Smith & Wesson Models 619 and 620 .357 Magnum Revolvers


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

August 29th, 2005




Smith & Wesson is a name which has been synonymous with double action revolvers for well over a century. They are known all over the world for producing some of the finest examples of the double action revolver ever made. In 1935 S&W introduced the world to the .357 magnum cartridge, chambering it in their large frame that would be later known as the N frame. Twenty years later, S&W chambered the powerful .357 magnum in their medium-sized K frame, which became an instant hit with the shooting public, and peace officers in particular. In the early 1970s, S&W endeared itself to shooters with the introduction of stainless steel K-framed .357 magnum sixguns; the fixed-sighted Model 65 and the adjustable-sighted Model 66. These two revolvers proved to be a pair of the most popular duty sidearms ever with uniformed law enforcement officers. They were accurate, dependable, and handy, but prone to loosen up a bit with heavy use. In 1980, S&W introduced a very slightly beefed up medium frame size, calling it the L frame. These new sixguns had a little more steel in critical areas, and wore heavy full-underlugged barrels.

Recently, Smith & Wesson has discontinued the Models 65 and 66 in favor of two new L-framed revolvers, calling them the Models 619 and 620. The 619 replaces the fixed-sighted Model 65, while the 620 replaces the adjustable-sighted Model 66.

While maintaining the handy profile of the earlier K-framed sixguns, the new models are more than just slightly beefier Models 65 and 66 revolvers. The most apparent change is that the new guns are now seven-shooters instead of six-shooters. The slightly larger cylinder allows for an extra chamber. One more cartridge in the cylinder may or may not be of importance. However, on the older weapons, the cylinder bolt notches were cut directly over each chamber. Going to a seven-shot cylinder allowed the bolt notches to be placed between the chambers, effectively strengthening the chamber walls at that point.  The barrels on the Models 619 and 620 are of S&W’s new two-piece design, having the barrel contained within an outer shroud. It is reminiscent of, but not identical to, the Dan Wesson barrel design, but it is not user-changeable. It would theoretically allow for a lower cost barrel replacement should one ever become necessary, and the design can also produce very good accuracy if set up correctly. The Models 619 and 620 both wore very even barrel/cylinder gaps, measuring .0035 inch. That is about what a good barrel/cylinder gap should measure. The new Model 60 .357 that I tested a few months ago also had a two-piece barrel, but the barrel/cylinder gap on that revolver measured a bit over .007, which is larger than I like. The Models 619 and 620 both wear four-inch barrels, and weigh in at 37.4 and 37 ounces, respectively. I attribute the minute weight differences to the variation in the grips on the two guns. Both models have the S&W internal key lock and hammer block safety systems, along with frame-mounted firing pins.

The trigger pulls on these two new Smiths are excellent. The single action pulls on both the Models 619 and 620 were very crisp and clean, measuring three pounds and six ounces and three pounds and nine ounces, respectively. The double action pulls were butter-smooth, with the Model 619 measuring nine and one-quarter pounds, and the 620 measuring just over ten pounds, but with both feeling lighter due to their smoothness. These trigger pulls are much improved over what was coming out of the S&W factory a couple of decades ago. In fact, the entire fit and finish of these new Smiths are excellent.

Besides the difference in sights, the new revolvers wear different styles of grips. Both are synthetic rubber and feel good to my hand. The Model 620 grip does not cover the backstrap of the grip frame, and feels better to me, while the grip of the Model 619 does cover the backstrap. It makes for a longer trigger reach, but it does point more naturally in my hand than does the grip on the 620. In either case, they can be quickly and easily changed to fit the individual shooter’s hand. Both revolvers fit very well into a K-frame leather holster. I really like the handling qualities of these new guns much better than previous L-framed revolvers that had the heavy barrels. These new guns handle just like the old Models 65 and 66, which is a good thing.

I was anxious to see how these new guns would shoot, so I gathered a wide variety of both factory and handloaded ammunition for function and accuracy tests.

As expected, functioning was perfect with both of these handguns. Accuracy however, was much better than I expected. It is indeed a shame, but I have become accustomed to seeing production revolvers that will not group under two and one-half inches at twenty-five yards from a rested position. As can be seen in the photos, these two revolvers shoot much better than that.

Accuracy testing of these new guns was done with the aid of a new shooting rest from Hyskore Shooting Products. Their Pivoting Pistol Rest proved to be extremely helpful in eliminated the human factor from the accuracy testing of these handguns. It is a very sturdy unit, adjustable for both length and height, and it pivots to engage targets without moving the rest on the bench. It is a very well-made unit, and looks as if it would adjust to accommodate most any handgun made. I found it to be much steadier than trying to shoot a handgun from a rifle rest. I dearly love my Target Shooting, Inc. Model 1000 rifle rest, but for handgun testing, this Hyskore unit is just the ticket. Target Shooting, Inc. also makes a pistol rest, but I have yet to try one. However, I will report further on the Hyskore rest as I use it in the future. So far, I really like it.

Back to the accuracy of these new Smiths, they both really surprised me with their ability to shoot small groups on paper. Both shot very well with every load tested, from light .38 Specials to heavy magnums. Many five-shot groups were under one inch at twenty-five yards, with some going close to half that! That is outstanding accuracy from a medium framed service revolver. The cylinder proved to be long enough to accommodate even the 180 grain loads from Cor-Bon and Buffalo Bore, making these handguns suitable for hunting big deer and wild hogs. With any of the excellent 125 grain jacketed hollowpoints available, these revolvers would be ideal for social work.

I think that every serious handgunner should keep a good double action .357 Magnum around. They are a workhorse of a handgun, filling many tasks well; from hunting, to plinking, to self defense, to police duty, and in the case of the Model 620 particularly, to serious target work. I was sad to see the Models 65 and 66 dropped from the Smith & Wesson catalog, but the new Models 619 and 620 are worthy successors, and if given the choice, I prefer the new weapons over the older guns.  I would like to see a three-inch-barreled Model 619 added to replace the three inch Model 65.

Smith & Wesson makes all of their revolvers in the United States. I recently had the opportunity to visit the Smith & Wesson factory in Springfield, Massachusetts. Their revolvers are built on equipment ranging from a huge antique forge to the very latest state-of-the-art CNC machinery, all operated by some of the nicest people that I have ever met. Over the years, S&W has had its ups and downs. Left alone to do their thing, Smith & Wesson knows how to build handguns, and to build them right. After all, they have had over 150 years of revolver design experience to get it right. With these two new Models 619 and 620, they got it right.

Check out the entire line of S&W products online at:

For a look at the Pivoting Pistol Rest and other shooting accessories from Hyskore, go to:

Jeff Quinn


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Smith & Wesson Model 620 (top) and Model 619 (bottom) .357 Magnum DA revolvers.





Smith & Wesson Model 619 (left) and Model 620 (right) wear rubber grips of different configuration.





The front sight of the Model 619 (top) is a plain stainless ramp, while the Model 620 (bottom) features a pinned-in blue ramp with orange insert.



The Model 619 (left) has a fixed rear sight, while the Model 620 (right and bottom picture) features S&W's famous white-outline fully-adjustable rear sight.



The cylinder of S&W's older Model 66 (left) compared to the Model 620 (right). The larger diameter of the 620's cylinder allows for an extra chamber without sacrificing strength.



The cylinder of S&W's older Model 66 (top) compared to the Model 620 (bottom). The older six-shot cylinder design places the cylinder bolt cuts directly over the chambers, reducing the minimum amount of steel in this critical stress area, while the new seven-shot design allows the cylinder bolt cuts to be located between the chambers.



The Model 619/620 cylinder is plenty long enough to accommodate heavier bullets, such as this 180-grain lead semi-wadcutter.



Smith & Wesson Model 620 (top) and Model 619 (bottom).





The Model 620's top strap is factory drilled and tapped for a scope mount.



Author used a new pistol rest from Hyskore Shooting Products for accuracy testing. The fully-adjustable Hyskore rest is just the ticket for benchrest shooting with a wide variety of handguns.



Accuracy of the Model 619 and Model 620 was much better than Jeff has come to expect from a medium-frame service revolver.