Why a 642 over a 638?


stiletto raggio
November 17, 2006, 01:39 PM
To me, a 638 seems to have all the advantages of the 642 without the one big disadvantage: the ability to fire single-action. Yes, I know the need for this is rare, but especially with a set of Crimson Trace grips, making a placed shot with a snubby at pretty good range is not as hard as you might think, especially when you can fire with a short, crisp, single-action trigger pull.

So why does the 642 have a huge cult following and the 638 is rarely mentioned?

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Ex-MA Hole
November 17, 2006, 02:00 PM
No hammer = nothing to snag/ catch it on. Ideal for pocket carry.

November 17, 2006, 02:01 PM
As to the popularity issue, I suppose the reason is varied.

For me it's the "lint trap," mostly. A guy I know had that issue and he handled it with a toothpick during routine maintenance. Personally, I'd rather go with a Chief's Special or a Centennial, depending on method of carry. The Bodyguard always seemed like a compromise with a notable point of failure. YMMV.

I suppose this one has also made its rounds on the intarweb, but the issue does have some validity.

November 17, 2006, 02:08 PM
I bought a 637, I've been trying to get the hammer to snag on my pants pocket, hasn't happened yet.

November 17, 2006, 02:11 PM
The Bodyguard has always been seen as the Ugly Duckling.

November 17, 2006, 02:18 PM
The Bodyguard has always been seen as the Ugly Duckling.
Life is too short to go around with ugly guns. ;)

My informal tests indicate to me that double action gives better results for me with a snub nose, so I just shoot them all that way, regardless if they have an accessible hammer or not. If I'm buying a new gun I'll take it with the internal hammer, please.

November 17, 2006, 02:19 PM
I've wondered the same. To me a hammerless revolver just looks neutered. Once I turn 21 I plan on carrying a 638, hopefully I'll get a black finish one. They're sweet looking guns, I have one as my desktop.

November 17, 2006, 02:29 PM
I purchased the 638 for all the reasons mentioned. The lint issue and worse the dime will jam it, it catch in your pocket, is a crock. Mine shoots about 4.5'' groups at 20 yds single action.


November 17, 2006, 02:34 PM
I've been carrying a S&W 649 (all-steel counterpart to the S&W 638), and find it to be a pretty cool gun. Been using Barami Hip Grips and just tucking it into my belt. Pretty neat solution for $15.

I've been practicing dry fire with Crimson Trace laser-grips, and it is way easier to keep the little red dot steady in SA.

Prior to this, I carried a Rossi clone of the S&W 36, and was surprised that the hammer really didn't dig into my skin when carrying with the Barami, like I thought it would.

It really seems that the 36/49/42 (CS/BG/Cnt) are pretty much much of a muchness. I picked the Bodyguard version because it's distinctive, and because of that notorious Pullitzer-prize-winning photo from the Vietnam War.


November 17, 2006, 02:42 PM
When you give a lot of folks the option of being able to cock the hammer on a traditional double action revolver, they do so ... and it might be argued that it's not always in their best interest. The time it takes to do so, especially under any stress, might be a concern ... and the resulting lighter & shorter SA trigger can be another concern ...

Watching a lot of revolver folks standing on the CCW qualification range at the 3 yard line, you see a lot of them take the time to cock hammers and fire their revolvers SA. In the real life stress of an unexpected threat of death or serious bodily injury at the hands of an attacker, up close and happening fast during a rapidly evolving, dynamic event ... the arguably fine motor skill of cocking the hammer of a revolver, after trying to draw and present it under difficult circumstances, might present some unwelcome difficulties ... physically and mentally. The time involved in observing, orienting, deciding and acting might be longer than most folks might realize ... and this is presuming their equipment (including apparel and carry method) is something that they can deal with during the stress of the event.

All of that being said ...

When it comes to personal preference regarding the handling, shooting and overall aesthetics of the small J-frames, folks often arrive at different conclusions when it comes to traditional double action versus DAO.

I happen to like the ugly little Bodyguard design, and have an older 649 .38 Spl model.

Been thinking about getting a 638 someday, just because I finally decided the all-steel model wasn't quite as convenient to carry as an Airweight, which is what prompted me to originally get a 642.

The DAO trigger of the 642 took some additional training time in order for me to consistently use it well enough to satisfy myself on the qualification range, though. When I was able to consistently score Master with it on our standard qualification courses of fire (meaning no more than 1 miss over the combined courses for each session), I finally decided I had enough confidence in my abilities with the DAO gun to carry it as an off-duty weapon. Sure, some of the courses of fire might be easier in some respects if I could cock a hammer for a SA shot (think head shots on Hostage-Taker targets at 5-10 yards), but sufficiently frequent training and practice can often resolve a lot of issues.

Now, when I'm practicing Bullseye at 25 & 35 yards with a J-frame, I find it's easier to make desired hits when shooting SA.

On the other hand, since my 5-shot snub revolvers are really pretty much only intended for defensive use, 3 of the 4 of them I presently own are DAO.

Just my preference ... but I'd still like to have an Airweight cousin of my older all-steel 649.;)

And yes, lint can become trapped in the frame of the Bodyguards behind the hammer, but it's simple to blow out at the end of each day. Care should always be taken so nothing else ends up there, though, especially if carried in a pocket/ankle holster.

November 17, 2006, 02:52 PM
I've always liked the hammerless design, and a pocket snag (however rare) is just one less issue. I like all snubbies--hammered, humpback, etc. The main thing is find one with which you are confident and carry it.

Of course it is no secret here at THR that the 642 is my favorite.

Safe shootin',


November 17, 2006, 04:14 PM
Very happy with my 638. The single action trigger is one of the best I've fired. I was very surprised how good it is.


November 17, 2006, 04:34 PM
Anything out to 20 yards can be shot just as easily with DA. But of course I don't know if some of us here hunt with a 2" J frame and require that SA feature for 50 yd shots.

Ala Dan
November 17, 2006, 04:42 PM
Hey Big G Ole' Bud-

I'm with you on this one; as there is not enough room [or time]
for ugly guns~!:D However, I have owned a S&W Bodyguard or
two in my lifetime in both all steel (model 49) and Airweight (model
38) configurations~!:cool: ;)

November 17, 2006, 07:27 PM
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and behold I think both of these snubbies are quite loverly.

November 17, 2006, 07:52 PM
You go, Mr. Ala Dan! :D

I have owned only straightforward actual ear-back-the-hammer-type snubs - Model 36/37/Colt DS/Agent or hammerless Centennial models. No ugly ducklings in my herd, however nobody ever offered me one in a trade situation. I'm not agin em, just don't have any strong feeling for em. When buying, I pick the hammerless. They just work for me.

340-342-640-642-940 etc.

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