I Carry: Smith & Wesson Model 638 in Mission First Tactical Minimalist Holster

posted on May 8, 2020

Firearm: Smith & Wesson Model 638 revolver (MSRP: $477) 

When it comes to small, concealable revolvers, Smith & Wesson is one of the first companies to come to mind. Not only has the legendary company been making revolvers for longer than a century and a half, but for nearly 70 years the J-frame (and the I-frame before it) has been a go-to wheelgun for back-up duty, extreme concealment and just regular EDC work. The revolvers are robust, easy to operate and can be carried in a number of different configurations. 

The model we have here today is the 638, which is the shrouded hammer configuration, formerly referred to as the “Bodyguard” style. With the introduction of the M&P Bodyguard 38, that designation has become confusing, so it’s most efficient to refer to it as a shrouded hammer. This is kind of a hybrid between a traditional, exposed hammer variant like the 637 and the “hammerless” style of the 642 - which isn’t really hammerless, of course, it’s just completely internal. Generally, hybrids tend to be the worst of both worlds, but in this case, the 638 offers single-action capability while maintaining a slim, snag-free profile. 

We’ve opted for a small-frame revolver for today’s “I Carry” to demonstrate a possible “quick trip” configuration. Often times, we wind up running quick errands where we still want to be ready for any potential problems, but need something we can grab in a hurry that conceals easily and doesn’t add a ton of weight. Maybe you’re mowing the lawn and need to run to the gas station to get more gas - or maybe just for while you’re mowing the lawn. Basically, this kit has been chosen for the light weight and ease of carry.  

Holster: Mission First Tactical Minimalist J-Frame Holster (MSRP: $34.99) 

In keeping with the above parameters for today’s kit, a natural choice for a holster is one of Mission First Tactical’s Minimalist J-Frame holsters. With enough Boltaron material to fully cover the trigger and trigger guard, and a “claw” to help properly position the Minimalist, it does everything an inside-the-waistband holster should do with the bare minimum of weight and material. What’s great about this setup is the ease and “carryability” - with a single clip, it can be added or taken off a belt quickly and with minimal hassle, and is so light it’s barely noticeable (weight is 2.1 ounces, according to my postal scale). 

Again, the purpose of this kit is to showcase a setup that can be grabbed in a pinch, added to the belt and carried with a minimum of weight and fuss. The design of the Minimalist holster doesn’t change the way the J-frame is drawn or reholstered, simply in the amount of material used for the holster itself. Safety is key, with a completely covered trigger guard and a claw to keep the rig angled properly. The holster is ambidextrous, and cant can be adjusted up to 20 degrees.  

Knife: Kershaw Chive (MSRP: $74.99) 

Again, choosing gear based on its weight, size and utility, the Kershaw Chive assisted-opening pocketknife is a natural addition to this EDC kit. With Kershaw’s patented “Speedsafe” assisted-opening mechanism, it opens quickly and cleanly with either the thumbstud or the flipper mechanism on the back of the blade. Obviously, size and weight are considerations - the Chive only weighs 1.7 ounces and is less than 3 inches closed. It’s useful, carries easily and is insanely reliable - as the wear on this model will attest. 

The Chive is currently available in a stainless steel finish only, but the blade is still 420HC steel with a drop-point edge and Ken Onion design. New models offer a frame lock to keep the blade open, and both old and new designs feature what Kershaw calls the Safety Tip Lock to keep the blade from opening when not desired.

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