I’ve been eyeballing 357 Magnum J-frames for years now. Assuming memory serves me right, I wanted an air weight J-frame about a year before I set eyes on the 329PD. The acquisition of the 329 increased my desire for an air weight J-frame even more. However, many folks warned me against it. They said it was too light and the recoil, especially with 357 Magnum, would be too painful and not fun to shoot. I listened and put off the air weight J-frame over and over again. A few months ago, I decided that I wanted a 357 J-frame as a backup gun or a deep concealment gun. Given the parameters and what I had learned since I first coveted a J-frame in addition to the warnings against the air weight, I decided on a Model 640. More specifically, I decided on a Performance Center Pro Series Model 640 since it would meet my needs and wants while also satiating my curiosity for getting my hands on a S&W revolver that had been through S&W’s performance center. Getting my hands on one was challenging, but I managed to do it and here we are.
The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for this 640 is $939. Street price is a little hard to gauge right now since this little wheel gun is a little hard to come by, but I was able to find a factory new offering on Gun Broker for $819. However, I’ve seen listings available which were north of the $939 MSRP. I will also add that I’m not entirely convinced the gun that I received was actually factory new, but a cleaned up barely used and relatively new stock revolver. More on this in a bit, but it’s worth noting that this is the gamble that we make when using a listing service website like Gun Broker to source firearms.
So what can one expect to receive for the nine or so hundred dollar bills one has to dish out for this little blaster? Well, one gets:
- The revolver itself,
- a classic blue S&W hard-sided foam-padded case,
- a manual,
- a cable lock,
- and three (3) moon clips.
Let’s take a closer look at the little 22.2 ounce 6.6” long J-frame revolver.
Starting at the muzzle we have the stainless steel barrel shroud which has been fluted and houses the 2.125” stainless steel barrel. On the top of the shroud we have a dovetail tritium night sight. The 357 Magnum cartridge designation is found on the left side of the shroud near the bottom on the opposite side of where the ejector rod nestles into the shroud and makes contact with a lock up detent.
Following the barrel shroud, we find the J-frame. The J-frame is the smallest revolver frame offered by Smith & Wesson today. This one in particular is made from stainless steel which is supposed to have a satin finish. Perhaps I’m not well versed in finishes, but the finish on his particular revolver doesn’t scream satin to me. Rather it seems to me like somebody started working on a polished finish and then stopped. The finish along with some other markings, which looked to me as cleaned up indications of wear, made me question whether or not this revolver was actually factory new. The seller, whom I contacted, stood by it being new and mentioned that some new stock from S&W hasn’t had the best finishing on it. I also contacted S&W who confirmed this particular revolver was manufactured in September 2022 based on the serial number. I may never know for sure whether or not the revolver was factory new, but that’s neither here nor there. Let’s continue on with the tour of the revolver.
On top of the frame is the rear dovetail tritium night sight which completes the aiming system. In the center, is the five chamber cylinder which is cut out to accept moon clips. The moon clips aren’t necessary for operation, but can aid in ejecting spent magnum cases which the short ejector rod may not be able to completely eject from the cylinder. Additionally, the moon clips can make reloading faster without the use of a speed loader. The typical S&W push forward cylinder release is located just behind the cylinder on the left side.
At the bottom of the frame, we arrive at the trigger guard which surrounds the trigger. The 640 features a concealed hammer, sometimes this is referred to as a hammerless design, which means double action is the only way this revolver can be operated as there is no exposed hammer that can be thumb cocked. I used to turn up my nose at concealed hammer designs because it removed the single action option. However, I’ve come to appreciate the design quite a bit as it greatly reduces the chance of snagging when drawn from concealment and double action shooting is pretty much the norm when putting good shots on one or more targets quickly is of the essence. The trigger pull is exceptionally heavy. I’m not sure exactly how heavy given the trigger gauge I have tops out at 12 lbs and that wasn’t enough to cycle the action. The action is okay. It’s not as smooth as I had hoped given this is a Performance Center edition revolver, but it’s very usable. It’s very likely that I will send this revolver to a gunsmith for a trigger and spring job to smooth it out and lighten it up a little.
The stock is outfitted with a synthetic grip which surrounds the sides and the front of the stock but leaves the rear and the bottom of the stock exposed.I had initial concerns that this might present some discomfort when shooting. Much to my surprise, I didn’t experience any discomfort while shooting the revolver at all. The synthetic material is comfortable, but the texture doesn’t offer much in terms of grip. Also the small stock is only large enough to accommodate a two finger shooting grip and leaves the pinky finger floating. The small size and lack of grippy texture can present a challenge in maintaining a good firing grip when shooting rapidly. This is exacerbated when firing 357 magnum loads rather than 38 special loads. Thankfully there are a number of aftermarket grip options available to choose from that may add a pinky shelf or offer more aggressive grip textures.
That’s the Model 640 revolver in a nutshell. In terms of shootability, the little revolver was a lot more pleasant to shoot than I originally expected. Don’t get me wrong, small handguns are challenging to shoot. There isn’t a lot to hold on to which can make recoil management difficult. In some cases, especially with light weight firearms, the recoil can be uncomfortable if not downright painful. These shooting characteristics can make shooting small handguns unpleasant which in turn can discourage practicing and training with them. The 640 was far from unpleasant to shoot especially with 38 Special loads. The recoil was very manageable. I suspect the little 22 ounce heft of the pistol had a bit to do with that. I will note that I found myself readjusting my grip between shots with 357 magnum loads quite often.
Another thing to add is that it does take some effort to press the heavy double action trigger without disturbing the sight picture. As such, it will take a fair amount of dry and live fire practice to develop proficiency with it.
At the end of the day, I think this pistol makes a great option for concealed defensive carry. In my opinion, it’s a fantastic candidate for a backup gun and lends itself well for ankle or pocket carry in a suitable, high quality holster. It may also be suitable as a primary defensive gun when deep concealment is the only option. Although, I strongly believe a modern semi automatic pistol with more capacity is a better option. I would also say the 640 is not the best option as a first handgun as a larger handgun will have an easier learning curve and will be more fun to shoot. Nevertheless, it is a wonderful little revolver.