S&W Model 637, Buyer Beware


March 7, 2004, 11:55 AM
In my opinion, one shared by others, the S&W 637 and other similar S&W models are not of great quality. Although they look nice when new, the clear coat (paint by any other name is paint) which covers the glass beaded faux stainless steel appearing finish does flake and wear off and comes off with some solvents.
The crane does not have a viable front locking feature, consequently the cylinder and frame can be rocked back and forth when in the locked up, ready to fire position. I can easily slide a .012" feeler gage between my crane and frame at the front. My dealer says that all 637's and similar J-Frames do the same thing and it is not a problem. He actually took several small Smiths out of his showcase and they all had the same problem., I could be wrong, but I have long been taught that there should be no gap or loosness between the crane and frame.
To add insult to injury, S&W has ordered a huge wholesale price cut on the 637 and similar J-Frames, I assume this is an effort to unload them. S&W says this is a "promo" what a farce. I am told that 637's are available on dealer's shelves for $299 and up depending upon what some poor sucker like me will pay and how unscrupulous the dealer is. I paid $389.00 plus 7% tax or a total of $413.23. Now I am stuck with a poor quality firearm that I won't sell, manufactured by a supposidly trusted name in the business.
Keep in mind, everyone, this is a brand new, never fired gun purchased by me on 03/04/04. Rest assured, this is the last S&W product I will ever own, BUYER BEWARE!
Once again, big business triumphs over the little guy.

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Ala Dan
March 7, 2004, 12:10 PM
Many thanks for the insight there, Gunmeister.
I had seriously considered retiring my little S&W
old model 60 .38 caliber "Chief's Special", in favor
of a new S&W 637. But, after this report (and a
few others) I have decided against that decision.

Best Wishes,
Ala Dan, N.R.A. Life Member

March 7, 2004, 01:51 PM
You did note Rule #2, right, "usnavymasterchief"?

2.) Multiple user registrations are prohibited.

FWIW, my prewar I-frames, also with no "viable front locking feature" (other than the ball-detent on the tip of the ejector rod, like most every other Smith, from M-frame through N-frame) still function fine after over 80 years of shooting.

Education on the topic of your rant is desirable before putting fingers to keyboard...

March 7, 2004, 01:53 PM
Don't thank him, as your Model 60 has "no viable front locking feature" by his lights, either. :rolleyes:

March 7, 2004, 01:54 PM
I recently bought a &SW 642. It does have a coating of some type on the alloy parts of the gun but that is nothing new. I would rather have the alloy coated than bare. It will scratch off but I have not found any solvents that will remove it.

I am happy with my gun. It is a new one with the trigger lock:barf: but other than that, it seems well made. I have looked it over and shot it many times and I can't find any obvious defects in the workmanship. I don't doubt that you got a bad one but this is what S&W is known for latley, i.e. spotty quality control. It is still much better than Taurus or Charter Arms and the price is not that much higher now that the sale is on.

March 7, 2004, 02:25 PM
TAMARA, Do you always wake up in a good mood? Tell me knower of all things, how does one remove a username he or she doesn't care to use any longer?
Do you own a 637? If so check the side to side play on your locked up cylinder. If you don't own a 637, then I suggest it is you who needs to educate yourself prior to putting finger to keyboard.
As you obviously are aware, older Smiths are much stronger than these newer light weight models.

March 7, 2004, 02:27 PM
ALBANIAN, I don't know from personal example but I have been told that Gunscrubber or brake cleaner will soften the clear coat on these models.

Kentucky Rifle
March 7, 2004, 02:33 PM
My newest revolver is a 642. It was my first "Centennial" model. (Felt plumb weird for a while not to have a hammer of any type showing.) Plus, I couldn't get used to the trigger. I had immediately installed Crimsom Trace laser grips on my new 642 and I could SEE how far I was pulling the muzzle to the left. So, I went with Tamara's "Dry-firing is a way of life" theory and, after a few hundred dry fires with A-Zoom snap caps, I actually got pretty good. (Or the trigger got much better. That's probably what happened.:) )
As far as the finish goes, I haven't found a cleaning product that affects it yet. All in all, I like my 642 (and my 638) pretty well. However it does seem like my older Smith & Wesson's are put together better. Or it could just be that I miss that great blue finish so much that it just FEELS like the old ones are better.<shrug>


March 7, 2004, 05:23 PM
I got rid of my 637. The reasons were simple. The finish was pealing. The Uncle Mikes Kydex holster was rubbing the finish off of the revolver. The revolver was too big in feel. Bulky for a J frame. My gunsmith suggested another pistol instead of installing Wolff springs. He emphasized QC problems. I switched to a 3" M10 S&W.

March 7, 2004, 05:35 PM
Bulky for a J frame.

That's odd, as the 637 is the same size as every other J-frame. :scrutiny:


March 7, 2004, 06:26 PM
I bought a 637 about 2 years back and it has since digested about 1,000 rounds (probably all most folks ever do with one). I agree the barrel-cylinder gap is pretty big, but otherwise mine has a decent finish and shoots well. I paid about $400 before they went on sale.

I think it's a decent gun for the money, particularly at $300.

March 7, 2004, 06:27 PM
As I replied on another post my 637 is almost a year old with no problems with the finish.Took it out today and shot 50 rounds. I cleaned it with hops #9 and even used it on the frame with no problems with the finish. The side to side play on my cylinder is no worse than my PC F-Comp 66. Again the fit is not the same as my 1947 M&P but that goes for everyting else these days such as cars etc. Did I mention the 637 is dead on accurate?:D The only gun that has no cylinder yoke to frame play I beleave is the Ruger because of it's unique locking system.

March 7, 2004, 07:13 PM
Old Colts lock up solid and tight also.

March 7, 2004, 07:25 PM
As you obviously are aware, older Smiths are much stronger than these newer light weight models.

Kinda curious as to why my '76 Model 37 would be any stronger than an '03 Model 637, given as how they're more or less mechanically identical, except for the newer gun having the flatnose hammer... oh, yeah, and the new one's +P rated, unlike mine, since the new one's so much weaker. :rolleyes:

March 7, 2004, 08:23 PM
Picked up a used 638-2 in a pawn shop for $300. Compared it to several new 637s and another new 638-2. Yes, there was more cylinder rotation during lockup than my older 19s. Yes on the cylinder gaps on all these was pushing .006 (my 629 is about .0035 with VERY little rotation).

Was very impressed with the smoothness of the trigger in SA and DA. I do think it is the best I've ever felt on any gun yet (maybe lots of good breaking in or perhaps someone did a trigger job?).

Took it to the range. It is the first snub nose I placed all shots in a pie plate at 25 yards in DA mode.

I have yet to empty a box through it, but I think I will never part with it.:D

March 7, 2004, 09:13 PM
Tamara, I should have been clearer. I didn't care for the Uncle Mikes bootgrips. I felt they were bulky or thick. They hung up on my clothing and left red marks on my skin in the summer. I wanted to put a different set of grips, replace the springs and tune my 637 to stop the drag line on the cylinder. My gunsmith simply talked me into trading to the M10. I have not been sorry. I tried a 637, I wasn't satisfied or happy with it. I still bought another S&W product.

March 8, 2004, 08:23 AM
The 637/642 descended from the old 'Aircrewman' of the USAF from the early fifties. That version originally had a five screw frame, alloy cylinder, and weighed less than the current units - only 10.75oz. It was designed to be small and light - and to get one out of trouble. S&W has continued that tradition - with obvious improvements, such as the SS cylinder, +P rating, etc. It's role is the same... a last ditch CCW. If you want a target piece, you need a larger frame & attendant grip, adjustable sights, and a longer barrel.

As to price... S&W apparently reduced the price last year at the SHOT show - a local dealer had the 637/642 at $340/$350 since last Spring, while others remained at ~$420+. I believe that sales were dropping - folks wanted smaller .357 Magnums, for example. This year, they have a Crimson Trace Laser-equipped version as well. At the closeout mail order price now of $300/$315, I may even have to have one!

I work part-time at a local outdoor range as the public range RO. I have helped many folks with the Airweight J-frame .38's - the price has been quite attractive over the last year. The most common complaint has been the grip size... everyone thinks it is too small. That, coupled with the lite weight revolver 'pulling' under trigger squeeze leads to poor accuracy. We cannot keep the larger Hoque replacement grips in stock... they really help accuracy. I have shot many 637's - and a few 642's, which I prefer. I had a fellow break his in by dry-firing 500-1,000 times - and bring it back. It really was better - he easily noticed it. They are not 'bad' as delivered. I would never replace that coil hammer spring - it is, after all, an adrenaline-powered firearm. They are somewhat ammo-dependent as to POI vs POA - as one would expect of a short barrel/fixed sight.

I have not noted excessive lock-up play in any of the 637/642's I have seen - even a very abused 642 'truck gun'. I have seen scratches through the finish... but no peeling. S&W may have had some frames improperly finished at one time - rumors as that do exist. A call to S&W with your S/N will find any atttendant problems - and you can always return it to them should your finish ever peel - they will fix any problem... they have a great warranty.

I have a 2" M10 for a snubby .38 +P - real nice, albeit just over twice the weight of the 637. With it's 1/8 inch longer barrel, it is much more accurate than any stock 637/642 I have shot... of course, it is a larger frame - with larger grips, the real answer. For <7-12yd protection, the 637/642 is fine.


March 8, 2004, 02:33 PM
IMHO, put a bigger grip on a J frame and you'd have been better off simply buying a bigger gun. The grips are the single most difficult part of the gun to conceal. Sure it helps when shooting, but it works against you for concealed carry.


March 8, 2004, 08:00 PM
Great post by Stainz.

I just picked up my 642 this morning, no shooting yet, but so far timing check, range rod, and feeler gauges show all as being well.

Amazing how much different carring the 642 all day was compared to my 3" 65. Maybe I'm getting old and out of shape but first thing I did when I got home with the 65 was take it off. 642 still tucked in the same place it started at 8:15 am:)

March 8, 2004, 08:31 PM
I have several Airweight S&W J frames. Models 637, 638, and 642. I like them better than my older J frames, model 36 and 60. Some of my new ones are tighter than some of the older steel J frames that I bought 20 years ago. The Airweights are a lot lighter to carry, and I have not found them to be any less durable. I have had a couple of them that have been fired quite a bit. Even shot +P in them with no problems. The finish is my only complaint. It is easily scratched off of the cylinder and barrel. I have polished the barrel and cylinder of a couple of then to remove the "paint". The barrel and cylinder end up polished stainless. I like the two tone look. Havn't had much trouble with the finish on the frame. I havn't noticed much of a price decrease around here on the J frames. I have enough of them now, but at the right price I would buy a couple more of them.

March 8, 2004, 08:49 PM
Was just over on Gunbroker.com. Prices for the 637 are still pretty high there. Then you have to add shipping and FFL fees.

March 8, 2004, 08:55 PM
Having sold many of them, having seen many more, having shot a few and having carried some...

Hgwash to the concept of the 637s being POS....


March 9, 2004, 10:59 AM
As has been noted, the J frame series of guns does not need to be strengthened for the rounds in which they are chambered. The talk of lock up is silly, in my opinion.

The surface coating peeling wouldn't be good, if true, but I can't see it changing the function of the weapon any.

I think if I could get a small Smith on sale and wanted that kind of weapon, I'd look hard at it.

it might be cheap enough to ignore any finish peal problems later.


March 9, 2004, 01:00 PM
I just saw 637's at $297 and 642's at $307 locally yesterday! I was almost tempted to backslide on my "no new S&W" pledge, but I really dislike the mechanical safety "feature". I have "older" 642's and will pick up more pre-safety j-frames when I find good deals.

March 13, 2004, 09:11 PM
I'm not sure everyone understands what I was trying to point out. The gap I was trying to explain is at the front of the gun where the crane meets the frame. When my cylinder is locked up I can lightly push the cylinder on it's left side with my thumb and open up a .012 gap between the crane and the frame. The dealer at the store where I bought the gun tried several other 637's and they did likewise. One of the items in Mr Jim March's excellent post was that there should be no gap at that point, the gap should be almost invisable. Tamara took me to task about no viable locking feature where the extractor rod snaps in when the cylinder is locked up.
It is my belief that the older Smith's like Tamara's were made of much stronger stuff and weren't subject to as much flex as the newer models and that type of locking method was acceptable in the older Smith's. Not being a metallurgy student, I can't explain that to you. I can only tell you that my 637 opens up a .012 gap at the front where the crane meets the frame when the cylinder is locked in the ready to fire position. My Colt DS and Python don't do that, even my inexpensive Taurus' don't do that.

Old Fuff
March 13, 2004, 10:17 PM

What you describe suggests that the yoke is bent or improperly machined. While this condition on "a" gun wouldn't suprise me having the same condition on several guns at one dealer would. Such a gap of that amount is not normal or satisfactory. I would call Smith & Wesson's Customer Service Department and then return the revolver to have the condition corrected.

April 5, 2004, 09:57 PM
I bought a 637 prior to them being marked +p although S&W conceded the were p capable. From the first round fired it spit powder and lead particles back into my face. After 20 or so rounds down range back to S&W it went.after about 10 days it was returned with a letter stating the gap was out of spec. and the cylinder had been replaced and was now within spec. back to the range and the gun has been perfect ever since. I have the letter in another location so it will take me about two weeks to post the correct spec. +- per S&W but my recollection is it was no where near.012.

I don't want to guess but I will post asap.

After repair, if thats what it can be called, it has been my pocket carry and fishing gun since with hundreds of rounds through it without a problem, most of which were +p as I practice with my carry loads.


April 12, 2009, 11:56 PM
S&W 640 and 60 for winter (belt holster) carry and 637 and 642 for summer carry (pocket holster carry). Also S&W 317 for "trainer" gun. Over 500 rounds through each with no problems. I was a trained armorer in USMC and worked on M&P (pre 10) and model 10 aircrew S&Ws for several years. I have kept a close eye on all of my four EDC S&Ws and the .22, to include cleaning and detailed stripping. All have the dreaded ILS. I have experienced absolutely no problems with any of the revolvers. I cycle and clean lock along with rest of gun and make sure it is all the way into proper position each time I reassemble or clean gun. I do not fire 357 Mag in 60 or 640, I have a S&W 686 for that. As I have owned and still do own, nickled revolvers I have learned to be careful of solvents. I use CLP and some care in cleaning all of them and have not experienced "finish peel". I have carried, fired, and cleaned S&W revolvers for 48 of my 66 years. I had 637 in pocket all this weekend.

Bottom line, I will keep on buying S&Ws , especially J Frames.

April 13, 2009, 12:26 AM
I have two 637's, and lockup, finish and trigger are good. The only complaint I have with these little guns is that the cylinder release is tight at first. It takes some work to relax it a bit. Wonderful guns and the ultimate in pocket carry.

April 13, 2009, 07:39 PM
I bought my 637 seven years ago, and have sent about 2,500 rounds downrange from it, mostly std pressure SWC/WC, but about a hundred +p (OUCH!). No problems such as have been described, though if I carried (I live in a California county with a no-no sheriff), I would expect the overcoating to wear off. And if I had experienced any problems, I know S&W would fix it. They have the best customer support in the industry.

Cordially, Jack

April 13, 2009, 08:06 PM
Man, this thread sure came back from the dead.

April 13, 2009, 08:46 PM
"Man, this thread sure came back from the dead."

There are a lot of happy S&W 637 owners and shooters out there who think it is a pretty neat little gun. Defensive knee jerks in action!

April 13, 2009, 09:23 PM
Oops, just noticed the date on this thread

April 13, 2009, 11:05 PM
for clarification, I thought that the aluminum frames on the airweight models (637, 638, 642, 649) is what got the baked on clear coat...do the bead blasted barrel and cylinder get clear coat also?!? :scrutiny: if so it is new to me...I have bought, sold, traded several 642's, a 637, and a 442 (anondized black finish on aluminum frame) over the years and never had anything peel & flake off the cylinder and barrel which are the bead blasted steel parts on these guns :uhoh:

the only real purpose of the baked on clear coat is to reduce glare and reflection and offer a soft contrast to the bead blasted steel parts and having it wear off or removed with solvents is a minor problem at best; guns are tools and they are meant to be used...just as with any tool the 'new luster' will deminish with use

I will gladly accept slight cosmetic defects in the S&W snubbies over the major malfunctions that I have encountered with Taurus revolvers --> a spurless hammer 605 go out of timing after manual removal of a casing that had the primer move back and jam it against the breechface (jammed the entire gun); a shrouded hammer 651 that had hammer misalignment and would rub against the sideplate (again jammed the whole gun); 2 separate 66's that suffered mainspring failures within 1000 rounds (primers not hit hard enough when shooting double action) :fire::cuss::banghead::fire::cuss::banghead:

April 14, 2009, 11:31 AM
I have been told that Gunscrubber or brake cleaner will soften the clear coat on these models.

No ****. Really?

It says so on cans of Gunscrubber and Brake Cleaner. It will also trash a gun stock, melt plastic, strip paint...

It's great to clean out semiautos if you're in a hurry and/or lazy.

But what would possess someone to use these things on a clear-coated revolver?

(And if you don't like the alloy frame, why didn't you buy a steel gun? The whole point of the Airweights is, well, their light weight. Sure, that involves compromises. Duh. Welcome to Earth.)

My gunsmith suggested another pistol instead of installing Wolff springs. He emphasized QC problems. I switched to a 3" M10 S&W.


You thought the 1 7/8" J-frame was too bulky, so you got a 3" K-frame?

Bull****. That sure sounds credible.:rolleyes:

The little J-frames' DA trigger has never felt as good as a larger gun, but my 642 is good enough to keep them all in an NRA Bullseye target at 25 yards with stock sights in poor light. If I needed better, I wouldn't be carrying a snubbie. If you can't shoot the gun, maybe that's not the gun's problem.

Furthermore, I've felt the DA trigger on some really old Airweights, and the trigger pull was MUCH heavier than the new ones. Maybe these were bad examples, but S&W does appear to have dramatically improved the pull, not made it worse.

I just saw 637's at $297 and 642's at $307 locally yesterday! I was almost tempted to backslide on my "no new S&W" pledge, but I really dislike the mechanical safety "feature".

You do realize that you can take off the lock flag, right? To save a hundred bucks I'd sure consider it.

So, where are you guys finding new 637s and 642s for 300 bucks? I'd like to get myself at least one more, for that price.

I am not some stupid fanboy who thinks that S&W can do no wrong. Far from it. But most of this thread (WildAlaska, Tamara and a couple others excepted) is utter bull****.

Old Fuff
April 14, 2009, 12:17 PM
Pity the poor Old Fuff.

I was going to point out to Armed Bear, that he had some good points, but for a bit over $300 one could buy an older Model 37 that had an anodized finish that would stand up to various solvents, wear better, and not have most of the more recent cost-cutting features that have tended to degrade newer production.

"Why," I thought, "right now there is an excellent example on Gunbroker that is up for bid starting at $350, and it only attracted one bid. Such a deal I have for you... :evil: ;)


Trouble is, with 2 days to go the bidding has gone up to $760, as I write this post.

This says something about the market's perception of older vs. newer guns, and shows how far out of date the Old Fuff really is. :uhoh: :confused:

I strongly suggest that no one take his advise from now on... :D

April 14, 2009, 01:07 PM
I can get an old 36 for 200 bucks at a local store.

The finish is already half-gone, though. Neat gun. TERRIBLE trigger. Worst DA trigger I've ever felt, including Rugers. No +P.

Seriously, I do like old S&Ws, but I also think the current Airweights have a lot to offer as practical tools.

Old Fuff
April 14, 2009, 01:40 PM
Worst DA trigger I've ever felt, including Rugers. No +P.

Interesting, because while materials have changed, the lockwork design and springs haven't. With the exception of the hammer the other principal parts will interchange. The hammer would too, except it had to be changed to work with the internal lock.

Oh well..... :scrutiny:

April 14, 2009, 01:42 PM
Well, I've shot a stock Mark II Target with a little stoning done to it. Feels great, and mine has all Volquartsen parts plus custom work, so when I say it feels great, my baseline is not low.

It's not necessarily the design of the parts that matters; it's the execution.:)

April 14, 2009, 01:49 PM
I am not some stupid fanboy who thinks that S&W can do no wrong. Far from it. But most of this thread (WildAlaska, Tamara and a couple others excepted) is utter bull****.

Right. So glad to have such an "expert" chime in with a reasoned, and lucid judgment.

Is there some reason that insults are suddenly an accepted reason, instead of discussion?

April 14, 2009, 02:14 PM
Calling out a poster who is full of crap is neither reason, nor is it an insult.

April 16, 2009, 09:12 AM
I would buy a well worn Mod 36 for $200 right now.

April 16, 2009, 09:30 AM
Jeeez, I started reading this thread and didn't notice that it started 5 years ago.
When I read about them being on sale for $299, I immediately decided I would buy a couple more 642s. Then I saw the date.
Around here, you can't hardly find 642s on the shelves.
I did see one last weekend at a Bass Pro Shop fifty miles from here. The price was $529 and no, they didn't have CT grips.
As far as the finish goes, I use Breakfree CLP and have had no problems. I don't think you are supposed to use any cleaners that contain ammonia.

September 7, 2009, 07:08 PM
I have owned several J-frames including the 442, 637 etc. They all had excellent actions, in fact the 637 was the crispest, lightest, action I have ever felt (including custom guns) and were tight as a drum, and held up to hard use. The finish of any gun will wear with holster use. I have never had a gun that did not show some holster wear after years in the saddle, so to speak. IMHO, $300 for a new one is an awesome buy. I paid ~$400, for my last 637 and thought I did well, considering the excellent quality. And now, S&W has started shipping them without the lock! Cudos to S&W. I would buy a brace at the $300 price point without hesitation. If a j-frame is not nearly perfect in every regard, it is an oddball, and should be sent back to S&W.


September 7, 2009, 07:36 PM
IMHO, $300 for a new one is an awesome buy.

That's the problem with zombie threads - out of date pricing. I believe Bud's is showing 422.00 (in late 2009, should anybody check back in 2013).

On the other hand, it was nice to see some old Tamara and WildAlaska posts.

September 7, 2009, 08:15 PM
Wow. Talk about resurrecting old threads. It had me going till I saw Wild's name.

November 4, 2009, 03:27 PM
I've had one for two years. I paid $295 for it from a dealer on one of these forums. It shoots great and has given me no problems what so ever. It is a carry gun, it will get dinged up, it will show wear by the nature of the beast. If the finish comes off, I will polish the alloy frame and add some wax. Other than that, it beats a Taurus any day of the week.

David E
November 4, 2009, 09:27 PM
Fine, I'll contribute to this 5 1/2 yr old thread........

I always take someone's "opinion" on a gun they're NEVER FIRED with a huge grain of salt.

November 5, 2009, 01:58 PM
This is an old thread, but...

I feel your pain. I purchased a new 637 back in May 09. The gun had a crooked barrel, warped frame, and shot 7" left of POA. I had to send it back twice before S&W replaced it. The CS manager treated me like I was being unreasonable... refusing to admit that the gun was a lemon. Finally, a competent member of the repairs team took a look at it and immediately agreed to replace the entire gun. The replacement gun was a lot better though. I have been happy with it so far. I think they must have had a bad run or something.
They did take care of it and make it right... I have to admit though... after the 4-month ordeal, they will be very lucky if I ever buy another new S&W in this lifetime.

November 5, 2009, 03:23 PM
The clear coat peeling ? A friend called the S&W factory, the person who answered said to clean the frame with CLP only...He went on to say that hoppes #9 would take the coating off very quickly. I use a 1981 model 65, it suffers from no such issues . Its just not light enough to drop in my pocket!

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