The Smith & Wesson 642 revolver is built on the company’s iconic J-Frame that made the Model 40 a popular choice for concealed carry and self-defense. It was first offered in 2003 and came with a number of modern upgrades its 1950s predecessor didn’t wear, although the primary mission remained the same.
With improvement in modern bullet performance, these .38 Spl.-chambered firearms are arguably more effective then ever, one of many reasons it yet again made GunBroker’s annual top-10 list of popular wheelguns.
To start, it’s lightweight but durable, thanks to an aluminum-alloy frame and stainless steel cylinder and barrel. Operation is double-action-only and its hammer is concealed to reduce the chances of it hanging up on clothing or straps during presentation. It’s not bulky, either. Acquiring a sight picture is fast when the barrel is only 1 7/8 inches. Cylinder capacity is five cartridges and all models of 642 can handle +P loads.
There are more than a dozen varieties of the Smith & Wesson 642 offered by the factory today. Some come with the tune-ups from the company’s legendary Performance Center, while others are cosmetic enhancements that acknowledge the growing diversity of gun owners. Front sights, regardless of model, are integral and cannot be adjusted. It’s the same at the rear, which makes those that now come with lasers a great option.
Prices are another reason the revolver is so popular. A Model 642 (lightweight) has an MSRP of only $477. The 642 Ladysmith, with Robin’s Egg Blue grips sets you back $489. Step up to a Performance Center improved action and cost is $545. Equipped with lasers, either Crimson Trace or Lasermax and MSRP comes in at $704 and $539, respectively.
Add the famed reliability and it’s little wonder the firearm rated No. 5 on GunBroker’s list of most popular revolvers last year. It did slip a couple notches though, having finished third in 2018.