Review: S&W 4006


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.

19 thoughts on “Review: S&W 4006

  1. Spencer

    I do not believe this to be an accurate review by any means. I have a first year of production 4006 made in 1990 that is a sub 1000 serial. It is my most accurate handgun i own. Mine has NO slide rattle and the barrel is more snug than in any other autopistol i have held. Mine is superbly accurrate at 25 yards giving me groupings of less than 2.5″ consistantly. It has less snap than any other .40 i have shot and is very controllable while making quick follow up shots. My gun is 22 years old and i have no gripes with it except for the factory grips. Too straight for my liking. The 4006 is a sublime pistol to own and has never jammed on me after thousands of rounds being put through it. It is also my on duty sidearm (i am an armed security guard and would trust this postol with my life every day of the week).

    It sounds like the 4006 the reviewer got his hands on is a serious lemon. Every 4006 i have seen is as good as mine. This review shocked me from all angles

    Do NOT let this review turn you away from one of these suerbly made firearms. It is by far the best .40 Ever produced (it was discontinued in 1999 and replaced with the polymer m&p series pistol… Eww). Its built like a tank and meant to be a Duty Pistol for law enforcement so that should be a good idea of its quality.

    Buy one, you will NOT be dissatisfied…

    1. Patrick

      I agree with this post. I have a 1911, XD40 and the 4006. All are great guns. I love my 4006 and have NEVER had an issue with it at all! No jambs, no rattle, tight fit, and 2 inch groups consistently. Well worth the price I paid for it.

  2. Paul Kersey

    Hello Everyone:

    I do not own a 4006, but a 5906, which is basically the same gun. I hope to become a 4006 in a few days, but that is yet uncertaint, since it does not entirely depend on me. The seller has to agree as well! Any way, I ‘ve become my 5906 about a month ago, a used one. I don’t know how many rounds were put thru it before. It came a little scratched and dirty, but perfectly funtional. I cleaned it deeply and machine polished all the frame, slide and barrel. Then hand polished the feeding ramp and the exterior of the chamber. Changed the grips for a Hogue Gonçalo Alves ones. The result is a better than new custom gun. I took it to the range and the gun performed excellent. No malfunctions with any kink of ammo, even +P handloaded one. Precision was at Glocks level, since I own a couple of them and can compare. The gun looks and feels like a piece of art, always having in mind it is a Police/Defense weapon, and not a competition one. Besides, the heavier frame makes recoil perception almost null, like shooting a .32ACP cartdridge, and not a 9mm Luger round. Not a gun for carriying concealed, but a nice piece of enginering from the good old “wondernine” times. Worth every Euro I spent on it. Best regards to all!

    1. Uncle Dave Post author

      Paul: One of my former partners at the PD, now retired, carried his 5906 for 16 years. I fired it a couple of times, and found it a far better gun than my 4006 – more accurate, at any rate. Over time, the slide grew a little loose. The extractor broke, but this was due to his bad habit of unloading the pistol at home each night, then dropping one into the pipe each morning, and letting the extractor ride over the top of the case rim when he released the slide, rather than feeding one in from the magazine. Police duty guns take a beating over time, and his was no exception – it was an ugly, battered-looking thing by his retirement date. But I’d imagine your hand-polishing, coupled with the good grips, would result in a fine-looking firearm.

  3. Dave

    My 4006 is an absolute masterpiece. I have shot thousands of rounds through it. Over 10 years and it is as perfect as it was the day I bought it. It shoots perfectly accurate with minimal recoil for a 40ca. I don’t carry so they don’t get that sort of wear but I shoot a good amount and clean them after every few range visits. I love this gun and would recommend it to anyone. Mine will be with me for life. I will never sell it.

    1. Uncle Dave Post author

      I’ve heard from a lot of 4006 owners who absolutely LOVE them. Thanks for the comment.

  4. Chris

    My 4506 & 4506-1 are the best duty .45’s ever used. I would love to find a S&W 659 shot 1.5″ group out of the box. I just ordered a 5906 trade-in. Meeting a friend at the range Monday to pick-up a 4006 trading for my glock. Would like a Sig 229/226 but not in the budget. Personally tired of black plastic pistols. Going back to hammer fired, metal frames with character. Even went back & qualified with a couple of wheelguns for duty.

  5. Gary

    I have the 4006 with factory adjustable sites and would like to upgrade to a reddot Fastfire or equivalent. Has anyone done this? Looks one needs to mill the slide for a mounting plate. I have a S&W CORE with reddot …great for my aging eyes.


    1. Marlin

      I see you have a S&W 4006, did you ever redo your sights. If you did I may want to buy your sights, I’m trying to buy a 4006 with out the rear sights. Please let me know. Marlin

      1. Uncle Dave Post author

        I had to take it to a gunsmith, who used a sight-pusher to line up the sights correctly. Other problems resulted in me trading it off about eight months after I bought it. So, I no longer own the thing – I haven’t in, oh, about 20 years now …

  6. Chris

    Any good gunsmith or machinist can do the dovetail cut. But make sure you get the sight first. The measurments are really critical. Have you tried the 24/7 big do sights, they work wonders on older eyes.

    Also the new ghost ring sights though designed for Glock do well for others have 24/7 big dots upped my scores on every pistol after eye surgery.

  7. GSry

    Thank you for the feedback I will check into the 24/7 sight. I did ask Novak’s gunsmith ing they weren’t into doing that work disappointing !

  8. Chris

    Likely because a 1/100th of an inch too much they have to find a slide that S&W no longer has in stock. Running into that with magazines for a 1006. Retail is $33.00 only ones I found are E-bay @ $90 for 2 used.

    1. Uncle Dave Post author

      Ha! While my tolerances are indeed a bit loose at times, like those of my erstwhile duty pistol, my sights didn’t come misaligned from the factory.

  9. Chris

    One thing I have found in the last few years especially is dealers opening the boxes. They remove mags so they only have 1 or 2 depending on what they normally come with, dry fire them, knock slides & sights out of alignment with cable locks. I turned down 3 sig 250’s the slides were dinged from cable locks sitting on them, even an extractor trashed from store letting people dropping the slide on the lock.
    Make sure you examine every purchase & know how many mags are supposed to come with the gun i.e.FNP puts 3 in the box not 2. Go to another dealer if they don’t make it right. Tell your gun owning friends also so the dealer will operate fairly or lose business. No need for us to be cheated more than we already are

  10. Lord Jim

    After shooting for over half a century and owning, at one time or the other, every modern firearm made, I’ll just say this, some firearms are crap, if the design is wrong the weapon will not perform it’s that simple. As for S&W it’s not a design fault that they suffered with but rather a manufacturing fault, that has been fixed decades ago. Now someone says their whatever is better then all the rest, GOOD, all I know is most firearms perform as expected right out of the box, some will fail at 1K rounds, some at 10K, others at 50K, rest assured they all will fail at some point. So when we talk about firearms its like talking about sex, not every hole is for everyone.

  11. Steve Scheunemann

    I returned from the 1990 shot show, where Smith & Wesson introduced the .40. I tried to but one that week but they were not in stock yet. I ordered it instead. I have one of the earliest, oldest and most used 4006 ever produced. I was a police officer and carried it on duty for years. I was also the department armorer. I’m a shooter. Always Have been. There have been thousands upon thousands of rounds through my barrel. The gun shoots as tight as always, which is extremely tight. Under 2″ always. I did replace the stock grips with Houge hardwood grips. The factory grips did not full my hand the way I wished. For 24 YEARS this has been my go to gun. It will be for 24 more.


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