The Perfect J-Frame: Two Years In Review

Two Years with the Perfect J-Frame

As the the sun sets on 2017, I wanted to talk about my experience with the perfect J-Frame Revolver: the S&W 640 Pro Series. I’ve carried this gun day-in/day-out for almost two and a half years now. It has been a special gun in that it has taught me an awful lot about the revolver. I’m going to talk about the accessories and solutions I’ve found to make this the most viable self-defense option possible, and my thoughts on going forward into the 2018. This will also be a bit of a reminisce over some of the changes I’ve made over the last year, and some things you can expect in the coming year.

The Perfect J-Frame

I opened this blog up with a two-part review (Part I, Part II) of the perfect J-Frame. Most of what I said about the gun still holds true, and the reasons I selected it are still important. I won’t re-hash all of them, but the following are the factors that convinced me to pay a premium for the 640 Pro Series rather than go with some other wheelgun.

The first is the all-steel construction. I believe the ultra-light revolvers have a place, but that place isn’t in my waistband. The ultra-lights are easy to carry but hard to shoot, and I am a shooter. As J-Frames go the 640 is at the portly end, weighing more than many semi-autos. That’s alright with me though – it still packs easy and the weight pays disproportionate dividends in recoil management. I think this also probably gives a longer life-expectancy than most J-Frames, and this one needs it; not to repeat myself, but this gun gets shot a lot.

Perfect Revolver

The second factor is the sights. I can overlook a lot of things but I suppose I am a bit snob when it comes to sights, in that I require a gun have some. The nubs that pass as sights on most J-Frames just don’t do it for me on a primary carry arm. The sights on this gun are not only full-sized, grown-up sights – they’re also night sights. Though I did have to file the front blade down over half a year ago, these are very good sights. This is also one of the only J-Frames you can get good sights on.

I added a few accessories to make this gun a bit more of a shooter. First, I dropped in an Apex Duty/Carry Spring Kit. Next, I shot this gun a lot and dry-fired it a lot more. I am not engaging in hyperbole when I say that the trigger in this revolver is as smooth as that of an old K-Frame. Helping matters on both the trigger control and recoil management fronts are the VZ Grips I installed.  These let you get enough purchase to stroke the trigger without moving the gun, and something grippy to hang onto during recoil.

Accessorizing The Perfect J-Frame

I have spent hours upon hours in the last two years working on mastering the revolver reload. I’ve also dedicated a ton of time to testing the various speedloaders on the market (I still have a few I need to write about). I’ve come to the conclusion that the JetLoader speedloader is the best money can buy, both because it’s a great speedloader, and because you can actually buy one! The odds of needing a reload are pretty low, and the odds of successfully accomplishing one in a fight are even lower. Maybe it’s like a reserve parachute on a low-level static line jump – it gives you something to do on the way down, and I wouldn’t feel quite right without one.

Perfect J-Frame

The perfect ammo for the perfect J-Frame? For me it is the Speer 135-Grain Gold Dot (Short Barrel) 135-Grain JHP in .357 Magnum. I wouldn’t recommend this for lighter guns, or for inexperienced shooters, but it works for me. I wrote about my calculus in selecting this round here.

Perfect J-Frame

A revolver isn’t much good without a holster to put it in. Though I wasn’t too pleased with it originally, I have come to love the Dark Star Gear AIWB holster. It is constantly at the 1 o’clock position in my waistband. It holds the gun securely, anchors securely to my belt, and gives me a fast, consistent draw.

Perfect J-Frame

Initially I didn’t love this holster. It has some very hard edges on the interior side that made it really uncomfortable. I wasn’t quite ready to give up on it because it had a lot of good attributes, too, so I modified it slightly, adding some padding to the interior side. This has been a heck of a good fix and has held up well.

Perfect J-Frame

In summary, the perfect J-Frame setup for me is:

Shooting & Training with The Perfect J-Frame

When Mike Wood was a guest on the American Warrior Show, he talked about skill and “mindset” being two  of the key ingredients of surviving a lethal-force encounter. He also mentioned equipment, and that we – as gun guys – spend way too much time focusing on equipment. And that’s exactly what this article is – a deconstruction and examination of the firearms equipment I believe in.

Where I have failed in the past year is in training. I have dry practiced fairly religiously. I’ve also fired about 1,500 rounds through this gun, and a bunch more through other guns. What I have not done is get any formal, external training. I could make excuses about why I didn’t accomplish this, but I’d rather just take my licks and promise to do better next year.

Perfect J-Frame

There’s a lot of good training out there for RevolverGuys. That’s an article you can expect from me sometime in Q1 of 2018 – a rundown of training from RevolverGuys you can trust. I also hope to get you at least two class reviews in 2018. I will review any courses I take here, so hold me to it!

Rethinking The Perfect J-Frame

I came to this gun through the Lucky Gunner Lounge. Chris Baker reached the same conclusion that I did – that the 640 Pro is the Best J-Frame…but that it’s still a J-Frame. I am in agreement with Chris that the S&W 640 Pro Series is the perfect J-Frame revolver. I’m also in agreement that it is “still a J-Frame.” As those close to me know I’ve made the decision to go with a semi-auto for “chores” but I haven’t executed that decision yet. So for the next few months (at least) you can sleep soundly knowing I am carrying a round gun (and isn’t going anywhere!). I’ll also be carrying a round gun into 2018, but it might not be the Perfect J-Frame. What will it be? I’ll open up 2018 with the answer to that, so stay tuned!

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Author: Justin

Justin Carroll is a former MARSOC Marine and veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan. Leaving service after eight years in the U.S. Marines, Justin continues his involvement with a variety of government agencies to this day. Justin began in late 2016 with an simple idea: provide an source of high-quality information for revolver enthusiasts.

18 thoughts on “The Perfect J-Frame: Two Years In Review”

  1. Nice reflection on an excellent revolver. I passed up on this make and model from S&W in order to give the Kimber K6S a “shot”. I haven’t been disappointed with it; I’m only working with .38 Special + P loads. Currently, I’m waiting on a set of oversized grips that Altamont is now making. As for training, well, I’m with you there. I have to do better next year. I foolishly divided my time and energy by purchasing an older S&W that I’ve always lusted for——a model 58. What a beauty! Best wishes to you and yours. Curtis

    1. Curtis,
      Thank you for your thoughts on the K6S. I am hoping to get my hands on one of this sometime this year for a full review for the rest of you guys. Also, congratulations on the “new” Model 58!

    2. Curtis, there’s nothing foolish about adding an original Model 58 to the stable! I’d say you’re wise beyond your years!

      When the original 640 came out circa 1989, I was immediately impressed and bought one ASAP. It has served me well, but the sights have always been poor, and the 640 Pro is vastly superior in that regard.

      The K6s combines the size of my original 640 and the excellent sights of the 640 Pro, along with a 6-round cylinder. That’s a package that’s tough to beat, and we’re working on some good coverage of this excellent revolver for RG in 2018. Stay tuned!

  2. While I won’t be giving up my SP101’s any time soon, I have to concede that the 640 Pro is very high on the list of alternatives I would consider.

    I also have to admit that you have me very seriously considering a Dark Star Gear holster for my revolver. There is nothing particularly wrong with the leather holster I use now, but I think it might be worth giving kydex a shot and I may as well start with a decent example.

    I’ve really enjoyed the last year (well, 358 days, but who’s counting?) of this blog and look forward to more. I also find it kind of amusing that, in less than a year, this blog has kind of out-grown its tag line. I’m not sure it is still actuate to call this “One Man’s Enthusiasm for Guns With Rotating Cylinders”. Even if we just count authors/contributors, it is at least “Three Men’s Enthusiasm for Guns With Rotating Cylinders”. Thanks for all the hard work that goes into the site.

    1. Greyson,
      You could do a lot worse than the DSG. If you email Tom, mention I sent you his way. I don’t get any kickbacks, but I’d like to build some traction with him so we can ask for some other designs later this year…
      You’re absolutely right – I need get on that tagline immediately! This blog has vastly exceeded any expectations I had for it, and taken on a life of its own. Thank you (thank ALL of you) for sticking with us through this year. Stay tuned for a lot more in 2018 – including SHOT Show coverage in just a few weeks!

    2. Thanks Greyson, that’s kind of you to say! I’m thrilled that Justin invited me along for the ride–it’s been a heck of a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to more in 2018!

      Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everybody!

  3. Used to carry a model 36 with 3 inch heavy barrel and VZ grips. Not a bad gun. I gave it up when I discovered the 3 inch Ruger LCRX. Give that one a try if you can. I’m sold, only real concern being the short ejector rod. Adjustable sights, lightweight, comfortable to shoot… Did I mention I’m sold?

  4. I had machine both my J-frame carry gun (SW649), and my House/training/competition gun (686+), for moon clips. Not only do clips load quicker than speed loaders or strips; the clipped empties eject as a UNIT, so I’m never hung up picking out a stuck case or two.

    Machining, plus 10 clips and a clip-loading tool, cost $250, and a couple weeks. Third best shooting investment I’ve made, behind only Branca’s “Law of Self Defense” (Kindle version, always with me on my phone); and Ayoob’s MAG-40 class.

    1. Larry,

      How are you carrying your spare moon clips? I just got a 442 cut for moon clips but I’m trying to figure out a good way carry my reloads.

      1. For training and casual competition, I use a few safariland CD-2 metal speedloader holders, clipped on my belt from 9-11 o’clock. These hold either the TK moon clips, or SL COMP-1 speedloaders they’re actually designed for. Not as fast as the fancy multi-post competition rigs all the pros use… but good enough for a slow OFWG like me.

        For actual CCW, I carry either a couple clips in a plastic tube (aka pill bottle) in my off-side pocket; or a pair of speedstrips in a belt pouch at 7-o’clock. Note that i carry this for an AFTER-action reload: as best all the experts can tell, there’s NEVER been a civilian gunfight that required an in-fight reload.

        1. OFWG! Ha! I love it.

          Larry, allow me to play a friendly Devil’s Advocate for a sec . . .

          I’ll grant you that in-fight reloading is statistically unlikely, but I don’t feel comfortable carrying without access to a speedy reload. There’s always an exception to the rule, and with my luck, I’ll be the one who finds himself on the far end of the bell curve. ; ^ )

          I’d also propose that the threat is changing in ways that the old stats didn’t account for. A body of stats built around parking lot muggings tells us little in a new age of active shooter and terrorist events. The latter scenarios will put a demand on us and our equipment that exceeds the traditional standards for personal defense.

          I’ll probably (and hopefully) never find myself in any of these scenarios–particularly not a shooting that required me to reload under fire–but if I played the odds, I’d never carry a gun to start with, eh?

          We all have to figure out what’s right for us, what we’re comfortable with. For me, it includes having ready access to a fast reload whenever I’m carrying, regardless of what the numbers say.

          We’re sure glad to have you and everybody else here, enjoying the blog, commenting, and promoting great discussions!

  5. First of all, appreciate this site! Always worth reading.

    As far as the 640 Pro being “the perfect J-frame”, I think you make a persuasive case. With the caveat that, as with beauty, perfection is somewhat ‘in the mind of the beholder’.

    But the Kimber K6S…. basically the same size and weight, 6 rounds instead of 5, with the replaceable sights and full-length ejector you like on the 640 Pro, and a trigger right out of the box that the 640 has only after tweaking…

    So I’d suggest expanding your category a bit, to ‘Best J-frame-size Snubby’; which would allow the Kimber to compete.

    As Chris Baker points out in his review of it, reliability seems to be the only unknown, which only time will tell. Though I’ve yet to hear of any problems with them….

    So yeah, I’d encourage you to get yourself a K6S and let us know how you like it. Maybe you and Mike could get one to share….

    1. Mike, it refers to what happens when Justin isn’t looking, and the gun *somehow* ends up in your pocket… and next time you see him, he tells you, “Mike, I don’t know what happened to that K6S, I thought I left it right here, but I’ve been looking and looking, and I can’t seem to find it anywhere…?
      And you reply, “Justin, I *share* your pain, brother…”

      1. ; ^ )

        Ah, it’s crystal clear now! Thanks!

        Let’s not share this tidbit with Justin, eh? We’ll keep it our little secret.

  6. Great website! I read that you sometimes carry an auto loader. With you shooting double action revolvers mostly, what type of auto do you carry?

    1. Thanks, Eric – glad you’re enjoying it! I don’t carry an auto much now, but am gearing up to make the move to striker-fired guns sometime this year. This will most likely the M&P series. I dearly love the 1911 platform because of my experience with it in the military, but I you can run up a pretty big tab quickly in that market.

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