S&W Model 642 vs. 638?


PDA
Stephen A. Camp
02-17-2006, 08:01 PM
Hello. It appears to me that the Model 642 is probably the most popular snub that Smith & Wesson has produced in recent years. I remember that before this version of their J-frame .38 Special was reborn, I routinely carried a Model 37 with the hammer spur removed as a back up gun when in police service. When these covered hammer snubs hit the market I purchased a Model 042 and eventually a few more...including a Model 638.

In the past on some other sites I've seen folks vigorously proclaiming the virtues of one over the other and in some cases, sadly, the discussion degenerated into a virtual shouting match...which is both rude and in my view, stupid.

Let's just take a brief unemotional look at these revolvers and see if any conclusions can be drawn.

http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y171/hipowersandhandguns/SWM638and642rock1.jpg
Both the 642 and 638 are intended to be snag free and for pocket or concealed carry. Both of these have aluminum alloy frames with the barrel and cylinder of stainless steel. Some parts are of hardchromed steel such as the triggers. Both are the same size and have round butt grip profiles. Obviously the primary difference is that the "hammerless" 642 does not allow single-action shooting while the 638 does offer that option.

http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y171/hipowersandhandguns/SWM638and642rear1.jpg
This photograph better shows the differences between the internally hammered Model 642 vs. the shrouded Model 638. It's interesting to note that an "add on" part to shroud the hammer against snagging was once made for the Colt snubs that competed against the Model 638, so it would appear that concerns over hammer spurs snagging on clothing has been both widespread and long term.

One gun writer wrote that he has never been able to get any version of the shrouded J-frame snub to shoot as tightly as the others. Perhaps, but that has not proven true in my own experiences with both. I cannot shoot one better than the other in double-action. It seems to me that smoothness of the individual revolver's double-action might well be the determining factor should a fellow see much difference in the performance of two similar snubs from the same maker.

http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y171/hipowersandhandguns/SWM638cockedrear1.jpg
With the Model 638 the hammer can be cocked for a light, single-action shot if desired. To some the idea of being able to make a more precise shot, perhaps at distance, is an option that they like having. Others suggest that such is not at all likely and that the single-action option leaves one open to suggestions during a civil suit that they cocked the revolver and then unintentionally and negligently shot the poor scum that was trying rape, rob, murder, (take your pick) them. I
suggest that the buyer/owner/shooter make his decision on which to get based on his own perceptions of what is important.

http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y171/hipowersandhandguns/SWModel638hammerrear1.jpg
Lowering the hammer on the Model 638 is done with less thumb contact on the exposed portion of the hammer spur. I have never had a problem with it and I do not think that it invokes any major difficulties over lowering a non-shrouded hammer, but I don't think that it is quite as "sure" on the Model 638.

Some years ago I read that if carrying the Model 38 or any version of the shrouded snub to be sure and not have any loose change in your pocket or a dime could become wedged between the hammer spur and the frame and tie up the gun. Unless S&W has altered some dimensions on the hammer or frame, I found this to be impossible to do. A dime simply will not fit between the side of this revolver's hammer and frame. I guess a paperclip or an object of the right size might could do this, but a pocket holster goes a long way in preventing such. I also carry only the holstered revolver in my pocket and I'll bet most other folks using this method of carry do the same. I have found
the area behind the hammer on the 638 to be a "lint & crud magnet." Pocket carry is simply dirtier than most expect and after toting the Model 638 for ten days as I normally do my well-worn Model 642, I was surprised at the amount of crud that it had picked up. At the same time, the gun worked fine and the trigger pull was not affected.

For me, the Model 642 is the favorite.

The primary reason is the lack of another opening for grit and lint to build up. That is my "primary reason", but it is not much of one if we simply clean and maintain our personal carry guns at least once every week or so. Being an old revolver guy for years, I shoot primarily double-action with most six and five-guns and do not find the single-action capability on a revolver of this size to be that much of an advantage. (I definitely do prefer having a single-action option on K, L, and N-frames.)

In the end I simply cannot find much difference between these revolvers in practical terms. One may have a bit of an advantage in some aspects while the other offers what
might be a plus for some people.

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and is subjective, but I find the 642 more pleasing to the eye. Some will agree. Some will not and others won't care one way or the other, but it is my opinion that either of these little guns will serve about as well as the other and that the potential buyer/user should go with the one he/she prefers.

I just don't see much difference between these two revolvers and were I in the market for such a snub, I'd probably go with the one having the best price or action.

Best.

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OFallon
02-17-2006, 08:10 PM
Another great report, sir! Thanks. :up:


Now, to make the report even better (;) ), I suggest you ship both weapons to me for a non-owner, unpaid, totally unbiased opinion! :D

Stephen A. Camp
02-17-2006, 08:13 PM
Hello. Hahahhahahhahaha! I guess I could but ya' know, I'm pretty fond of both.

Best to you and yours.

7.62mmFMJ
02-17-2006, 08:59 PM
:up:

jimfox
02-18-2006, 09:19 PM
As always I appreciate your analysis - pragmatic and logical. I have a Model 38 and a little Tarus DA only and agree with your comparison pros and cons between the two Smiths. The difference is that I fall out on the side of choosing the Model 38. Purely personal preference - and maybe just because it's been with me many years.

I think the "add on" shrouds for both the small Colts and the small S&Ws are still around - but not nearly as popular as they were 30 or so years ago.

Thanks for your post.

Stephen A. Camp
02-18-2006, 09:21 PM
Hello. One advantage of the hammered 638 that I failed to mention was that it is easier to check for free rotation of the cylinder when loaded.

Best.

JCM298
02-18-2006, 09:35 PM
I carried a 649 for about five years. The ugly one-hump-camel-looking thing is the most accurate snub I've ever owned. I always carried it in a holster and only had problems with dirt, crud, etc, when I carried it in an ankle holster. I still have it but the "beast", my 340SC, is now my "always" gun because of the weight savings.

I bought a NIB Colt Magnum Carry and had a smith install a hammer shroud from an old Detective Special. It works fine and looks good, to me.

As usual Stephen A. Camp covered the subject well and had a number of valid points.

For some reason, he won't take me up on my offer to loan the "beast" to him so that he can do a full test with a few hundred rounds of factory ammo, all fired in one range session.

John

Stephen A. Camp
02-18-2006, 09:38 PM
Hello. I appreciate the offer but just get antsy at sending guns via FedEX, etc.

Best.

Luckydog
02-19-2006, 11:38 AM
Wow!! What a great report!!! I also have both Smiths and find little to complain about with either. The single action feature makes more sense to me with the C/T grips that I have on the 638 but they are both fine revolvers. Your photos are also tops. Thanks much.--Tom

Stephen A. Camp
02-19-2006, 11:45 AM
Hello and thanks very much. I'm glad that the post was of interest.

Best.

john
02-19-2006, 01:29 PM
:up: :up: :up:

manny
02-20-2006, 12:07 PM
Steve all I have to say is AMEN:

For me, the Model 642 is the favorite.

The primary reason is the lack of another opening for grit and lint to build up. That is my "primary reason", but it is not much of one if we simply clean and maintain our personal carry guns at least once every week or so. Being an old revolver guy for years, I shoot primarily double-action with most six and five-guns and do not find the single-action capability on a revolver of this size to be that much of an advantage. (I definitely do prefer having a single-action option on K, L, and N-frames.)

I shoot mostly da in my da revolvers so I think a centenial would be my gun like yours.

Manny

demented
02-20-2006, 07:10 PM
I liked the review but my wife sure won't. I'm in the market for a small 38 and since seeing both of these, no way I can decide on just one! She'll sure be mad when I try to explain my sudden desire to own them both. I'm simply gonna refer her to this post.

7.62mmFMJ
02-20-2006, 08:13 PM
:evil:

PX15
02-21-2006, 11:31 AM
Hello. It appears to me that the Model 642 is probably the most popular snub that Smith & Wesson has produced in recent years. I remember that before this version of their J-frame .38 Special was reborn, I routinely carried a Model 37 with the hammer spur removed as a back up gun when in police service. When these covered hammer snubs hit the market I purchased a Model 042 and eventually a few more...including a Model 638.

In the past on some other sites I've seen folks vigorously proclaiming the virtues of one over the other and in some cases, sadly, the discussion degenerated into a virtual shouting match...which is both rude and in my view, stupid.

Let's just take a brief unemotional look at these revolvers and see if any conclusions can be drawn.

http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y171/hipowersandhandguns/SWM638and642rock1.jpg
Both the 642 and 638 are intended to be snag free and for pocket or concealed carry. Both of these have aluminum alloy frames with the barrel and cylinder of stainless steel. Some parts are of hardchromed steel such as the triggers. Both are the same size and have round butt grip profiles. Obviously the primary difference is that the "hammerless" 642 does not allow single-action shooting while the 638 does offer that option.

http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y171/hipowersandhandguns/SWM638and642rear1.jpg
This photograph better shows the differences between the internally hammered Model 642 vs. the shrouded Model 638. It's interesting to note that an "add on" part to shroud the hammer against snagging was once made for the Colt snubs that competed against the Model 638, so it would appear that concerns over hammer spurs snagging on clothing has been both widespread and long term.

One gun writer wrote that he has never been able to get any version of the shrouded J-frame snub to shoot as tightly as the others. Perhaps, but that has not proven true in my own experiences with both. I cannot shoot one better than the other in double-action. It seems to me that smoothness of the individual revolver's double-action might well be the determining factor should a fellow see much difference in the performance of two similar snubs from the same maker.

http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y171/hipowersandhandguns/SWM638cockedrear1.jpg
With the Model 638 the hammer can be cocked for a light, single-action shot if desired. To some the idea of being able to make a more precise shot, perhaps at distance, is an option that they like having. Others suggest that such is not at all likely and that the single-action option leaves one open to suggestions during a civil suit that they cocked the revolver and then unintentionally and negligently shot the poor scum that was trying rape, rob, murder, (take your pick) them. I
suggest that the buyer/owner/shooter make his decision on which to get based on his own perceptions of what is important.

http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y171/hipowersandhandguns/SWModel638hammerrear1.jpg
Lowering the hammer on the Model 638 is done with less thumb contact on the exposed portion of the hammer spur. I have never had a problem with it and I do not think that it invokes any major difficulties over lowering a non-shrouded hammer, but I don't think that it is quite as "sure" on the Model 638.

Some years ago I read that if carrying the Model 38 or any version of the shrouded snub to be sure and not have any loose change in your pocket or a dime could become wedged between the hammer spur and the frame and tie up the gun. Unless S&W has altered some dimensions on the hammer or frame, I found this to be impossible to do. A dime simply will not fit between the side of this revolver's hammer and frame. I guess a paperclip or an object of the right size might could do this, but a pocket holster goes a long way in preventing such. I also carry only the holstered revolver in my pocket and I'll bet most other folks using this method of carry do the same. I have found
the area behind the hammer on the 638 to be a "lint & crud magnet." Pocket carry is simply dirtier than most expect and after toting the Model 638 for ten days as I normally do my well-worn Model 642, I was surprised at the amount of crud that it had picked up. At the same time, the gun worked fine and the trigger pull was not affected.

For me, the Model 642 is the favorite.

The primary reason is the lack of another opening for grit and lint to build up. That is my "primary reason", but it is not much of one if we simply clean and maintain our personal carry guns at least once every week or so. Being an old revolver guy for years, I shoot primarily double-action with most six and five-guns and do not find the single-action capability on a revolver of this size to be that much of an advantage. (I definitely do prefer having a single-action option on K, L, and N-frames.)

In the end I simply cannot find much difference between these revolvers in practical terms. One may have a bit of an advantage in some aspects while the other offers what
might be a plus for some people.

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and is subjective, but I find the 642 more pleasing to the eye. Some will agree. Some will not and others won't care one way or the other, but it is my opinion that either of these little guns will serve about as well as the other and that the potential buyer/user should go with the one he/she prefers.

I just don't see much difference between these two revolvers and were I in the market for such a snub, I'd probably go with the one having the best price or action.

Best.



NOBODY SHOULD BE ABLE TO TAKE FIREARM PICTURES THAT GOOD!

(ALL CAPS DELIBERATE.. I MEANT TO SCREAM!)

JP :D

Popeye
02-21-2006, 11:49 AM
I still like the old 649. All steel, .38 Special only.

akula
03-06-2006, 09:47 AM
I know I am resurrecting this one, but I have one other reason to prefer the 642: It usually runs quite a bit cheaper. When I did my pocket wheelgun shopping in early Jan., the 642 was going for about $70 less than the 638. At the same price, I might have accepted the lint risk of the 638 in order to be able to thumbcock it, but at a 20%+ increase, I didn't think it was worth it.

Of course, my 642 is accurate enough (you can "stage" the trigger for an aimed SA shot if you are good with it; if you fire, well, you WERE justified when you drew, RIGHT?), I haven't missed the option.

budroe
03-06-2006, 12:33 PM
Nice writeup (and pictures). I have to go with Jim on this, I like the 38 a bit better than the 42. I do like having the single action capability. If I ever shoot anyone with a .38 special I won't be accused of an accidental discharge, unless a lawyer can say it happened two or three times to the same perp. I've mostly carried a model 60 with no problems to mention. All the S&W snubbies are excellent weapons. Wife bought me a Colt DS last Spring. Didn't get to shoot it while I was in Iraq, then had to pack it away when we moved to South America. I don't like the action as well on the Colt, but do like having the extra round. One day I'll break it in right.

I've managed to avoid shooting either a Colt or S&W .357 snubbie (if you don't count the 2 1/2" model 19). Hopefully I'll make it thru life without having to deal with that pain.

JCM298
03-06-2006, 12:55 PM
budroe,

Shooting .357's in snubs is good for you. It feels so good when you stop. Try a factory round or two in the "beast", my 340SC. That gets your attention.

John

budroe
03-07-2006, 12:30 PM
John, no thanks. My son has one. He couldn't believe it when I passed on trying it. First time he'd ever seen me turn down an offer to shoot any gun. I guess I'm getting too old for some of the toys being made these days. I love my S&W 629, but its made from stainless steel. I can deal with a plastic Glock, but I'm not wearing out my wrists and elbows on these Scandium Smiths. You younger guys have at it!!!

JCM298
03-07-2006, 02:51 PM
budroe,

Hah......A federal wimp.

Last year, even though I'm retired, I was allowed to qualify with a local agency. I brought a bunch of toys for them to try, since most of the "kids" had started off with autos and knew little about revolvers.

My then-sergeant, 6'3", 250 lbs, fired two rounds and handed the "beast" back. All the other twelve detectives tried it but only two fired all five rounds.

The one that impressed me was the cute blonde. She fired all five rounds and had a pretty good group. After the range session, she admitted that the "beast" really was hard to shoot but she was not going to give up because she knew that I'd tease and bug here about being a "blonde mere-woman". She does accuse me of being the model for the term "male chaunistic pig".

Even our own Steven Camp won't take me up on my offer to range test it.

Young? Me? I'm closer to 70 than I am to 65.

John

malibuman
03-07-2006, 03:00 PM
John, no thanks. My son has one. He couldn't believe it when I passed on trying it. First time he'd ever seen me turn down an offer to shoot any gun. I guess I'm getting too old for some of the toys being made these days. I love my S&W 629, but its made from stainless steel. I can deal with a plastic Glock, but I'm not wearing out my wrists and elbows on these Scandium Smiths. You younger guys have at it!!!
I like Budroe!!! We have similar mind sets. My grandfather who was a Navy mechanic told me something that always stuck with me.



"A smart man learns from his mistakes, a wise man does not make the mistake in the first place"



I would be a smart man, Budroe is the wise one :D

Cord

jimfox
03-07-2006, 09:05 PM
I've managed to avoid shooting either a Colt or S&W .357 snubbie (if you don't count the 2 1/2" model 19). Hopefully I'll make it thru life without having to deal with that pain.
budroe - I have a recent vintage Model 60 with the 3 inch barrel. As I mentioned in another thread - I fired a few .357 rounds through it and said to myself "Self, whatever are you thinking." I carry it around the place a fair amount - but it is now sighted in for a .38 Special load (and not even +P).

I'm usually game to try most any gun - out of curiosity, if nothing else - and would probably run a round or two through some of the current featherweight guns chambered for Clydesdale rounds - but for regular shooting and/or carrying? I'd just as soon try to pet a Water Moccison.

JCM298
03-07-2006, 09:19 PM
It's strange how recoil effects different people. My Smith 649 is not a hard recoiling gun, to me. Neither is my Colt Magnum Carry. The "beast" is another story but I knew it would be when I bought.

My 6 inch .357's are easy shooting and my ported PC Model 66 is very easy on me.

My Kahr Mk9 twists in my hand and hurts my wrist.

John

budroe
03-08-2006, 08:43 AM
I shot 5 rounds through a S&W .500 right after I got home from Iraq. Worse than anything I put up with over there. I'll stand guilty as charged on the federal wimp claim.

Jim - I'd take a .357 model 60 - so long as I could carry .38's in it. I agree with you, don't think I'd even go with the +P's.

My wife has a .38 special Scandium model with target sights. Great little gun with target wadcutters, but it will really rock and roll with full house loads.

Cord - thanks, you can have all my future range time with the .500 Smith.

Ala Dan
03-15-2006, 05:37 AM
Hello and Greeting's Again My Friends-

Mr. Camp, what a great review of two of my all time favorite S&W's. I too, have
been bitten by the 642 bug. I alternate its carry with a Kimber Stainless Ultra
Carry .45 ACP. Many thanks for your observations, thoughts, and opinions.

Best Wishes,
Ala Dan, N.R.A. Life Member

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