Smith & Wesson 442

Smith & Wesson 442 Review

The gun that I’ve come to carry more than any other is the Smith & Wesson 442. While I have a handful of handguns in my carry rotation (most of which are semi-automatic 9mm pistols of varying sizes), the 442 is the pistol that I’ve come to leave the house with the most. 

Smith & Wesson 442

It’s easy-to-carry, simple, and reliable. While it’s inherently not as easy to shoot as the other guns I’ll often pack, there’s just something about the 442 (and the idea of a .38 snubnose revolver for concealed carry as a whole) that’s intrinsically trustworthy.

Maybe I’m just old school in that regard, but there’s a reason why snubnose revolvers have been around as carry weapons for 150+ years and are being carried now. 

Smith & Wesson’s 442 is supremely reliable and easy-to-carry. Notice the lack of the internal safety lock on this model.

In any case, I’d like to introduce you to the 442 if you’re not familiar with it already, and then we’ll dive into some of the philosophy for why it’s a viable carry option in today’s world.

What is the Smith & Wesson 442?

The 442 is, plain and simple, a five-shot ‘hammerless’ DAO (double action only) snubnose revolver. It has an aluminum frame and a black finish with a blued carbon steel cylinder. The stainless steel counterpart is called the Model 642. I preferred the look of the 442’s black over the 642’s silver, which is why I went with the former. Either one works equally as well. 

The 442 is technically an advancement of Smith & Wesson’s earlier 42 Centennial Airweight, which was released to the public in the early 1950s. The two guns look extremely similar at first glance, but with the 42 came standard with distinctive wood grips and a grip safety that had to be depressed for the gun to fire, similar to a 1911. Personally, I don’t think that’s necessary on a DAO snubnose revolver where the trigger pull is already so heavy. 

In the early 1990s, Smith & Wesson opted to update their line of J-Frame revolvers (essentially the smallest revolvers they offered), and the 442 and the 642 were both born. They continue to be produced and sell well today. 

Options for the 442

The 442 and 642 have both been among Smith & Wesson’s best selling firearms for years now. It’s not hard to see why. Anyone who decides to carry a .38 snubnose will find themselves naturally drawn to these guns (yourself included, since you’re reading this article). 

Focusing on the 442, Smith & Wesson currently produces a few variants. The standard model comes installed with an internal safety lock on the side of the frame that I absolutely detest.

Unfortunately, Smith & Wesson produces all of their revolver models with this safety lock. But in the case of their hammerless revolvers, they also produce variants that lack the safety lock feature. When I went in to purchase my 442, I specifically requested the model without the lock. Interestingly enough, it was slightly less expensive than the model with the lock. 

Options for the 442
The 442 carries only five rounds, but this allows a smaller cylinder. 

The purpose of the safety lock is for someone to lock the gun so it cannot be operated. The idea is that if a child or a burglar finds the gun, it will be inoperable. The issue I have is I don’t want to find myself in a situation where I need to use a ‘locked’ gun in an emergency but have lost the key. And while it’s easy to pretend that the lock doesn’t exist, I have heard of isolated incidents with the lock becoming accidentally engaged on its own. I know that’s extremely rare, but regardless, I just feel better having a gun without a safety lock on it for self-defense.  

Smith & Wesson also produces a couple of ‘Performance Center’ 442s. One of these guns comes with Crimson Trace laser grips installed on the gun, while others come with a cut in the cylinder that allows the loading of moon clips to facilitate faster reloads. 

Why the 442?

The first question that needs to be asked is: why a .38 snubnose?

I believe that for all its intrinsic limitations, there are still many reasons to carry a .38 snubnose revolver in today’s world. 

Yes, capacity is limited and reloading is slow, so they may not be the best tools of self-defense against multiple attackers. The factory trigger pulls are always heavy, and recoil can be stout especially when shooting self-defense +P ammunition. 

But a .38 snubnose shines in many more areas. For instance, it permits you to make a ‘contact shot’ if necessary. This means if an attacker were to be in extremely close proximity and physically grappling with you, you could take out a .38 snubnose and fire the gun by pressing it into the body of the other person without having to worry about a slide becoming pressed out of battery. 

Most notably, the .38 snubnose so inherently reliable and inspires a high degree of confidence. I ended up with the S&W 442 for exactly that reason. In 2017, I decided that I wanted a small pocket pistol for self-defense. I decided to go with a .380 semi-automatic, eventually ending up with the Ruger LCP II.

Why the 442
The 442 is an excellent choice for a .38 snubnose revolver. I’ve been carrying mine faithfully since 2017.

While very small and surprisingly pleasant to shoot for a pocket-sized .380, the LCP II I bought initially produced a mountain of reliability issues, including failures-to-feed and failures-to-eject. I sent the gun back to Ruger, who promptly replaced several components before shipping it back to me. My LCP II has thankfully run perfectly fine ever since, so I guess I just got a lemon out of the box. 

But my faith in the idea of packing a pocket-sized .380 or similar caliber automatic was shaken. In the interim of having my LCP II replaced, I turned to the idea of carrying a .38 snubnose revolver. I was inherently drawn to the 442 from the start and went with it, again making sure to go with the non-safety lock variant. 

Again, my LCP II has been a flawless shooter since Ruger got it fixed. But I’ve found myself packing the 442 as my pocket pistol ever since. 

Carrying and Shooting the 442

Earlier I said the 442 is the gun that I’ve come to carry more than any other. I carry the gun in a Galco Pocket Protector holster. This holster has proven to be very high quality and so far really isn’t any worse for wear after more than six years of extensive use. 

I routinely pack the 442 in my pocket, with the ‘hooked’ design of the holster preventing it from being pulled out of your pocket when you draw the gun. Sometimes, I’ll even place the 442 in the Galco Pocket Protector in my waistband. Believe it or not, even though the holster does not have a clip or loops to secure to my belt, it remains firmly snug under my waistband. The reason for this is because of the material of the holster as well as that same ‘hook’ playing a role here as well. 

I can go about my entire day with the 442 in the Pocket Protector and fitting snugly in my waistband, and it doesn’t move around hardly at all. Granted, I have to ensure that my belt is a bit tight to facilitate this, but it can be done. 

The Galco Pocket Protector holster goes everywhere my 442 goes.

In my opinion, the 442 serves two roles extremely well: as a pocket gun that you can ‘take everywhere,’ and as a backup gun. The 442 and 642 have both been extremely successful as backup guns for law enforcement officers, and can easily fit this role for civilians as well. 

The 442 is not a fun range gun. It produces stout recoil, especially when shooting self-defense loads.

Nonetheless, it’s a gun you must practice with if you’re going to carry it. I’ve come to realize that the best way to manage the 442 is to hold the gun tightly in your hands and to simply get used to the heavier trigger after repeated practice. You’ll learn to get a feel for how the heavy trigger works and to properly anticipate when it will go off. The 442 is far from my favorite gun for shooting, but I’ve gotten a lot more used to the trigger that it’s almost second nature now.  



Make no mistake, the 442 is an excellent carry gun that’s dependable to the core. It can go with you everywhere and is always there for when you need it. 

But at the same time, this is not a beginner-friendly gun. Too many people make the mistake of practicing with a larger gun that’s easier to shoot and then packing a smaller gun that they don’t shoot often, and you don’t want to be one of those people. 

You’ll have to invest a lot of practice into the 442 in order to truly become proficient with it. Then again, that’s something that’s true for any lightweight .38 snubnose, so if you’re willing to put in the practice, don’t let that hinder you from carrying it. 

If you’ve decided you want to carry a .38 snubnose, the 442 is an excellent choice. Just be prepared to put in the time and effort at the range with it, because it will pay off dividends if the time ever comes to use it.  


How Much is a Smith and Wesson 442-1?

The cost of a Smith and Wesson 442-1 varies depending on the retailer and region. It is positioned in the mid-range price category, offering a balance of affordability and quality. Interested buyers should consult authorized dealers or visit the official Smith & Wesson website for specific pricing and availability.

What’s the Difference Between Smith and Wesson 442 and 642?

The primary difference lies in their finishes: the 442 has a blued finish, while the 642 features a stainless steel finish. Both models are J-Frame revolvers, renowned for their compact size, reliability, and are chambered in .38 Special. They are virtually identical in size, weight, and functionality, but the finish differentiates them aesthetically and in terms of maintenance.

What Caliber is a Smith & Wesson 442?

The Smith & Wesson 442 is chambered in .38 Special. This caliber is known for its balance of power and recoil, making it a preferred choice for both novice and experienced shooters. The 442’s capability to handle +P ammunition enhances its versatility and appeal for self-defense purposes.

What is a 442 Gun?

The 442 gun refers to the Smith & Wesson Model 442, a compact, five-shot revolver chambered in .38 Special. Known for its lightweight, snag-free design, it is particularly popular for concealed carry and self-defense. Its ability to fire powerful +P ammunition, coupled with its reliability and ease of use, underscores its prominence in the realm of personal protection firearms.

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