Why I carry a J-Frame

It seems that I always find myself back here – carrying a 5 shot .38 Special +P. I resolve to carry a “real gun” like a 1911, or a modern polymer pistol, and yet the gun that ends up on my belt most often is a j-frame. For a while, it was a 3-inch Model 60, which I regrettably sold, and now it’s a S&W 640 Pro Series. I was pondering on this, why do I always default back to a j-frame at the end of the day when I “know” that I should be carrying a bigger gun that holds more bullets.


I usually carry the j-frame exactly as pictured, in a simple Blackhawk leather holster at the AIWB position. This gun/holster combo prevents me from re-holstering one handed, so I treat it much like I’d treat a Raven Vanguard “holster.” It’s there to cover the trigger guard and keep me from putting an XTP into my femoral artery. If the gun comes out of the holster, the re-holstering process means that I take the holster off my belt and put the gun in it, then re-holster. The whole rig is very simple, and it goes on just as easy as it comes off. If I have to go somewhere during my work day that frowns on guns, it comes off without having to fuss around your belt line in a parking lot, which just looks shady.

Simplicity is a big part of why I come back to this rig over and over again. Another reason is my personal risk assessment puts the likelihood of getting into a gunfight pretty low. I don’t carry a reload, either. I guess I figure that if I’m in a situation where going loud with a j-frame is my best bet for survival, then I’m having a really improbably bad day anyway and a 3-second speedloader reload is going to be about 3 more seconds than I have.

Mostly, I do it because it’s convenient. I believe I should carry a gun, and wear my seat belt, etc. I also carry a knife at all times, because these are all useful things to have on my person. The j-frame is a definite upgrade from my old Beretta Jetfire, but it’s still light enough and easy enough to carry that it won’t get left in my safe like many of my other larger, “better” guns. Sure, I could buckle on my P229 every day, or take the time to strap on a full-size 1911, but I don’t particularly feel under-armed with five shots of .38 Special +P, so why bother?

Do you have a gun/holster combo that you default to even though you “know better?” Let me know your thoughts.


  1. For some reason I keep defaulting back to a full size gun from compacts and subcompacts, lately it has been a XD45 tactical. I liked how concealable the pocket ketecs and tauruses were, but, my reasoning is that the full size 5″ gun AIWB conceals just as easy and If I have to take it off anyway, I may as well carry what I am used to. I dunno, maybe it’s time for me to try a revolver? The only time i really feel the pistol is when I need to tie my shoes, but the same feeling comes from the smaller guns for me too.

  2. I default to the exact same setup with a j-frame, except I hate IWB holsters, so I pocket carry the j-frame in a pocket holster. It’s so darn comfortable!

  3. I love my J-frame, but I use it exclusively as a BUG. I find a full size auto in a Tommy fanny pack hides very well under a Hawaiian shirt if I need to have something that’s easy to take off. I’d rather have that than just a 5-shot snubby.

  4. Until I have more gun and holster options, I only have one gun option and two holster options, the IWB won’t work for the summer because it’s too hot for drappy over clothes to cover it so it’s always the thigh holster but that leaves me no option if I want to wear pants or shorts. Being small makes it more difficult to conceal and I keep hoping for new options for the small girl. I’ll never be able to carry my .45, not even on the thigh so it will never be an option. 🙁

  5. Look I love my Glock 17 in a cqc (spare me the “your-going-to-shoot-your-knee-out” crap please its called training and proper finger placement) but honestly when concealment and comfort are the big thing AND I’m in a county that hasn’t had a gun fight in living memory… I find the little macarov coming out for pocket carry more and more because its easy, its small, its lightweight and it disappears on me.

  6. I’m also rather partial to a de-spurred model 36 in a pocket holster for pretty much the same reason. Super easy to tote, and much easier to draw from a pocket than any auto.

  7. Glock 19 witha G17 reload is the default gun, unless I’m feeling archaic and go with a 1911 and a couple 10 round reloads. I’ve got too many friends and acquaintances who’ve been accosted by three or more criminals at a time to not allow a few rounds for each of ’em. Better to have spare ammo after a fight than to run out.

  8. I default to my Ruger LCP in a desantis pocket holster. I know it is small, but it is so comfortable to carry that I never have a good reason to leave it at home.

  9. Keltec .32 or a 3″ J frame .357 Scandium for backcountry. If I’m in more trouble than I can solve with either of those, then I’m probably in more trouble than I can solve with a Glock 19.

  10. I’ve carried a snub for many years, but even if it was a BUG and not my primary it had a reload, typically in the form of a speed strip.

  11. Kahr P380 in a Concealment Solutions IWB Micro Mamba and a spare mag in my pocket. I don’t even really consider it a compromise any more. It is a gigantic leap forward from the KelTec P3AT before it. It has night sights and I can hit with it fast and reliably out to 15 yards with no problems. Shot it in an IDPA bug match once and loved it. I end every range session by putting some rounds thru it.

    I also have a SIG 938 that I am trying to get used to, but my go-to is still the Kahr.

  12. My default is a 340PD J Frame in my right side pocket. Scary, my reasons are about the same as yours.

  13. I’m with Chuck; thing is every time I go “J-frame only + Speedstrip” I bump into somebody I’ve arrested and is no fan of Dan. Usually I’m “J-frame always” w. a 19/23/27 “mostly!” And those are backed by compact or full-size mags for reloads.

  14. Kahr PM9 in a CrossBreed.
    Works well in the Florida weather almost any time of the year.
    The combo is so comfortable that there are days I forget its there until its time to hit the sack.

  15. M&P Shield in 9mm IWB at 4 o’clock with the eight round mag and a seven rounder in my pocket is comfortable. And it shoots very well. A full size anything is either to heavy, big or harder to conceal easily. Depends on the weather. If I’m dressing really light I drop my Diamondback DB380 and a mag in a pocket. Winter here in Alaska makes for concealing under a coat pretty easy.

  16. Risk management is a major part of this, I think.

    I’ll probably post this part over on Pistol-Forum also, but… Something that really hit home hard lately is that different firearms can have significantly different trigger pulls. Being used to my Glock 17 for “games” where I shoot thousands of rounds per year compared to my XDm 3.8 for carry where I shoot hundreds of rounds per year I will short-stroke the reset. That gives me cause for concern if I’d actually need it.

    How do you deal with that?

    1. I shoot and carry guns that have very similar triggers, usually. The exception is the j-frame, which has a very strong reset.

    2. Well the short answer is: go out and train with it… but lets be honest ammo is expensive and hard to find! So what I do is a lot more dry fire with a carry gun. just saying.

  17. S&W 340 PD, .357 mag, actually loaded with Hornady Critical Defense .38 spec’s. Galco G119 H pocket from horse hide. Perfect here in the south. Extreme light weight along with high quality all the way around.

  18. For comfort wearing my Sig P238. Great little piece, accurate and easy recoil, highly concealable. The S&W 38 spcl, keep in bed with me. My G19, love it for range and home defense also. And the Ruger lc9, hubby got. I can’t stand it! That loooong trigger pull, forget it. Plus it’s not accurate and snappy! Trying to sell it. Some people are ok with it, not me, and hubby isn’t too crazy about it either.

  19. My favorite is my Colt Defender in .45acp in 7+1 & 22 ozs (my max for ‘carry’ weight, but with the ($20.) ‘belt clip’ mounted on the sidearm at 4 o’clock. Easy to (reholster) if necessary. I walk slow with a cane, so retention is less of an issue, for me. Non-stick grips keep it from grabbing my shirt.
    This eliminates any holster & is under 0.95 in wide. I never bother with an extra mag as I believe my +P ammo & the the various warheads will give me all the firepower I can anticipate. I’ve been carrying for almost 40 years, on/off duty. Also, I very often grab my .357 mag snubby (J frame) & stuff it in my back pocket for a quick run to the store.

    If much discretion is required, I carry a Kel Tec P3AT .380acp with 6+1 +Ps, only 9 oz with factory belt clip, its a pain to shoot, but I can hit a 6 inch circle with the trench sites, easily so it’ll ‘get-me-home’.

  20. I found myself defaulting to the J frame. In the winter it’s easier to carry speed loaders or speed strips.

  21. Default these days tends to be a Colt Agent .38 in a Mika pocket holster, loaded with Buffalo Bore 158 gr standard pressure rounds

  22. take the time to strap on a full-size 1911

    I have personally not noticed that it takes any longer to holster one kind of gun than another…

    1. I have to invest a lot more time in dressing around a 1911 than I do a j-frame. A grownup gun limits my ability to wear tight polo shirts.

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