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I Carry: S&W Model 642 in a PHLster Apollo Holster

Welcome to another episode of "I Carry," Shooting Illustrated's weekly video series covering the guns and gear needed to put together a potential everyday-carry kit. Today, we're using the Smith & Wesson Model 642 carried inside a PHLster holster. We also have a Kershaw EDC knife, aftermarket grips from VZ Grips and a Pelican flashlight.

Smith & Wesson Model 642 (MSRP: $421)

Proposing a five-shot, slow-to-reload revolver as a concealed-carry piece in today’s age of the polymer-frame 9 mm subcompact is a tough sell. Why, naysayers exclaim, would anyone limit themselves to a low-capacity, hard-to-recharge option when a small 9 mm is easier to conceal, has equal or greater on-board ammo capacity and can be refilled far quicker? Well, we’re glad you asked. There are a few considerations that make the small revolver a lot more appealing.

Smith & Wesson’s J-frame has been around since 1950, and has been offered in three forms: Exposed hammer, shrouded hammer, and the internal hammer model we have here today on “I Carry.” Back in the days when police officers carried a K-frame Smith & Wesson 6-shot revolver, having a smaller version as a backup made sense—and it’s something we’ve advocated here on “I Carry”—if you feel the need to have a small gun, at least have it be a smaller version of something you’re familiar with. Whether that means a Glock G43 if you carry a G19, a Colt Mustang if you favor the 1911 or a J-frame if you’re partial to a revolver, the similar manual-of-arms can only help.

But, familiarity isn’t the only reason. The little J-frame—particularly the “hammerless”—has a few other characteristics that might give you a reason to try one out. The inherent reliability of a Smith & Wesson revolver definitely plays to its strengths. The company has been making revolvers for an exceedingly long time and does it well, which translates into the gun going bang every time you want it to. Weight-wise, the J-frame bests all but the tiniest .380 semi-autos, with the 642 coming in a slittle over 14 ounces. The Ruger LCP II comes in less than four ounces lighter. Second strike capability? Just pull the trigger again. Simplicity and reliability are hallmarks of a concealed-carry firearm, and the Smith & Wesson J-frame meets both requirements.

Dark Star Gear Apollo (MSRP: $80)

Let’s face it—one of the big attractions to a small gun like the J-frame is the ease with which you can grab one and go. Dark Star Gear’s Apollo appendix-carry holster adds to this portability, offering an easy-on/easy off clip firmly anchored to the form-fitted Kydex shell. Two additional attachment methods are available, a Raven Concealment Systems Overhook strut and a pull-the-dot soft loop, and the Apollo has attachment points on both sides for true ambidextrous operation. There’s even a number of finishes available, should you prefer your holsters to have a little flair.

VZ Grips VZ 320 G10 Grips (MSRP: $75)

Another big draw for the J-frame revolver is the ease with which you can change grips. In this case, we’ve opted for a set of VZ Grips VZ 320 G10 grips for the 642, which offers a boot cut for greater concealability and a hint of texture that provides greater purchase over smooth wood grips, but without the grabbiness of soft rubber variants. Should a full-hand grip be desired, there are myriad options that offer not only a pinkie rest, but also a slight swell in the palm to fill your hand. Swapping grips out requires the turn of a screw, and excellent options abound for not a lot of money. Of course, laser grips like those offered by Crimson Trace are another option as well.

Kershaw Innuendo (MSRP: $49.49)

Who doesn’t like a solid, reliable knife that doesn’t break that bank and matches your gear, to boot? Kershaw’s Innuendo features a 3.3-inch, 8Cr13MoV-steel drop-point blade with a titanium-nitrocarbide finish. It opens with an ambidextrous thumbstud and is kept locked in place with a frame lock. Stainless steel scales keep weight to a feathery 4 ounces, while a reversible pocket clip is designed for deep-pocket carry. It’s pure coincidence that the finish on the knife matches the revolver, honest…

Pelican 2360 (MSRP: $43)

Y’know, I don’t envy flashlight manufacturers. If the light has a lot of features, people complain it’s too much—they just want something simple. If it’s real simple, just on and off, it’s a guarantee someone will whine that it doesn’t do [insert function here]. In the case of this Pelican 2360 flashlight, it’s a pretty decent mix of easy-to-use and multi-function. High, low and strobe options are available as defaults, with a single, push-to-click of the tail-cap switch activating high first, then click off, then a second click for strobe, then a third for low. Three other settings can be cycled: High only, high-then-low and low-then-high. Two double A batteries power the 2360 for two and a half hours on high and 13 hours on low, with 375 and 29 lumens available, respectively.

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