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The Smith & Wesson Model 649 in .38 Special +P. Used examples are found in the $400-600 range. (Photo: David LaPell)

The compact snub nosed revolver market has been dominated by Smith & Wesson ever since they introduced the J-frame .38 Chiefs Special in 1950. Sure, Colt, Ruger and the others have had their snubbies, but they have come and gone while the J-frame revolvers have been in continuous production, in one form or another, for more than sixty years.

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Smith and Wesson Bodyguard Airweight in .38 Special. (Photo: David LaPell)

One thing that many concealed carry holders want in a gun — especially a backup or pocket pistol — is something that doesn’t catch on clothing.  Smith & Wesson came up with a solution to this back in 1955 known as the Bodyguard Airweight[1] in .38 Special. What was different, besides the alloy frame, was that this built up frame, steel barrel pistol formed a hump that covered the hammer. A shooter can still use the hammer for single action, but also has a firearm that can be drawn from concealment without worrying about catching on clothing or cocking the weapon.

In 1959 Smith & Wesson made the Bodyguard on an all steel frame that later became known as the Model 49. Fast forward a few decades to 1985 when Smith & Wesson introduced the stainless steel version of the Model 49 known as the Model 649.

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S&W 649 is the bane of all varmint intruders on my homestead. (Photo: David LaPell)

Like the other J-frame .38 Specials the 649 is a five shot revolver. It sports a two inch barrel and fixed sights. The standard Model 649’s were made until 1996, when S&W debuted a version in .357 Magnum. Weighing just twenty ounces it has a slightly larger frame with options for two and one eighth inch barrels. In 1997 Smith & Wesson also introduced a .38 Special + P version that used the new frame but had a shorter 1.875 inch barrel. It was a short lived affair however and only saw production for two years, after which the .38 caliber 649 was canned altogether.

I picked up one of these seldom seen .38 Special +P Model 649’s several of years ago, identified by their designation, 649-4. I had first laid eyes on a S&W Bodyguard revolver back when I was working an overnight job and one of the nightly delivery drivers packed a Model 49. I have owned several Model 36 revolvers, a couple of Colts and I even carried a two inch barrel Model 10 for some time, but the Model 649 makes them all look like they are going in slow motion.

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Range results with my Smith 649, offhand at 25 yards. Not too bad for a “belly gun.” (Photo: David LaPell)

I know many shooters would rather have a double action only revolver like the Model 642, but I

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