Smith & Wesson Model 642 I a great carry piece

In my opinion, this is one of the best carry guns ever made - but it is not for everyone. The Smith and Wesson 642 "Airweight" is an aluminum and stainless steel J-frame, 5-shot revolver chambered in .38 Special +P. I was surprised to see that the price for these went up by about $100 since I bought mine a few years back. I've owned this gun for a while and carried it a lot, so I figured I do a range report.

Performance

Performance gets an 8. The trigger pull is very hard at first but with a little shooting (Approx. 500 Rounds) it gets lighter and stays reliable. The tough trigger pull however is what I wanted. Since I carry this in my waist band, I do not want a trigger that will get yanked if I bend the wrong why! It is not to tough like a Taurus, but it is stiff. Although, while the trigger is a little bit tough, it is very very smooth. It rides the same weight all the way through. No jerking, clicking or stopping. The accuracy will leave you wanting if you plan on trimming fly's wings with it. It's a snubbie...come on. It has the same accuracy as any good quality snub would.

Features

The features rating will be disputed. This is one of those guns that will really need to be tested before making a decision. It may not be the prettiest gal in the ball to many but I do not see a problem with the looks. The internal hammer does give the back portion a little bit on a bulged...but not to much. The sights are fixed and part of the frame but remember, This is a snubbie so when in the world are you going to use this gun for anything but a quick draw and shoot scenario. You want a scoped revolver, look somewhere else. These features serve a larger purpose. With its sleek design and lack of external pokey's, this is the perfect pocket, under the shirt, waistband and purse gun. Nothing is sticking out to snag the smallest edge when trying to deploy it.

Appeal

For appeal I give a 7.5 due to mainly the finish. In terms of durability, do not mistake aluminum alloy for stainless steel. The frame of the 642 and other aluminum J-frames like the 637, 317, etc are coated with a clear lacquer to protect the aluminum. If the lacquer is damaged or removed, the frame oxidizes quickly. My experience has been that the lacquer is easily damaged through normal use and/or aggressive cleaning. If you look at the pictures above (especially the one on the bottom left), you'll see that the lacquer on mine is discolored, wrinkled in places, and starting to flake off. I caused this by (stupidly) letting it soak in Hoppes No. 9 overnight. Just carrying it can cause the lacquer to wear. If the gun is in contact with your skin, or gets exposed to sweat - either directly or because your holster absorbs it - you will lose some of the finish.

Summary

Headline: 

In my opinion, this is one of the best carry guns ever made - but it is not for everyone. The Smith and Wesson 642 "Airweight" is an aluminum and stainless steel J-frame, 5-shot revolver chambered in .38 Special +P. I was surprised to see that the price for these went up by about $100 since I bought mine a few years back. I've owned this gun for a while and carried it a lot, so I figured I do a range report.

Performance Rating: 
8
Performance: 

Performance gets an 8. The trigger pull is very hard at first but with a little shooting (Approx. 500 Rounds) it gets lighter and stays reliable. The tough trigger pull however is what I wanted. Since I carry this in my waist band, I do not want a trigger that will get yanked if I bend the wrong why! It is not to tough like a Taurus, but it is stiff. Although, while the trigger is a little bit tough, it is very very smooth. It rides the same weight all the way through. No jerking, clicking or stopping. The accuracy will leave you wanting if you plan on trimming fly's wings with it. It's a snubbie...come on. It has the same accuracy as any good quality snub would.

Features Rating: 
8.5
Features: 

The features rating will be disputed. This is one of those guns that will really need to be tested before making a decision. It may not be the prettiest gal in the ball to many but I do not see a problem with the looks. The internal hammer does give the back portion a little bit on a bulged...but not to much. The sights are fixed and part of the frame but remember, This is a snubbie so when in the world are you going to use this gun for anything but a quick draw and shoot scenario. You want a scoped revolver, look somewhere else. These features serve a larger purpose. With its sleek design and lack of external pokey's, this is the perfect pocket, under the shirt, waistband and purse gun. Nothing is sticking out to snag the smallest edge when trying to deploy it.

Appeal Rating: 
7.5
Appeal: 

For appeal I give a 7.5 due to mainly the finish. In terms of durability, do not mistake aluminum alloy for stainless steel. The frame of the 642 and other aluminum J-frames like the 637, 317, etc are coated with a clear lacquer to protect the aluminum. If the lacquer is damaged or removed, the frame oxidizes quickly. My experience has been that the lacquer is easily damaged through normal use and/or aggressive cleaning. If you look at the pictures above (especially the one on the bottom left), you'll see that the lacquer on mine is discolored, wrinkled in places, and starting to flake off. I caused this by (stupidly) letting it soak in Hoppes No. 9 overnight. Just carrying it can cause the lacquer to wear. If the gun is in contact with your skin, or gets exposed to sweat - either directly or because your holster absorbs it - you will lose some of the finish.

Overall Rating: 
9.90

Two thumbs up! Its a great little revolver. The 642 is a time-proven design, endorsed by experts in the field, and an excellent value in a concealable handgun. Jim Wilson calls it the always gun because its one you can always have on you. The 642 is an enclosed hammer, double action-only revolver with a 1-7/8" barrel. It features a small S&W round butt J-frame grip. The one I bought came with Crimson Trace laser grips (more on those later). I have the 642-2 model; I'm not sure what differentiates this from earlier models but I'm sure that you can look it up if you're curious. It has a smooth (non-grooved) trigger and a serrated ramp front sight. The rear sight consists of a slot cut into the top strap. I didn't know it when I bought it, but this is old-school Smith & Wesson. I've since bought an old M&P from the 40's and Regulation Police from the 20's with the same sight setup. They grow on you. These sights are pretty quick to acquire (once you're used to them), and they generally shoot to point-of-aim with the right load.

The 642 measures 6-1/2" long, 4-1/4" high, 1-5/16" thick, and weighs 17.6 ounces fully loaded with five 158gr LSWCHPs. Its frame is made from aluminum alloy. The cylinder, crane, and barrel (not a sleeve like some of the PD models - it's the whole barrel) are made from stainless steel. I have no idea why they picked this combination of materials, but I assume that the engineers at S&W have it all figured out by now. I've read that the 642 will loosen up with a steady diet of +P loads. However, I've put about 3000 rounds of +P down the pipe (along with a bunch of non +P .38s) and my gun is still tight as a drum. In my opinion, unless you'll be using it as a rental gun, you can run as much +P as you can stand and you won't detect any "loosening" at all. I think this is one of those printed-so-many-times-it-becomes-fact type of myths. If you have one of these, go ahead and "shoot it like you stole it" and not worry a bit.

2 Comments

4 years 4 weeks ago, 10:39 AM

greg az

greg az's picture

Rank:
Secretary of Homeland Security
Points:
5873
Join Date:
Oct 2009
Location:
New York, NY, Tunisia
love airweights..

I've had a few (none inernal hammer) and never really enjoyed shooting them till i put on a good set of grips... My current A/W has wood Houge (click on the geez) grips, and they allow me to do D/A and get back on target pretty quick.

Mine is not the stainless "6" series, i've changed on that.. For awhile i wouldn't buy anything BUT stainless.. Tastes change i guess.. It's not that i don't like stainless, just for what ever reason seem to prefer blue now..

At any rate the Smith Airweight is a classic..

a man has to hold his word, hold his beliefs, and hold a good sight picture.
4 years 4 weeks ago, 1:11 PM

ecaman

ecaman's picture

Rank:
General
Points:
2613
Join Date:
Jul 2009
Location:
Payson, UT, United States
Great gun

This just may be my best "dream" revolver.

For my own use, I would put a set of Wolff springs in it to drop the trigger pull, because the way they come from the factory is too much for me to be consistent with. In a Wolff set of rebound springs you get 3 springs; I use the middle one, since the lightest one may not ignite really hard primers (like CCI), and in a gun fight that will get you killed.

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man. (Mark Twain).

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