If you have ever browsed through revolvers online, they can be a bit confusing. With so many model numbers and frame sizes, it can be difficult to tell what’s what. One of the nuances of revolvers is the style of hammer. The smallest S&W® revolver frame size, the J-Frame, has three hammer styles, one more than any of the other frame sizes.
Looking at revolvers all the way back to the Model 1, you’ll see there’s a visible exposed hammer; and when you think of a revolver you are probably envisioning one with a traditional exposed hammer. A traditional hammer has an exposed spur visible from nearly any angle.
Aside from aesthetics, this hammer is highly functional. On revolvers like the Model 637, when shooting double action, a pull of the trigger cocks the hammer back and releases it, striking the firing pin. When shooting this pocket-sized powerhouse single action, the checkering on the hammer spur makes it easy to grip onto and cock back.
Known commonly amongst firearms enthusiasts as “the humpback”, the shrouded hammer is just that, shrouded. Unlike the traditional hammer, the hammer spur is nearly invisible unless you are looking directly at it. These revolvers are called humpbacks due to the back portion of the frame being rounded. The benefit to this hammer type, as seen on the Model 638 is the ability to still have a single/double action revolver with the benefit of the snag free hammer spur design.
The original version of this revolver style was introduced in the 1880’s as the “.38 Safety Hammerless”, this fully enclosed hammer style featured two major innovations, the iconic and recognizable fully enclosed hammer, and a grip safety.
Over a century later, the “hammerless” design continues to be a reliable .38 Special go to in the form of the Model 642. With its fully enclosed hammer, this J-frame makes for an excellent double action snag-free deep-carry .38.
Regardless of which hammer style you aesthetically prefer, these three models of 5-shot .38 Special J-Frame revolvers cover all of the variety you could need. With each having its own features and benefits, you have the ability to choose the hammer style that will best suit your lifestyle. Whether you’re a traditionalist or snag-free fan, there’s at least one option for you.
Check out the full line of J-Frame revolvers.