A relative asked me yesterday what I thought about nice-looking .38 Special revolver he was looking to obtain for his wife as her first carry gun. It was a Smith & Wesson hammerless with a grip-activated laser, like this one.
I’m familiar with Smith & Wesson J-frame like the 642, having carried the hammered version of the same basic gun for a concealed carry article I wrote in 2008.
While I enjoy the gun for what it is, I told him what I know from both personal experience and from reading those I trust.
This is an expert’s gun, and not a gun for beginners.
The recoil with any decent defensive load in a lightweight alloy-framed gun is sharp, and shooting more than a box of ammunition can be punishing. Combine the light weight and heavy recoil with blinding muzzle blast, a long DAO trigger pull and a nearly nonexistent sight radius, and you have the “perfect storm” of nearly every factor that can keep someone from developing proficiency with a handgun.
I cannot and will not recommend a snub-nosed revolver, unless the person in question has serious physical limitations that simply prevent them from using a semi-auto as a carry weapon, such as the lack of hand strength to cycle a slide.
The recent developments in “pocket nines” with better sights, longer sight radius, more ammo capacity and better concealability should all but kill the need for snub-nosed revolvers.
Want is another story entirely…