S&W Model 642 Review: An ideal first gun?

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NOTE: This product review was made possible by GunsForSale.com.  To get up-to-date information on where to find S&W revolvers for sale, please visit GunsForSale.com.

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.

Specifications
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.

Conclusion

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.

Related

Phil White

Retired police officer with 30 years of service. Firearms instructor and SRU team member. I still instruct with local agencies. My daily carry pistol is the tried and true 1911. I’m the senior writer and moderator at TFB as well as the review manager. I really enjoy answering readers questions and comments. We can all learn from each other about our favorite hobby!


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  • Siege

    Long time lurker, first time commenter. Very detailed review, I find weapon design and ergonomics fascinating and these are all areas I understand and have some knowledge and experience of. However I am less aware of what motivates the user to carry the device sometimes. To that end, rather than make assumptions regarding why someone would carry any firearm or weapon to make ‘a quick run to a grocery store.’ I invite someone to explain this to me. No moral judgement has or will be made, I am simply enquiring for curiosities sake.

    • Phil White

      Siege,

      It’s an old police training thing:-) What it means is better to have a gun you’ll carry than one you leave at home. In other words lots of people won’t bother to strap on a larger gun to run a short errand but they will pick the little snubbie up and drop it in a pocket.

  • MarcW

    .38 S&W is an obsolete cartridge not to be confused with .38 Special.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/ Steve (The Firearm Blog)

      MarcW, that my a typo by the editor (me), thanks for the correction.

  • SpudGun

    Uh oh, looks like I’m going to disagree with the reviewer once again. The 642 is a great revolver and I have nothing but praise for it, but I would never recommend one as a shooter’s first ever handgun. There first ever concealed carry gun, yes, but their first ever handgun, no.

    In my over-inflated opinion, a .22LR pistol (either revolver or semi auto) should be your first ever handgun due to the lack of noise and recoil plus cheap ammo will equate to more range time and more range time is always good.

    Once the basics have been mastered, I would recommend a shooter moving onto a .38/.357 wheelgun such as a S&W M66 or Ruger SP101 with a 4-6″ barrel. The sights, pointability and single / double action trigger will further enhance the fundamentals, the extra weight will absorb recoil and the array of ammo available will cover you in any situation from target to hunting to self defense.

    Then and and only then, would I recommend a shooter transitioning to a snubby revolver or compact / full sized semi-auto. I know I always pick holes, but I do genuinely enjoy and appreciate the reviews that come in and normally agree with 95% of what’s been written.

    • Phil White

      SpudGun,

      What I meant was as a first CCW gun. A first gun should be a .22LR to learn the basics. Most do that as a kid but there are those who start shooting later in life. When I write a review it’s usually aimed at CCW/protection. We’re pretty much on the same path on this one:-)

  • Pete Sheppard

    With great respect for the writer’s background and experience, I’d not recommend a J-frame for a “first gun” for exactly the reasons stated regarding the need for training and practice. Fundamentals are much easier to learn and internalize with a larger, lighter kicking handgun. Once experience has been gained, it’s a dandy, though…I carry an M49 Bodyguard (the *real* one) in my right front pocket. One of the greatest benefits is that you can grip the gun simply by reaching into your pocket–there’s nothing as non-threatening looking.

    • Phil White

      Pete,

      Here in Missouri when someone goes for the CCW class they have to qualify on both a semi-auto and a revolver. So they will get practice and instruction on both types as well as advice from the instructor.
      I think one thing that may be confusing is when I said as a first gun. I’m all for a someone going to a gunshop that rents guns and trying out several so they get a feel for what works for them. To learn as a fist gun a 22 will get you the basics.

  • http://stfuretard.blogspot.com Retardo

    “Ideal first gun”? “Learning the basics” means wrestling with a j-frame? Are you trolling?

    No one gun is best or worst for everybody, but if you wanted to inflict the greatest discouragement on the greatest number of new shooters, this would be it.

    • Phil White

      Retardo,

      Nope not trolling. You can learn the basics with a 22. What I meant was the first gun for CCW. Getting a CCW requires training to obtain and those you can rent before buying if you wish. I’ve run a lot of people through the CCW class and those who do choose a “J” frame don’t seem to wrestle with it if they have good instruction on grip, trigger control etc.

  • Philip

    You listed the caliber as .38 S&W. Should it be .38 Special?

  • Gabriel

    Love it. Great read, this was spot on to my experience, as a new gun owner this year, the S&W 642 was the first firearm I ever purchased.

    Accuracy IS tricky so I practice with it a couple times a month and it does give my hands a nice little kick, possibly because the handle is fairly short. After about 50 rounds I’m moderately tired.

    I’ve since purchased a .22 semi-auto pistol and a .22 rifle for inexpensive plinking— but my 642 is my favorite gun.

    It’s such a simple piece to operate and the stopping power makes me feel confident for home defense.

    • Phil White

      Gabriel,

      There ya go. I couldn’t agree more with your choices. You’re getting good practice with the .22′s and still shooting the “J” frame enough to stay familiar with it. Don’t worry to much about very tight groups. As long as it’s center mass your good to go.

  • Brian

    No offense to any fans of this, or other similarly small-framed revolvers, but I would never want one. In my opinion, the barrel is too short, and I’d rather buy a revolver chambered for .357 magnum than .38 special. At least, with the .357, you still have the option to use the .38′s, so why anyone would choose a pure .38 caliber revolver is beyond me….

    • Phil White

      Brian,

      With the advances in ammo design over the last few years most calibers have become more effective including the 38 special. The Cor Bon DPX is a good example. They use a solid copper Barnes bullet at 1000 FPS. That’s a pretty effective load.

  • JaredN

    I am an experienced shooter, a certified firearms instructor, and an IDPA competitor (Sharpshooter in SSR and Expert in CDP). I have to say that recommending a 642 as a first gun is some of the worst advice I’ve read in some time.

    I have a 642. From the factory, it comes with a very stiff, long, double-action trigger. The front sight is quite small, and the rear sight is simply a shallow gutter in the top of the frame. Put that all together and the 642 is very difficult to shoot accurately, particularly for a novice. Add in the light weight and its resulting significant recoil, and a novice is not going to want to shoot the gun a lot, and extensive practice is what is required to master a lightweight J-frame.

    The 642 has its place as a lightweight, concealable backup gun. But it isn’t a gun for novices.

  • Don

    The 642/442 is a fantastic gun. I consider it to be the “equalizer” of the modern day.

    -D

  • http://billofgrace.blogspot.com/ Clint

    No disrespect, but this is certainly not a good choice for a first gun or for a beginner. The heavy trigger and recoil make it only useful for a shooter with some experience. I owned one and carried it for a while before graduating to a semi-auto. Previous to that, I had a Ruger SP101–my first carry gun–so I have some perspective on the matter. Only recommended for newbies with a trigger job and light loads.

  • Bryan S

    While it may be a nifty gun, revolvers are the the best choice, especially a lightweight, in teaching a new shooter. Double action revolvers are harder to shoot for many people, and are not a beginner firearm.

    They also have long reload times. Add in the fact that the recoil is intensified by the axis of the bore being so high, its a downright poor choice.

    Dont get me wrong, they are great firearms, just not for a first gun. a decent weight wimple semi-auto of proven reliability is a perfect first gun. Heck, the LC9 might fit the same bill you have there, good defensive caliber, slimmer profile, more ammo, and similar weight when loaded, and a good proven design.

  • armed_partisan

    While I quite like revolvers, love S&Ws, and encourage people who ask me what gun they should buy to get a police trade-in S&W (currently, my area is loaded with some very nice Model 581′s for under $300), I would not recommend a J-Frame to a neophyte.

    This is because the recoil of a .38 J-frame is STOUT with anything other than wadcutters. My inexperienced friends who have one of these OFTEN complain about the recoil, and I will load some wadcutters that they can use for practice and to teach their spouses how to use it.

    Although my favorite caliber for S&W’s is .41 magnum, I find the recoil of full house loads in friend’s J-frames to be unpleasant as well. Of the many S&W’s I own, I own exactly ONE J-frame, and it’s a 317 kit gun that I take Kayaking. A little weak for gators, but good for snakes and the occasional aggressive Raccoon. I’m not opposed to J-frame .38′s, but I’ve been holding out until I can find a STEEL J-Frame .38 (NOT a .357) with a shrouded hammer, because I intend to shoot it alot, and I prefer controllability over reduced weight.

    Likewise, concealed carry is a lifestyle change, and not for the faint of heart, or the barely committed. If you’re gonna leave it in the car or leave it home, it might as well be a L-frame. As the author notes, the J-Frame takes a great deal of practice to master, and Aluminum/Scandium framed J-Frames do not lend themselves to lots of shooting if the shooter can feel pain. What’s more, a 1 7/8″ barrel produces TERRIBLE ballistics, including very, very low energy with even very hot .38+P loads. A .32 ACP semi-auto can equal a .38 Special out of a snub nosed revolver, at least as far as energy goes.

    I lament that .32 H&R Mag J-frames weren’t more popular, and wonder if the .327 won’t be less popular still, but while I think revolvers are excellent for new comers to the shooting world, I do not encourage J-frames to anyone who is not experienced in shooting.

  • http://gearsofguns.com austin b

    Its refreshing to see the popularity of certain manufacturers grow like it did for this revolver because of the quality of the piece. I’ve bought a shotgun a while back and it broke down on me. S7W tends not to disappoint.

  • Sean

    I don’t think that it is a good first gun. I do think everyone should one, or more. There is one in my front pocket right now. A nickel 442.

    But as a first gun, I think it makes no sense. A new shooter might be put off by the heavier recoil. And discouraged by the less than great accuracy. Yes, I know they can be very accurate. But in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing.

    I think either a .22lr revolver, or a K-frame .38 , or both…would be perfect first guns. And with the amount of used K-frames out there…prices should be good. Really, a model 10 is all a casual shooter would ever need.

    • Phil White

      Sean,

      I’ve just never thought the recoil in a “J” frame was intimidating or uncomfortable. The only small frame I have found unpleasant is the S&W Bodyguard at 13 ounces. The only steel in it is the barrel. As far as accuracy I’ll say that as long as you hit center mass that’s all the accuracy you need.

  • http://www.subrah.com Michael Zeleny

    The correct caliber is .38 S&W Special, not the older and weaker .38 S&W.

  • Mr. Fahrenheit

    I second the author’s praise of the S&W J-Frames. Excellent firearms. Great for concealed carry.

    • Phil White

      Mr.,

      Thank you sir!

  • ap

    Try the trigger on an LCR and tell me you still want that gun.

    • Phil White

      ap,

      You wouldn’t want an LCR–is that what you mean?

  • Milo

    Have to disagree strongly with this as a first gun. I have largeish hands (L or XL men’s gloves – not obscenely large), and find it difficult to find a comfortable grip with the 642. The extremely heavy DA pull requires a great deal of skill for accurate shots beyond 3 yards.

    To boot, 38Spec is ~50% more per round than 9mm – that’s 50% less practice.

    The 642 is a fine revolver for someone with experience shooting, someone willing to pay the premium in time and cost to master it. But for my money a modern 9mm semi-auto, sized to the shooter’s hands (compact, mid-size or full-size, whichever is appropriate), is the best ‘first centerfire.’ From the large makers, they’re affordable, reliable, many come with grip options for different sized hands, and accurate enough straight from the box.

    • Phil White

      Milo,

      There are custom grips available for those with larger hands. Also, if the trigger feels heavy after you dry fire it a good bit a gunsmith can change one spring and bring the pull down a good bit and still be reliable.
      The ammo for a 38 special is $10 per 50 rounds with 9MM at $16.95 per 50 rounds. That’s here in the midwest.

  • Cymond

    I think an “ideal first gun” is one that a new shooter will enjoy shooting. While sufficient for self defense, it’s hardly a top pick for fun at the range. The 642 is difficult to shoot well and offers snappy recoil. Purchase a 22lr version of your preferred gun type. After you learn to shoot that, then step up to a more hefty caliber.

    • Phil White

      Cymond,

      That sounds fine if a person unfamiliar with firearms and needs the most basic practice.

  • RecoveringAtheist

    Ideal 1st gun? I’d have to give that title to the soon to be released Ruger SP101 .22 eight shooter. Can not think of a better firearm to learn the basics of handgun shooting.

    And it does not have that rediculous hole on the left side of its frame….

    • Phil White

      RecoveringAtheist,

      I don’t mean a first gun for range enjoyment. I’m always referring to a gun for defense. Also S&W has offered the “J” frames without the side lock for about a year now. A 22 is fine for practice as long as you practice with what you carry.

  • Burst

    The writing and photos are excellent, as usual.
    However, I think the 642 is fairly marginal as a beginners gun:
    *DAO means no smooth trigger, ever. Makes shooting it more of a chore.
    *Lightweight frame amplifies recoil, a bad idea for a new shooter.
    *Humpback, modernized appearance- a hard sell for history buffs or stylish types (doesn’t make it a worse gun, just a less appealing one).
    (asbestos overalls on)
    *The S&W lock- danger potential is there, but mostly it’s just frustration waiting to happen amid forgetting to unlock, losing keys, etc. Easy mistakes to make with a first gun.

    I’m glad your 642s have served you well, Steve, but there’s a fair bit of ground between “ideal carry piece” and “ideal first gun” the first hurdle that needs to be cleared is getting folks to shoot it.
    My suggestion? A surplus Makarov. There’s enough wrong with it to justify some home tinkering, and enough right with it to make sure you will.

    • Phil White

      Burst,

      The lock issue is a non-issue as S&W now sells them without the lock. Perhaps I should have said “first carry piece”. I made an assumption there that people would know that’s what I meant. I hardly ever write anything on casual or recreational shooting.
      When we post on the blog it has to be in Steve’s name first them changed over to the writer’s name. Don’t blame Steve I did it:-) Glad you liked the writing and photos–thanks!

  • DB

    The 642 is a great carry gun and it is true that you need to practice with it to be good with it because there isn’t much to hold onto. One upgrade that a lot of shooters do to it is to buy a replacement spring kit to lighten the factory trigger pull a bit.

    I think a good first handgun would be a S&W Model 10, Model 64, or Model 15, not this one.

    • Phil White

      DB,

      I have no problem with someone buying a model 10 or 64 from the trade-ins at JG Sales. They have police trade-ins all the time. They are usually worked on a bit though. The hammer spur is removed so they are DAO. Learn with this one then carry the 642 after the basics. They sometimes have three inch model 64′s as well.

  • Pop N Fresh

    I love my 642 in the summer when it’s t shirts and shorts weather. Apex makes a good spring kit but I ended up putting the original rebound spring back in (the trigger was sluggish to return to the forward position.)

    a 642 and some steel plates is a fun morning indeed but most of my experienced shooter friends do not enjoy shooting it for any extended period of time, I cannot imagine starting a new shooter on the gun. An sp101 of something similar maybe, but it’s gonna need a little heft to it.

    • Phil White

      Pop,

      It will help a great deal to practice with lead wadcutters which have little recoil. Then you can carry using something like a 110 grain Cor Bon DPX.

  • Brian

    I would also disagree with recommending .22LR pistols as someone’s first gun. I started with 9mm Luger, and tried out a couple larger caliber handguns on my first day. I found the 9mm Luger to be quite easy and manageable, being a beginner. In my opinion, .22LR is only good for cheap shooting and for people who aren’t ready to fire anything bigger. Besides, .22LR is practically useless for self-defence. I hardly even believe 9mm handguns are suitable.

    • Phil White

      Brian,

      I very seldom would advise a new shooter to buy something like a Glock as a first defense gun. New shooters tend to rest that trigger finger in the trigger guard to much and that’s asking for an AD. Also, when under stress your body tightens up which can also cause a DA which could have very bad consequences.

  • armed_partisan

    WOW! I agree with almost everyone here! Except…
    Brian: .38 Special is probably the best all-around caliber ever invented. It can be loaded quite powerfully, and can be downloaded to be very efficient. It is possibly the most accurate pistol cartridge that ever became popular, and surplus .38 Specials are MUCH CHEAPER than any surplus .357 I’ve seen. From a medium framed gun, .38′s are plenty effective, and from a small framed gun, .357′s are too hard to control. .38′s cost less than .357, and they perform slightly better in the accuracy department reputedly (I’ve never seen a difference)

    Also, shooting .38′s in a .357 will eventually cut “rings” into the chamber from where the mouth of the case releases high pressure gases. This will cause your .357 brass to stick BADLY, and no, it can’t be cleaned or polished out. This is especially noticeable in old .357′s where .38′s were fired exclusively, as some departments did to avoid cracking forcing cones on K-Frame Magnums. I’ve bought several used .357′s where this was true. I use .38 cases in .38′s and .357 in .357′s ALWAYS.

    Milo: 50% more a round? What kind of ammo are you buying there? I reload, so I don’t follow the ammo market too closely, but my favorite .38+P reloads cost 1.4¢ a round (got given a huge quantity of primers, and I cast bullets) but I used to buy Winchester White Box 100 rounders by the truckload because they were MUCH cheaper than .45 or 9mm. Maybe it’s changed in the past few years, but honestly, I doubt .38′s are 50% more than 9mm.

    • Phil White

      armed_partisan,

      I was telling some of the guys that here in the Midwest 38 special is $10 per 50 rounds while 9MM is $16.95.

  • Brian

    @armed_partisan: “Best all-around caliber ever invented”? I highly disagree. First of all, I don’t factor in cost in how good any particular cartridge is. I only consider accuracy, power, and effectiveness. If we’re speaking revolvers here, I’d say .45 Colt is a hell of a lot better than .38 Special. I’d also say that .357 Magnum is better, but doing the math, .45 Colt is more powerful. .45 Colt also has quite some potential, as I’ve learned that it can be loaded to be more powerful than .44 Magnum. As for the .38′s cutting rings into the .357 chambers, I was not aware of that. However, I wouldn’t use .38 Special in a .357 Magnum, anyway, since the .357 is more powerful. To me, .357 Magnum is the bare minimum caliber I would use in a revolver. I wouldn’t even touch a revolver chambered for .22LR.

    • Phil White

      Brian,

      Hey I hope the 45 Colt rounds pushing 44 mag stats are not out of a S&W “N” frame! A Ruger I hope:-)

  • Southerner

    I carry a 642 daily – along with what ever other gun I also carry. Consequently, I agree with the concept of an “always gun.” However, under no circumstance would I carry such a revolver with the S&W internal lock. Unlike the majority of IL systems, the S&W system has been known to self engage when firing, particularly in aluminum/scadium revolvers. The popularity of the 642 series with law enforcement has resulted in short runs without the internal lock for the LE market. The recently introduced 642 Pro-Series does not have the internal lock system.

    • Phil White

      Southerner,

      They started to sell the S&W without the darn locks to LEO’s and it has been so successful they are for sale to the public now. They have a 442 without the lock as well.

  • Brian

    @Phil White: Oh, you meant this as a first concealed-carry weapon. Ok, that, I can understand, but I would still take something else over a J-frame revolver. I don’t like J-frame revolvers at all, regardless of caliber. If I wanted a good handgun for concealed-carry, I’d rather choose a 1911. I wouldn’t bother with anything that has a polymer frame. As for the .38 Special, even if the ammunition has improved, I still wouldn’t use it. Honestly, I would not feel secure carrying a gun with .38′s in it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it can kill someone. I’m sure smaller calibers can kill someone. I would just rather have more power so I can be SURE it will kill someone. Not that I want to kill someone, of course, but if someone’s trying to kill me or someone else, I’ll do what I need to.

    • Phil White

      Brian,

      No matter what you have to be confident in what you carry. I couldn’t agree more. The 1911 has a steep learning curve for a new shooter. It’s certainly possible as long as you get the instruction and practice. I mean going to someone like Larry Vickers who is a real pro that used to teach Delta shooters. You pay for that caliber of instruction but if you’re committed do it! There are plenty of good schools out there and some not so good. A week in a good school and you’ll come out being amazed at what you learned.
      I should have made that clear about it being a first concealed carry gun. Having so much experience in that area most all my articles are geared that way.

  • Brian

    @Phil White: Actually, I never had a problem with resting my finger on the trigger. Back in Boy Scouts, I learned the basics of gun safety before I even touched a BB gun. Ever since, I’ve been extremely careful to follow those rules. As for the .45 Colt, I would assume it was a Ruger too. Just to be safe, if I ever chose to do that, I’d go with the Redhawk, which I plan to get sometime down the road. Looking at Ruger’s website, though, the only Redhawk they make in .45 Colt is one with a 4.20″ barrel. While that would be enough, I wish they at least had it available with a 5.50″ barrel. Ideally, I’d prefer the 7.50″ barrel, though, especially if I plan to use hotter loads. :/

    • Phil White

      Brian,

      You’re one of the exceptions to the rule. I had the same training as a Boy Scout. I doubt they do it anymore though. I’ve seen so many new shooters as well as people who should know better do that very thing all the time. We had one instance in the hallway of the PD before roll call. There were 45 of us in the hall and one officer re-holstered his Glock and pulled the trigger. Nobody was hit but talk about scary! So many new people are told to buy a Glock as a first gun and that’s just not a good idea.
      I’m sure he was talking about a Redhawk. If I was going to shoot loads like that I imagine I’d want the 7.5 myself. For hunting you can’t beat it.

  • SpudGun

    @Phil White -

    No problems sir! I agree with you that the 642 makes an excellent first CCW. Please keep the reviews coming in as I do genuinely enjoy them.

    @Brian -

    You seem to have got hung up on so called ‘stopping power’ with your handgun / caliber choices. Learning how to shoot accurately and safely should always be the number one concern, once every shooter can do that, then they can decide which handgun is most ‘kill-y’. However, it’s a free country and if you want to conceal carry a .500 S&W with a 10.5″ barrel or whatever, then knock yourself out.

    • Phil White

      SpudGun,

      Thanks you sir I am glad you enjoy them! I’ll keep them coming.

  • subase

    The revolver has become sort of the gun for the willfully ignorant. I term it a grandma-gun. For the following reasons.
    -Simple to load and check if it’s loaded.
    -Simple to fire (no safety)
    -Not a pea shooter
    -Small and light, easy to conceal and carry
    -Reliable out of the box
    -Doesn’t necessarily need a holster
    -You can dry fire it (without cocking the slide)
    -Easily test whether the gun is working or not.
    -Heavy trigger pull means less chance of accidental discharge
    Glock-like pistols are better of course but need a degree of study or instruction to use. This can be as little as going to the range once, and asking someone to show you how to use your pistol, or alternatively googling it. But sometimes this is beyond someone wary of firearms.

    People recommending .22′s are really thinking of target shooting, not defense shooting. The two have little in common. Defense shooting for starters should focus on one handed point shooting, movement and drawing. While in target shooting, proper form, use of sights and trigger control are the focus. In anycase training is a luxury for most pistol for defense owners.

    The revolver has one advantage in regards to self defense and that’s it’s ability to shoot with the muzzle pressed against your opponent. Considering the distances involved in defense encounters and how many get physical this an advantage. With proper training though firing a semi auto pistol at grappling range is possible, if more difficult.

    So the OP is still correct when he says it’s the best gun for the defense beginner. Without guidance, a semi-auto may be a poorer choice with the bigger defense picture in mind. The revolvers toddler simplicity also makes it an essential buy, the perfect gun to lend or give to someone at short notice.

    • Phil White

      subase,

      And therein lies the problem. A lot of people just buy a gun and leave it in a drawer at home and never even shoot it to make sure it works. Others will only train enough to get a CCW then never shoot again. Gotta keep it simple if that’s the case.
      I’ve even seen a revolver left in a holster long enough that it was stuck. It had actually bonded with the leather over the years. The only way we got the gun out was to cut the holster off then tear the gun down and spend a couple of hours cleaning the crud off. That’s not typical but it happens. Of course that person doesn’t need a gun anyway.
      Can you imagine someone like that carrying a Glock!! Scary stuff.

  • tomaso

    J frame S&W nickle plated 38 was my first CCW…to be honest its a terrible choice..i went threw 3 different grips on it…no go.

    357 is a better round for the weight and recoil isn’t all that much worse…but the main problem is sight picture…id have to say possibly thee worse of any pistol iv ever shot (their is the colt 1911 compact that just has a channel down the top, but i haven’t shot that model)…and just for that fact…i would never suggest this as a first CCW….possibly with a crimson laser grips….. i traded mine even swap for a Walther PK380 …because i could hit a can at 25yrds and keep hitting it as it fell down the hill probably 6 times out of 9 shots…….i could hit the can once on the first shot with the J frame…. great overall review just a tad bit more like an advertizing…it is hard sometimes to put your self in the mind set of a novice.

    as for J frame like guns id opt for the Ruger LCR 357 with laser for a “just going to the store gun”… BUT knowing the stats of were gun crimes happen most…id suggest something with more capacity = )

    • Phil White

      tomaso,

      To be honest from the distances that most encounters occur I seldom use sights or a flash sight picture at most. Say 7 yards average according to the stats. My personal experience in on duty encounters confirms the FBI stats. Everyone has to figure out what works best for them. When someone asks me what they should buy my first advice is rent a few that interest them and go from there. I’ll usually volunteer to go with them and help out with the choice based on how well they handle a particular gun as well as the feedback they give me. Not everyone has access to a gun shop that rents guns so I would have to stick with the “J” frame. Again I’ll spend some one on one time with them. I want to ensure a person gets as much help as I can give so they make an informed decision..
      A “J” frame with a laser is also a good idea as you mentioned.

  • Pete Sheppard

    For belt carry, there are better choices than a J-frame, since the weight of a larger gun is more easily handled. For pocket carry, weight is a major factor (trouser sag on one side is uncomfortable, and draws attention–especially if the carrier is constantly adjusting his clothing and gun), so the lighter the better.
    When you get under 20oz, the .357 becomes downright painful to shoot and a bear to control; for many, including myself, the tradeoff of blast, recoil and report is not worth what increase in power is achieved. The SP101 is as small as I’m willing to go with .357 and that only with lighter loads.

  • tomaso

    Spud makes alot of good points….but id add these…..self defence training is the simplist use of actions to counter the the largest varaiables.

    which would make a revolver a top choice….untill you add in the fact that autos are the most prevelent carry weapon.

    if one takes”ONLY ONE” lesson on pistols..an extra 15min it takes to explain and go over automatics is far more helpfull then doing the same for revolvers.

    Im not sure im explaining my train of thought right…..but revolvers are very simple…but the basics dont transplant to autos…but if you learn the basics of an auto…you can figure out the revolver.

    In self defence semenars iv been to and taught at…i shake my head when teachers teach complex moves as “self defence”…but “automatic” pistols arnt complex…they can seem that way to people that have only shot revolvers though.

    • Phil White

      tomaso,

      When I teach I keep it simple. No fancy moves just the basics. As I said earlier in Missouri you have to qualify with a revolver and a semi auto to get your CCW permit. I hate seeing an instructor who spends more time trying to impress the class than teaching!!!!

  • tomaso

    ..Yes…rent many, pick one….finding the one that fits “your point and shot ergos” is the aim. …pun intended..lol

    • Phil White

      tomaso,

      There ya go:-)

  • tomaso

    got my Spud and Sub mixed up..lol Its subase that “makes alot of good points”

    • Phil White

      tomaso,

      I like reading most viewpoints. The back and forth is interesting more often than not:-)

  • Brian

    @Phil White: Hmm…I haven’t thought about going to a school for that. I think my dad might be able to help me with that, though. He’s a former Marine, and he was quite a marksman, way back then. I will consider a school, though, if I can find one nearby. It shouldn’t be difficult, in my area. As for the Boy Scouts, well, I don’t know. It’s been years since I left. And yeah, I’d imagine that was pretty scary. I bet it scared the guy holstering it the most. And as for the .45s, I think I also heard that the “Old” Model Blackhawks could handle the hotter loads too. Either way, I’d prefer the Redhawk. It’s more practical, in my opinion.

    @SpudGun: Haha, I may like stopping power, but I wouldn’t carry a S&W 500. That would be insane. The sheer size and weight would seem to make carrying difficult, not to mention concealed carry. I also don’t need THAT much power. My comfortable range of calibers for carry would be .45 ACP, 10mm Auto, .357 Magnum, and .45 Colt. Using factory loads, .44 Magnum seems like it’d be overkill. The potential I was talking about with the .45 Colt is a nice plus, to me, but I don’t even know if I would do that. The .45 Colt is plenty powerful enough as it is. However, if I did ever choose to reload some .45 Colts, I would certainly like to make them a little more powerful. Based on the information I read, you can make a .45 Colt cartridge exceed the .44 Magnum, but with about half the recoil. That sounds like a good deal to me, if I have a safe gun to use it in.

    • Phil White

      Brian,

      Being a Marine he most likely could help alright:-) There are schools all over the country these days. if you decide to go check them out and make sure they are reputable. There are schools run by people that haven’t a clue. The word gets around pretty fast though. I bet the old model Blackhawk could handle it with no problem at all. That is one stout gun!

  • Brian

    Alright, thanks for the advice. How long do these classes usually go for, though? And how much do they cost, on average? And speaking of the old model Blackhawk, why is it so much sturdier than the new model? With Ruger’s reputation, it would seem to me that they’d keep the sturdier one. Were they trying to reduce the weight, or something? I’ve never seen or handled them, so I don’t know much about them.

    • Phil White

      Brian,

      Hey you are very welcome:-)
      Classes usually last from three days to five days. The classes that travel around the country a few times a year are the three day ones while the classes at the facility they own are closer to five. Here is a cut and paste from the Bill Rogers school. http://www.rogersshootingschool.com/pricing.php

      Over the years, our Basic Handgun class has been instrumental in developing the interest of hundreds of beginners in shooting; more information can be found on our Classes page. It has also given shooters that are experienced with a handgun but have never worked out of a holster, the necessary skills to take our Intermediate or Advanced class. For this reason we have always discounted our Basic Class dramatically. The Basic Handgun program does not offer an optional shoulder weapon course. We welcome anyone who can legally possess a firearm, including children, as long as their parents are present. For the Basic Class the School will supply handguns, both revolver and semi-auto, and ammunition. For our Basic Class we offer a flat fee of $1500.This includes tuition, school firearms, ammunition and lodging, including three meals a day. The maximum size for our Basic Class is 12 students.

      Basic Handgun cost:

      Tuition, use of school handguns, ammunition, food and lodging—————-$1500.00

      As far as the Blackhawk old model I don’t have an answer for you on why they changed unless it had to do with material cost and advances in materials allowing a lighter gun to be as strong as the old type steel. I know my old Blackhawk from 1970 was very heavy and I would say from memory heavier than the new ones.

  • subase

    Another advantage of the revolver is limp wristing is not a problem. No small issue since drawing a weapon is a high stress reactive act. A point pocket pistol proponents forget in the leisure of the firing range. A revolver can also be fired in a jacket or bag, a nice feature.

    Having a gun is what’s important, it’s effectiveness to stop a threat will rarely be tested in a persons lifetime. But showing it to deter would be attackers or being thankful you have one with you will no doubt happen at least once in your life. In this regard a revolver is fairly concealable and comfortable to carry. Second is to make sure your pistol will fire when you pull the trigger. On this point the semi auto has a higher chance of failure.

    Primarily on three points. They forget to chamber a round in their gun (which some people actually recommend, big mistake). Their magazine is empty. They limp wrist. And lastly the lubricant they used on their slide has dried up over time, which will also increase the chances of limp wristing. (on this point though a Glocks slide comes already greased)

    A Glock is good with loaded magazine, grease on slide and round in chamber. The gun will fire. But those three points need to be confirmed by someone and that takes a measure of training. Most people will be able to handle it, a minority will not. (which might include the family of a gun owner) I say better safe than sorry. A civilian shouldn’t be getting into pistol shootouts anyway, running away to safety should be their number one priority. (A nice bonus is a revolver will also not leave evidence behind, in the form of casings with your fingerprints and probably DNA on them)

    • Phil White

      subase,

      Excellent points Subase! I appreciate well thought out comments like this. One thing I did on duty in winter was to carry the 642 in my jacket pocket while talking to someone at 3 am on the side of the road for instance. The entire time they have a revolver pointed in their general direction and haven’t a clue it’s there. This provided me with instant reaction if needed.

  • armed_partisan

    @ Brian: “If we’re speaking revolvers here, I’d say .45 Colt is a hell of a lot better than .38 Special.”
    Really? Seriously? Oh, I see. You’re pulling my leg, right? A cartridge that’s too big for the gun it was designed for, that has pressure too low to compete with modern cartridges, that was rendered completely obsolete before the 1920′s is better than what is likely the best selling revolver cartridge of all time, if not the best selling pistol cartridge of any kind ever?

    “I’d also say that .357 Magnum is better, but doing the math, .45 Colt is more powerful.” No, it’s not. If you hot rod a .45 Colt in a newer, larger framed design, it can be loaded more powerfully than .357 Magnum, but it has NEVER come from ANY factory that way, and probably never will. .357 has better muzzle energy, a higher standard operating pressure (if you want to ignore both SAAMI and CIP in order to prove your point, you’ve already lost), better ballistic coefficents for bullets, and a wider range in weight of projectiles (71-220 grains). I would say a .357 is a very good cartridge because it’s BASED on the .38 Special, but if you want to ignore loading pressures for .38 as you appear to do with .45 Colt in your estimations, then .38 can match factory .357 performance. However, you are ignoring the main point that what is most powerful does not make the best cartridge, that’s why we aren’t all walking around with single shot .50 BMG pistols. The article above is about .38 J-frames, not .357 J-frames, which are impractical because they are TOO POWERFUL!!!

    The greatest practical accuracy is achieved at sub-sonic velocities, and .38 Special does that better than .357 magnum. Only hits count, and it’s better to hit with a less powerful round than miss with a more powerful round. Which brings up the point of follow up shots. The one shot stop is a marketing myth when we’re talking handgun rounds. A very powerful, magnum revolver cartridge only begins to flirt with rifle performance, and that means you need to hit the target with more than one bullet to take it out of action AS A STANDARD PRACTICE. This is especially true in self defense, and the cartridge that dominated the 20th century for that purpose was the .38 Special.

    “To me, .357 Magnum is the bare minimum caliber I would use in a revolver.” They got a lot of bears and woolly mammoths where you come from? .357′s taken deer, moose, elk, and probably a Brown Bear or two. It went on safari back in the day and was used to take Leopards, Kudu, Hartebeast, Brushbuck, and Lions. I’m not gonna hunt with it, but I hardly consider it a power floor.

    “I wouldn’t even touch a revolver chambered for .22LR.” I wish I had as much disposable income as you do. That’s fine. More for the rest of us.

  • Brian

    @Phil White: Thanks! They actually have a facility that’s fairly close, so that’s pretty convenient. As for the Blackhawk, well, I don’t know. What I read specified the “Old” model over the “New” one, so maybe the new one isn’t as strong? I’m sure the new one works just fine with factory ammunition. But yeah, they were probably trying to cut costs without compromising too much of its strength or something. That’s my best guess, anyway.

  • Brian

    @armed_partisan: No, I’m not pulling your leg. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m getting a bad tone from your words, and I don’t appreciate that. I don’t see anything wrong with the .45 Colt. If you want to know, this information is based on Hornady’s “Leverevolution” .45 Colt and .357 Magnum cartridges. Using the information from Hornady’s website on these cartridges’ bullet weight, velocity, and bullet diameter, I found that the .45 Colt is more powerful than the .357 Magnum. If I am wrong, then I would appreciate it if you explained to me how, but numbers don’t lie.

    I don’t care if the .357 Magnum is BASED on the .38 Special. The point is, I would not carry a gun loaded with .38s. If you like them, and you want to carry them, and they work for you, that’s perfectly fine. But based on my own personal preferences, if I am going to carry a revolver, I will not use .38 Special. And I’m not saying what’s most powerful is the best cartridge. And no, the article above is about an ideal first gun for concealed-carry, and that gun happens to be a J-frame revolver in .38 Special. Either way, I don’t like J-frames to begin with, and there’s no way in hell I’d use one. I agree, .357 Magnum is too powerful for a J-frame. Then again, like I just said, I wouldn’t use one.

    And no, there’ve been no bears, let alone wooly mammoths, as far as I’ve seen. You, however, seem to be underestimating the human body. What it takes to kill someone can vary from individual to individual. To me, the .357 is a good minimum. If you don’t like it, I respect that, but I do not respect your tone toward me, simply because you disagree with my opinion and information. And no, contrary to what you think, I am flat broke. I have not had a job for almost a year now, but that does not influence my decision. The .22LR is a near useless cartridge, in my opinion, and I don’t want a pea shooter. If you have a problem with that, you can keep it to yourself. I will not tolerate anyone talking to me like the way you have, regardless of age or background.

  • armed_partisan

    @ Brian
    Sorry if I was busting your balls a little. I’m just messin’ with ya! Looking on Hornady’s page, and comparing the Leverevolution ammo, out of pistol length barrels, the .45 Colt is tested out of a 4.75″ pistol barrel, and the .357 is tested out of an 8″ barrel, so they aren’t really comparable, but .357 has 644 ft/lbs, whereas the .45 Colt has 460 ft/lbs energy. Now, if you look at the rifle length ones, it’s a bit closer, but the .45 Colt has a 20″ barrel and the .357 has an 18″ barrel, with 500ft/lbs for the .45 and a whopping 1064 ft/lbs for the .357, despite the 2″ shorter barrel.

    You have to search for it in the bullet section, because they don’t list it for the .45 Colt, but the G1BC for the 225 FTX bullet is .145, whereas the .357′s 140 FTX’s G1BC is .169, meaning it will have less wind drift and retain velocity better.

    .45 Colt was born in the age of Blackpowder, but the .357 was born well into the dawn of Smokeless, and arguably, so was the .38 Special. The larger case volume of the .45 Colt was intended for inefficient, low pressure Black Powder, and the .357 was interned for high pressure smokeless loads. .45 Colt is loaded to 14Kpsi according to SAAMI, whereas .38 Special is loaded to 17Kpsi for standard, 18.5Kpsi for +P, and .357 Magnum is loaded to 35Kpsi. Energy=Mass*Velocity^2, so when you double the weight, you double the energy, but when you double the velocity, you increase the energy by a factor of two.

    If you take 150 grain .38 +P and load it to it’s SAAMI limit, and fire it out of a 7.5″ SAA, it will have more energy than a 250 Grain .45 Colt max load out of a 4.75″ SAA. All things being egual, like barrel length, the .45 Colt beats the .38 Special, but not the .357 Magnum.

    • Phil White

      armed_partisan,

      Elmer Keith used the 44 special and 45 colt to develop the 44 magnum. He and others pushed S&W to make the model 29 or modern “N” frame to handle higher pressures. Bill Jordan who is the most well known border patrol officer is the father of the model 19 and the 357 as an ideal police cartridge. He was also a proponent of the 41 mag for police work. This was in the 30′s and 40′s.

  • thebronze

    LA Police Gear sucks! Their brand-clothing is made off-shore and they have serious manufacturing issues. Stay away from LAPG.

    • Phil White

      thebronze,

      The jean material is lighter than normal jeans but they have come in handy. I’m sure they are made in China or some darn place.

  • Claire FitzGerald

    Nice input on the S & W model 642 but, for a small woman, with small hands, I disagree that this can be the “first gun”. I ordered this through my FFL dealer, from the factory and had them make it with the Crimson trace laser. That shrouded hammer increases the trigger pull, big time. There is no way I could have used this .38 and passed the Utah CCW performance test. That test requires strong hand AND SUPPORTING (only) hand firing. I almost always have to shoot 2-handed with this little gem. One time, I bought a box of so-called wadcutters from our local FFL dealer. Holy crow! Those were “police wadcutters”. That little baby was sending smoke signals off the range after shooting just 5 rounds. For target, I shoot Fiocchi flat nosed wadcutters & to get those, I have to drive 20 miles into the city to get them. Our local FFL dealer here in town claims they’ve been trying to stock them but it’s been nearly a year and they still haven’t got any. I’m looking to sell this thing back to the dealer and replace it with a Kimber Pro Carry II, stainless steel in a 9 mm. I may re-consider keeping it, as you say in this blog, as a back-up but I can’t see me carrying two as the law enforcement member must do though.

    • Phil White

      Claire,

      You might want to look at the Kimber Aegis II Pro. It’s a 9mm and the same basics as a Pro Carry. It also has slim grips for smaller hands.

  • Claire FitzGerald

    As an aside, the 642 has a horrid MUZZLE FLIP. As far as I’m concerned, it kicks worse than a mule, lol.

  • tomaso

    Claire, see if you can rent a LCR in 38sp…iv heard the trigger is much nicer then most J like frames. otherwise check out Walther PK380 tad bit larger but thinner and about same weight..but with 9rnds ( 8+1)

  • Brian

    @armed_partisan: Well…it didn’t sound like you just messing with me. And yes, I know the barrel lengths from those tests are different. I know the .45 Colt is a slower bullet with less kinetic energy, and I know the formula for energy. However, energy is only one factor in a projectile’s power. If someone shot you with a needle (like a sewing needle) with just as much energy as the .357 Magnum or .38 Special, do you think it would do as much damage? Chances are, no, it wouldn’t. It would likely go clean through you, and cause much less damage than even a .380 Auto. Even if it has all that energy, it’s how much energy it transfers upon impact and penetration that really does the damage. Because the .45 Colt is a bigger bullet, it hits harder than the .357. Besides, I would not say such things without doing at least some research. I’ve looked up reviews, blogs, etc. comparing the .45 Colt to the .357 Magnum. Just about every single person who had ever used both (and many of them were hunters too) claimed that the .45 Colt was at least just as effective as the .357 Magnum, if not more so.

    As for the ballistic coefficients, yes, I would have expected that. The geometry of the .357 Magnum bullet allows it to carry more of its energy at longer ranges. I’d say, at that point, the .357 Magnum has the advantage. In closer ranges (such as in a self-defense encounter), though, the .45 Colt packs more stopping power. If you also consider that the .45 Colt cartridge has survived this long in manufacturing, that is also more evidence that it is not obsolete. The .357 Magnum has its good points, no doubt about that, and it’s certainly not weak. However, for purposes like self-defense, I believe that the .45 Colt is the better choice. That is just my opinion, though.

  • subase

    If your reading a firearm news site on the internet, then you are not a complete beginner.

  • Brian

    @Claire FitzGerald: Alternatively, there’s also this: http://www.chiappafirearms.com/product/726

    I’ve read up on them, and they seem to be VERY nice little guns. Muzzle flip is practically nonexistent. Many people think the Rhino is ugly, but I love the design. I think it’s quite an ingenious, beautiful piece of work.

  • Claire FitzGerald

    Whoever called this a “granny gun” was ‘way off with that thought. That little 642 (that does have a crimson trace laser that was installed at the factory on order) kicks worse than a doggoned mule. Most little “grannies” would might just end up on their keester after that pistol flew right out of her control. Much too dangerous under those circumstances. I successfully completed the Utah CCW performance test last weekend but I certainly didn’t use the 642 because there was no way I can shoot left-handed with or without a support hand. That trigger pull is much too heavy for that (even with flat-nosed wadcutters). There was one little old gal in that same CCW class who, until the day before had less than 4 hours pistol handling/shooting instruction from her similar age male friend. She was shooting a little snub-nosed, new, very lightweight S & W .38 special, single action. It was pretty scarey to watch her shoot. With every round, she could not control the heavy recoil. Those of us that were finished shooting were concerned that little S & W might go flying out of her hands.

    • Phil White

      Claire,

      One thing I found out by accident was the Lady Smith seems to be one pound lighter in trigger pull than the regular 642. I have taken a 642 and changed a spring from Wolff and lightened the pull. if anyone does this they should shoot at least 50 rounds to make sure theirs is reliable with a lighter spring.

  • armed_partisan

    @ Phil White:

    Actually, the first N-Frame intended to handle higher pressures was the .38/44 Heavy Duty, and it’s high-end counterpart, the .38/44 Outdoorsman. This was an N-Frame made in .38 Special, giving is super-thick chamber walls, and it was introduced in 1930. It lead to the development of the .357 in 1935.

    Elmer switched to the .44 Special because he kept blowing up .45 Colts. Being about .012″ thicker on the chamber walls meant the .44 Special could out perform the Colt. That lead to the Magnum in 1955. Elmer Kieth and Bill Jordan collaborated on the .41 Magnum (my favorite magnum) and it was introduced in 1964, not the 30′s and 40′s.

    @ Brian:
    “If someone shot you with a needle (like a sewing needle) with just as much energy as the .357 Magnum or .38 Special, do you think it would do as much damage?” Yes, I do. A sewing needle would likely bend and tumble quite rapidly, and cause a long “slice” through a person’s vital organs. It actually might be MORE lethal than a regular bullet, which actually “crushes” rather than cuts it’s way through the target. A round that small would lose energy VERY quickly though, due to having a very low mass.

    “Because the .45 Colt is a bigger bullet, it hits harder than the .357.” I think this is a common misconception. Energy is the ability to do work, and a heavy bullet retains energy better than a lighter bullet of the same caliber, but the diameter, even the weight of a round is no measure of it’s effectiveness. Do you feel that a .45 ACP would be more lethal than a 5.56? Even though a 5.56 is firing a bullet that’s slightly less than half the diameter, and somewhere between 20-30% of the .45′s mass, it’s DRAMATICALLY more lethal than a .45, because it’s energy is HUGE by comparison, around 900 ft/lbs more than some of the better .45 ACP loads. The truth is, the .357 has more than TWICE the energy based on the Hornady stats, despite having a shorter barrel, and it will retain that energy better over a longer range than the .45 and have less wind drift due to it’s better Ballistic Coefficient. The only thing the .45 Colt does better than the .357 Magnum is…wait, hold on… I’m thinking…

    I honestly wouldn’t consider the .45 Colt to be a BAD round by any means, but it’s largely just a longer .45 ACP with a small rim. That small rim leads to extractor problems, since it was designed before extractors for swing out cylinders really existed. It is NOT better than a .357 by virtue of having a larger bullet diameter. Having become disillusioned with moonclips in revolvers, I would choose a .45 Colt over a .45 Auto, but I would not choose it over a .44 or a .41 if I was interested in lugging an N-Frame sized revolver around.

    • Phil White

      armed_partisan,

      Yep, I kept it short yesterday. Jordan actually did have ideas about the 357 as an alternative to the 41 magnum he was thinking about. S&W wasn’t wild about a 41 magnum or something in that ballpark. They played with the idea of a 41 or something similar way before they talked S&W into it. Yes Keith did use those models to load and experiment with heavy loads. I talked to Bill Jordan before his health became so bad back in the 70′s. One heck of a nice guy by the way. He gave me an autographed version of his book which I cherish. Anyway these statements came straight from him.
      If you haven’t read it Elmers book about “sixguns” is a great read and straight up honest.

  • Claire FitzGerald

    Thanks, Phil
    I just picked up the Kimber Stainless Pro Carry II 9mm with the 4″ barrel this afternoon. After looking it over again this evening (without shooting it), I may head back to the FFL dealer down south and take another look at the Aegis II Pro (The Ultra Aegis has a 3″ barrel; 9mm. The Pro: 4″ barrel). Neither do not have the stainless quality that I prefer though. How well do they hold up over time when they’re not stainless? I would prefer the thinner grips and the night sights are a nice feature (both are a lot more $$ too). I’m very disappointed at the very stiff action of the slide stop too. It’s a royal pain to try to budge that thing with very small hands. I realize it’s new and may be less difficult over time but it could be the larger grip that’s the problem.

    @ Tomaso: Thanks but I prefer the more reliable Kimber products.

    @ Brian: Thanks to you too but I’m looking for American made products these days. I looked at the Chiappa Firearms site and they don’t carry what I need for a new carry pistol at all.

    BTW, before I looked at the Kimber, I did check the slide on the Springfield 9mm EMP and set that one back immediately. For me to rack the slide on that little pistol, I’d probably be a dead duck before I could do it in a defensive situation.

    @subase: Lol! Your comment was appreciated but I’ve been shooting just a few days less than one year. When I first started, I decided that buying any pistol would be foolish if a person didn’t take additional training and go to the range on a frequent, regular basis to become and remain proficient. This all started so I could try to catch up with other members of my Marine Corps League detachment. Am a life member & have been the only female Marine in all 3 detachments I’ve had to transfer to after moving to other states. If you want to surprise your lady with a nice gift, check out the various models of these handbags @
    http://www.guntotenmamas.com/cgi-bin/commerce.cgi?search=action&category=CBSB
    These bags are made from top quality glove leather; have a steel wire running through the durable shoulder strap; are worn cross body; are about 1/3 the cost of the Galco’s and, in my opinion, are a far superior, American made (in Arkansas) product.

    Keep those groups in the X or the ten-ring guys. That’s where I put the very first .45 rounds (in my life) a few days ago. Saved that target too, lol.

    All of your comments and suggestions on here are really appreciated.

    • Phil White

      Claire,

      I’m glad to see you over here and enjoying the postings! Tell you what I haven’t used a slide release since 1996. I was taught the Israeli method and never looked back. They explained that using the slide stop to release the slide only used half the spring power increasing the possibility of a failure. They teach using all the springs power by rotating the pistol 90 degrees left and pulling the slide enough to release it and let it go. That uses all the spring power to chamber a round. It actually takes no more time to do that than use the slide release.
      I think you’ll like the Aegis. I did a review on one and actually bought it. I don’t do that very often. Mine is the full size. The alloy frame these days will last forever. The old ones did wear out pretty fast but not the new ones. If you do keep the Pro Carry you can get the slim grips, frame bushings and short screws from Kimber or Brownells..Oh yea I like the slide top being milled flat.

      Semper Fi!

  • subase

    Well when I was referring to ‘grannies’, I was referring to the negative stereotype of them being stubborn and willfully ignorant. A Glock in such hands could be a liability in the sense that when they pull the trigger their gun won’t fire. A gun that fires is more important than hit probability, especially for a complete beginner. Who also due to the their ignorance will be drawing and shooting their gun at even closer than likely distances, say at contact distances and less than 6 feet. At these distances rate of fire doesn’t suffer since they will either deter the threat in a few shots or will be engaging in hand to hand fighting.

    In the above situation, a semi auto pistol requires more skill to use than a revolver. A revolver can simply be jammed into someones torso or face, gaining 100% hit probability. A semi auto on the other hand needs to be shot at from a distance lest it jam, and that requires discipline and training.

    That frame lock on revolvers now though makes me take back my recommendation. Last thing a beginner or home owner needs is the feature of making their revolver unable to fire unless they remembers to unlock it with a key. lol

    • Phil White

      subase,

      I couldn’t agree more. One positive is the internal lock is no longer a factor since S&W is now marketing the “J” frames without the lock even for civilians. The lock is still around of course but at least we have a choice now.

  • Brian

    @armed_partisan: Hmm…with the energy required to match a .357, I would think it’d create a nearly straight hole hole straight through, but perhaps you’re right. But even if it did bend and “slice” through you, it doesn’t seem to me that it’d cause as much damage, let alone more, than a .357.

    True…I hadn’t considered the rifle cartridges…. Hmm…I may have to go back and do some more research, but until then, I still believe the .45 Colt is, at the very least, just as effective as the .357. There are plenty of people out there who’ve had the opportunity to compare the two, themselves, in practical applications, and would back up my statement. Once I am able to get my hands on both a .357 Magnum and .45 Colt revolver, I will certainly find out for myself.

    And speaking of the .41, I’d heard a while back that it was an obsolete cartridge, but I still see revolvers chambered for it in production. Have you ever shot one before? If so, how is it?

    • Phil White

      Brian,

      Hey Brian not to cut in but I’ve shot the 41 a good bit. It’s a really effective round with a good deal less recoil than the 44.It’s far from obsolete. There aren’t as many guns made for it but it’s still a great handloaders round.

  • Brian

    @Claire FitzGerald: Ah, I see. Well, as much as I like American-made products too, the Rhino does seem to be an excellent handgun, and I’ve never seen any other American-made revolver like it. Also, I didn’t know you were a Marine, but that’s nice to hear. Thank you for your service. My dad was a Marine too, and he retired a few years ago as a Major. He still supports the military, of course. He’s working with DCS now.

  • Brian

    Hmm…now this, I’m finding a bit strange, and worth looking into. After reading armed_partisan’s comment, “Do you feel that a .45 ACP would be more lethal than a 5.56?”, I decided to do the math and compare the .45 ACP and the .45 Colt with the 5.56 NATO round (and this isn’t even going into the +P loads). My references for this are Hornady’s 45 Auto 230 GR HAP® Steel Match™, 45 Colt 225 gr FTX®LEVERevolution®, and their 5.56 NATO 75 gr BTHP Superformance® Match™, both with the 20″ barrel statistics. I will also add in Hornady’s 308 Win 178 gr BTHP Superformance® Match™, and 45-70 Government 325 gr FTX® LEVERevolution® for further comparison, although they both are tested with 24″ barrels.

    At the muzzle…
    .45 ACP: TKOF =12.62371
    .45 Colt: TKOF = 14.49643
    5.56 NATO: TKOF = 6.984
    .308 Win: TKOF = 21.7338
    .45-70 Govt: TKOF = 43.59179

    At 100 yards…
    .45 ACP: TKOF = 11.70293
    .45 Colt: TKOF = 12.80035
    5.56 NATO: TKOF = 6.42
    .308 Win: TKOF = 20.39453
    .45-70 Govt: TKOF = 36.76595

    For anyone wondering, TKOF stands for Taylor Knock-Out Factor. The formula is the [mass of the bullet (grains) x velocity (fps) x bullet diameter (inches)] / 7000 (grains per pound). This formula does correlate very well with the performance of different cartridges. Another good example would be how the 7.62x39mm cartridge has more stopping power than the 5.56 NATO cartridge. At the muzzle, the 7.62x39mm bullet does have more energy than the 5.56 NATO, but loses it fairly quickly. However, at 300 yards, even though the 5.56 NATO has more energy, the 7.62x39mm still has more stopping power. If you do the math, the TKOF shows this pretty clearly. So, do I believe that the .45 ACP has more stopping power than the 5.56 NATO? Yes, I do. Do I believe the .45 ACP is more lethal than the 5.56 NATO? I don’t know. That is up for debate.

  • Brian

    Oh, one little correction. When I said, “both with the 20″ barrel statistics,” I was referring to the .45 Colt and 5.56 NATO rounds. I forgot to mention that when going through and editing my comment. The .45 ACP cartridge mentioned is only tested in a 5″ barrel (which still says something for it).

  • Brian

    @Phil White: Ah, I imagined it’d be less recoil. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it is obsolete. I just remember reading that somewhere a while back. I’ve seen a few revolvers in production for it, mostly from S&W. How is the price on ammunition for it?

    And thanks, I’ll check out the review. I also saw that there was a post about the Rhino here, when I searched for it.

    • Phil White

      Brian,

      Well this ammo like all others is higher priced than it should be but the difference is not much.Roughly $30 to $33 for a box of 50 44′s and the 41 was actually the same where I checked.

  • Brian

    @Phil White: $30-33 for a box of 50? Hmm…how much would you consider to be a reasonable price? By the time I started looking at guns, prices like that were the average, and that seems ok to me. I take it that they used to be significantly cheaper?

  • Claire FitzGerald

    Lol! $30-$33.00 for a box of 50 rounds? Now, all of you know why I decided against buying the Kimber in a .45 caliber. On my little budget, it would be the rare occasion for me to take it to the range to remain somewhat skilled. The lower ammo cost is precisely why I went for the 9mm. As far as being able to shoot and maintain a semi-auto pistol, I’m in frequent contact with expert IPSA shooters/instructors at the highest level. They’ve been very generous in working with me so I’ll learn very well. I shot that Kimber compact custom without any difficulty…first two right into the ten ring. You’re all great and I appreciate your comments and suggestions. I went back to my FFL dealer to check out the Kimber Ultra Aegis II and the Aegis II Pro but they don’t even have one in their huge warehouse supply. He said they cannot keep enough Kimbers in stock any more due to the high sales and demand for them. I asked about ordering one and was told it could be more than 6 months to a year IF they could get one. So, I’m going to stick with the Kimber Pro Carry II.

    BTW, we’ve just about beat the S & W 642 topic to death. Lol!

    • Phil White

      Claire,

      I shouldn’t be surprised Claire. I talked with my contact at Kimber last week and he said they are working like crazy but are 8 months behind. I had to wait two months for the review pistol I finally bought. I was darn lucky to get it. They only had the full size with no Pro’s etc for testing.
      Some shops are raising prices to full retail to $100 over retail which isn’t ethical at all!

    • Phil White

      Claire,

      By the way 45 Colt is $36 a box! I’m glad I reload!

  • tomaso

    I keep seeing comments about how much better a revolver is close up…and most is true…..but i have a bit of experience in hand to hand….now I’m not positive about all revolvers…but of my knowledge of the J frame iv had just grabbing the cylinder can put the weapon out of battaiery….just like an auto…. sure firing behind clothing is possible with “hammer shroud” style revolvers..but if in a scuffle were the cylinder may be pressed its not a guaranty. Claire points out some of the issues i saw in the design…heavy trigger, bad ergos and my observation about bad sights….now i understand these weapons arnt for distance…but the round will make good distances….im a firm believer in the 40yrd to Zero training( this is an adaptation of the 100yrd to zero my teacher experienced in a seminar but is training for LEO’s and MILLY’s)

    120 feet is a long distance for a small pistol, but it teaches great fundimentals…and is very useful skill were animals can interact with “loved ones”..these are things i personally consider because i have an artificial leg and can only run about 1/2 the speed a biped can..as iv said be for “self defenses is the simplest actions to cover the broadest possibility’s” so in firearms i would pick the larges capacity of the largest caliber that makes sense (side note ER doctors don’t rate the 45 any more powerful then a 22…they have seen too many die of a 22 round and enough live with a 45….but i personally don’t suggest 22s as a self defense round)…so i would suggest looking at carry weight and size and how much it can be carried in your daily rituals….i have a full size XDm9 in a comp-tec Minotaur IWB..but i will be getting a 3.8 compact as soon as i can it prints far less.

    weapons training is VERY VERY important if you own a firearm…but most people miss their better off with “GOOD” self defense training, which is far different then” form” style martial arts..a good school trains the mind as much as the techniques, for its your observations of the world around you that will keep you far safer then being the fastest shooter…im making these points not for the general public here which seems to have a high percentage of readers that have knowledge in these feilds…but for the few that may read the postings and miss some very important points.

    Phil…the number one reason the Israel SF rack the slide during reloads is because its a gross motor skill…not a finite movement that falls apart during the Adrenalin rush. so iv been told,i trained with an officer who trained under an ISF vetran)

    • Phil White

      tomaso,

      Yes gross motor skill is the other primary reason for that technique.

  • armed_partisan

    @ Brian,

    Mind you, the needle would have to bend for it to slice for any great length, but I can bend one between my fingers with alot less than 500 ft/lbs of pressure. If it hits a soft surface that’s full of water, which doesn’t compress, and it’s going super fast, it’s gonna be like hitting a brick wall, and it will almost certainly bend.

    “I still believe the .45 Colt is, at the very least, just as effective as the .357.” Dead is dead. If they both kill, and they both certainly can, then they are equally effective.

    “And speaking of the .41, I’d heard a while back that it was an obsolete cartridge, but I still see revolvers chambered for it in production. Have you ever shot one before? If so, how is it?” The only big bore revolvers I own are S&W N-Frames in .41 Magnum. I mean, that’s two, but still. It can be quite stout and snappy with full house loads (both of mine are 4″, a 657 Mountain Gun, and a Blue Model 57), but even when they are down loaded, they are not for the faint of heart. That’s what makes ‘em fun! I don’t think it’s bad, but none of my friends like to shoot it. All of my S&W’s are very accurate, and the .41′s are no exception. My mountain gun is easily one of the most accurate guns I own. The only things I’ve shot with them are paper and pigs. I’ve killed lots of wild boar with a single shot of .22, but a single .41 magnum seems to do the trick. Oh! And I roll my own, and cast my own bullets. It’s the only way to fly! If you own a magnum of any kind, you probably should reload, and if you own a .41, you have to reload, because it’s ridiculously overpriced from the factory.

    The TKOF is about as scientific as Scientology. It’s laughably bad! I don’t recommend getting shot, but if some ever offers to shoot you at 100 yards with a .45 pistol or a 5.56 rifle, TAKE ONE FROM THE PISTOL! There are other concerns, like cavitation, fragmentation, expansion, and penetration. Fragmentation is basically a random variable, and the best thing you can do is calculate at which velocities a bullet of a given construction is known to fragment, and figure out which ranges it will achieve that velocity. A 5.56 out of almost any barrel length above 14.5″ will fragment at 100m, and that will cause a devastating wound that a big bore pistol can’t match.

    from Veral Smith of Lead Bullet Technologies (LBT) came up with some formulas for Cavitation and Penetration that I think I quite good for estimation purposes. They are as follows:

    Penetration: PEN (in) = Bullet Weight (lbs, Grns/7000) x Impact Velocity (fps) / Meplat Dia. (in) / 5

    Cavitation: CAV (in) = [ Impact Velocity (fps) x Meplat Dia. (in) / 240 ] – 0.625

    I got these from http://www.rathcoombe.net/sci-tech/ballistics/methods.html#handgun which is a great website on ballistics. To figure out the Meplat on a SWC bullet, it’s just the flat nose, but to figure it on a round nose, you kinda have to guess unless you have measuring tools. Another great site is the Arfcom Ammo Oracle (sorry to be throwing out all these other sites Steve), http://ammo.ar15.com/, which mostly talks about the 5.56, it’s history, and common misconceptions. It’s actually a VERY good round. Flawed in some ways, but very good overall.

  • Brian

    @armed_partisan: I didn’t mean that I don’t think it would bend. After all, if a bullet deforms, I’m sure that’s no problem for a needle. All I’m saying is that, even if it does slice through you, it seems to me that the wound would be significantly smaller than anything any normal bullet would cause. Then again, I’m no ballistician. I’m just using the resources I have at hand to learn what I can. And yes, dead is still dead, regardless of what caused it. As for the .41, it sounds like a fun gun to shoot. I’ll have to look into it. I’m a fan of big-bore revolvers, so I may get one sometime down the road. And yeah, I’m considering learning how to reload, especially since I’d be able to make my own custom loads. I saw that Hornady has reloading supplies, but there is a lot of stuff, and it seems pretty complex and expensive, although, I’m sure it would save money in the long run. How do you cast your own bullets, though?

    And yes, I’ve heard that there are plenty of people who believe that the TKOF is total BS. No offense, but I figured you’d be one of those people. I, for one, see it as a very practical formula that uses the most predictable factors available to determine how much damage particular types of bullets will do, and it does correlate well with the actual performance. I already took into account that it does not include factors such as fragmentation, bullet shape/type, expansion, shot placement, tumbling, etc. However, it is a formula that I still plan on using, and I do not believe it to be unscientific. As for someone offering to shoot me, I’d be crazy to let them shoot me with anything. If someone is shooting at me, my goal is to not get shot, regardless of the size or speed of the projectile.

    As for the meplat, if there’s anything that requires guessing, then I wouldn’t consider it reliable. And as for the 5.56…I’m sorry, no offense, but I think I will pass. I know there are plenty of AR-15 lovers out there, but I’m not one of them. The only AR-15 I’d even consider getting is one from Wilson Combat, and even then, I’d go with the 6.8mm SPC. I personally believe that the 5.56mm NATO cartridge is horrible. Again, not saying it can’t kill someone, but there are more effective rounds. I’d take either the 7.62x39mm or the 7.62mm NATO over that, any day.

  • Dylan Draper

    Siege,
    i know you may not ever read this comment, nor will i ever know if you had or not, but i carry concealed every day. i carry because i love my girlfriend, and her safety is more important than the peace of mind of the more liberal citizens around me. i know if the heat gets turned up, i will be able to put a few rounds into an attackers chest. if you look at it with my point of view where a WROL situation can occur at anytime, i would rather be carrying a piece than waiting to get killed or oppressed. yes oppressed.

    • Phil White

      Dylan,

      It’s been read Dylan—–

  • Claire FitzGerald

    It’s been a long while since I’ve been in this string but could not resist replying to the last comment. There was a big gun show in our area last month. I struggled a bit about whether or not to sell the 642. A Marine Corps League friend in our detachment was trying to talk me into picking up a private buyer inside the gun show then going out of the building to cut the deal. Making such a move seemed too risky so I decided against going. I had to pay $775. for that S & W 642 and that was supposedly at a discount (has the C.T. laser built in at the factory). There’s no way anyone would even come close to what it’s worth less than a year later.

    I’m loving how that Kimber 1911 fires. Those fixed sights are right on. I don’t have to fight to rack the slide either. One of my nephews made a bunch of 1911 thin padauk wood grips and sent me a set. Gorgeous grain in that wood and he did a great job in making them. Hopefully, I can get a friend to install them for me this week when I pick up the custom holster. Still awaiting the Utah ccw in the mail. They said it would take 70 days~~~they were not over-estimating that time either, lol.

    Stay happy, guys. Life’s too short to be otherwise. :). See y’all on the firing line.

  • Finash

    Nice gun! I got one a few weeks ago and I love it. but for people who are shooting for the first time, or have not shot one just be aware that this gun has a bit of a kick to it. first time shooting it just go with .38s because the +P makes the gun kick like a mule! but it is easy to conceal even for me (yes i’m female) and even easier when I have my purse.

    • John Drabble

      My experience: I bought a 442 (black version of 642) for home defense three months ago thinking it would also serve the purpose of concealed carry should I decide to do that.

      I believe in responsible gun ownership. I hadn’t shot a handgun since the army thirty years ago so I took a class in handgun safety and I’ve been going to the range once a month. This gun is not great fun to shoot. At first shooting fifty rounds at a time was plenty and I was begrudging the range fees for such a short time so I changed the grip to a larger size Pachmeyer decelerator grip that accommodates my pinkie and was able to shoot a 100 rounds today without too much discomfort. I’ll go back to the original grip if I decide to conceal carry.

      I set the target, a small silhouette, at seven yards, the length of the longest room in my house, and shoot in bursts of five. Today I hit a small silhouette 95 out of a 100. I bought enough FMJ practice ammo to shoot a hundred rounds a month for a year. I wear eyeglasses and, frankly, can’t see the sights very well to align them so sort of point and shoot. Using a target analysis my first couple outings resulted in groupings around 1 & 2 o’clock signifying recoil anticipation. Now I’m hitting the target at 6 and 7 o’clock which indicates I’m jerking the trigger which comes from my shooting in bursts. I’ll get better with more practice.

      I feel that it’s a good quality revolver but requires a commitment to use well and responsibly. For only home defense use a four inch barrel is probably easier to use, but a model 64 was another $200.

  • Wily

    I fitted my 642 with the Desantis Clip Grip. That way I can carry IWB, pocket carry, and the Clip Grip will still work with most holsters. In hot weather my 642 rides completely concealed under a t-shirt even with draw string shorts. It will hook over the lip of a front jeans pocket. It eliminates the need for a holster. You can’t do that with any other gun.