J-Frame Concealed Carry Is Easy With These 5 S&W Snubbies
If a person prefers a compact revolver to a slimmed down compact auto, then J-frame concealed carry may well be the way to go. Snub-nosed Smith and Wesson revolvers were THE concealed carry gun for a long time, and are still some of the best.
Whether you're looking for a primary carry gun, deep concealment pistol or reliable backup, there are few inexpensive concealed carry revolvers as good as a J-frame. Here are the best of the lot for concealed carry.
S&W Model 638
If there was a candidate for the perfect concealed carry revolver, the S&W Model 638 would be as close to fitting the bill as just about any other gun could possibly come. It's optimized to conceal easily, to carry easily, and to use easily.
Usually, a concealed carry gun has some compromise built into it at some point. The 638 doesn't. For starters, it's one the Airweight models, as it's made with an aluminum alloy frame and barrel, with a stainless steel cylinder. Unloaded weight is a scant 15 ounces, so it can be easily carried all day.
Hammer-fired pistols can easily snag on clothing during the draw, which is why many concealed carry revolvers are hammerless double-action-only, meaning the trigger pull is long and tough. However, the 638 has a shrouded hammer and can therefore be cocked for single-action operation without compromising the concealability nor ease of shooting.
The synthetic grips do a good job of soaking up recoil, and the sights are low-profile for an easy draw. Capacity is 5 shots of .38 Special +P, so it's a standard 2-inch snubbie in that regard.
Retail is just under $500, and in-store prices can often be closer to $400. It has every refinement one could want from a concealed carry revolver and can be obtained for not very much - which makes it as close to a perfect concealed carry revolver as one could possibly get.
Some people just won't settle for anything less than a .357 Magnum in a personal protection gun, and there aren't too many .357 Magnums as compact as the Model 60. It's slightly larger than the standard J-frame, as it has a slightly longer barrel (2.125 inches vs 1.875 inches) and is slightly taller (by about the same margin) but is also heavier, as the stainless steel frame tips the scales at 22.6 ounces unloaded - about the same weight as a Glock 19.
However, what does the slightly larger dimensions and weight increase over the base models get you? 5 rounds of .357 Magnum in a pistol optimized for the larger round. Naturally, being chambered for that round also nets the ability to shoot .38 Special and .38 Special +P.
The Model 60 is hammer-fired, so one does have to take that into consideration, but the hammer is not as obtrusive as it would be on other pistols. Additionally, the sights are low-profile, for a smooth draw from concealment.
If a person wants a truly compact hand cannon, the Model 60 is one of the best.
The M&P340 might not be the absolute top of the J-frame line, but it has every refinement that could possibly be added for concealed carry.
Low-profile night sights are added for smooth draw and easier shooting in low-light conditions. The trigger is a hammerless double-action only, which will mean a longer and harder trigger pull, but it might not matter as much for follow-up shots since the pistol is chambered in .357 Magnum. The dimensions are the same as the standard J-frame, so it's a compact magnum.
The frame is a scandium alloy, so the gun is astoundingly light - weighing in at only 13.8 ounces unloaded, so it can be carried with ease by anyone. The improvements come with a premium, but the functionality of the enhancements will show the carrier where the premium went.
Take everything that's good about the Model 60, and add everything that's good about the Model 638, and the result is the Model 649. It has the Model 60's optimization for the .357 Magnum caliber and the Model 638's concealed carry improvements, which makes it a compact magnum that's perfect for concealed carrying.
The stainless steel frame still weighs in unloaded at 23 ounces, about the same as many other concealed carry pistols. This may seem heavy, but with a quality J-frame holster it carries with ease. The low-profile sights and shrouded hammer allow mean no compromise is needed between operation and concealability.
Sometimes, a classic is a classic for good reason - like the Model 36. Smith and Wesson initially created the J-frame to replace the I-frame revolvers in the late 1940s so their compact revolvers could chamber the .38 Special round, which the I-frame wasn't capable of. Initially it was called the "Chief's Special" when released in 1950, but was rebranded the Model 36 in 1957.
S&W kept the Chief's Special designation for a while, however; the new Chief's Special from that era is now the Model 60.
The Model 36 is the 1.8-inch barrel J-frame, but with a slimmer grip and wood handles. It's hammer-fired, with a blued steel frame. The sights are low-profile, so draw is easy, and the unloaded weight is 19.5 ounces, so it's actually lighter than stainless steel variants.
There are plenty of snub-noses on the market...but the original makes a very compelling case for itself.
About The Author
Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.