These days, I carry a pocket 9x19mm auto more than anything else. I also still carry a J-Frame revolver. But sometimes, my daily itinerary may indicate that I want something with a little more mag capacity or stopping power. That’s when I go for a belt gun, usually my Wilson Compact Light Rail LW .45, a Browning Hi-Power, or a .357 Magnum revolver.
For ease of carry and concealment under a jacket, my .357 Magnum revolver is normally one with a three-inch barrel. That length conceals well but allows full-length extraction of empty cases.
I use a Manurhin MR73 three-inch with adjustable sights or an S&W Model 66 three-inch. Both of those are relatively scarce revolvers, but they are good ones.
I have other three-inch barreled .357 Magnum revolvers that I have shot but do not regularly carry. These include the S&W 686 U.S. Custom Model with three-inch barrel and also the S&W 681 Carry Comp. The latter has fixed sights and is compensated with twin ports on each side of the barrel.
I mention these to illustrate that I have quite a bit of experience with .357 Magnum three-inch revolvers to offer a basis of comparison.
I use 125-grain JHP loads in both of the carry revolvers. They shoot straight and hit hard, but they also generate quite a bit of muzzle flip and recoil. I’m used to it, but still have considered other options.
I have an S&W Performance Center 586 Carry Comp that has a seven-round cylinder and PowerPort Vented Barrel. Being an L-Frame, it is heavier than my other two choices, but it does have the three-inch barrel that I like, and the PowerPort dampens recoil substantially. I’ve shot the 586 Carry Comp a reasonable amount but haven’t carried it.
BUT I NEED ANOTHER ONE …
Recently while cruising the S&W Performance Center website, I was reminded of the Model 19 three-inch Carry Comp. It is about the same size and weight as my Model 66 but has the PowerPort Vent and a Tritium front Night-Sight for fast engagement in low light.
I decided to give it a try.
The Model 19 Carry Comp (CC) comes with two sets of grips, one nicely checkered and quite handsome, and one rubber and quite comfortable. Having shot the 586 Carry Comp with its checkered wooden grips, I installed the rubber ones on the Model 19 CC immediately. After completing that chore, I turned off the lights and tried the tritium front sight in a darkened room.
As with many of you reading this, I am used to night sights consisting of a rear notch, usually with tritium inserts on both sides and the front ramp or post with a tritium insert. However, I found with the 586 CC that it is easy to use the single tritium front sight quickly for close-range engagement. Certainly, it would allow quick target acquisition across a room if used for home defense.
An interesting aspect of the 19 CC’s sights is that the sight radius is actually more akin to my 2.5-inch Model 66 than my three-inch because the port is in front of the sight. I haven’t actually noticed the difference when shooting the revolver, but it does give it an interesting profile.
As with most contemporary S&W revolvers, the 19 Carry Comp incorporates a safety lock on the side plate. Aesthetically, I find these locks offensive, but they really have no effect on using the revolver. I have read of instances where these locks have unintentionally rendered a revolver inoperable, but I have never encountered this, nor has anyone I know.
The 19 CC’s matte finish is appealing in looks but is also non-reflective. I think most of us who love revolvers appreciate older classic S&Ws with glossy bluing. But the 19 CC is a combat revolver, and the matte finish is appropriate for its mission.
AMMUNITION AND RANGE TIME
I often use 125-grain JHP loads in my shorter-barreled .357 Magnums. I’m aware that they usually have more flash from the shorter barrel and that this will probably be magnified with the ported barrel. But the 125-grain JHP loads have in the past shown the best performance in tabulated actual shootings.
The other load I have used in my shorter barreled .357s is the 158-grain SWC or JHP. The muzzle blast and flash are normally less than with the 125-grain loads. I chose to use Black Hills 158-grain SWC and Barnes Tac-XP 125-grain JHP loads for testing the Model 19 Carry Comp.
Three of us shot the Carry Comp, all of whom shoot Magnum revolvers a lot. Subjectively, we felt that muzzle flip was about 25% less than on a standard 2.5-inch barrel Model 19 or 66. I noticed the reduced flip when I was firing double taps on hanging plates and also when I was doing double taps fired double-action on a hostage taker target at ten yards.
I fired five-shot single-action groups at 25 yards with the Black Hills 158-grain SWC and the Barnes 125-grain JHP. Barnes groups were in the three- to four-inch range and low and left until I got the sights regulated for the 125-grain loads. I didn’t want to adjust them until I was done shooting groups and had decided for sure that I would use it with 125-grain loads.
As expected, the slower 158-grain loads impacted higher but were still left. My best group was on its way to being about two inches until I pulled the fifth shot. Otherwise, groups ran about the same as with the 125 grain. Now that I’ve decided to carry 125-grain JHP loads in the 19 CC, on my next range session I’ll try three or four other loads with this bullet to determine if one performs better than the rest.
KIDS SAY THE DARNDEST THINGS
Sometimes when I carry a revolver and encounter younger shooters, they view it much as if I were carrying a flintlock pistol. However, that’s not always the case, as a few young shooters still appreciate the revolver, especially for pocket carry. But it does engender interesting discussions.
A friend who shoots at indoor ranges has mentioned he is often the only one in the place shooting a revolver. He’s eclectic and shoots autos quite a bit of the time as well. Another thing he notices is that most of those shooting around him have their targets at seven yards, often closer, and rarely to ten yards. Virtually none of them practice to 25 yards or farther.
Another characteristic he notes is that they like to put a lot of rounds downrange fast. There’s nothing wrong with any of those “training” methods. I practice at close range and also practice shooting double taps or Mozambique Drill triple taps fast.
But I raise this point because carrying the Model 19 Carry Comp requires the mindset that a couple of well-placed .357 Magnum bullets should put most threats down. I shoot it double-action a lot of the time to 25 yards, so I can double tap fast to that distance. But I know I only have six rounds and that knowledge may cause me to ration my shots a little more carefully. That’s not a bad thing.
Even when I carry a Browning Hi-Power or SIG P226, I still don’t blast off the whole magazine, but after firing a double tap with one of those 9x19mm autos, I do know I’ve got a lot of rounds left.
If I carry the Model 19 Carry Comp, I will carry at least 12 rounds for reloads, possibly in speedloaders and possibly in a pocket case, even though I won’t be as ready to “go to war” as with one of my autoloaders and a couple of spare magazines.
In the past, some used the argument that the revolver was more reliable than the automatic pistol. Quality autos such as the Glock, SIG, Springfield Armory, Ruger, and others these days are as reliable as the revolver. I think most of us who choose to carry revolvers carry them because we like them.
I’ve already mentioned that if carrying a DA revolver for self-defense, any practice at 25 yards or closer should be firing double-action. Though the Model 19 CC is a Performance Center Gun, I can’t say I’m especially impressed with the trigger pull, either SA or DA. It is adequate but not especially good. I may send it back to S&W for an action job, as they’ve done a good job on other revolvers for me.
Given that if I have to use the 19 CC it will be firing quickly double-action, the port is a real plus. I can definitely fire a follow-up shot faster than with a non-ported K-Frame .357 Mag revolver firing the same load. Since I plan to use 125-grain JHP loads in it, I also have to be aware that at night the port will probably add to the visible flame.
My experience has been that muzzle flash is so substantial with these loads that some coming out of the port isn’t going to silhouette me anymore than a standard barrel.
A Performance Center gun, the Model 19 Carry Comp isn’t cheap, at an MSRP of $1,092.00. It makes a nice carry gun, but I do think at its price it needs a smoother action. Otherwise, I like its features. It is backed by the Performance Center Lifetime Service Policy, thus it can be shot quite a bit with confidence.
SOURCESSMITH & WESSON
BLACK HILLS AMMUNITION