Firearm: Smith & Wesson Model 638 (MSRP: $532)
With the advent of micro-9 mm double-stack pistols like the SIG Sauer P365 and Springfield Armory Hellcat, one can be forgiven for thinking that the small revolver has been surpassed as the go-to pocket gun. In many ways, that’s true—it’s hard to make the case for five rounds of .38 Special when you can have 11 rounds of 9 mm in a package very much the same size. However, there are a few advantages to a Smith & Wesson J-frame revolver like the Model 638 we have today.
First, there’s the modularity on the grip. This particular J-frame wears an Altamont Company Basketweave wooden grip that offers extra purchase in the hand as well as filling in the gap between the thin grip and the trigger guard. It still maintains the low profile that allows the J-frame supreme concealability while making the small revolver easier to shoot. An entire world of grips is available for the J-frame, everything from grips with laser sights to grips that deploy an extension to allow room for the pinkie finger. The little revolver can be custom-fit to the shooter’s hand with the turn of a screw or two.
Second, there’s the weight advantage: SIG’s tiny P365 weighs nearly a quarter of a pound more than the Airweight J-frame. Carried on a belt, these extra ounces aren’t terribly important; however, in a pocket you’ll notice them over the course of the day. And, speaking of in the pocket, that brings us to another advantage of the J-frame: the outline in a pocket holster is less overtly gun-shaped. While this is subjective and can obviously be overcome through holster selection, it’s a consideration for a pocket pistol.
In any case, the Model 638 offers a shrouded hammer for both double- and single-action shooting. It weighs 14.6 ounces, has a 6.3-inch overall length, fixed sights and a 1.875-inch barrel. It’s rated for +P rounds, useful for defensive ammunition but punishing on the hand to shoot. While revolvers in general might seem simple and therefore good for a beginner, the J-frame’s size, light weight, minimalist sights and short sight radius are better suited for more experienced shooters.
Holster: Galco Front Pocket Horsehide (MSRP: $76)
Carrying any pistol in a pocket requires a holster purpose-built for that process. Galco’s Front Pocket Horsehide holster keeps the pistol anchored in the pocket with its rough-out construction, covers the trigger guard completely and has edges designed to catch the pocket so that the holster doesn’t come out of the pocket on the draw. The Front Pocket Horsehide holster allows you to discreetly acquire a firing grip on your J-frame, speeding up the drawstroke if needed. While it’s more involved than drawing a pistol carried on the belt, with practice it’s pretty quick indeed.
Speed, however, is definitely not something about which to be concerned when re-holstering, especially in a pocket holster. Best practice here is to remove the holster from the pocket, carefully ensure the muzzle is pointed in a safe direction and not covering any fingers and slowly and methodically re-holster the pistol. Galco’s design offers smooth leather inside that allows for a fast draw as well as simple re-holstering, so take your time and make sure everything is done as safely as possible.
Light: Nebo Inspector 500+ (MSRP: $44.99)
Rounding out our minimalist kit is the Nebo Inspector 500+ flashlight. Of all the gear we carry every day, it’s easy to make the case that a good flashlight is the most important. Certainly, especially in winter months, it’s likely to be the item you use most often. Nebo’s Inspector 500+ offers four light modes and two methods of activation: Push the tailcap button quickly and the 250-lumen high setting is activated; push again for the 25-lumen low setting. Push and hold the tailcap and low comes on first, with a second push activating high setting.
That’s not the only useful part, though. The light bezel can be pulled out to reveal an area light that shines 200 lumens on high setting and 20 lumens on low. The light runs on an internal, rechargeable battery with an external micro-USB port. Not only that, but you can remove the rechargeable battery and use two AAA batteries at a slight decrease in output. Oh, and in addition to a standard pocket clip for easy carrying, the Inspector 500+ has a magnet in the end cap that allows it to be used hands-free. That’s the “plus” in 500 plus, all for significantly less than $50.