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Why do all the "pros" carry J-frames?

Discussion in 'General Firearms Forum' started by Landmonster, Jan 6, 2012.

  1. Landmonster


    Oct 9, 2006
    Fort Worth, TX
    I've noticed a theme, and perhaps you have too. The more I read about professional shooters and trainers, it seems to me that an overwhelming majority of these professional shooters/gun guys/firearms trainers seem to choose J-frame revolvers as their CCW of choice. I know this is not true in every case (i.e., James Yeager carries 2 G19s), but it holds true in many cases.

    I don't have any actual data to support this observation, so perhaps my observations are skewed by some kind of bias.

    Anyway, why do all the "pros", or experts, seem to prefer J-frame revolvers?

    I've looked at them in gun shops, and I've even briefly owned a 642. I just can't get excited about them for some reason.

    Cons for me:
    1. The guns really aren't that small. (I don't see how people really pocket carry these guns in nice looking slacks or jeans)
    2. They only hold 5-shots.
    3. Reloading is a slow process.
    4. The caliber really isn't that powerful. (It's weaker than 9mm NATO)
    5. The trigger is too heavy and gritty.
    6. The sights are usually hard to see and virtually useless.
    7. The fit and finish is less than stellar. (Why can't S&W make a lasting finish on these guns, or make the trigger out of a nice uniform looking metal?)
    8. The newer guns come with the internal locks.

    All in all, they are slightly underpowered, hard to shoot, and don't seem that easy to carry. The only positive benefit I see is that they are highly reliable.

    Nevertheless, these guns are heralded as the ultimate CCW option by many experts.

    What am I not seeing?
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2012
  2. Landric

    Landric Supervisor?

    I wouldn't call myself a Pro at all, and actually I changed from J-frames to a Ruger LCR and SP101, both in .357, but the theory is the same.

    1. I have never had any problems carrying various J-frames in pants pockets, they are much more natural feeling to me than any of the small "pocket" autos. The right pocket holster goes a long way, as does selecting pants with large pockets.

      True, but they tend to be more reliable and more powerful than pocket autos

      True, they make better second guns, or having a second J-frame rather than attempting to reload is an option.

      That depends on what J-frame you are carrying, no matter what anyone tells you about the .357 Magnum out of short barrels, it does out perform 9x19mm in similar sized guns across the board, especially with heavier bullets. A full-size 9x19mm pistol can't push a factory loaded 158 grain bullet to 1135 fps, but a 2 1/4" SP101 can. Handloading can raise that figure significantly while still being safe, a 9x19 handload might get in the 1100 fps range with that heavy of a bullet out of a 5" barrel, but it would be hard pressed to do any better while maintaining any level of safety.

      That depends on the gun, the LCR has a fantastic trigger out of the box. J-frames with bad triggers can be pretty easily solved, and once one gets used to shooting DAO the trigger is easy to handle out of the box anyway.

      The same can be said of most of the pocket autos out there, some of which don't have sights at all. Besides, many of the newer J-frames have better sights these days. My LCR has a great front night sight, it is also available on S&W guns.

      I have never seen a S&W that looked nearly as bad as a NIB Kel-Tec, and working guns don't have to look nice, they just have to work. I see the finish as a non-issue, fit I have never seen a problem with.

    Not all of them, S&W is dropping internal locks from many of the J-frame concealed hammer guns, or at least making the lock optional. The S&W lock is both ugly and prone to failure, I wouldn't carry a gun witht he lock intact. Luckily, it is easy to disable if one has a revolver with it.

    They are not for everyone, but they have a place. I find them to be fantastic pocket and ankle guns, and I often end up carrying one revolver on my ankle and the other in my pocket when a belt or IWB holster isn't right for my carry situation. Generally I carry one revolver as a backup to a compact or subcompact Glock. Despite the similar size of the Glock 26 and LCR/SP101, the 26 doesn't work well as a pocket gun and the revolvers do.

  3. Goldendog Redux

    Goldendog Redux Shut your mouth

    Aug 22, 2003
    I don't know who the "pros" are or what they carry but I imagine a lot of folks carry a J-Frame because they are dead nuts reliable, light, simple to operate, effective at ranges that will likely come into play and the fact that carrying a gun is a pain in the ass so you may as well make it easy on yourself.

    Last edited: Jan 6, 2012
  4. WASR10


    Oct 9, 2011
    I am no pro, but I carry a j-frame when not carrying a Glock. I'm a pretty big guy, so to me they are rather small. Drops in my pocket or sits IWB without any intrusion. I like the DOA trigger. The sights on my J are fully functional and help me put that shot on target. The .38 +p isn't all that sheepish, it can really do some work. The finish depends on the model, but I admit the lighter weight models don't hold their pretty. But, its a tool, so that really is an after thought.

    The two main draw backs are indeed the low capacity and slow reload. I practice and practice and I can reload pretty fast, but never will I get as fast as reloading a semi-auto. But I do practice shooting it. A lot. And 5 well placed shots is worth more than 15 sprayed and prayed.

    I guess snubbies aren't for everyone, though.
  5. Tiro Fijo

    Tiro Fijo

    May 31, 2011
    REAL pros carry Colt Detective Specials. :whistling:
  6. c' know you meant Colt Cobras...:supergrin:
  7. Ahmid

    Ahmid CLM

    Feb 6, 2007
    I am finally down to a J frame 99% of the time. So easy to carry in South Florida. I am sure if I still lived in the N.E. during the winter I would carry a more powerful semi.
  8. Once you get to be a REAL pro, we'll let you in on the secret...and the handshake. :whistling: :supergrin:

    Seriously, I suppose because they understand they're a lot more likely to not need it than to need it, and a J frame is about as good a compromise between not carrying a gun at all, and carrying something else.
  9. collim1

    collim1 Shower Time!

    Mar 14, 2005
    There is alot of people who claim to carry a 5" 1911 IWB 24/7, but I dont believe very many of them. Making a run to the gas station with your 1911 hardly means it is your primary carry weapon.

    Carrying at work is a real problem for a lot of people, because it demands 100% concealment often when wearing dress clothes. When its time to wear dress clothes to work and carry your gun for 12hrs a day the jframe is a good compromise.

    I tried a P3AT and got burned, it was a total lemon. I gave up the 2 extra rounds and faster reloads to have 5 shots with reliability. I also find the jframe (especially the concealed hammer models) to be quite comfortable in a pocket or on the ankle.

    I open carry at work so concealment is not an issue for me. I carry a P239 OWB when not working, but still count on the jframe on occasion when I need 100% concealment.
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2012
  10. BuckyP

    BuckyP Lifetime Member

    Feb 1, 2005
    There is just something about a J-Frame, mostly the reliability.

    While I consider a G26/27 or P2000SK dead nuts reliable, I've yet to find any of the slimmer guns to have the same reputation. Sure some people have some that are, but there are enough that haven't. Also, some people will say my guns reliable, it only jammed twice, and they'll blame something (ammo, limp wrist). My G27 and my P2000SK never jammed on me. My Kahrs, while mostly reliable, do hiccup from time to time.
  11. gsp174


    Aug 31, 2010
    east coast
    It might be a price thing too, ammo is inexpensive and you could always find a used snubbie not shot often and in good mechanical condition.
  12. BuckyP

    BuckyP Lifetime Member

    Feb 1, 2005
    I'll add one more thing, with regards to pocket carry. I feel the "hammer-less" revolver draws better from the pocket than an Auto. The tapered back comes out smoother than the squared back of an auto.
  13. M2 Carbine

    M2 Carbine

    Dec 21, 2002
    I don't know any Pros, so I don't know what they carry.

    Personally, if the 2 inch J Frame would fit my pockets I'd carry it most of the time instead of the small .380 pistols I normally pocket carry.

    The only problem I have with the J Frame is the 5 round capacity. So if I thought my defense situation might involve more than two BG's I wouldn't want to carry the 5 shot gun, or the 7 shot .380 either.
  14. HexHead


    Jul 16, 2009
    Because Colt stopped making DA revolvers years ago.
  15. jwhite75

    jwhite75 Gubmint Worker

    Jan 6, 2009
    Dub V
    I have three carry guns right now...a Glock 23 , a Sig P228, and a S&W M&P 340 in .38/.357. It has an Ashley Express night sight on the front and weighs about 12 oz. I carry it in a Desantis Nemesis, or a Galco Summer Special. It disappears in anything I put it in.

    It is great in my shorts during summer or in my coat pocket during winter. During summer my G23 comes off my side covered in sweat. My J comes out of my pocket dry and ready for action any time I need it.

    My buddy and coworker has a G23, and guess where he carries his door space of his vehicle or at home on his refrigerator. Par tof this is because he isnt as committed to carryign as I am, and the fact that he simply cant carry as well as a small J-frame does.

    The "pros" as you call them most likely carry j-frames because they work in most every situation....most all of the time. Thats why they are pros...they know what works.

    As far as caliber goes. A relatively "weak" .38 worked for many many years in the holsters of lawmen all across this country and put many a bad guy down. That was with old ammo, the new modern +p stuff is so much better even.
  16. The small, snag-resistant (hammerless?), shot-barrelled, revolver in a capable caliber has been favored for pocket carry by knowledgable pistoleros since the development of the cartridge. If you're not familiar with the designs of Colt's designer/gunsmith "Mr. John Henry Fitzgerald" and his Fitz Special, it might make for some interesting reading. In time, those revolvers have become smaller, lighter, relatively less expensive, more durable & more reliable. The ammo has similarly become, through powder & bullet technology, more effective. Yet the basic theory still remains sound.
    Regardless of the validated self-defense statistics regarding; number of shots fired, number of attackers, at what distance, etc. (most of which show 5 shots to be sufficient) our own mental gymnastics imagine us facing rushing hordes of crazed Scarface-type bad-guys requiring 4 or 5 perfectly executed tactical reloads to effectively subdue.
    Well-experienced felon chasers (Pros) use one single criteria for equipment selection. Does this pick tilt the odds of survival in my direction? History says the j-frame revolver does exactly that.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2012
  17. Bruce M

    Bruce M

    Jan 3, 2010
    S FL
    It probably also pays to remember that one or three of the "pros" have a few years under their belts and may have been carrying before there were alot of polymer pistols, smaller pistols in substantial calibers and possibly even before pistols enjoyed wide popularity in some circles. Remember for probably three quarters of the last century Smith and Wesson and Colt probably occupied 97% of police holsters and a substantial number of others' holsters. As much as I enjoy the G26 my model 60 is a bit smaller and has a couple decades on it. And my model 60 is young by comparison as the first Chief's Specials date from the early 1950s.

    Add to that that my 60 has a great finish and my model 36 has a finish that is still quite good after a few decades, that the right .38 special round has proven adequate in skilled hands, that five rounds may be four more than is necessary, or possibly even five depending on what the bad guy does compliance-wise, speed loaders can reduce reloading time, some Smith triggers seemed a bit better a decade or three ago and many current ones can be improved as necessary, and if I really really needed it they made a nifty J frame with adjustable sights, not to mention a J frame in .22, and I understand why a J frame is a proven choice over decades.
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2012
  18. First of all, I wouldn't call the .38 Special a weak round. There are loadings available that put it on par or exceed the 9mm. As far as finish goes, the issues seem to be lmited to the 642 and guns with similar finish. The black finish of the 442 and its brothers holds up quite well. The j-frame trigger takes practice to get the hang of, but its very shootable. With practice, you can stage it for a near single action let off. The sights are on par or better than other pocket pistols out there. Finally, the dreaded lock. Both the 642 and 442 (and maybe a few other hammerless models) are available without it.

    Pros and joes of all sorts like the j-frame be cause of its deadnuts reliability. To each his own, but I'd take 5 for sure of .38 +p over any of the pocket outos any day.
  19. IV Troop

    IV Troop

    Jun 19, 2004
    "Why do all the "pros" carry J-frames? "

    Because when the chips are down and you have lost your primary gun for whatever reason, more likely than not, your J-Frame will go BANG when you need it most.

  20. ChicagoZman


    Jun 29, 2010
    Think you're getting hung up with the need for firepower in a BUG, which by definition is the gun you use when you've lost your primary, its empty, etc. But let me take them point by point.
    1. The J-Frame IS smaller than most SD guns with the exception of the newest generation of single-stack 9mms and .380s. Fits in MY pants or jacket pocket easily and when it doesn't will easily fit into an IWB holster.
    2. As a BUG I'm not looking for 9,10,15 rounds of ammo in the gun. This is my BACKUP, not my primary.
    3. Can reload in a couple of seconds from speed strips if needed. But at least I've got five rounds in my BUG.
    4. .38 +P has been a proven round by major police departments throughout the United States. Certainly better than .380, .32 or .25.
    5. My 642 trigger, while heavy, has never been gritty. In fact, I've never shot a S&W revolver with a gritty trigger.
    6. Sights are more than adequate for short range work one handed (3'-15') and will allow me to hit center of mass out to 50' with two hands. Its not a target or competition gun, its a BUG!
    7. My stainless 649 is almost twenty years old and the finish is great. My 642 is only a couple of years old and looks pretty good for a gun that gets used every day. Besides, who sees it but me. Its a BUG.
    8. Five minutes to remove the internal lock if that's your thing. Or buy one without a lock if that's your preference.

    Now, why do I carry one daily. Because it meets my needs and it ALWAYS works. I find it draws from a front pocket easier than a pistol and I have no worries about a malfunction caused by it hanging on clothes, a less than perfect grip, etc. I have other guns I carry as primary (Glocks mostly, but also 1911s) but only use J-Frames as BUGs as I've found they work for me.
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2012