Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson Models: 469......Blue slide, alloy frame (to 1988) 6904.....Blue slide, alloy frame (1989 on) 669......Stainless slide, alloy frame (to 1988) 6906.....Stainless slide, alloy frame (1989 on) 6946.....Double-action only variant of 6906 Type: Autoloading pistol, recoil operated Caliber: 9mm Luger (aka 9mm Parabellum or 9mm x 19mm) Capacity: 12 rounds (pre-1994 magazines) 10 rounds (post-1994 magazines) Sights: Pre-1988 models.......rear drift adjustable notch and front fixed blade Post-1988 models......Novak 3-dot sights Tritium night sights are optional Dimensions: Barrel Total Weight Length Length (empty) ------ ------ ------- 469/669 3.5 in. 6.875 in. 26 oz. 6904/6906/6946 3.5 in. 6.875 in. 26.5 oz.
These pistols all have lightweight alloy frames, and are available with the slide in either blued steel or brushed stainless steel. Prior to 1988, these were called the models 469 (blued) and 669 (stainless). After 1988, and several minor modifications, they were called the 6904 and 6906, respectively, to fit into Smith & Wesson's new 4-digit model numbering scheme for pistols. A double-action only variant of the 6906, called the 6946, is also offered. For purposes of this FAQ, we will refer to these five models collectively as the "69XX" models.
For comparison, Smith & Wesson also offers 8-shot compact 9mm pistols and 15-shot mid-sized 9mm pistols which are identical in operation to the 69XX models, but different in terms of capacity, weight, and grip size. Anyone considering a 69XX model would be wise to also investigate the other models as well before making a purchase decision.
Before first handling one of these pistols, I expected the hardware to be rough and brutish but functional, in keeping with S&W's reputation as the Ford or Chevy of the gun business. My impressions since examining several are the exact opposite in terms of machining and smooth operation.
All the metal parts fit together exceptionally well, and no edges were in need of deburring. The internal parts appear well machined and they move smoothly where they are supposed to. And the trigger pulls are fantastically smooth for such mass-produced firearms.
Inside the gun we find exactly what we'd expect in a basic recoil-operated pistol: Spring, guide rod, and barrel resting in the bottom of a heavy metal slide, all atop an intricate but traditional firing mechanism crammed into the leftover spaces around the magazine cavity.
The grip panels are checkered plastic or rubber. On the pre-1988 models, the grips are in three pieces, two side panels plus backstrap, while on the post-1988 versions the grip is in one wraparound piece. The pointy plastic checkering on the older models is unusually deep, and I found myself suffering mild but annoying skin abrasions after handling one for a short while. This is probably curable by sanding down the 'tips' of the checkering or replacing the plastic grips with the readily available rubber grips.
The bottom of the grip portion of the frame mates nicely with the large contoured plastic floorplate of the magazine, to provide a total grip length that seems ideal for average sized hands. However, because the magazine floorplate ends in a protruding pinky rest, shooters with large hands may not be able to fit all of their fingers onto the grip.
The standard sights on the pre-1988 models are a simple square notch in the rear and a vertical blade in the front. After 1988, the standard sights were changed to Novak 3-dot sights, with highly visible white dots front and rear, and a much wider rear notch to improve the sight picture. All models can be had with glow-in-the-dark Tritium night sights instead of the standard sights at a moderate additional cost.
When the pistol is fired, the pressure of expanding gasses pushes the bullet forward out the barrel, and also pushes backward against the gun. This rearward force causes the slide to move backward, compressing the recoil spring. When most of the pressure has subsided, the slide unlocks from the barrel and continues further rearward. The empty cartridge casing moves back with the slide. When the slide nears the rear of its travel, the casing bounces off the tip of the ejector and out the ejection port on the side of the slide. As the force of the slide's rearward motion subsides, the kinetic energy stored in the compressed recoil spring drives the slide back toward the front of the gun. As the slide passes forward over the top of the magazine, it drags a fresh cartridge along with it and pushes the cartridge up the feed ramp into the breech end of the barrel where it will reside until the pistol is fired again (or until the cartridge is ejected manually by the operator).
Loading of the S&W magazine is similar to that of many other pistols. Rounds are pushed down and back into the top of the magazine by finger pressure, one by one until the desired number of rounds have been loaded.
To load the pistol, push the loaded magazine up into the magazine well (in the grip) until it 'clicks' into place. Then, grasp the slide firmly, pull the slide back against the spring tension about two inches, then let go of the slide. As the slide snaps back into place, it loads the first round from the top of the magazine into the firing chamber.
The 69XX pistols (except the 6946 DAO) can shoot the first shot as either double-action (hammer is cocked by trigger) or single-action (hammer is pre-cocked by slide). Subsequent shots are always single-action. The slide-mounted ambidextrous safety/decocking lever determines whether the first shot is double-action or single-action.
If the safety is on when a round is chambered, the hammer will stay down (uncocked) when the slide returns to the resting position. In this case, the first shot will be double-action. The long (but smooth) trigger pull on the double-action shot will cock the hammer, then drop it (firing the gun) when the trigger reaches the maximum extent of its travel.
If it is desired that the first shot be single-action, the safety must be off at the time the first round is chambered. In this case, the trigger pull on the first shot and subsequent shots will be identical, very short and smooth.
Since the safety lever is also the decocking lever, it is not possible to have the gun "cocked and locked" as is possible on traditional single-action pistols like the Colt 1911. If the S&W 69XX is cocked, then it is by definition unlocked. If it is locked, then it is automatically decocked. Also note that the hammer is bobbed so it cannot be finger-cocked like the hammers on most single-action pistols.
Once a round is chambered and the safety is off, the gun will fire one shot each time the trigger is pulled. A new round is automatically chambered and the hammer automatically cocked after each shot. If shooting is to be interrupted before the gun is empty, the safety lever can be engaged, which decocks the hammer and disconnects the trigger.
The 6946 model, since it is double-action only, operates slightly different from the other models. Each time the trigger is pulled, the hammer is cocked and released, and there is no decocking lever or manual safety.
If the 69XX is emptied by shooting, the slide will lock back after the last round is expended. This is the gun's signal to the shooter that it is empty. The slide can be returned to the resting position by pressing down on the slide release lever located just above the trigger on the lefthand side of the gun.
To unload the gun, engage the safety (except 6946), press the magazine catch located just behind the trigger on the left side of the grip, and remove the magazine from the magazine well. Then, pull the slide back to eject the chambered cartridge (if any). Pull the slide back again, and look at the chamber to make sure it is empty. The gun can then be safely put away, cleaned, etc. Always keep fingers away from the trigger when unloading any gun.
Note that the S&W 69XX pistols are equipped with a magazine safety. When the magazine is removed, it is not possible to fire the round that may be left in the chamber. Some people like this feature, some don't.
Besides the basic finishes, the following options have been or are available from Smith & Wesson:
List prices, summer 1995: Model 6904 with two 10-round magazines..................$614 Model 6906 with two 10-round magazines..................$677 with Tritium sights..........................$788 Model 6946 double-action only (DAO).....................$677 Typical prices (from brief survey in summer 1995): Model 469 with one 12-round magazine (used)........$300-$400 Model 669 with one 12-round magazine (used)........$350-$450 Model 6904 with one 12-round magazine (used).......$350-$450 Model 6904 with two 10-round magazines (new)......about $550 Model 6906 with one 12-round magazine (used).......$375-$475 Model 6906 with two 10-round magazines (new)......about $600 New 10-round magazines.............................about $20 Used 12-round magazines (hard to find)...............$30-$50 (NOTE: All figures are in US dollars)
A: Pre-1988 models have 3-piece grip panels and generic combat sights. Post-1988 models have a one-piece wraparound grip panel and Novak sights. The later models also have the decocking levers held in place by a small pin instead of the large protruding Phillips head screw found on the older models. The later models are a half ounce heavier, mostly due to the new grip design. Also, the nice blue plastic S&W pistol storage cases did not become standard equipment until some time in the mid-to-late 1980's, so some of the old models did not have them.
Q: Will the 15-round magazines from the larger S&W pistols fit in the 69XX pistols?
A: If anyone has a concrete answer to this, I'd like to know [grin]. The official word from S&W is "we do not recommend using any magazines other than those specifically designed for the firearm in question", which is the response you will get no matter what gun/magazine combination you ask them about.
[Julius Chang replies:
The author asks if the 15-round mags for the larger
S&W pistols will work in thd 69xx series. In my
experience, the answer is yes. The Medford, MA PD
also uses the higher-capacity 59xx magazines in their
69xx duty weapons (at least this was true in the
late 1980s when I went to a public briefing of their
I've used both the original 14-round 59xx magazine
and the newer 15-round 59xx magazine in my 6906
without any problems to feed or cycle.]
I've used both the original 14-round 59xx magazine and the newer 15-round 59xx magazine in my 6906 without any problems to feed or cycle.]
Q: How accurate are the 69XX pistols?
A: Several informal tests were conducted with a 669 and 6906 on beanbag rests. The results showed 5 shot groups of about 1.75 inches at 10 yards, plus or minus a fraction of an inch depending on the ammunition used. In short, the accuracy is reasonable but not spectacular.
Smith & Wesson
Smith & Wesson supplies replacement instruction manuals free of charge. If you have a Smith & Wesson firearm and don't have the instructions for it, you are strongly encouraged to acquire them, as the instructions contain important information regarding the safe and enjoyable operation of the firearm.
Firearms can be dangerous and deadly if not operated properly and in accordance with the manufacturer's and other firearm safety guidelines.
Assume all guns are always loaded.
Never point a gun at anything you don't intend to shoot.
Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.