A little J frame history . . .
The J frame was originally introduced in 1950 – as the Model 36 – at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) convention in 1950 – and was quite well received. It was an exposed hammer 5 shot blued steel built on the new J frame – the older I frame simply wasn’t strong enough to handle the pressure of a 38 special cartridge – in 1951 Smith brought out the Model 37 “Air weight” – aluminum frame and aluminum cylinder – the aluminum cylinder proved to be proved to be quite an issue and was dropped in favor of a steel cylinder
really nice example of an older Model 36
The J frame has been produced in a large number of variants over the years – nickel finish – stainless steel – shrouded hammer – internal hammer – and nice used ones are available – the 640 is even in 357 Magnum – and I will swear to the fact that the 357 Magnum versions are QUITE a challenge to shoot with full power loads!! ) . The J frame has proven to be so popular that Smith is even producing the original “Chiefs Special” – the Model 36 – for their classics line.
Current Production 642-2 “Air weight”
The 642 is a great concealed carry option – and a lot of people carry them either as a primary weapon or BUG – ( Back Up Gun ) – in this review we are going to consider in the carried as as a pocket gun.
You get great concealment and five shots – sure shots – it will go bang 5 times as sure as the sun will rise in the east in the morning to open and govern the day! – if by some infinitesimally small chance you get a bad primer on a cartridge – no rack tap bang drill – just pull the trigger again! Reloads with practice are as fast as a semi automatic – damn Bruce – there you go with that P word again!!!
With the factory grips and plus p loading’s the 642 is quite a learning curve for second and subsequent follow up shots – PRACTICE people!! More on the factory grips and trigger pull at the end.
Empty weight of the 642-2
The 642 in a Desantis pocket holster simply disappears into your pocket – and for God’s sake – use a holster and put nothing else in that pocket! I prefer the nylon style holsters for pocket carry – adds minimal bulk and weight to the equation. And with the internal hammer of the 642 – nothing to snag.
Chambered in 38 Special you have an incredible variety of ammo available – from Hornady critical defense in several different offerings to the original 158 round nose lead – and just about EVERYTHING in between. I keep waiting for someone to come out with miniature kitchen sinks loaded in 38 special! My personal loads that I carry – spring-summer-fall – critical defense 110 grain plus p – really great performance – winter – Remington HTP – 158 grain lead semi wadcutter with gas check – plus p – about as good as you can do for multiple layers of heavier clothing and retain good penetration characteristics – choose your ammo carefully – you are betting YOUR life on it!!
The 642 is a great little gun – however the tiny grips are really hard to hang on to and the trigger pull ( at 12 pounds ) leaves something to be desired. Let’s address one issue at a time – first the grips – change them – simple huh? What I recommend without hesitation are a set of Ergo Delta grips (thanks Mick – He loaned me his to try – I bought a set IMMEDIATELY ) – one hell of a difference!
Very simple installation and really does little to the over all profile of the gun – but it makes it a whole lot easier to control – and helps tremendously with recoil – factory grips – 10 rounds of 158 grain plus p and you can hardly hold the steering wheel on the way home – Ergo grips – I went through a 50 round box before I even realized it – cool stuff !!
Factory grips –
Ergo grips –
All better –
The Ergo grips do not alter the profile to any large degree and go a long way toward adding shooting comfort and more importantly – control – about 30 dollars in your mailbox.
Wilson Combat offers a replacement spring set – 9 dollars from Brownells – have not decided if I am going to upgrade or not since the grips have made such a difference – but I more than likely will just to feel the difference.
Great little pocket gun – but like any other other – PRACTICE – take it out and shoot it!! Trust me – you won’t wear it out . . . and you will gain more proficiency and confidence with the little darling!!
Have Fun! – Run the Gun! – and remember – Fish Heads are Cheap!!