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S&W J Frame 2 or 3 inch barrel

When people start taking about snub nosed .38 revolvers, the S&W J frame models are almost always mentioned in that conversation. When it comes to short barreled revolvers with a small frame, Smith & Wesson has had the market cornered for years. Although they are facing some stiff competition from challengers such as the Ruger LCR and the Taurus Model 85, the J frame series still remains the dominate brand in that snub nose revolver market.S&W J Frame

Scroll down to see all the S&W J frame holster models that we carry

S&W J Frame History

The first S&W J Frame revolver with a 2" barrel to hit the market was the Model 36 in 1950. The main idea behind this model was to offer a small, concealable revolver that could easily fire the .38 special rounds, while still fitting comfortably in your hand. This initial version of the Model 36 was a huge success, and in no time at all, S&W started pumping out newer versions of the model, including a model with a 3” barrel.

Since that time, S&W has gone on to manufacture millions of these revolvers based on the J Frame design, and even produced a special version for women in 1989 which was called the “Ladysmith.” This particular "Ladysmith” model was/is available with either a 2” or 3” barrel, and has special grips on the handle that make it more comfortable for women to hold and shoot. It was a huge success for S&W, and went on to sell thousands of units around the country.

In recent years, there have been many S&W J Frame revolver models introduced to the market with different features and characteristics. They are available in different grips, different materials, and in configurations that are hammered, hammerless, or feature a bobbed hammer. For the most part, S&W offers the J frame series in 3 series, and those are:

S&W Chief’s Special

Although originally called the S&W Model 36, the Chief’s Special series received its name as it was debuted at the 1950 International Association of Chiefs of Police (commonly known as IACOP) and S&W did a contest to name that model. As the Model 36 was really designed for plainclothes policemen, the name chosen as “.38 Chiefs Special”. The Chief’s Special series were predominately manufactured with a 1 7/8” or 2” barrel, although a few of the series, such as the Model 60, were also available in a 3” version. All the Chief’s Special series are/were equipped with an external hammer, so they could be fired in double action or single action model and featured a 5 shot capacity. S&W J frame models in the Chief’s Special series include the following models:

  1. S&W Model 36
  2. S&W Model 37
  3. S&W Model 60
  4. S&W Model 337
  5. S&W Model 360
  6. S&W Model 437
  7. S&W Model 637

S&W Bodyguard Series

The Bodyguard series consists of J frame models that feature a shrouded hammer, with a small hammer spur so the revolver could be fired in the single or double action mode. The Bodyguard series also features revolvers made from different materials such as alloys, and most all were manufactured with a 1 7/8” barrel. Like most all the J frame models, the Bodyguard series also features a 5 shot capacity.  S&W J frame models in the Bodyguard series include the following models:

  1. S&W Model 40
  2. S&W Model 42
  3. S&W Model 340
  4. S&W Model 342
  5. S&W Model 442
  6. S&W Model 640
  7. S&W Model 642

Now, it’s worth noting that within some of these models, there are sub-variants that have slightly different characteristics. For example, the S&W Model 640 has variants such as the 640-1, 640-2, and 640-3. Each of these variants are chambered in 357 Magnum, and do not follow the standard J frame dimensions in terms of cylinder size and barrel length. These variants will not fit in a standard J frame holster, and usually require a specialized holster fit.

S&W Centennial Series

The Centennial series was originally designed as a plainclothes or undercover revolver as this model features an internal hammer as the external hammer models could/would potentially catch on clothing during the draw. The Centennial series is commonly referred to as being a “hammerless” model, but that isn’t accurate as the hammer is internal. The internal hammer design means that the Centennial models can only be fired in double action mode. S&W J frame models in the Centennial series include the following models:

  • S&W Model 38
  • S&W Model 49
  • S&W Model 438
  • S&W Model 638
  • S&W Model 649 (the .357 version has a longer 2.125" barrel)

Although most of the Centennial series J frame revolvers are chambered in .38 Special, the S&W Model 649 is available in both a .38 Special version and a .357 Magnum version. All the Centennial series are 5 shot models with either a 1 7/8” or 2” barrel.

Like most of the S&W line, there are a few variants in the J frame series that don’t really fall into one of the 3 main J frame series that were discussed above, and those models include the following:

S&W Model 340PD

The 340PD is S&W’s J frame variant for their popular “PD” series of revolvers, which were manufactured of a proprietary scandium alloy material. The 340PD is chambered in .357 Magnum and has a 1 7/8” barrel. However, the barrel is not round like a traditional J frame but has a “slab-side” design to it. The 340PD usually will not fit into a standard J frame holster and requires a special fit to accommodate the slab-side barrel and HIVIZ sights.

S&W Model 640 Pro

The 640 Pro is an updated variant of the S&W 640 series that comes out of the S&W Performance Center. Like the prior 640 variants, the 640 Pro is chambered in .357 Magnum, and features a wider, beefier cylinder, along with a longer (2.125”) barrel. Also, like it’s 640 cousins, the 640 Pro won’t fit in a standard J frame holster.

Here are some of the more commonly asked questions that we see regarding S&W J frame holster models:

I have a S&W revolver in 38 Special, but I’m not sure if it’s a J frame or not? How can I tell?

So, there are a few different ways to determine what model S&W revolver that you have. The first is to open the cylinder and look on the frame just inside the cylinder. On the more modern versions of S&W revolvers, S&W inscribes the model number on the frame. One you know the model number, you can look to see if it’s a J frame.

What's the best J frame holster?

We get these "best" holster questions on a regular basis and they are very hard to answer as "best" is such a subjective thing. Rather than focusing on the best, you are much better off to focus on the best J frame holster for your needs.

Most holsters are use specific as in they perform better or function better in a specific use. For example, if you are shopping for a concealed carry holster for your J frame, then we suggest you start by looking at the IWB holster options we carry. If IWB isn't an option for you, then maybe look at an OWB model that can work concealed.

I have a S&W Model 642 with the Crimson Trace laser grips, but I’m having trouble finding a holster to fit it. Do you carry any holsters that will work?

Yes, we can help with that as most of the Don Hume holsters listed below made for the S&W J frame will fit the 642 with CT grips just fine, and MTR Custom also supports holsters for most any J frame with Crimson Trace grips attached.

I have a S&W 640-2, but it won’t fit right in a regular J frame holster. Any suggestions?

You are correct that the thicker cylinder and slightly longer barrel (2.125”) of the S&W 640 series make it too large to fit into a “standard” S&W J frame holster. The 640 series (640-1, 640-2, 640-3, 640-4, 649 and 640 Pro) require a specialized holster fit, and those can be seen by following this link.

Can you suggest a good J frame pocket holster for a S&W 649?

Either the Don Hume 001 Front Pocket holster or the MTR Custom Front Pocket holster displayed below are excellent J frame pocket holster options.

I have a S&W 649 with a 1 7/8” barrel, but I’m a little confused as the listings on your website for S&W all say a 2” barrel? Do you have anything to fit a 1 7/8” barrel?

We understand the confusion, and here’s the backstory on it: When the J frame models were first introduced by S&W, they actually had a legitimate 2” barrel. Over the years, S&W shortened the barrel on most J frame models down to the 1 7/8” length that is common today. Given that there’s so little difference between 2” and 1 7/8”, and to accommodate both barrel lengths, most holster makers just mold holsters for the S&W J frame series on a mold with a 2” barrel. So, a J frame holster made for a 2” J frame will fit your 649 with a 1 7/8” barrel just fine.

I have a S&W Model 60 with a 3” barrel, and I’m having a really hard time finding a holster to fit it. There are plenty of holsters on the market for the 2” J frame models, but very little for the 3” models. Do you have anything that will fit?

We can certainly understand your pain as there aren’t nearly as many 3” J frame models on the market as there are 2” models. To answer your question, we do offer a number of holster (both Don Hume and MTR Custom models) made specifically for the S&W J frame with a 3” barrel. As a matter of fact, most of the holsters listed below, are also available in a version for a 3” J frame.

I have a S&W Centennial 649 which is hammerless, but I really want a holster with a retention strap for it. However, I’m having trouble finding anything as most holster brands say that the strap won’t work properly as the hammerless 649 doesn’t have anything for the strap to catch on?

Unfortunately, the “hammerless” (internal hammer) models and the Bodyguard models with a shrouded hammer do pose a challenge in terms of a holster with a thumb break (retention strap). On the hammered J frame models, the strap goes right over the back of the hammer, so the hammer provides something for the strap to grab onto for retention.

With the internal hammer or shrouded hammer models, the strap has little to nothing to keep it in place as that area (usually called the shoulder) is smooth. Now Don Hume has redesigned their placement of the thumb break on holster models for the S&W J frame to accommodate the internal hammer or shrouded hammer models, but the strap still has very little to grab onto from a retention standpoint.

Can you suggest a good J frame ankle holster for my S&W 637?

Have a look at the Don Hume H760 ankle holster and the Don Hume Ankle Safe ankle holster. One of our staff is a former LEO, and he wore a J frame as a back-up on his ankle in a Don Hume H760 for years, and was really impressed with the comfort.

Can you recommend a nice OWB S&W 642 holster?

Our most popular OWB holsters for the J frame are the Don Hume JIT Slide, the MTR Custom Deluxe Full-size Quicksnap, and the Don Hume H721OT Belt holster, and the MTR Custom Slimline Deluxe Fullsize Pancake Holster.

What do you suggest as a concealable J frame IWB holster?

Our most popular IWB models for the S&W J frame are these:

Don Hume H715M W/C Clip-in OWB

MTR Custom Adversary Clip-on IWB

Don Hume H715M WCS Clip-on IWB

MTR Custom Slimline Deluxe IWB

I have a S&W Bodyguard .38 with a laser but it won’t fit any of the J frame holsters that I’ve purchased so far? Can you possibly help me find something that fits?

So, S&W has made things a little bit confusing with the Bodyguard series are there are actually two different Bodyguard series that they offer:

(1)   The original S&W Bodyguard series in built on a traditional J frame design, and any holster listed on this page should fit it just fine.

(2)   If you have a S&W Bodyguard with a laser then you either have an original Bodyguard 38 with Crimson Trace grips, or you have a S&W Bodyguard .38 with integrated laser. If you have the Bodyguard with Crimson Trace laser grips, then most any holster on this page will work. However, if you have a Bodyguard 38 with the integrated laser (as in the laser is built into the frame of the revolver), then that’s a whole different beast as it does not follow the same dimensions as a standard J Frame Bodyguard. If you have a Bodyguard 38 with integrated laser or a S&W M&P Bodyguard 38 with laser, then you’ll need to shop for holsters on this page: https://www.gunnersalley.com/s-w-bodyguard-38-special/

Do you have any S&W airweight 38 holster models? I didn't see the Airweight 38 listed as an option in any of your handgun drop-down menus?

The S&W Airweight 38 is a standard S&W J frame revolver so it would fit into any of the holster models listed on this page below. Like we mentioned above, rather than try to list every single J frame revolver model on our drop-down menu, we lump all the J frame holsters into a listing under either a "S&W J Frame 2" or a "S&W J frame 3". In your case, the Airweight 38 is a 2" model, so you would choose the S&W J Frame 2" option.

I looked all over your web site but can't find a S&W 638 holster? Do you have anything to fit a S&W 638?

Yes we do. The S&W model 638 is built on a standard J frame design so it will fit any of the J frame holsters that we carry made for a 2" model. As mentioned before, we don't list every single S&W J frame model on our weapons drop-down lists as it gets confusing so we list all the J frame models as either a 2" or 3" model.

I’m super confused here as this page talks all about the S&W J frame holster options, but the pictures of the holsters below, don’t look like they are made to fit a revolver. In fact, nearly all of them look like they are made to fit some kind of semi-automatic pistol? How can I shop for a holster when the pictures don’t even show a S&W J frame in any of them?

We can see where that might be confusing. So, the holsters displayed below are for demonstration purposes only. The holster models listed on this page are made to fit a S&W J Frame 2” or 3”, even though a J frame revolver is not pictured in the holster, and some of the holsters may not appear to be made for a S&W J frame

We try to photograph as many gun/holster combinations as possible, however we do not own every single handgun model on the market. As a result, we are not able to show every possible combination.

Holsters listed below are available in a model to fit the S&W J frame revolver with a 2” or 3" barrel.

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