One line of Smith & Wesson pistols that gets too commonly overlooked is the metal framed pistols they produced from the 1950s up until the 2010s. While no longer in production today, having been supplanted by the M&P line, these guns are highly regarded for their durability and quality.
I admit that these older series of S&W pistols fell under my radar until fairly recently. I acquired a Smith & Wesson Model 4506-1 .45 ACP and Model 3913NL 9mm (click both to read my reviews and compare) last year, which I found to be very reliable and soft shooters.
Another older metal-framed Smith & Wesson pistol that I had the opportunity to own for a bit was the Smith & Wesson Model 909. This gun was an example of the budget metal-framed pistols that Smith & Wesson was producing for a bit, and it’s the gun that actually introduced me to these older Smith & Wesson pistols in the first place.
This Smith & Wesson 909 review explores the little-known 909 in greater depth.
Keeping track of the numerous types and models of the older metal-framed Smith & Wesson pistols can be a fairly arduous task. Long story short, three generations of these pistols began with the Smith & Wesson Model 39, the company’s first-ever semi-automatic pistol.
The third generation of the metal-framed S&W pistols began in the late 1980s and continued on into the 2000s, depending on the model.
Two of Smith & Wesson’s third-generation pistols were called the 3904 (blued) and 3906 (stainless), which were full-sized 9mm duty pistols that were essentially a single-stack variant of the popular double stacked 5904 (blued) and 5906 (stainless).
These were also among the most popular of the 3rd generation S&W pistols. And yes, the numbering system is confusing to follow, but bear with me…
In the mid-1990s, Smith & Wesson unveiled budget versions of the 3904/3906 and 5904/5906 pistols. These were called the Smith & Wesson 909 (budget version of the 3904/3906) and the Smith & Wesson 915/910 (budget version of the 5904/5906).
These budget guns, called the ‘Value Line’ by Smith & Wesson, came with a number of ‘downgraded’ features in contrast to the more expensive mainline models, so they could be available for a few hundred dollars less but without sacrificing reliability or accuracy.
While I’ve never handled a 910 or 915, I owned a Smith & Wesson 909 for about a year (before I ‘upgraded’ to the 4506-1).
Enter the Smith & Wesson 909
The 909 was a budget version of the 3904 and 3906 guns. The differences between the 909 and its more expensive counterparts were as follows:
The 909 has one safety/decocker lever on the left side of the slide, whereas the 3904/3906 has an ambidextrous safety/decocker lever. This is either a pro or a con, depending on how you see it. If you’re a lefty, you’re naturally not going to be as inclined to like the 909. Otherwise, you may appreciate having more ‘real estate’ to grab onto on the 909’s slide.
The 909 has a somewhat dull-looking parkerized finish over the slide, contrasting with the nicer-looking blued and stainless finishes of the 3904 and 3906. While rust and corrosion-resistant, I did find that the parkerized finish of the 909 was thin and scratched easily. Honestly, this is where much of the cost savings for the 909 came in over the more expensive models.
The 909 had a polymer guide rod, whereas the 3904 and 3906 had a metal guide rod. The 909’s guide rod saves weight on one end, but on the other end, it’s inherently not as durable.
The 909 had polymer sights, whereas the sights of the 3904 and 3906 were made of steel. Obviously, the steel is more durable.
The 909 had a polymer magazine release, whereas the magazine release of the 3904 and 3906 were steel.
So the 909 was a ‘downgrade’ in many ways to the 3904 and 3906, but it was also available for little more than half the price. It simply wasn’t as nice of a gun, but it provided someone on a tight budget with a means to own a Smith & Wesson pistol.
It’s worth noting that even though the finish and components of the 909 were not as nice as its more expensive cousins, it didn’t sacrifice reliability or accuracy.
In my year plus of owning the 909, I took it to the range multiple times and never experienced a malfunction, proving it was still a perfectly reliable service pistol even with the not-as-nice features.
What Happened To The Smith & Wesson 909?
The 909 didn’t last long in Smith & Wesson’s catalog. It was only produced from 1995 to 1997, so they are a somewhat collectible pistol for true Smith & Wesson aficionados.
You can find used 909s floating around on the market, and just like in the mid-’90s when they were being produced, they continue to be routinely sold for a much lesser price point than other Smith & Wesson metal framed pistols.
Looking online, I see Smith & Wesson 3904s and 3906s in good condition routinely selling for the $700 to $800 range, whereas a 909 will cost you in the $300 to $400 range, depending on condition.
It’s also worth noting that Smith & Wesson produced a compact version of the 909 called the 908, which was essentially the budget model of the 3913 and 3914.
The 908, along with the 910 and 915, remained in production for much longer than the 909 did and weren’t discontinued until sometine in the 2000s when the company began to transition to the M&P line. That’s why the 909 is among the rarest of the Smith & Wesson Value Line of pistols.
I ended up selling my 909 shortly before I purchased a 4506-1. The 4506-1 is a gun that I like a lot more to the point that it’s become one of my personal favorite pistols of all time, but that’s a story for another day.
Conclusion – Smith & Wesson 909 Review
If you’ve ever wanted one of the older metal-framed pistols that Smith & Wesson produced but don’t want to throw down a lot of cash for one, the Model 909 is worth taking a peek at thanks to its lower price point.
Since it’s also somewhat collectible due to its rarity, it may be appealing for that reason as well.
Nick Oetken is a writer and firearms enthusiast based out of Idaho. He specializes primarily in writing about the outdoors, firearms, and disaster preparation. Nick is a published author and has written for major firearms publications like Guns.com.