S&W Model 64 Review


March 4, 2010, 09:26 PM

I got one of the "very good plus" condition S&W Model 64s from J&G Sales. It is a 4" K-frame (6 shot) .38 special with a round butt. It is the older style, with the firing pin mounted on the hammer and hand fitted forged steel parts. These guns are getting hard to find, aside from police tradeins, because the older generations of S&W revolvers tend to have better triggers, having been assembled with much more attention to detail. The gun came in better condition than I expected. The action feels brand new and the finish wasn't bad at all. I polished it up a bit, more for something to do than because the gun actually needed it. It does need a new set of grips, the soft rubber gets beat up easier than the stainless steel I guess.

The gun carries well. The K-frames are the thinnest 6 round revolver out there. I have no problem comfortably concealing the service sized revolver, with the stock "square butt conversion" grips. I use an inside the waistband holster from Blade Tech and it is very comfortable.

S&W K-frames point like a finger, having their barrel mounted slightly lower in the frame than other guns it aligns itself with the shooters firing hand and arm better. Recoil is felt less and instinctive shooting made much easier.

The revolver was extremely accurate. I had a chance to run 50 rounds through it and even firing fast using the double action only trigger I was able to print tight groups all the way out to 50 feet. Head shots at that range were easy and consistent. The gun handles very well.

I load it with the old "FBI Load" still manufactured by Remington. It is a .38 Special +P with a 158 grain pure lead (no jacket) hollow point. Something about it has worked well for decades, and it continues to do so. Most fixed sight revolvers are regulated to hit point of aim using heavier rounds, and this load does just that. It is also extremely easy to shoot due to very controllable recoil.

Anyone looking for a quality made revolver for defense or fun should seriously consider picking one of these up while they're available...

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Stephen A. Camp
March 4, 2010, 09:31 PM
Hello and thanks for the review. The Model 64's are among my favorite revolvers.


March 4, 2010, 10:45 PM
Love an old Smith wheelgun. Nice.

March 5, 2010, 12:21 AM
I've been considering CC'ing my 64. would you mind passing along the model of blade tech holster and perhaps a picture or two if you have them?


March 5, 2010, 08:06 AM
It's the standard IWB from Blade Tech. It does a great job of pulling the butt of the gun tight to my side, and even with the square butt conversion grips it conceals very easily, even when standing up and sitting down. It's also comfortable sitting in a car.

I'll snap some pictures this weekend.

March 5, 2010, 08:41 AM
I recently picked up a 64 at my FLGS and concur with your review. A stainless steel version of one of the best revolvers of all time is a wonderful thing to use.

I have found that mine doesn't like 158 gr. LRN and does like 125 gr. JHP +P. I have several more loads to try at my next range day - to include the Buffalo Bore 158 gr. LSWCHP-GC +P FBI Load clone - so we'll see how things stand after that.

Wisconsin does not (yet) allow concealed carry but carrying an unloaded gun in zipped up bag is legal so I have a Maxpedition Jumbo EDC and a couple of speed loaders for my carry solution.

March 5, 2010, 09:01 AM
Huh. I found one of these in the home I remodeled.

I threw it in a drawer and never looked at it again.

Seemed to me to be a odd duck, only 38 special, too big to pocket carry, not powerfull enough for woods carry, fixed sights so not so hot as a target gun....

Its the only gun I own that I can honestly say I have no use for. Obvioiusly you guys dont feel the same way.

Different strokes for different folks I guess.

March 5, 2010, 09:24 AM
Properly loaded, a four inch 38 is a great woods combo, and the fixed sights on these S&W's are usually pretty well regulated. Get some good ammo and try it out...you might be surprised to find you can find a use for your revolver after all. Otherwise, give it to me!

March 5, 2010, 09:35 AM
Properly loaded, a four inch 38 is a great woods combon

Really? I must be missing something.

The numbers I can find for hot ammo like Cor-Bon out of 4 inch barrels read like this.

.38 Special - Cor Bon - 125 jhp - 939

9mm - Cor Bon - 124 jhp - 1291

so is my 9mm not a a 19 shot 38 special?

Not knocking it, but I really must not understand something.

<I do intend on selling it, how much do these go for in like new condition with a case, some old boxes of ammo and a "unbobbed" hammer? my guess is not much.>

March 5, 2010, 09:54 AM
There is more to bullet performance than velocity and weight. Revolvers can have any bullet material and profile because they do not have to feed into a chamber like an auto pistol round does.

The .38 special ammo quoted is a lame example. The better performing .38 special loads weigh 158 grains and move at about 900 fps and the projectile is a pure lead hollow point.


I'd imagine that the above load would make a great woods gun, but I have yet to shoot anything large in the woods with it.

March 5, 2010, 10:04 AM
Well, my usual carry is Buffalo Bore .38 Special +P Ammo - 158 gr. L.S.W.C.H.P. --G.C. (1,000fps/M.E. 351 ft.lbs.). That's the old classic FBI load. There's nothing in the wood in Wisconsin on 2 or 4 legs I can't take care of with that load. A classic 9mm load is 140 gr. FMJ (1,000 fps/309 ft·lbf) and most will be higher. That said, I'll never have a FTF or FTE from a wheel gun (Well, Ok, the FTE can happen, but I still have five usable tubes in that situation.)

It really has more to do with comfort. I prefer an old wheel gun over any auto I've ever used & I was taught handgun shooting by Uncle Sam using 1911A1s.

As for value, it depends on your local market. As a point of reference, I paid $300 at my FLGS OTD. That's higher than, say, J&G but no shipping & no FFL fee so I feel it was an ok price. With a case & some ammo, I'd put it up on Gun Broker with a $300 opening and see what the market will bear.


March 5, 2010, 10:08 AM
Huh I never heard Cor-Bons stuff referred to as lame before.

ok so, compare that load to the "woodsiest" load I can come up with in a 9mm, a 147 grain gold dot hp at 1100? 200 more fps, 10 less grains, and umpteen years of bullet development.

I just think a .38+p is a 9mm territory, and the platform could just as easily chamber .357. I am not sure I would consider a 9mm to be a woods gun either.

Just because a gun is a revolver does not make it more capable or woodsy in my book. it all depends whats flyin out the front end.

If that model 64 was .357 I would keep it, but as it is... its going on the choppin block.

March 5, 2010, 12:03 PM
I do intend on selling it

If you do try to sell it, at least give folks here on THR first dibs.

Thaddeus Jones
March 5, 2010, 12:36 PM
To the OP: Congrats on your model 64, and thanks for the review!

Your experience mirrors mine. Great revolver at a great price.

As to collateral issues, the only place 38's are not deadly, is on the internet. TJ

March 5, 2010, 01:20 PM
only 38 special, too big to pocket carry, not powerfull enough for woods carry, fixed sights so not so hot as a target gun....

This description, plus how inexpensive they are, is the exact reason that I always suggest the m-64 to anyone who "just wants to have a gun around" for home defense. (If I cannot talk them into a shotgun.)

While I do not recommend it, there are people i've met who want to have a hand gun but do not want to regularly practice. The M64 loaded with 148 GR wadcutters will not likely scare off anyone who is willing to try it. Loaded with +P HPs will sit in the nightstand for "decades", but pull out and go bang when you need it to.

March 5, 2010, 03:29 PM
Nice review RatDralland nice M64. The .38 SPl and the S&W K frame make one heck of a great combo to be sure. They make great plinkers due to the fact that you don't have to put up with obnoxious muzzle blast and recoil, which allows the shooter to concentrate more on the fundamentals. A couple years ago I went to the range with some "FBI" work up loads from the Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook that I wanted to test in my then brand new S&W M10. When I got there two fellas had two paper targets set up on the range that they were shooting at with a Glock .40 S&W. They were the type that had a picture of some bad guy holding a gun out. They were attempting to shoot controlled pairs on the one target at left then transition to the right and do the same. When I walked up to the bench to set my stuff down I noticed there were bullet holes all over the place on both targets.

When they finished shooting that string and showing all clear I set up my target. When I got to a certain work up load I nailed the Bulls eye with 4 of 5 shots standing off hand at 10yds. Three of those went into a ragged hole dead center, the 4th just outside of that cluster and the 5th round I pulled low in my excitement:D. After I ejected the empties and walked back these two fellas were just looking at me (at firt I wondered if I had a booger hanging from my nose) as if in disbelief, then one finally asked what I was shooting. After I told them we started to talk then they started to ask me for pointers and some tips. After the small talk I left them alone packed up and headed home with a big ol' grin on my face:D

As for a woods load the .38 SPL shines there as well. You can get some of the previously mentioned Buffalo Bore 158gr +P LSWCGP which will do about 1150fps from a 4" barrel or their 150gr hard cast wadcutter loading. I also noticed that Double Tap has a 158gr SWC +P load now that they claim will do 1025fps from a 4" barrel. Here is some helpful info for you dom1104.

This one was from a S&W 642 IIRC.


Or if you reload get some 190gr WFN bullets some Unique or 2400 (which ever best suits the individual) find some older data to reference as none exists for the heavy weights today and have at it. A certain forum member here has pushed a 200gr Lyman #358430 past 900fps from his S&W M15 hows that for a woods load? Yup the .38 SPL sure is wonderful to have around, y'all stay safe and have fun.

March 5, 2010, 03:31 PM
Yeah the pre '80's S&W Double action revolvers really have beautiful triggers. After that its hit or miss, as I personally feel the quality wen't down alot after about 1980...

I live very close to J&G, I should really get in there and see one up close and personal.

March 5, 2010, 03:35 PM
Very nice Model 64! K Frames balance really well for me too, so I've picked up a few over the years and would like to add more.

This description, plus how inexpensive they are, is the exact reason that I always suggest the m-64 to anyone who "just wants to have a gun around" for home defense. (If I cannot talk them into a shotgun.)

Exactly. I shoot .38 special and .357 Magnum about the same accuracy wise, but I am measurably quicker on followup shots with a .38, though lately the difference is shrinking.

I have no issues with .38 as a SD weapon. With proper ammo, it will penetrate and expand (if a hollowpoint) quite well, even from a snub. 38 Special is often underestimated, but armed with hardcast 158 grain or heavier semiwadcutters in a 4" or longer barrel revolver, it'd make a decent woods gun, depending on where you live of course.

But yes, it is a matter of preference. I do love my .38 only revolvers, I own 5 of them.

March 5, 2010, 10:14 PM
I have been an auto man for years...decades, really. When most cops were carrying 38spl Model 10's, I carried a Browning Hipower, still my favorite 9mm. I have owned 45's. 40's, 357sig, and still have a couple 9's. But, I recently found that I simply cannot miss with my Model 15 38spl. That started me on 357's again, but I would feel perfectly well armed with my Model 15 loaded with good ammo, and the fact that somebody else has 15rds in their mag dosn't faze me at all. It dosn't matter what round you use for SD, or the platform you use to deliver it. What matters is placement. A proper 38spl SD round placed correctly will do the job, and a four inch S&W is capable of placing that round easily at 25yds or more.

bdb benzino
March 6, 2010, 01:23 AM
In the last couple weeks I have switched from my 686+ with 125gr JHP Magnum rounds, to my newly purchased 4" model 10 with 125gr JHP +p 38specials for a bedside gun. The thought behind this is, if I had to wake up abruptly, I am a deep sleeper and take a second to be alert. In that groggy state I want something that is easy for recoil and easy and natural to shoot. I find my older S&W to be extremely smooth and soft shooting, and good shooting is what is going to matter at that piont. I am confident with 38special for defense, especially the +p stuff

Congrats on your beautiful m64, a great piece for sure!!!

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