Saturday, May 10, 2014

Stubby Saturdays - The Smith Wesson 637

I'm a big fan of the Smith and Wesson 66, otherwise known as the Combat Magnum.  It is an outstanding pistol in every aspect.  They are hard to find, no longer being made, so one in premium condition is going to be sought after, for many reasons.

But then again, there are other guns which may have their own uses, so I'm always open to trying something new. I'm not an expert on either firearms or this particular piece, but I wanted to share the days photos of a beautiful little well maintained firearm (exact age unknown, it's not old but it's not brand new) that was fun to get to experience (with a box of .38 special .+P loads).

This 637  belongs to a friend from International Sneaky Service who shared a couple of his favorites one day, including this Airweight double action revolver.   Compared to the steel frame stub nosed firearms  I've handled, the weight difference of the steel and aluminum framed 637 was noticeable. Another difference? The barrel.  I've owned a snubby or two but this snubby made those other barrels look like runway models.  They say that there is a gun for every purpose and a purpose for every gun.  Well this one's purpose is clear, it's concealed carry.

One person at the range said they thought the 637's were bulky compared to other J Frames. I do believe they're all the same size and I didn't find it bulky for a snubby at all.
Size wise, it is LOT smaller than the Sig 220 or  239, so much easier to conceal, small enough for a jacket pocket for someone that is not Hobbit sized.  It's also not  a gun that is so ugly you are tempted to shoot it through a brown paper bag.  It's a pretty little piece with a nice finish and rounded form.  I've not shot a "brand new out of the box" one, so I can't speak for the durability of the newest  finishes, but this one was nice and appeared to have worn well.  Besides, in firearms, I just like the look of a snubby, maybe it was the whole revolver thing, those old movies where the Humphrey Bogart would brandish a certain firearm and change the course of things. OK, he didn't have a 637 but I believe I saw a 1903/1908 Colt pocket hammerless and the Colt police special revolver in Key Largo.

Like the Single Action Army Colt or the  the M1911A1, it just has some mystique to it.

The newer 637's have an internal lock. I didn't mess with it, so no news on how it works. The newer ones  do have the flatnose hammer  though.

This firearm was purchased used.  With a very long, heavy trigger pull, I doubt it's had a trigger job.  Now granted, S & W's trigger weight is said to be set high to ensure successful ignition of any round put in the chamber, and it's been argued that reducing the weight TOO much could impact that reliability
For me anyway, the trigger job is more about smoothness, than weight   A smooth action certainly helps me stay on target.

DIY gunsmiths (usually more successful then DIY Surgeons or DIY tattoo artists) have purchased spring kits to do their own trigger jobs and there's lots of info on the web on such things for those of you so inclined.
But for the average person, new to shooting,  I'd suggest talking to a professional gunsmith who puts great value on carry firearms. You may be putting your life on the line in your "remodeled" firearm's ability to strike on target and stop an aggressive criminal..  You only want changes to your firearm that will increase those odds (so no duct taping a penlight to the top of your gun because your spouse won't let you get a laser sight).

Trigger - Fortunately I'm not one of those women who have ever come home, looked at my partner and said "Babe, do you think I need a trigger job?"  But I have had a trigger/action job on  guns I've carried concealed, and aware there are pros and cons to it, especially as it relates to making the trigger too light. Don't forget - hair triggers are a jury's best friend.  I like the fact that the trigger pull is a bit heavy; it doesn't make for pinpoint accuracy, but it does provide for an extra safety margin for a gun that may be carried outside of a conventional holster.

Grips - Grips aren't just feel and looks, but can impact concealibility and even recoil to some degree. I'm not familiar with other types for this particular S&W, but I'm sure readers may have some suggestions.  This one had Crimson Trace laser grips and all I can say is SHINY!  You may not use them at normal range distances, but when you're morning breath close (retention firing practice) they are great for maximizing accuracy. In retention shooting, this is key. Not only for the possibility of the bad guy going for your gun, but being prepared and trained to shoot in close quarters when the threat is right on top of you.
Some folks will say "why put laser grips/sights on something that you're going to shoot at very close range".  I've said it in about every self defense post I've done, you are NOT going to be attacked by a six foot paper bad guy or paper zombie  squirrel, standing directly in front of you, completely stationary until you put a hole in them.. When you are considering carrying a firearm for defense and becoming proficient with it, you must take into account that you may very well have to fire it from the most awkward, unnatural position possible (and I'm not talking about an armed robbery during your yoga class).

Laser grips WILL give you a an advantage when defending yourself from a non traditional firing position and have the everyday advantage of consistent and accurate output (think confidence and accuracy) That being said, I use iron sites, not putting  my life on the line for anything battery powered because I've not practiced my basic skill sets. Plus, in my opinion, they also make it pretty clear where you are and which one of the possibly multiple bad guys you're aiming at. Employ the switch accordingly, taking into account your own skill level, training and background.  Also take into account auditory and sensory exclusion that occurs in high stress situations, where you may not be even able to remember if you have a front sight.

But still, I'm thinking LG-405 crimson trace grips that have the "recoil-absorbing" cushion on the grip  help with the recoil without adding any width to the firearm.  If I were to buy one for myself, I'd definately consider one of their products.
Out at the Range -

The first word out of your mouth after you pull the trigger will NOT be "Uff  Da!"  It will be a bit more "salty".  Like ghost peppers,  this is not for a beginner, especially a first time shooter.  Bleeding is possible. Recoil is somewhere between "dental drill unpleasant" and "Democratic Filibuster with chainsaws".  This is a piece that must be gripped properly and once gripped you have to pay attention to your grip.   You know, those outdoor shows where the host is holding shut a pair of crocodile jaws and you think "boy I hope he doesn't loosen his grip".  Yes, that kind of paying attention to your grip.

If you give the 637 to someone a little new or shy to firearms to shoot the first time, they're not likely to shoot anything else ever.again.  Let them get a front site shaped gouge in their forehead, and you will not only  have killed any future desire to explore wingshooting,  you'll likely not regain their trust for a long time (and sleeping on the couch might be in your future, depending on the situation).

Add a short barrel with short sight radius to the 637's lighter weight and powerful ammo and the result is a weapon that is difficult to shoot well for many people, least of all, a beginner.  Painfully difficult.  Even with experience, this is not a firearm that makes me sit and think "Gee!  I can't wait to get to the range and put 100 rounds through this!"   I'd just as soon munch on a bunch of ghost peppers while getting a Brazilian Bikini Wax than do 50 rounds or more at one time.
For a first time shooter, wanting something in a compact variety in the S&W line, friends have  recommended the model 36, 40, or 60, or even a more midsized 10, 13, 64, or 65. 

Whatever you chose, practice. Shooting a few rounds through it regularly will keep you proficient for when you might have to use it, for an up close situation that needs your immediate attention.

Accuracy - at distance, shot placement is  good if  being attacked by a large dirigible,  not so good otherwise.  With practice you should be able to shoot a "not great" but "decent" group, at a distance of 20 feet or less. For this firearm, with the very long and heavy pull, a trigger job may help with the accuracy in DA, but in Single Action it was decent enough close in to get the point across.  I also noticed that, like most snubby's I've owned or tried, I am probably going to have to aim just a tiny bit low to get the shot placement where I want.

You pull the trigger, it shoots.  It doesn't get any simpler than that. This little firearm ejected without a hitch, and probably would do so all day if you were up to it (ghost peppers please!)

Cleaning - A basic leaning is pretty easy, start with the Hoppes #9  and a little bronze brush  to scrub in and around those hard to get places like the breech face and around the forcing cone. On the cylinder face some folks will soak a piece of the finest scotchbrite they can find and gently scrub it followed by a little more Breakfree CLP.  Then just wipe down the outside of the revolver with a soft clean cloth and a bit more CLP.

Some shooters will remove the cylinder for a good clean after putting a lot of rounds through it though but IO have no experience or advice on that.
If  I were to pick one up for myself,  It would be an older one.  It's just my opinion but I like the older S&W's over the newer ones. The older ones I've been privileged to get to try, were steady, reliable, guns I wished I'd owned. Getting one can be a good investment of your dollars and a good investment in self defense.  But such choices are very personal, and what I would like., someone else may not.

If you DO find one, either old or new, carry a speedloader and practice with it. If you are going to be reloading under any kind of stress, be it bad guy or weekend match with your partner watching you,  you must practice with it. You are not looking for lightning speed, but practical, quick, measured movement that is accurate and instinctive.

Practice with it, maintain it well. Squeeze some tennis balls to strength your hand and learn to curse in a variety of languages.  But in return you will get a quite "easy to pick up and conceal" piece that if loaded and well maintained, WILL go bang every time you pull the trigger.  Properly equipped,  with one of those new .38 defensive loads meant to make the most of a snub barrel, mixed into enough practice sessions so you know how it feels and where it hits, it would be hard to beat for a  up close and personal self defense piece.


  1. I've shot a SW642 with the CT laser grips. Ouch is about right, even in .38+p. One thing I do not like about the CT grips for the snubbie, is the placement of the activation switch for the laser. It's just too similar to those SF light switches that are in the same area--increased risk of an ND, especially if startled (hand grips suddenly). Yes I know that risk can be alleviated by training training training, but I much prefer the rear grip switch on the MP9FS laser grip. For me it is a lot more reliable, and I am honestly not worried about bad guys seeing my laser sight.

    My favorite snubbie for shooting though, is the old (ahem!) Taurus 605 steel .357. It's got a better trigger pull than the 642 and the weight mitigates the recoil a lot, especially in .38spl.

  2. Epic Review , protip .. Coffee burns when snorted out the nose .

  3. Yeah, those little guys have a recoil best described as "stout".

    A training friend of mine has one of the "Airweights" with a 2" (?) barrel in 357.

    He let me shoot it once for grins.

    Once was enough.....

  4. One other comment about bad breath range, is to NOT shoot one's self in an extremity when trying to cap the bad guy... Very nice report, thanks!

  5. Actually S&W just brought back the 66;

  6. Yeah, I got the Taurus equivalent.

    And a DAO in .357. That one will change your well as whomever you shoot with it. (it'll also likely catch them on fire and blind them from the flash, but that is a feature....)

    Snubbies are a last resort, but an effective last resort, if used properly.

  7. Just happen to have one of those old Smith and Wesson 66, otherwise known as the Combat Magnum, sure would take a lot of $$$$$$$$'s to pry it out of my hands. Brigd thanks for another good article.

  8. An excellent assessment of this Handgun. You point out that yes it is an effective tool, yet difficult to master.

    I have had MANY students come through classes with a brand new variant of the Airweight. The results are almost universally bad, but I at least get to tell them that before live fire.

    It does beat a stiff word and a rolled up newspaper!

    Me? I have one and it will do its job. If I do mine.

    Excellent, through review! Thanks!

  9. My son had one in .357, but it was stolen out of his car while he was in Comerica Park.
    The coos told him he should have just carried it in.
    He replaced it with the .38sp version.
    Less snap for such a light frame, which is why Scherie carries an SP101 chambered for .357, but shoots .38

  10. These snub noses of little weight , give testimony to the laws of physics , in the opposites reaction realm. One cannot shoot one without having some reaction their end. Great to carry but not ones main range gun. These are my in addition guns, always there . They have worked for years and will continue to do so for many on the future.

  11. Nice write up! I have a S&W 60-14 with a 2 inch barrel in stainless. I love the weapon but it definitely has a bite that needs some getting used to. I cannot imagine how the airweight jumps. Maybe when I am older.

  12. Brigid, I've been remiss in keeping up. Great review of a J-frame! I'm taking a class this weekend with a round-count between 800-1k; I'm using my J-frames; one steel, one Airweight. Definitely glad I reload! One needn't beat oneself or one's guns to pieces in training!

  13. Prior to transiting to a semi-auto (Sig something...), the Michigan State Police issued .38's in a cross draw holster. Epitomized the word "cumbersome".

    However, officers were also issued a S&W model 38 - Airweight Bodyguard with shrouded hammer. Aluminum blued frame with a stainless cylinder and barrel.

    And the right trouser pocket was stitched in a holster outline. A number of officers (me included), copied that.

    Still have it, Magna-ported, red ramp sight installed and satin nickle finish. Still a main carry, especially in a 511 coat...


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