Some 42 years ago, my first off-duty handgun was a 2.5-inch Model 19 Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum revolver. It had a beautiful, blued finish and slim, checkered walnut service grips. The profile of the shrouded barrel was very distinctive and attention-getting from the wrong end. Balance was superb. It was a natural “pointer” and easy to shoot when loaded with .38 Special +P ammo due to its 33-ounce weight. However, when shooting 125-grain .357 Magnum ammo, things became … spectacular.
Two factors caused the spectacular effects when firing that 2.5-inch Model 19. First, the walnut service grips weren’t hand-filling, making it hard to control Magnum loads. The second factor was the magnificent flash of that era’s Magnum loads, especially in low light. Its flash was often described by Model 19 users of the day as a “flamethrower.” Seriously, if you touched one off in the dark, your night vision would be gone. But the flame did clearly outline the sights during each firing. Modern flash retarded powder is a great improvement. There was one weak point to all Model 19s of that era. They weren’t up to a constant pounding by .357 Magnum ammo due to the metallurgy of the day. So most rounds fired through them were .38 Specials. The new version can easily handle standard .357s.
The New Carry Comp
The new 2.5-inch Performance Carry Comp is a more accurately rendered retro version of the aforementioned original 2.5-inch Model 19. The first Carry Comp features a 3-inch barrel and is still available. However, the 2.5-inch shrouded barrel made the original what it was. There must have been a large demand for the original length to regain that perfect balance. The new Carry Comp successfully recreates that old-school feel. I also noticed the cylinder lock-up on the Carry Comp was bank-vault tight. That wasn’t true of previous generations of S&W K-frame revolvers.
The new Carry Comp is visually impressive. It comes with beautifully checkered, hand-filling finger-groove walnut grips. The outward beauty of handguns has taken a back seat to raw efficiency in the 21st century. But a handgun like the Carry Comp reminds us there is sometimes more to handgunning than tactical plastic. A set of rubber synthetic grips is included should you want to switch out the walnut grips.
Here are the main features of the 2.5-inch Model 19 Carry Comp:
Weight: 33 ounces
Capacity: 6 rounds .38 Special standard velocity or +P/.357 Magnum
Length: 7.5 inches
Barrel: Stainless steel, 3 inches
Cylinder and Frame: Carbon steel with matte blue finish
Action: Single-/double-action with color case hardened trigger and hammer
Sights: Tritium front night sight/plain black adjustable target rear
Barrel: Power port vented for recoil management
Trigger: Overtravel stop/performance center tuned smooth trigger face
Double-action pull 10.1 pounds
Single-action pull 4 pounds, 11 ounces
S&W Model 19 at the Range
The stars were all in alignment for my test of the Carry Comp. It just so happened that I was assisting in handgun qualification at my former agency yesterday. Since I had a new test gun, I decided to run through my “retired” qualification course with the Carry Comp and full-power .357 Magnum loads. The .357 Magnum loads I selected were the excellent SIG Elite V-Crown load. From a 4-inch barrel, these deliver 1,450 feet per second muzzle velocity and 583 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. It is a hard-hitting round even out of a 2.5-inch barrel.
It was a beautiful, sunny fall day. The State of Ohio 25-Round Qualification Course begins with a three-shot string fired from the hip with one hand. As soon as I touched off the first round, I realized the Power Port Vent, combined with 33 ounces of weight, works as advertised. The recoil was noticeable but not painful, with no flamethrower blast (unlike the 80’s Magnum loads). The sights were perfect and dead on at all distances. And the front sight’s tritium dot gave a perfect point of focus even in the bright sunlight.
Twenty-five rounds later, I passed with a perfect score and a tight grouping from all distances out to 50 feet. The Carry Comp ran flawlessly, with easy ejection of the empty cases. However, if I decided to purchase this gun, I would feel no reason to shoot it with .38 Special ammo other than when having a new shooter try it out. It was that pleasant of an experience. While the Model 19 Carry Comp may only carry six rounds of .357 ammo, they all hit with authority. Everything taken together, the Model 19 Carry Comp makes a superb concealed carry and home-defense piece, as well as an ideal trail gun that’s fun to shoot.
MSRP of the Model 19 2.5-inch .357 is a reasonable $1,132.