“Darling Companion” was a song by old-time country singer Jimmie Rodgers, but I use it to refer to a handgun that I've carried virtually every day for the last 14 years. I'm referring to the Smith & Wesson Model 442 revolver that used to be called the Centennial Airweight.
My friend Colonel Rex Applegate was instrumental in getting Smith & Wesson to introduce this little snub-nose revolver. It incorporated the frame of the Chiefs Special with the internal hammer and grip safety of one of the early S&W break-top revolvers. An interesting note is that there was a little pin, under the grip panels, that could be used to deactivate the grip safety, should the shooter so desire. Some years after Smith & Wesson went to model numbers instead of naming their guns, this airweight revolver was brought back out as the Model 442, minus the grip safety.
Back about 2002, I received one of the little guns, marked “1852—An American Tradition—2002”, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the company. I had the action slicked up and decided to start carrying this double-action revolver.
Over the years, I've tried a number of different defense loads in this gun. I quickly found that +P ammo just kicked too hard to suit me. I finally settled on Federal's 125-grain Nyclad ammo for regular use in the 442. The Nyclad bullet is a very soft lead hollowpoint that has been coated with a blue nylon substance that reduces barrel leading. Most importantly, this bullet is pushed at standard velocities, so the recoil is manageable.
Living in the Southwest, most of our weather is shirt-sleeve weather and deep concealment is the order of the day. I'll have this 5-shot revolver stashed somewhere about my person whenever I leave the house, never mind exactly where.
On those nasty winter days, I'll wear a larger gun on my hip—usually a 1911—under a heavy coat. But the little 442 doesn't stay at home. It rides in the pocket of my winter coat in case, when trouble comes, I don't have time to unzip the coat.
I really don't have any exciting tales to share with you regarding the S&W Model 442. I've had my hand on it a few times when things looked like they were going to get bad, but didn't. Naturally, living where I do, it has been called on to dispatch several rattlesnakes. I carry two speed strips in the hip pocket of my jeans, one loaded with extra Nyclad ammo and the other with shotshells. CCI's .38 Spl. shotshells take care of Ol' Mr. BuzzTail very nicely.
I won't presume to tell you that all of you need to be carrying a S&W Model 442 as a deep concealment gun. I will tell you only that it works very nicely for me. The real lesson is that, once you find a defensive handgun that works for you, hang onto it. If you'll check with me 14 more years down the road, you'll undoubtedly find me still packing this same revolver—assuming, of course, that the Red Gods decide that it's okay for me to hang around that long.