Got Lock? If you have any interest in S&W revolvers you know that for the last several years all of their new ones have been shipped from the factory with an internal safety lock. When "the lock" first came out I was kind of indifferent to it, I didn't like the looks of it and I didn't think that I needed one but I considered them more an annoyance than anything else. But it wasn't too long before stories began circulating about Smiths that had experienced some type of failure with the lock, jamming at the wrong moment and usually requiring some time and effort to make the gun usable again. Now the company's lock had become more than just an annoyance but a potentially serious problem that on a self-defense weapon might actually get a person killed.
During this time I had also been considering the purchase a Model 340PD .357 Magnum but could never make up my mind. I really liked the little lightweight powerhouse and considered it a potential replacement for my steel frame Model 649 (.38 Special), which I carry in the hottest part of the summer months. I had been wanting to go to a more potent caliber for my "hot weather gun" and the ultra light J-Frame magnum seemed to be the perfect prescription. As I said I kept considering buying a 340PD off and on but could never commit to it, the main reason being the lock horror stories which had continued growing in number over the years. Another issue that bothered me just as much as the lock reliability (maybe even more so) was Smith & Wesson's response to this problem, which was to ignore it completely. I could be wrong but I don't believe that the company has ever made an official statement about these lock failures. Yes, when the gun malfunctions you can send it back to the factory and they will fix it right away, but as far as I know they have never even acknowledged that there is any problem with their product despite numerous reports of lock "issues" including one from a nationally known gun writer.
Since S&W refuses to fix (or even to acknowledge) a serious and potentially life threatening defect in their product that leaves a person wanting to purchase one of their revolvers (for self-defense) with two options, neither good. First you can just ignore the problem, I mean from what I have read this lock failure doesn't happen in a large percentage of the guns that Smith & Wesson makes, so the odds are actually in your favor. Maybe you can just hope and pray that it never happens to you. Your second option would be to "fix" the lock. Many have chosen the latter and have found solutions ranging from using loctite® to permanently leave the lock turned off to removing the thing from the gun completely.
After a lot of back and forth on the subject I finally chose neither, I decided to save my money and keep using that old 649 until I found something more suitable to replace it, something I wouldn't be afraid to bet my life on. I can not and will not spend my hard earned money on a firearm that I could never completely trust. And to me that is the heart of this matter because this company is now producing products that I have no faith in. I have been buying S&W firearms since 1993 and over the years I have found that their outstanding reputation was well earned. I have never personally had a problem with one of their products and I don't intend to start now. I cannot in good conscience ever buy a "post lock" gun that might ever have a chance to be used for self-defense, how can I when this very serious issue has still not been dealt with by the factory. I really hope that the company does something about the concerns that many of their customers have regarding this issue but I suspect that they won't. Smith & Wesson's sales and profits are up and I doubt that the concerns of a small number of potential gun buyers will affect their "bottom line" enough to truly bother them. This company has put those that would really like to purchase a new Smith & Wesson to protect themselves in an awkward position, to disable the lock or learn to live (or not live) with the problem. As a customer I shouldn't be put in the position to have to fix this problem on my own or ignore it and hope that my gun never lets me down. I have very legitimate concerns and they should also be the company's concerns. This is a problem that this company definitely needs to address, every day that they avoid this issue just brings more discredit to the great name of Smith & Wesson and destroys, if just a little bit at a time, the reputation that this renowned gun maker has taken over 150 years to attain.
After owning, shooting and entrusting my life to many well made and reliable S&W products over the years I find it hard to believe, almost impossible to believe, that I am actually writing these words: I will never purchase another new Smith & Wesson revolver again. Why? The short answer is because I could never really trust it.