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Thread: My 638 hurts

  1. #1
    Demonio is offline Junior Member
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    My 638 hurts

    I own a little 638 airweight and when I shoot +p rounds through it the recoil is so nasty it slams into my knuckles.
    I've tried adjusting my grip and found that I shoot best when I hold it with one hand. Plus I replaced the grip with a full sized grip from S&W. Still I find it a painful experience at the range.
    I feel I've made the common mistake many newbies make in that I thought the smaller pistol would fit my wife's hand better in a home defense scenario. She hates the recoil and my hands are too big for this platform.
    Shooting regular .38 special rounds thought it isn't so bad but my Winchester home defense rounds are +P.
    It's our backup weapon at this point. Anyone else have this issue?

  2. #2
    berettabone is offline Banned
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    Typical problem with small, lightweight firearms...they are not easy to shoot, even for seasoned shooters, especially with nastier loads...my wife is starting to look for a firearm to shoot and use for home defense..she has a hard time racking slides, so we were looking at revolvers...believe it or not, this is what she liked.........S&W model 10, S&W model 14, S&W model 60, S&W model 15, S&W model 27, Ruger single six .32 cal., and HK P30L....she found that these grips felt the best....I was suprised that she said the HK felt good, easier to rack........I think alot of people get buyers remorse purchasing small firearms...if you are not going to carry it, better off with a larger platform.......you need to have her check out as many firearms as possible....if she is not going to shoot it on a regular basis, and you are happy with what you paid, and it's just backup, you might just want to keep it....if not, you learned a lesson that alot of us have learned...small isn't always good......good luck whatever you decide..........

  3. #3
    Steve M1911A1's Avatar
    Steve M1911A1 is online now Senior Member
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    berettabone gets the cigar.

    Small guns are not for beginners. They are experts' weapons.
    Learn to shoot well with a full-size gun first. Then switch to a mini-pistol, and learn to control it.

    Many people make this same mistake, sometimes based on the really bad advice of a gun-shop commando: "Buy a little gun for the little lady."

    First of all, get rid of those +P rounds. There is no need for them in a home-defense weapon.
    Instead, switch to ordinary-velocity .38 Special cartridges which throw the heaviest bullet you can find, probably 158-grain slugs (jacketed, lead, hollow-point—whatever). These will present you with the softest possible felt recoil, so you can eventually learn to shoot this revolver effectively.
    Finally, both you and your wife should learn pistol shooting using the heaviest, largest pistol you can comfortably support. As berettabone suggests, rent a few and try them out. (I taught my 4'11", 100-pounds-fully-dressed-and-sopping-wet wife to shoot using a Government Model 1911 in .45 ACP. She loved it.)

    When you both are competent with the heavy gun, you can try to change to the .38 Special mini-pistol. At least one of you will be pleasantly surprised by the result.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Demonio View Post
    I own a little 638 airweight and when I shoot +p rounds through it the recoil is so nasty it slams into my knuckles. . .
    It's our backup weapon at this point. Anyone else have this issue?
    I don't have anything real to add to the good advice from berettabone and Steve. But, I do like to pontificate.

    I have a 638 Centennial Airweight with Crimson Trace lasergrips -- I HIGHLY recommend a laser for any of the little "bark and bite" guns.

    If it's any consolation, S&W sells the same J-frame in their "Scandium" metal in .357 Magnum.
    (even lighter than the aluminum frame Airweight). Selling this to the general public borders on "criminal marketing".

    My current CCW is a Sig P290. A 20 oz. 9mm, 5 oz. more than the 638. Still, it has PLENTY of the bark and bite also. Even without +P.

    Along with "the guys" talking about "more weight equals less recoil" and leads to "good habits and good results", I'll add my two cents.
    I have "several" revolvers and semi-autos.

    The "bottom" is a Beretta Tomcat .32 Auto. It's all steel, 14 oz. It still is a "bit nasty" even with the so-called "mousegun" caliber.

    My "top" is a Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan - 2.5 inch barrel, in .454 Casull. Don't believe all the "killer recoil" hype about big calibers.
    It's 43 oz. and has Hogue "Tamer" grips that really work. Full power loads are a "big push". Don't try to keep it from going "up" and a bit "back".
    But, it has no bark or bite. OK, the recoil on her first shot did "surprise" a lady friend. After that, she had no problem. YMMV.

  5. #5
    Demonio is offline Junior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve M1911A1 View Post
    berettabone gets the cigar.

    Small guns are not for beginners. They are experts' weapons.
    Learn to shoot well with a full-size gun first. Then switch to a mini-pistol, and learn to control it.

    Many people make this same mistake, sometimes based on the really bad advice of a gun-shop commando: "Buy a little gun for the little lady."

    First of all, get rid of those +P rounds. There is no need for them in a home-defense weapon.
    Instead, switch to ordinary-velocity .38 Special cartridges which throw the heaviest bullet you can find, probably 158-grain slugs (jacketed, lead, hollow-point—whatever). These will present you with the softest possible felt recoil, so you can eventually learn to shoot this revolver effectively.
    Finally, both you and your wife should learn pistol shooting using the heaviest, largest pistol you can comfortably support. As berettabone suggests, rent a few and try them out. (I taught my 4'11", 100-pounds-fully-dressed-and-sopping-wet wife to shoot using a Government Model 1911 in .45 ACP. She loved it.)

    When you both are competent with the heavy gun, you can try to change to the .38 Special mini-pistol. At least one of you will be pleasantly surprised by the result.
    We both have good amount of range time with our p226 Sig. In fact my wife shoots that gun quite well, getting nice tight groups with it. It's her favorite gun to shoot. I bought the 638 awhile ago thinking it would be nice addition to our home defense arsenal (back up). The issues began when we started shooting the +p so your advise makes perfect sense. I've had a lot more practice with 638 than her so I'll just make sure the Sig is her primary weapon in the combo lock box when I'm not home. Thanks for the sound advice.

  6. #6
    Bisley's Avatar
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    Good advice, above.

    I can only add that, if you use standard SD ammo, have a good, comfortable set of grip stocks, and use a proper two-handed grip, the recoil should not bother you. You are failing to control the recoil if the trigger guard is slamming your knuckles. Your two-handed grip should consist of a push-pull between your hands that locks the gun up like a vise, while at the same time maintaining independence of your trigger finger. Your off-hand should be clasping the fingers of your strong side hand and pressing the grip of the gun into the heel of your strong side hand, with your index finger doing nothing but operating the trigger, with only the 'pad' of the first joint being used to pull the trigger straight back.

  7. #7
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    I carry a 642, but I long ago switched to the standard pressure ammo in it. I use a glove when shooting the 642 on the range and use WWB 130 gr. FMJ standard pressure for practice ammo. My home defense revolver is a 686 w/2 1/2 " barrel and it is stoked with the +P ammo. I have small hands and Pachmayer Compac Pro grips on the 686 make it easy to handle.

  8. #8
    Packard is offline Senior Member
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    I have a 340PD (even lighter). I wear batters' gloves while practicing (it helps keep the scarring down). You won't notice it in the real event.

    I carry with 4 rounds of +P and a single round of .357 magnum.

    The +P becomes more managable over time. The .357 is a bear, and I cannot practice too much with it because I worry about nerve damage to my hand.

    A banana grip (that allows the full pinkie grip) will help quite a bit. But it is not for pocket carry with that grip.

  9. #9
    Steve M1911A1's Avatar
    Steve M1911A1 is online now Senior Member
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    Packard, why do you carry "4 rounds of +P and a single round of .357 magnum"?
    Why don't you just carry five rounds of all the same stuff?
    What's the different thing that the one round of .357 Magnum is going to do for you?

  10. #10
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    A Pachmayer grip for J frames is longer and fits the hand much better than the stock grip (uncle mikes I believe) and covers the exposed backstrap, all of which helps to dissipate recoil and impact to the hand. 1st thing I did when I bought my 67 year old mother a S&W 637. Try it and see if that helps. I didn't even shoot it w/ the stock grips as I knew from past experience what worked best for the little snubbies.
    Last edited by denner; 04-24-2012 at 12:39 AM.

  11. #11
    Packard is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve M1911A1 View Post
    Packard, why do you carry "4 rounds of +P and a single round of .357 magnum"?
    Why don't you just carry five rounds of all the same stuff?
    What's the different thing that the one round of .357 Magnum is going to do for you?
    I've shot 5 rounds of .357 out of this revolver. It is slow getting back on aim, and it beats the hell out of my hand. I was practicing with .38s and finishing with 5 rounds of .357 but I became worried about nerve damage when it took a couple of hours for the tingling to go away. So now I practice with 38s and shoot 4 rounds of +P and one round of .357 to finish each session (25 rounds everytime I shoot).

    If I could safely practice with the .357s I would shoot nothing but .357s. I think this is a reasonable compromise.

    It's the last round and it will not affect any follow up shots. And the 125 grain .357 hollowpoint is the most effective man stopper in history. Might as well go out with a bang.

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    I agree with ditching the +P loads. If that fails, realize that sometimes certain guns and calibers simply won't work for certain shooters. Why try to adapt? Change guns.

  13. #13
    Steve M1911A1's Avatar
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    Packard;
    Thanks for the clear explanation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve M1911A1 View Post
    First of all, get rid of those +P rounds. There is no need for them in a home-defense weapon.
    Instead, switch to ordinary-velocity .38 Special cartridges which throw the heaviest bullet you can find, probably 158-grain slugs
    For defense, my favorite is the Buffalo Bore 158 grain non-+P lead semi-wadcutter hollow point (the venerable Chicago load).

  15. #15
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    I bring a decent selection of handgun platforms, and calibers to each handgun class. In the vast majority of cases where a student traded guns after a class, a lightweight snubby, or polymer framed gun was traded for a larger, all-steel gun. Lately, all-steel .380's, 9mm's, and .45's seem to be the most popular around here. Such trades, primarily generated by recoil, are quite common, after sampling larger, heavier guns.

  16. #16
    kerrycork is offline Junior Member
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    For defense, my favorite load is 160gr Keith , Lyman mould #358429 hollow-point swc and max. chg. unique. snappy load.

  17. #17
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    I agree switching your stocks to either Pachmyres or Hogues and going with a standard pressure load such as the FBI/Chicago std 158gr Lead SWCHP will greatly reduce felt recoil in an airweight J frame. The stock grips that the J frames come with from S&W although good for concealment just plain suck for range or practicle shooting applications. Changing your stocks and ammo will make all the difference.

  18. #18
    Pistol Pete is offline Junior Member
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    For home defense trade it Airweight for a steel gun. The extra weight makes it a lot more pleasant to shoot. In your pocket the airweight is great but it's a lot easier to shoot the heavier guns. I recently bought n LC9, it's about an ounce heavier than my 642 but it's a lot easier to shoot accurately for some reason.

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