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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.


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.


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.


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.


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 enough difference to get hot under the collar about. Were I in the market for a first J-frame snub, and had these two choices, I'd probably go for the one having the best price assuming similar action smoothness.

Best.
 

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Hi Stephen,

I shoot all of my revolver in the double action mode and really can't see anything to get too worked up about.

Since I own a M-642 and have owned an M-38, I like both revolvers and respect their design differences.

Personally, I like the aesthetics of the M-642 more, but that is only my personal preference. I would certainly feel well-armed with either revolver.

Chris
 

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Speaking from a purely personal standpoint. I prefer my revolvers to have a single action capability. Therefore, between these two J-Frames I would opt for the 638/M38. However, I probably wouldn't opt for a shrouded hammer revolver period. As I do not find the asthetics at all pleasing. While, I realize of course asthetics play a second or third chair to reliability and accuracy, they do affect my decision to some degree.

That said, I wouldn't be afraid to carry any J-frame be it a shrouded, exposed, or bobbed hammer setup. Wonderful thread Mr. Camp and as always an interesting discussion to be had.

-Rob
 

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Getting a dime or other coin stuck in the 638 isn't a problem I have worried about. Considering that a concealed weapon needs to stay concealed until needed, I tend to put my change someplace else. Going into a pocket full of gun to find a couple of coins is likely to require said gun to be removed, which is likely to cause a real stir down at the local Stop -n- Steal.

Front right-hand pocket is gun pocket, period.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Hello and thank you both for your reasoned comments. LelandRay, I agree with your comments concerning a "dedicated" pocket for gun carry. Everyone I know who uses pocket carry does the same thing and that includes me.

Best.
 

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No shouting from me Stephen. My favorite is neither of these two models. What I did was take a nickeled M-37 and fitted a 9mm cylinder to it (which my pistolsmith was able to get from the factory.) Also bobbed the hammer and got rid of the single action notch while working it over. Anyhow, I call this cobbled-together Frankenvolver a Model "937".

Among the two featured choices named in this thread, I'd take whichever was cheaper!
 

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I pack a 642 as my CCW and before that I carried a 640. And before that I carried a Model 60 with a bobbed hammer.

To my way of thinking, a DAO trigger is best for a small pocket revolver. Given the short distances involved in self defense shootings, I see no use for a cocked single action shot.

I briefly owned a Model 38 Airweight Bodyguard. Mr. Camp is correct about the amount of lint and other crud that can build up in the Bodyguard's hammer travel notch. No such problems with any of my four Centennials.


Roadster
 

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I like my 638 w/CT Lasergrips.

The trigger on my 638 is light years improved over my old J-frame 40/49's. It's much easier for me to be accurate with than the older, narrow, serrated triggers on the others.

JP
 
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Howdy. Well, there always has to be one person out there with a skewed compass! Tag! I guess I get the nod this time around....and from another old Texas boy at that!

I've rotated my carry between a 637, 638 and 642 since they came on the scene. Each is configured identically with a set of Barami Hip Grips and a Tyler T-Grip adapter. For pocket carry, I use an Uncle Mike's pocket holster, a #3, I believe. The clip or "horn" portion of the hip grip sits to the ouside of the holster. The darn thing disappears. Any additional ammo desired resides in a Bianchi Speed Strip located in the weakside pocket. If I choose to carry inside the waistband, (courtesy of the hip grip), the holster becomes a carry case for my reading glasses. All of this works well on those long trips to Texas.

Now the strange part, my favorite of the three is the 637. I personally have never been hampered by an exposed hammer, whether IWB, in the pocket or in a shoulder holster. I suppose that it boils down to too many years of carrying and practicing with this configuration. The bottom line is that I absolutely want that beloved single action 1st shot capability available ... read, speed and rapid, precise shot placement from the draw.

Unlike Stephen and others, I do not routinely carry my 1911's, BHP's, Glocks, Sigs and N frames. The "big"guys are normally relegated to the range every week and guarding the fort x 24/7.

Stephen, I hope that we can enjoy a cup of coffee and perhaps do a little shooting on one of my trips "home". Like the rest of the shooting world, I've enjoyed your writings and threads for a long time ....almost from the moment Mr. Gore invented the internet.
 
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I like both designs. I have a 642 that I carry a lot. About a year ago I added a 649 to the stable. It's a bodyguard edition in stainless steel so it's somewhat heavier. It comes with a slightly longer 2 & 1/8th inch barrel. It's chambered for Magnums and I have tried some in it. The mid-powered 125gr .357 Magnum Goldern Sabers aren't bad at all in it, but I mostly carry DPX .38 +P. I swapped out the combat style grips that came on it (as pictured) and put boot grips on it. I can easily carry it in a front pocket in a Mika pocket holster. It's a very nice gun and handles recoil a lot better than an Airweight or Scandium revolver.
 
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I carry a 42 for all the reason above.

Mr. WMCC got me thinking for a minute, though. s/a first strike at the draw could be a life saver. As it is, I almost achieve that by working the trigger as I draw.

Using his method you'd have to cover the trigger spur when drawing to avoid getting it tangled.Still think my way works better for me. But I may experiment when buying my next one. The 042 is too pretty to carry and the Kahr I bought can't seem to fight it's way into my pocket.

Max
 

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Hello. I carry a no-lock S&W Model 638-2 cal. .38 spl. +P. I have expressed my preference for a single action capability in a snag-resistant pocket gun elsewhere, but I'll venture to add another .02 on this thread, and of course, entirely without vituperation or polemic.

First, my 638 trigger and hammer are not stainless like those of Mr. Camp's pictured above? They are dark colored steel parts.
Second, the slot for the hammer is indeed a dust and lint magnet. It does impose on the user the duty of weekly cleaning-out. I have fired it at a range with the lint left in, and it works fine. I use my right front pants-pocket exclusively for carry of the revolver in an Uncle Mike's #3. I also use a front-pocket wallet in the opposit pocket, which balances the arrangement to a degree.

I favor a pocket-carry revolver for many of the hot-weather climate reasons stated here and elsewhere on the forum.

I have never drawn in a defensive situation, but while practicing with an exposed hammer med-frame revolver IWB, I have snagged clothes, and even unraveled a sweater once, so I prefer a more snag-free design.
I do almost all of my practice double-action. My rationale for having a single-action capability is if my fingers, hands, and/or arms are injured from warding off a blunt instrument or edged weapon, tumbling down stairs, falling down or off a bicycle, or some similar possible dire scenario. [One could add dog bites here too!] I don't think I could get a good hit if I had to pull the double action trigger with a non-trigger finger or my left hand. Related rationales for single-action include having to possibly make a longer range shot, fire at a smaller target, or both. These concerns that motivate me to favor the 638 may appear to be exaggerated, rather unlikely, or even remote, but that is my thinking on the matter.

Nevertheless, I sure like the 642 alot too. I think anyone would be well served by either revolver. I would agree that price might well settle the issue.

As far as aesthetics go, I would concede that the 638 is somewhat ungainly looking. The Centennial enclosed hammer may even have better balance than the Bodyguard's shrouded hammer; I'm no judge.
 

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I seem to prefer the Centennial design for most SD carry. They are IMO the best pocket guns going. Most have UM rubber boot grips installed, except the Model 40 which has the original high-horned wood stocks. (BTW, they are NOT interchangeable with regular J frame grips, which limits options) The stocks on the Model 40 feel great by themselves, without grip adapters. I'd like to find some like them to fit the 442.


The only Bodyguard I have is a rather early one, and has a really attrocious trigger. As has been noted uptopic, the BodyGuard collects a lot of gunk behind the hammer, yet it doesn't seem to affect function. Mine has a grooved trigger, which blisters the finger early in a typical range session. Bodyguards also 'feel' slightly off-balance to me compared to the Centennial design.


One place I really appreciate the ability to use single-action is rambling around in the woods or on rural property. One may need to deal with vermin or sick wildlife at ranges beyond that which I'm capable of making hits double-action. A Dick Special, M37, or a 3" M60 in a holster get the nod there.


Hope this helps.


Regards,

Pat
 

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i have a couple of the centennial breed and would like to now obtain a non locked bodyguard for the sake of owning it.

while the humpback can collect dust because of its design, proper gun maintainace will make this a non issue. with just so much as a simple brisk puff of breath it removes most things that try to make the area home. and after shooting the gun is cleaned anyway so it will get an ever better look-see then.

i would have no problem carrying a bodyguard for protection.
 

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Hiya Jerry,

Like I (and others) posted, the gunk/lint doesn't seem to affect function in the slightest.

I use a shaving brush to de-lint my pocket pieces (and oil everything else).

Blowing breath into the works might deposit moisture in places you don't ordinarilly service. Use an ear bulb or canned air to blast out lint.

Regards,

Pat
 
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Unlike some people, I typically carry only one gun at any given time -- Except while hunting, I don't think I've ever carried a BUG to my primary. Taking this into account, my preference would be the 638 (or 637) over the 642. Should a precise shot be necessary, I'd feel much more comfortable if I had the option of cocking the hammer and firing in single action mode.
 

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I believe the 638 has one advantage over the 642 and to me that advantage is not single action capability as all my snub shooting is double action only. The advantage is that a cylinder rotation check can easily and safely be performed with the 638. What is a cylinder rotation check you ask? That is where you load the revolver with your carry ammo and, with your finger off the trigger, pull the hammer back slightly and rotate the cylinder to insure no rounds are out of spec and likely to cause binding of the cylinder during firing. I think of it as one last safety check to make as sure as possible that pulling the trigger in a deadly force confrontation results in a boom and not a click.
 

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I've carried humpback S&Ws for over 31 yrs. That's everyday, all day (or night) as my backup/off duty/undercover. Normal carry is in an ankle rig on duty but also pocket, shoulder rig, IWB. I've carried them every place on your body you can imagine and in places I hate to admit that it fit. I've drug them thru all kinds of crud, mud, snow, and bad weather. I've never had trouble with crud jamming them up. Just give them a quick check at the end of the shift and remove any crud that may have gathered.
Can't help but love those ugly humpbacks.



 
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