Smith and Wesson J Frame Holsters

The Smith and Wesson J-frame revolver is probably the most popular “everyday” concealed carry handgun in America.  Celebrating its 60th year, the J-frame out numbers all other handguns as the backup gun of choice for America’s police.  The J-frame is also one of the most common pistols for “newbies” to bring to their introductory CCW classes.

Introduced in 1950, the Smith and Wesson J frame was an instant hit with America’s police officers and Police Chiefs.  The Chief’s Special became the new paradigm for  5 shot .38 Special short barreled revolvers.


There are three primary configurations of J-frames.  Each one has its advantages and disadvantages during carry and while firing. The first configuration is the Chief’s Special. It features and exposed hammer, and can be fired in single action (by first cocking the hammer) or in double action.

The Centennial model features a “humpback” design that features a completely concealed hammer.  The lack of an exposed hammer makes the gun much easier to draw from tight places (like front pockets) due to the completely snag free nature of the backstrap. Without an exposed hammer to snag on clothing, the gun pulls out of places much smoother and easier.


The Bodyguard configuration is like a combination of the Chief’s Special and the Centennial. It features a shrouded hammer that still leaves a small “cocking-button” exposed so the user can thumb cock the hammer if they want to.   It also has the hump back styling that, combined with the shrouded hammer, allows for a smooth draw from tight places.


The three configurations also feature other options within the respective product lines, such as caliber choices, barrel lengths, and frame materials. The typical J frame (if there is such a thing) is usually one of the Airweight models, with a 1 7/8 inch barrel chambered in .38 Special.  This is the configuration I have seen (and used) the most as well. (I believe Smith and Wesson’s best selling model is called the 642, it is a Centennial style, Aluminum Airweight frame finished in a “stainless-look” with a stainless 1 and 7/8 inch barrel and cylinder chambered in .38 Special.)

Choosing a J-frame may seem like a difficult task at first.  There are many variations to choose from, so deciding on one to carry will require a trip to the local gun store or range where you can look at the variations and maybe even try a few out.

Many people gravitate towards the J-frame because of its small size and light weight. While this combination surely is appealing and is a big reason for the J-frames popularity, inexperienced shooters may need to exercise some caution during the selection process. A lightweight pistol in .38 Special recoils…a lot. With serious self defense ammo (.38 Special +P), it is mean, in .357 magnum, the recoil is punishing.  These are a bad combination for beginners trying to learn the fundamentals of handgun shooting, as painful recoil will quickly shorten a practice session and may take the fun out of shooting.  New shooters may want to look at the steel framed versions of the J frame, as these heavier guns soak up the recoil better and make the guns much more pleasant to shoot with .38 Special ammunition.

There is an abundance of options for ways to carry your chosen J-frame.  J-frame holsters are available from many manufacturers in leather, kydex, and nylon.  The compact, lightweight J-frame makes concealment very easy for most people. It easily slips in a front or rear pants pocket.  Many people keep a J-frame in the side pocket of their jacket during the fall and winter. The gun is small enough where it will not print while in the jacket pocket, and its owner can casually walk around with his or her hands in their pockets, all the while having a firing grip on the revolver and not drawing any attention to themselves.

A belt holster is also a very popular option for the J-frame, especially the steel framed or three inch barreled variations.  Most manufactures offer a few different styles of belt holsters for the J-frame, so each individual can pick the style and features they like the best.

Many folks opt for inside the waistband carry.  The J-frame is a short barreled gun, so it is not obtrusive when carried in a good IWB holster. This style holster is very concealable; it works well in warm and cold climates, and allows for a fast presentation if the gun is needed.  I find it much easier to draw from an IWB holster than from a pocket holster.

There are many great holster choices from a variety of very good holster manufacturers. Finding a holster to work with your J-frame will not be difficult; it will just take some experimentation to find which holster or holsters will work for you.

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