Behold: The Smith & Wesson Ultimate Carry J-Frames in .38 Spl and 32 H&R Magnum

By Rich Grassi

Last week, I attended a gathering of the grey beards in Louisiana to participate in the hard launch of the Smith & Wesson Ultimate Carry revolvers. It seems that Smith & Wesson has been in product development stages of many of their product lines for decades. When they got a new handgun product manager, Andrew Gore, he wanted to see it all. And he was interested in an improved concealed carry revolver based on Smith’s popular small frame revolver line.

Think of Smith’s new Lipsey-exclusive Ultimate Carry J-frames as a lower-cost, high value “Performance Center” product line.

Jason Cloessner, Senior Vice President & Product Development Manager at Lipsey’s, also had interest in a better snub. Ably assisted by American Fighting Revolver entrepreneurs Darryl Bolke and Bryan Eastridge, the form of the new guns took shape…with a twist.

S&W had ceased their 32 H&R Magnum snubbie line, the M432/M632, some years ago. That was before guns like the M&P Shield EZ became so popular.

Very few people spend any time learning to shoot a snubbie revolver these days. Who wants to? Have you’ve fired the Model 642 (or 442) with +P loads? Hard stocks, a small frame and a significant jolt made them “carry often, shoot seldom” guns. That’s a bad idea when the shooting experience of an awful lot of people can be counted in one box of fifty rounds.

It’s not that J-frames aren’t easy to shoot, but they’re difficult to shoot well. So what do we do?

Sorting out the trigger is a good start. Improvements have been made in the Ultimate Carry line. I could feel it as I cycled the action through iterations of the “Werner Drill.” That’s a trigger control drill – actually a grip consistency drill – that came from the old “ball & dummy” exercise, modified by Claude Werner, the Tactical Professor.

Then they worked on the grips, which have traditionally been thin and hard on the hand. That was solved by VZ Grips with an updated, high-horn grip with a covered backstrap. I adds material, giving you a higher grip and reduces felt recoil. The left side of the grip is contoured to accommodate speed loaders.

Finally, they took a look at the aim. J-frames are known for their rudimentary gutter sight and front blade. Smith and Lipsey have given the Ultimate Carry a drift-adjustable dovetailed rear sight with U-notch and a very visible green XS Sights tritium front sight.

To get the right sight height for ammo regulation, to allow changing the front sight easily, to shroud the ejector rod and to make it easier to manufacture, a two-piece barrel (liner and shroud) are used. Think “M&P340” without Scandium and at a lower price point.

Put it all together and you’re part of the way to the product-improved M642/442-M632/432 UC revolvers.

I included the 32 H&R Magnum revolvers because they did. he Ulitmate Carry is being offered in both .38 Special and 32 H&R Magnum. For the feeble elderly like a number of us in the greybeard community as well as new shooters, the smaller caliber not only adds a round, but subtracts some recoil.

A word about caliber selection for those in the “Why not a 327 Federal Mag?” camp…. Throughout the range day in Louisiana, I had a S&W M&P340 in my pocket. One two of I’d only fired with magnum ammo for the shooting part of features I’d written. I don’t carry them that way. Call me feeble, but I’d much rather be able to reliably hit what I’m shooting at with the first round and the fifth round without crippling my hand.

Besides, without Scandium, it’s not going to work. Scandium increases cost and the huge number of buyers of small revolvers – those in that 99% of gun owners (some who are new to it all) who tend not to shoot much – who won’t buy it at all.

What about the frame lock? It’s gone, none in the UC line. S&W knows it lacks popularity, lacks necessity and they excluded it on this product line.

The sights are regulated for the ammo that’s likely to be used. Traditionally, sights were regulated for 158 grain ammunition. With the pair of M&P340s, it seems the 10-yard sweet spot is 110-125 gr. ammo, either +P or standard pressure.

In the “nice to have” department, is the Ultimate Carry’s “Endurance Package.” That means titanium frame stud pins rather than aluminum. For nearly all purchasers of these guns, it’s a difference that won’t be noticed. For the 1% who will put a lot of rounds down range with them, that will be much more appreciated.

With the Ultimate Carry 38 Special line, they’re regulated to hit POA with Speer 135gr. +P Gold Dot or target wadcutters at 15 yards. The 32s are set to 15 yards with Federal 85gr. JHP as well as 100 grain ammo traveling at around 800 fps in a 2” barrel.

All models weigh 16 ounces. The guns in each caliber are provided in stainless with black & gray stocks or in black with black cherry stocks. Both formats are pleasing to the eye.

The cylinder chambers are chamfered for ease in loading – something I round loading 32s in the 632 using Tuff Products 8-shot Quick Strips. The front of the cylinder is nicely beveled as well.

The takeaway from all of this was Lipsey’s and Smith’s advice to, “Treat this gun as the next generation of J-frames.” That’s most certainly what these guns are. In the coming months, there will be more coverage of this story with ammo tests and more.

If you run across a new shooter who needs a gun for protection and a conventional five-shot .38 is offered up, it will be worth taking a look at an Ultimate Carry J-frame. And the 32 H&R chambering will be popular with a lot of buyers for obvious reasons. The upgrades in the sights, trigger and stocks are well worth the difference at the cash register (MSRP = $759).

With the advent of the Ultimate Carry line, Rex Applegate’s dream gun is reaching its pinnacle. These wheel guns should be a solid hit with consumers.



3 Responses

  1. .327 Federal would have been nice, but I could live with .32 mag.

    Looks interesting, but I’m currently happy with the Ruger LCR in .357 with the laser for the time being…

  2. I’m still in the “why not .327?” camp.

    You could still run .32 H&R if you wanted but would have the capability of sizing up.

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