My first, last, and only foray into owning a Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol came in the mid-1990s, with my purchase of a S&W 4006 in caliber .40 S&W. I bought this to replace the Glock 22 I’d began my present job with, and I chose a .40 cal because that was as close to a .45 ACP as my present employer would allow (at that time).
Previously, my experience with Smith & Wesson revolvers – notably, the M586/686, had been quite satisfactory. I believed this quality would carry over to S&W’s semiautomatic pistols. A couple of years earlier, during police academy, I’d shot a couple of hundred rounds through a buddy’s 4506 and, while it wasn’t up to the level of a fine 1911, it did a workmanlike job.
I ordered my 4506 new-in-the-box from a police supply company. Mine came with a bobbed hammer, to reduce snagging during off-duty carry. It gleamed as I unwrapped it. I have always been partial to the look of a stainless steel pistol.
Qualifying was problematic. The rear sight assembly had been attached far off-center to the right; so I had to dial the adjustable sight far to the left to compensate (I later had a gunsmith correct this). Once I had the pistol zeroed, I shot the qualification course, scoring only in the mid-80s. This upset me greatly, and the range instructor scoring me shrugged and told me I was just getting used to a new gun. I put two boxes through it, cleaned it, and tried shooting the course again … with the same result. I don’t think I ever shot above a 92 with that pistol.
I can invoke the funny harmonics of the .40 S&W cartridge, which demand at least 5″ of barrel to properly stabilize the bullet. But there were other factors as well. The Smith & Wesson trigger is infamously creepy, with quite a bit of return needed to squeeze off the next shot. If shooting a fine 1911 is figure skating, shooting a Gen 3 S&W automatic is slogging through the mud. Finally, there was substantial play in the barrel and slide of the 4006 – the gun just did not lock up very tight. Looser tolerances tend to promote reliability … up to a point. When you can pick up a pistol, shake it, and listen to the rattle, this is not a good thing.
The factory grips were slippery, and bowed outward from the frame after a few months of carry. Nor did the finish hold up; within six months, the matte stainless areas on the pistol had taken quite a whooping from holster wear. I had the gun not quite a year before I traded it for a Sig-Sauer P226.
My criticisms of this particular gun extend to all other Third Generation S&W pistols I’ve ever fired. These were never, so far as I can tell, spectacular guns.
I speak here in the past tense because, happily, S&W stopped production of the 4006 (and, indeed, of all Third Generation semiautomatics) in 2011. It seems Smith & Wesson has phased these dinosaurs out in favor of their superior M&P series of polymer-framed pistols, and their line of 1911s.
So why bother writing a review? Because an awful lot of these “boat anchors” can still be found, on the cheap, at gun shows and at gun shops. Some of these are retired service pistols, and prices of around $250 – $300 are not uncommon. This could present a terrible temptation to the misinformed, or the inexperienced.
Take my advice: If you ever have an opportunity to buy a S&W 4006 – even a new one, even for $200 bucks – run the other way.