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Primary carry: SW 60 3" (J) v. SW 64 3" (K)

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by AStone, Mar 17, 2007.


Primary carry: SW 60 3" (J) v. SW 64 3" (K)

Poll closed Jun 15, 2007.
  1. SW Model 60 3" (J)

    41 vote(s)
  2. SW Model 64 3" (K)

    59 vote(s)
  3. Other (within constraints of this exercise)

    15 vote(s)
  1. AStone

    AStone Senior Member

    Aug 5, 2005
    Far N, E coast
    So, I'll be clear about one thing right from the start:
    IMO, there is no "right" answer to the question posed in this thread.

    There are (hopefully) lots of opinions,
    but there no "right" answer.
    YMMV, and all that.

    Here's the background for this thread.

    I currently own two wonderful revolvers:
    * SW 642 snubby (1 7/8")
    * SW 686P 4"

    I love both.
    (I recently divorced myself from semi-autos in favor of revolvers.
    That's another story entirely... :rolleyes: )

    The 642 is my "carry gun" around my studio and home.
    I'm not yet CCW but will be soon. Once I qualify for CCW,
    the 642 will be my carry in warmer weather.
    (My Mika pocket holster is in the mail.)

    The 686 will be my "camp and wilderness carry",
    and a secondary deer gun (after my Marlin 336),
    one that can be pressed into "deer mode" in an emergency,
    or while carrying my 39A squirrel gun with a deer tag.

    I'm finding, however, that I'd like to own an intermediate between them,
    something that I can carry in town in colder weather
    when clothing allows concealment of a larger gun, yet not so large as a 686.

    I've decided that's going to be some incarnation of a 3" revolver in .38 spl
    (perhaps with .357 Mag capacity, but I'm not really concerned about that.
    I'm happy with .38 spl for SD. .357 Mag would be icing on the cake,
    but I wouldn't be feeding it a steady diet).

    So, after some amount of reading and research,
    I've narrowed my choices down to mainly two models:
    model 60 3" (J-frame) and model 64 3" K-frame.

    I've been discussing this issue a bit in a couple of threads
    (642 club and K-frame club - see signature for links)
    but have decided to take this discussion out of those clubs
    since this particular issue is a bit OT for both.

    Now, I've done some homework. I understand the following:

    * Model 60: .38 spl +P AND .357 Mag (as long as not a steady diet of latter, and the recommendation is to use mostly 158 gr when one does use .357 Mag. 5 rnd. Most relevant factor: 24 oz.

    * Model 64: .38 spl. +P. 6 rnd. Most relevant factor: 33 oz.

    * Shot placement, shot placement, shot placement.

    I think in this case, the most relevant factor for me is weight (and I want a 3" barrel).
    I want a revolver that I can carry all day in some holster
    (strong side OWB, cross carry OWB, shoulder holster...) comfortably.
    I'm a small person. (Well, tall and thin.)

    The model 60 is 9 oz lighter. That's just over half a pound.
    The model 64 is only 5 oz lighter than my 686.
    In my world, that's a substantial difference.

    Some have argued that the 64 is just better than a 60.
    For example, in addition to holding one more rnd,
    due to its weight, it offers quicker recoil recovery times,
    and is more stable to point, etc.
    (For me, both are important, but for different reasons:
    I'm a smaller person - tall and thin - so light is good
    to get on target more quickly, and is easier to carry,
    but recovery from recoil may be enhanced by added weight.)

    What I'm looking for is opinions, from those of you
    who own at least one, but preferably both,
    about whether the 64 really is worth lugging around given it's increased weight.

    Yes, of course I'm open to suggestions about guns that are better than either a 60 or a 64.
    (Several have already been suggested to me; e.g., Model 19.)
    But I'm setting up this exercise with those two mainly as extremes on the weight spectrum,
    and because I have a tendency to buy new rather than used. (That's yet another story...)

    Again, this is a highly subjective exercise. There is no right answer.
    I'm looking for your personal objective and subjective experiences with these guns.

    As is typical for me, I'm way ahead of the game here.
    I probably won't purchase another revolver for months.
    (That's a financial constraint.)
    But I like to do my homework in advance.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Senior Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    In terms of a holster gun (as opposed to a pocket revolver) the 3" K-frame has some advantages. First of all I agree that a 3" barrel is ideal on the K-platform in the context of a concealable weapon. You have a full-stroke ejector rod, more weight forward for balance, and a longer sight radius over a snubby, and yet not as long as a 4". It can be easily concealed in winter clothing.

    The action - at least on older pre-MIM models is amenable to being tuned for a lighter yet reliable double action trigger pull. This is largely because of the leaf mainspring and the greater distance between the hammer and trigger pivot points that allows the trigger to have more leverage on he hammer. I am not so critical of the MIM parts as such, as I am of design changes to make assembly easier at the factory, coming at the expense of a better feeling action, but again - some of this can be overcome by a first-class pistolsmith. Don't try to do it on your own.

    The larger handle gives you more to hold on to, and thereby control the revolver during shooting and recovering from recoil. Those that can shoot a J-frame faster and more accurately then a "K" are few and far between.

    And of course there is the issue of the 6th shot. Something that may, or may not be necessary, but is nice to have. It is one reason I prefer Colt's Old D-frame (think Detective Special) over S&W's J size.

    The principal difference between an L-frame, such as a model 686 and the K-size isn’t so much weight, as bulk. This only becomes important in that less bulk is easier to conceal under some circumstances.

    And that’s the J-frame’s strong point. It offers less weight and bulk, but here the advantages in carrying it (over a K-frame) may be lost if you have to use it. The most convenient weapon is seldom the most effective one. :scrutiny:
  3. AStone

    AStone Senior Member

    Aug 5, 2005
    Far N, E coast
    Excellent post, Fuff. Thanks.

    IMO, you set the bar for subsequent posts.
    Many thanks for your opinion.

    Three of your statements really struck me:

    And, while reading your post,
    another detail popped out in my search for
    an "intermediate" between the 642 (J) and 686 (L).

    K is "intermediate" between J and L.

    J K L

    Like you said,

    Excellent point.
  4. MikeJ

    MikeJ Member

    Jan 1, 2003
    3" K frames are the bee's knees.
  5. AStone

    AStone Senior Member

    Aug 5, 2005
    Far N, E coast

    As a person with an undergrad in entomology,
    who focused on bee biology,
    I can relate to the term "bee's knees".

    Would you please elaborate?

    What makes those 3" K's so appealing?
  6. grimjaw

    grimjaw Senior Member

    May 9, 2005
    What makes those 3" K's so appealing?

    They're so darned pretty?


    But I liked it better as a house gun or winter carry.

  7. Marko Kloos

    Marko Kloos Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 20, 2002
    Enfield, NH
    Hmm..let's see. I use 3" K-frames exclusively for CCW, so you may wager a guess which way I voted.

    Why are they the bee's knees?

    Easier to shoot than the J-frame, with one more round to boot. Barrel just long enough for a full-length ejector rod, and the best compromise between ballistic performance and concealability...more steam than the too-short 2", and easier concealed than the 4".

    Fixed sights that don't break or get misaligned, ever...unless you roll over the gun with a backhoe or something, and then you have bigger problems than having sights out of whack.

    Lastly, they handle and point like nothing else. They feel much bigger in the hand than any J-frame, they weigh more and handle recoil better, and the three-inch barrel on a K looks and balances just right. They are more nimble and less porky than the L-frames, too.

    For a pocket gun, a lightweight J-frame is a superior gun, no doubt about it...but a 3" J is not a pocket gun, and if you're going to carry it on your belt anyway, the 3" K beats any J in every respect.
  8. MikeJ

    MikeJ Member

    Jan 1, 2003
    Marko Kloos nailed it!
  9. 357wheelgunner

    357wheelgunner Member

    Apr 23, 2004
    Rural South
    I had a pair of 3" K-frames, a model 65 and 66. I carried the .38+P 158gr LHPSWC "FBI load" in them. They shot well but I didn't like the 3" barrel. Now I have three 4" K-frames. They carry just as well IWB and I like the balance of the 4" barrel.

    Any K-frame in 3" or 4" barrel makes a fantastic carry gun. J-frame is only good for pocket carry. Get the 3" model 64 and then use your 642 if the K is too big for what you are wearing that day.
  10. DaleCooper51

    DaleCooper51 Member

    Sep 30, 2006
    Eastern PA
    I would vote for the 3" model 65.

    I enjoy shooting the mid-range 357's more than the 38 +P's in mine and think everyone should at least one.
  11. Newguy1

    Newguy1 Member

    Feb 28, 2004
    Tampa, FL
    I like my 10-6 and 64-5 (even though they are SB and 4 inch barrel) much better than my 60-4 which has adjustable sights and a 3 inch barrel.

    They shoot much easier and hold one more round.

    I like the K frame so much more, that I am considering trading my 60-4 for a Model 10 or 64 with a 3 inch barrel and a round butt for carry.
  12. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Senior Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Why a 3" inch barrel, rather then one 2" or 4" long?

    The 3" length is the shortest that will still allow a full length ejector rod. This can be critically important in clearing empth cases during a reload. It also provides enough length to help tip the handle in tighter to the body, where a 2" will let the butt tip outward - at least in some holsters. The combination of a heavy, 3" barrel closely duplicates the balance of a lighter 4" one, and the 3" is often more confortable when you are sitting the the longer lengths - especially in a car. The holstered revolver doesn't tend to ride up and cause the handle to dig you in the ribs. It will also fit in the slash pocket of a coat, where a longer length won't. Of course a careful pick of holsters may solve some of the issues, but for concealed carry the 3" length offers the carrier more options.

    As an aside: In cold or winter weather one does not want to carry their hardware under a coat. It takes far to long to get to it. One should pick both the coat and gun with this in mind.

    If you are going to coat-pocket carry, or conceal the revolver under a layer(s) of something, seriously consider having the hammer bobbed and the action converted to double-action-only (DAO). If the hammer is bobbed it is no longer safe to cock it.

    If you don't bob the hammer, but carry the gun covered by something (such as a coat or shirt) be sure the holster covers the hammer spur, or the checkering on it will soon wear a hole in the covering garment.
  13. bobbytm

    bobbytm New Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    K-frame 64model 3"barrel,is a nice choice for daily holster carry!
  14. Diamondback

    Diamondback Member

    Aug 23, 2003
    WA State
    I have a 3" K frame; and a 3" M60.....it's one of the older models, 60-3, with adjustable sights, chambered for .38 Special. I use the 3" J frame primarily as a kit gun for woods bumming and such. It carries comfortably, I'm ok with 5 rounds instead of 6, and loaded with Buffalo Bore 158gr. +p LSWCHP I am satisfied that I am prepared for what trouble I might meet locally. It has always accompanied me on my hikes up to the Alpine lakes in the Cascades to do some day fishing; it's relatively light and handy.

    I use the 3" K frame the same way you suggest you would be inclined to carry it.....concealed in a holster for city protection. There is no reason I couldn't inter-change their roles.....I just like the lighter weight J frame when I'm humping up the side of a mountain. I'm no spring chicken any more !
    However, the K frame has a nicer trigger, and it is easier for me to accurately shoot higher pressure ammo in because it weighs more.

    Personally, I think a 3" Ruger SP-101 is also worth considering because it sort of splits the difference between the J and the K. But you didn't ask about Rugers, so I won't go on about them and "muddy up" your post. :)

    Here's a not very good photo of my 3" S&W M60-3.


    - regards
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2007
  15. AStone

    AStone Senior Member

    Aug 5, 2005
    Far N, E coast

    Cool! :cool:

    While I slept, it seems you folks have been having quite a discussion. ;)

    Thanks very much for the feedback.
    I'm benefiting a lot from reading, and learning lots.

    Please continue ...

    Oh, yeah, one more thing:

    Poll results so far:

    M60: 05
    M64: 13
    "Other": 04

    {PS: I should have included the statement "specify 'other' " in the poll. Although I'm focusing exclusively on 3" revolvers (not interested in semi-autos here), and exclusively on J & K-frame sizes, I'm not (yet) glued to either a 60 or a 64. I'm open to other suggestions (that are comparable to those two). If you suggest a revolver that is no longer in production, please specify it's weight. I'll confess to a strong bias now for SW mostly for subjective reasons :rolleyes: - something about their fit, feel, and finish that just consistently works for me. It's likely that I'll stay with SW since I've already got two.}

    In early voting, that 64 came out of the gate strong, :what:
    and is running several lengths ahead of the other horses.

    It's still a long race (poll won't close for around 88 more days),
    and who can say what the 64's stamina is? It IS a heavier gun;
    can it keep up endurance levels for the long haul,
    or will it falter closer to the end of the race? :uhoh:

    Only time will tell. :scrutiny:

    Stay tuned ...


  16. jad0110

    jad0110 Senior Member

    Feb 28, 2006
    Somewhere between the Eastern Block states and Flo
    I voted for the 3" Model 64. I think with a good quality holster and gunbelt, you won't notice much difference between packing a 60 and a 64. Either that or a 3" Model 10. Same thing as the 64 (K Frame), except in a blue finish.

    If you lean towards something chambered in 357 Magnum, you may want to consider a 3" Model 65. It is the same thing as the 64 (stainless, fixed sights), except it is chambered in 357 Mag.

    Check out these 3" S&W Model 65s on Summit Gunbroker for $385: http://www.summitgunbroker.com/1704450.html

    Or the adjustable sight version, the Model 66 (but it is a 2.5"): http://www.summitgunbroker.com/1704457.html

    I may yet get a Model 65 myself in 2.5" or 3". And as you know, I'll also keep my eyes open for a 2.75" Ruger Security Six. Ah heck, all these Model #s get confusing, here's my little summary (all Ks available with 3" barrels except where noted):

    Model 10: 38 Spl, blue, fixed sights
    Model 15: 38 Spl, blue, adjustable sights (2" and 4" only)
    Model 64: 38 Spl, stainless, fixed sights
    Model 67: 38 Spl, stainless, adjustable sights (2" and 4" only?)
    Model 13: 357 Mag, blue, fixed sights
    Model 19: 357 Mag, blue, adjustable sights
    Model 65: 357 Mag, stainless, fixed sights
    Model 66: 357 Mag, stainless, adjustable sights
  17. Photoman

    Photoman Member

    Nov 1, 2005
    One big advantage of the K over the J is Safariland Comp III speed loaders. They work much better for me than the HKS loaders. Also, I think most would shoot the K better than the J.
  18. AStone

    AStone Senior Member

    Aug 5, 2005
    Far N, E coast
    Hey, Jad.

    I was wondering how long it'd take you to show up in here. :rolleyes: ;)

    The vote for the model 64 jumped by 4 since last time I checked.
    Did you vote 4 times? :D

    You know, if it wasn't for you, I probably wouldn't be asking this question.
    But noooooo, you had to get me hooked on the 686.
    It was all downhill from there. :p

    Nice concise list of the models. Thanks. They do get confusing.

    Yeah, those Model 65's on Summit Gunbroker look tempting.
    If I had $385 burning a hole in my pocket, I might jump.

    But alas, I gotta buy new amp for the studio first. :(

    And I still think a .38 spl is going to be good enough for me.
    As tempting as another .357M is, in this case, it may be too much...
  19. VA27

    VA27 Senior Member

    Jun 5, 2006
    Slovenly Manor, Dungheap-Upon-The-Hill
    My vote goes to the 60-18. A five-inch J frame, 357Mag. You've got your J frame for easy concealment...the barrel is no problem if you carry IWB, and the five inch barrel gets the most velocity out of your full power loads.

    The longer sight radius with the five inch barrel also improves your accuracy and in fact it could take the place of the 686 4" for trail duty.

    "But wait," you say. "The 686P holds seven shots!"

    "Oh ho," says I. "The 60-18 and the 642 together weigh about what the 686 does by itself, and they can share speedloaders! Carry 'em both and you have ten shots at your disposal before you need to reload!"

    My opinion, and it's worth exactly what you paid for it! Good luck with your quest!
  20. AStone

    AStone Senior Member

    Aug 5, 2005
    Far N, E coast

    You make several good points.
    Thanks for your input.

    I suspect that someday
    I may own a 5" or 6" barrel SW.
    (For example, I'm fond of those 6" 686's :rolleyes: )

    But for now, I'm pretty committed to a 3" barrel.
    It just intuitively feels right for this project.


    Current vote count:

    60: 07
    64: 19
    OT: 05

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