Smith & Wesson has offered good-quality revolvers for more than 150 years. Beginning with the No. 1 .22 Short revolver and advancing to modern Magnums, those needing a credible defensive handgun have relied on Smith & Wesson. Beginning with the Model 39 9mm, S&W enjoyed real success with well-made and capable self-loading handguns. Let’s look at some of the best choices in defensive handguns from this maker.

J-Frame Revolvers from Smith & Wesson

Smith & Wesson’s modern J-frame dates back to the original Hand Ejector, which evolved into the Chief’s Special about 70 years ago. This lightweight revolver is a five-shot .38 Special with a 1 7/8-inch barrel and double-action trigger. The best of the breed are the concealed hammer revolvers. The frame covers the hammer, resulting in a snag-free package. The grip design limits the effect of recoil and makes for a great handling design. Lightweight, reliable and useful, these are superb close-range handguns. Revolvers won’t jam should it need to be fired against an attacker’s body. These handguns demand practice but are more accurate than most would think.

Top to bottom: Smith & Wesson J-, L- and K-frame revolvers.

Among the most highly developed small revolvers are the Smith & Wesson 640 Pro Series. These are powerful .357 Magnum revolvers with a relatively heavy barrel, good sights and well-designed grips. Considerably heavier than the aluminum-frame 642 revolvers, these steel-frame revolvers are useful life savers. For those preferring the revolver for home defense, Smith & Wesson offers quality K- and L-frame Magnums. The L-frame revolvers feature a seven-shot option. These revolvers have excellent sights and smooth actions. They are chambered in .38 Special and .357 Magnum.

S&W 640 Specs

Capacity: 5
Caliber: .357 Magnum
Width: 1.3 inches
Length: 6.63 inches
Barrel length: 2.13 inches
Weight: 22.4 ounces
MSRP: $939

Military and Police Models

In one frame size, S&W offers 9mm and .40. S&W chambers .45 ACP and 10mm in another of the modern, polymer-framed, striker-fired frame sizes. Full-sized compact and subcompact offerings make for reliable service and concealed carry pistols. One example I have extensive experience with is the M&P 10mm 2.0. It is a powerful and accurate. Plus it offers 16 rounds of ammunition, making it a great all-around outdoors handgun for defense against dangerous animals. The 9mm version is easily the most popular Military and Police handgun.

S&W recently added the Military & Police 2.0 Metal, a 9mm with an aluminum frame. Designed to improve the natural point of aim and lower recoil, this handgun is an option for many. However, it does come with added weight and expense. These handguns offer plenty of options and have a proven track record.

It is difficult to imagine a more formidable handgun than the M&P 2.0 10mm.

S&W M&P9 M2.0 Metal Specs

Capacity: 17
Caliber: 9mm
Width: 1.3 inches

Length: 7.4 inches
Barrel length: 4.25 inches
Weight: 30 ounces
MSRP: $899

Smith & Wesson Shield

The Shield is a lightweight handgun often offered at a very attractive price. The original slimline 9mm has been discontinued. However, S&W now has the Shield Plus, a 20.2-ounce polymer-frame handgun with a 13-cartridge capacity magazine. The marvels of modern polymer design allow the Shield to be upgraded with a high-capacity magazine without uncomfortably bulking up the grip.

The Shield Plus offers improvement in tactical ability on a proven platform. Smith & Wesson also overs an improved flat trigger on the Shield Plus. For most shooters, this is the best combination of affordability and shootability in S&W’s lineup.

M&P 9 Shield Plus Specs

Capacity: 10,13
Caliber: 9mm
Width: 1.1 inches
Length: 6.1 inches
Barrel length: 3.1 inches
Weight: 17.9 ounces
MSRP: $499


This is a lightweight handgun. Some shooters prefer a single-action compact handgun. This 12-shot, aluminum-frame 9mm offers a compact platform superior to many slimline single-action 9mm pistols.

The CSX may be loaded with the safety on. While most shooters carrying the pistol in a proper holster will carry the CSX cocked and locked — hammer to the rear and safety on — the pistol is light enough and leverage sufficient enough to carry it hammer down in pocket carry. This is a specialist handgun in some ways. Those carrying a full-sized 1911 will find the CSX an effective back up carry.

S&W CSX Specs

Capacity: 10, 12
Caliber: 9mm
Width: 1.12 inches
Length: 6.1 inches
Barrel length: 3.1 inches
Weight: 19.5 ounces
MSRP: $609

S&W EZ M2.0 EZ Rack

The EZ rack was originally offered in .380 ACP and is now available in 9mm and .30 Super Carry. This pistol is an ideal size for most shooters. The trigger is single-action. And the hammer is hidden by the slide. S&W’s EZ features a grip safety that prevents the pistol from firing unless it is fully depressed. I prefer the option with a manual safety.

Sights are well-designed for most chores. The EZ has a good trigger action and has proven reliable. Like all modern Smith & Wesson self-loading handguns, the EZ Rack is easily field-stripped and maintained. This is an ideal handgun for experienced shooters or the novice alike.

EZ 30 Super Specs

Capacity: 10
Caliber: .30 Super Carry
Width: 1.04 inches
Length: 6.8 inches
Barrel length: 3.68 inches
Weight: 23.6 ounces
MSRP: $521

The Equalizer 9mm Handgun from Smith & Wesson

The Equalizer’s features make it an attractive defensive handgun.

The Equalizer 9mm is a highly developed version of the EZ Rack. It is also easily loaded, unloaded and handled. This is a good shooter. The slide is redesigned with considerably improved forward cocking serrations, making the Equalizer even easier to handle. Smith & Wesson’s Equalizer is also a single-action handgun with a manual safety optional and a grip safety in all versions.

The grip frame is actually shorter than the original EZ. By use of efficient polymer engineering, the Equalizer fits a 10-round flush-fit magazine into the grip frame. Extended 13- and 15-round magazines are included. That’s a total of three magazines in the factory box, along with a very well-designed magazine loader. With the flush-fit 10-round magazine, the Equalizer offers the advantage of holding more ammunition while offering a shorter grip for easier concealment. The grip isn’t wider than the original. And the extended magazines present a considerable ammunition reserve. While advanced, the Equalizer is also affordable. This pistol is among the best designs for concealed carry currently available.

Equalizer Specs

Capacity: 10, 13, 15
Caliber: 9mm
Width: 1.04 inches
Length: 6.75 inches
Barrel length: 3.675 inches
Weight: 22.9 ounces
MSRP: $599

Smith & Wesson handguns offer real efficiency, reliability and practical accuracy. Each fits its role well and will serve well in the hands of trained shooters.