I've always had a place in my heart for lightweight snubbies and IMO, nothing beats a snubnose revolver for a BUG or "get off me" gun because they will function under the worst conditions. I've been happy with the P3AT I've carried as a BUG for a few years now, but I'm also acutely aware that if I had to use it in a hands-on situation I'd probably get only one shot out of it. The chances of it going out of battery (when shoved up against someone) or being limp wristed while scuffling are too great to expect proper function. On the other hand, you can stick a revolver in someone's gut and know that you'll get 5 rds off as long as you can pull the trigger.
Keeping all of that in mind and plus the fact that I'm not a fan of the .38spl and I think that the .357mag is just crazy out of a 12oz gun AND that over the last year I've been consolidating calibers (9mm) and handgun operating systems (DAO), I've been in the market for a 9mm snubby. Apparently they're about as rare as hen's teeth these days because I've only found one and it was waaaayyy over priced for a Taurus. Plus all the ones that have been made (Taurus 905, S&W 940, S&W 547) are all quite heavy for their size. So, as it turned out the reason I was having such trouble finding one was that the gun I wanted hadn't been made.
I had read about 9mm conversions so I started looking at what was available but while the aluminum frame guns were fairly light I was concerned about strength issues. The steel framed guns were certainly strong enough (think S&W 940) but heavy. Finally, the scandium framed guns were really light and really strong but also REALLY expensive just to buy one for a project. My luck finally changed when Bud's Gun Shop offered a scandium Chief's Special (.38spl +p) with a carbon steel cylinder for $409 ($426 with 3% CC premium and shipping insurance). It had everything I needed - lightweight (13.3ozs), strength, and a good price.
I ordered the gun and had it about 2 weeks before I sent it to Mark Hartshorne, owner of Pinnacle High Performance (www.pinnacle-guns.com), to be reworked. I fired about 50 rounds through it before sending it to check function and accuracy so I could make a comparison when I got it back. It was typical of the breed - at 10 yds it shot to point of aim with 158gr wadcutters and a couple of inches low with lighter weight +P hollow points. Recoil was manageable with the factory boot grips, easy with light loads and sharper with the +P's. Off a rest I was keeping 5 shot groups in a couple of inches shooting single action. Aside from a rough, heavy trigger pull and a machining burr at the edge of the forcing cone the gun would be perfectly serviceable as it came from the factory. This is what it looked like:
I sent the gun to Mark with the following list of requests:
a. Rechamber to 9mm and cut cylinder face for moonclips, chamfer holes
b. Action job
c. Replace front sight with a low profile fiber optic sight
d. Bob the hammer so that it wouldn't snag but leave enough so I could still cock it
e. Smooth and polish trigger
f. Chamfer the forcing cone to clean up the burrs
Mark assured me he could do the job and had done similar work on other guns. I had seen some photos of work he'd done so I felt pretty good about it although I'd never had any kind of custom work done on a gun before so I was still kind of nervous. Especially since I'd just dropped $400+ on the new gun!! It felt like I was sending my new car to get the engine swapped! Anyway, Mark was super to work with. He was more than willing to take the time to talk to me about exactly what I wanted and really went went the extra mile to take care of me. He gave me a ball park figure for the work and was spot on by the time it was done. The total for the job came to $421, including return shipping.
The last thing the gun would need was a set of laser grips so while the gun was gone I ordered a set of Crimson Trace LG-105 grips off of eBay for $158 shipped.
Final tally $1005 and I am absolutely ecstatic!! Mark's work is flawless, the cylinder work looks like it came from the factory that way, the action is smooth as butter - DA is heavy enough to be safe and the SA is unreal, about a pound and you can't say it is clean or crisp or anything else because you can't feel anything!! Press the trigger and it fires, you can't feel it move! The best I've ever felt. The bob job is smooth and clean and the trigger has been nicely rounded and has a mirror polish. Obviously Mark Hartshorne and Pinnacle performance gets two thumbs waaayy up from me!
I have not had the chance to shoot for groups yet but I did shoot some silhouettes and steel targets with the original grips on it and it seems to shoot spot on. Recoil was mild with 115gr ball, which is all I've shot so far. I will try to get out later today (it's raining now) and I will update this thread with a range report in case anyone is interested.
So, here it is, at long last, the gun I wanted that S&W won't build:
I got out back yesterday and put about 70rds through my new S&W "369" 9mm snubby. I'm very pleased with the way it shoots, recoil is very mild even with +P ammo, similar to that of my Kahr CW9. Recoil is definitely less than when I shot it with Speer GD 135 gr +P and Federal Hydra-shock +P .38spls before I sent it to have the work done. I fired a mix of Remington and Magtech 115gr FMJ and Magtech 115gr +P HP. The +P 9mm is rated about 300fps faster than the +P .38 spls.
The Crimson Trace grips are very comfortable and fit my hand well. They are hard polymer with stippling on the sides for a secure grip but don't hang up or drag on clothing. The laser is a wonderful thing, it's nice to know that even if I can't get the gun up to line up the sites I can still put rounds on target.
The moonclips are great! The gun is very fast to reload, the combination of the chamfered cylinder holes and the shape of the 9mm bullets make it easy to drop them right in. Much easier than using a regular speed loader with .38's since you don't have to fiddle so much with lining up the rounds and then turning the knob to release them. Also, because the cases are so short and attached to the moonclip it just takes a slight push on the ejector rod to pop them out completely. I've read that the old S&W 940 had issues with empties sticking in the cylinder but I haven't experienced that. The gunsmith said that when he does these conversions he cuts the cylinder to 9x23 and that alleviates the sticking problem.
I shot it at 10yds, off-hand and from a rest, and at 7 and 3yds off-hand and from the holster. Accuracy is on par with what I got out of it shooting .38's, although it does shoot a little low but I expected that with the higher velocity rounds. Shooting single action from a rest I was getting 5 shots in 3-4" using the sights, once I got the laser sighted in and used it in conjunction with the sights I was able to get 5rds in 2-3" consistently. Of course, the closer I got to the target the smaller the groups got. It is very easy to shoot fast, I was able to empty the gun in about 3 seconds and keep all 5rds in a group about the size of a tennis ball at 3yds. The action is butter smooth and the double action pull is probably 2-3 pounds lighter than it was originally, the single action pull is incredibly light and clean. Certainly the best I've ever felt.
So, in conclusion, I couldn't be happier with the gun. It is everything I'd hoped it would be and Mark Hartshorne at Pinnacle High Performance did an amazing job. I'll definitely be using his services in the future.