The Hot-Rod J-Frame Project

After 14 years of study, I’ve got my mind made up that the ideal carry gun, for me, is a double action only pistol of some flavor. Since most of what we do with our guns is simply live with and around them, and when we do need our guns it’s rarely a shooting problem and more of a people management problem, I choose a Double Action Only pistol. The inherent mechanical safety increase (though perhaps marginal) afforded by the longer heavier trigger is enough that I’ve completely moved to DAO guns for defensive purposes. Any difficulties in managing the trigger can be overcome with deliberate practice, so no worries there.

Since I gave my mom my 442, I’ve had a hole in my collection that I’ve been meaning to fill. I decided I wanted a ‘shooter’ J-frame. Not quite an underwear gun, but an easy to carry small framed revolver. It would be carried in a belt/pocket/ankle-holster, with less emphasis on lightweight, and more emphasis on ‘performance’.

I also know that centennial model Smiths are some of the best selling guns in the country, so there’s a lot of people who secretly carry one daily while they argue on the internet about why a Glock 19 is the best carry gun. It’s OK, I won’t tell anyone.

The amount of worthless information about small revolvers is staggering. Just visit YouTube for endless hollow reviews and misinformation. I felt like I owed it to the community to make something useful about little revolvers.

The Test-Bed

What would my ideal ‘fighting J-frame’ look like? I am not a Smith&Wesson aficionado by any means. I don’t have the depth of knowledge or patience to wait for the perfect vintage snub to come up on gun broker. Nor do I have the wallet to pay the wild prices people ask for used revolvers. So my Hot-Rod would have to be a current catalog item.

After much late night bourbon fueled research, I decided that the steel framed, 2″ barrel, pinned front sight 640 model in .357 would be a suitable choice. I came upon a great deal on a local forum and jumped at it.

The Upgrades

The ability to customize and tune j-frames is well known. The aftermarket accessories market is chock full. You can find the perfect stocks (grips) to fit your hand and optimize trigger reach, find springs and firing pins to drastically improve smoothness and weight of the trigger and maintain reliable primer ignition, frame plugs if you don’t want to deal with the internal lock, and there’s even front sights for the pinned front sight models. So, here’s a list of the upgrades I have planned, and the reasoning for them:

  • APEX TACTICAL Duty/Carry Spring kit – $22 A popular kit from a well known brand. Includes the mainspring, trigger return spring, extended firing pin and firing pin spring. It reduces the weight of the trigger press by about 3.0 lbs and makes the gun immediately more shootable. Always test fire your chosen ammo to guarantee reliable ignition.
  • Trijicon tritium front sight – $70 It was between this and an XS big dot. I decided for a slightly smaller front sight to maintain the ability for precise aiming beyond 10 yards. The white ring should help at speed, and the tritium will buy a little low light sighting ability.
  • Altamont “combat” grips for J-frame – $55 – Since this isn’t intended as a pocket gun, I decided to go with the slightly-longer-than-boot-grip sized combat trips from Altamont. They are highly recommended by people I trust, and they look great.
  • Zulu Bravo Kydex – J-frame holster. This is on the way from ZBK. They are providing me with one to evaluate.

Are The Upgrades Worth the Cost?

Instead of throwing all these on the gun and reporting back that they ‘feel good’ and ‘smooth things out’ and I talk about ‘shootability’, I want to answer a more important question. Are the upgrades worth the cost?

“How can you determine this?” you ask. Science!

Specifically, I’m going to create a testing protocol that consists of four well known tests that provide certain data about shooting. I’ll gather data with the gun in its stock configuration, then make one change, and redo the testing. Any increase (or decrease) in performance will be readily apparent. I will also shoot the tests with other revolvers, small autos, and even larger autos to be able to quantify performance across platforms.

How To Quantify Performance?

I wanted to look at several aspects of ‘good shooting’ when it comes to my testing. I’m interested in pure accuracy, without the pressure of time. Pure speed, without a strict pressure of accuracy. Lastly, a blend of speed and accuracy. I wanted to use targets that I could print on my printer. I also wanted to keep the total round count under 50 rounds because j-frames can beat you up. Here’s what I decided on.

Test 1:

Pure Accuracy Test – 10 shots @15yds on a B8, no time limit

Test 2:

“5 yard Roundup” 5 Yds, B8 repair center

four strings of fire, each with a time limit of 2.5 seconds.

Scoring is by the rings on the target for the ten shots, equaling a possible 100 points. Hits off of the ten-inch repair center minus ten each. Late hits are five points are deducted per late shot.

String 1: One Shot From the Holster (I used muzzle on table, support hand high on chest. Copying hand position of the draw since my range doesn’t allow holster work)

String 2: Four Shots From the Ready

String 3: Three Shots From Strong-Hand-Only Ready

String 4: Two Shots From Support-Hand-Only Ready

Test 3:

“HITS SUPER SNUB TEST” – B8 repair center, all shot from low readyH

10 Yards – 5 shots in 8 seconds. Two hands

5 Yards – 5 shots in 5 seconds. Two hands

3 Yards – 5 shots in 3 seconds. Strong hand only.

Test 4:

Pure Speed – Snubbie Bill Drill: 5 shots, 5 yards, on full piece of paper

B8 repair center for you to download:


Of course there are intangibles and things I can’t easily quantify with scored targets and a timer. There are also environmental and lighting conditions that I can’t reproduce on the range. There is limited time and ammunition for me to do multiple tests with the same configuration. I am only one person, so I can’t get several shooters to shoot the tests with each configuration. However, I believe this is a good quantitative way to see if an upgrade is actually buying performance, and approximately how much.
Thanks for following along. More soon.

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The Most Dangerous Thing We Do With Guns

Based on pure probability, what’s the most dangerous thing we will do with our guns in our lifetime? Is it:

  • Going to Public Ranges?
  • Taking multi-day professional instruction?
  • Getting into a gunfight?
  • Living life with and around guns?

If you answered going to public ranges, good guess, but wrong. The answer is day to day administrative gun handling and living around guns. Every time the gun leaves or enters the holster, every time we set up for dry-fire, every time we take an EDC selfie for Instagram (don’t do that), every press-check, every time we transfer our pistol from our waistband to a car safe, every time we handle our gun, there is a small chance of making a mistake. Though the chance of negligence is very very tiny, we flip that coin every time we touch our gun. Over the course of a lifetime, that’s a lot of coin flips and the chance of messing up becomes a real possibility.

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who have had a negligent discharge, and those who will.

While a gunfight is certainly dangerous, the average gun owner will never need to use their gun to defend themselves. But they WILL live with a gun for as long as they own it. So, that means the biggest threat we face is our own negligence over the course of a lifetime. Just by having the gun around, there is always a low-grade probability that an accident could happen. I don’t think most people think about this. Especially not the ‘I just bought a gun, I’m good’ magic talisman gun owner. They should.

Minimizing Risk

  1. Eliminate unnecessary gun handling. If possible, avoid moving your loaded gun from holster to car magnet to briefcase to… Load it, put it in the holster, and go about your business.
  2. Have robust safety measures for dry fire. The gotcha moment for most NDs in dryfire is the ‘Just One More Press’ mentality that can happen after you’ve reloaded after practice. I use The Tactical Professor’s robust dry fire safety protocols and I like them.
  3. Always concentrate on sharp gun handling. The primary safety is muzzle direction. This seems to be a big problem in cars. People want the privacy of their car to move their gun around or take selfies for the ‘gram, but don’t practice good muzzle discipline in confined spaces and end up flagging themselves or others.
  4. Don’t have conditional gun handling rules. Always avoid pointing at things you don’t want to shoot, even when you’re sure “It’s unloaded”. The two loudest sounds in the world: a bang when you expect a click, and a click when you expect a bang.
  5. Avoid leaving your guns laying around for someone (usually a child) to play with. Either on you, or secured.
  6. Maintain and use quality gear. Also consider how your clothing affects your gun handling. Floppy holsters and errant T-shirt material are responsible for lots of accidents.
  7. Maintain a healthy respect for firearms.

Paradoxically, we own and carry guns to make ourselves safer from high stakes statistically rare events, but in owning those tools we open ourselves to the risks inherent in tool itself. It’s worth considering.

There are a lot of people I interact with online who should deeply consider if living with a firearm is the right choice for them. I’d like to see people hold themselves to a higher standard and treat these tools with the respect they’re due. I hate hearing about kids shooting their siblings after they found mom’s pistol in her purse at the grocery store. We can do better, we just have to remind ourselves of the risk we assume when we own and carry a gun.

Thanks for reading.

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Universal Revolver ClipDraw Install

I’ve been outfitting my new Ruger LCR for carry, and I wanted to install a clip to allow easy carry around the house. ClipDraw doesn’t make a custom LCR clip, but they do make a universal revolver clip that uses 3M adhesive tape and a screw together mount.

I’m a big fan of this style of ‘holster’ for small double action revolvers and small DAO pistols. I do NOT recommend them on anything resembling a Glock’s SFA trigger.

I snapped some photos and will outline the simple install.

  • Clean the surfaces with an alcohol prep to remove crud.
  • Confirm where you want to install the clip, and trim the adhesive strip so it fits in the available space on the frame of the gun. Take care to keep it on a single flat surface so it bonds well with the steel mount.
  • Firmly press the mount onto the adhesive at the desired location. If you have a weird application, like trying to work around a crimson trace laser for instance, you can trim the parts as desired. Since that wasn’t needed here I just simply mounted.

Note there are three threaded holes. This allows two positions of the clip that grabs the belt, for some fine tuning of ride height. This gives a bit of control over getting a full firing grip vs more deep concealment. Screw the screws and away you go.

The Evolution of The Underwear Gun

It’s been several years since I wrote about about my search for a tiny gun that I could wear regardless of how I was dressed. I coined the term The Underwear Gun, and the internet had a chuckle. I obviously am not the only person who sees a need for this sort of tool. For instance, Darryl Bolke of Hardwired Tactical calls his the ‘Rule 1 gun’. As in, Rule 1 of a gunfight is have a gun. Claude Werner carries a KelTec P32 for a similar purpose. William Aprill of Aprill Risk Consulting calls it the ‘milk run gun’ for running to the grocery store real quick. So, at least I know I’m not totally crazy.

Unless you literally have guns laying all over the house (for someone with a kid is a no-go) if you want to be armed in the home and not inconvenienced too much, an underwear gun is a good choice. Let’s cover it all in some detail.

Why the Underwear Gun?

I’ll be covering some old ground, but it’s worth repeating. First we have to recognize the problem. Namely, that bad things happen anywhere. Including your home. Tom Givens recently mentioned that twenty years ago, home invasions were most probable if you were dealing or buying drugs. The simple advice was, don’t deal in drugs, and you likely won’t have to deal with home invasions. But he mentioned that the incidence of armed home invasions (where they come in with weapons while you’re at home) isn’t relegated to that sub-culture anymore. If you like numbers, here’s some stats from the FBI and BJS:

  • There are about 8000 Burglaries a day
  • 40% of those are armed. Usually targeted are single females, the elderly, handicapped.
  • in ~28%, the victim is home, which is about 1,000,000 incidents/year with people at home during the crime
  • Out of 3.7 million burglaries, 7% include violent victimization
  • Night time burglaries are less profit motivated and more likely to include rape and assault (they know you’re home).

If you’re moved by stories, read about this father and son duo who broke in to a home and raped and poured bleach over their victim.

If you’re a visual learner:

In summary, it should be apparent that having a layered home defense plan is worthwhile. This includes, for me, a readily accessible firearm. Anyone willing to come into your home while you’re there needs to be dealt with harshly. What do you think this crew had in mind when they were checking doors?

Options for Access

There are a few ways you can handle the firearm access. If you’re in a home with no kids, you could stash long guns and pistols in every nook and cranny. I advise against this because of the ease of theft, and because it’s easy to forget where all the guns are. If you have house guests with children, now you have to worry about where the kids are playing. Even if your kids are trained to not touch your guns, their dumb friends aren’t, and plenty of preventable deaths result from this annually.

This leaves your guns either secured in a safe, or on-body. Quick access safes are a good option if you’re not interested in on-body carry. For instance, the GunVault speedvault or this generic push button safe keeps little fingers and drunk uncles away from guns, while giving you rapid access. There is always a trade-off between security and access. For a staged home invasion gun, rapid should be the emphasis.

Some quick access safes. Photo:

Another option is to have a gun that you carry in and around the home. If you’re super dedicated, it might mean watching Game Of Thrones wearing belted pants with holster, pistol, mags, etc. I’m not that dedicated and I won’t be bothered to do that. Mowing grass, walking dogs, checking mail, and watching Netflix demand something less obtrusive.

Definition of an Underwear Gun

A reliable gun with a trigger I can use, sights I can see, with a weight that can be held by a pair of drawstring gym shorts, and with support gear that doesn’t require a belt. Caliber is irrelevant for this gun.

The Underwear Gun

That’s pretty much it. It turns out there are a lot of options, and I’ve tried a handful of them. Here’s a few that have fit my needs over the years.

  • Ruger LCP in .380 (or a comparable Kel-Tec in .32 or .380)
  • The Taurus PT-22 in .22 (or Beretta 21 bobcat)
  • The Smith and Wesson 43C in .22 (or LCR .22)
  • The Ruger LCR in .38 or .357 (or Smith&Wesson 442 , or any other J-frame as light as you can get it)
  • Glock 42 in .380 (or Smith&Wesson Shield in 9mm or any single stack micro 9 or .380)
  • Etc.

Carry Methods

There’s a reason I prefer a Double Action pistol for my underwear guns. In an effort to keep weight down and increase convenience, I really like carrying them with minimal, if any holster. I understand the possible safety issues associated with not covering the trigger guard, which is why I only use them with DA guns. NEVER use them with Glock style triggers. I also don’t use them when I’m playing with my son and he’s crawling all over me. My absolute favorite underwear gun ‘holster’ is one with either a spring steel clip, or ledge built into the grips to hold the gun at the waist-line. Click through the photo gallery and I’ll give my thoughts on each kind. Not all are created equal.

If none of those tickles your fancy, there’s still a ton of options. Here’s some I use depending on what I’m doing around the house.

Weight is King, Caliber is Not Important

Since I love wearing gym shorts, BJJ Gi pants, pajamas, shorts with no belt, and being comfortable in general, one of the big features of an underwear gun is that it not pull down my pants and that it can be carried without a belt. As a weight ceiling, I’ve found that my Smith Shield in 9mm is heavier than I can comfortably manage for my most common house clothing. I can always tie the drawstring tighter, but even then the weight of the gun will cause flopping over the waist and destroy any concealability I might want if I make a store run.

Caliber is basically irrelevant for this gun. It’s a big reason why my Smith 43c gets a lot of ride time. I get 8 tries at under 12oz. I use high quality, high velocity .22 ammunition, and practice enough that I can make good hits on demand. .22 high velocity ammo can get to 12″ in gelatin, so if I do my part, I’m not sweating it. The CCI Stinger gets to the minimum 12″ penetration through double layer denim. This isn’t the place for a caliber debate.

You Still Have to be Skilled

Just because it’s small doesn’t mean you get to cop out and call it your ‘belly gun’ or your ‘bad breath distance gun’ or your ‘contact range gun’. You have to be able to make good hits and be fast enough at realistic distances. I tend to use some different drills as well as police qualifications so I can always answer in court that I hold myself to the same accuracy standards as the police do. Here’s a few things to try and track progress:

Lots and LOTS of dry work is in order too. I don’t emphasize reloading as much, because I simply won’t have a reload on me if I need to use it. Here’s one of The Tactical Professor’s dry fire targets that works great for small space practice.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading.

If you find value in my ramblings, please subscribe, share, and shop through our amazon affiliate link. Or consider a small donation through PayPal.