Smith & Wesson's Model 640 Torture Test

Can The Smith and Wesson Model 640 Small Frame Survive .357 Magnum Punishment?

S & W Model 640 in .357 Magnum caliber

By Joe Gorman

The day the new Smith and Wesson Model 640 in .357 arrived at my home, I had to smile. With its 2 1/8" barrel and svelte 22-ounce weight, the 640 doesn't seem a likely candidate to house the mighty three-five-seven round.

More than one new-handgun-purchaser has been burned by otherwise reputable handgun manufacturers that introduced a new design prematurely. In other words, before all the proverbial bugs had been exterminated. I've seen all sorts of new pistol problems: insufficient recoil spring rates that allowed the slide to come back so fast, the gun destroyed itself; soft steel used in critical areas that deformed to the extent the pistol could no longer function; overly tight tolerances in trigger mechanisms (coupled with unusually-easy-access to this area) allowing small particles of unburned powder or dirt to prevent the trigger from operating, just to name a few.

The day the new Smith and Wesson Model 640 in .357 arrived at my home, I had to smile. With its 2 1/8" barrel and svelte 22-ounce weight, the 640 doesn't seem a likely candidate to house the mighty three-five-seven round. But I'll be darned if all the .357 magnum ammo I had on hand didn't actually fit in its chambers. Even the 180-grain stuff chambered with room to spare!

I'd been catching wind of the horsepower wars, as reported by all the gun mags, and this J-frame Smith chambered in .357 magnum caliber would appear to be the AC Cobra of the horsepower wars. Sure it looked neat and I loved the concept, but I couldn't help but wonder, "Will it last?" Will this little Smith take a pounding diet of magnum ammo and still come out intact and in tune?

I've never personally shot a J frame loose, or out of time. And every one I've come in contact with has been as reliable as a Zippo lighter. But I've never shot a lot of full power .38s through one of my J frames, let alone taken one from an operating pressure level of 22,400 c.u.p. (.38 Special +P) to 46,000 c.u.p. (.357 magnum) and then some.

I then tried to come up with a number that would represent all the full power loads fired through this J frame in a typical service life. Realistically, even with the .38 special variety J-frames, this number is low; perhaps less than 100. Common sense would suggest, with even more power crammed in the same size package, this number should be lower due to increased recoil, and report. Just to be safe I figured I'd keep it at 100. Then I quintupled it to get to the last edge of the bell curve. Certainly, only a handful of the 640 .357s that get into the real world will see anything like 500 rounds of full force .357s stuffed in them.

Over the course of three consecutive days, I fired 500 rounds--150 rounds the first two days and 200 the last day--at the local range through the Smith 640 The 500 rounds broke down as follows:

  • 100 rounds .357 magnum Federal 125 grain JHP
  • 100 rounds .357 magnum American Eagle 158 grain JHP
  • 100 rounds .357 magnum Winchester Western 145 grain STHP
  • 200 rounds .357 magnum reloads:
    (125 grain CCI JHP, 13 grains of Blue Dot, WW small pistol standard primer)

The Model 640 survived in true Smith fashion--superbly. It was still tight and still in time. If anything, I believe the action was even smoother than when I took it out of the box. The accuracy of the 640 was still excellent. The small barrel belies its potential. I could easily roll soda cans at 25 yards and rapid fire all 5 rounds into a paper plate at 15 yards. True, I am in no big hurry to repeat this test. But it is nice to know that if you ever have to do some serious shooting through one of Smith's new micro monster 640 .357s, it can take it.

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