S&w 642 vs 638


May 27, 2013, 07:26 PM
I was curious as to which would get your pick, as a BUG. The shrouded hammer on the 638, seems like it could be a deposit for debris to accumulate. The 642, is DAO, but I dunno it I'd ever miss the SA pull, but you never know. I'm just interested in what THR, knows about these two pistols.

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May 27, 2013, 07:39 PM
I have the sw model 442 which is the black version of the 642. Its a.good ccw option but a pia to shoot. I like the 638 better but it wasn't available. I have to practice ALOT more with my snubby to get proficiant with it...

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May 27, 2013, 07:50 PM
If you need to draw a snub in self-defense, odds are you won't have the time to set up for a SA shot. Part of learning to shoot a snub is shooting DA -- and a laser grip can help with this. If you like to fiddle around with SA at the range, fine.

Hondo 60
May 27, 2013, 09:08 PM
The biggest difference between the the two is the ability to shoot in single action.

The 642 has the hammer completely concealed, whereas the 638 has a tiny stub that can be cocked.

I have an original Model 38 & although it looks weird, I like it because the hammer is there even though it doesn't protrude to get caught on a pocket.


May 27, 2013, 09:20 PM
To my eye the 638 is appearing to be the best of both worlds. I dunno for certain, how it'd fair for long periods without maintenance, but I really don't see myself neglecting a firearm that much, and letting lint, and dust accumulate around the shrouded hammer. I know a J frame isn't as plinker, or hardcore range gun, but the SA would be greatly appreciated for such use. Still I suppose in the end they're intended to be carried a lot and shot a little.

May 27, 2013, 09:23 PM
Is it more difficult to decock the 638 than a fully exposed hammer?

David E
May 27, 2013, 09:26 PM
Is it more difficult to decock the 638 than a fully exposed hammer?


May 28, 2013, 04:19 AM
Is it more difficult to decock the 638 than a fully exposed hammer?

Not significantly.

May 28, 2013, 06:11 AM
A 638 is my Daily Carry (pocket) and I've not expirenced a dirt or lint issue around the hammer spur as yet.
At first, I missed the ease of shooting Single Action with the piece but after some practice shooting double action it's no longer an issue.
I shoot the pistol almost weekly with reloads using Missouri 158 grain semi- waddcutters.

May 28, 2013, 06:26 AM
I have two J frame snubbies, a Model 649 and a Model 638. I always liked having the option of being able to shoot them in SA mode though the majority of my range time with them is done is DA shooting. The hammer spur is easy to operate with the Model 649 while it's a bit more stiff and harder to use with the Model 638.

May 28, 2013, 08:33 AM
I had a 442 and currently have the 438 and greatly prefer it. For some reason it feels better in my hand when shooting it. I also like I can shoot it SA when chrono'ng rounds. I never really liked the 442, but the 438 is a keeper.

May 28, 2013, 09:03 AM
How likely is it for an accidental discharge when de-cocking the 638? I have a 640 which can only be fired DA so I don't have that concern, but I could foresee potential situations where I would like the option of shooting DA or SA and the 638 would allow that possibility. Right now I am thinking of trading in my 640 with CT because it seems pretty heavy for concealed carry, and the 642 or 638 seem a better choice. I can certainly live with loading with 38+p instead of 357mag, but not sure which would be the better choice of these two. I find IWB carry uncomfortable and will likely carry with a pocket holster.

David E
May 28, 2013, 09:20 AM
Not significantly.

On the range, it's "not significantly" more difficult to decock a 638....but you better pay extra close attention while doing it. Still, it IS a bit harder to do than with a fully exposed hammer.

But add some sweat and adrenalin, it's significantly more difficult.

May 28, 2013, 09:36 AM
Consider the intended use for a snubbie to be used for self protection.
1. Lowest possible profile.
2. Elaborate sights are not needed.
3. Ability to shoot directly out of a pocket or purse.
4. Under stress, a single action makes no sense to me at all, especially one that has a hammer that is hard to grasp, so why buy one to practice SA with.
5. Uncocking safely WILL be an issue for some, and yes, lint will get in that area.

I own a 340pd and a 640. Both have trigger jobs and I find them to meet ever criteria listed.


May 28, 2013, 09:42 AM
Years ago, before I had my current S&W snubbies, I had a Model 38. I often carried it in my coat pocket, typically when I took the dog for a walk late at night. Never had a problem with lint or any other kind of debris getting into the hammer slot. I also didn't carry anything else in that front pocket; just the Model 38.

May 28, 2013, 09:47 AM
Id advise not ever trying to decock a 638. Just shoot it. I highly doubt your going to get a chance to cock it "out in the field" in a bad situation. Ive done it a handful of times at the range only and if that little spur slips by your finger its going off. Its riskier because of the spring power, even with partial drops its still strong enough to set off primers-

And lint doesnt really get past the round "back" of the hammer

May 28, 2013, 09:47 AM
To 340PD: Not to hijack this thread, but how do you carry your 640? I have a Remora IWB holster and a pocket holster, but the weight of the 640 makes pocket carry awkward. I am assuming that a 15 oz. gun will be significantly easier to pocket carry than the 23 oz. 640. Either the 642 or the 638 seem to be close to ideal pocket carry self defense guns.

May 28, 2013, 09:58 AM
Great question. The 640 is heavier, and I bought it for range practice and occasional IWB carry while on a walk.
The 340, I believe, is the ultimate pocket carry gun, and the amount of range time it gets is very minimal. That gun is something like 13 oz, and it goes unnoticed in a pair of lightweight wool dress pants. If I ever have to use that gun, amount of recoil or lack of sights will be of absolutely no concern to me. It gets carried in a Kramer leather pocket holster. I do believe the 442/642 to be the best compromise of all the snubbies as .357 is not really needed at very short ranges. I only went 340 because I had some extra money burning a hole in my pocket and it is noticeably lighter than the 442.


May 28, 2013, 04:46 PM
I think I am leaning toward the 642. The 340 with CT IS listed as $1019 whereas the 642CT is $689. If the weight difference is only 4 oz. I'm not sure I want to spend an extra $330, plus I like the stainless/aluminum look over the black.

May 28, 2013, 04:55 PM
I love the 38/638. It's no harder to shoot than a 642, but offers me the ability to make a more precise SA shot if needed and appropriate. If you want all steel, the 649 is the ticket....

May 28, 2013, 05:58 PM
It's just a matter of personal preference. I went with the 642 and I'm very happy with it. YMMV, but either way, you'll have an excellent self defense tool.

May 28, 2013, 07:28 PM
It's the 642 for me. I don't need to practice SA with it since that's not how I'll be shooting if I have to defend myself. The truncated hammer therefore would serve no purpose for me.

David E
May 28, 2013, 08:05 PM
Id advise not ever trying to decock a 638. If that little spur slips by your finger its going off.

There is a way to do this....

Point in safe direction. Pull hammer back slightly with thumb. Pull trigger to rear and hold it there. Ease hammer past the full cock position. As soon as you do, release the TRIGGER then slowly lower the hammer. If it slips, the internal safeties will prevent a discharge.

Yeah, it's harder to decock a 638 than it is a 637.

May 28, 2013, 08:30 PM
I love the 38/638. It's no harder to shoot than a 642, but offers me the ability to make a more precise SA shot if needed and appropriate.
If a precise shot if needed, a laser grip will be the better option unless not visible in outdoor daylight. In that case, I'm able to stage the trigger on my 642.

Regardless, I would argue that the need for a SA shot (for the sake of precision) is a rarity in self defense situations. If you want (rather than need) SA for the range, then it's okay to play with that, but be sure to lick your thumb and swipe it across the front sight for maximum effect. ;)

Lucky Derby
May 29, 2013, 07:24 AM
I own versions of both. A M38 and a M342. Both see some carry time. The SA capability of the M38 isn't really practical for most users, but it doesn't really hinder anything either. The lint issue is there, but over blown. I pocket carry these wheelguns, and I just blow what little lint collects out at the end of the day.
I like the M38 better, but that has more to do with the steel cylinder than the hammer configuration.

May 29, 2013, 09:37 AM
I like the hammerless version myself.

May 29, 2013, 11:15 AM
I don't think you would be unhappy with either...or both.

May 29, 2013, 01:00 PM
I prefer the enclosed hammer and have had a 442 for 20 years.

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