Compact revolver advice please


September 8, 2007, 11:01 AM
Hey guys, first post here. This looks like a great place you guys have. Anyway, Im tyring to decide on a compact revolver. I love and collect Colts, so my initial desire would be to stay brand loyal and get a Detective Special. I realize they're getting more expensive, and I may end up just putting it the safe with the 'Magnum Carry'.

So, this is my train of thought:

I would first want to try to find a Detective Special that has cosmetic issues so I wouldnt feel bad carrying it. But then I ask myself if 38 special is enough power for a gun of this size. This brings me to the Smith&Wesson J-frame. They are much smaller and lighter. I like the 442 because its only 15oz, and a concealed hammer, but its only 5 shots and I see you guys are doing alot of talking about the locks failing. If Im going to restrict myself to 5 shots, should it be a .357? Like maybe a S&W 640, or even a Ruger Sp101 with a bobbed hammer?

So these are on the list

Colt Detective Special
Smith&Wesson 442 (pre lock maybe?)
Smith&Wesson 640 (if this is 357)
Ruger Sp101

What do you guys like. Is there anything Im wrong on here? Am I putting too much thought into this? Anyway, thanks for listening to me ramble. Kevin.

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September 8, 2007, 11:42 AM
I don't think you can go wrong with any of the choices listed.

If you plan to carry in the pocket, a 642 or 442 will be perfect.

On the belt? I'd go for a 3" SP101.

357/38 is going to depend on how well you can shoot each gun, as well as how quickly you can get back on target for follow up shots.

I am a huge revolver fan...there's just something about them that draws me to a nice wheelgun.

However, with the type of crimes and criminals we are seeing today I find myself carrying a G19 most often simply for the extra capacity.

I do have a 642 that I really enjoy and it gets rotated into my carry routine a lot. I don't think a 357 will be much better than a 38 for what this gun is designed to do. As long as I do my part, both should do theirs. 38 is still hard to control out of these guns and 357 is even worse.

Just my opinion. SP101 for the belt or S&W for the pocket get my nod.

September 8, 2007, 11:51 AM
All of you choices are great, and 38 sp is more than adequate. Pick a good bullet and you'll be GTG.

My personal carry is the Detective Special. I like the extra round.

The light weight, alloy J frames are the easiest carrying guns by far.

Don Worsham
September 8, 2007, 12:10 PM
You can't go wrong with any of your choices. I've pocketed carried the following 5 shot snubbies for the last 3 years or so. The Ti is my current carry.

Taurus 605 .357 (hammerless) 25oz loaded
S&W 642-2 .38 16oz loaded
S&W 342 Ti .38 12oz loaded

Old Fuff
September 8, 2007, 01:32 PM
I see Colt Detective Specials with cosmetic issues, but nothing wrong otherwise; go for well under $300.00 - which I consider to be a good price. A fine blue job is nice, but it will have no effect on how the gun shoots.

Contrary to what some say, I think that a .357 Magnum in a light snubbie is a bad mistake. What will most likely stop an assailant is a well-placed shot in a vital organ – particularly in the central nervous system. A misplaced Magnum bullet won’t necessarily do the job, and given the recoil, fast, but accurate follow-up shots are unlikely.

If a pocket gun is what you are after, you can substitute Agent model stocks for the ones that usually come on a Detective Special or Cobra, if you buy a revolver with the so-called “short-butt” frame. Of course you can also bob the hammer spur. You will also find that the Colt double-action (which is identical to that in a Python, but smaller scale) is much easier that what’s found in J-frame S&W’s.

Accuracy? It is no great trick to keep your shots in the “K-Zone” of a B-27 silhouette target at 100 yards. Yes, I said yards, not feet. These old Colt’s were always renowned for their accuracy.

September 8, 2007, 01:51 PM
I have no experience with the Colt but I do own a pair of 442s. It seems that whatever "latest & greatest" I buy I seem to always end up with the 442 in my pocket. One did need some repair after a couple thousand rounds but for a light alloy gun I wasn't that disappointed with it needing repair.

The SP101 was the first revolver I ever bought and it is tremendous...still locks up nice and tight 15 years and thousands of rounds later. That said, I don't carry it much because it is larger and heavier than the j-frame. I slip it in the back pocket for late night dog walks or when I'm running errands at night and am dressed sloppy with an untucked shirt. It's definitely a belt gun unless you have big pockets and don't mind the extra weight bouncing around.

September 8, 2007, 02:14 PM
I carry the Sp101 3" on/in my belt nearly every day. It is the heaviest gun you are considering, and the strongest far and away. It's solid, powerful, and heavy enough to soak up recoil from 357mag rounds. I can't say enough good things about mine!!

September 8, 2007, 02:21 PM
WOW, this is great guys! Thanks for the responses! Old Fuff....this is exactly what I would like to do if at all possible. I just hope I can find one around here for that price. I could always have it re-blued if I had too later on.

No one is mentioning the S&W safety lock. Is it not an issue?

So, based on what Ive read so far from you guys, It looks like at this point I need to decide on the size. If I go large, Ill look for a Detective Special and try to find some appropriate grips. If I go small, Ill look for a 442. So the super small S&W 357 is out, and the SP101 is out too. I guess things could change at any time though:) Thanks so much!

September 8, 2007, 02:23 PM dont have any issues with controlling the recoil? Ive never shot a 357 in that small of a package?

Brian Williams
September 8, 2007, 02:49 PM
38 spec has done in a lot of Bad Folks over the years, Not a problem with me to carry it in a 642 or a Detective Special. If I were looking for a colt I would be looking for an Agent. But over all I would choose a S&W K frame.

Vern Humphrey
September 8, 2007, 04:04 PM
Contrary to what some say, I think that a .357 Magnum in a light snubbie is a bad mistake.
I tend to agree -- most people I know who have .357 snubbies shoot .38 Special in it. Trying to use .357 means either you develop bad habits from the recoil, or you don't practice.

The 3" SP 101 is about the only snubbie I'd want to use with .357.

September 8, 2007, 04:28 PM
I can recall shooting magnums out of an early 342 lightweight. It is not a pleasant experience.

September 8, 2007, 04:29 PM
The SP101 is not "out" for me...I carry the 357 DAO in my jeans front pocket every day...With Trausch grips and 357 Speer GDHP "short barrel" ammo, follow-up shots are not an issue. Since I'm vertical all day, pocket carry works fine for me. I have a holster set-up in my truck when driving.

September 8, 2007, 04:56 PM
I must like the SP101; I am up to three of them in .357 with short barrels, and another with a 4" barrel in .32 mag. :) The snubbies are carried regularly, with one or more of them with me 24/7. Life is good. My S&W Airweight Centennial mostly sits in the safe, as I rarely need anything so small and light.

September 8, 2007, 06:03 PM
SP101 is one fine shootin' compact revolver, but it's no pocket gun. Go for the 640/442 on your choice list for pocket carry. Colts are okay, I just ain't into 'em. Would prefer an older Smith and Wesson.

September 9, 2007, 08:23 AM
I have a Colt Detective Special that I bought new about 1993 for $285, and I have belt carried the gun in a DeSantis belt scabbard. It weighs 21 ounces and conceals very easily in this holster. I use the Speer Gold Dot +P 135 grain .38 ammo for carry.

September 9, 2007, 09:15 AM
I feel that the 442 is plenty for self defense. Remember, it is for self defense, not starting a war. That is what I own and carry. I don't view the lock as a significant issue in making a decision.

The Detective Special would work just fine. I love the classic revolvers. It would be just a bit harder to conceal than the Smith 442. I don't own a SP101. So many like them. I can't see carrying one my pants pocket.

September 9, 2007, 09:58 AM
All good choices, ak-kev. As other posters have suggested, your carry needs (pocket, IWB,OWB) will make a difference in what might work better for you. However, if weight is not a consideration, the Colt DS is a pretty outstanding choice.

Based on personal preference (I do not like the pull-back cylinder release and way the gun hangs with Barami Hipgrips on the Colt), I got rid of my Colt and went with a 2" Model 10. Not saying it was a good decision.....I regret it to this day, I should have kept the Colt.....but I found the S&W better for my needs and comparable to the choices you are considering. Mine is here:

The nice thing about the S&W is that they are still a cost-effective gun to consider (mine was $250-ish, IIRC). With Barami Hipgrips and bobbed hammer, you can still be in a nice gun for $300, OTD. Not wanting to derail your question with a lock debate, in my case, I will always forego the lock when there are so many excellent condition, cheap, pre-lock guns around. Nice old Model 10's allow you to do this.

Buffalo Bore's standard pressure .38's have really taken some ammo concerns away from choosing this gun. The Nyclad reloads in the pic are just to minimize lead contamination from daily handling.

September 9, 2007, 01:33 PM
Shooting .357 mag out of my Sp101 is not something I would like to do all day long. It's a significant amount of recoil. However, with Hogue monogrips I can fire 50 rounds of it in a session without any pain. It's really not bad at all. I haven't tried any more than that just cuz it gets expensive!!! But I know that the 135 gr. Gold dots that I use for an SD load are not too harsh at all, and I can easily control them.
I'll be honest, it may take a little getting used to. But I actually find the .357 mag recoil out of my 3" Sp101 to be approximately the same as .38 spl recoil from my friend's S&W 642.
The thing I really love about the SP101 3" is that it is a jack of all trades. I can CCW it IWB, or OWB. It is also my Home defense gun (next to the 12 ga.), and a darn fun range gun, all in one. And it's crazy strong so I never have to worry about breaking it!!!
Unless you are limiting yourself to pocket-carry, don't rule this one out. If you are only interested in pocket carry, well, this is not the gun for you.

Old Fuff
September 9, 2007, 01:48 PM
Based on personal preference (I do not like the pull-back cylinder release .... )

There was a reason for that style of latch. As Colt's advertisements pointed out, if one rested their thumb against the S&W's cylinder latch thumbpiece, the sharp recoil with some gun/cartridge combinations could cause the cylinder to unlatch for a fraction of a second. Colt's push-forward latch couldn't do that. :uhoh:

September 9, 2007, 01:56 PM
I went through the same question about a small revolver. I had seen a beautiful little Colt at a show recently, and the price was fair, but (pardon the pun) didn't pull the trigger on it. So I decided to go with something that if I damaged the finish, I wouldn't care. I landed on at Taurus 650. Its hammerless and will take .357. I took it to the range last weekend and after about 10 rounds I started grouping fairly well at 7 meters with .38s. That being said, I put 5 .357s through it, and that was quite enough.

It is a fine little shooter.

Just something to think about.

September 9, 2007, 02:23 PM
I know Taurus isn't on your list, but I love my Taurus 651B. Recessed hammer, 5 shot, .357mag. It's small, accurate, dependable, concealable and is cheap enough that you're not afraid to carry it. It's my first snubbie and I find myself carrying it more lately than any other CCW I own.

September 9, 2007, 02:49 PM
To check out the M&P 340. .357 if you like. 13.3 ounces. No grain restriction. Night sights. DLC coat. Stainless cylinder. Somewhat hard to find but they are out there. $650-725.

Pogo- That CDS is beautiful!!

September 9, 2007, 06:44 PM
442 works for me...but I would love a nice CDS for belt carry...some day...

Ala Dan
September 9, 2007, 07:11 PM
Well since I own several 2nd series (1947-1972) Colt Detective Specials,
and both a 442 and a 642; I'm kind'a predjuiced. Any of these fine little
.38 Specials will make a fine carry revolver~! :scrutiny:;):cool::D

September 9, 2007, 08:55 PM

I had a Ruger SP101 2.25" barreled .357 for some years. At one time it was my primary carry gun, stoked with 125 gr JHP .357 factory ammunition. I did indeed practice with it. Stock grips too.

As 19-3Ben indicated, it's not a plinker fun gun, but it's certainly doable. Getting used to the recoil was just a matter of practice, not masochism.


September 9, 2007, 09:37 PM guys have given me alot to think about. I think the waters are more muddy than ever now:banghead: Im glad I have till next weekend's show to decide. I've been doing ALOT of searching the web for info on the older Colts. I already have several, and would like to stay with them IF I CAN. But I dont know how available these are. After searching the web, I think the old Agent would be killer also. Its the light-weight version of the DS. Anyway, theres lots to think about. Thanks for all your input. Kevin.

September 9, 2007, 09:52 PM
I'd buy a 642/442 OR, if I wanted a hammer, a Smith 637.

There is no incentive you could possibly offer to convince me that a Taurus was a good deal. There are horror stories galore on Tauri and their customer (dis)service... just passing along what I've read and heard all over the 'net.

Back to the Smiths: I've been a Ruger-or-bust guy, but I just like how Smith's shoot better. If I wanted a .357 snub, might look a little harder at the Sp101 for durability. I'm sold on .38 +p in subs due to the strikingly similar performance out of the short-by-definition-barrel and much quicker follow up shot potential.

September 9, 2007, 10:16 PM
My favorite by far has been the Smith 642. It is easy to carry, and very manageable, even with stout +P loads in it. Plus I shoot it very well. I have alos owned a Taurus 605, which was a good shooting gun as well. Never aproblem with it, but it became trade fodder at sometime in my past (I go through a LOT of guns).

Any of the guns you listed would work well for you, but I don't think you can do any BETTER than the 442/642. These are just simply awesome carry guns.


September 10, 2007, 09:51 AM
Nobody made mention of the S&W Model 60-14 in .357Magnum. At 22oz it handles recoil far better than it's 12oz cousin. With it's 2-1/8" barrel, it's only 1/4" longer than the mini Smith but a lot more accurate and quicker to return to point of aim, much more comfortable to shoot, the stainless finish is far more durable and scratch resistant than the PD finish, not to mention it's about $250 bux cheaper than the 12oz wrist busters.
Love mine and wouldn't trade it even up for one of the mini beasts. But that's just me--to each his own.:cool:

September 10, 2007, 10:21 AM
My smallest handgun right now is a 2 1/4" sp101. It works for me-though it weighs 24 ounces empty.
For a true lightweight/small package, I would go for a pre-lock jframe of whatever frame/hammer configuration. the speer 135 grain "snub" loads get full expansion in water.

September 10, 2007, 06:34 PM

I have an old type Agent that I inherited . . . but I'm a S&W guy through and through I guess.

I just picked up a new (for me) 1964 S&W Model 36 J-frame in factory nickle. The new lock guns ain't a problem for me at all . . . I let others buy those!;)

Like all my Smiths . . . it shoots really well, even for a snubbie. I got to run about three cylinders of ammo through it today at lunch, two double action and one single action at 10 yards.

Here's the 10 yard single action group, shot standing, unsupported. It was the first cylinder I shot too! The sights were regulated at the factory VERY WELL . . . if I say so myself!!! I print my own targets, and my 10 yard targets are 1" black squares. I find that black squares equally one inch for each 10 yards of distance make great targets over a handgun's sight picture.

A Probation officer and spouse, out to do some pre-qualification practice, were mighty impressed vs. what they were getting from a full size Glock in .40S&W. My Colt Agent won't shoot like this either, sadly!

Whatever you find, good luck on a successful "hunt!"


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