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S&W Model 642

Posted by Gunner on July 29, 2011

Since S&W introduced the model 36 in 1950 at the International Police Chiefs Association meeting Its been one of the most sought after little revolvers in history. Police departments bought “J” frames by the thousands for Detectives while the civilian market purchased them for home defense. Shop owners purchased them to protect their businesses and protect themselves when making bank deposits. In fact there are so many categories of people who carry them it would be impossible to list them all.

In more recent history the model 642 Airweight has been the top selling revolver S&W makes. With the hammer housed inside the frame there’s nothing to hang on clothing when drawing from a pocket or pocket holster.

Since I retired from police work I still find myself carrying a 642 in a front pocket of my jeans usually in a “Nemesis” holster made for carry in this manner. On a very hot day here in the Midwest nothing is handier to grab and run a few errands. If you find your build makes it hard to carry this way there are jeans made just to accommodate this type of carry. LA Police Gear makes them at a reasonable price. The pockets are larger both front and back to allow the wearer to carry a small pistol or revolver in a front or back pocket as well as speedstrips or magazines to carry extra ammo or other gear of your choice.

The only downside to some shooters is that it only holds five rounds. This really isn’t a drawback when you consider what this revolvers intended use is. A “J” frame 642 isn’t normally a primary carry gun rather a backup too a duty gun or one you drop into a pocket for a quick run to the grocery store.

From my own experience with these little jewels it rates as one of my favorite guns. When on duty I carried a 1911 on my duty belt and a model 642 in a holster attached to my vest. That little extra insurance is a comforting thing to have. Many officers from local to state and federal agents still carry these revolvers as backups and most likely will for years to come.

Model 642
Caliber .38 Special
Capacity 5 rounds
Finish Matt Silver
Grip Synthetic
Frame Size Small – Internal, Aluminum alloy
Barrel 1.875″
Overall Length |6.31″
Weight 15 oz.
Front Sight Integral
Rear Sight Fixed
There is one item I always change right off the bat and that’s the rubber grips. They are just too sticky to carry in a pocket even with a holster. S&W makes beautiful wood grips for the “J” frames which not only look great but make drawing your revolver very easy. With practice they are very nearly as fast to draw from a pocket as from a belt holster.

Speaking of practice these revolvers require the owner to practice a good deal to be able to handle it quickly and shoot accurately. Most encounters are seven yards and closer but you can still miss. Believe me I’ve read reports where it’s happened and more times than one would think. When you mix adrenalin and the short sight radius of these small frame guns it’s easy to miss. Any person who carries a gun should practice, practice and more practice to be proficient in handling and shooting. It’s a serious responsibility any CCW owner should take to heart.

I don’t mean to say the 642 is a hard revolver to shoot because it isn’t. It just takes practice. A shooter should purchase dummy rounds to practice loading, drawing and trigger control. If this is your first handgun seek a reputable school and take a CCW class; you’ll be glad you did. It’s not only enjoyable for most new shooters but they learn a great deal more than they would ever realize.

You may wonder why I’m spending so much time on practice and training. The reason is when I’m asked “ which gun should I buy” my usual response is a “J” frame S&W. Once you master this revolver then move to a semi-auto if you like but learn the basics first.

S&W does offer a wide range of “J” frames to choose from. The 642 is an alloy frame with a stainless steel cylinder. Other models are all steel. They are also offered in a black Melonite finish and even .357 magnum. Click this link and take a look at three pages of S&W’s assortment of these revolvers.

These revolvers can be very accurate within a reasonable distance. In my experience they are great natural pointers. Most shooters can become familiar with them pretty quickly.

Range Time

When I practice with my 642 I keep my distance to no more than ten yards. I’ll start at three yards and work back to ten. At three yards I draw and fire instinctively from the hip followed by another string bringing the revolver up to eye level. After the three yard line I move back to five yards then seven yards firing from eye level using a flash sight picture. In other words placing the front sight on the target and firing. When I move back to ten yards I’ll repeat the same method then practice accuracy by slowing down my rate of fire and shooting the smallest groups possible. Granted I’ve shot S&W J frames a lot over the years but firing a one to one and a half inch group at ten yards is pretty common.


As a choice for a first gun or for a seasoned shooter using the 642 as a backup you can’t beat them. Actual prices are good and within the budget of most people looking for an excellent gun at a reasonable price. They are simple to learn and operate. All “j” frames regardless of your choice of model are as near 100% reliable as any gun can be. The 38 +P is an effective round with a reasonable amount of recoil for fast followup shots. I highly recommend them no matter what your experience level.

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S&W Bodyguard

Posted by Gunner on May 15, 2011

Here is another review I did for Guns for on the S&W Bodyguard snubbie.
Link to article

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The Ultimate Defense Handgun by Lt. Eric Windmoller

Posted by Gunner on January 19, 2008

Saturday, January 19, 2008


The Ultimate Defense Handgun…

Not very often does a week go by that somebody doesn’t ask me a gun question at work. Normally, it’s a kid asking about the gun we carry or the type of caliber used but occasionally it’s an adult who wants to know a little bit more about owning a gun for home defense or wanting to get some opinions on a gun that he’s seen in a gun shop.

 Now, of course, I’m going out on a limb here writing about the “best” defense handgun someone can buy, but this is my considered opinion.

99% of the time when I’m asked about handguns for defense, I’ll recommend a revolver. Specifically, a Smith and Wesson .357 revolver. Yes, many people think a revolver is outdated…they’ll talk about lack of ammunition capacity compared to all the super “wondernines” that hold 20 rounds of 9mm. They’ll talk about how hard it is to shoot in double action compared to the single action triggers of 1911s and they may even gripe about the weight of an all steel revolver compared to the polymer semi-autos out on the market today. They’re all valid points and I never try to sway anyone one way or the other, but if they ask me what type of gun I would carry and depend on with trouble on the line, it will always be this…

 This is an older NYSP police trade in I picked up from a gun show about a year ago. It is my constant companion. It’s a 3 inch K frame S&W model 65 .357 magnum. I have since replaced the hammer with one that can be thumb cocked and replaced the ground down cylinder release because I thought the one pictured was just plain ugly. It holds 6 rounds of .357 and weighs about 32 ounces. On the reverse side I have installed a Clip Draw so the gun can be worn without a holster inside the waistband without the risk of it dropping down below the belt line.

 I recommend the Clip Draw to anyone interested in carrying a concealed handgun to eliminate the need of bulky holsters ,etc. CLIPDRAW  They are fairly inexpensive and make carrying a handgun much more comfortable. They are available for many guns including semi autos.

 When I first started in Law Enforcement, the majority of departments here in Georgia still carried revolvers. I qualified in the Police Academy with an old S&W Model 10 (pretty much exactly the same as the 65 except it’s chambered in .38 Special only and was blued instead of stainless) and the first department I worked with issued us Model 65’s with a 4 inch barrel and square butt. I enjoyed the gun so much that I bought my own and when I changed departments, I continued to carry the 65 until the Chief made us all go to Glock semi-autos. When I found the 3 inch 65 above, I knew I had to have it for an off duty gun and am glad I bought it. The shorter barrel and round butt grip makes it a touch easier to conceal and you still have all the benefits of the full size 65 such as fixed sights that won’t chip or break and the quality of Smith and Wesson parts, most notably the trigger pull which is unrivaled in my opinion in the revolver world.

 For practice, the gun can fire .38 Special ammunition, which is much easier to shoot and less expensive than full power .357 Magnums and is ideal for a new gun owner to learn with. The simplicity of a revolver is also a good selling point. There’s no safety’s to worry about…you pull the trigger and the gun fires. In all my years of shooting, for work and for fun, I have never had a revolver malfunction. Obviously, things can happen and one can break but I can say that a revolver is much more reliable than any semi-auto I have had experience with. For the person that wants a gun for protection with no desire to ever take it out from under their mattress until they need it, a revolver is ideal for that scenario. While I discourage that idea, it’s pretty common knowledge that the majority of gun owners do something very similar. It’s very easy to find near new guns for sale in the used gun display case because they’ve never been shot by the previous owner who for whatever reason decided to pawn or sell the gun back to the gun store.

 Smith and Wesson has discontinued the model 65 along with many other of their K frame sized guns and replaced them with L frame guns…guns that make the frame a bit heavier and are able to stand up to a steady diet of powerful .357 ammunition. There is a picture of an L frame gun in my photo section labeled S&W 586 if you’re interested in seeing the difference between frame sizes.

 So, when my life might be on the line and I need something I can trust that will work 100% of the time, a revolver is the way to go for me. I also carry speed strips of extra ammunition that can be easily reloaded and with practice are very fast. Speed strips are also very flat and are easily carried in a pocket for easy access. Practically speaking If the first 6 rounds don’t do the job your in trouble!

  My two cents worth: I agree with Eric on choosing a revolver not only for a new shooter but for the experienced police officer. Many people do in fact believe the revolver to be a relic from a past age but the revolver in the configuration of Eric’s with the rounds butt and three inch barrel you would be hard pressed to find a gun faster to get into action. If you think a revolver is outdated talk to Jerry Miculek who has won competitions going against semi auto shooters! Jerry shoots for Team S&W. Jerry shoots an N frame S&W with a 5 inch barrel using moon clips to fire 45 acp.

  The potency of the .357 magnum is also above and beyond any other caliber for the handgun. My old favorite the 1911 with the best ammo achieves a one stop shot rating of approximately 90% whereas the .357 125 grn JHP earns the highest rating at 97%! Mastering the double action trigger pull of a quality revolver such as this S&W is fairly easy to master with practice. In the real world the civilian licensed to carry a weapon or the off duty officer is very unlikely to be confronted by multiple attackers so the revolver is very much a viable choice. In addition carry at least two speed strips or speed loaders and you are well protected. No matter what you choose to carry practice, practice, practice. No matter which gun you choose if you buy a gun and never fire it or fire it once a year you are not protected! The S&W K frame like the model 64 or 65 as well as the former issue US Customs model 686 3 inch revolver is an extremely practical carry gun and outside of the 1911 my very favorite!


Craig Spegel grips

Read Eric’s blog

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S&W Model 642 Airweight

Posted by Gunner on November 9, 2007

   The S&W model 642 is the biggest selling gun that Smith & Wesson makes. It has far outsold all other guns in the S&W lineup for years and for good reason. There is no gun made past or present which is handier to carry and provides a potent loading in 38 special +P and even 357 magnum. When I started in police service in 1974 we all carried revolvers of course. The standard issue for patrol officers was the S&W model 10 bull barrel whereas detectives were issued the model 36 S&W snubby. Later (1979) when stainless steel was perfected for firearms we traded our blued guns in for model 64’s and the snubby model 60. Of course times have changed but the snubby revolver still has a very large following. In fact the two largest police departments in the USA, New York and Chicago still authorize and issue the S&W snubby as a backup and off duty gun for patrol officers as well as detectives. Since 1952 the model 40 Centennial and it’s descendants have served us well.
   I bought my first model 36 as an off duty gun in 1975. Of course like most shooters you are always trading and this is one gun I wish I hadn’t traded. It would make a nice keepsake to remember my police service. Fortunately I did keep a S&W model 19 revolver from my early service which after 28 years still serves me well. With the model 36 if you carried it in a front pocket or jacket pocket you had to place your thumb over the hammer to keep it from hanging up on your clothing during the draw. With the hidden hammer of the 642 this is not a concern. You just put the gun in your front pocket and draw. I don’t know of any gun that is faster to get into action. It’s just like pulling your hand out of a pocket and pointing. A very simple, practical and potent gun and method of carry. The most practical holster is the DeSantis Nemesis synthetic holster that fits in a front pocket of your jeans and is shaped such that it will not come out with the gun. The holster lining is very smooth allowing for a fast draw. This holster is an excellent choice and has a modest price tag of $15 from MidwayUsa. As far as ammunition is concerned a great choice is the Speer 135 grain +P loading made specifically for the short barreled revolver.
   This particular model 642 is the Airweight version which to my way of thinking is the best choice. At 15 ounces you don’t even notice it’s there. It certainly doesn’t give itself away by pulling your pants down on one side as full size pistols often do if you don’t purchase a good holster. You might think that at 15 ounces the recoil would be punishing but I can assure you it’s not at all. In fact it’s very comfortable to shoot even with +P ammo. I watched a training video the other day called the “Snubby Summit”. It’s restricted to law enforcement only but I can tell you that the top trainers in the country where present and all of them carry a snubby revolver as a backup gun or as a primary off duty gun. Massad Ayoob is a particularly big fan of the snubby and that’s saying something since he is in the top five instructors in the country. The 642 is his favorite snub nose revolver.
   Shooting the snubby revolver is just downright fun. Of course it’s not a target revolver by any means but with practice you would be surprised at the accuracy you can obtain with this gun. Being double action only takes some practice to get used to but it is certainly possible to shoot small groups at reasonable distances. This target was shot at ten yards slow fire at the head of a standard B27R police target.

   The small black squares used to cover previous shots are one inch by one inch square so this gives you an idea of the group size. I’ve shot many thousands of rounds from a revolver but I’m convinced that anyone willing to put in the practice time can shoot just as well. This is five rounds or one cylinder of Winchester +P 38 jacketed hollow point ammo. Using the old method of drawing and firing from the hip you can obtain a group well within the 9 ring of a police target. That is more than sufficient to be effective in protecting yourself or a loved one. Reloading is faster than one might think. Using a speed loader and practice will make you very fast in reloading. Another option is the speed strip. This is a device made out of a rubber substance that holds five rounds of ammo. You simply strip two rounds at a time into the cylinder until you’re reloaded. While not as fast as a speedloader they are very flat and you can carry several in your pocket without anyone noticing.

My standard stance for up close target engagement

   These S&W’s fill a nitch that no other gun can. The proof is in the numbers of guns sold and the longevity of the design. They are as popular as ever and probably will be for many years to come. If you’ve never considered a snub nose revolver for your carry or backup gun you really should. I’m sure you’ll find it a very valuable addition to your gun collection or if you don’t collect guns it will certainly serve you well as a home protection gun.

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