Dark Star Gear J-Frame AIWB Holster Review

Dark Star Gear J-Frame AIWB Holster

I mentioned a while back that I have been working with appendix carry. I recently purchased a Dark Star Gear J-Frame AIWB holster. Dark Star Gear products generally get very good reviews, so I was anxious to try this one out. After a few weeks of working with it, here is my review:

NOTE: Please see the update on this review HERE.

Dark Star Gear J-Frame AIWB Holster

I really wanted to like this holster. My first draft of this review gave it a lot of the benefit of the doubt. I had carried my 640 in this rig for about a month. Since that first draft I’ve continued to carry it for another three weeks or so, and recently realized this isn’t a holster I would recommend. There are a couple of reasons, but the main one is, this thing is sharp and pokey.

Complaints

The biggest problem for me is how tightly the Kydex is wrapped around the leading edge of the frame and cylinder. This causes a couple of steep ledges and sharp corners – “poke points” if you will – that dig into one’s side. I carry my revolver from the time I get out of bed until I’m crawling back into bed, and this holster makes me keenly aware of it the entire time. I would love to see the inner side of this holster more gently beveled.

Another issue is that this holster is reversible for right-hand or left-hand wear, simply by switching which side the clip is on. Because it is reversible, this holster lacks a sweat guard. Carrying in the 2 or three o’clock position this wasn’t a huge deal for me. In the appendix carry position it becomes an issue because the rear sight on my 640 Pro Series is very sharp. Each time I bend over I get poked by the sharp corner of the rear sight.

Dark Star Gear J-Frame AIWB Holster

Reversibility is cool from a manufacturing standpoint as it probably helps keep prices down to some extent. Other than that, it doesn’t really help me. I don’t routinely switch my gun to the left side, and I seriously doubt many others do. It seems that the J-Frame AIWB holster is the only one in the Dark Star line that is reversible and lacks a sweat guard, so I’m kind of curious about this choice.

Dark Star Gear J-Frame AIWB Holster

Finally, this is a “universal” fit holster for J-Frames with barrels “up to” 2.5″. Again, this is cool for easing manufacturing and making ordering easy. However, it makes the holster longer than it needs to be for my gun, and MOST J-Frames. I don’t know of very many J’s that come with a 2.5″ tube (I was sadly disappointed that a 3″ Model 60 would not fit – see photo below). The added length places the bottom edge of the holster in the crease of my leg when seated. Unfortunately, a foam wedge is not available for the Dark Star Gear J-Frame AIWB holster.

Dark Star Gear AIWB Holster

Praise

It might sound like I am completely down on the Dark Star Gear J-Frame AIWB holster, but I’m not. There are some things I really appreciate about it. First, it conceals well, especially in the appendix position (where it is intended to be worn). Next, the clip on this thing is robust, and does an outstanding job of keeping everything in position. This promotes good concealment and a reliable, smooth draw stroke.

Dark Star Gear J-Frame AIWB Holster

The clip is also has an undercut, which keeps it on the belt. I find it easy to put on, and hard to take off. As it should be. Tension is adjustable by tightening the two screws that hold the clip on. The Dark Star Gear J-Frame AIWB holster provides a very secure fit for your revolver – you don’t have to worry about it falling out. All of the individual pieces and parts of the holster are high-quality and well-finished.

The Bottom Line

This isn’t an inherently “bad” holster. It holds the gun securely, allows a slick draw, and conceals well. However, I cannot overlook or understate how uncomfortable it is. I am constantly, painfully aware of its presence. This leads to constant shifting around, and trying to discretely adjust the holster. And worse, it also leads to me taking it off when I’m in the car for long periods, or when I come home. In my opinion, this is unacceptable.

I know that a carry gun is supposed to be “comforting, not comfortable” but it’s also isn’t supposed to just-plain-hurt. Especially at the asking price (with shipping) of just over $80. The Dark Star Gear J-Frame AIWB holster isn’t super high end, but it isn’t the bottom of the barrel, either. At this price point the design can and should be refined a bit.

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13 thoughts on “Dark Star Gear J-Frame AIWB Holster Review”

  1. I have a Kydex holster from a different manufacturer that is a very similar and also uncomfortable. I also carry AIWB around 2 or 3 o’clock and the muzzle end of the holster is always pinching or digging into me. But, it does securely hold my Ruger LCR. Once I’ve got some room in my budget, I may look into the Galco Tuck-n-go that you mention in another article.

    Really like your articles and your frugal experiment. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thank you, Seth!I’m really glad you’re enjoying it. The Tuck ‘N Go doesn’t really work for me in the appendix position (and I do like the benefits of appendix) But it is way, way more comfortable. You can literally forget you’re wearing it.

      Thanks again!
      Justin

  2. I wonder if something like the JMCK George would be more comfortable. Inhave a JMCK holster on the way, although not for a j-frame or AIWB, maybe it will lrovide some clues as to weather the AIWB variants would be likely to work well.

    1. Thanks for heads up. I’ll check it out, and I have several other options I’m looking at now, and I’ll put these on the list.

  3. I carry J frames almost exclusively, and I tend to do so (AIWB),, or as I call it, crossdraw. I like the option of being able to access my gun with either hand,,, something I typically can’t do carrying “strong side”.

    I pretty much gave up on Kydex, injection molded plastics and carbon fiber some time back just because of the “jabbing factor”. I like leather,,, it’s quiet (it won’t scratch gun finishes and it doesn’t JAB me.

    R Grizzle Leather is as good as it gets.

    1. Ron,

      Thanks for the recommendation. I definitely see the appeal of leather and will give R Grizzle a look.
      I like your mention of being able to go for the gun with either hand. Another thing making me lean toward AIWB is the ability to put my hand on the gun most discretely, and overall I tend to get a faster, smoother drawstroke, so I’m trying to find something that works.
      Thanks again!
      Justin

      1. I also like that AIWB turns every glass door I walk up to into a chance to double check for printing or other concealment issues without looking at or touching the gun/holster.

        I use a leather pancake holster that I made and then added tuckable clips to. If I was more concerned about one handed reholstering, I would add a kydex reinforcement at the mouth, but I just don’t think I could do a full kydex holster for the very reasons you mentioned.

        P.S. I suspect the length of the holster is intended to help provide support more than to actually accommodate longer barrels. As you pointed out, 2.5″ is a pretty uncommon length for J-frames these days.

      2. My attention to AIWB came into focus after I began to see the vast number of attacks that occur (or end up) within bad breath distance. Participate in FOF training and you may see the value to having the gun (front & center).

        As a right hander I can access my revolver with my left hand by inverting my left hand to place the BACK of my left hand against my rib cage/stomach, then move hand down to establish grip. Once grip occurs, I draw the revolver up out of holster then rotate left hand counter-clockwise, thus bring the gun to bear.

        For the task of CQB I like the DAO style revolver. No chances of an adversary (or me) blocking the hammer spur.

        Everyone has to carve out their own path here. YMMV.

        FWIW,,, if you look to R Grizzle, consider horsehide as a leather. Tougher & stronger than cowhide. Tell Ryan I sent you his way.

        1. Ron,

          Good points on the benefits of AIWB and DAO revolvers. I’ll reach out to R Grizzle at some point – right now it doesn’t look like my 640 is on his list.

          Thank you!
          Justin

          1. He will make what you want,,, trust me.

            Glad to see a spot where wheelguns get attention. Keep up the good work.

            Happy shooting

  4. I really didn’t think it would be comfy, but I carry an LCR in appendix with a Blade-Tech nano. It really works quite well and doesn’t pinch or dig. Prior to that I had been using a Kahr PM9 but found the grip area a bit small for a good draw-stroke. I’m pretty average at 5’10” and about 190, so YMMV, eh? BTW, I really like the blog!

  5. I’ve tried a number of holsters for my SP101 but keep coming back to the Stow n Go. Its dirty, grundgy, held a G26 (when I went thru “that” phase) but it simply just works. It gets the job done.

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