Review: Smith and Wesson 625 JM — A Fast Shooting Revolver

Loaded Smith and Wesson Model 625 JM with cylinder open atop a box of ammunition

The Smith and Wesson 625 JM is a big burly revolver that has many good design features. This stainless steel revolver features fully adjustable rear sights, a post front sight with a brass insert often referred to as a gold bead, a full underlugged barrel, and a smooth trigger action. The piece is named for Jerry Miculek a wizard of the handgun. Miculek has demonstrated the ability to fire six shots from a custom 625, reload, and fire six more in the span of three seconds. It takes decades of hard work and the man is a fantastic athlete. The 625 is chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge. This rimless cartridge must be used with thin sheet metal clips to properly eject after firing. The cartridge may be loaded and fired without moon clips but cartridges will have to be picked out one at a time.

Smith and Wesson Model 625 JM revolver with ammunition and a holster
This is a proven design with much to recommend.

This revolver was the result of input from competitive shooters. For bowling pin matches the revolver has proven especially effective. Previous .45 ACP caliber revolvers featured shallow rifling for use with GI Ball and were not always accurate with lead bullets. The 625-8 is rifled for lead bullets. The short cylinder and long forcing cone make for excellent accuracy.

A few words on the .45 ACP revolver, this is an idea that is over 100 years old and has survived well. During World War I we supplied the Brits with large quantities of double action revolvers in .455 Webley. When we were drawn into the war in 1917 we had on hand perhaps 30,000 1911 Government Model automatics to arm an army that might grow to a million men. We were desperately short of handguns.

With war production going wide open at Smith and Wesson and Colt it only made sense to issue revolvers to our doughboys. Beginning in 1916 Smith and Wesson had experimentally rechambered revolvers for the .45 ACP cartridge and developed moon clips in order to allow the rimless cartridge to properly chamber and eject. This meant we did not have to have a separate revolver cartridge in the supply line. The result was the finest combat revolver ever built to that time.

Smith and Wesson Model 625 JM with cylinder open with two moon clips filled with empty shells
The moon clips made for real speed.

To load the .45 ACP revolver open the cylinder and insert a full moon clip with six cartridges. (Originally the 1917 revolvers were issued with two three round clips, now called half moon clips.) This is a very fast system. The real improvement in speed over a conventional revolver with a speed loader is in cartridge case unloading. Even if the barrel isn’t raised upwards as required with a conventional revolver during unloading the moon clip will be ejected.

Likewise in a pinch the revolver may be reloaded with the barrel upwards if you keep your thumb on the moon clip. This is an excellent system for a combat revolver. While the moon clips must be loaded before you use the revolver, this is a small price to pay for such combat efficiency. This revolver, originally designed as a stop gap, became a landmark in revolver design in my opinion.

After World War I various federal agencies were issued the revolver and others were sold as surplus. As a nation of revolver men, the .45 ACP revolver was not widely embraced, largely due to the need to load cartridges in moon clips or pick the cartridge cases out one at a time after firing. A new cartridge was developed, and American ingenuity once again solved a problem. A cartridge called the .45 Auto Rim was developed.

This is the .45 ACP with a revolver-like cartridge rim. The .45 AR properly headspaces on the case rim and offers real utility. Today, Buffalo Bore offers high performance ammunition in .45 AR caliber. These loads equal .45 Colt standard pressure loads in most regards. The 625 M Jerry Miculek (JM) edition of the 625 revolver is the finest example yet of the .45 ACP/.45 AR revolver. I have fired the piece extensively and find it an enjoyable and accurate revolver. While the personal defense angle for those that prefer the revolver is important, the 625 would also make for a great field gun. With a heavy load and a 255-grain SWC, thin-skinned game and wild boar are viable game.

Loaded Smith and Wesson Model 625 JM with cylinder open atop a box of ammunition
The revolver may be fired without moon clips.

I took the 625M to the range for an evaluation of its capabilities. The revolver handles well, coming on target quickly. The JM custom grips are well suited to concealed carry and offer good accuracy potential and control. I fired a couple of boxes of Federal American Eagle 230-grain FMJ loads with excellent results.

The piece is controllable and has a good natural point. The trigger action is smooth with a fast reset, and the Miculek-style target trigger helped. The action could be lighter, and I am certain I will add a set of custom trigger springs to the revolver. I also fired the revolver with the Federal 230-grain Hydra-Shok—a proven personal defense cartridge.

Control is less difficult than a heavy-loaded .45 Colt and considerably more comfortable than a .44 Magnum. Yet, the .45 ACP offers plenty of power for most uses. With proper load practice, the .45 Auto Rim may be loaded to a level higher than the .45 ACP +P with excellent results. As for accuracy, the 625 delivered credible accuracy, if not tack driving. The revolver grouped five shots into 3 inches with the Federal American Eagle load and 2 inches with the Federal Hydra-Shok. The Buffalo Bore 255-grain SWC (.45 Auto Rim) fired five into 2.25 inches. That is accurate enough for most chores.

The 625 JM has much appeal. The Jerry Miculek version is a rather nice handgun with excellent features. Those who prefer the revolver for personal defense will appreciate the 625 very much. Even those of us who carry a self-loader for personal defense will find the 625 a great field gun. Based on historical interest, top notch performance and a balance of accuracy and power, the Smith and Wesson 625 JM is a first class handgun.

No one shoots like Jerry Miculek, but how well can you handle a wheel gun? Have you ever used moon clips? What is your assessment of Smith and Wesson’s Model 625 JM? Share your answers in the comment section.


About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (8)

  1. I’m just now looking into getting a 625 JM, what is the holster in the first picture in this article. I have a Blade-Tech for a 686 L frame and it looks very similar. Thanks.

  2. Used a 625 for concealed carry ticket, no practice before hand but shot 247 out of 250. reloaded quicker than anyone else on firing line. Instructor came over and looked at “a wheel gun” , walked away shaking his head. points quick and falls right back on target. What’s not to like.

  3. Anytime I wear my 625 JM at a gun show several people ask how much I want for it. I tell them it’s not for sale. Sometimes they don’t accept my answer, and they repeat their question.
    It is a beautiful piece, and it shoots nice. The biggest problem with it, like any non-popular handgun, is finding a holster. I had to have one custom made.
    No, I’m not selling it.

  4. I’ve owned one of these for several years, and it is a sweet revolver. The moon clips are a pain to load and unload, but you can build a jig to handle them. I use a post on a board to unload the brass with a Wilson Combat tool which makes it easy. Then I roll the moon clips over the rounds and snap them in.

    The revolver is, again, a sweet shooter. Well balanced, recoil friendly, and good looking to boot!

  5. Owned a S&W M1917 back before prices went through the roof, I used it as a car gum. I would dearly love to own another .45 ACP revolver be it, S&W, Colt or Ruger.

  6. The JM 625-8 is rifled for lead bullets. Does this make it more accurate with jacketed bullets than other ACP revolvers.?

  7. Oh, SURE!
    Market ANOTHER pistol I’d love to own.
    Wanna swap for a leg from the knee down?
    I’ll even throw in the replacement knee implant that is no use to me.
    Come on. Do me a solid and let’s trade. Being as it is a JM endorsed revolver, I doubt I could afford to buy it on my own.
    Mebbe if I toss in a Kidney? LOL

    1. Check the prices. Cost of the 625 is in line with most of S&W’s revolvers. There are two versions, one the standard 625 and one from the Performance Center.

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