Best Concealed Carry Revolver
While semi Autos have gained popularity in the last couple of years revolvers still hold a couple of advantages for concealed carry. They’re more reliable in close contact encounters and they have a simpler and arguably safer manual of arms that is easier for inexperienced and lower hand strength shooters to master. Luckily there are some great concealed carry revolver options on the market.
Our Top Picks
There are a lot of great revolvers out there but there is not a truly one size fits all category so we’ve broken it down into categories the below categories.
Heavy Steel Concealed Carry Revolvers
Heavy steel concealed carry revolvers are what we’re calling the small carry sized revolvers that are all-steel construction and weight enough to absorb some of the recoil while still being a manageable size and weight for daily carry.
Smith and Wesson 640 Pro
If you’re a Smith and Wesson fan and want a heavier J frame revolver this is probably the best option. The SW 640 Pro is a stainless steel model that weighs in at 22.2 ounces holding 5 rounds of 357 magnum or 38 special. In 38 special this is a comfortable gun to shoot but if you’re shooting 357 magnum this gun will be a handful and with the 2.125 inch barrel you won’t see a significant increase in velocity and terminal effectiveness while you will see an insane increase in felt recoil.
Another nice feature of the SW 640 Pro is that it comes cut to use moon clips. The double-action trigger on this gun is downright excellent and lives up to its performance center roots. It feels much lighter than your standard production J frame triggers and it’s smooth as butter.
3 dot night sights are standard on the SW 640 pro and they offer a pretty good sight picture. Personally, I find tritium in a rear sight overpowering and distracting to my sight picture so I wish it was just a plain black rear with a front tritium night sight. The gun costs around $750 street price in most stores and honestly provides a really solid value for the money. The only thing I have a burning desire to change on mine is the grips. Changing grips is an easy and cheap task.
- Heavy stainless steel construction mitigates recoil.
- Good sights
- Excellent trigger
- Heavy stainless steel construction limits carry options.
- It’s most expensive than other options despite being a good value.
- It only holds 5 rounds.
- The grip is a little small in its factory grips.
Ruger SP101 3 inch
If you want to shoot 357 magnum loads in your carry gun while still carrying a sufficiently small gun the Ruger SP101 3-inch is the best choice. Ruger steel-framed revolvers are known for the durability and holding up to very hot loads. The 3-inch barrel also allows you enough time for the powder to burn to give you more velocity that may be worth the extra recoil. Shooting this gun with 357 isn’t fun but it is doable.
Weighing in at 27 ounces there is enough weight to tame the recoil and the grips are larger than J frame grips while still being small enough to conceal well. Shooting standard pressure 38 special out of this gun is a breeze due to the medium-sized grips and heavy frame.
The biggest downsides to this gun are the sights and the trigger. The double-action trigger on the Ruger SP101 is really stagey and doesn’t have a consistent pull when pulling it to the rear. You can have work done to the trigger but it’s not as easy to find someone who works on the Ruger Revolvers as it is Smith and Wesson. Most of the 3inch Ruger SP101 variants the traditional trough style rear sight and a pinned on front sight. In the world of revolvers this is a mid-tier sight setup but considering the Ruger SP101 is likely the most shootable of its peers it’d be nice to see sights that allow you to take full advantage of the shootability.
- The heavy frame makes it fun to shoot with lighter loads
- The 3 inch barrel allows you to take advantage of increased terminal ballistics of 357 magnum.
- The size of the grip is an excellent compromise for both concealment and getting a good grip on the gun.
- The price is reasonable for a gun with this amount of positive features.
- The design is really durable and will stand up to high round counts.
- The weight of the gun is going to make it impractical to carry when you’re exercising and not wearing a belt.
- The 5 round capacity leaves a little bit to be desired.
- The trigger is marginal and not easy to improve.
- The sights aren’t great.
With its 2-inch barrel and 23-ounce weight the Kimber K6s has is similar in size and weight to the Smith and Wesson 640 Pro but it also holds an extra round which gives it a 17% increase in capacity. The gun also has a pretty good trigger and set of sights that are dovetailed into the gun. Most of the K6 guns come with 3 dot sights but they also sell 3 doty tritium night sights and a fiber optic front with a blacked-out rear. The trigger is good until you consider the price of the gun and then you feel like you should have gotten more for your money. It’s better than the Ruger SP101 but not as good as the 640 Pro.
Chambered in 357 magnum you can shoot 38 special from this gun and get an extra round over the other competitors. With the heavy frame and 38 special, the Kimber K6s will be a really soft shooter. Can you shoot 357 in it? Yes, but it won’t be fun and the short barrel won’t allow enough powder to burn to get a noticeable difference in velocity. This gun is also more expensive than most concealed carry revolvers but inline with the cost of comparable options.
- Double action trigger is pretty good
- Weight is fairly heavy while remaining
- Increased capacity over similar options.
- Lack of aftermarket grip options compared to the old J frame and SP101 designs.
- Weight makes it harder to carry if you aren’t wearing a belt.
Lightweight centerfire concealed carry revolvers are for the guns under 15 ounces that still fire a centerfire cartridge. Most of these will be 38 special revolvers built on frames designed specifically for 38 special. These guns tend to have a lot of recoil but they’re also light enough to carry when you’re not wearing a belt but also working out doing explosive movements.
Ruger LCR 38
At only 13.5 ounces nobody ever accused the Ruger LCR in 38 special of being a heavy gun. The hybrid aluminum/polymer frame design seems to absorb more recoil for the weight than the other 5 round capacity 38 special J Frames that weigh a similar amount. This gun has a fantastic trigger that is best in class for its $450-$500 price tag. The front sight is pinned so you can switch it out to options you find more suitable. It’s lighter than the Smith and Wesson 442/642 while being significantly cheaper than the Scandium 38/357 Smith and Wesson offerings. This gun presents a really solid value.
- Price and availability of this gun are reasonable.
- Weighing only 13.5 ounces you can carry this without a belt when moving around a lot.
- The trigger on this gun is excellent.
- The sights are reasonably good for a gun in this class.
- Recoil isn’t light but it will be manageable but I’m still putting it as a con. You won’t enjoy shooting this gun enough to want to get good with it.
Smith and Wesson 442/642
These are probably the most popular concealed carry revolvers on the market right now. The Smith and Wesson 442 is black and the 642 is silver and that’s the only difference between then. Both are enclosed hammer airweight J frames and they sell for roughly $350 at most dealers. They weigh 14.7 ounces and that seems to be the line in the sand between a J Frame you don’t want to shoot a single round through and a gun you can get 20-30 rounds through in a practice session.
The triggers on these guns aren’t performance center grade but they are good enough for a defensive firearm if you can deal with the heaviness of the triggers. With a 5 round capacity, they’re on par with their peers.
This gun isn’t fun to shoot unless you really enjoy pain but it is bearable. Find a good set of grips that work for you and it’ll tame it quite a bit. The only thing that’s special about the gun is the price point and the face it straddles the weight line for a Smith and Wesson J Frame. The sights on them are absolutely atrocious but within 7 yards they’re usable. If you find a good set of grips with some cushion that fit your hands well the recoil becomes even more manageable.
- Cost and availability are big pros because you can normally find one of these at almost any gun shop.
- The weight of the gun is light enough to carry but does have enough weight to make recoil tolerable.
- Sights on these guns are absolutely horrible.
- Recoil is quite snappy and not something most people will like.
Smith and Wesson 340 PD
One of the more unique revolver offerings the Smith and Wesson 340PD uses a lightweight alloy called scandium to make the gun weigh a scant 11.2 ounces. That 3.5 ounces makes a huge difference in carry and recoil and it seems like it has 30% more recoil than the Smith and Wesson 442/642 J Frames. A lot of people will look at the gun because of it’s lighter weight and pinned front sight that can be replaced with a night sight, but I would suggest thinking twice before buying it.
The gun is chambered in 357 magnum but I would never shoot those loads unless you really enjoy pain. These guns cost $1000 making them quite costly. For triple, the cost of a Smith and Wesson 442/642 the Smith and Wesson 340PD gives you a better front sight and significant weight reduction. But unless you throw a pair of massive grips on it it’s going to recoil a lot. You’re still stuck with 5 rounds.
- The weight makes this gun extremely easy to carry.
- The sight options on this gun aren’t bad and comparable to the LCR.
- Recoil is insane with these guns and I think it should be a deal-breaker for most.
- The trigger on this gun isn’t great and compares to the 442/642 despite costing over $700 more.
Medium Centerfire are for the guns that weigh more than 15 ounces but less than 20 and are often built on magnum frames to handle more recoil. When shooting compatible non-magnum ammo these guns tend to have less recoil than the lightweight concealed carry revolvers while being lighter than their all-steel counterparts.
Ruger LCR 9mm
9mm revolvers have been of interest for years but until recently they were only available in small production runs or in the form of converted 38 special revolvers. The costs of the conversion could cost as much as the base revolver you were having converted. 9mm revolvers have always seemed like a great option due to lower ammo cost and more availability than 38 special.
9mm is a rimless case whereas most revolver cartridges are rimmed. This means that if you need to use the revolvers with moon clips or half moon clips. You can load the rounds individually but then you’ll have to eject them by pushing or prying them out with a device that isn’t the extractor rod. Traditionally the extractor sits under the rim of a cartridge and pushes the shells out when you push the extractor rod up. 9mm doesn’t have a rim to index so you need the moon clips.
Like all the Ruger LCR centerfire guns the Ruger LCR 9mm has a decent trough style rear sight with a pinned on white lined front that can be replaced. The 9mm version is built on the heavier magnum LCR frame so the gun weighs in at 17.2 ounces. The gun holds 5 rounds and is fairly stout on the recoil, more recoil than 38 out of the magnum frame, and less strout than the 357 LCR. The trigger on this gun is absolutely fantastic for a stock revolver in the $500-$600 range.
- Ammo compatibility and accessibility during normal times.
- It’s a little more powerful than a 38 special.
- It has that amazing LCR trigger!
Ruger LCR 327 Magnum
One of my favorite 2 favorites in this class is the Ruger LCR 327 Magnum. The reason this is one of my favorites is the versatility of the ammo offerings and the 6 round capacity. Most of the LCR chamberings only hold 5 rounds and an extra round represents a 17% increase in capacity of the standard offerings.
You can also shoot 4 other cartridges from your LCR in 327 magnum. The gun is backward compatible with the 32ACP, 32 Long, 32 short, and the 32 H&R magnum. This ammo availability gives you multiple options for both practice and self-defense use. 32ACP and 32 long aren’t known for their spectacular ballistic performance but if you put them where they need to go they will get the job done. If you’re recoil sensitive you can load the gun with a centerfire round that’ll offer you less recoil making you more effective with the gun. So you can practice with low recoil rounds and carry a more powerful round or you can practice and carry with a low recoil round.
This variant of the Ruger LCR weighs in at 17 ounces and has an excellent lighter trigger. So if you’ve got weaker hands and can’t handle the weight of the 22LR triggers then this might be the best option due to the light recoil options and the manageable trigger. It’s just a very versatile setup and is carried by multiple members of a family with varying levels of tolerance for recoil. The Ruger LCR 327 magnum runs $500-$600 at most dealers.
- Lots of options for ammo and ballistic performance.
- Great for experienced and inexperienced shooters alike.
- Excellent double action trigger
- It’s a little heavy if you want to use it when working out
- Sights could be better but they’re honestly not bad and I felt like I couldn’t have just one con
- Ammo availability for the 327 magnum can be scarce locally.
Ruger LCR 357
If you’re an old school guy who just likes 357 magnum or 38 special and 9mm and 327 magnum aren’t for you there is always the 357 magnum Ruger LCR. This gun weighs 17.1 ounces so it gives you a couple extra ounces to mitigate recoil when you’re shooting 38 special. As with all the LCRs it features a replaceable pinned white striped front sight and a best in class trigger.
If you do go with this gun I would suggest shooting 38 special or 38 special +p instead of 357 magnum loads. The only real difference between the 357 and the 38 special is the 357 magnum is loaded hotter. The barrel on the LCR is only 1.87 inches long and most 357 magnum rounds are designed for a barrel that is 3 inches and longer. You’re going to experience more recoil with a 357 than a 38 special but that doesn’t mean you’ll see an increase in velocity so I’ll take the lower recoil 38 special rounds all day long.
- Lower recoil in 38 special
- Excellent trigger
- Cost is a little more expensive than other options shooting
- It weighs more than other options making carry a little harder in select situations
- 5 round capacity
Ruger LCRx 3 inch 38 Special
You’ve probably heard about how the Glock 19 is a sweet spot for semi-automatic pistols. Small and light enough to carry concealed yet larger enough to use as a duty weapon without giving up much if any performance. Well, the Ruger LCRx 3inch in the 38 special is very similar. The gun weighs in at 15.7 ounces and holds 5 rounds of 38 special. The 3-inch barrel will give you an increase in velocity and really help reduce felt recoil.
This gun is just a shooter. It’s really light for how well it shoots and it’s the 3-inch barrel that’s making the difference. The only real downside of the Ruger LCRx 3inch 38 special is the trigger on the LCRx guns is marginal at best and there aren’t a lot of aftermarket improvements out there.
It features an adjustable rear sight and a pinned white bladed front. Most of the aftermarket front sight options are a bit wide for the rear notch and there is no replacement for the rear that I know of. The gun has target sights and they work reasonably well. If you compare them to revolver sight offerings you’ll be quite happy but if you’re looking for something as good as your semi-auto they won’t do. This gun is just really shootable and a great carry choice if you can find a good holster for it.
- Longer sight radius
- Better sites than other revolver options
- 3-inch barrel lightens recoil and increases ballistic performance with 38 special +P.
- The trigger isn’t great in double action
These revolvers are for those that want a lightweight gun that has minimal recoil increasing the shootability. The downside is these guns have very heavy triggers and need a heavier hammer spring so you won’t be switching springs out to get a better trigger pull. But if you have the hand strength to handle the trigger pull these are hard to beat for practical accuracy and fast shooting close in. I’ve run a drill with multiple shooters where they can put 3 rounds in groups the size of an eyeball at 3 yards with .3 seconds splits between each shot. These guns excel when you need a lightweight gun to carry when exercising.
Ruger LCR 22
Weighing in at 14.9 ounces the Ruger LCR 22 is the heaviest of all the guns we have listed in this category and it holds 9 rounds. Considering it only shooting a 22 long rifle having that extra round is nice. The sights aren’t great but for close distances they’re sufficient and within 5 yards they shoot point of aim point of impact with everything I’ve tried in it.
A great thing about the Ruger is that according to the manual you can dry fire it without risking damage to the gun. While you can dry fire pretty much all modern hammer block centerfire revolvers without a risk of damaging the gun that’s not the case for rimfires and the LCR 22 is the only one I’m aware of that is rated for dry fire. Being able to dry fire the revolver is a great tool to increase your skills without having to go to the range.
Like all the Ruger LCR models the LCR 22 has decent sights for a trough rear and a white front sight that can be switched out to fiber optic or night sights. This gun is also the easiest to find in local gun stores and costs a reasonable $500 on the street. During normal times I’ve seen them as low as $450.
- You can dry fire with the gun
- It holds 9 rounds of ammo
- The sights aren’t bad.
- It’s a little heavier than other options
Smith and Wesson 43c
At only 11.5 ounces the Smith and Wesson 43c is incredibly light and slightly smaller than the Ruger LCR. It holds 8 rounds instead of 9 but if you’re looking for the lightest possible revolver then this gun is it. It includes a front XS dot sight so it is fairly easy to pick the front sight up. If you don’t plan to dry fire this would be my top pick in the category just due to a couple of ounces saved over the Ruger LCR 22.
- The 43c is extremely lightweight making it really easy to carry
- Sights are fairly good
- It only holds 8 round
- You can’t dry fire it
- It’s more expensive than the LCR
- They aren’t that available on the open market
Smith and Wesson 351c
If you’re looking for a lightweight 22 magnum that has a little more theoretical punch than the 22LR your best bet is going to the Smith and Wesson 351c. It’s set up just like the Smith and Wesson 43c with a lightweight alloy frame putting the total weight of the gun at 11.5 ounces and an XS dot front sight.
The only difference is the gun holds one less round to accommodate the “more powerful” 22 magnum cartridge. While the 22 magnum case holds more powder than the 22LR it the gun it is being shot from only has a 1.875-inch barrel and that’s not sufficient to burn all the powder of either the 22LR or the 22 magnum. So in my opinion and from most of the ballistic charts I’ve seen you’re better off getting the 43c and picking up an extra round of ammo.
- It’s a lightweight gun that you can carry jogging and working out.
- It has a good front sight.
- 7 round capacity
- Increased recoil without a muzzle velocity advantage from the 22 Magnum round
- The gun isn’t as cheap as a Ruger LCR
- Availability isn’t great so you’ll likely have to look around a while to find one.
Really lightweight and a great gun to carry when working out and having 8 rounds is nice.
Ruger LCRx 3 inch 38 Special
There is something about a 3-inch revolver that just works
It’s really lightweight while still being easy to shoot well.
Ruger LCR 327 Magnum
Increased capacity at a reasonable weight
You can try different ammo and decide the best compromise of recoil and ballistics
6 rounds of 38 in a small 23-ounce revolver with good sights
Again something about a 3-inch revolver and if you’re willing to put on the extra weight you can get a little more ballistic power from hotter loads.
This gun has the best ergonomics of them all and is a joy to shoot.