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Sunday, November 11, 2018

This (Almost Impossible to Detect, High-Power Pocket-Rocket, Multi-Round Capacity, Rapid-Fire, Saturday Night Special Forces Tactical Assault Weapon of Choice for Lawmen and Gangsters) S&W Model 442 Snub-Nose .38 Revolver is 25-Years-Old.



"Its withering firepower is limited only by the amount of ammo that a shooter can carry and the speed at which a shooter is able to reload the five-round cylinder."
(Just poking fun at a few of the tired anti-gun pejoratives and exaggerations)

Why on earth run a humble snub-gun?  What's it like?  This CLICK HERE offers a taste. 

After a quarter of a century of good behavior (never harmed a soul) this S&W Model 442 shows some age and wear.  The stocks (grips), once glossy and soft (albeit with a somewhat irritating pocket-grabbing tackiness) are now hard, dry, and scarred.  The replacement grips (stocks) currently offered for sale at S&W are not properly clearanced for use with speed-loaders so I'll just keep latching my old hand onto these comfy old things.





Yeah, this S&W Model 442 airweight revolver (the older of these two) was a seductively sleek blue-black beauty when I first saw it sitting on the store's new-gun shelf back in 1993.  I was in my early forties back then and no stranger to the gun culture.  I just had to have it.

Unsurprisingly, the revolver's finish now shows holster-wear along the proud areas of the frame, cylinder, and barrel.  Still, as I look in the mirror, I wish I had aged as well, both functionally and cosmetically.  Will I ever send this revolver in for refinishing?  Nah, those blemishes were earned honestly and are now part of this little revolver's charm.  Are my age-related imperfections equally charming?  Heh ... not so much as a chance ...

It is an "often carried, lightly fired" handgun, having burned through only around 2,000 rounds total over these many years, and it has only maybe 1,000 or so dry-fire trigger pulls (NOTE: The trigger pull is much smoother and a bit lighter now than when brand new).  The first year-and-a half that I owned it was the period of the most intense live-fire use, with the first half-dozen range visits being mostly uneventful 100-round sessions (usually firing 130-grain FMJ range fodder) followed by the sessions when I negligently used a total of 350-rounds of +P ammo (not approved for the 442 by S&W back then).  How the living hell did I manage to do that?  Well, once I purchased what I thought to be four fifty-round boxes of standard pressure 110-grain Winchester Silvertip Hollowpoints (I was trying to find a smooth ride on a self-defense load) and I wasn't paying attention to the markings on each box (neither was the store clerk who fetched the boxes for me) ... I later found that half of the rounds purchased (and subsequently fired) were +P.  Not too very long after that, I made the same mistake with four fifty-round boxes of 125-grain Federal Nyclad Hollowpoints; two of the fifty-round boxes were standard pressure and two of the fifty-round boxes were +P.  While the difference in noise and felt recoil between the +P and standard loads mentioned above was not unmistakably apparent, my final (and my most physically painful) +P misadventure is storied below.





Few (if any) of the gunhands who have ever triggered a standard pressure 158-grain lead roundnose cartridge off in an airweight J frame revolver will remember the recoil as anything less than "stout."  It becomes manageable after some practice, but most shooters will take it off the shopping list ASAP and forever look for something lighter.  After my first couple of sessions with it, I tried to avoid it as much as possible, but on this one occasion ( IIRC, late 1994 - early 1995) most local store were sold-out of .38 Special ammo for one reason or another so I settled on what was available.  





I asked for non+P  and I was told it was non+P.  Nowhere on the store's four remaining boxes of .38 Special ammunition did it say anything about +P; I bought all four boxes.  Each round that I fired during the following range session was a hand-bashing WTF moment.  This was the most recoil, muzzle-flash, and noise I ever experienced with this revolver, before or since.  At the time, I thought maybe I was becoming a recoil-sensitive wimp so I toughed it out and suffered through 150-rounds during this single session.  The cylinder of the 442 was so HOT that it was a while before I could touch it long enough to eject the final empties.  When I discovered the reason why this load seemed so disagreeable, I was worried that it might have caused terminal damage to the revolver (which survived admirably, perhaps miraculously ... from then on I moderated my range time with this revolver and strictly minimized the power of the loads used).





I kept this one full box as a souvenir to remind me that, regardless of what the outside of the cartridge box says, ALWAYS LOOK CLOSELY AT THE HEADSTAMP ON THE CARTRIDGES.

I was puzzled that I had not previously found a box of +P ammo that was NOT marked +P SOMEWHERE on the outside.  Unbeknownst to me then, "HIGH VELOCITY" printed on ammo boxes meant "+P" and was from a period of time before they standardized on tagging the boxes "+P."





Very recently I found the key to deciphering the lot number of this +P ammo.

Production Line = 17
Shift = B
Year = 1976
Day of Year = 40 (AKA February 9)

This ammo was from a different era; it was from the mid 1970's which was a time when SAAMI (founded in 1926) was still kinda fluid about the high-end of power for .38 Special loads; the testing methods and rating standards were somewhat in flux.  It was a time when many (most?) cops still carried full size service revolvers and the need for milking the last ounce of whack from the .38 Special was of paramount importance because some thought it was politically incorrect for the good-guys to be using .357 Magnum loads against the bad guys.  

Apparently this old-school mid-1970's vintage +P ammo was on the civilian market in the early 1990's after languishing for years in warehouses as law enforcement agencies incrementally transitioned from wheel guns to auto-loaders.  It is possible that this batch of +P ammo is indeed hotter than the hot loads of today.  Then again, when I shoot an airweight revolver with 158-grain +P nowadays I use a two-handed hold, and that may be the reason why it SEEMS to feel nowhere near as nasty as it seemed during the time when I was shooting these +P holdovers from yesteryear while using only one hand. 



Monday, November 5, 2018

Boot Grips on the Smith & Wesson 640-1 .357 Magnum

Above left is the 640-1 .357 Magnum.  Above right is the 640 no-dash .38 Special.
Both now have the new S&W branded boot grips.
This is the third set of stocks (grips) that I have tried on the 640-1.





Photo above shows the set of grips (stocks) that came with the revolver ... I believe they are Sile's.  Firing magnum loads were manageable with those big honking grips ... heh, I'll even go as far as to say those "great-balls-of-fire" loads were sometimes even fun to shoot.  Insofar as concealed carry, well ... even with well-thought-out covering garments and bespoke holsters, those grips still left impolite telltale bulges.  ("PRINTING" is not illegal in Illinois ... just as long as the handgun is concealed AND I am licensed, no problem legally ... but if someone guesses correctly that the bulge is a gun and decides to make a scene and call in the gendarmes ... or smash my brains in from behind in order to steal the gun, life could get unpredictable)





Above left shows the second set of grips I tried on the 640-1.  My accuracy was better with the fugly Sile's grips but I did get used to shooting with these after a while.  They do look "cooler" than the Sile's but do not conceal any better.   In pants pocket carry the bulges caused by these grips could be mistaken for some sort of a mutant boner; in this day of #HIMTOO! ... well ... such misidentification could be a bad thing.





So now this .357 looks and carries pretty much like any other boot-gripped S&W J Frame.  Pocket carry is just fine.





Any position of belt carry, inside or outside the waistband, is just fine.





Carry with any shoulder holster is just fine.
So only one issue remained rattling around the voids inside my brain; 
"Howzit feel chootin' MAGAnumbs wearin' doze bootz?"





(Target above set at 21-feet (7-yards))
Even with what I consider to be the low end of .357 magnum power, the 110-grain semi-jacketed hollowpoints, the extra noise and recoil (above that of a regular boot-gripped Model 640 shooting .38 Special +P 158-grain LSWCHP) proved distracting (to me).  My initial slow-fire effort was telling.  My first two rounds were high of point-of-aim into the nine-ring, and then I tossed the third round high and to the left into the eight-ring;  obviously, I flinched.  I put the revolver down and repeated the gentle advice my parents and teachers gave me throughout my early life ,"Get yer shit together, ya DUMBASS!"  I then picked up the revolver and tossed the next two rounds below point of aim; I was anticipating the blast and recoil ... not a good thing.  I decided to suspend the use of magnum loads until I have the time and mental focus to work through the nuances.  Hey, maybe .357 Magnums in booted steel J frames isn't gonna work for me ... I found magnums to be ridiculous (for me) in the ultra-lightweight scandium J frames ... your mileage may vary.

Moving on to more of a rapid fire mode with "Eagle red-box" 130-grain FMJ .38 Special loads (somewhat hotter than many / most other brands of 130-grain range fodder but still seeming to have less snort than 158-grain +P carry loads), my second target (not shown) was 5-rounds each at 5-yards, 7-yards, and 10-yards.  Every round was "on paper and in the numbers" but that's the best that I can say about it; distance amplified my suckiness.  I then decided to do some work at my threshold of suckiness, 21-feet (7-yards).





(Target above set at 21-feet (7-yards))
My first couple of cylinders or so were a frustrating spray of wasted ammo and effort.  Out of a sarcastic moment when I targeted the X and dry-fired a dozen times while uttering "Come on you degenerate old man, it's as easy as THAT!" came an epiphany ...  a voice from beyond ... "Hey, dude!  Remember way back when you were doing all of THOSE DRYFIRE DRILLS?  That's when you did your best shooting ..."

Sooooooo I started to shoot five, click five, reload.  Shoot five, click a dozen, reload 3 chambers, empty brass in 2, spin cylinder ... bang, click, click, bang, bang, click etc. 

Golly, it is amazing how soon a basic drill can bring back the joy of tearing ragged holes into the center of a target.  

Anyhoo, tuning myself up into using magnum loads with this revolver looks to be a slow road; perhaps it is destined to be just another .357 that will be eternally stoked with .38 +P loads.  Does it make a difference in the real world?  IMHO, if magnum loads offer any functional defensive edge in these short barreled spin-guns, it is marginal.  If being louder and flashier when fired is an edge, then this gun has it.





A Tip of the Hat to 5 Star Firearms in Zion, Illinois.  Thank you for having Senior Discount Mondays for all of the gunslinging old men and women.  It means a lot to us.