Smith & Wesson J Frame Revolver Combo ~ Gun Reviews & Video

Guns writer Josh Wayner reviews the classic brother-on-brother rivalry between two Smith & Wesson J-frame turret.

S&W J Frame Revolver Combo

Josh Wayner

United States of America – (Ammoland.com) – Once upon a time there were two J-frames. Although they were brothers, they weren’t quite alike. One of them was a big little gun, always powerful and packed with the latest features. The other was slender and feathered, but secretly held three more shots with hardly any recoil.

This is the story of two Smith & Wesson J-Frame Double Action Only revolvers that are as different as two guns could be while being, say, brothers.

The first of our little Smith & Wesson J-frame revolver friends is the 43-C and I can tell you for sure that it is one of the lightest guns I have ever fired.

Smith & Wesson J-Frame Model 43 C RevolverSmith & Wesson J-Frame Model 43 C Revolver

The Smith & Wesson J Frame Model 43 C Revolver is so light it literally feels like a ceramic replica when you pick it up. With the lighter than factory Hogue G10 handles with a full .22LR cylinder, the little beauty comes in at just under 11 ounces. It feels a lot lighter than it weighs. In fact, my phone, a Motorola Moto Z, feels like it weighs more in my pocket and hand than the gun, even though it weighs 8 ounces with the camera attached.

The frame of the 43-C is carefully crafted in a matte black finish that is both abrasion resistant and attractive. It is noteworthy that almost the entire weapon is made of aluminum, including the aluminum cylinder. The weapon also has steel parts, including the barrel and lock. Both the frame and the cylinder have a unique fluting compared to the more conventional J-frame models.

A deep channel is incorporated along the trigger guard and the back of the handle, which further reduces the weight and at the same time increases the appearance of the pistol. The bottom ends in a unique feature – a wrist strap. I think it’s a great addition as it really highlights the point that S&W looked at every nook and cranny of this fine little gun.

The barrel of the gun is a standard 1 7/8 inch like most of their blunt revolvers, but with one curious exception. The muzzle of the weapon essentially has a recessed crown with a polished and machined interior that gives the appearance of gun barrels. It is what I would call a “fake muzzle” because it does what many small but deadly animals do, making themselves appear bigger than they are to intimidate predators.

Aiming of the Smith & Wesson J-Frame Model 43 C revolver is achieved by a large white dot front sight and a rounded notch tail. The gun shows of course and is very easy to use. The cylinder holds eight .22LR rounds and compared to its “big” brother, the 43-C has practically no recoil. It’s really easy to shoot and would make a great weapon for virtually any end user, whether it be a trail pistol, a buddy pistol for jogging, or just a daily companion.

S&W J-Frame visors model 43-C (left) and model 640 Performance Center (right)S&W J-Frame visors model 43-C (left) and model 640 Performance Center (right)

I carried the S&W 43-C wheel pistol in a number of ways and found it was practically unnoticed so I thought I had lost it on the way only to find it was still in my pocket where I left it.

A .22LR like this one isn’t necessarily ballistically disabled. Time and circumstances allowed only two loads to be tested. Both were fired through an Oehler 35P chronograph five feet from the muzzle at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Results are an average of ten shots.

  • Federal 40gr Match HP Small Game – 930fps
  • 40gr federal gold medal – 987 fps

I recently tested a .22LR with a much longer barrel and was delighted to find that the 43-C didn’t lose anything and actually shot a little faster with the gold medal load. The accuracy was tested on paper at a distance of three meters. My special test shot at this range and the follow-up were quick and easy to make.

Smith & Wesson Performance Center Pro Series Model 640 revolver

Smith & Wesson Performance Center Pro Series Model 640 revolverSmith & Wesson Performance Center Pro Series Model 640 revolver

The other side of our Smith & Wesson J-Frame revolver coin is the Smith & Wesson Performance Center Pro Series Model 640 Revolver in .357 Magnum. This is what most people would refer to as a “snub” revolver, but it’s far more than that. The 640 is like a standard 642 on steroids. The barrel length is 2.125 “instead of the typical 1 7/8”, which gives the weapon the appearance of a much larger weapon than it is.

Smith & Wesson Performance Center Pro Series Model 640 Revolver in .357 MagnumSmith & Wesson Performance Center Pro Series Model 640 Revolver in .357 Magnum

The first thing you will notice about the gun when compared directly to the 43-C is its weight. The 640 comes loaded at 24oz, which is twice as much as the 43-C! Yes, it might seem strange that there could be such big differences between two guns that fit pretty much in the same holster, but that’s Smith & Wesson’s expertise at work. These people make revolvers and for me there is no other revolver manufacturer out there.

The 640 is essentially the Cadillac from S&W J-Frames as every single feature has been smoothly polished to a slightly matt but reflective finish. Almost every part of the revolver 640 is made of stainless steel. This is and always will be a fantastic material for making guns, especially guns as beautiful as the 640. The trigger is Performance Center tuned and easily glides while you use it. There is no crunch or clink of burn marks. The trigger moves in sync with the cylinder and, well, everything looks so perfect in motion.

The weight of the gun dampens the thrilling recoil of the .357 Magnum. To help me control the gun under recoil, I installed a very attractive set of Hogue Piranha grips. These are indispensable in a modern carry revolver and also look stunning.

The pistol is loaded either by inserting loose cartridges or a preloaded 5-round full moon clip. This is a particularly quick option and I would highly recommend carrying extra ammo this way. The gun showed no reliability problems with the moon clips or loose cartridges.

Smith & Wesson Performance Center Pro Series Model 640 revolver on the left, on our Smith & Wesson J-Frame revolversSmith & Wesson Performance Center Pro Series Model 640 revolver left, on our featured S&W J Frame revolvers

Unlike most comparable snub revolvers, the 640 has adjustable night sights. This is a pretty interesting addition to such a weapon as the 640 has no way of firing from single action. I’ll admit I wasn’t used to using a visor like this on weapons as small as this, but I adjusted and soon found that it was just as accurate as I’d hoped. I took my time, firing slowly, getting ten shots within an inch of seven meters over and over.

This is a Smith & Wesson Performance Center gun, and it certainly shoots like one.

I’ve tested several fine ammunition offerings in the .357 Magnum and .38 Special. The test conditions were the same as at 43-C.

  • Hornady 110gr Critical Defense .38SPL – 872fps
  • Hornady 135gr Critical Duty .357 Mag – 1154fps
  • Hornady 158gr XTP .357 Mag – 1098fps
  • Sig Sauer 125gr FMJ .357 Mag – 1297fps

I will say this is not an acoustically friendly weapon to shoot with. Sig’s ammunition range was what I would call very accurate and easy to fire, but so loud that I thought about doubling up on hearing protection. All loads were carried out with the same reliability and accuracy. The Hornady offerings are a modern staple for most people and I believe that Sig ammo will soon find its place in most shooters’ closets as it is very high quality.

You would do yourself a favor by trying it out on your .357 Mag, or maybe your new 640.

Smith & Wesson J-Frame Revolver

Now is the time to end our little story of two Smith & Wesson J-Frame revolvers. Smith & Wesson has managed to lead the industry when it comes to introducing new materials and modular designs, and these two revolvers are no different. It’s a rarity to find two products from the same company that are so radically different and yet so similar. In fact, you could certainly be carrying one of these fine weapons and not be at a loss. With the 43-C and the Performance Center 640, Smith & Wesson has two real winning pairs.

I want to thank the nice people at Smith & Wesson, as well as Hogue, Hornady, Sig Sauer, and Federal for making this article possible.

About Josh Wayner:

Josh Wayner has been writing in the arms industry for five years. He is an active competitive shooter with 14 Camp Perry medals. In addition to working with firearms, Josh enjoys working with animals and researching conservation projects in his home state of Michigan.

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