Take Charge Carry With Confidence

Smith and Wesson 442 Review

Our Smith and Wesson 442 review deep dives on the pros and cons of this popular Airweight revolver. In this S&W 442 review we’ll cover the trigger, grips, sights, concealed carry and much more.

SW 442 Review right

What is the S&W 442 For?

S&W 442 holster

This gun is designed for concealed carry. Due to the simple manual of arms and lack of a reciprocating slide this gun is easy for most to understand. 

It does have a decent amount of recoil. So I’d only suggest people that are willing to practice with this specific revolver carry it. 

If you’re looking for something with less recoil, I’d suggest checking out the Ruger LCR in 327 Magnum loaded with 32 Smith and Wesson Longs.

It’s heavy enough to shoot competently but light enough to carry.

With the right 442 holster, it’s light enough to carry in the gym or even on the ankle. 

Is its weight a good thing?

This gun weighs just enough to shoot well but is still light enough to carry as we mentioned before. 

This gun doesn’t do well with +P ammo. 

It’s shootable but you’ll likely get better results with standard pressure ammo. I’m able to throw this gun on when wearing nothing but gym shorts and a T-shirt.

I use our Icon 2.0 holster when doing these tasks.

It’s great for running down quick errands or lounging around the house.

I’ll move my J Frame holster to 3 o’clock where the waistband is the tightest and I can easily do cardio when wearing the gun. 

You just can’t do this as easily when carrying a heavier gun.

What frame does the Smith and Wesson 442 Use?

Smith and Wesson has 3 main sizes of frame just for the J frame series. I’m not sure why but the Scandium, Aluminum and stainless steel frames are all different sizes.

The Smith and Wesson 442 Airweight is the smallest frame. It also has the most holster options.

Luckily our Icon 2.0 fits it along with the other frame sizes. We have a complete list on the product page.

Caliber & Barrel Lengths

The barrel is 1.87 inches long the gun is chambered in 38 special and is rated to shoot +P. I’d love to see a 3 inch version but unfortunately there isn’t one in current production.

Ballistic performance isn’t great but it is what most consider acceptable.

We’ve also reviewed the SW 43c if you’re looking for a 22LR trainer for this gun.


The Smith and Wesson 442 holds 5 rounds. More ammo would always be better. 5 rounds does give you enough to work with in most defensive encounters.

Smith and Wesson 442 Review clyinder open

Cylinder Latch SW 442 Review

The cylinder latch on the SW 442 can be a little stiff. It’s easy to reach and can be manipulated with one hand. 

Smith and Wesson 442 Review cylinder latch

It’s really easy for even newbies to understand how to load and unload the revolver. If you’re reading this S&W 442 review as someone new to guns this is an advantage revolvers have over semi autos.

Sights Smith and Wesson 442 Review

Let’s face it most revolvers don’t have good sights. The SW 442 is no exception with it’s milled front sight and machined rear groove.

S&W 442 review sight picture

One upsight of the Smith and Wesson 442 sights isn’t the sights themselves but the finish on the gun. 

Since the gun is black the sights are black. These sights are much easier to pick up than the silver sights on the Smith and Wesson 642.

A black snub nose revolver will almost always beat a stainless revolver when it comes to sights.

S&W 442 review front sight

If you want to make the front sight more visible you can always paint it.


The 442 is what most call a hammerless revolver. This means the hammer is concealed inside the frame of the gun. The trigger on this gun is double action only.

Triggers on the Airweight J frames can be inconsistent from gun to gun. I can’t write this S&W 442 review without mentioning that.

When you’re in your gun store I’d ask if they have multiple Smith and Wesson 442s so you can test multiple triggers. 

Pick the best and smoothest trigger.

A good Smith and Wesson 442 trigger is going to be smooth but a little heavy. No noticeable wall before the break and a very positive reset.

SW 442 Review trigger

A good reset is a good feature to have for people that primarily shoot striker fired or single action only semi autos. 

The positive reset will keep you from short stroking the trigger. 

Guns like the Ruger LCR don’t have this reset and are very easy to short stroke. You don’t have to worry about that with a Smith 442.


The factory grip for the Smith and Wesson 442 conceals well, does a decent job of handling recoil and doesn’t have the tacky feel of most rubber grips. 

S&W 442 grip

For what it is, I really like this grip. I wanted to be sure to mention that in the S&W 442 review bcause most revovlers don’t have great grips.

Aftermarket Smith and Wesson 442 Grip Review

Since the Smith and Wesson 442 is a 38 special J frame it has a ton of aftermarket options.

VZ Boot Grips

VZ offers multiple profiles and textures. If you’re an experienced revolver shooter who can get a tight grip on the gun these are a great choice. 

If you don’t have a solid grip they will beat your hand up more than rubber options. I’m currently running these on two of my J Frame Revolvers. So I really like them.

Hogue Grips

They have the Monogrip which are huge. They really soften recoil. 

Even the lightweight 360 feels like a 22 with these grips. 

They’re so big they defeat the point of having a small gun. If you’re reading this S&W 442 review I’m guessing you’re looking for a small gun.

They’ve also got the Bantam grip which is basically the same as the stock Smith and Wesson grips. 

As a one piece design that’s harder to install and revolver. It also has a grippier texture which I don’t care for. I’d suggest wrapping these in Goon Tape or just going with the factory Smith and Wesson Grips.

They also make a laser grip that is a laser housed in Hogue Tamer grip. I like the idea of these grips but I don’t care for the activation. The placement of the activation button isn’t as natural as the Crimson Trace options.

Pachmayr Grips

I’ve got 4 of their offerings. 

Two are smaller and more practical for carry. The other two are much larger and will help more with recoil but they don’t conceal as well and take away the advantages of the J frame. 

Diamond Pro

If you’re going to shoot magnums or you’re recoil sensitive the Pachmayr Diamond Pro grips are a great option. 

They’ve got a softer, more absorbent backstrap which will be helpful when shooting stout loads. 

The downside is they are harder to conceal due to their size and width.

Compac Grip Smith and Wesson 442 Review

They’ve also got their Compac grips both the regular and the professional. The regular are so wide you might as well carry a larger gun. They do an excellent job of filling the hand.

Compac Professional

The professionals are a lot slimmer but still allow you to get a full grip. These are probably my current favorite J frame Grips.

One gripe with all the Compac grips is they don’t allow line up perfectly when mounted on the gun. 

So if you’re a little OCD I wouldn’t suggest these.


Last of the Pachmayr grips is the guardian. They’re really small but have a button which you push when drawing the gun which will shoot out an extension to give you a full grip. 

It’s made of hard plastic which isn’t going to help recoil but if you aren’t recoil sensitive and need a small concealable gun but want a full grip it’s a good option.

These are what I’d call pro grips. They’re the grips a professional might use.

Crimson Trace Laser Grips

Crimson Trace makes multiple laser grips for the J frame varying in size.

These grips don’t offer a lot of cushion and don’t work well in full light. If you’re reading this SW 442 review hoping to find magnum capable laser grips these aren’t it.


Looks wise it’s a pretty basic black revolver. It looks fine but it definitely won’t make someone go crazy.

Smith and Wesson 442 Review right front

The revolver lacks the classic aesthetics of older revolvers. This is due to the finish more than the shape of the gun.


The finish on these guns seems to do a decent job of preventing rust on the cylinder, barrel and other steel parts. You will need to oil and clean the gun to keep these parts from rusting long term.

We wouldn’t be honest if we didn’t let you know in this SW 442 review that maintenance is critical.

Made from an aluminum alloy the frame isn’t going to rust but it can show wear. This finish will wear if you actually use the gun. It’s not the most durable. As with any carry gun you should expect the gun to look like it’s been used because it has.

A little bit of wear can add character.

When I picked this gun up from the gun shop there was cosmetic damage on the finish. Due to the locations I assume it happened during assembly.

Looking at the other Smith and Wesson revolvers they had in the case this appears to be the norm. So don’t expect a beautiful flawless finish on the Smith and Wesson 442.

That’s definiteyl subtracting points in our Smith and Wesson 442 Review.

Shooting SW 442 Review

We can’t do a S&W 442 review without talking about shooting.

These guns don’t weigh much and have a decent amount of recoil due to the reasonably powerful cartridges they shoot. How much of that recoil you feel depends on the grips you’re using and where you grip the gun.

S&W 442 review backstrap

With the stock grips you don’t want to grip the gun too high but you do want to grip it firm. By gripping the gun a little bit lower the gun has more muzzle flip but the sights return right where you want them to. 

There is a sweet spot. 

Using that sweet spot I shot an inch group minus one “flier” that turned it into a inch and a half group at 7 yards. This was firing the gun as quickly as I could. 

If you get the grip to low the group size will start opening back up.

Without a firm grip on the gun these guns have a lot of felt recoil. I’ve shot semi auto’s for years but only seriously started shooting revolvers in the last year. 

I’ve felt a lot less recoil by learning to grip the gun really tight. This is something that comes with time and learning to shoot lightweight revolvers.

The sights on this gun are the most difficult aspect of shooting fast. This is very apparent in low light.

These guns can be easy to shoot if you practice with them and know what you’re doing. But if you’re a newer shooter or even a newer revolver shooter don’t expect them to be easy to shoot.


Right now the MSRP on these guns are approximately $540 and street price is $520. 

I remember not that long ago when these guns sold for $400-$450 and considering the bare bones approach to this gun I think $500 plus is a little high. 

When righting this S&W 442 review we want to consider value.

I would at least like to see a pinned front sight considering the grip of this gun. Having the ability to change the front sight would be nice considering the price point of the revolver.

Unfortunately revolvers are becoming more expensive. Ruger and Taurus revolvers have also gotten more expensive.

When I picked up this gun they had 3 in the store and the other 2 had trigger and finish issues that I didn’t feel good about. 

Quality control on the revolver lines has definitely been slipping. So I’d be sure to thoughly inspect your gun before starting your paperwork to purchase.

Concluding Thoughts SW 442 Review

I like this gun more than I want to admit. It’s priced too high for its bare bones features but the only other options are to go down to Taurus or pay substantially more for a higher end J fame or Ruger LCR. 

Smith and Wesson 442 Review left front

I’ve had critical issues with 3 out of 4 Taurus revolvers I’ve purchased. 1 of the guns was replaced and the other is still dealing with the warranty issues. 

I’m not sure if I’ll try to fix the 3rd gun myself or send it back. Fortunately this isn’t an issue for the SW 442 Review.

Back to the 442 inflation is real and the assembly cost is higher on revolvers than semi autos. If you’re looking for a basic J frame or snub nose the 442 fits the bill. 

The Ruger LCR is larger than the J frame and there are some things it just doesn’t do as well as the Smith and Wesson J frame. 

Because of that I would suggest the Smith and Wesson 442. Especially if you’re a semi auto shooter who isn’t used to a long double action trigger. The forceful trigger reset will come in handy.


  • Color
  • Trigger 
  • Trigger Reset
  • Grip options
  • Aftermarket


  • Cost
  • Sights 
  • Quality Control Concerns

Hope you’ve enjoyed our Smith and Wesson 442 Review. Please let us know your thoughts on the 442 below.

2 Replies to “Smith and Wesson 442 Review”

  1. Shane says:

    Great review! The 442 may be my favorite handgun period! It is the only gun I have kept when so many others have come and gone. A pair of these carried in two Icon holsters, and a couple of speedloaders, and I’m good to go.

    It saddens me to hear about the quality control issues with S&W. I hope they can get that straightened out, especially given how expensive revolvers have become!

  2. khal spencer says:

    I have a 442-1. Have not experienced any quality control issues. It is a handful with +P ammo. One drawback with the stock grips was not enough clearance to use a speedloader easily. I thought of milling down the loading side of the grip but bought a Hogue Tamer and a Hogue Bantam grip instead. Both work with a speedloader (HKS-36A). The Tamer makes shooting the gun more fun but is on the large side. The Bantam is about the same size as the stock grip so is more concealable and still, the different profile enables easy use of the speedloader.

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