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J-Frames vs Ruger LCR for concealed carry

Ruger LCR vs S&W J-Frame: Which Snubbie Should I Get?

If a person is considering a snubbie revolver for concealed carry, a person will likely come down to two choices: S&W J-frame vs Ruger LCR. These are two very popular snubbie revolvers and arguably the best available.

Which is better, though?

That depends on how you define "better." Thing about the J-frame is that the J-frame is actually a whole family of revolvers, with a lot of options to choose from. The LCR is as well, but to a far lesser degree. In other words, you get more choices when it comes to the J-frame in terms of frame construction and accoutrements, but the LCR is hardly a one-trick pony.

Ultimately, it depends on precisely what you're looking for in a CCW revolver.

Ruger LCR: Optimized For Carry

Let's get it out of the way: you don't get as much in terms of choice with the Ruger LCR (it stands for Lightweight Carry Revolver) series. You can pick double-action only (the LCR) or a low-profile hammer with the LCRx. The finish can be any color, so long as you like black. (Though a few distributors may have some special color options available, if that matters.) The frame is a polymer lower and aluminium alloy upper.

You get Hogue rubber grips and a whole lot of surface contours for an easy draw from concealment. Sights are notch rear and blade front, though you can get luminescent front sight inserts and a couple of LCRx models do come with target rear sights.

You can get Crimson Trace from the factory or order the grips yourself.

You do get a bit more choice in terms of caliber, though. You get the classics, .38 Special +P and .357 Magnum. There are also .22 LR and .22 Magnum models, in both the LCR and LCRx. However, the LCR - though not the LCRx - can also be had in .327 Federal Magnum and the LCR's popular 9mm variant. The latter requires the use of moon clips, but Ruger sells them cheap.

Everything you need, nothing you don't, but you can get a little bit of what you don't if you want.

The LCR has a 1.87-inch barrel across the board, save for two LCRx models with 3-inch barrels. (One in .38 Special, one in .22 LR.) Unloaded weight is 13.5 ounces at the lightest, 17.2 ounces at the heaviest. Despite the frame contouring, the LCR is slightly bigger than the smaller J-frames, at 4.5 inches tall and 6.5 inches long, but slightly narrower at 1.28 inches wide at the cylinder.

Granted, fewer choices in appointment over the J-frame series, sure, but the LCR is designed for function first, which is why a lot of people regard it as the best concealed carry revolver on the market.

Ruger LCR .357 variant
Ruger LCR Specs:
  • Overall Length: 6.5"
  • Height: 4.5"
  • Barrel Length: 1.87"
  • Width: 1.28"
  • Weight: 13.5oz - 17.2oz

Take advantage of our 30-day Test Drive! There's more Ruger LCR holsters available on our Search by Gun page under Ruger on the Revolver tab.

J-Frame Revolvers: Freedom of Choice

Thing about the J-frame is there are J-frame revolvers for almost any sensibility. For the most part, you get 5 shots of .38 Special or .357 Magnum, though there are a couple of 7-shot models in .22 Magnum and a few 8-shot models in .22 LR.

However, everything beyond that is up to you. What you can get depends on what you want and how much you're willing to pay...and there's a J-frame for almost any budget.

Want wood and blue steel? The Model 36, the classic J-frame, is for you.

Variants of the S&W J-Frame

Rather have a lightweight DAO optimized for the deepest concealment? Try the 642. Want the best of both worlds? The 648 in .38 Special and 649 in .357 Magnum have shrouded hammers, allowing for single or double-action operation but streamlined for an easy draw from concealment. Lasers are available, as are models with target sights.

And so on. There are more than 3 dozen individual models under the J-frame banner, so it's a buyer's market. Choose the model you like.

Specs vary by model, but the typical barrel length is 1.875 inches with an overall length of 6.3 inches. Some have a 2.125-inch barrel, and a few J-frames - most notably the Model 60 3" - have a 3-inch barrel, which makes them a tad longer. Width is 1.3 inches at the cylinder, and most models are around 4.2 inches tall, though a few have slightly longer grips so it depends on the exact model you look at.

Weight also varies by model. The lightest is the M&P 340 (the current M&P line of plastic fantastics are not the first to wear the label; the first was the Model 10) at 13.8 ounces. The heaviest is the Model 60 3" at 23.2 ounces. Most of them are 14.4 ounces, so less than a pound unloaded. Easy to conceal, easy to carry, easy to operate - that's why CCW revolvers are still relevant.

In short, there are so many iterations of the J-frame revolver that it would take all day for you to read about them. Suffice to say it's a versatile platform, with offerings to suit nearly any gun buyer's desires.

J-Frame Revolver
S&W J-Frame Specs:
  • Overall Length: 6.3"
  • Height: 4.2"
  • Barrel Length: 1.875"-2.125"
  • Width: 1.3"
  • Weight: 14.4oz

Take advantage of our 30-day Test Drive!

J-Frame vs. LCR: The Choice

If you had to choose between the J-frame vs. Ruger LCR...it really comes down to which one you like. You won't go wrong either way; it's like choosing between a Civic and a Camry. Either way you get a good car that's going to last.

They're practically the same gun. Both can be acquired for around $400 in most gun stores, though you should anticipate paying a little extra - probably about $50 - for the Ruger over a base model J-frame. Both chamber .38 Special and will run +P, so they are both good defensive pistols, though .357 Magnum can be had if desired.

They're both about the same size and weight, though the Ruger is about 1 ounce lighter than most J-frames; hardly enough to make a serious difference. Both can be had in DAO or double/single configuration.

However, there are a few things that could tilt a person in one direction over another. Ruger installs a friction-reducing cam in the trigger group, so you get a smoother pull in double-action which some people have bemoaned in S&W revolvers. Expect a 10- to 12-pound pull either way.

S&W Model 36 J-Frame
Ruger LCR

That said, there's a difference between what you can find on their site and what you'll find in stores. You're liable to find 2 to 3 J-frames per LCR in the display case, so you'll probably find a bit more selection in your local gun store among the S&Ws, which is something to bear in mind.

Try them both out at a range if possible, and see which you like. The one that feels best in the hand and that you can shoot the best is the one you should get. When you do go to the range, use Alien Gear's free 8" x 11.5" target!

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Sam Hoober

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.