S&W Model 5904, by Pat Cascio

Many of our readers are requesting more articles on all-metal handguns, and its getting a bit harder to do these, as most semi-auto handguns today usually have a polymer frame. So, I had to dig down and find a nice representation of an all-metal gun – this doesn’t mean a gun with a steel frame, but one manufactured out of metal – in this case – the frame is manufactured out of Aluminum alloy – the S&W Model 5904.

I was introduced to the S&W Model 59 while working as the assistant security manager of a large department store, in a place called Matteson, Illinois. I was carrying some kind of .357 Magnum snubby revolver most of the time. I stopped one night, before going home, to visit a police officer out side the store, and there on his dash was a new Model 59, a 14-shot 9mm semi-auto handgun. I liked it – a lot, and eventually picked-up one for my own use. At some point, this police officer, Mike C. became chief of police of that growing little town.  And as I recall, one of the first “saves” wearing a Second Chance soft body armor, while on patrol.

S and W Model 5904 MagazinesOver the years, the Model 59 progressed, with newer and better models like the various 59-2, 59-3 and other models, until S&W introduced an all-new version of this gun, called the 5904 – it was a much better handgun than the original versions. It now came with a 15-shot magazine and fed more reliably, too – the original 14-round magazines had weak springs, and the guns often failed to get that next round in the magazine up there fast enough for the slide to pick it up. It also came with either fixed sights or adjustable sights. The fixed sights were much better than those on the original, which were often loose in the slide. The adjustable-sight version – the sights were really great, but much too large, in my humble opinion. The grip panels – it was now a single wrap-arond grip that simply slid into place, instead of having two grip panels – really a great improvement. The trigger pull was much better than the previous models of the Model 59, as well. We also had an ambidextrous decocking lever on the slide, too.

The Specifications

Let’s take a close look at the Model 5904, and see what else it offers. First of all, it was only made from 1989 to 1998 – so it had a very short production life, all things considered. It has a 4-inch barrel, and weighs-in at 26.5 ounces – pretty light for those days, when many handguns were made completely out of steel – bringing the weight up, up, up there.

S and W Model 5904The 5904 also had the single-action/double-action trigger pull. When you chambered a round, you would then decock the hammer, after that you could remove the magazine and insert another round into it. You then had the option of either keeping the decocking lever in the down position, which meant it was on-safe, or you could push the decocking lever back up – and you could fire the gun by simply pulling the trigger, this lead to a lot of confusion for many – and they needed to decide how they wanted to carry the 5904, either with the safety on, or off. In any event, you had a long double-action trigger pull for the first shot, unless you manually cocked the hammer. A lot of people never could get the hang on transition from that first shot being fires double-action, to the remaining shots being fired single-action. Needless to say, the single-action trigger pull was much shorter and smoother, resulting in more hits on the target. Later on, S&W developed some double-action only handguns – they had a long, but very smooth trigger pull for each shot – I liked them a lot.

Now a Wider Choice of Ammo

One thing that is often mentioned is that, there weren’t many companies making JHP 9mm back there, and more often than not, it wouldn’t feed reliably into any handguns – even the S&W marked 9mm JHP or JSP 9mm boxed ammo wouldn’t reliably feed in their guns, so most of us carried FMJ ammo if we wanted the gun to go “bang” every time we pulled the trigger, instead of trying to get round to chamber  – not good. Eventually the feed ramps on these guns were better finished, and better JHP ammo came along, that would feed in those guns.

I also carried an S&W Model 39-2 quite often – it was an 8+1 round gun, and it worked without hesitation – all the time. It was with that handgun, that I had to pull it from the holster and put in a man’s face, who threatened to “walk all over me….” – I was deeply into the martial arts back then, but this man was big enough to do to me, what he threatened to do – and I didn’t have any back-up at that time, and when I put the gun in his face, I simply told him “no sir, you are not going to walk all over me…” and he meekly said “Okay” and came back to the security office without any further problems – I had a lot of confidence in the S&W 39-2 model.

S and W Model 5904 I picked-up my Model 5904 from the local gun/pawn shop I haunt in Lebanon, Oregon for a song, not too long ago – don’t even want to say what I paid for it, but it was well under the going price for $525 for a used version. Unfortunately, the gun only came with one magazine, and if you price factory mags – if you can find them, they are pretty spendy. I found out that Mec-Gar magazines is making mags for the 5904, and they can be had in 10-rounds, 15-rounds, 17-rounds and 20-round versions. I elected to go with the 17-round version – and it has fed and functioned without any problems. Mec-Gar produces magazines for about 50 gun companies, so you know they make the best of the best when it comes to magazines.

Whoever owned this used 5904 before me, probably hadn’t fired it in a lot of years, it was difficult to get apart for a cleaning and lube, one of the levers in the frame was frozen in the up position. I resulted in using a rubber mallet on the slide/frame and with a few whacks the slide was off. After a good inspection and cleaning – and plenty of lube, the gun was ready for the range.

My Range Tests

My accuracy testing was done at 25-yards, and if I did my part, I could get groups between 3.5-inches and 4-inches without too many problems. The nice folks at Black Hills Ammunition seint me a good assortment of 9mm ammo, to test in this gun. I had their 115-gr  FMJ, 124-gr JHP, 124-grain JHP and the same in a +P version, and their HoneyBadger 100-gr al-copper fluted bullet, and the same in 127-gr sub-sonic load.

The 124-gr JHP +P wasn’t reliable in the 5904, nor did I expect it to – these older 9mm handguns aren’t set-up to handle those hotter rounds. I did have some of the Black Hills 124-JHP EXP ammo – this is between a standard velocity and under a +P velocity load. Still, for steady shooting, I would stick with non +P ammo.

This Model 5904 brought back a lot of fond memories for me, as I was testing it. In all, I put 300-rounds down range, and the gun remained reliable, so long as I avoided the 124-gr JHP +P load. If you shop around, you can find a lot of 5904 models on the Internet as well as in many gun shops – as police trade-ins. While this gun isn’t a “wonder nine” it is still a very capable self-defense handgun, or for survival purposes. Check one out, I think you might like this old fashioned 9mm pistol.

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