The first is the Performance Center Model 929, which S&W spokesperson Julie Golob refers to as the “Jerry Miculek Signature Edition” – appropriate, as it features Jerry’s signature on the sideplate! It’s a large, N-frame gun with an 8-shot titanium cylinder and a 6-1/2” barrel featuring a removable compensator. The action has been honed and the hammer and trigger are of Jerry’s preferred configuration (the trigger is no doubt serrated, for instance) and are hard chromed.
As Julie points out it’s clearly a competition gun for revolver divisions, no doubt to take advantage of the brand-new USPSA rules allowing larger capacity revolvers. (USPSA rules have always required a reload after firing 6 rounds regardless of the capacity of the gun. I just read an article which indicates that rule has been changed, although the rule book on their site doesn’t yet reflect this information.) It cannot be used in IDPA, as the barrel is too long.
It could also be used for the open divisions of ICORE and Steel Challenge, where I’m sure it will gain some adherents (particularly in ICORE.) Let’s face it, though, we’re talking a pretty small market!
The other 9mm introduction is the Model 986, which appears to be an L-frame with a 7-shot titanium cylinder and a non-compensated 5” barrel. (Golob refers to it as Pro Series, which is a gun between regular stock and the Performance Center.) This would seem to be aimed toward the production division shooter, though (again) it can’t be used in IDPA due to barrel length.
The titanium cylinders on both guns deserve a comment. The reason for the lightweight cylinder in an otherwise heavy gun (both the 986 and the 929 are made of stainless steel throughout, save the cylinder) is primarily to reduce the action effort. Since the force which rotates the cylinder is generated by the shooter’s finger, the heavier the cylinder the more effort is required. The weight of the cylinder plus ammunition is added to the resistance of the main and rebound springs to get the total trigger weight.
Assuming that one doesn’t change in the geometry of the sliding surfaces of the action, the way to reduce the total trigger weight has historically been to reduce the tension of the rebound spring (and live with the slower reset time) or the main spring (and risk ignition reliability.)
Adopting a lighter cylinder means that less trigger effort is required to rotate, which means that the contribution to trigger weight is less. The designers could keep heavier rebound and main springs for speed and reliability while still getting down to their 10-lb double action target weight.
The lighter cylinder also has a longevity benefit for competition shooters. Firing very quickly means that the cylinder is rotating faster. The combined weight of the cylinder plus its ammunition load must be accelerated quickly, but more importantly must be decelerated almost instantly so that the individual chamber is locked into position behind the bore. A heavier cylinder has more momentum, which puts more wear on the locking bolt at the bottom of the frame when it hits the cylinder’s locking notches. The lighter the cylinder, the more reliable that lockup and the longer the bolt will last under heavy use.
While I don’t have much of a desire to own either gun as competition isn’t really my “thing” any longer, it’s nice to see S&W introduce specialty products for some smaller market niches.
-=[ Grant ]=-