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Old 01-14-2008, 21:04   #4
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III. Firearm Information by Type
B. Revolvers
2. Models and Manufacturers
e. Smith & Wesson
3. J-Frame
by Chris Luchini (
Smith & Wesson Bodyguard J-frame

The Smith and Wesson J-frame revolvers are the classic carry gun, used by police for decades as the official off duty gun. The J-frame guns are usually seen in 38 Special caliber, though both 32 H&R Magnum and 22 Long rifle and 22 Magnum versions have been made. The J-frame guns are 5 shot in 38 Special, and 6 shot in the other calibers. Most of the J-frames guns intended for carry came with 2"-3" barrels, and 'gutter' sights, where the rear sight is a gutter cut in the topstrap. Some, usually those with barrels longer than 2", were made with adjustable sights.

Notable among these J-frames intended for carry are the Airweight series, an aluminum frame 5 shot 38 Special that came with a shrouded hammer. The hammer has a sheet of metal on either side, with just a tab exposed. This reduces or eliminates the possibility that the hammer will catch on clothing, while still allowing the hammer to be manually cocked for single action fire. These Airweight guns are listed at a weight of about 12-13 oz, making them almost the lightest 38 Special guns in production.

Another variant on the J-frame is the Smith & Wesson model 40/640/940/642/442 (Centennial) The Smith and Wesson model 40 was the first of this type of revolver. It is a 5 shot 38 special revolver built on a slightly modified J-frame. It has no external hammer, and is thus double action only. The original model 40 had a grip safety, a projecting lever at the back of the grip that had to be depressed in order for the gun to fire. When Smith and Wesson reintroduced the model 640 Centennial, this grip safety was deleted. The 640 is a stainless steel gun made with modern steels, and is quite strong. The first few thousand of the 640 Centennials produced were marked at the factory as rated for +P+, however the lawyers got into the act and this marking was removed for subsequent production. This action is due to a lack of a SAMMI specificatio n for +P+ 38 Special. At least one gunsmith has offered to ream out the chambers in the 640 Centennial to allow the use of short bullet (125 grain bullet) 357 Magnum ammunition on an emergency basis. Obviously this practice is not recommended, especially since S&W has come out with the 640-1, designed for the 357 Magnum chartridge.

The 640-1 has a cylinder 0.060" longer than the 640, and the frame window is 0.090" longer. This extra clearance is to allow a greater radius on the corners of the frame window. The greater radius reduces the stress during firing, as stress tends to collect at corners. These changes have increased the weight of the gun to 23.5 oz or so. The barrel length has also increased from 1.890" to 2-1/4", allowing a full length ejector rod. The barrel also has a blued pinned in front sight blade, allowing good contrast with the stainless barrel.

Smith and Wesson plans to make these changes to all of their J-frame line in the upcoming months. I am attempting to prevail on S&W to take advantage of this changer over to rate the aluminum frame J-frames for +p ammo. If you would like to contact S&W to express a similar desire for a +p rated airweight, you can reach them at 1-800-331-0852

As of June/22/1995, some J-Frames are: Model Caliber Comments
640 38 Special Stainless, 2" barrel (3" barrel d Rated at +p, but stronger than that.
640-1 357 Magnum Stainless, 2.25" barrel.
940 9mm Stainless, 2" ( 3" discontinued)barrel. Uses full moon clips.
642 38 Special No +p ammo, Aluminum frame, bright finish, 2" barrel ~16 oz Discontinued in 1993, replaced by the 442
Note: According to Glenn Meyer, 642s are back with the Craig Spiegel rubber boot grip and as a Ladysmith with the thinner wood grip.
442 38 Special No +p ammo, Aluminum frame, finish, or bright nickel, 2" barrel ~16 oz
36/37/60 38 Special Blue/aluminum/stainless fra , 2" and 3" barrels, comes with Uncle Mikes Boot grip.
Ladysmith 36LS/60LS 38 Special Same as above, e with rosewood grips, 2" barrel only
63/651 22LR /22Mag 6 rounds, 2"/4" and 4" barr Uncle Mikes Combat grip.
Glenn Meyer writes: The snubby 651 isn't a standard model but a special run for somebody. There was a brief write-up in Guns and Ammo about it in the past two years.
38/49/649 38 Special Aluminum/blue/stainless frames, shrouded hammer, 2" barrel, Boot grips.
Happy Shooting!
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