Smith & Wesson is one of the Big Three American-born (in other words, not counting foreign headquartered firms with U.S. subsidiaries) handgun manufacturers – along with Colt and Sturm, Ruger – and while they’re primarily known as a revolver-maker, they’ve certainly made some fine semiautomatic pistols over the years.
In addition, while quite a few handguns have been dubbed “ladies’ guns” over the years, particularly pocket pistols chambered for so-called “mouse gun” calibers such as .25 ACP, Smith & Wesson had long been a trendsetter in guns specifically targeted to female gun buyers. With that in mind, we’ll now take a look at a double-action (DA) semiauto pistol designed to appeal to male and female shooters alike: the 9mm S&W Model 3913.
S&W M3913 Early History & Specifications
Smith’s Model 3913 didn’t start off as a lady’s gun, but rather, like most firearms, non-gender binary, so to say.
It debuted in 1990 as a part of S&W’s Third Generation series of autopistols, a successor to the First Generation S&W Model 39 and 39-2 – which made history back in 1967 as the first DA 9mm to be adopted by a stateside law enforcement agency – that being Illinois State Police – and Second Generation Model 639.
The 3913, like nearly all Third Generation Smiths, is a traditional DA autopistol with a slide-mounted hammer-dropping safety catch that enables the slide to be racked while the safety is engaged. It soon established a reputation for accuracy and reliability; guest author “Mark C.” reported on the Christian Gun Owner website that “The 3913 is surprisingly accurate for a gun with a 3 1/2 inch barrel. In my hands follow up shots are quick and easy. I easily keep all my shots in 1 1/2-to-2-inch groups at 25 feet. Which is what I practice most for self-defense.”
Enter the LadySmith
The LadySmith product line dates back to 1902, with the tiny M-frame revolvers chambered in .22 Long (not to be confused with the .22 Long Rifle [LR]). The product line really took off with the proliferation of first-time female gun buyers in the 1980s, a movement spearheaded by former anti-gunner turned firearms instructor and gun rights advocate Paxton Quigley. Initially, the revived LadySmith line consisted strictly of revolvers such as the .38 Special Model 642 and Model 60 snubnoses, but soon expanded to include autopistols such as the 9mm Model 3913 LadySmith. To include a piece of trivia, back in 1902 when the Ladysmith line was first introduced, the product line was written as “Ladysmith;” the capitalization of the “S” in “LadySmith” got underway sometime in the 1920s.
The LadySmith version of the 3913 retained the 3.5-inch barrel, 6.81-inch overall length, and 1.75-lb. weight of the original version. However, this version was visually stylized to be more appealing to female customers, including the “LadySmith” inscription on the righthand side of the slide. The gun has a stainless steel slide, an aluminum alloy frame, and matching grey grips, and the frame has a sleeker, more streamlined look compared to the standard 3913 model.
A Shooting Buddy’s Impressions
My friend Lisa down in freedom-loving Florida has owned a 9mm LadySmith as her CCW piece since 2006.
Here’s her take on the gun:
“While it may not have all the advanced features of current gun models, the 3913 can still hold its own on the range and for self-defense. The aim is true, the recoil is low, and it fits well in the hands of smaller individuals. It has a smooth leather grip that doesn’t dig in like most hard plastic options. Having put close to 1,000 rounds in it over the years, it has never let me down. The good: comfortable grip; smaller grip for smaller hands; reliability. The bad: only 7+1, so reloading more often while target shooting.”
Want Your Own?
Alas, Smith & Wesson discontinued the Model 3913, along with the rest of the Third Generation line, in circa 1999 to make room for the Sigma, which in turn was superseded by the M&P series. But they’re still available on the surplus gun market.
According to True Gun Value, “A SMITH & WESSON 3913 pistol is currently worth an average price of $627.42 new and $557.27 used.” GunsAmerica.Com recently listed one at $550.00, while Double Action Indoor Shooting Center & Gun Shop in Madison Heights, Michigan recently sold one for $849.00, well above the average price cited by True Gun Value. In this case, the seller threw in a bunch of extra bennies for the extra bucks, including three sets of grips, fourteen spare magazines, and a 6-month range membership valued at $100.00.
Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.