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Old 11-30-2011, 12:40 PM
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Default The use of MIM parts - S&W's explanation

I originally found this post elsewhere, and later discovered it's already here on the S&W forum. Please see the FAQ's: http://smith-wessonforum.com/s-w-smithing/94072-faqs.html#post1029055 for the 'original' letter.


****

I found this of interest.




I have read with much interest the many comments in this [Smith and Wesson] forum pertaining to MIM, MIM Parts and the use of same in a S&W product. So far I have come away with several impressions and they are, "people in general don't like/trust MIM parts", and, "no one has said why." I will take a stab at this issue and see where it goes.

As background to our decision to use MIM in some areas of our Mfg Process we took a long hard look at our "Life Time Service Policy". It was clear to us that any change in any of our products such as the use of MIM components had to show equivalent or better performance and durability to those components that were being replaced or the "Lifetime Service" would haunt us forever. The second consideration was to determine if the change was too radical a departure from S&W mainstream design.

For the performance and durability issues we decided that if MIM could be used for the fabrication of revolver hammers and triggers successfully this would truly be an "Acid Test". There is nothing more important to a revolvers feel than the all-important Single Action that is established between the hammer and the trigger. Mechanically few places in a revolver work harder than at the point where the hammer and trigger bear against each other. If these surfaces wear or lose their edge the "feel" is lost. Initial testing was on these two critical parts.

Over time we arrived at a point where our best shooters could not tell the difference between a revolver with the old-style hammer and trigger and the new MIM components. Special attention was given to their endurance when used in our very light magnum J-frames such as the early prototype 340 & 360 Sc's. None of our revolvers work their components harder than these small magnum revolvers. Throughout this testing MIM held strong and finally we determined that this change judged on the basis of durability and feel was a good one.

The second area of concern to S&W was our customer’s reaction to this departure from the traditional. Many heated, intense discussions resulted but in the end the decision was made to move ahead with MIM. The issue of cost was only one of the considerations in making this decision. Equally as important was the issue of part-to-part uniformity and the result of this of course is revolver-to-revolver consistency. We found that revolvers that used MIM hammers and triggers required almost no fitter intervention in those areas during final assembly and final inspection and trigger-pull monitor rejection rates dropped markedly on finished guns. From an internal process point of view it appeared a "Winner".

Let's shift gears for a moment and talk about the MIM process. It is unclear to me as to the reason for many of the negative feelings on the forum concerning MIM. Typically when people complain and aren't specific in the reason why, the problem is often created by a departure from the "Traditional". Perhaps that is indeed what is bothering some people when they view MIM.

The term MIM stands for Metal Injection Molding. It holds some similarities to Plastic Injection Molding and many differences as well. To start we would take a finally divided metal powder. This could be stainless or carbon steel. Today even titanium is being used in some MIM fabrications. We would mix the metal powder and a thermoplastic binder (generally a wax) forming slurry of sorts when heated and inject this mix into a precision mold and finally form what is known as a “green part". This part is roughly 30% larger than the finished part it will become at the end of the process. Interestingly enough the green part at this stage can be snapped in two with simple finger pressure. The green parts are then placed in a sintering furnace filled with dry hydrogen gas and the temperature is brought almost to the melting point of the metal being used. Over time the wax in the green part is evaporated, the metal fuses and the part shrinks 30% to it's final correct dimensions. At this stage of the process the MIM part has developed 98 to 99%of the density of the older wrought materials and a metallurgy that is almost identical. Dimensionally it is finished and no machining is required. However the job is not yet done and the MIM parts are brought to our heat treat facility for hardening and in the case of hammers and triggers, case hardening. Depending on the particular metal alloy that was used at the start of the process we apply a heat treat process that is the same as would be used if the material were the older wrought style. Final hardness, case thickness and core hardness are for the most part identical to parts manufactured the older way.

Lets look for a moment at how we achieve dimensional precision when comparing these 2 processes. The old parts were each machined from either bar stock or a forging. Each cut and every resulting dimension was subject to machine variations, cutter wear, operator variations etc. If every operation was done exactly right each and every time and the cutter didn't let you down you would have produced a good part but sometimes this didn’t happen, resulting in a rejected gun and rework or in the worst case an unhappy customer. With MIM parts you must still machine to very high tolerances and your cutters have to be perfect and your machinist has to be highly qualified but all of this only has to come together one time. That time is when the injection mold is made. Typically a mold for this process costs S&W between $30,000.00 and $50,000.00; once it is perfect every part it makes mirrors this perfection and you have, in my view, a wonderful manufacturing process.

Hopefully this description will help us all better understand the MIM process. Please forgive the spelling errors and misplaced punctuation. I have no spell checker on this and the phone continues to ring!

Have a Great Weekend,

Herb [Belin,
Project Manager, Smith & Wesson]


Additional Point:

Currently S&W is paying about $1.20/Lb for stainless steel bar stock. Raw MIM stainless steel inject able material costs $10.00/Lb.

****

Last edited by Flipside; 12-01-2011 at 07:34 PM. Reason: link changed to the FAQ's
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Old 11-30-2011, 01:24 PM
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I care less about the MIM situation than I do the use of the new rifling and the ILS. MIM may be ugly but it works. It would have been nice if the move to MIM had lowered cost across the board, but I bet the "Life Time Service Policy" eats that cost offset right off the bottom line. I would still much rather see a one to three year defect coverage type policy in effect. If EDM can't make sharp cut rifling then I feel it needs to become a model specific option, not the new stadard. I hate that my my 637 leads with the same ammo that my 36 gobbles up. And I'm doing my best to avoid the ILS dead horse beating, but I will say that the added bulk from the internal firing pin frame mod on the K frame was bad enough. The now added bulk to the bulk to make way for the ILS's inner workings makes the K frames look strange when set side by side with the originals. And if they don't want to make any more K frame magnums because they don't want to replace the flat spot milled barrels then why don't they at least offer the two part barrels in the 66's??? I just think they feed us whatever hoopla talk they want and sell what they can make the cheapest that still works "good enough" to keep their bottom line padded enough for their financial desires. Sorry, rant over.

Oh and: "Raw MIM stainless steel inject able material costs $10.00/Lb" but I bet that still costs a lot less in the fitting department and thus: "revolvers that used MIM hammers and triggers required almost no fitter intervention in those areas during final assembly and final inspection and trigger-pull monitor rejection rates dropped markedly on finished guns" so sure they pay more up front for material but they fired all the gunsmiths... Now you get a puzzle piece kit gun that requires no smith to put together which brings up the various threads on why is the milling getting so spotty and the fit getting ill, barrels getting set to tight in frames and not being on straight... Guess I needed another ounce of rant, again... Sorry.

Last edited by Maximumbob54; 11-30-2011 at 01:28 PM. Reason: Sorry...
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Old 11-30-2011, 01:35 PM
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they feel like they don't get any fitter attention too.i haven't bought any smith mim guns and will not. they really only want to make plastic guns anyway. look at the "improvements" that were made to the walther ppk andppks. took a gun that has worked for almost 70yrs and "fixed it" so now they have recalls and guns that won't feed and eject.
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Old 11-30-2011, 01:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by perrazi View Post
they feel like they don't get any fitter attention too.i haven't bought any smith mim guns and will not. they really only want to make plastic guns anyway. look at the "improvements" that were made to the walther ppk andppks. took a gun that has worked for almost 70yrs and "fixed it" so now they have recalls and guns that won't feed and eject.
Sir, I apologize for not hearing that they only want to make plastic guns, do you have a cite or reference that shows that?
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Old 11-30-2011, 03:06 PM
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Flipside: Thanks for that post. I learned quite a lot.
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Old 11-30-2011, 03:15 PM
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I know Herb and believe me, nobody is more passionate about manufacturing and delivering an heirloom quality handgun than he is.

/c
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Old 11-30-2011, 03:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chuck Jones View Post
I know Herb and believe me, nobody is more passionate about manufacturing and delivering an heirloom quality handgun than he is.

/c
NOT trying to annoy You the poster...or denegrate Herb...But Smith can't even produce a proper pair of stocks/grips anymore. The grips on the Classic series guns look like they are a copy of a Dan Wesson grip...certainly not the Target stocks so many of us prefer.

They can't produce a decent copy of the older style grips muuch less an entire gun. PROFIT is the main goal at S&W not Quality or appeasing the extremely small group of Traditionalists here.

FN in MT
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Old 11-30-2011, 03:56 PM
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To some a lock model is junk. To some anything but a pinned, and recessed, model is out of the question. I even had a clown, on another site, say a 3" 66-4 was worthless compared to a 3" 66-2 ONLY, ONLY, ONLY because the -4 has a rounded rear site rather than a squared.
I learned long ago not to argue with the mental midgets. It only gives them the attention they so desperately want/need.
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Old 11-30-2011, 03:59 PM
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Quote:
PROFIT is the main goal at S&W
Well duh! Profit is the main goal of any "for profit" organization.

You can't expect a dog to be anything other than a dog.

Companies will do anything, say anything to make more profit or mitigate loss. That's what capitalism is. That's what free enterprise is. Stockholder are only concerned with their next divident check.
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Old 11-30-2011, 04:03 PM
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Herb, thanks for the post.....I've been OK with the MIM parts, but what I can't abide by is that dad-gum, butt ugly, known to disable a gun, lock.

Can you try and explain how in the world that it "betters" a S&W revolver ?????

Inquiring minds would like to know!!!

Don
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Old 11-30-2011, 04:35 PM
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Great MIM brief, it answered a lot of my concerns. It still won't inspire me to buy a newer S&W revolver. I have one and don't like it much. It shoots well but it has no elegance.
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Old 11-30-2011, 04:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by woodsltc View Post
Herb, thanks for the post.....I've been OK with the MIM parts, but what I can't abide by is that dad-gum, butt ugly, known to disable a gun, lock.

Can you try and explain how in the world that it "betters" a S&W revolver ?????

Inquiring minds would like to know!!!

Don
Don,

I'm only the messenger... Herb posted in another forum (see the hyper link in the OP); don't know if he's a member here.

Flipside
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Old 11-30-2011, 05:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Flipside View Post
Don,

I'm only the messenger... Herb posted in another forum (see the hyper link in the OP); don't know if he's a member here.

Flipside
Flipside, thanks for the clarification....hopefully, Herb is a member here and will respond.

Don
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Old 11-30-2011, 06:40 PM
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Are '67 and '12 Camaro's both awesome cars? I think yes. Is one indubitably better than the other?? Well, that's a matter of prospective/personal preference.

Interesting explanation.
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Old 11-30-2011, 06:57 PM
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As soon as S+W finds even a cheaper way to make parts and they will we all will look back and wish they still used MIM parts. It's sad. You just can't beat the older guns. But that's just me. I do own a 642-2 nice gun I like it. But when I put it next to my 29-2 my god what difference. From fit and finish to the grips.
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Old 11-30-2011, 07:45 PM
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I think that is a very old post. I think I saw it on this forum years ago. Just an observation.

dogdoc
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Old 11-30-2011, 08:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slabside2 View Post
As soon as S+W finds even a cheaper way to make parts and they will we all will look back and wish they still used MIM parts. It's sad. You just can't beat the older guns. But that's just me. I do own a 642-2 nice gun I like it. But when I put it next to my 29-2 my god what difference. From fit and finish to the grips.
S&W doesn't exist in a vacuum. They can't just do things nilly willy without regard to market conditions. Making the profit is the easy part. It's the mitigating damage that's the hard part. S&W has competition from all sides. For instance, they just can't make a decison to stop rifling barrels. Who'd want to buy their guns with the competition still making rifled barrels. S&W doesn't have the warranty they have just out of the kindness of their heart. They do it because of the competition. Heck, Ruger doesn't even have a written warranty. They just make some claim to take care of their customers. It's apparent S&W's philosophy is not to compete with their past, it's to compete with what other gun manufacturers are making today.
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Old 11-30-2011, 09:13 PM
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I can't wait until we can 3D copy with steel instead of just tiny plastic beads. Maybe then I can have a brand new Model 28. We have to be getting close.
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Old 11-30-2011, 10:26 PM
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I may be out of line and I do not want to offend anyone but there are other gun makers and if you do not like what S&W is building buy some other brand. I am not trying to oversimplify it but why just complain about something you can not change. Life is too short to worry about something you do not need to be involved with. I am sorry if you are disappointed with the direction S&W has gone with but what are we accomplishing by kicking a dead horse. Buy an old gun, have it brought to the level you want and enjoy your life.
Be safe, Frank.

Last edited by Helderberg; 12-02-2011 at 11:10 PM.
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Old 12-01-2011, 02:42 AM
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As usual when this much-repeated quote comes up again, it doesn't address the entire picture.
The MIM material itself may cost more, but the savings in PEOPLE costs to make the guns with MIMs is why they're used.
No longer skilled craftsmen building fine guns, nowdays they have assemblers dropping in parts.

Believe me, S&W did not go to MIMs because they're better, they went with them because MIMs reduce overall manufacturing costs.
And, S&W isn't the only maker doing it for that reason.
Denis
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Old 12-01-2011, 04:04 AM
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Back in the old days materials were expensive and skilled labor was cheap, products were designed to be manufactured with those parameters to be profitable.

Over the years that equation changed and labor became more expensive than materials, so manufacturing has changed to maintain profitability.

You may not like the changes in methods and materials, but there's no way you can tell me an S&W manufactured today isn't as good or better than one made 60 years ago.

Today J frames are made in .357 magnum for God's sake, that's the direct result of improvements in materials and tolerances. Who would have ever dreamed it was possible to build a durable gun that size and caliber 25 years ago?

Tolerances are so tightly held using modern techniques and materials guns don't beat themselves apart anymore, frame stretch and endshake are things of the past. There is no need for a fitting department, almost no "bad parts" that fail inspections.

S&W used to employ literally hundreds of fitters to match parts, benches were littered with files, stones, and hammers. Today a handful of people can assemble all the guns without fitting, because any hammer, hand and cylinder will fit any frame, first time every time.

Tolerances are so tightly held that revolvers shoot much more consistently from gun to gun. Out of the box accuracy is much better than it used to be, as is trigger feel. The enormous range of variation we all used to live with is greatly diminished. Repairs are easier.

And Herb is also probably the only reason the Model 41 is still in production. Because there really isn't a way to make that same gun with modern methods and manufacturing.

Times change and S&W has to change with them, but objectively speaking I don't think it's fair or accurate to say that current guns lack quality and don't shoot as well or better than guns made before CNC or MIM.

/c
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Old 12-01-2011, 07:40 AM
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I know a large number of S&W collectors and shooters on this forum will never, ever give a nickel for the modern S&W revolvers. Nothing will change their minds which is too bad because many of the MIM guns really shoot.

The 22-4 TR .45 ACP revolver I have has one of the best trigger actions of any S&W I've handled. The gun shoots 230 grain into tiny groups easily and it is finished to a high standard. I can't find fault with my 67-6 either. Its trigger is on par with the best of my older K frames and that two piece barrel has delivered spectacular accuracy. Internal locks and all, I will gladly use either to defend myself or family if necessary and feel very well armed.

I'm glad that S&W has found a way to keep producing quality USA made firearms at semi-reasonable prices. They could have gone the way of Colt.
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Old 12-01-2011, 07:58 AM
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Have a look. This link is to part one of five. The other four segments are available on YouTube, and you'll see links to them when this first segment ends.

Smith & Wesson Performance Center Part 1 - YouTube
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Old 12-01-2011, 08:12 AM
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Default Sometimes we have to adapt to change

Like it or not.

I bought my first new Smith, a 638 back several months ago.
Why?

My LGS was selling them for $359. And the lifetime warranty.

I needed a lightweight, dependable carry gun. It replaced a void left when I sold my 49 many years ago. I couldn't bring myself to throw a older Bodyguard around and carry it everyday in the way that I do.

I shot 500 rounds of +P's before this gun went on my side and it never hiccuped. Not once. No lock malfunction. No FTF.
Good DA trigger. Extracts just fine. Works for me.

I dislike the lock. I don't use it. But I don't let it get in the way of having the right tool for the job it's asked to perform.

And best of all I have peace of mind when it's on me or my wife.

I will replace that nickle 49 I loved so much someday. And I may even carry it once in awhile for old times sake. And it will make me smile...I am sure of that.

We love our old Smiths. And it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks as they say.
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Old 12-01-2011, 01:12 PM
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Regarding the cost difference, keep in mind that with the MIM material there is probably very little to zero loss, since it's injected.

The bar stock has to be milled down - I would guess a significant portion of bar stock is wasted when parts are milled.
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Old 12-01-2011, 01:30 PM
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Oh, Chuck, where to begin.....?
I can tell you today's Smiths aren't as good as those made 60 years ago. Watch, I'll do it:

Over-torqued barrels/canted sights, internal bore constriction from same, rifling that doesn't like lead, engraved (not rubbed, ENGRAVED) drag lines, stiffer DA actions/trigger pulls, shorter firing pins, poorly fitting grips, locks that DO malfunction on occasion, out-of-spec forcing cones, mismatched front sights on fixed sight guns, and so on. Not even mentioning the MIMs that many dislike & some people at Smith & Wesson also feels are not up to the quality of the older forged parts.

They're not all junk, far from it, but they are NOT what they used to be.
MIMs & CNC can involve improvement in certain areas, but.....

Sorry, couldn't let that one go unchallenged.
Denis
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Old 12-01-2011, 05:52 PM
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I try to defend the new S&W's, I own several of the MIM and IL revolvers, I'm using a 64-7 for CC right now. I was told over and over by "gun gurus" at gun shows and stores that new S&W's are "junk" and I decided to find out for myself........and the new guns are just fine.

My most recent S&W purchase is a 66-7 I got last week, complete with the 2-piece barrel, and the gun is top notch.

Love them or hate them, the new S&W's are perfectly fine and MIM or IL's aren't going away. If you don't like MIM or IL's there's still plenty of used older S&W's on the market.
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Old 12-01-2011, 06:04 PM
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i totally agree with all who like the new guns. please buy lots of them and leave the older ones for those of us who wouldn't have one of the new ones. and for the poster yesterday who asked for a reference as to the plastic guns, i don't have one and don't need one. i don't buy plastic guns either. i have my opinion and you are welcome to yours.
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Old 12-01-2011, 08:30 PM
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Speaking of older guns.....

Whilst picking up an AR I'd left at my gunsmith's for work this afternoon, I noticed a nice Colt Official Police under glass, probably from the 1960s, that was in surprisingly good shape. Turned out to be a PD trade-in, it was never issued. Aside from a couple minor dings & an inventory number scratched on the frame, apparently unfired.

In the middle of dickering on that one, his partner piped up with "Have you shown him the Smith yet?"

Smith? What Smith?

"Well, I have a pre-Model 27 in the vault."
Say what? Pre-27?
"I had to send it back to the factory to be re-finished, the insides were great and it hadn't been fired much at all, but the outside needed help."

I've carried Smiths at work, I've fired a few here & there over the years, I own one or two (or more ), occasionally use one as a pocket gun, and I have a brand new 686 here in the office.
Five years ago I bought an unfired Model 28 in its box from this same gunsmith. A couple years ago I bought a full factory re-finished Model 29 from him.
The 28 remains unfired, the 29 was fired sparingly, it is one beautiful Smith and shows quite clearly the company can do a magnificent restoration.

When the pre-27 came out of the vault, I was gabberflasted.
Again, a beautiful restoration by S&W (if you're hesitating over sending an older Smith back for the same treatment, don't), but the quality of the gun was outstanding and a testiment to the true craftsmen that built it in 1952.
The cylinder locked up as tight as any Colt DA revolver I've ever handled, and if you're familiar with the old Colt V-spring action you know what I'm talking about.
It makes the right noises at the right times, carryup is perfect, everything lines up straight on it, machining is near flawless, and it's a tribute to S&W in its prime.

No collector value with the re-finish, but the gun's a throwback to days when skilled labor turned out a gun to be proud of. Aside from the original grips that show carry wear, it's just like a brand new revolver that I could have walked out of the local hardware store with in 1952, IF I could have walked in 1952 (I was still crawling at the time).

Today's economics will never allow such a gun to be made again, and all of the gunmakers have to build to a price & quality level that will sell product and remain competitive. S&W is not alone in that respect, I think most of us understand that, but it doesn't mean we have to be happy about changing times.

Ruger has been inching MIMs into their products for several years, Colt had to drop their DA revolvers completely because they were not competitive, and the other major revolver presence, Taurus, wasn't even around in the Good Ol' Days, but still owns a good market share with an extensive line that also includes MIMs. They got where they are because they used technology that permitted serviceable guns at affordable prices.

MIM technology is undeniably here to stay, and it does work.

But, better today than 60 years ago?
As Big Jake once said- "Not hardly!"
And I now owe my gunsmith for two more revolvers I had not planned to buy this year.

Denis
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Old 12-01-2011, 08:38 PM
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i totally agree with all who like the new guns. please buy lots of them and leave the older ones for those of us who wouldn't have one of the new ones. and for the poster yesterday who asked for a reference as to the plastic guns, i don't have one and don't need one. i don't buy plastic guns either. i have my opinion and you are welcome to yours.
We are a diverse group. I have more Smiths than anything else but if I could have only one handgun, make a it a Glock . Most reliable,simple design out there. No safety or locks to get in your way. Plenty of rounds in the mag and they always go bang when you pull the trigger. Shoot them until you can shoot no more and they beg for more. The alter of the Glock!

dogdoc
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Old 12-02-2011, 08:13 AM
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I would rather see MIM and IL revolvers coming out of S&W than none at all.........look what happened to used Colt revolver prices

I like the fact that I can still go to my local dealer and order a 64-7, 10-14, 686+, Model 27 "Classic", etc. If some choose not to buy these, that's fine. S&W sells enough new revolvers that they can keep adding new ones to the catalog.

As for plastic semi-auto pistols, love them or hate them 99% of the LE Agencies in the country use them. The M&P has captured a serious portion of the market.
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Old 12-02-2011, 11:57 AM
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Oh, Chuck, where to begin.....?
I can tell you today's Smiths aren't as good as those made 60 years ago. Watch, I'll do it:

Over-torqued barrels/canted sights, internal bore constriction from same, rifling that doesn't like lead, engraved (not rubbed, ENGRAVED) drag lines, stiffer DA actions/trigger pulls, shorter firing pins, poorly fitting grips, locks that DO malfunction on occasion, out-of-spec forcing cones, mismatched front sights on fixed sight guns, and so on. Not even mentioning the MIMs that many dislike & some people at Smith & Wesson also feels are not up to the quality of the older forged parts.

They're not all junk, far from it, but they are NOT what they used to be.
MIMs & CNC can involve improvement in certain areas, but.....

Sorry, couldn't let that one go unchallenged.
Denis
Denis,

Not wanting to be contrary but in regard to some of the points you raise:

1) Canted sights are not new to Smith & Wesson; in fact, for decades, one of the “repair” techniques for “fixing” a gun that wasn’t shooting to an acceptable point of aim was to place the gun in a simple fixture (or sometime just rest it on the bench top) and wrap it smartly with a lead bar. I think that one can find S&W revolvers from well into the past where the sights weren’t “straight”.

2) Internal bore restrictions: the mismatching of “out of tolerance barrels” (oversize) to “out of tolerance frames” (undersize) was not unheard decades ago. This kind of thing can lead to undersized internal diameters in the barrel and cracks in the frame (usually involving alloy frames). While this kind of thing affected other manufacturers to perhaps greater degrees, it is not unknown at Smith (especially the frame cracking). Also very common problem was the overly aggressive roll stamping of the markings on tapered and pencil barrels to the point where bulges could be detected inside the tube.

3) Rifling that doesn’t like lead? How about rifling that in “the old days” was not concentric to the bore (because it and the bore were on different centerlines) so that when observed, the lands and grooves were deep on one “side” and shallow (or worse) on the other?

4) Engraved drag lines? Something else that is not new to Smith & Wesson. Older guns that were shot a lot (remember that the bulk of the guns that have been sold over the years have not been shot a lot) are routinely seen with everything from no to light traces in the bluing to what almost amounts to grooves in the metal. Furthermore, the bolt notches (which could vary a lot from notch to notch in a single cylinder let alone from gun to gun) can also be seen, at certain times in the past, to have been misshapen with use; often with a large burr raised along one wall. This was common in the larger “S” & “N” Frames (as were broken stops) in .38 and .357 calibers where it was believed to have been caused by the spinning mass of the heavier cylinder being slammed to halt by the bolt in fast double action firing. It was further believed that the bigger a mismatch between the bolt and the notch to start with, along with a myriad of possible timing issues (common because of the amount of hand-fitting required in those days), could make this worse on this and other frame sizes.

5) Stiffer trigger pulls? By the 70’s, action jobs on new guns were being done not to slick things up but, in many cases, to just to make them tolerable. Much of that was due to burrs and the parts required by the design. But what about the way the guns could drastically vary in this respect from one to the next? Back then, you had “X” number of fitters who all had their own (personally held) idea of what a finished gun should “feel” like. They reported to “Y” number of inspectors who then had their own ideas of what this should be. As such, the results of such handworking were all over the place. To be honest, it wasn’t until the advent of electromechanical trigger pull monitors that the guns could be checked against a truly fixed standard over the entire length of their travel.

6) Shorter firing pins? What about broken firing pins? Ruger moved to frame mounted pins right from the get-go because they knew that Smith. Colt and certainly the lesser companies who used hammer-mounted pins always experienced some degree of breakage. It was a true Achilles Heel in the design for when it broke, the gun became inoperable.

7) Poorly fitted grips? What about butt ugly (sorry, I couldn’t resist) grips? When Goncalo was finally dropped in the 90’s (now twenty years ago), it was because the figuring had become so poor that some grips were almost a solid and not very pleasant color.

8) Out of spec forcing cone? Internal angle variances, angles that didn’t always relate well to the bullets being used, surface finishes that got to the point thirty and forty years ago that many people routinely had them cleaned up after purchase, throat diameters that weren’t as accommodating of the chambers they lined up with, and rear facing surfaces (those that created the B/C gaps from gun to gun) often resulted in B/C gaps that were not at all what they should have been, were all very common issues across the line. And then there is the singular matter of the K-Frame cones where from the 50’s onward, they saw all kinds of problems in the magnum versions of these guns.

9) And when it comes to “Magnums” in general, as I said before, the factory couldn’t even entertain .357 J-Frames until recent years and .44 magnums that were shot a lot (this was generally not a phenomenon until the 70’s and 80’s) it became very well known that these guns (whose design as a .44 Magnum reaches back into the 50’s and in other calibers much, much further) did not hold up.

While single examples of some guns (like the .357 Magnum you mention in another post) can be beautiful works of art, Smith made relatively component-heavy machines that because of the way the parts were made, required (in many cases) the hand-fitting you admire not because it was a neat thing to do but because it was often the only way to make them work! A perfect example of that is from the pistol side of the line where as late as the 1980’s there were three different 9mm extractor options plus a semi-finished one that could be made into anything else that was needed to make the gun work.

Yes, the pre-war and some of the post-war guns are beautiful but the amount of work they required to be that way was immense. And as the day of paying people little to fit parts perfectly (often resulting in physical harm to themselves – another issue entirely) went away, those guns changed. Or, sadly, corners were cut. And by the 70’s things were on a dangerous downward spiral. Attempting to continue in that direction is why Colt no longer makes revolvers (and was almost “no longer” themelves) for things like that OP you like so much is an even more complex gun than the Smith. Bill Ruger saw this situation in the old line houses and he designed his D/A guns in the 60’s to take him on another path from the start.

S&W finally realized this themselves in the 1990’s and starting then and continuing on into the first decade of this century, they began to apply some of the same finally updated manufacturing techniques they were using on their pistols to their revolvers. And whether or not you like the way they “look” or are constructed, technically, these guns are often far beyond what preceded them and they don’t require an army of skilled and expensive employees to make them that way. It was the right choice for it kept them alive as a company and it kept them in sync with the times. And in many cases, it also resulted in guns of not only equivalent quality but of better performance than seen in the past.

To paraphrase a related Hollywood character:

"A company ought'a do what it thinks is best."

I think that they did.

/c
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Old 12-02-2011, 12:22 PM
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"Well duh! Profit is the main goal of any "for profit" organization."

The bottom line is to make it as cheaply as possible and sale it as high as they figure a person will pay. The heck with the customer the first time around.

This is the main reason why all but one of my guns are twenty years old or older!!
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Old 12-02-2011, 02:21 PM
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It's a trade off, since the new guns are CNC and the MIM parts just drop in..........so it makes maintenance a lot easier and also the guns are more consistent.

I agree with what was said above, fitters had different ideas and techniques.........even today. I have brand new revolvers like my 10-14 that times up very late, as opposed to a 64-7 that has early timing....only because the fitter filed more off of the ratchet legs.
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Old 12-02-2011, 04:06 PM
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Chuck,
As one who went through a Smith armorer's school way back, the bar's called a babbitt, I'm familiar with it, I've owned one Smith & one Ruger that needed it, and it has been around for a long time.
Over-torqued barrels are not entirely a recent phenomenon, with either brand. But, it does seem to be happening much more often on new Smiths than I ever recall it happening several years ago.
Your experiences may be different.

The 686 I have here is over-torqued, the two .44 Special TR Model 21s I had here that were returned to the maker unfired had the same problem, along with the barrel constriction on one, forcing cones that failed a GO/NO NO gauge on both, a gap between the grip panels almost big enough to insert a dime on one, and the engraved drag lines on both.
The problems with the front sight blade height on the first .45 ACP 22s should have been caught at the factory before ever leaving the factory.

That engraved drag line was also present on a new 1917 I had here later on.

The internal bore constriction was also not entirely unknown, but it was the first time I'd ever encountered it. For a while, I was an armorer for my PD and I worked on a bundle of the less expensive 64s that didn't get "premium gun" treatment at the factory, and I've been exposed to numerous Smiths since those days.

Agreed, rifling has not been 100% perfect in every gun S&W put out, but an overwhelming percentage of those guns had no bad rifling.
For those of us today who want to shoot lead, the chances are that, with 100% of the new guns using the new rifling process, 100% of those guns that we can buy new will not shoot lead as well as 99.9% of the older guns did.

The engraved drag lines I've seen on new Smiths came heavily engraved FROM THE FACTORY. It was due to the cylinder stop's sharp edge, an edge that was not there on older guns of my experience.
I have 30-year-old Smiths with a fair amount of wear that have a less pronounced groove engraved in their cylinders than the majority of the new Smith revolvers I've handled did right outa the box.

(In fairness, the new 686 sample I have here does not have that engraved line, due to the more rounded edge of the MIM cylinder stop they're now using, so I guess you could say that's at least one improvement provided by a MIM part. )

I have my old duty 25-5 with the notch burrs, I attribute those to rapid firing, not a cylinder stop, as such.

Stiffer triggers?
When S&W changed the internal geometry of the current actions to meet drop test requirements, the mainspring seat was re-located to provide more spring tension, to drive the shortened firing pin harder.

I consider just about any working revolver a "kit" gun, most of mine have had action work to lighten the triggers, so a discrepancy in trigger pull between makers and even between different models of the same gun is no issue for me. Even among the greatest sampling percentage of a given model the differences between trigger pulls would most likely not be an issue for most buyers, falling within a certain tolerance range.

The current Smiths can be problematical in doing action work, not just a matter of swapping for a lighter mainspring since that may result in light strike misfires. In such cases, replacing the short firing pin with a longer one has a better chance of success.
A new Smith with a quality action job (suitable for defensive use, not just competition) will most likely not be the equal of an older gun with a quality action job.

Broken firing pins have also occurred, but again- With 100% of the new Smith revolvers of K-Frame size & above using a shorter pin, you know you'll get that pin for certain (along with the drop-safe modifications that DO NOT improve the gun), whereas the percentage of broken pins on older models was probably less than 1%.
Even in new un-modified Smith revolvers, there are reports of misfires with some brands of ammunition that I attribute to that short pin. Such problems usually disappear when a longer pin's installed.

Forcing cones? Sure, there have been individual variances. There will ALWAYS be individual variances in a gun; you will still get 'em today, obviously, even with CNC equipment as cutting heads wear and tolerances stack. CNC & MIMs can't eliminate that entirely, and if a number of key areas that still require human QC inspection are ignored, as they were on those two bad 21s, the best automated processes now available along with the most precise MIM molds can't make up for what a skilled craftsman knew, did, checked, and cared about as he built a gun.

K-Frame magnums were never intended for much .357 use, as Jordan himself noted.
The guns developed problems because of the design envelope that the magnum pressures pushed too far. In .38 Special, most of those cones would last indefinitely.
I hardly consider that equal to a cone (or several) cut out-of-spec.
The first is a design issue, the second is a manufacturing issue.

Re the rest, yes, I said I do understand the economic exigencies of the current manufacturing/sales/market situation.
I'm not referring to a design issue, I'm not referring to a small sampling of older errant guns with QC issues, I'm referring to what i'm seeing personally in recent years vs what I've seen personally over 4 decades.
Yes, S&W put out the occasional lemon 50 years ago. Every maker did, has, does & will.
I've had two of Ruger's brand new .22 SP101s with bad cones (since corrected by Ruger), so S&W is hardly alone in the woods there.

But, from the Model 15 that my father carried as his duty revolver in the early 1960s on through my own exposure to military Smiths, police Smiths & my Smiths, I've had one 66 that needed the babbitt, and one 64 that needed a ratchet tooth corrected. The rest were fine; many were beat to hell, but they worked & the basic quality was there.

I've found far more QC annoyances in new Smiths in the past ten years than I did in the 30 years previous, and that tells me something.
In the past, I certainly had a chance of experiencing a failure or QC issue with an older gun, but today it's 100% certain I'll be getting features such as the rifling, the stiffer action, and the lock, if I buy a new Smith revolver above a J-Frame. None of those features do I consider "better" than what S&W was putting out 60 years ago.

On top of which, inspection points that should have been noted were quite obviously ignored in recent guns, and that bugs me more than the materials & design changes.

On the lock- It does activate itself.
Ayoob has documented it, Bane has documented it, it has occurred during a qualifier at a state agency here, and it is not an Internet "fable".
Mostly on J-Frames, yes, but it has been reported on larger frames, too.

On a toy, the lock can be ignored. On a defensive gun, I simply will not bet my life on it. It can be removed, leaving the side hole to plug (do-able), and also leaving a larger space between hammer and frame where the part used to be. That lets gunk in, which is a minor issue for most, but not for me when my guns are exposed to trail dust on an ATV.
Grinding the flag off leaves small parts inside that can still break or disrupt the mechanism when needed.

That lock can be dealt with, but I prefer to just avoid it entirely, and in no possible way can you persuade me that the lock is an improvement over the older lockless guns.

I genuinely do understand why S&W has chosen the route they've taken, and I do understand the need to evolve and survive. It's a tough market, and you either do what it takes to be competitive or you sink.
I have no desire to see such a grand old company name disappear from the firearms scene, and S&W isn't the only maker forced to adapt. Ruger's doing it, Taurus has, Colt has, and others have.
It's undeniably the wave of reality.

This new 686 does have a very tight lockup, no factory-induced drag line, no razor edge on the rear of the trigger to pinch my finger, a very smooth (but heavy) DA trigger, a crisp and repeatable 5.5-pound SA pull, and the overall machining is done well. It's better done than the last new Smiths I've had here.
I've not said they're junk, I've not said nobody should buy them, I just continue to feel that a good S&W sample today is not the equal of a good sample from 60 years back.

I do know why that is, I do understand the difference between the eras, I do not have to be happy about it.
Denis
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Old 09-23-2012, 11:43 AM
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I care less about the MIM situation than I do the use of the new rifling and the ILS. MIM may be ugly but it works. It would have been nice if the move to MIM had lowered cost across the board, but I bet the "Life Time Service Policy" eats that cost offset right off the bottom line. I would still much rather see a one to three year defect coverage type policy in effect. If EDM can't make sharp cut rifling then I feel it needs to become a model specific option, not the new stadard. I hate that my my 637 leads with the same ammo that my 36 gobbles up. And I'm doing my best to avoid the ILS dead horse beating, but I will say that the added bulk from the internal firing pin frame mod on the K frame was bad enough. The now added bulk to the bulk to make way for the ILS's inner workings makes the K frames look strange when set side by side with the originals. And if they don't want to make any more K frame magnums because they don't want to replace the flat spot milled barrels then why don't they at least offer the two part barrels in the 66's??? I just think they feed us whatever hoopla talk they want and sell what they can make the cheapest that still works "good enough" to keep their bottom line padded enough for their financial desires. Sorry, rant over.

Oh and: "Raw MIM stainless steel inject able material costs $10.00/Lb" but I bet that still costs a lot less in the fitting department and thus: "revolvers that used MIM hammers and triggers required almost no fitter intervention in those areas during final assembly and final inspection and trigger-pull monitor rejection rates dropped markedly on finished guns" so sure they pay more up front for material but they fired all the gunsmiths... Now you get a puzzle piece kit gun that requires no smith to put together which brings up the various threads on why is the milling getting so spotty and the fit getting ill, barrels getting set to tight in frames and not being on straight... Guess I needed another ounce of rant, again... Sorry.
Like it or not........most folks struggle with change. I love the older Smith & Wesson Revolvers and am glad I have the ones I have.
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Old 09-23-2012, 12:08 PM
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they feel like they don't get any fitter attention too.i haven't bought any smith mim guns and will not. they really only want to make plastic guns anyway.
Geeze, the "they don't make them the way they used to" comments again.

I have just two S&W revolvers, both Model 500, .500 Mags. Both have excellent and completely repeatable triggers, both built like tanks, very accurate, priced like moderately upgraded 1911s. One is a PC model with the forged trigger and the other has a MIM, virtually impossible to tell them apart despite what is supposedly greater attention given to the PC model. What's not to like?

If we stuck with "old fashioned" engineering, the world would be a vastly poorer place. Don
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Old 09-23-2012, 12:21 PM
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And whether or not you like the way they “look” or are constructed, technically, these guns are often far beyond what preceded them and they don’t require an army of skilled and expensive employees to make them that way. It was the right choice for it kept them alive as a company and it kept them in sync with the times. And in many cases, it also resulted in guns of not only equivalent quality but of better performance than seen in the past.
Absolutely.

Another poster said people were uncomfortable with change. Probably right. I can understand someone appreciating the older guns with a lot of attention to hand polishing etc but simply rejecting the new isn't reasonable.

I've said in on other posts and other forums, some of the same people who insist on "pinned and recessed" and the old guns will make the outrageous claim that older cars were better.

Yeah, they had thicker but lower strength sheet metal, the passengers would all die in a crash with a modern car. They had obscene emissions, horrible mileage, rotten brakes and tires and sloppy suspensions, frequently poor reliability and required constant tuneups due to point style ignitions.

Old early GTOs would get their butts kicked by today's 2 liter turbocharged cars. That stuff is progress? I think not. Don
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Old 09-23-2012, 01:21 PM
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I like the older Smith's better than the newer Smith's but that does not mean I would not buy a newer Smith because I would. You have to accept today's economy and what it takes to be in it. If the economy was strong I bet Smith would still be making them like they were making them 20 years ago. You want a lifetime warranty then you have to cut some corners in today's market or you will lose, it is that simple. MIM parts are in everything you use everyday so to say the are junk is false. Do I prefer a forged part over MIM? You bet but it will not be my only deciding factor. As for the ILS, that has nothing to do with manufacturing just politics. It has to go.

James
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Old 09-23-2012, 04:56 PM
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Just an observation, I recently purchased a 327 TRR8 which is a PC gun and I see it came with a forged trigger and hammer . . .there must be a reason.
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Old 09-23-2012, 06:04 PM
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I don't know why you are all so concerned about MIM. It's this newfangled "smokeless powder" that I think is bunk.
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Old 09-23-2012, 07:56 PM
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I'm not nearly as knowledgeable as the previous posters but I have quite a few S&W revolvers. The one that gets to shoot the most is a 625PC, I bought in March of this year.It's the only revolver i own with MIM parts and frame mounted firing pin. I've put 2000+ rounds down the pipe with no FTF or issues. It has a 3# SA trigger pull and 8# DA. At 50ft I can make a ragged hole in the paper with a cylinder full of my 200gr lead reloads.
I think that says alot---well proven at my house.
I admire and shoot my other revolvers as well but, honestly none shoot any better.
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Old 09-23-2012, 09:20 PM
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Much like hand tools, older guns older are usually better.
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Old 09-24-2012, 04:16 PM
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yep they sure are



I'm all for improvement. I don't think anything has really changed in quality.. Also how many guns did s&w make a year back in the good old days versus today 10,000 versus 100,000+(this is exaggerated cause I don't know the numbers)? If say 5% slipped past qc thats 500 bad guns versus 5000 a year. We just get to hear more of it thanks to the interwebs cause the first thing a person does when they get a lemon is vent on the web.
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Old 06-24-2013, 07:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dpris View Post
I've not said they're junk, I've not said nobody should buy them, I just continue to feel that a good S&W sample today is not the equal of a good sample from 60 years back.

I do know why that is, I do understand the difference between the eras, I do not have to be happy about it.
Denis
Today's smith & wessons, aside from the lock, ARE BETTER than the ones I have looked at and shot from the past.

My 625 and J-frames are excellent.
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Old 06-24-2013, 08:16 PM
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I will say that MIM does not bother me at all. Two things bother me about current S&W revolvers. The internal lock and the re-shaping of the curve at the top of the frame to accommodate that lock. I have no issue about the lack of pinned barrels or recessed cylinder charge holes or the use of MIM parts.

My vote is to get rid of the internal lock and go back to the classic look of the frame curve in the hammer opening.

Thank you for listening/reading.

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Old 06-24-2013, 08:25 PM
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I learned a few things about MIM that I didn't know before.
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Old 06-24-2013, 08:33 PM
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This thread was fun to read. I am a certified old fart. I collect old Smiths I think are pretty. I am also an active competitive revolver shooter using the new MIM parts. They work great and they hold up to lots of shooting. If any of you watch videos of Jerry M. shooting you should be aware those are all modern guns...they take a lot of hard use and keep running.

Why do you all think S&W introduced the endurance package for the .44 Magnums back about 1990? It was because the original Model 29s simply could not hold up to hard use.

There are a lot of hard heads in this post who don't care about facts.....they just hate change and refuse to accept it.

Oh well....
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S&W Revolvers: 1980 to the Present Thread, The use of MIM parts - S&W's explanation in Smith & Wesson Revolvers; I originally found this post elsewhere, and later discovered it's already here on the S&W forum. Please see the FAQ's: ...
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