Called S&W again, just to see if I could get an answer to what I thought was a pretty basic question.
After a bit of time on hold, I was told that the increase in price is due to a better flash suppressor on the 18” model, superior to the suppressor (his words) on the Sport, 2” of additional barrel length and possibly a different finish on the barrel.
To his credit, he was just a front-line customer service rep, but I figured that details about internal differences and quality level would be pretty basic.
On their spec page, the call out that the bolt on the 18” version is 9310 steel, but it’s not called out on the Sport spec sheet.
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