By Dan Kidder
Managing Editor

The J Frame revolver has been a staple of Smith & Wesson for decades. These small and lightweight revolvers are easy to conceal, simple to operate, and have a proven design that has often been imitated, but never been matched.

The Smith & Wesson Pro Series offers the highest level of quality available from production guns.
The Smith & Wesson Model 642 marries the reliability and ease of carry of the J frame with the Smith & Wesson Pro Series.

Encased in an Airweight aluminum alloy frame, the stainless cylinder holds up to five .38 Special +P rounds. While these rounds pack a heck of a lot of recoil with a light weight gun, they also deliver devastating stopping power to any bad guy on the other end. The 642 has a shrouded hammer to prevent snagging on the draw and to make deep inside the waistband concealment more comfortable. This makes the pistol a double action only revolver, and requires a longer and heavier trigger pull than a single action pistol would. For a self defense gun, and this gun was definitely designed for that, you want a positive trigger to avoid accidental discharges.

Reminiscent of the old Chief’s Special, the Model 642 is an ideal weapon for a beginner shooter who needs a no frills gun without external mechanical controls such as safeties and de-cocking levers. It is also ideal for those who have limited strength and mobility in their hands who may not be able to operate a slide on a semi-auto.

Even though this gun is an ideal beginners gun, it is not even remotely limited to beginners. Even hardcore shooters and federal agents use this gun as a back up to their duty weapons, and many carry them off duty as their primary weapon.

I enjoyed putting rounds through this gun, firing a box of +P and regular lighter loads through it, and found the accuracy was exceptional for a gun with less than a 2-inch barrel. The trigger was stiff, but smooth and offered excellent controllability.

Its 15 ounces made it a handful to shoot with a small two finger hold on the synthetic grip, but by no means did it feel unstable. For what it is designed to do, this little pistol delivers and upholds the reputation of the Smith & Wesson J Frame.