> TEOTWAWKI Blog: Snub Nose Gear Round Up



Snub Nose Gear Round Up

Ryan over at TSLRF asked if I'd give a run down on some of the snub nose revolver (642 Airweight J-frame, specifically) related gear I've gone through. If you missed my original overview post on snub nose revolvers, check it out here.

A revolver allows you to swap out grips and dramatically change the handling/concealment characteristics of the handgun. Bigger grips offer more controllability, smaller grips offer better concealment - it's a trade off.
642 with Dymondwood and T-Grip.
  • Stock 642 Boot Grips: The grips that come with a stock 642 are pretty sucky. Exposed back strap and narrow grip, not cut to function with speed loaders, not comfortable to shoot. They are ok for concealment. Ditch them fast - even if just for the inability to use speed loaders.
  • Pachmayr Compac Grips: Big, beefy rubber grips with a covered backstrap that make shooting the airweight a lot more comfortable - pain free, even. But, they add a lot of bulk to the J-frame, making it more difficult to pocket carry and generally conceal. Not cut for speed loaders, either. Amazon link.
  • VZ 320 Black G10 Boot Grips: These are small and smooth and good for concealment. Properly cut for speedloaders (yay!). Not very comfortable to shoot - exposed back about on par with the stock boot grips. Very nice looking.
  • S&W Dymondwood Grips & Tyler T-Grip:  This combo has an old school look and the smooth wood conceals and draws quite well. Despite the exposed backstrap, this combo is more comfortable for me than the boot grips - the grips are wider in the back, which spreads out the recoil and makes shooting more pleasant. They're not specifically cut for speedloaders, but they work well anyways. The T-Grips are out of production - you'll probably need to hit eBay; the Dymondwood Grips are available from MidwayUSA.
For concealment and looks, I'd go with the Dymondwood/T-Grip combo. The Compacs are great for extended shooting and practice, but the lack of speedloader cuts is a deal breaker, even the added bulk was not. I might take a knife to mine and see what I can do. I haven't found a "perfect" J-frame grip yet and am still searching - something slim, rubber, with a covered backstrap and cut for speedloaders. Hogue has a version of their well reviewed LCR grip out for J-frames now that I might give a go.  I'd also like to give the Crimson Trace laser grips a try, but haven't wanted to spend the $250 to play.

VZ Grips, Safariland pocket holster and Bianchi speed loader
I haven't dropped big bucks on a nice J-frame holster because, well, I haven't needed to. The cheap holsters I've tried out have worked pretty well.
  • Uncle Mike's #3 Pocket Holster: This adds a lot of bulk to the gun and makes the gun ride high in your pocket. I took a pocket knife to mine and ripped out some of the stitching to change the ride characteristics and it worked better. Amazon link.
  • Desantis Nemesis: These generally get good reviews, but I found it needlessly huge - seriously gigantic for a pocket holster. Returned this pretty quickly.
  • Safariland Model 25 Pocket Holster: Pretty darn good. Thin, still leather with the rough side out to grab on your pocket during the draw. Conceals well. Minimal added bulk. Thumbs up from me. Mas Ayoob likes these too, and he's a smarter fellow than I. Amazon link.
  • Uncle Mike's IWB Holster Size 0: This thing rocks. The soft/foamy material adds comfort to carrying the pistol. Great for appendix inside the waistband carry. It actually works and carries totally fine, which is more than many holsters on the market! You won't get a ton of retention or one handed reholstering, and the plastic clip will eventually snap, but they're essentially disposable, so no biggie. They're around $12, so hard to go wrong. Amazon link.
 I'd like to get an ankle holster, shoulder holster and potentially a belly band to expand carry options at some point, and just to give 'em a go. I'll pass along reviews if/when I pick them up.

  • HKS: These are pretty much everywhere and run around $10. They work, and they work pretty well, and they're very easy to load. They rely on gravity versus a spring (most other speedloaders have springs to push the rounds into the cylinder), which is both good and bad. If you aren't using gravity to your advantage, you'll have a hard time loading. But, if you do it right, gravity isn't going anywhere and it's not going to fail like a spring can. The knob on these is NOT a handle, either - you want to hold body of the speedloader and only use the knob to load/unload the rounds. Amazon link.
  • Safariland Comp 1: For some reason, they don't make a Comp 2 for J-frames, which I would probably prefer. But, the Comp 1s are small. Loading is tricky - you need to apply pressure to the top of the rounds as you twist the locking knob. Unloading into the cylinder is very fast - you push down on the speedloader and the Comp 1 launches them into place. However, if the spring mechanism fails, you're not going to be able to get the rounds out of the Comp 1 very easily, and certainly not in a gun fight. I've carried one of these for a while, but recently had some problems with the spring mechanism during a dry fire practice session, so it's been demoted for now, and I've gone back to the HKS loaders and good old gravity. Amazon link.
I just bought 4 more HKS loaders, because they're cheap, easy to work and fairly fool proof. My wife definitely prefers these over the Comp 1s because of their simplicity. There are some fancier, less common speedloaders on the market that I need to try out, but they're not easily available - Dades, Jetloaders, SL Variants, etc.

Bianchi Speed Strips and Tuff QuickStrips are fairly equivalent products. The Tuff Strips have a ridge that runs around the outer edge that makes them very slightly less thin than the Bianchis.  QuickStrips have a much wider variety of options, though - different calibers, up to 8 rounds, black, pink or orange. Looks like Bianchis are overpriced on Amazon, and they have an odd selection of QuickStrips. Check your friendly local gun shop, too.

When carrying a standard 6-round speed strip, I usually only load it with 4 rounds, with a gap in the middle, as you can see in the above image. There are few reasons for this - you can load two rounds in at a time, so the 2+2 is much faster than 5. It's much easier to grip and load the pairs of rounds with the gap in between them - a lot less likely to fumble. And, the 4 rounds allows for a "tactical reload" - at least as much as you can with a revolver. If I've fired off the whole cylinder, then I'm dumping the brass and reloading with a speed loader. But if I've only fired part of the cylinder (and have the unlikely opportunity), I can pick out the spent brass and use the speed strip to top off up to a full load of 4 rounds. Yep, it's a tradeoff between carrying the full round count, and it may not be for everyone, but it works for me.

As you can probably tell, I'm sort of quasi-in-the-market for new grips and different holster options. I'm also looking at getting a trigger job done on mine to help smooth/lighten things up a bit.

Looking forward to hearing from the tribe regarding your favorite snub nose support gear - holsters, grips and so on.


  1. Awesome, Thanks a ton this is very helpful.

    Personally I bought one with the SW factory CT grip. Got a pair of Hoague Bantam grips and am still sort of playing with them both. While the Bantam is smaller I it doesn't let me get much of a grip. The half inch longer CT (also covers the back strap) lets me get a real grip. The CT is not conceal as well but will shoot better. going to play with them both and see which works best for me.

  2. Barami Hip Grip is pretty handy for some folks. A bit slick to grip, but the concept is sound unless you are really physically active.


  3. I utilize a couple of S&W 642's without the lawyer lock, and I keep them stoked with Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel .38+P ammo.

    Check out the Werner Carry System. I thought I would hate it, but I have actually grown very fond of it. You can see it here - http://snubtraining.com/blog/?p=841

    On my second snub, I have some Spegel Boot Grips. I carry it in a Tuff “JR-Roo" pocket holster or a belly band or an Alessi ankle holster. It depends on my need for the day.

    My reloads are two six-round Tuff Quick Strips, which are loaded like your strips with four rounds. The SL Variants are the best speedloader that I've tried ( http://www.bobmacs.com/variantcatalog.htm ), but I prefer carrying the strips because of comfort, convenience and concealment.

    For something new to try, I'm very interested in trying to appendix carry a 642 in a Safariland Model 18 IWB or trying Bobby Mac's DB-Mac holster for OWB. Furthermore, seeing those VZ's on your 642 make me want them. I might experiment with them, too.

    Love the site. Keep the good stuff coming.

  4. Does a revolver feel underpowered to you? I'm thinking of one, but I think, "Only 5 rounds of .38." But then again, chances are 5 rounds will be enough. And how fat is the cylinder? For concealing purposes.

    1. The question is under powered relative to what? Would I rather have my AR or Glock 17 if the bullets started flying? You bet. But I cannot conceal them as easily as the j frame. It is a concealment weapon - if you can conceal something more effective than do so. But compared to a little 380, I would prefer the J frame most of the time.

    2. I agree. It is all about compromise, and j-frames are simply one of the easiest handguns to conceal with a reasonably powerful caliber. The j-frames smooth and rounded contours (including the cylinder) are much more conforming to the natural contours of the human body than the the very sharp angled pistols. This is a good recounting of some advantages of utilizing revolvers for personal protection are outlined in a article from Combat Handguns Magazine - http://snubtraining.com/pdfs/WhyRevolversBeatAutos.pdf

      Additionally, many people ask if five rounds of .38 Special is enough gun for multiple attackers. I love referencing Michael deBethencourt. He answers the question about multiple attackers in a clever and compelling way here - http://snubtraining.com/blog/index.php?s=multiple+attackers

      And he quickly and concisely answers the question of whether it's enough gun here too - http://snubtraining.com/blog/index.php?s=enough+gun

      I'm not trying to be a snub evangelist. I'm just saying I think I'm making reasonable compromises for my personal protection and daily living that strike a reasonable balance. However, your mileage might vary. That's fine. Just stay safe, friends.

  5. Thanks for the post. I too like to carry a snub nose revolver. It seems whenever you mention this, you get strange looks from the semi-auto crowd.

    1. I remember reading an anecdote a while back, about a group of gun instructors who were mostly die-hard 1911 guys, who went out to dinner together. At the restaurant, one of the instructors asked what each instructor was carrying, then and there. And all were carrying the handy snub nose revolver - 1911s were left in the truck or at home.

      May not be true, and was a while back, before the pocket 9s were common, but the point remains - that big ol', much more effective semi auto isn't going to do you any good if you can't/won't carry it.

  6. The taurus snub nose grips actually fit a s&w jframe very nicely. You have to call them to order them, but they were not expensive at all( 20 dollars when I bought mine in 2004).

    They are rubber, they cover the backstrap, and are very compact. They also work with speedloaders on my 642(though I mostly use speed strips)

  7. Hey, If you decide you want to check out the CT grips I'll loan you mine for a couple weeks. Just drop me a note.

    Suspect you will have the same issue as the Packmeyre grips, they are relatively large but shoot nicely.

  8. I carry one of these 642's also.
    Did you try out Uncle Mike's Size 36 IWB holster? I've heard that fits better than the Size 0 IWB, and am trying to decide between the two.

  9. My BUG is a S&W M642 That I carry in a nemesis pocket holster in my left front pocket.
    This holster is best used with cargo shorts/pants / dress slacks. Blue jean might not work.
    I hate the boot grips and use the Revised S&W Combat Grip. Its thinner than my combat grip on my 1998 M640 and works great with my wrangler cargo shorts/pants. I use HKS speed loader or speed strip or sometimes I carry both. 4rds on the strip . You must be in the know. Not many of us do it. I prefer 148-158gr bullets but there isn't any good LE loads with that weight. Unless you count the old school 38spl 147gr Hydra Shok +P+ . So I use ranger 130gr +p in my HKS and speed strip and 148WC by Federal or Winchester. I hope I neverhaveto use my BUG let alone my primary HK P30S 9mm.