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My dad came to me looking for a concealed carry gun. He wanted a small revolver, and he had a number of requirements.

First, he wanted at least a .38 Special +P. Second, he wanted an exposed hammer, and third, he specifically did not want what he called a’ dinky’ little grip.

I translated those requirements to my local FFL, and he said he had the gun for me. He pulled out a familiar blue box and unveiled a Smith & Wesson 637, specifically a 637-2.

To be even more specific, this is the Performance Center model. “Heck of a deal,” as my LGS owner described the gun, and at $400 out the door, I agreed. Since, at the time, Father’s Day was just around the corner, I figured this was the perfect gift.

The gun fit my dad’s bill of particulars perfectly. The beautifully finished wood grip is slightly longer than average for a J-frame revolver, a bit longer than your standard snub nose setup. The rosewood color paired with the stainless finish gives the gun a striking but far from gaudy look.

The S&W 637 – A Classic Reborn

In Smith & Wesson parlance, the number six means stainless. After the six is the standard model number. The O.G. model 37 was the lighter-weight version of the Model 36, which is the classic Chief’s Special. The Model 37 first came to be in 1951, but was discontinued in 2006. The current S&W 637 is descended from a proud legacy of snub nose revolvers.

The 637 is little and easy to conceal (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Performance Center means top of the line at S&W. These firearms typically feature a number of different features that aren’t on the standard production models. The Model 637 includes very nicely crafted grips as well as an enhanced action. At just under 15 oz., this little J-frame has some bite to its bark, and admittedly, I never got time to shoot it. Until recently, that is.

The J-Frame is a classic CCW option (Travis Pike for TTAG)

While my dad has owned the gun for more than a while now, only recently have I had a chance to get it to the range and and feed it a little lead. I’ve been sitting on a few hundred .38 Special rounds for a few years now, so when he had the gun on him, I figured that was  as good as time as any to get rid of those rounds.

A Handful of 637

I’m no revolver pro and I’m especially not a snub-nose revolver fan…but I like to learn. With some 130gr. Winchester White Box, I aimed to get a little better. A five-shot, J-frame .38 Special that weighs 14.6 ounces is a great way to learn recoil control, at least. It’s as light as the 340 PD and it’s got some real buck and meanness to it.

No dinky little grips here (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The bigger rosewood grips make the 637 a bit easier to handle. Actually, they make it a lot easier to handle. Getting a full grip on the gun makes it easier to control and keeps recoil manageable, if not pleasant. It bucks, but it doesn’t slap your hand with each shot. It became obvious why my dad preferred the longer grips rather than the short ‘boot’ grips you find on most snub nose guns.

The sights are the simple trench and post you’d expect, and at snubby ranges, it works. I passed the Hardwired Tactical Super Snubby Test with all my shots in the black.

What really helps is the 637’s enhanced Performance Center action. The trigger pull is absolutely glorious. It’s better than even a nice production trigger like the LCR. The double action breaks at nine pounds, not bad by any margin.

That’s a satsifying sight (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The single action pull shines at 2.5 pounds and is all-around fantastic. Combine a great trigger with those full grips and the gun is fairly easy to control and shoot accurately. At least easy for a snub nose.

On and On

I’m no pro with a revolver, but I was able to get some solid double taps in, and that refined trigger really did a fantastic job. This type of gun is made for combat and concealed carry use, and that trigger lends itself well to those roles. Obviously, the sights aren’t great, but they work. A real rear sight would help, but would probably be out of place for this gun.

The S&W Model 637 performed admirably (Travis Pike for TTAG)

After 270 rounds with the little S&W 637, I had no failures of any kind. It’s a revolver from a reputable company, so I didn’t expect any failures.

It barked every time I pulled the trigger and did so without complaint. My hand felt pretty beat up after a good day at the range. My dad shared the same sentiment, and the good thing about revolvers is that you won’t have to lay down suppressive fire with one.

Specifications: Smith & Wesson Performance Center Model 637 Revolver

Caliber: .38 Special
Capacity: 5 Rounds
Barrel Length: 1.87 Inches
Overall Length: 6.3 inches
Weight: 14.6 ounces
MSRP: $605 (anywhere from about $400 to $550 retail)

Accuracy * * * ½
It’s fairly accurate for a J-frame revolver. The excellent Performance Center trigger helps, but the snubbie-short sight radius of a J-frame doesn’t lend itself to precision shooting. This is a bad breath distance self-defense gun.

Reliability * * * * *
The Smith Model 637 runs exactly as you’d expect a quality revolver to handle. It goes bang every time you pull the trigger.

Ergonomics * * * *
The bigger grip is nice and easy to use. It helps tame the gun and looks good while still fitting comfortably in your pocket. The ergonomics are still those of a J-frame, a design that’s been largely unchanged for decades and decades. Not terrible, but I’ve handled some more modern designs with better ergos.

Overall * * * *
The Smith & Wesson Model 637 Performance Center revolver is a fantastic little gun. It packs a punch and is very much at home for concealed carry. I think I might need another snub nose in my life.

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42 COMMENTS

  1. Travis,

    Nice gift for your Dad!

    Always room for another “snubby” revolver in the safe / hip / pocket.

    If you run across another one for $400…I should remind you that I have a birthday coming up…or Christmas or ????

  2. I love love love love j-frame revolvers but I won’t buy one that has a trigger lock. Smith & Wesson has easily missed out on 30 or 40 sales to me alone because of their stupid Hillary hole trigger lock.

    • Officer Bill, you can remove the trigger lock in five minutes — I did — and it won’t leave a hole in the frame. Honestly, it takes longer to thoroughly clean a J-frame than it does to remove the lock.

      There are lots of videos about this on Youtube.

    • Why? I have the dumb lock in all my guns and I’ve never engaged them. Shot probably 20,000 rounds or more thru various SW revolvers with the dumb lock, I haven’t even noticed a difference. Seems like a non-issue to me

      • Why? Because Smith & Wesson slobbered all over Bill Clinton’s knob to be the first to roll over and got the ball rolling on Clinton’s gun control agenda in exchange for promised government contracts that never materialized. instead people like me completely blacklisted Smith & Wesson and then dumped all of our used Smith & Wesson guns onto the market to drive them out of business and it worked. They betrayed gun owners and the ones that were around then haven’t forgiven them. The fact that they keep the trigger locks on their guns that they put there to make the clintons happy is a slap to my face every time I see one. On the plus side once Smith & Wesson folded they were gazillions of cheap Smith & Wessons on the market and I bought piles of them to replenish my stock. At one point you could get a super clean model 10 for under a hundred bucks and their gen 3 semi autos for about 125. Even their performance center semi autos weren’t selling for squat.

      • Kyle, I have personally seen the lock seize up during firing, rendering the gun useless. That’s why I removed all of them on mine.

  3. I really like my 442. It has the internal hammer so it is snag free. It is the gun you bring to a surprise knife fight. One handed because your other hand is shoved up their nostrils. And it has to work even if wrapped in clothes or meat.

    No pressure. It just has to save your life when all other plans have failed.

    • “I really like my 442. It has the internal hammer so it is snag free.”

      Preach it. This gun is almost perfect – Remove the ‘Hillary Hole’ bullshit and install a shaved hammer on it, and you have my LCR in .357, but with bit less ‘bite’ than .357.

      Just slide it in your front pocket and go about your day… 🙂

      • My only Smith revolver is a PC 442 without the lock. Bought new maybe 5 years ago. Every once in a while a PC SKU gets released sans hole. It is perfect.

    • jwm, I have a 642 and a 638. The 638, with its shrouded hammer, gives me the option of single action fire. Together with the 637, the 642 and 638 comprise the holy trinity of belly guns.

      The Airlight, OTOH, is a punishing little beyotch that actually made me bleed.

  4. SP-101 .357 magnum, 2.25″ barrel, Altamont wooden grip, loaded with .38 +P+. Pocket carry in a SimplyRugged pocket holster. Heavier than this S&W. I carry it when carrying something larger would be too obvious.

    I like to think of snubbies as surprises for crooks who think you’re unarmed.

    • Scooter:
      I also put a Hogue mono grip on my 642-2 with enhanced action, which works wonders with the recoil. Winter is coming, and it’s my coat-pocket gun.

  5. Theres a single action Pietta I’ve got on my buy list, .357 $509. The only thing stopping me is where to find .357 emu that isnt online.
    This buy everything online is going to come back and bite us in the ass one of these days.
    All the Mom n Pops will be history and your credit card wont work if your going to exercise your second Amendment rights.

  6. 638 versus 637? Think the hammer shroud on the 638 is the better way to go, as the hammer can still be cocked for S/A shooting but is more snag resistant. As to grips, the nice thing about the S&W “J” frame is that there is so many aftermarket grips (including Laser grips) available. Note – As an “older shooter”, the D/A only 642 is not a viable option for me. I do wish that the idea of going to a 3″ barrel on the “J” frame .38 revolvers would happen. A 3″ model 60 (in .357) is the only “J” frame currently made by S&W, but is much heavier.

  7. This is a *very* interesting read. It outlines what training the Russian army recruits receive before being dumped on the front lines. Army tankers get one (1) round of ammo *per crew* to expend annually.

    Also, stop-loss measures are in effect. The same now applies to the contract troops like the Wagner Group. Once you show up in Ukraine, they will stay there until the war is over, or they are killed.

    https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/ukraine-situation-report-russias-partial-mobilization-nuclear-threats

    I’m more than a bit concerned as to where this is leading. Putin realizes he cannot win conventionally. After annexing Donbas and the other areas, I expect him to announce he will stop in those providences.

    Here’s the problem. Putin has announced he will only use nuclear weapons if the survival of Russia is in jeopardy. I fully expect Putin will demand the crushing sanctions are fully lifted. I expect us to announce the sanctions will be lifted if Russia fully withdraws. Since we won’t, in Putin’s mind, the survival of Russia will now be at stake.

    I expect nuclear blackmail from Putin. If we don’t drop the sanctions as he will demand, Putin will likely demand they are lifted, or he nukes a major city, and announces that retaliation will trigger a full nuke strike.

    So, do we give in after a major city is smoked? Something tells me the world will fold just to avoid global nuclear war… 🙁

    • Alternative theory, Russia annexes through the planned votes in occupied territory and sanctions remain in place. China becomes a bigger trading partner and becomes the senior partner with Russia providing all the natural gas they need. Europe goes full on with the green new deal and wealth is extracted from it’s citizens weakening the area to irrelevance. US reopens “limited oil/natural gas production” to keep a minimum of needed supplies going in Europe with all kinds of import/export tariffs to fund all involved governments.

    • Putin is betting the house with his new call up of reserves. If there is significant noncompliance it will be his downfall (revolution/regime change).

    • It’s important to distinguish between mechanical accuracy and sight radius. Mechanical accuracy of most snub nose revolvers is quite impressive. it only takes a short distance to impart the necessary spin on a projectile to keep it flying straight and true.

      But from your past posts, I suspect you have thrown far more Frisbee’s than bullets. (If any).

    • Albert L J Hall,

      I have watched videos of a man consistently shooting 2-liter plastic softdrink bottles which were 100 yards (90 meters) away.

      Snubbies are as accurate as the shooter.

    • The barrels are one and 7/8 in and I used to shoot a J frame airweight in PPC matches and would come in first place nearly every time. They are as accurate as the hand that is holding them. I used to love showing off by shooting beer cans at 50 yards with a J frame.

    • Frisbee®

      Wondering which country’s cyber-unit you belong to…ya sure ain’t a Brit…too many spelling, grammar and syntax mistakes over the past few years.

      Recently qualified with a score of 150 out of 150 max on the Montana State qual course with a Ruger LCR.

      Within 25 yards the little LCR is spot on for me. The perfect sized pocket gun in a Bianchi Nemesis holster.

  8. I share the same concept of a compact concealable .38 Special revolver. Personally, for myself I would prefer a little heavier revolver with longer barrel and target sights. We are on the same page here. Read on below: —Jim Farmer

    Lake County Examiner: Lakeview, Oregon: Wednesday, March 24, 2021/Letters To The Editor

    Best general-purpose handgun

    For a general-purpose handgun consider Ruger’s SP-101 .357 Magnum revolver: “stainless steel”, 5 shot swing out cylinder (double-action), with 4.2” barrel and target sights for the citizen owning only one handgun. Versatile for “self-defense/house protection/concealed carry”, as a kit and trail gun for the outdoorsman/ sportsman, and for urban metro vs. wilderness rural use. At 30 oz. unloaded lightweight (for the hiker, backpacker, trapper), yet heavy enough to handle the .357 Magnum. Loaded with .38 Special 148 grain lead target wad-cutter ammo (next to a .22 or .32) practical for hunting small game: rabbit, squirrel, and grouse (for the campfire skillet), for dispatching vermin such as raccoon, skunk, possum, etc. Even for butchering livestock such as cattle with a head shot. Loaded with CCI’s classic .38 Special shot or snake load of No. 9 shot highly effective in killing rattlesnakes. Readily and instantly accessible in reach via a nightstand, dresser or bureau drawer, or next to a sleeping bag inside a tent is very comforting armed security to have, especially at night!

    This handgun would also be great for a long-haul trucker, or hay hauler, to carry. Even for the motorist traveling on a road trip. Yes, bear in mind being broken down, stranded, and having to spend the night alone in your vehicle. This .38/.357 revolver combination along with an Atomic Beam Flashlight, survival knife, fresh drinking water, food, toilet paper, shovel, matches, wool blanket, etc. could certainly take back the night.
    Even for a woman it’s smaller frame and size would still fit her smaller hands. And firing.38 Special ammo in this. *357 Magnum could still be handled by a female. Double action revolvers can be improved with aftermarket combat rubber grips.
    I recommend reading, “Meet Ruger’s SP-101 Revolver: The Ideal Gun For Self Defense”, by Kyle Mizokan via the April 2019 issue of The National Interest. -James A. Farmer

    Merrill, Oregon (Klamath County) Long Live The State of Jefferson!

    *.357 Magnum revolvers will chamber and fire .38 Special ammo, but not the reverse. Also….”SP-101 Like Physics, Only Practical” by Law Officer for January 3, 2009 is well worth reading.

  9. Absolutely miserable guns to shoot; I’ve cut my hands open shooting these.
    The LCR at least doesn’t make you bleed.

    But spend a bit more and you can get a K6S which has 6 rounds (that’s 20% more capacity) and is quite pleasant to shoot in comparison.

    Me personally? If I’m doing a revolver its my 2″ K-frame with the buttery smooth leaf spring setup instead of those awful coil springs.

    • I agree about miserable, at least with +P rounds and factory grips. One of the crimson trace J frame grip options, the LG-305 Compact Grip has an internal air pocket behind the back strap that acts as a cushion and makes it a lot less miserable to shoot. Also increases the reach to the trigger a bit, which was ideal for me.

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