S&W 642 / 442 Durability


July 19, 2008, 05:14 PM
Since retiring I have been Carrying a S&W 642 daily. I shoot it from time to time with 130 grain factory .38 special at a local range.

My question and concern is just how durable an alloy (aluminum) framed "J" frame is?

I'd really appreciate hearing from those who have fired the 642 or the 442 extensively as well as their experiences.

Thanks in advance,

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July 19, 2008, 05:27 PM
I do not have any kind of first-hand knowledge with just how long these things will hold up. What I can tell you, though, is that there are still a LOT of older model S&W 37s, 38s, 12s, etc. that all have aluminum alloy frames that are in great shape. I'm talking 40-50 year old revolvers.

July 19, 2008, 08:29 PM
For what it is worth, I've had my 642-1 since the mid 90's. I've carried it daily and have put about 2-3k rounds through it. Mostly standard pressure 158gr SWC, but a few hundred +Ps also. Still runs fine with no sign of any problems.


The Lone Haranguer
July 19, 2008, 09:21 PM
Your hand will give out long before the gun will. ;)

July 20, 2008, 01:08 PM
Thanks very much gentlemen.

I really should have framed the question more broadly and asked about the durability of aluminum alloy framed revolvers in general, but it sounds like the 642 & 442 are a lot tougher than one might think, and that's good news to me.


July 20, 2008, 03:54 PM
I've only had my 442-2 for a little while but if it's anything like my buddy's, she's gonna be in my pocket for a good long time! ;)

July 20, 2008, 09:40 PM
My 442 is about 10 yrs old now and has been in my pocket 2/3rds of that time. (No pockets in my pajamas). Round count is about 1000 now. Zero issues; as a matter of fact I have never had the sideplate off.

My practice load is a standard velocity handload with cast 150 gr. SWC. The only slack the gun gets is that I usually shoot it ball & dummy mode for maximum practice and feedback with minimal ammo expenditure. My usual drill is 15 rounds of diligent practice, which equates out to about 30 hammer falls. Sufficient.

I do make a concession to the alloy frame by putting fired cases into the "empty" chambers to cushion the hammer blow against the frame. I don't do that with steel framed guns. Just makes me feel a bit better.

BTW my wife's M37 is 32 years old this year. Mine has some finish wear. Hers has a lot of finish wear. Both doing fine otherwise. :)

July 20, 2008, 09:44 PM
Just noticed your alias. I was an 1811 SA 1972-94. :scrutiny:

The water is fine.:D

July 21, 2008, 08:35 AM
Thanks much Dienekes for the additional info.

I served from 1969 - 1996 as a sworn officer and then from 1998 - 2004 as a rehired annuitant.

I was blessed in that fifteen of those years were as a Firearms Instructor at the Acadamy at Glynco and then at Charleston.

My close range vision is shot (no pun) so I have been thinking of selling a Ruger 4" GP-100 in order to obtain a 442.

I have been experimenting with a multitude of holsters for the "J" frame for carry now that I am retired and the mission has changed from off duty self defense / arrest to just self defence. In the deep south summer wear can indeed be a problem, but I finally settled on one method and have been a happy camper ever since. It's the "Safepacker." I carry it on the accessory 1.5" shoulder strap. http://store.thewilderness.com/index.php?cPath=51

Thanks again,

Ala Dan
July 21, 2008, 09:30 AM
I own both, S&W models 442 and 642. However, recently I let my
daughter talk me out of the 642; as she wanted it for her every-
day CCW piece. Both, are great J-frame firearms. I favor the 442
for concealment purposes; it being black, its very hard for perps
too see if properly dressed~! ;) :D

July 21, 2008, 09:43 AM
There are some threads, if you do a search, where gentleman are reporting putting an enormous amount of ammunition through these airweights. Like 200 rounds of +P a week.

I do not know how long the frame will last on an Airweight. It is likely that extended shooting of +P will loosen things up sooner than standard ammunition, maybe effect the timing. My reloads are not +P, my pistol should last a very long time.

If I had to guess, I will bet the frame will take 30,000 rounds without a problem. Whether it would take 60,000, that might be on the upper end.

July 22, 2008, 08:30 AM
I have two 442s and both have been to the factory for repair. One froze up tight as a drum after about 2K rounds. Several parts were replaced including the hand. The other had pitting in the frame around the faceplate after probably 500 rounds and S&W replaced the frame. Both round counts were only with factory standard pressure ammo...mostly Winchester 130 gr. I have not had problems since and despite the repairs needed after low mileage one or the other is still my usual pocket gun.

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