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Smith & Wesson: A Trusted Name in Firearms for Over 150 Years

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Established over 150 years ago, Smith & Wesson has been at the forefront of firearms development, catering to practically every enthusiast. They offer a diverse array of products, including rifles, pistols, and even shotguns, catering to all types of enthusiasts. 

The journey of Smith & Wesson is full of rich history that is often overshadowed by their extensive lineup. Below, we’re going in-depth on their beginnings and how they became what they are today.  

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Their History: Original Ownership and Background 

Originally known as the Smith & Wesson Company, it was formed as a partnership between Horace Smith and D.B. Wesson in 1852. Initially, the two teamed up to develop a type of firearm that could fire self-contained cartridges. After considerable development, their first firearm was created: the Volcanic pistol. Once patented, their company would become known as Volcanic Repeating Arms in 1855. 

The Volcanic Pistol was a type of lever-action pistol that used a tube magazine and a more modern style of cartridge. Over time, their design would be tweaked and enhanced for better reliability and was even used for rifle platforms as well. Despite their success, this company would be relatively short-lived, as Smith left the company to return to his home state. Eventually, the Volcanic Repeating Arms company was dissolved and reorganized into the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. 

Smith And Wesson Revolver Company 

Horace Smith and D.B. Wesson would reunite years later and begin developing firearms again, leveraging the success of their previous endeavors. Together they formed a new company, the Smith and Wesson Revolver Company. Capitalizing on the expiration of the Colt Revolver patent, both got to work to develop a new revolver, and by the late 1800s, they had several revolvers to their name.  

In the early to mid-20th century, the Smith & Wesson Revolver Company was well-regarded as one of the more innovative manufacturers. Their creation of the .38 Special and .357 Magnum cartridges (some of the most popular revolver cartridges ever made), and the M&P line of revolvers were among their most notable achievements. Eventually, the company became colloquially known as just ‘Smith & Wesson’, which is how it’s known today.  

Smith & Wesson Today 

Today, Smith & Wesson is headquartered in Maryville, Tennessee, where they maintain their dedication to quality. Every component of their firearms is produced in house to ensure the quality of the end result. So, whether you’re shopping for a Smith & Wesson revolver or one of their AR-15s, you can be confident knowing you’re considering a high-quality choice.  

Smith & Wesson Firearms 

As we noted before, Smith & Wesson boasts a diverse assortment of firearms. Their offerings include everything from classic revolvers and lever action rifles to more modern semi-auto pistols and AR variants. 

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Smith & Wesson Handguns 

Smith & Wesson offers an impressive lineup of semi-automatic pistols, with their M&P and Shield lines being the most popular.  

The standard M&P line of pistols is made up of many different double-stack pistol models, but the M&P9 2.0 is the flagship Smith & Wesson 9mm pistol. Since its introduction, it’s been favored by both law enforcement groups and enthusiasts alike.  

Compact models can feature a 3.6- or 4-inch barrel and have 15-round magazine capacity, while full-size variants come with a 4.25-inch barrel and a 17-round magazine. If you’re looking for a smaller size double-stack pistol, the sub-compact size is your best bet. Designed for concealed carry, it keeps the 3.6-inch barrel of the compact but has a much smaller frame and a 10 to 12-round magazine capacity.  

Similar handguns like the M&P 40 and M&P 45 are all available as well and chambered in their corresponding calibers. Regardless of which one you opt for; Smith & Wesson provides Performance Center variants of each. Pistols in this line can come with upgraded triggers, sights, optic-ready slides, and even ported barrels. If you’re looking for a solid red dot ready pistol, the Performance Center models are a solid pick. 

If you are looking for concealed carry, the M&P Shield is one of the go-to ultra-compact options for many enthusiasts. It was designed specifically with concealed carrying in mind, and as such, it has a very slim profile that makes doing so easy. Due to its slimmer design, it’s primarily available in single-stack configuration with a capacity of 7 to 8 rounds. That said, there is another model, known as the Shield Plus, that keeps the slim profile of the original model but uses double-stack magazines, upping the capacity to 10 to 13 rounds.  

Also in the shield line is the M&P 380 EZ. What separates the EZ from other pistols is its ease of use. Chambered in .380 ACP, it has a light recoil impulse and comes standard with Smith & Wesson’s easy-to-rack slide. It also has multiple safety mechanisms, including a trigger safety, palm-grip safety, and even a thumb safety selector.  

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Smith & Wesson Revolvers 

A callback to their roots, Smith & Wesson continues to produce a myriad of revolvers. Today, Smith & Wesson revolvers are exceedingly popular, with models like the J-frame, L-frame, and Governor standing tall as some of the most notable.  

The J-frame is arguably the most popular revolver that Smith & Wesson produces. Being the smallest revolver in their lineup, its light weight and compact form factor makes it an excellent choice for concealed carry and recreational applications. Additionally, it can come chambered in a multitude of calibers like .38 Special and .357 Magnum, with there also being rimfire models available too. Like for their semi-automatic pistols, Smith & Wesson offers a series of Performance Center variants that can come equipped with upgraded grips, sights, and can feature much lighter scandium alloy frames.  

The L-frame is a larger, medium-sized revolver. It’s available in multiple barrel lengths and can utilize larger calibers. Whereas the J-frame can only use .357 Magnum or and smaller calibers, L-frame revolvers can be chambered in .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, and even 9mm. Like their other revolver lines, there are also performance center variants available, coming with the upgrades mentioned before. Some prominent models that use the L-frame are the 686 and 627. They have anywhere from a 5 to 6-round cylinder depending on the caliber, though there is a 686 Plus variant that can carry up to 7.  

Smith & Wesson’s Governor model is one of the most robust revolvers they offer. A large frame revolver, the Governor is unique in that it’s chambered to take three rounds: .45 ACP, .45 Long, and .410 Shotshells. The added versatility makes the Governor particularly well suited for personal defense, especially since there are multiple defensive loads available for each caliber it uses. Paired with its 6-round capacity, it offers a high-level of firepower and makes for an exceptional personal defense gun.  

If you’re interested in getting a revolver, our guide on choosing the best Smith & Wesson revolver breaks down each frame size and the purpose they best suit. 

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Smith & Wesson AR Variants 

In 2006, Smith & Wesson introduced the M&P-15, their take on the AR-15, to their rifle lineup. Since then, they’ve expanded the line to include multiple AR-15 variants and AR-10s. 

The M&P-15 is the most well-known Smith & Wesson AR-15. It’s available in multiple configurations, but it’s most commonly sold in its Sport II configuration, as it’s a great affordable AR-15. It comes with mil-spec furniture, a fixed front sight post, and has a 16-inch barrel. Being an AR-15, it’s easily upgradable, as there is a plethora of aftermarket options.  

If you’re more interested in a premium model, the M&P 15 Volunteer XV Pro is a solid pick. Essentially, it’s an upgraded version of the M&P-15 that comes with B5 Systems furniture, a full-length M-LOK handguard, flip-up iron sights, and an upgraded flat face trigger. Depending on the model, it can come with either a 14.5-, 16-, or a 20-inch barrel and can come chambered in 6mm ARC. 

A step up in size, the M&P 10 is another solid rifle choice. It’s basically a Smith & Wesson AR-10. Like the M&P-15, it’s available in both a standard configuration and an upgraded Volunteer series as well. Both options are nearly identical feature-wise to their AR-15 counterparts, though currently, the M&P10 Volunteer Rifles aren’t available with a free-floating M-LOK handguard, and instead have a two-piece handguard from B5 Systems. Aside from this, they share many of the same features, except for the larger caliber. 


Other Smith & Wesson Rifles 

The S&W Model 1854 is a new addition to the Smith & Wesson catalog. It’s a lever action rifle that’s chambered in .44 Magnum, and though it’s based on a classic design, it has many modern comforts. Each model comes with a black synthetic stock, a black synthetic handguard with M-LOK attachment points, an upper picatinny rail section for mounting optics, as well as integrated iron sights. The 19.25-inch barrel of the 1854 rifle gives the .44 Magnum cartridge a considerable amount of muzzle velocity, making it ideal for hunting and recreation.  

Among their more innovative designs, the FPC is a 9mm pistol caliber carbine that can fold in half for easy storage/stowing. Its grip is similar in design to the M&P9 2.0 pistol, and it uses the same magazines. Additionally, it comes with a full-length M-LOK handguard and a threaded 16.25-inch barrel. Even though it doesn’t come with any iron sights, the upper picatinny rail makes it easy to mount red dots or other backup sights. Plus, when it folds, it folds to the side to avoid interfering with any optics you may be using.  

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Smith & Wesson Shotguns 

Shotguns are a relatively recent addition for Smith & Wesson. Although they used to produce shotgun models, like the Model 1000, they’re currently only offering one shotgun model, the M&P 12. The M&P 12 Bullpup is a pump-action 12-gauge shotgun. Being a bullpup, it has a short overall length but still supports a 19-inch barrel. What makes this shotgun unique is its dual-tube design. Traditionally, shotguns only have one shell tube. By having two, you effectively have twice the ammo as a normal shotgun, and the M&P 12 exemplifies this with its 14-shell capacity (7 shells per tube). 

Like the FPC we mentioned earlier, the M&P 12 doesn’t come with any sights. It does, however, come with an upper picatinny rail section that makes mounting optics easy. Because of how compact this shotgun is, it’s an excellent choice for home defense.  


With over a century and a half of experience and innovation to their name, Smith & Wesson continues to stand tall as one of the most highly renowned titans in the firearms industry. Though they got their start as a much smaller handgun manufacturer, they’ve evolved to have an extensive range of firearms and gear that offers something for everyone.  

Their enduring legacy and commitment to innovation shows in the sheer variety in their offerings. So, whether you’re looking for a new revolver or an AR-15 for competition, Smith & Wesson is ready to exceed all your expectations. 

If you’re looking to pick up one of their AR-15s, check out our AR-15 shooting tips for beginners’ article. It breaks down everything you’ll need to know when shooting, as well as reinforce good fundamentals for practice.