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I always found it interesting how different people interpret recoil… not implying anything rock185, but what one person notices, another doesn’t. Different strokes, right?

I’ve had my 642-1 since 2009. In 2015, I converted it over to 9mm via a Pinnacle converted cylinder. Still have the original cylinder, so I have sort of a convertible, but I haven’t shot .38s out of it in years.

Never found 9mm, specifically 147 grain Hornady XTP, to be any worse than .38 +P (used to carry 110 grain Hornady CD). I do practice with 115 grain UMC bulk, which has a similar POI as my carry load (and it’s cheap to shoot). Gun didn’t blow up, burst into flames, or harmed me in anyway since it was converted. Other than the conversion, had the gun and both cylinders done in NP3 Plus, run LG-405s, and a LaserMax weapon light (make sure to say that because I always get questions on why I have two lasers when I post pictures).



If I had to do it all over again… I’d probably see about doing a converted Titanium cylinder. Would cut the weight down by about what a load is, so I’d be carrying a gun loaded that weighs like my current setup, unloaded. That revolver goes everywhere with me (off duty) at its current weight, because it is so easy to carry.
As lite as the 642 is how much weight could you shed? Ti barrel and cylinder, maybe even the center pin and ejector. Where else could you drop weight? DR
 

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As lite as the 642 is how much weight could you shed? Ti barrel and cylinder, maybe even the center pin and ejector. Where else could you drop weight? DR
About 2 ounces… but with a current unloaded weight of 15.5 ounces, you notice it. It is very close to carrying it unloaded (my 9mm moon clipped ammo weighs 2.5 ounces).

And that’s just the cylinder.
 

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Oh no! It's a wretched pontification coming on! I feel it coming, realize that it's only one person's opinion, but it is what it is. It'll give me the chance to sort my thoughts on the Model 642 in writing. Fair warning: Tired ol' clichés and some outright canards may be thrown around.

I'm going to come out against the Model 642 which is simply not my cup of tea. I think it's overrated, oversold, and a poor performing choice for a .38 Snub when steel Smith & Wesson J-Frames as well as other brands and models of all-steel snubs are available.




The Model 642 was already on fire in the handgun market as the "next big thing" when I bought this Model 642-1 in the summer of 1998, the last brand new Smith & Wesson revolver I have purchased, by the way. I was already wary of alloy-framed revolvers and their light weight when I bought it. I duly put it through its paces, experimenting with all manner of ammunition, standard velocity, +P factory loads, and nuclear powered handloads. Carried it some as a back-up for a spell, then pretty well put it away as potential trading material. The petite Mrs. BMc appropriated it however and it's spent 20 years or so in her purse so now doesn't look so nice as it did in these old photos. She totes it in a Sticky holster concealed in a compartment within the purse. Yeah, I know ... I don't like the notion of purse carry, but she won't hear of any other way. She shoots it quite well, sometimes almost embarrassingly as well as I can and she doesn't affect to firearms as a avocation! So, this Model 642 sees use and I even dust it off at the range occasionally (when "permission" is granted).


Perceptions

Pros

Eminently concealable
- For those who like complete concealment of their side arm, this one'll get you there. In a IWB holster, in a pocket, belly band, ankle holster, or even for wretched purse carry, it'll serve most admirably. The .38 Snub in any guise still beats these popular compact 9s for concealment in my opinion. Undeniably safe too with a simple manual of arms. Yeah, automatics have all manner of clever safety features these days and familiarazation is key, but it's difficult to argue with the simplicity of a revolver.

Familiar double-action trigger - Smith & Wesson has double-action triggers down pat and most folks can adapt to them. I don't think the J-Frame trigger as is fine as Smith & Wesson's larger revolver models, but it's good 'nuff.

Stainless Steel/aluminum alloy - Offers low maintenance if that's important to the user. Aluminum alloy offers light weight if that is what is important to the user. Actually, I like the looks of the near kin Model 442 better. The Model 642's aluminum alloy frame has some sort of clear coat that wears and peels. I could do without the clear coat. Makes the revolver look good as it is being sold and while going out of the gun shop door, but the coating comes to grief with heavy carry use.

.38 Special chambering - A better cartridge than many consider it to be in this day and age. The .38 Special shouldn't be relegated to only snub use, but it's a fine choice and effective for that purpose.

Reliable function - It matters not what conventional thinking is these days; I'm under no illusion that automatics can be as stubbornly dependable as revolvers can be. I'll take "five-for-sure" with the snub revolver over any stunted automatic in any caliber.


Cons

Five shot capacity
- one less than the "six for sure" that was standard for revolvers for years. This doesn't have to be important in the overall scheme of things, but an extra shot is a nice bonus in a snub.

Light weight - This is only the first of the deal breakers for me. I don't like shooting it. I can and have shot it decently with practice just as Chuck ably points out in his post here, but I don't want to practice with it as he does and I don't have to do what I don't want to do. Weight also lends a steadying influence when shooting deliberately and I like that. The Model 642 would do as a "get off of me gun" but I prefer more accuracy at distance than I can wring out of a J-Frame in general and the various Airweight Models like the Model 642 in particular. I choose weight over convenient portability and comfort anyway and the Model 642 feels too balsa wood flimsy to suit me.

The 158 grain bullets get the call for all serious .38 Special carry here, no matter which .38 Special revolver (or .357 Magnum) or barrel length I choose. I use +P 158s, but am fine with standard velocity loads having that bullet weight. One can seek loads featuring lighter weight bullets, but I don't want to turn a .38 Special snub into a weenie .380. I don't buy into notion of the light jacketed hollow point bullet as an effective choice in a snub.

Cramped ergonomics - I can't make a J-Frame fit my hand. Not really. I can sorta fit around it. This Model 642 came with the Uncle Mike's boot rubber boot grips which had to go away from the start. With their covered back strap design they offered a measure of cushioning effect of recoil, but didn't give my fairly large hands enough purchase on the revolver. I wanted a retro look so tried a pair of Smith & Wesson walnut stocks. These weren't adequate until a Tyler T-Grip was added. With the T-Grip I can grasp it about as well as any reasonable J-Frame aftermarket stocks I've handled. I say reasonable because there were some gargantuan aftermarket J-Frame stocks sold that negated J-Frame compactness. Smith & Wesson had some stock styles as well that rendered the J-Frame clunky if more ergonomic. Might as well tote a K-Frame snub if one equips his J-Frame with oversized grips.

Double Action Only - I'm probably the only gun nut still standing who doesn't like DAO, but the feature is a deal breaker for me. It's the "only" part of double-action-only that I don't care for. I can do DAO with revolvers, but want choices in my revolver carry. I don't do DAO automatics at all. Not with good auto-pistol designs available having neato safety switches that turn on really good single-action trigger pulls.

I still admire precision shooting in this day and age of combat gaming and I have this admittedly mistaken notion that I want more of a measure of precision at more extended ranges than DAO can offer. I'm not much for carrying guns that are only suitable for "get off of me" distances for I might want to shoot something "off over there somewhere." Stunted guns and DAO is not a field grade gun and I've always used handguns afield. Am not going to fabricate valid scenarios, but I could have a need to shoot "off over there" in some urban setting. Chances are I won't, but I want that capability. I have done a lot of practice over decades at double-action shooting at 25 yards plus and am adept at it with my favorite revolvers. My brother-in-law is a whiz at long distance double-action shooting, but that's the only way he uses his revolvers. Neither of us would be competitive shooting double-action in the shooting discipline of precision pistol however. That degree of accuracy isn't important to most, but it is to me. I'm out of style and I realize it. I'm ok with being out of style.

Aluminum alloy frame - My Model 642 is rated for +P. Says so right on the barrel. I'm still unconvinced that the frame will hold up for the long haul. Chuck is apparently getting good service from the Model 642. I have personal friends and acquaintances who believe in them, love them, tote them, and practice with them. None have reported frame failures. One can read on forums of folks in Internet-Land who swear by them for long hard service.

Said to be a Model 642-1. Found on an internet search. More here: Smith & Wesson Model 642 cracked frame - Google Search



I don't intend to carry weenie, watery .38 Special loads for self defense. I'll take steel frame only thank you.


Summary

There ain't no way I'm toting a Model 642 as a primary, "always" gun. On the infrequent occasions I choose to carry a back-up, I have better choices than a Model 642. So what's the better choice? I'm not fond of Smith & Wesson J-Frames, but in my opinion any steel framed .38 Snub is better than any aluminum-framed snub no matter who made it. One that offers both single-action and double-action trigger capabilities is even better and if it also features a snag free design then that's just icing on the cake.

For me that's the all steel Smith & Wesson Model 649 which is the old style humpback Bodyguard. Or else one of the similar steel framed Smith & Wesson Model 49s for those who appreciate old school blued steel. The Model 649 in .357 Magnum has now been discontinued, the .38 Special versions having been discontinued some years ago. The excellent Model 49 Bodyguards are long gone with collectors competing with savvy gun toters for the used 49s on the market these days. I'm not yet so feeble that I can't tote the extra six ounces that the Model 649 weighs over the Model 642. The weight lends both shootability and dampens recoil. For the difference I'll embrace the weight. In my opinion the Model 649 makes the Model 642 eat dirt.

It's a homely lookin' thing, but it works.




Final thought: There's still something to be said for the Colt Detective Special. Mine's now retired, but 6 shots and effectively as concealable as a J-Frame while being more shootable. What's not to like?
 

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i have tried the all steel j frames. I certainly agree that they are much more comfortable platforms with recoil.

but......too heavy for me and pocket carry.

I can comfortably carry a 15 oz airweight, or even a magnum frame LCR @ 17 oz....but when it comes to a steel 649 old model around 22 oz.... it just does something to a nerve on my leg from pocket carry.

The newer magnum frame smiths?....24 ozs. If i ever went that route it would be out of the pocket and on the hip.
 

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i have tried the all steel j frames. I certainly agree that they are much more comfortable platforms with recoil.

but......too heavy for me and pocket carry.

I can comfortably carry a 15 oz airweight, or even a magnum frame LCR @ 17 oz....but when it comes to a steel 649 old model around 22 oz.... it just does something to a nerve on my leg from pocket carry.

The newer magnum frame smiths?....24 ozs. If i ever went that route it would be out of the pocket and on the hip.
I pretty much agree. The only part I personally struggle with is carrying a 5 shot j magnum on my hip, when I could have a 10 shot 9mm of roughly the same weight and size as a j magnum, and with +p loads, in the same power range ball park.
 

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My cousin has that gun, I have the bodyguard. Both are in .38 and both have lasers. Here is the weird part, my bodyguard weighed less!

gotta fess up never used the laser cept for a cat toy, but as far as shooting? Def back-up, I can’t hit a thing with it. it use to be my edc, moved to a smith shield 45 and just need to hit near something.

Agree everybody needs one, I personally need more gun due to vision so poor.
 
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Oh no! It's a wretched pontification coming on! I feel it coming, realize that it's only one person's opinion, but it is what it is. It'll give me the chance to sort my thoughts on the Model 642 in writing. Fair warning: Tired ol' clichés and some outright canards may be thrown around.

I'm going to come out against the Model 642 which is simply not my cup of tea. I think it's overrated, oversold, and a poor performing choice for a .38 Snub when steel Smith & Wesson J-Frames as well as other brands and models of all-steel snubs are available.




The Model 642 was already on fire in the handgun market as the "next big thing" when I bought this Model 642-1 in the summer of 1998, the last brand new Smith & Wesson revolver I have purchased, by the way. I was already wary of alloy-framed revolvers and their light weight when I bought it. I duly put it through its paces, experimenting with all manner of ammunition, standard velocity, +P factory loads, and nuclear powered handloads. Carried it some as a back-up for a spell, then pretty well put it away as potential trading material. The petite Mrs. BMc appropriated it however and it's spent 20 years or so in her purse so now doesn't look so nice as it did in these old photos. She totes it in a Sticky holster concealed in a compartment within the purse. Yeah, I know ... I don't like the notion of purse carry, but she won't hear of any other way. She shoots it quite well, sometimes almost embarrassingly as well as I can and she doesn't affect to firearms as a avocation! So, this Model 642 sees use and I even dust it off at the range occasionally (when "permission" is granted).


Perceptions

Pros

Eminently concealable
- For those who like complete concealment of their side arm, this one'll get you there. In a IWB holster, in a pocket, belly band, ankle holster, or even for wretched purse carry, it'll serve most admirably. The .38 Snub in any guise still beats these popular compact 9s for concealment in my opinion. Undeniably safe too with a simple manual of arms. Yeah, automatics have all manner of clever safety features these days and familiarazation is key, but it's difficult to argue with the simplicity of a revolver.

Familiar double-action trigger - Smith & Wesson has double-action triggers down pat and most folks can adapt to them. I don't think the J-Frame trigger as is fine as Smith & Wesson's larger revolver models, but it's good 'nuff.

Stainless Steel/aluminum alloy - Offers low maintenance if that's important to the user. Aluminum alloy offers light weight if that is what is important to the user. Actually, I like the looks of the near kin Model 442 better. The Model 642's aluminum alloy frame has some sort of clear coat that wears and peels. I could do without the clear coat. Makes the revolver look good as it is being sold and while going out of the gun shop door, but the coating comes to grief with heavy carry use.

.38 Special chambering - A better cartridge than many consider it to be in this day and age. The .38 Special shouldn't be relegated to only snub use, but it's a fine choice and effective for that purpose.

Reliable function - It matters not what conventional thinking is these days; I'm under no illusion that automatics can be as stubbornly dependable as revolvers can be. I'll take "five-for-sure" with the snub revolver over any stunted automatic in any caliber.


Cons

Five shot capacity
- one less than the "six for sure" that was standard for revolvers for years. This doesn't have to be important in the overall scheme of things, but an extra shot is a nice bonus in a snub.

Light weight - This is only the first of the deal breakers for me. I don't like shooting it. I can and have shot it decently with practice just as Chuck ably points out in his post here, but I don't want to practice with it as he does and I don't have to do what I don't want to do. Weight also lends a steadying influence when shooting deliberately and I like that. The Model 642 would do as a "get off of me gun" but I prefer more accuracy at distance than I can wring out of a J-Frame in general and the various Airweight Models like the Model 642 in particular. I choose weight over convenient portability and comfort anyway and the Model 642 feels too balsa wood flimsy to suit me.

The 158 grain bullets get the call for all serious .38 Special carry here, no matter which .38 Special revolver (or .357 Magnum) or barrel length I choose. I use +P 158s, but am fine with standard velocity loads having that bullet weight. One can seek loads featuring lighter weight bullets, but I don't want to turn a .38 Special snub into a weenie .380. I don't buy into notion of the light jacketed hollow point bullet as an effective choice in a snub.

Cramped ergonomics - I can't make a J-Frame fit my hand. Not really. I can sorta fit around it. This Model 642 came with the Uncle Mike's boot rubber boot grips which had to go away from the start. With their covered back strap design they offered a measure of cushioning effect of recoil, but didn't give my fairly large hands enough purchase on the revolver. I wanted a retro look so tried a pair of Smith & Wesson walnut stocks. These weren't adequate until a Tyler T-Grip was added. With the T-Grip I can grasp it about as well as any reasonable J-Frame aftermarket stocks I've handled. I say reasonable because there were some gargantuan aftermarket J-Frame stocks sold that negated J-Frame compactness. Smith & Wesson had some stock styles as well that rendered the J-Frame clunky if more ergonomic. Might as well tote a K-Frame snub if one equips his J-Frame with oversized grips.

Double Action Only - I'm probably the only gun nut still standing who doesn't like DAO, but the feature is a deal breaker for me. It's the "only" part of double-action-only that I don't care for. I can do DAO with revolvers, but want choices in my revolver carry. I don't do DAO automatics at all. Not with good auto-pistol designs available having neato safety switches that turn on really good single-action trigger pulls.

I still admire precision shooting in this day and age of combat gaming and I have this admittedly mistaken notion that I want more of a measure of precision at more extended ranges than DAO can offer. I'm not much for carrying guns that are only suitable for "get off of me" distances for I might want to shoot something "off over there somewhere." Stunted guns and DAO is not a field grade gun and I've always used handguns afield. Am not going to fabricate valid scenarios, but I could have a need to shoot "off over there" in some urban setting. Chances are I won't, but I want that capability. I have done a lot of practice over decades at double-action shooting at 25 yards plus and am adept at it with my favorite revolvers. My brother-in-law is a whiz at long distance double-action shooting, but that's the only way he uses his revolvers. Neither of us would be competitive shooting double-action in the shooting discipline of precision pistol however. That degree of accuracy isn't important to most, but it is to me. I'm out of style and I realize it. I'm ok with being out of style.

Aluminum alloy frame - My Model 642 is rated for +P. Says so right on the barrel. I'm still unconvinced that the frame will hold up for the long haul. Chuck is apparently getting good service from the Model 642. I have personal friends and acquaintances who believe in them, love them, tote them, and practice with them. None have reported frame failures. One can read on forums of folks in Internet-Land who swear by them for long hard service.

Said to be a Model 642-1. Found on an internet search. More here: Smith & Wesson Model 642 cracked frame - Google Search



I don't intend to carry weenie, watery .38 Special loads for self defense. I'll take steel frame only thank you.


Summary

There ain't no way I'm toting a Model 642 as a primary, "always" gun. On the infrequent occasions I choose to carry a back-up, I have better choices than a Model 642. So what's the better choice? I'm not fond of Smith & Wesson J-Frames, but in my opinion any steel framed .38 Snub is better than any aluminum-framed snub no matter who made it. One that offers both single-action and double-action trigger capabilities is even better and if it also features a snag free design then that's just icing on the cake.

For me that's the all steel Smith & Wesson Model 649 which is the old style humpback Bodyguard. Or else one of the similar steel framed Smith & Wesson Model 49s for those who appreciate old school blued steel. The Model 649 in .357 Magnum has now been discontinued, the .38 Special versions having been discontinued some years ago. The excellent Model 49 Bodyguards are long gone with collectors competing with savvy gun toters for the used 49s on the market these days. I'm not yet so feeble that I can't tote the extra six ounces that the Model 649 weighs over the Model 642. The weight lends both shootability and dampens recoil. For the difference I'll embrace the weight. In my opinion the Model 649 makes the Model 642 eat dirt.

It's a homely lookin' thing, but it works.




Final thought: There's still something to be said for the Colt Detective Special. Mine's now retired, but 6 shots and effectively as concealable as a J-Frame while being more shootable. What's not to like?
Brian, if I were going to shoot the 642 a lot I would not even bother with the Airweight. I would stick with a 2.5" steel framed gun. But the 642 is carried a lot, and light weight, and the short barrel are more important to me. And yes I am thinking about that Ti cylinder, I just have to decide if the Noticably lighter gun is worth the extra $$$!
I have both an alloy framed 22 and a steel framed 22 pistol that I like for hiking. The Alloy framed gun is about 7 Oz lighter. After a couple hours of carry I can tell the difference. DR
 

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My 442 was a good beginner starter gun
but it really needed a CT laser grip and trigger but the latter substitution was too much trouble/$$$
Lots of interest in it when I traded it in, but NOT its primo leather pocket holster No-SEE-UM

Superior to 442/642 ... until I find the longer barrel (more power) LCRx
= Ruger LCR357 that shoots 38s, famous trigger and less need to polish, clean & repair.
IMHO snubbies need a CT laser grip, holster that allows "fast" draw and anything else on front sight to help getting shots on bullseye.

Not happy with short barrel/power mitigated *even for 357mag) and only 5 shots
have moved on to SA MOD.2 3.3" 45, even though I prefer pocket revolvers and do have the SW 327 8-shot option = slightly large but would do if the others are in the shop
 

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What ever happened to the Airweight Ti or the Scandium series? Are they still out there?
no idea as i have not looked for them.......a bit leery of recoil in those fly weight models and they are much more expensive..

the airweights though........decent quality and as light as i would want to go on the weight issue for me.....and the most affordable series in the whole Smith lineup......which i am sure also helped to promote the airweights and the popularity.
 

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My Taurus 605 and 856 are ok but not exactly pocket carry material.
I carry various snubs in my right front pocket, including the S&W 442 and 637; and the Taurus 605 and 856. If you don't like the 605 or 856 for pocket carry, I'm not sure you'd like the 642 any better. Mainly because, for practical purposes, they're going to be about the same with minor differences.

I carry all of them in kydex pocket holsters made for the specific model, and in my pocket I don't really feel a difference between the 14oz J frame and the 22oz 605, or the 856 with the slightly wider cylinder. This is why I'm not sure you'd like the carry of the 442 any better if you don't like the carry of the others. What is it that you don't like the 605 or 856 for pocket carry that you think the 442 might mitigate? I might be able to help you with info on that.

The only benefit of the 442 being hammerless is if I stick the 442 in a barely fits area that isn't my pocket. I used the 442 and previous Centennials as a BUG while on duty, and I was able to stash it on or around me in a lot of different locations as needed. Today, for practical purposes, I don't need/want a hammerless design for pocket carry. When I draw, my thumb rides the hammer of the 605, 856 and 637, so I have no need for a snag free design. Not that I find the hammerless design detrimental, I just find it not needed my situation today, and I wonder how necessary it is in general.

If you shoot the 605 and 856 well, you will shoot the 642 well. The skills are entirely transferable. Which also means if you don't shoot the others well, you're probably not going to shoot the 642 well either. Continual training will improve your skill with any of them though.
 

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I carry various snubs in my right front pocket, including the S&W 442 and 637; and the Taurus 605 and 856. If you don't like the 605 or 856 for pocket carry, I'm not sure you'd like the 642 any better. Mainly because, for practical purposes, they're going to be about the same with minor differences.

I carry all of them in kydex pocket holsters made for the specific model, and in my pocket I don't really feel a difference between the 14oz J frame and the 22oz 605, or the 856 with the slightly wider cylinder. This is why I'm not sure you'd like the carry of the 442 any better if you don't like the carry of the others. What is it that you don't like the 605 or 856 for pocket carry that you think the 442 might mitigate? I might be able to help you with info on that.

The only benefit of the 442 being hammerless is if I stick the 442 in a barely fits area that isn't my pocket. I used the 442 and previous Centennials as a BUG while on duty, and I was able to stash it on or around me in a lot of different locations as needed. Today, for practical purposes, I don't need/want a hammerless design for pocket carry. When I draw, my thumb rides the hammer of the 605, 856 and 637, so I have no need for a snag free design. Not that I find the hammerless design detrimental, I just find it not needed my situation today, and I wonder how necessary it is in general.

If you shoot the 605 and 856 well, you will shoot the 642 well. The skills are entirely transferable. Which also means if you don't shoot the others well, you're probably not going to shoot the 642 well either. Continual training will improve your skill with any of them though.
There is a lot of difference between 14 and 22 ounces for pocket carry for myself.
 

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Discussion Starter · #53 ·
There is a lot of difference between 14 and 22 ounces for pocket carry for myself.
I have yet to try pocket carry. I am competent with my other modes of carry. For now I am continuing to gain familiarity with my other revolvers.
But never hurts to have options.
 

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I have yet to try pocket carry. I am competent with my other modes of carry. For now I am continuing to gain familiarity with my other revolvers.
But never hurts to have options.
Never be afraid to expand your options and experimenting with other ideas.
 
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There is a lot of difference between 14 and 22 ounces for pocket carry for myself.
I think it depends on the pocket and the pants. I'm either wearing Wrangler jeans or Duluth Trading Firehose cargo shorts. Both have well built pockets that don't pull the pants fabric down causing it to sag. I could see that might be different if it's a pair of khaki's or suit pants.

Holster may make a difference too. I only use Alabama Holster or Aholster pocket kydex holsters as they are the ones I've found that fill the pocket the best. Anything that leans does cause me to feel it.
 
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