S&W 3913 (Elite and Ladysmith)

I hate pawn shops.

There's one particular website I frequent which is setup so as I can purchase firearms and receive them locally for notably reduced shipping costs and transfers fees.. I just select from a few local FFL dealers, and I'm good to go. Unfortunately for me, all of the established businesses with this website are pawn shops. Every pawn shop I go to is falling apart and full of overpriced garbage. I wait in line while the people in front of me try and turn their coveted corded drill into $2. Ontop of all this, they've often got firearms, and they are overpriced hunks of junk sold in desperation. The main pawn shop I have to go to when I use this website always brags that it is only "10% over cost", but lord knows whose cost that is as their prices always seem to be near brand new for clapped out firearms.

On my most recent trip to pickup a firearm I'd purchased online, I was puruising the firearms section to burn time while my background check went through. I then spotted a firearm I'd never seen before, a S&W 3913. It was an all metal single stack very compact 9mm handgun. It intrigued me. I asked to test the trigger pull, and after convincing them to dig up a snap cap (they refuse to allow dry fires, which I can understand I suppose) I was pretty impressed by the trigger pull and some of the features on the Handgun. Unfortunately for the Pawn shop, the interest ended there for this particular firearm, as this excessively dirty and heavily worn firearm was being sold for close to $600. A quick search on Gun Broker on my phone revealed their prices were not earnest.

While I was no longer interested in this exact firearm, I was still intrigued by the S&W 3913. I went home, and did some research. The 3913 appears to have been discontinued sometime around 2006, before the internet had really come alive. Thus, reviews were sparse, and were mostly long time concealed carriers inquiring about how it compared to the soon to be new Ruger LC9.  Prior to production of the 3913 ending, it had long been on it's way out from a sales standpoint, despite being a very popular firearm. It was renowned for conealability, very good accuracy for it's size, easy shooting, and amazing reliability. Seemed like a perfect fit for what I was looking for. Doing some research I was able to find a decent amont of options in much better condition than the Pawn Shop's 3913, all ranging from $400-520. After some work, I was able to pick up a 3913 and a 3913 Ladysmith. It was a bit aggressive to get not one but TWO firearms before I knew if I liked it... but my luck paid off.

The differences between the 3913 and Ladysmith are relatively minimal. The 3913 has an ambidextrous safety, and the front of the frame remains parallell to the slide all the way out to the end. The ladysmith has a one sided safety, and the front of the frame slopes upwards to meet the end of the slide. This probably saves a few ounces of weight. In hand though, I couldn't tell the difference between these two firearms for weight, and testing both trigger pulls with snap caps I couldn't discern a difference either. The only other difference is that the Ladysmith bears a cursive lettered "Lady Smith" logo engraved ito the slide.

Taking the firearm to the range, my girlfriend shot the 3913 Ladysmith, and I shot the regular 3913. I personally felt the 3913 felt more balanced in hand. From a vanity standpoint I found shape of the 3913 to be a bit more my style over the Ladysmith as well. Plus, it didn't have the word "lady" on it, which didn't work for me but worked very well for my girlfriend, thus sealing the fate of the firearm to being used by her at the range. We fired aproximately 200 rounds each, ranging from 124gr to 115gr FMJ from blazer brass (very cheap), along wtih checking that Horndady Critical Defense would shoot accurately (and holy crap did it work great!)

I found I was able to shoot the gun quite accurately compared to most other similarly sized firearms. Above I was able to put the majority of my shots center mass on the ISPC target. I was also able to put three rounds right into dead center of the head, with one low and one left flyer. I can personally live with that level of accuracy, especially when compared to other compact firearms around this size that I've shot. My girlfriend also was able to shoot this quite accurately, more than adequately enough for self defense and more than accurate enough to have fun at the range. The above is also three magazines worth of shots, not a cherry picked grouping acheived over 500 rounds and two hours of firing or from a bench. It's god honest how I fire this gun.

Overall positive parts of this handgun:

  1. I found the weight absolutely fine. Some people on forums have mentioned the increased weight as a reason newer polymer guns are superior and easier to conealed carry, but I disagree. I found the weight very mangable and it felt great in hand.
  2. Recoil was excellent for a firearm of this size, easily managable for a whole day of shooting. Follow up shots were easy and I found the trigger reset plenty easy to ride.
  3. Accuracy was excellent for a firearm of this size. I felt I was able to shoot it rather well and I definitely enjoyed myself a plenty.
  4. Quality and feel in hand is excellent. Definitely well made. On diassembly it became clear as well just how well made these were.
  5. Compares quite favorably to the Shield. It's a bit larger, but notably more accurate. The 39139 also feels significantly better in hand. The recoil is a lot easier to manage (follow up shots, lots of shooting at the range, etc) and I didn't find it so unreasonable to consider fitting in my pocket. I'm not a huge dude either.
  6. I like the Double Action / Single Action of it. The single action trigger is nice, light, and crisp. The double action is there to ensure that when the first round goes off I damn well meant it. Some people complain that it's a dumb idea to have this as a safety feature... and yet half the pocket pistols out these days are heavy DAO garbage built on that very principle of provided safety. Double action first shot, follow up light weight single action shots. I dig it.
  7. I dig the safety. Easy to operate on the draw, and I personally dig the peace of mind of a safety. I've carried loaded glocks before and they of course didn't jump out and bite anyone of course. I still dig the peace of mind of both the double action and the safety, all of which I can deal with easily one handed. It's also a de-cocker, which is also convenient and useful. Also should my girlfriend come to own this firearm, she will surely feel much safer with these features on there.
  8. Removing the grips is easy, and gives you access to really get in the firearm and clean it out..

So/so aspects of this handgun:

  1. It doesn't field strip as easy as other firearms. It was by no means excessive or strenuous, but other firearms are still notably easier to take down.
  2. No flush magazines, not that I could find at least. There's mention of a few on various forums, but GOOD LUCK Finding them. A 7 round flush magazine would make this firearm the same height as the shield, with just a slightly longer barrel and no additional thickness. This would make it a fine pocket carry firearm, with adequate capacity to boot.
  3. I'm on the fence regarding the magazine disconnect on the trigger. On one hand, if I accidentally drop the mag for whatever dumbass reason in a confrontation, that last bullet just may really matter. On the other hand, it was very reassuring to know with my girlfriend that once the mag was out, it doesn't matter if she'd left a round chambered, it in theory is safe. Of course I still treated the firearm as loaded until I damn well verified it was not myself, but it was still one more piece of mind in regards to her or other people I allow to shoot the firearm at the range handling it.

Negative aspects of this handgun:

  1. This gun does appear to run rather dirty... then again it could be the ammo. More time will tell.
  2. The magazine springs on 2/3 of the magazines I got were failing. The magazine construction also leaves something to be desired. New springs are $5.99 so it's not that big of a deal nor entirely unreasonable on a decade old firearm.

Overal verdict:

A solid firearm that I look forward to carrying. Parts and holsters for this firearm appear to be starting to get a bit sparse, but there's enough around I'll find something and post up about it here. It's also accurate enough and comfortable enough it's now the firearm I keep for home defense, as I prefer it over the other handgun I was using. That said, I'm picking up a full size 9mm shortly and the 18 round capacity and 5" barrely will obviously vastly supersede this firearm in that department.

Ongoing update 1-8-17:

Took the girlfriend out shooting. She shot the 3913 Ladysmith a bunch more, and shot a 3" group with 7 rounds. That's not just cherry picking either, that's a normal grouping for her at 7 yards with this puppy. This thing works really well for her, and she's still newish to shooting. I'm still quite happy with it and find it more than adequate for self defense purposes. I prefer full size handguns, up until I need to conceal them.

Here's a clown that dared cross her path: