shot revolver (also known as the Combat Magnum) was originally introduced in 1957 due to the urging of famed U.S. Border Patrol agent and exhibition shooter Bill Jordan. Prior to the Model 19, Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum police duty revolvers, such as the Model 27, were built on the large N-frame. The 4-inch N-frame guns weighed around 42 ounces, and Jordan wanted something smaller and easier to pack for average officers, even though he personally had King-Kong-sized mitts. (For more on Jordan, read his book No Second Place Winner.) Smith & Wesson obliged and came up with the Model 19 .357, which weighed around 36 ounces. While a reduction of 6 ounces may not seem like much, it is significant if you are lugging around a revolver on a police duty belt all day.

My first police duty handgun was a Model 19. I carried it for two years. It had blued steel; a police duty-length, 4-inch barrel and fully adjustable plain, black sights. I chose the Model 19 for duty carry because I liked the look and balance of the under-barrel ejector rod shroud that did not exist on other K-frame revolvers available at the time.

The Smith & Wesson Classic revolver line currently consists of nine revolvers (sadly now without a J-frame version). The Classic line provides the nostalgic user with a newly manufactured version of certain Smith & Wesson revolvers of old. It also provides new users with handguns that are ready to use in the field, in the home, on the range or on the street.

At first glance, the new Classic 19 looks almost like an exact copy of the original Model 19. For some unexplained reason, Smith & Wesson gave the new Model 19 a 4.25-inch barrel instead of the original 4-inch barrel. All other Classic models have the old, standard 4-inch length. While an extra quarter-inch does not profoundly change the balance of the new version, it does alter the appearance to those who were used to the original.

One thing that confuses me a bit about the Classic line is the inclusion of the frame-mounted safety lock, for which two keys are included. The lock is located just above the cylinder latch release and does not interfere with daily operation. While it is optional on other current-production Smith & Wesson revolvers, it appears on all the Classics without an option to select one without it.

There are three other modern updates that do not interfere with the appearance of the Classic 19. The first is the use of the now-standard Smith & Wesson frame-mounted firing pin. The frame-mounted pin is less problematic than the original hammer-mounted version. I once knew a police officer who wandered around for a couple of weeks after annual qualification, not noticing that her hammer-mounted firing pin had fallen out, making her gun inoperable. While this is the only case of losing a hammer-mounted firing pin that I personally know of, it did happen.

The second mechanical change is internal. In all older Smith & Wesson revolvers, the cylinders were latched at the rear of the frame and at the end of the cylinder ejector rod. On the new Classic 19, the ejector rod is free-standing and is projected by the under-barrel shroud. The forward detent latch has been moved to the actual frame of the Classic 19 and locks up more solidly into the cylinder yoke itself. I did not notice the difference until I actually opened the cylinder up.

The third mechanical change is now standard on all Smith & Wesson revolvers, and that is the use of a sleeved (rather than solid), one-piece barrel. This actually gives a better and more accurate barrel fit and is easier to manufacture. It is noticeable only at the muzzle.

The Patridge-style sights have an orange insert up front and a plain, adjustable rear. While the sights on my first Model 19 were plain black, later versions of the Model 19 transitioned to the orange style along with other revolvers in their lineup.

The new walnut grips are beauties and are much more comfortable than the original oversized, trumpet-shaped Goncalo Alves “Magnum” grips of the late ’70s and ’80s. The new grips are much more ergonomic and far less obtrusive. The trigger and hammer are color-case-hardened, and the trigger face is smooth.

I found an old holster for my original 19 that fit the Classic 19 like a glove. It was an old Roy’s Leather Goods #10 belt-slide holster with a thumb break and an open bottom. The #10 is no longer in production. Like many other holsters of its day, it did not cover the trigger, which was left in the open. However, it held the 19 comfortably for the range test and would work fine under a cover garment.

I tested the Classic 19 six-shooter using two different loads from DoubleTap Ammuntion’s Tactical line. The first was its .38 Special +P round loaded with a Barnes TAC-XP copper hollow-point loaded to 1250 feet per second from a 4-inch barrel, which delivers a solid 382 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. The Tactical .357, which is loaded with the same bullet, travels at 1645 feet per second and is a major thumper, delivering 661 foot-pounds and entering into 10mm and .41 Magnum territory. With a solid torso hit, the Tactical .357 Magnum is undoubtedly a one-shot stopper — and I don’t say that about many handgun loads.

I shot the Classic 19 right out of the box without additional lubrication. While the trigger did not match the phenomenal trigger on my original 19, it was quite good and will smooth out with use and lubricant. It was very easy to point the gun. The single-action pull was very crisp and made for tight groups at 30 feet quite easily — especially with the .38 Special ammo.

In a 36-ounce gun, even a hot .38 such as the DoubleTap load is low-recoiling and pleasant to shoot. When I stepped up to the incredibly hot DoubleTap .357, the recoil was more substantial and opened up the groups a bit. While the recoil was not uncontrollable, my middle finger kept getting rapped by the trigger guard. I even fired a full cylinder from a one-handed combat stance with rapid fire at about 15 feet and kept all six magnum rounds in the center of the target. If I were going to keep the Classic 19 loaded with the DoubleTap .357s, I would likely change to some aftermarket rubber grips to help cushion things. If I wanted to make the Classic 19 a bit more concealable, I would load down to the still-substantial DoubleTap .38s and switch to either a pair of Crimson Trace Lasergrips or a set of standard Smith round-butt grips with a Tyler T-Grip adaptor.

The Classic 19 offers a departure from standard carry fare. I have sometimes carried a Model 19 on the trail due to the substantial punch it carries. Load up some 158-grain .357 ammo, and you have a credible bear defender. For concealed carry, it is no larger than a 1911, but is far more versatile, and the MSRP is only $826.

Smith & Wesson has, in fact, gotten me back home (at least to my driveway), and with the Classic 19, that is close enough.

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