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Old 05-12-2011, 07:39   #1
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Steel Frame vs. Aluminum Alloy Frame

I've been making a habit of carrying a couple of popular Smith & Wesson 5-Shot .38 Specials lately, alternately toting either the Chief's Special or the Model 642. I'm trying to determine if the light weight of the Airweight model is that much of a boon to concealed carry over the original steel J-Frame and how both compare with the Colt Detective Special I've been frequently carrying around town in recent years.

I've toted both with and without pocket holster, in Levi's 550 jeans pockets, Dockers' pockets, and in business suit trouser pockets (with De Santis Nemesis holster-trouser pockets are flimsy). I have a belt holster but haven't used it because I don't generally wear a covering garment except to church. Any Smith & Wesson 5-shot .38 Special holstered and riding on a belt is no chore to pack anyway.

I can't really tell much difference for my purposes. I can tell a little more difference in shooting the two side by side. I've put a lot of stock in the weight advantage of shooting the steel-framed model but really there is not even all that much difference in the two styles. In great quantities, the +P 158 grain ammunition is not that much of a joy to shoot in either revolver. Both of my revolvers have standard factory walnut stock panels.

Have y'all formed an opinion about the relative advantages of these two types of Smith & Wesson revolvers? The Airweigth is ok but I'm thinking it is a bit overrated simply because I can't tell much difference.

There ain't no flies on the Detective Special either.
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Old 05-12-2011, 08:11   #2
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I think the alloy thing is way overrated ill stick with my old mod 36.seems you just get sharper recoil with the lighter guns and they get to charge more bucks for more pain?
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Old 05-12-2011, 14:17   #3
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I used to have a 642 and now own a 649. The differance in weight as far as carrying doesn't seem very much to me but when it comes to recoil the steel 649 recoils with 110 gr. .357 loads no more than the alloy 642 did with 38 +p loads. To me being able to shot a more powerful cartridge with the same amount of control cancels out the weight advantage of the alloy gun.
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Old 05-15-2011, 12:49   #4
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Steel for my revolvers here. The aluminum frame for revolvers don't fit with me and my 357's, 44's, etc, etc. I like the weight of the steel frame revolvers because the weight helps in recoil and it feels like a real pistol. Also the weight for carrying is not all that bad. People go to extremes with this because this firearm weighs an ounce or two more than this firearm its extremely heavy...(shakes head). I read people complaining how heavy a revolver is and saying its no good and go to the alloy. Next thing you hear they are complaining about how bad the recoil is from the aluminum frame!...and start saying its no good, again...newbs. Time for people to stop hitting the keyboard and start working out. If you can not hang with the big dogs then stay on the porch.
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Old 05-17-2011, 18:25   #5
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I carried a 642 for quite a few years. I didn't have any issues with it and it's sitting in the safe right now. I did find that I prefer to carry my 19-3. I like the steel frame for recoil management and it's pre lock which is preferable.

I don't have an issue with the alloy frame pistols though.

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Old 09-08-2011, 14:29   #6
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I have found for extended daily carry I like the weight savings of my 360pd. For shooting in my opinion MagNaPorting is a must to tame the recoil.



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Old 09-09-2011, 01:48   #7
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I've carried a 442 for over a year, but it doesn't see much range time. I prefer steel frames if I plan to fire a gun often, but alloy does well for daily carry.
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Old 09-09-2011, 19:11   #8
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I apologize if this is redundant. A year ago I started competing in Pocket Carry Competition Association. Two categories: Pocket Carry: 3.12" J frame or similar revolver or semi-auto. Discreet Carry: K or L frame 3" barrel or less. Semi auto 3.65"or less.

Rule Book

A bunch of us found out how difficult it is to shoot the midget guns. A bunch of us carry these but we cannot shoot them.
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Old 10-07-2011, 21:05   #9
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Steel w/o a doubt. Gun is so small, weight should not be a factor.
For shooting weight will reduce recoil. Gives you more control and accuracy. Youve got a short barrel, and will be shooting at a close range, you want that slug to go where you point the gun.

BTW: get some soft Hogue finger groove grips. Every handgun I own wears them, and the are very comfortable no matter the cartridge, but really help with stuff that has more umph.
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Old 10-09-2011, 16:28   #10
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I'm a big fan of my 638. Certainly not a gun I go to the range with to shoot a couple of hundred rounds, Just the gun in my pocket that I know will go bang when I need it.
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Old 11-30-2011, 12:33   #11
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I like a steel frame revolver, They help to absorb the recoil of full power rounds like the .357 mag or more powerful. An alloy frame is ok in a .38 special or smaller or for a back up gun.
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