The Best J Frame Holster (for IWB, OWB, Ankle, Pocket & Shoulder)

best j frame holster

In this article, I will discuss the best J frame holster. J frame revolvers are small, typically five- round cylinder revolver. The letter identification system is used by Smith & Wesson, but has grown to loosely refer to any compact revolver, aka the snub-nose revolver. Larger revolvers are designated as K, (medium) L (large) or N (extra-large) frames.

The J frame is intended for concealed carry or use as a backup gun by LEO’s (Law Enforcement Officers). J frame guns will typically be chambered for .38 Special or .357 magnum/.38 Special. There are also some .22 LR or .22 magnum J frames on the market.

While semi-autos are the sidearm of choice for police, Federal agents, military, and armed civilians, there is still a thriving market for revolvers. Semi-autos carry up to 16 rounds, and can be re-loaded quickly by swapping mags. However, they are also prone to jamming, and having so many rounds available can make for sloppy marksmanship.

I own three revolvers, (A Ruger SP 101 .357 mag, Taurus Judge .45 Colt/.410, and a Rossi .22) and appreciate them for their reliability, simplicity, and that I only have five to eight rounds, so I had better make every one count.

Top 5 Holsters for J Frame

What to Look for When Choosing a J Frame Holster

Considerations for choosing the best J frame holster include high quality, safety as measured by Retention level and a fully covered trigger and trigger guard, comfort, concealment, and a smooth draw and re-holstering.

Your holster should last for years. I noted the well-worn faded and scuffed leather holster worn by a VT Chief of Police, which attested to his many years on the job.

Your J frame holster must grip your gun at least hard enough so it doesn’t fall out if you bend down or fall, (Level I retention, or keep it in place if a bad guy tries taking it from you (Level II or III retention).

Your J frame holster must be comfortable enough so that you will make it part of your EDC (Every Day Carry) or off duty carry without hesitation, and you should forget you are even wearing it until you need it.

The trigger and trigger guard should be covered by the holster to minimize the risk of an accidental discharge when you draw your weapon.

Your J frame holster should be unobtrusive under your clothing if worn concealed, and you should be able to return it to the holster smoothly, without fumbling and looking.

What’s Great About J Frame Holsters

J frame guns are by definition, small and concealable. They are ideal for EDC by armed civilians, or for a LEO, off duty carry or an on-duty backup gun. The holster for a J frame gun should be small, lightweight, and unobtrusive.

An Ankle holster will present less chance of flashing or printing, as most people gaze will not go as low as someone’s feet.

A pocket holster is another option for concealed carry. The pocket holster can also be used in a woman’s purse or man’s briefcase or shoulder bag.

A J frame holster will also be comfortable for IWB or shoulder rig concealed carry.

Types of Holsters

This guide will focus on the IWB, OWB, pocket, and ankle holsters.

The IWB holsters holds the gun tightly against the wearer’s body, inside their pants at the waistline, for maximum concealability balanced with accessibility.

The OWB holster carries to gun either displayed or concealed under a coat or jacket. Or long t-shirt or sweatshirt.

The pocket holster is minimal alternative to putting the gun in your pocket, where it could snag when you try to draw it, or slip and slide out of place with movement.

The ankle holster holds the gun against your ankle, under your pant leg for maximum concealability, and is very accessible while sitting. It may take practice to draw, and you can either reach down for it, or raise one leg like a crane to access it.

Holsters of any kind will also help separate the law abiding armed civilian from the low level thug. If you are stopped by the PD as to why you are carrying a firearm, you will have a lot more credibility if your gun is on a holster, instead of shoved down your pants like criminals tend to carry. A gun stuck in your waist band is also a bad idea because you can lose it, you will have to reposition it if you have to take your pants down to relieve yourself or for other activity, and you may shoot yourself if you go fumbling for it.

The 5 Best J Frame Holsters are:

The Best J frame IWB Holster:

Cardini Leather USA LEATHER IWB Holster. S&W J Frame 

best j frame iwb holster

This is an ambidextrous, brown leather, suede lined, Level I Retention holster with rugged double stitching, a sweat shield, and a black steel spring clip. It will cover the trigger and trigger guard of a J frame gun. Like all leather holsters, it will require some breaking in before it fits your gun and molds to your waist comfortably. It retails for under 50 dollars which is very reasonably priced. Many people who have purchased and are using it have praised how comfortable and well made the holster was. This holster is a good balance of price, function, and simplicity.

The Best J Frame Ankle Holster:

Gear Garage Co. Ankle Holster Concealed Carry

Best J Frame Ankle Holster

This is an ambidextrous black neoprene band, black surgical grade elastic, Level II retention holster. It features a Velcro strap for Level II retention. This holster is know for how comfortable it is to wear.

Best J Frame Pocket Holster/ J frame Purse Holster:

DeSantis Gunhide DESANTIS N38 The Nemesis Pocket Holster Ambidextrous Black J-Frame/LCR/SP101 Nylon

Best J Frame Pocket Holster/ J frame Purse Holster

This is a simple but reliable ambidextrous, black cloth, Level I retention holster for pocket or purse carry. This is a sticky holster, meaning the outer material is tacky enough to hold its place in your pocket when you draw the gun. The material is described as “like flypaper”. The It will cover the trigger and trigger guard of a J frame gun. This is great value for money.

Best J Frame OWB Holster:

Outlaw Holsters G&B U.S.A Flag Kydex OWB L or R Hand

Best J Frame OWB Holster

This is a Kydex Level I retention holster with a muted, green and black print American flag. It holds your gun securely, is durable, and aesthetically pleasing. Again, another holster that is under $50 and great value for money.

Best J Frame Shoulder Holster:

Barsony New Cross Harness Vertical Shoulder Holster​

Best J Frame Shoulder Holster

There are a number of J frame shoulder holsters, but they are not the best for J frames and are not very popular with majority users. The best choice of a not so great bunch is the Barsony Holsters & Belts New Barsony Cross Harness Vertical shoulder holster. 

This holster rig is an ambidextrous, black nylon, Level I Retention holster, with Cordura shoulder straps, and an adjustable harness. It covers the trigger and trigger guard of a J frame gun completely, and sells for less than fifty dollars. Much of the criticism with this holster is in regards to the difficulty with establishing proper fit for comfortable and accessible concealed carry.


Overall, it looks like the best J frame holster is the Cardini Leather USA LEATHER IWB Holster. S&W J Frame. The IWB holster balances concealability with retention and accessibility, and this leather holster should provide years of reliable service. Your holster is an essential component of your self-protection system, not just an afterthought, so you must choose wisely. Another consideration in keeping your concealed weapon concealed until you need it is not to draw attention to yourself. Our second Amendment rights have been steadily ground down, and we must not do anything to promote a poor self-image of guns and gun owners, by exposing a firearm to anxious civilians who may overreact.

Stay Safe



Camp, S.A. (2011). Smith & Wesson J, K, L and N-Frame Comparisons. Retrieved August 12, 2017 from & Wesson J, K L and N-frame Comparisons.htm

George, A.J. (2013). What to Look for When Buying a Holster. Retrieved July 29, 2017 from

n.a. (2016). How to buy a Holster guide. LA Police Gear. Retrieved August 4, 2017 from

Schlueter, M. (2012). 11 Things to Consider When Choosing a Concealed Carry Holster. Police. Retrieved July 29, 2017 from

Towsley, B.M. (2015). The S&W J-Frame: Handgun Review. Range 365. Retrieved August 12, 2017 from


About the Author:

David A. Porter is a Republican, Second Amendment advocate, and conservative academic, who has taught psychology and criminology for 21 years. He is also a licensed clinician who provides substance abuse and anger mgmt. treatment for the Vermont Dept. of Corrections, and has written over 145 scholarly articles on psychology, neuroscience, substance abuse, criminals, their victims, politics, and guns. He is the co-author of Gun Control: The maligned Second Amendment