by David Crane
Smith & Wesson has just come out with a high-tech lightweight, five-shot .357/.38 Special +p revolver that’s actually light enough to be carried comfortably inside the pocket of a pair of cargo pants(you need pockets large enough, of course). Now, I realize that "high-tech" and "revolver", don’t usually go together well in a sentence, but bear with me. Called the M340PD Scandium Centennial, and part of the Airlite series, this new revolver comes in at just under 12 oz. empty, and just may be the ticket for serious shooters and armed professionals that want a light, handy revolver that has sufficient power and can be fired repeatedly from inside a pocket. This last aspect is possible because the hammer on all Centennial pistols is totally enclosed.
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For those wondering what the heck scandium is, it’s apperently a rather high-strengh, exotic, high-tech rare metal that S&W forms into a rather lightweight and very strong aluminum/scandium alloy. The frame, barrel shroud and yoke are made from this alloy, while the cylinder is formed from pure titanium. The exceptional shock resistance and strength of the aluminum/scandium alloy is what allows the M340PD to handle the high pressures and stresses generated by the potent .357 magnum round.
Several days ago, while I was up in Sebring, Florida, I had the opportunity to handle what I believe is the previous model, the Airlite Ti model in .38 Special +p, fitted with a set of Crimson Trace
model LG-205 Hard Polymer laser grips
. This particular gun belongs to noted gunwriter and trainer Andy Stanford of OPS(Options for Personal Security)
, and usually rides in the right front pocket of his cargo pants. The Smith Airlite, combined with the Crimson Trace laser grips, is a pretty trick set-up for a pocket carry gun. DefRev will be doing an article on this combo on the updated M340PD real soon.
Now, so the reader doesn’t have any illusions, the M340PD is no pussycat to shoot with full power .357 Magnum loads, that’s for sure. In fact, it’s probably not even all that fun to shoot with .38 special +p loads(we’ll find that out soon enough). However, this is not a target gun. It’s a "save-your-bacon-when-there-ain’t-no-backup-around" gun when you’re looking into the abyss. Just one note—Smith and Wesson advises only using .357 Magnum bullet weights of 125 grains and heavier, due to the fact that lighter bullets often utilize faster burning powders that generate more flame at the barrel/cylinder gap, and can supposedly corrode the face of the titanium cylinder. I don’t know if this bullet weight rule applies to .38 Special +P ammo. You’d have to check with S&W. Fully loaded with five 125 grainers, the Scandium Centennial comes in at around 15 oz, which is still scary light. To top it off, the M340PD is finished in “business black”, just as a carry gun should be.
If you want to read more about about the new Smith and Wesson M340PD Scandium Centennial Airlite revolver, check out the February 2002 issue of “Combat Handguns” that’s already on the newsstands. The article is pretty informative, and DefRev recommends reading it. Just remember that we will be reporting on this gun ourselves once we get ahold of one.