Why Was the Smith & Wesson Model 19 Revolver So Popular with Law Enforcement?

posted on June 4, 2021
sheriff-jim-5-28-15.jpg (20)

Recently, completing the article on the seven best law enforcement revolvers has put me in a nostalgic mood. Of all the sixguns that I mentioned in the piece, the Smith & Wesson Model 19 has been a lifelong favorite of mine.

I was using a borrowed Colt DA revolver when I first put on the badge of a Texas peace officer. However, I noticed that most of our officers were using Smith & Wessons and the best shots in the department were carrying the Smith & Wesson Model 19. In addition, I was a big fan of Bill Jordan’s—we later became friends and hunting buddies—and he was the one who encouraged S&W to build the gun in the first place. You can bet that, as soon as I saved up enough money, I was packing a 4-inch Model 19 as my primary duty gun.

What I liked about this particular Smith & Wesson was that it was quite accurate and had a fairly smooth action right out of the box. It soon had an even smoother action after my gunsmith got done polishing the innards. The gun fit my hand, too. However, the best test was the fact that, compared to a number of other DA revolvers at my disposal, I just shot it extremely well. 

By the time I was promoted to detective, I also had a 2 1/2-inch Model 19 for an off-duty gun. Going in to plainclothes, this version became my primary packing pistol.  I was also a bit surprised to find out that the 2 1/2-inch gun would stay within a couple of points, score-wise, of the 4-inch gun over our 50-yard qualification course. I liked the round butt and the shorter barrel, but the acid test was that I just shot it well.

Since retiring from law enforcement, I find that my auto pistols stay on the shelf and I tend to carry the 2 1/2-inch Model 19 most of the time. I keep it loaded with either the Federal Hydra-Shok +P loads or the Speer Personal Protection-Short Barrel load. And there are also a few shot cartridges in my pocket for those close encounters with rattlers.

If you said I was hooked on the Model 19, that would be a correct statement. I’ve got one 4-inch gun, two of the 2 1/2-inch versions, and a 3-inch Model 66. Besides being at my side during some exciting law enforcement adventures, I’ve used the guns to take feral hogs, coyotes, innumerable rattlesnakes, and a bobcat or two. It is hard to quit a faithful companion and I have no intention of doing so.


RCBS Chargemaster Supreme
RCBS Chargemaster Supreme

High-Tech Handloading

I now keep all my ammunition-creation data on a computer. Sure, I’ll make notes when working up a new load or tweaking an existing one, but ultimately my data is stored digitally. Since my loading room is only steps from my computer, the transition from written to digital data has been easy for me. Now that I’m using the handloading app from RCBS, it’s even easier, and it also makes recreating my favorite loads when I’m at the loading bench more convenient.

First Look: 1791 Gunleather Holsters for S&W CSX Pistols

New holsters for the nifty little pistol from Smith & Wesson.

First Look: XS Night Sights for SA XD OSP and Tisas PX-9

Two new front and rear sight sets featuring some of XS Sights most popular designs.

Concealed-Carry Contemplations

You took a concealed-carry class from a well-known instructor who visited your local range recently. You learned a lot—especially that there was a lot yet to learn—over the two days of the course.

What We Plan For

Sheriff Jim reminds us that wishing and hopeful thinking should not be part of your self-defense plan.

First Look: GiantMouse ACE Nazca Knives

A folding knife with south of the border style.


Get the best of Shooting Illustrated delivered to your inbox.