The Smith & Wesson models 442 and 642 revolvers have a successful history dating back nearly 60 years. They are self-defense weapons—all the way. These two J-frame models been very popular because of their feel, practicality reliability, functionality, and performance.
The S&W 442 and 642 are practically the same gun but only differ in two minor ways. Both have a strong aluminum alloy frames and a concealed hammer. Both weigh 15 oz. and are rated for .38 Special +P ammunition. Both have the same price points—around $400 USD brand new in the box with standard boot grips.
The differences lie in the material composition of their cylinder and barrels: the 442’s are made from carbon steel, while the 642’s is machined from stainless steel. Their barrels are 1 7/8 inches long. The overall length is slightly over six inches. The cylinders are wider than most semi-autos, but the J-shape of the pistols seem to make it hide well in a variety of concealment positions. These cylinders are tightly set in the frame, so there is nothing loose about them when firing.
The S&W 442 has a blackened/blued finish andeasily concealed in purses, pockets, pockets, and other darker places, while the 642 has a silvery coloration and is more popular. These models can be carried and even fired from the pocket if the situation warranted. The most popular has been the Airweight 642, available in stainless steel or brushed aluminum and has a variety of grip styles available. Overall, the 642 has been a top seller for S&W for the past decade. Some owners say that the 442 is easier to conceal because of its blacked finish and is not as silvery as the 642.
The main reason the 642 and 442 remain top sellers are their reputation. They do everything right, right out of the box. In addition, they are purported to be among the best and more affordable self-defense tools on the market. Important features for both these models include their small size; their light weight; their ability to be concealed in a pocket, purse, or boot; their ease of shooting, and their handling of the potent .38 Special cartridge. From a personal protection perspective, if a person is looking for a conceal carry pistol, the 442 and 642 should be strongly considered.
When learning to handle a S&W 442 or 642, it is important to remember that it takes practice to develop the skills needed to be an accurate shooter. These revolvers are well balanced and feel good in the hand, but they do produce some recoil because of their small, light configuration. This is a small trade-off this level of protection. The 642 is double action only (DAO)—the hammer is cocked and then fired all with one squeeze of the trigger.
These revolvers are inherently safe, so there is no safety that may cause a person to fumble. As scary as this sounds, it is a just point and squeeze weapon. Anyone can be taught to use it with decent accuracy at short self-defense distances. Also, keep in mind that internal hammer on these models can save lives because they are snag-free. There is no need to worry about the hammer or the site catching on clothing when drawing it from holster.
The only minor criticisms from S&W 442 and 642 owners and enthusiasts are about the trigger and the front sight. Trigger enthusiasts suggest doing some additional development to make the trigger operate more smoothly right out of the box. Some 442 and 642 adopters say this can be worked out with various dry firing exercises that will remove any stacking sensation felt in a new pistol.
Some owners have modified the trigger with a kit to reduce the force required to fire—reducing the trigger pull from 12-13 lbs. to 8-9 lbs. The standard front sights are simple ramp sights. Some enthusiasts seem to be interested in an additional option of a tritium sight. This would definitely improve visibility and accuracy in low-light conditions. The rear sights are trench sights and crafted into the frame.
These two S&W variants are virtually indestructible. The quality, reliability, and dependability of these two revolvers are equal as well—very high as expected from S&W. Several owners of both S&W models consider them the perfect pocket pistols. Other manufacturers are seriously challenged to develop and market better tools than the 442 and 642.
Owners living in more humid regions of the country report these models hold up well to the humidity and seem to be more wear resistant compared to other brands. Some revolver enthusiasts just have personal preferences for the stainless steel 642 because of easier cleaning and virtually indestructible nature. Regardless, enthusiasts have a really tough time choosing between these two successful S&W products.