Smith & Wesson Model 3953

I recently heard some advice from a group of fitness experts that went something like this: Some types of exercise are better than others, but if you want to stay in shape, just find an activity you enjoy. If you don’t like the kind of exercise you’re doing, you probably won’t stick with it and any exercise is better than no exercise.

There’s a lesson there that I think carries over into the world of defensive firearms. Watch the video below for my thoughts, or keep reading for the full transcript.

A lot of you guys have been asking me whether I’m still carrying the Beretta PX4 Compact that I reviewed about a year ago. The truth is that between doing reviews and other research, I don’t usually carry the same gun for very long. I still think the PX4 is a great gun and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it, but I have not been carrying it.

For the last few months, I’ve actually been carrying a Smith & Wesson 3953. These were discontinued several years ago along with all the rest of the old Smith & Wesson metal-framed semi-autos. Unlike most of those guns, this one is double action only instead of double action/single action. It’s a compact single stack 9mm with an 8-round magazine. This gun is almost the same size and weight as the PX4 but it holds about half as much ammo. So it would be fair to ask why I’m carrying something outdated like this when there are other options that are obviously so much better.

I could give you all kinds of little reasons why I think this gun is a better choice for me right now than a higher capacity double stack or a modern pocket-size single stack. But ultimately, the reason I’m carrying this gun is that I just really like it. It’s reliable and accurate, and I have found that I shoot it really well. It’s like a 9-shot 9mm revolver with a really nice trigger. When I’m at the range and I actually find a few minutes to spend on some real focused practice, the 3953 is the gun I want to shoot, so that’s the gun I’ve been carrying.

Some people look at their defensive firearms without any emotional attachment at all. It is just a piece of safety equipment like a fire extinguisher or a seatbelt. As long as it works, they don’t care what it is. I admire that, but I have a difficult time adopting that mentality myself. Most of us who spend any significant time developing defensive shooting skills also view shooting as a hobby. There are a lot of times when that hobby is at odds with the goal of personal protection. Most shooters would probably rather buy another gun they don’t really need than spend that money on a case of practice ammo or a good training class.

But shooting for fun and building self-defense skills don’t have to be mutually exclusive — those two things can compliment each other. In the case of your carry gun, for example, if you enjoy shooting that gun, you’re going to be a lot more motivated to practice with it. On the other hand, if you have a hard time getting excited about going to the range because black plastic is boring to you or because your carry gun is too small and it’s hard to shoot — those things are going to keep you from practicing.

I think it’s probably better to trade that gun in for something that interests you, even if it means giving up some minor perceived tactical advantage like losing a few rounds of ammo capacity or slower split times or going to a smaller caliber. Or, you know, if covering your gun with a fuschia leopard print Cerakote is going to get you excited about taking it to the range, that might be money well spent, too.

I certainly have some opinions about what kind of guns are going to be ideal for most people but I am willing to ignore a lot of that as long as it’s reliable, safe, and it helps motivate somebody to be a better shooter.

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55 thoughts on “My Carry Gun Is Outdated and Weird

      1. Where did you find your holster for the 3953? I have a 6946 that I would like a holster for and am about ready to just make one myself

        1. I got mine from JM Custom Kydex, which is where I get most of my holsters. He makes one for the 6906, which should fit your 6946 just fine.

        2. Had a 3953 for a long time. Traded a Walther P1 for it, I think. Uses the same mags as my 3914, and I was lucky enough to find a Summer Special holster for them both at a gun show (it was LH, which I am, and why it was so inexpensive).

          1. The TSW had several other differences, in addition to the rail, that made them superior to the standard model.

          2. The DAO TSW guns have a different trigger from the standard DAOs too, essentially it’s a 3913 that’s been converted to DAO. That provides double strike capability with the drawback that the trigger is consistently heavier. There’s a strong argument to be made for either system, obviously it’s down to personal preference.

      2. They made pre-rail TSWs. Neither my 3913TSW or my 4013TSW have rails. I don’t see a need for a rail either.

  1. I find that if I’m going to carry something every day, I have to like it. And, for me, that means something I can identify with and can appreciate, even form a kind of a bond with. So, in my case, that doesn’t mean something that rhymes with and looks like a block. I think there are many more people who feel this way than are willing to admit it, or there wouldn’t be a veritable cottage industry of custom slides, frames, striker plates, and finishes for the aforementioned “block.” As far back as the Bronze Age, and likely even into the Stone Age, we have been decorating our weapons and tools. For what other practical purpose than personal satisfaction? It’s not frivolity. It’s important. I figure as long as you don’t end up fighting your gear, carry what you like.

    1. “As far back as the Bronze Age, and likely even into the Stone Age, we have been decorating our weapons and tools.”
      That is a very good point. I had not considered the historical tradition of embellishing weapons and tools, but you’re right — you see it everywhere in historical artifacts from all cultures.

  2. Outdated or just reflective of different priorities?

    As a revolver guy, I really wish DAO semi-autos were more mainstream. I get why they are not more popular, but I like the idea of a higher capacity option with a trigger that is still like my regular gun. Maybe I’m just weird and outdated (wouldn’t be the first time that accusation was leveled at me).

    1. I agree with you. I’m a big fan of DAO autos. I’m an Old Revolver Cop, and when my agency switched to autos, they switched to DAO autos, just because of the trigger similarity with revolvers. But the magazine disconnector on the old Smiths is a deal breaker for me. (My agency used DAO Berettas, HKs, and Sigs.)

  3. I like your taste, Chris. I love the 3rd Gen Smith & Wessons they are all around sexy and have a great feel to them in the hand. I’ve been carrying a Model 915, soon going to be picking up a 6904 for better concealment.

  4. Well said! I would add that you should carry what you want regardless of what other people say, too. It’s your life you’ll be defending, not theirs. Their opinion really doesn’t matter. If you like (and shoot better with) a .22, carry it, by all means. The only way you can go wrong is if you don’t carry anything.

  5. I agree. Plenty don’t like revolvers for EDC. Low round count, slow to reload, and just plain old technology. I love my .357 magnum. It is what I shoot best with. It is what I am most confident with. It feels like it is part of me. This makes it superior, for me, to any other gun out there. Sure there are better guns, but they don’t resonate with me like my 4″ DW 715.

  6. Don’t forget, S&W 3953’s are proven brown bear stoppers.
    You sound like an DA junkie. I am too. Just got a Sig P250 Sub-Compact because…the trigger.

      1. The Chief’s Special 9mm aka CS9 had a shorter grip and barrel and 7 round mags. It was only sold with fat rubber Hogue grips and not the slimmer plastic grips like the 3953 and 3913. The grips on my 3953 were modified by the previous owner for unknown reasons which is why they’re shorter at the bottom, but they don’t affect the way the gun shoots for me.

        1. JohnnyV may be thinking of the rare “TSW Tactical” series. These frames came without the rail, but also had the frame notched out to match the bottom of the stock . With the latter, you then had the option of an even shorter carry magazine that lost one round over the standard model.

          The photo below shows one of the 3953TSW-Tacticals with what appears to be the legacy 8-rd magazine instead of the flush fit 7-rd model.

          1. Very interesting. That’s the first I’ve seen of that version of the TSW. My grips have what look like faint tool marks on the bottom, so I assumed the previous owner had modified them, but the cut was also unusually clean, so I guess it’s possible it was a factory modification and the grips came off one of these pistols.

          2. I have one of the 7 round 3913TSWs, great gun. It is my second favorite carry semi-auto second only to my 4013TSW.

  7. I’m old school and I agree with this article. I just bought a 6904 ( my first 9 I’ve owned in a long time) I wanted a 9 similar too my 39s and 59s I had in the past. I didn’t want a plastic 9, no fun in that. Got a great deal on a mint 6904 and grabbed it. I like the DA/SA also. And the fact that they are accurate and reliable. Like the man said, an emotional attachment to gun helps you use it more. I have many handguns, both pistol and revolvers. Some I don’t care for that much and they just sit in the safe. I have several big bore snubby revolvers that see more range and carry time than mostof my handguns. There is nothing wrong with these old style handguns. They will get the job done as easy as a new one.

  8. I like shooting and carrying my old S&W 6906, a “double-single” version of yours. My first automatic was a Smith 39; I’m sorry I sold it. That was sold to buy a 59, and I’m sorry I sold that too, to buy a Sig226. I love the Sig and carried it into the dark alleys for 20 years, but still carry and shoot the old 6906 just as well. It points well, is always reliable and is light enough to carry all day and night. Add to that, it was given to me when I retired so it cost me nothing. That’s several hundred dollars I can spend on ammo for practice!

    1. Those slim 39s conceal very nicely. If you can’t get it done in 5 rounds, you are definitely hanging around in the wrong parts of town. That is when you bring that Sig Sauer, and a couple extra magazines. I went from a Hi Power straight to the 5904, and was not too keen on the decocker safety lever, at the time. Brush down for a 1911/P35 or varaints thereof and flick up for the 39,59 and Beretta M9s, 92-96, and PX4s. I took the little ball and spring out of my PX4 so it’s decock only now.

  9. What a breath of fresh air…a good ole S & W pistol that goes bang and makes the bad guy fall down…what’s outdated and weird about that? I think that gun is beautiful.

  10. i have a 4006 and 4516tsw that i’ve both shot for years in IDPA. They are solid as a tank, 1911 heavy, accurate and have a sweet single action trigger. I’ll never willingly part with them. I’m still waiting for that 1006 trade in at the local gun store.

  11. I still have my 659, 669 and 3913 all of which I bought new back in the 80’s and 90’s. Very reliable pistols that I will never part with.

  12. If I still had my 5906 I would carry that heavy beast. I loved it though. Never trade/sell a good gun!!! Lesson learned.

  13. I like your thoughts on this matter Chris. I carried a 1911 during the ’50’s in the Marine Corps and again for 25 years in law enforcement. It never let me down and I feel “right” when I carry and shoot it today. The size of the pistol never presented me with concealment issues. Thank you for your relevant articles and research.

    1. Finally someone who likes the 1911-A1 as much as I do. I carried a 1911 for a year in Indochina and 2.5 years in Berlin back when the wall was up. All modern 1911 variants have really not improved from the original 1911. I have a 1911 pre A-1. Works everytime and it will be 100 years old next year. Why re-invent the wheel?

      1. Well the wheel itself has seen lots of improvements over the years. Don’t see too many people recommending the use of stone for wheels anymore.

  14. How is a 1990s-2000s compact service pistol weird or outdated? Reset is fantastic on these, and for the armed citizen a mag safety is also not a bad idea, from a legal standpoint. We are not the police, and won’t be “investigating ourselves”, so if I am going to get in a fight with an unarmed person, taking a functioning firearm out of the equation, can take me out of the left side of a courtroom, later on. The defendant sits on the left side. That’s a place you really don’t want to be. I have a 1076 that I rather like. Being it’s big, and made out of good ol’ fashioned metal, they don’t hop around like a Glock 20. The thin 39 variants also conceal very nicely compared to the 59 derivatives. I carried a 5904, and 6904. I don’t like silvery shiny, or silvery satin. I like basic black, and if it has some antiglare machining across the top, all the better. I am carrying a Daewoo DP51 now, and that is about the same as a 5904, with a few extra tricks in that triple action trigger, and any old 59 series holster fits it. One drawback, no mag safety. Okay, the mag safety is a subjective item. You can still dump the magazine, and hopefully eject the round in the chamber, if need be. I probably do have a backup somewhere on my person. Don’t give away all your secrets, and may we never need to use our guns.

    1. Well may we never need to shoot anyone. The range is different, and I really like the plain old outdoors, provided I have a second person with me. Always bring a friend when shooting outdoors, away from an organized range, so if you do something really stupid, they can get you to a hospital.

      1. Or just use common sense and avoid doing something stupid. Has worked for me for a lot of years.

  15. I also love the older S&W “heavy metal” pistols and others of that ilk. If you love real metal, double action pistols, take a look at the Kahr T9. I have been using one as my daily carry gun. The T9 is definitely old school, beautifully made, with an out of the box double action trigger as good as a revolver with a custom trigger job.

  16. Hi Chris. Hey this is the second article of yours I’ve read. Enjoyed both. Learned something I never knew after all these years; and that is, that the 2nd gen 469 was blued AA and not carbon steel. I’m floored. All this time I thought that the “4” was BCS! I’ve owned a 669 for what seems like forever – I believe since 1986. All my holsters – Galco leather – are for this pistol. Other guns have come and gone but this has always been my EDC. I have a few questions for you if you know and don’t mind fielding them for me.

    First: Do you know if S&W is still repairing their older pistols or not. This one has the (common?) problem in that the harder material(SS) has defeated the weaker one(AA). The slide has worn down the guide rails on the frame. This renders the hammer drop safety useless. It still blocks the hammer, but won’t drop it forward – which makes it a serious problem since I am so religious about not having a holster without a thumb break(SS2, Silhouette, etc.). I ran into a guy several years back that had this problem and said he got his repaired by S&W. Granted he was out of his EDC for about 3 months. I never sent mine in because it would have left me at the time with an HK VP70Z as my only carry pistol. So…. I may have missed the boat on this deal. Any insight would be appreciated. I have yet to contact S&W directly.

    My other question is regarding carry load rotation. I have always carried Glaser Safety Slugs when I only carried one mag at a time. These are the old blue nose rounds and are obviously getting pretty old. Do you think they’re still viable? I own about 40 rounds of these frangible war horses. Again, any insight would be greatly appreciated.

    Cordially, your long-winded new follower/fan

    1. Hi Jim, I don’t believe S&W is doing major repairs on the old metal framed guns anymore. If you send it in to be worked on, they will most likely offer to give you a new M&P of your choice to replace your “obsolete” pistol.

      As for the Glaser ammo, I would not recommend using it for a self-defense load. It does not penetrate anywhere close to deep enough to reliably stop an attacker. I recommend modern Speer Gold Dot or Federal HST ammo for defensive use. They both have a very good track record, and currently, they are both affordable and widely available.

      1. OK Chris, thanks for the info and the ammo recommendations. I’ll retest the Glasers for penetration and viability. I can spare a few. I recently saw some tests where it actually over-penetrated drywall which it was not intended to do; which is why I carry frangible ammo in the first place.

        1. The relevant penetration is that in a bad guy. Use the FBI standards, at least 12 inches, but under 18 inches AND as much expansion as possible. HST Micro 50 get out to .61

  17. Hi — I bought the Beretta PX4 Storm Compact in 9mm (G-model), but after looking at your DAO auto I re-discovered the Sig Sauer P250 sub-compact in 9mm. I can definitely see why you went to a DAO auto, safer than a striker-fire, similar to the trigger on my Ruger LCR (357) I carry often, plus you don’t have to mess with a decocker or a safety. I find the decocker lever on the Beretta hard for me to manipulate, mostly due to it’s position on the slide. So for $299.00 I just bought a NIB P250 sub-compact, thinking about getting a second one, because like your S&W they are starting to disappear. But unlike your S&W many parts that they use in the Sig P320 are interchangeable with the P250… 🙂

  18. Little off topic…did you ever finish your DA/SA search/review? I’ve been looking at HK p30sk, Walther 99c AS and others and wondered how your project is going.

  19. I love these 4 digit Smiths too. The one under review is a popular option for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the other being the 5946.

  20. Does anyone make a striker gun with DA/SA operation? Seems like it would combine the best aspects of both setups.

  21. This is awesome. Many have forgotten about these beauties, and I love the “old” S &W pistols. I have a Smith 40, model 410 and I love it, fits like a glove and conceals well.

  22. I had a 1006. It was a very well made pistol and I wouldn’t mind having another one in a different caliber. What would that be? The 5906? Anyway I’m looking to the full size PX4 (as it is only a 4” barrel) as my next handgun to compliment my 92FS.

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