A rare modern classic: the Smith & Wesson PC 5906 in 9mm Luger under test

S&W PC 5906 left view
The PC 5906 from Smith & Wesson is made from stainless steel.

The four inch version of the 5906 from the Performance Center came too early on the market for the Production division. At the same time, it was born as an all-steel pistol into an era where many big manufacturers like Smith & Wesson cared only about polymer pistols and 1911s. The long "Target Champions" and related 9mm sports models from Smith & Wesson sold excellently for years. At the turn of the millennium, however, Smith & Wesson had other plans: polymer pistols ruled the US market and anyone who wanted to invest in a high-quality all-steel pistol bought a 1911. But unlike many of its five- and six-inch siblings, one version sold surprisingly poorly: the PC 5906 with a 4" barrel. Perhaps it was not able to distinguish itself from a normal 5906 in terms of concept and features – which, however, did not apply to its higher price. The Performance Center launched the PC 5906 with a 102 mm long barrel in 1997; company expert and chronicler Roy Jinks is quoted as saying that the total numbers of this version are limited to just 420.

The PC 5906 9mm pistol from Smith & Wesson in detail

In terms of design, the PC 5906 differs little from a conventional M 5906, the latter in turn being a modernized descendant of the Model 59 introduced at the beginning of the 1970's. Ultimately, it is simply the all-steel version of the 4-inch service models with traditional double/single-action trigger, here in the version made entirely of stainless steel. Okay, the noble version left the in-house custom shop matt glass bead blasted and with black decocking levers. Typical for the most common version of the basic M 5906 model, on the other hand, were the polished stainless-finished surfaces and safety levers with integrated decocking function, also made of stainless steel. The magazine, Novak sights and many small parts were identical in construction, the one-piece plastic grip with straight back was regularly mounted on the 4006 model in .40 S&W, but not on the M 5906. In the area of optional extras, the company kept a low profile despite the steep prices. Possibly too discreet, the front strap checkering instead of simple longitudinal grooves – as on the normal M 5906 – did not change the gun enough to make it stand out from the considerably cheaper basic version.

Smith & Wesson PC 5906 disassembled into its individual parts.
There are no technical differences between the PC 5906 and a normal M 5906, but fit and finish are worlds apart.

All details about the S&W PC 5906 at a glance

Model:Smith & Wesson PC 5906 4”-barrel
Price:only used
Caliber:9mm Luger (9x19 mm)
Magazine Capacity:15 + 1 rounds
Dimensions (L x W x H):7.55 x 1.41 x 5.55 in (192 x 36 x 141 mm)
Barrel Length:4”/102 mm
Sight Radius:6.1”/155 mm
Trigger Pull Weight:5/9.3 lb (2300 g/4250 g)
Weight:39 oz/1105 g
Notes:Stainless steel, rigid Novak sights, Briley bushing, DA/SA trigger, decocking lever.

The differences between PC 5906 and M 5906

Muzzle of the Smith & Wesson PC 5906
At the muzzle of the  Smith & Wesson PC 5906 is the Performance Center-typical Briley bushing.

When it comes to processing, finish and fit, the PC 5906 and the conventional M 5906 are worlds apart. The slide, barrel and frame of the PC do not originate from series production, as can be seen in the edges and finish, which were processed more carefully than with an M 5906. In addition, you can feel and hear the precisely matched, almost suction-tight fit between the main assemblies of the grip, slide and barrel. The latter has the Briley bushing typical of the old all-metal pistols from the Smith & Wesson Performance Center: a gold-colored nitrated and pivoting ring is located in the muzzle bushing, ensuring a particularly precise fit of the barrel in the muzzle area despite the tilting barrel.

On the shooting range, the gun in question turned out to be unusually picky in terms of accuracy. Only with reloaded cartridges, using Hornady match bullets and Vihtavuori propellant, did it produce outstanding results. Among the factory ammo, the Golden Saber combat cartridge from Remington was in the lead. As expected, there were no malfunctions, even with weak loads. Apart from pure hole punching, the PC 5906 shot no different than a normal M 5906 with a moderately smoothed trigger.

The barrel of the Smith & Wesson PC 5906
Parts like the barrel did not come from the normal production line of the M 5906 model.

Thanks to their weight making them some of the heaviest service pistols of the post-war period, the all-steel versions of the S&W M59 have a pleasantly mild recoil. The short trigger reset helped with quick strings, the angular and not excessively non-slip grip rather less. The straight grip back of the plastic grip, which is rather typical for the 40 series models, is a matter of taste, similar to the 92 Berettas with curved grip back versus the rear straight Vertec frame of the 92 series.

Smith & Wesson PC 5906: wrap up

More than 20 years after the debut of the S&W 4-inch PC 5906, the model appears as a pleasantly high-quality 9mm Para pistol that, with the right choice of ammunition, shoots excellently. Even today, this 9mm Para pistol does not belong to the old irons in its size and weight class. Modern alternatives for the rather unspectacularly designed sights and the mediocre grip are still available, spare parts are more of a problem. Actually, the PC 5906 only lacks a Picatinny interface. It's about time that Smith & Wesson reactivates the old fighters of the 39/59 series at least from the Performance Center, the big brothers and sisters in .45 and 10 Auto best of all right away. Competitors such as SIG Sauer have never given up the premium sector for their own all-metal models, Beretta and Walther are just about to return to the field with steel sports pistols.

On all4shooters.com we also tested other all-steel pistols. For example a current one from Walther, the Q4 SF in 9mm Luger.

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