Smith & Wesson has been making small lightweight revolvers in various calibers for years. The Chiefs Special has been the quintessential five-shot revolver for decades. There are certainly many others out there, but most are compared in one form or another to the venerable Model 60 five-shot .38 Special revolver, or Chiefs Special. It is still carried to this day by many professionals as either a primary or secondary weapon.
I have carried one at various times in an ankle holster over the last 20 years myself. These types of revolvers are easy to carry, reliable, accurate enough to do the job and potent enough in a pinch. They fit in a pocket, jacket pocket or purse, and can really be there when you need them. They certainly serve a place in many professions that require a revolver and will do so for many years to come.
The PowerPort-Pro Series revolvers are lightweight examples of this basic design with a couple of added features. They have aluminum frames and stainless steel cylinders and are chambered for .38 Special. They are rated for +P ammunition, and are coated in a simple matte black finish and have a blued trigger and hammer.
The telling differences are the drift adjustable front sight with a white dot and the port at the front of the barrel. They come with rubber round butt grips with finger grooves and reavailable in two models. The Model 637 is the traditional double-action (DA/SA) revolver with an exposed hammer. The Model 642 is identical, with the exception that it sports a covered hammer and hence is double-action-only (DAO).
In looking at and handling these revolvers, these are very simple working-type revolvers. They are lightweight and have the usual fit and finish one expects from S&W. If I were to shoot +P loads in a small lightweight revolver, the rubber grips are a preference and they came equipped so. Looking at the sights the first thing you notice is a front sight you can use, especially as you reach into your late forties when your eyes start to go.
The drift adjustable front sight with a plentiful white dot addresses two things that make small revolvers like these more difficult to shoot accurately. You can adjust for your hold if needed as it pertains to windage, and you have what has become the standard in aiming devices on most revolvers, a white dot. It is about the right size for close work, which is what these revolvers are for. The rear is still a simple notch.
The other feature you notice is the ported barrel. Whether you like these or not is a personal preference and it will always be a major debate amongst defensive shooters. Lastly, in working the trigger you get the normal trigger pull associated with small revolvers like these. It was what I expected, and what I have become accustomed to. There is the typical stacking as it gets close to the rear and with a bit of dry practice I could regularly stage the revolver in the SA position using a DA pull.
I loaded the Model 642 PowerPort-Pro Series revolver with some +P self-defense ammunition and proceeded to carry it around for a couple of days. This is a revolver you forget you have because it is so light. I carried it in my pants pocket, the cargo pocket in my shorts, a Galco Ankle Glove ankle holster and in a simple inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster. With the covered hammer this revolver presents well from clothing and prints minimally, given its size.
I normally carry a sub-compact pistol on my ankle, as a backup, while on duty, so changing to this revolver, I about forgot I had it on. The Model 637 would prove the same with the exception of those issues that come with an exposed hammer. Since I am not a believer in shooting these revolvers in SA, I prefer the covered hammer. Either way they’re easy to carry, and are light enough that you barely notice they are there.
I headed off to the range with several different types of .38 Special ammunition. They are plenty accurate for personal defense, up-close protection, and as a secondary weapon. I fired about 150 rounds of mostly 158-grain RNL to get a feel for the trigger before I did the accuracy testing. I fired at a 10-inch steel plate from various distances. I fired from an ankle holster and an IWB holster and went though our typical secondary weapon qualification.
So long as I did my part I was able to stay on the steel with no issues. Although I did not find it uncomfortable to shoot, it is not a revolver I would put hundreds of rounds through at the range. The porting helps and it was pretty easy to control even with the +P ammunition, but shooting full loads over the course of a day would prove tiresome. By the time I was done I was able to stage the Model 637 the easiest so I decided to use that one for the accuracy testing. As they are identical other than the hammer, the accuracy and velocity should prove to be similar.
All of the accuracy testing was done from a standing position at 10 yards. The vast majority of the groups were accomplished having been able to stage the revolver in SA and firing. The only real surprise for me was the Sellier & Bellot 158-grain RNL ammo. I was able to get the best group with it, and it was dead on at 10 yards. Although no surprise, the 110-grain Low Recoil Federal Defense ammo was very pleasant to shoot, and was equally as accurate. All the 125-grain +P ammo was about the same, and the Hornady 140-grain XTP was also a pleasant surprise. It was comfortable to shoot and accurate as well.
I think that S&W came up with a good pair of revolvers here. They address many of the issues some had with these small revolvers. I found myself able to wring out much better accuracy with the front sight than a simple blade, especially during one-handed shooting. The porting did not bother me and it was plenty comfortable to shoot even with the +P loadings. These are simple, reliable, and easy to use. They provide enough accuracy and firepower for most up-close and personal needs, and would be an excellent secondary handgun for duty use.