Smith & Wesson 442 Airweight Gun Review
Smith & Wesson 442 Airweight Specifications
Gun Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson
Model: 442 Airweight
Barrel Length: 1 & 7/8″
Ammunition Capacity: 5
Price: $365 (used)
Smith & Wesson 442 Airweight Usage and Specifications
Are you right or left handed?
What features does this gun have that appealed to you?
This gun has safety features built-in. One, and my favorite is the “concealed” (or “shrouded”) hammer. Also called “hammerless,” it does have a hammer but it’s entirely concealed by the frame. This makes it impossible to snag on clothing. Another safety feature is the very long, hard “pull”. It takes real work to pull this trigger; you can’t do it accidentally. — Also, ammo is easy to find. — I wanted something for defense against both humans and large animal predators; in my area, we have wolves, coyotes, etc. so this fit the bill for both.
Tell us about shooting this gun.
I do love shooting it. I am quite accurate with this gun so long as I use lighter loads. The light weight of the “J” frame makes it great for concealed carry, but also means the “felt recoil” will be greater. Ammo really does make a difference. The very long “pull” is a factor in how accurate I shoot; I need to have to steady the gun just as much on my mind as sighting the target. A shorter trigger pull would be easier, as would a softer pull (I think this one is between 7 & 10 pounds, anyway it’s a LOT), but this is one of the safety features, so there’s that.
How would you describe the recoil, is it manageable?
The recoil really depends upon the ammo being used. Whether you use re-loads or manufacturer ammo, be aware that there’s a big difference in how hard the thing goes “bang”. Some loads hurt my hands and I have to stop after 2 shots; others I can fire 80-100 rounds with no issues. Bullet weight (measured in “grains”) and powder recipe (how “hot” it is) make a difference! And, again, it being an Airweight means I feel the recoil much more. I used to have a 6-shot revolver in another brand, it weighed an additional half-pound! but I shot more accurately with it due to recoil being less. (Eventually, that gun developed rounded corners on the “star” and failed to advance the cylinder reliably)
How does it fit your hand, are the controls of this gun easy to use? (Safeties, slide pull, magazine release, trigger pull, etc.)
I find I shoot best using both hands on the gun; but yes I do train to use either hand. Simplicity is one of the things this handgun has in its favor. The cylinder release is on the left side, which as a “righty” I find very helpful. With only 5 rounds in the cylinder, it’s possible you may need to reload in a self-defense encounter (it’s a given in training). Having the cylinder release there means reloading is very quick. I recently had the springs replaced, and am hoping that will make a difference in how it feels (both for trigger pull and recoil); haven’t yet had a chance to try it out.
As for carrying, I sometimes use the smaller grips, for greater concealability, but I feel more confident and possibly am more accurate with the slightly larger grips. I did modify one set to allow more ease in loading the cylinder with the SKS speed loaders I like to use. There are a variety of after-market grips available to try.
Do you like the sights on this gun?
This handgun came with fixed iron sights. I have not added lasers to it, though I’d like to eventually. I found that having dark, iron sights in dim-light conditions (or even aiming at a darker target) made it hard to see when I was on target. It did help to apply a little blaze-orange nail polish to the front sight. I like this gun so much I bought a second one as a back-up, and am considering applying glow-in-the-dark paint to the front sight of that one to see how that works out. — As for accuracy, I am very accurate with this so long as I take that extra half-second to aim, instead of just pointing.
How reliable is it?
This handgun simply NEVER fails. No matter what ammo I put in it – it just never fails. Ever. One reason is the design; most revolvers are very reliable– but the quality materials and workmanship play a big part also. (I had a cheaper 6-shot revolver for a while, which was okay as long as I didn’t fire more than 6 rounds in 60 minutes. After a day at the range, the “star” part failed and I had to replace that handgun completely. Different manufacturer.) You cannot go wrong with a S & W revolver. One aspect I like is knowing it will still fire even in body-on-body contact; I don’t have quite that same assurance from a pistol.
Any problems with any type of ammunition?
It is important to LOOK at the barrel and notice if it says “+P” on the barrel. If it does not SAY “+ P”, then DO NOT USE plus P ammo in that handgun. — One of my S & W .38’s is Plus P, and the other is not. So I only keep regular ammo on hand. I got 2 revolvers nearly identical, so I don’t have to worry about adjusting my muscle memory – or widely different holsters – or widely different ammo.
I usually use re-loads (re-loaded ammo) but have also used manufacturer’s “target rounds” and other forms, such as FMJ (full metal jacket) and partially jacketed ammo, as well as “ball ammo” (rounded lead bullets). All fired with no issues at all. Some had more recoil than I like, but my hand size & strength are the deciding factors there – not the handgun itself. I don’t seem to find any difference with reliability with different ammo manufacturers.
Was it easy to take down and clean?
I love my revolver because I can re-load it. My “weak” hand is indeed quite weak, due to an old injury, and though I want a pistol, I have yet to find one I can rack the slide on without pain and possibly damage to my left hand. My .38 S & W is very easy to clean.
Is there anything you dislike about shooting this gun?
Since both my .38s are “airweight” models, they’re quite light, weighing 1 pound, 1 ounce loaded. That’s nice for carrying; however, they are very sensitive to extremes of hot or cold temperatures. I find that I need to keep the ammo at about the same temperature as the handgun, or I may have trouble reloading or ejecting spent cartridges… so in winter I have to keep both items on my person, or both in a CC purse.
Also, in shooting at matches, where I may go through 90 rounds in 90 minutes, I find that the gun does warm up especially in hot summer weather, and it gets harder to empty the cylinder. This is only an issue if I am reloading very fast — trying to keep up with people shooting pistols. If I re-load at what I feel is a comfortable rate, the gun can accommodate the temperatures. But I have not had a fail; I only had to be more exact about the angle of the speed-loader.
For someone considering this gun, what would you tell them?
This is a great gun for a beginner! The long & stiff trigger pull means you cannot have a negligent discharge; the hidden hammer means less to clean and especially less chance of snagging. Holsters and ammo are easy to find. Concealability is good. One thought: when you try it for the first time, have a FIRM grip, or the recoil may surprise you.
Would you recommend this gun? If no, do you have a preferred gun?
This IS my preferred gun, and I highly recommend it. One thing I have found, being over 50 and having a history of back injuries, it really helps to weigh the gun, ammo & etc and load my body with equal or nearly-equal weight on each side. So, for example, handgun in a holster on one side; speed loader, knife, cell phone & keys on the other. This helps me avoid having back or neck issues. When I carry on an ankle, I carry something else (equal weight) on the other ankle. When I do this I can carry comfortably all day; if I don’t, I don’t last 30 minutes.