Saturday, May 03, 2008

Smith & Wesson Pro-60, Model 640, and Model 340
A “J” Frame Paradise

(Click on images to enlarge)

My personal favorite for carry has, over the past several years, been the small S&W “J” framed model 340. In terms of carrying a “J” frame Smith I must certainly be in good company because Smith & Wesson catalogued 36 different j-frame models for 2008. You can get one is .22LR, .22 Magnum, 38 Special +P, and .357 Magnum (their .32 H&R Magnum has apparently been discontinued). You can get them with a 1.7 inch barrel, 2.1 inch barrel, 3 inch barrel, and 5 in barrel. Most have fixed sights, but some of the 3 inch barrel models and all of the 5 inch models have adjustable rear sights. For the front sight you can get a traditional ramp (with or without the red ramp insert), Hi-Viz fiber optic, regular night sights or the larger XS Dot night sights. You can choose one in light weight Scandium, Stainless Steel or Carbon Steel that has been blued, nickel plated or a combination of blued and case color hardened. I suppose we should not leave out the grips; you can get several different styles of wood or rubber grips as well as Crimson Trace laser grips.

The main factors in making this selection for me (and I would imagine everyone else that carries a “J” frame revolver were the caliber, “carry-ability”, and short range accuracy. These are all important factors, especially the “carry-ability”—if it is uncomfortable or inconvenient to carry, you won’t.

The Scandium 340 rides very well in a pocket holster but I have found it even easier to carry with the Clip Draw device attached to it. First of all it leave my pockets free to hold the junk that normally goes in there. Secondly it did produce a somewhat noticeable but indistinguishable bulge. The linear designs of most serious semi-automatic pistols on the other hand, left a very distinguishable bulge. In three years of 340 pocket carry no one, including family, ever mentioned the bulge. The 340 with the Clip Draw carries ridiculously easy underneath an untucked polo shirt. In fact I have found that it is possible to tuck the shirt in and around the Clip Draw’s clip. Blouse the shirt slightly and the 340 is unnoticeable.

As I mentioned earlier, the main factors for carrying the 340 were also caliber and short range accuracy. Lately I have been thinking a lot about those two factors. .38 Special + Ps are fairly reasonable to handle in the Scandium frame and .357 Magnum loads are possible. I can actually shoot between one or two cylinders full of them with good short range accuracy before my involuntary muscle contractions begin to anticipate the shot and spoil the group. I would like, however to be able to shoot them well so that I can confidently move up the .357 Magnum carry. I would also like to be able to shoot well beyond the short range distances. At 21 feet I can keep the shots within the 8 ring of a normal bull’s-eye target. At 31 feet they begin to spread out and some are on the paper but off the target rings. I would like to be able to have all my shots hit a 10 inch target at 50 feet.

This led me to try the Model 360 Sc Kit Gun (reviewed on April 3, 2008). With its 3 inch barrel, Hi-Viz fiber optic front sight and adjustable rear sight I thought it might provide me that advantage. It didn’t. The accuracy was no better, in fact it was worse with some loads, than my 340 with its 1 7/8 inch barrel and fixed sights. .357s actually seemed more painful to shoot than in the shorter barreled 340.

Perhaps I needed more weight. The Scandium 340 was chosen because its 13 ounces would not weigh down my pocket. The Clip Draw attachment, however, allows me to carry a heavier handgun as the gun’s weight is supported by my belt which keeps it close in to my body. I then tried a model 640; all stainless steel and a 2.1 inch barrel.

It was easy to carry on the clip draw, shooting Magnum loads were easier, but the accuracy, while pretty good for a small revolver, provided no significant advantage over the light weight 340.

With that, I began looking for a Pro-60. This is a new revolver for Smith & Wesson this year and it took about 3 months to find one. The Pro 60 looks like the model 627 (8 round N frame .357 revolver) and the Pro 620 (6 round L frame .357 revolver) got married and had a child to produce this satin finished stainless steel 5 shot J framed revolver with a three inch barrel, front night sight, and adjustable rear sight.

This is a great looking gun; sleek and downright sexy. The extractor shroud/under lug is tapered to produce a very distinctive look that Smith & Wesson first used on their very popular model 627. The shroud also has a couple of cutouts to help reduce weight (I can’t imagine that it reduced it that much). Some gun publications are referring to this revolver as “slabsides” since the barrel is squared off and flat on each side and then rounded as it tapers up to the front sight and tapers down to the extractor shroud/under lug. I find this a very attractive, almost art deco feature. The grips are beautiful with a combination of laser etching and stippling. These are perhaps the largest grips Smith & Wesson has ever put on a J frame revolver, but alas, they are still too small for my meaty paws. With each shot of magnum ammo it was necessary to reposition my hand as the revolver has moved during recoil. This led me to replace them, as beautiful as they are, with a set of Hogue Rubber Monogrips.

Both the large original wood grips and the Monogrips are still easy to conceal with the Clip Draw device. If you decide to employ a Clip Draw attachment you need to do a little experimenting in front of the mirror and to find the spot along your beltline where the grip does not imprint as you sit down, bend over, etc.

On the range, the Pro 60 handles Magnum ammunition very well. A few loads like the Speer Gold Dot 135 grain Short Barrel .357 Magnums and the 124 grain Remington Golden Sabre Hollow Point rounds are actually pleasant to shoot. These rounds have shown good accuracy along with the traditional Remington 125 grain semi-jacketed hollow point ammo and Speer’s 158 grain Gold Dot Hollow Points.

The j-frame revolvers are still an attractive carry option. I look forward to working some more with the Pro-60 to improve my distance shooting.