The 21st Century J-Frame

It’s probably not what you think…years ago I wrote a piece about the Glock 19 and how it had become, for good or ill, the 21st Century K Frame. You can read that essay here.

The Ruger LCR, (which I’ve been using for years and have written about here and here) truly does everything the J frame can do, but with a few distinct advantages. First, no safety lock to contend with. There’s been anecdotal reports of the lock failing on S&W revolvers of recent manufacture, and although I’ve never seen it myself, my mentor Tom Givens has and it completely immobilized the gun until the lock could be turned off. Next, is cost. LCR’s are less expensive and even in the odd political climate, they’re still quite inexpensive.

I’m a fan of the high-tech Cyberpunk esthetic of the LCR series, but the grips have never really done much for me. While I really like the function of the Hogue Tamer grips on the range, in actual use as a concealment piece, they impede the draw when carried on the ankle because the rubber grabs the pant leg. And when carried AIWB or under a light shirt in an OWB, they grab material as well. So while I dig the ergonomic shape, I wish HOGUE would make an EXACT copy of the rubber Tamer but make it out of Goncalo Alves and checker it. I know this is possible because some other makers have done it. And I know they make a G10 version but it is HUGE. Putting giant stocks on a carry revolver might be awesome for some people, but I’ve never understood the point…just get a bigger gun. Also…the aluminum and polymer frame of the LCR coupled with wood grips makes for an interesting recoil impulse. Not awful, just different. It would be even more wild with the magnum variants, I’m sure.
The LCR is capable of great accuracy, even with more-than-mild loadings. I wouldn’t hesitate to use an LCR in any capacity I might need a subcompact, personal defense weapon.

But even though the LCR is a capable weapon, and would really work in well for personal defense missions, the technology has changed and there are new technological innovations in even just the past few years that bring new capabilities to the CIVILIAN DEFENDER in need of a personal defense weapon for concealed carry. Enter the…

SIG P365. Thought by many to be the pinnacle of self-defense weapons, the relatively new technology has many great features. Most notably is the size which despite it being smaller than even a Smith Shield, it carries more rounds (standard capacity magazine holds 10 rounds) and it also has great ergonomics that allow it to actually be shootable. Add to that a weird, but usable trigger and great sights, and you have an interesting entry into the practical carry gun realm.

Like most new guns, there were some teething issues. I didn’t jump on the P365 train initially. I test-fired one at my annual police department qualification in 2018, and had no issues running through a steel plate confidence course. The recoil impulse was quite pleasant, despite the gun’s diminutive size. It shot to the sights and was as, “easy,” to shoot as a full size duty pistol.

Reports from my friends having issues with their P365’s gave me pause. I didn’t want to commit to a platform that had so many issues. Some people had problems with accuracy, primer deformation from the striker impact/metallurgy issues. And others complained of the sights not staying put. All things that I hope worked out over time. It’s probably useful to note here that I pay little attention to what the gun media promotes as, “absolute reliability,” because a 50-200 round range session, most often on a climate controlled range, with high quality performance ammo isn’t a very good barometer for using a gun under real-world conditions. I want to see how guns work in actual use…students bring them to class dirty, sweaty, and improperly lubricated. They load them with crap ammo or poor quality remanufactured ammo. THOSE are the conditions I want to hear about. Because many of the guns we think about as being the, “benchmark,” guns WILL PERFORM QUITE ADMIRABLY under these same conditions. Glocks, Smith & Wesson M&P series, as well as some CZ’s, HK’s and other reputable pistols.

I waited until May of 2019 to purchase the P365, and I found the NRA Special Edition sitting lonely on one of the LGS’ shelves, NIB. I handled and function checked it, then slid my driver’s license to the salesman to begin the purchase. The little pistol has repeatedly performed with aplomb, through 1000 rounds of (pre-pandemic) American Eagle 115 FMJ and 200 rounds of SuperVel all-copper hollow points. The little gun shoots right to the sights, and works as well in my big hands as it does in the medium-larged sized hands of our 15 year old.

Range day. Early quarantine, my Son and I went to a place where hungry wildcats had been spotted milling around, so I brought something more substantial in the event we stumbled across one we shouldn’t have. Luckily, we didn’t see any! I bring a full bore medical kit anytime I go to the range especially in remote areas like this place.
The J frame and the SIG P365 are similar in size and role. And there the similarities end…for a deep concealment appendix carry, ankle rig or ballistic vest BUG, the P365 is hard to beat.
23 ounces (loaded with 11 rounds) the P365 is only 6.5 ounces heavier than a Smith M38 loaded with 5 rounds.
The OEM sights from SIG are very bright, with a tritium vials front and rear. The front vial is surrounded by a large luminescent green halo that makes picking it up at speed easy even for aging eyes. A PRO TIP I picked up from the LEGENDARY LAWMAN MARSHAL CHUCK HAGGARD is to color in the rear lamps with a red Sharpie, which cuts down on the distraction of the rear dots in daytime and lowlight conditions. The dots are still barely visible in no-light, so that the pistol on the nightstand is still visible if you know roughly where you left it (next to your flashlight, hopefully). The factory texturing gives good purchase without unnecessarily eating large holes in clothing or cover garments, and even with the light weight of the P365, it doesn’t abrade the hands like many mini-9’s tend to do, especially with hot ammo.
The DARKSTAR GEAR HITCHHIKER is the primary way I carry this pistol. DSG’s owner Tom, is a multi-disciplinary practitioner, and understands intimately the attributes a concealment holsters needs but also how to optimize the in-fight weapons accessibility qualities of a true carry holster. This rig does both, allowing the user to customize both the level of retention with grommets and set screws, but also the height at which the pistol is carried in relation to the belt line. There is a provision within the design of the spring loaded clip that allows for carry with good stability and retention of the holster on belles pants and shorts (like gi pants, yoga leggings and athletic shorts). This makes the rig great as a, “grab and go,” rig to head to the corner stop and rob, or the mailroom in your building. Tom makes this rig long enough to carry the shorty P365 or its weird sibling, the 365XL. Fear not though shorty P365 users…the extra length of the holster really helps with ballast to keep the short gun from, “flopping,” over the belt. This is one area where the AIWB revolver wins over the self-loading pistol. The weight of the pistol is in the grip, so the design of a proper holster necessitates being able to balance that grip. The bulk of a revolver’s weight is midship, in the cylinder, and thus directly under the belt of the wearer, so a shorter holster for a revolver actually balances in that position without issue. So don’t hate on the extra length of the rig. It is undetectable while wearing.
The ten round, standard capacity magazine. A marvel of firearms engineering. I remember back in the day thinking that a ten-round Smith 6904 magazine was small…this is even smaller.

So there you have it…several of the features that I feel are worthwhile about the SIG P365, and why it has supplanted the J frame that has been a regular feature in my carry arsenal since the 1990’s. The real majesty of this pistol is the magazine. The SIG P365XL is slightly larger, but can carry an impressive 15 rounds using an extended magazine, that still doesn’t look or feel unwieldy. This continued reduction in overall size envelope of carry pistols used in the PDW role, begs the question, will, “full size,” 9mm carry pistols that also hold approximately 15 rounds become superfluous? Just like the N frame revolver gave way to the more compact and lighter/shorter K (and later L) frame revolvers, with no discerbal loss in real performance/capacity, will, “reduced design,” carry pistols become the norm for all except for uniform carry? Time will tell, but it’s an interesting trend.

With a list of real-world users like the SHIVWORKS Collective, and who I believe is the most innovative firearms designer of our generation (Chris G. Barrett of BARRETT FIREARMS MANUFACTURING) adopting the SIG P365 for hard use, anyone who has a need for a full-caliber concealment piece should consider the SIG P365. A, “RULE ONE,” gun (that is, a gun that allows the user to not violate RULE ONE OF A GUNFIGHT…”have a gun”) in the past used to be a J frame at best, and maybe a Ruger LCP .380, Keltec P32 or NAA .22 Magnum Mini-Revolver at the other end of the spectrum, but the P365 opens the performance gate to a class of weapons previously not usable in that same size. Although it had some growing pains at first, the P365 will probably go down in history as the concealment piece that changed the game.

THANKS FOR READING! FTC Disclosure- I have no financial interest in any of the companies mentioned and I am not receiving any compensation for this article.


The little gun that could. The LCR has a lot going for it. It is so light, it feels comparable to the Smith & Wesson Scandium frame products, but literally at a 1/3 of the price. Plus, the out-of-the-box sights are great, and they have plently of light on either side. Compared to most J frames of any vintage, that have almost NO light around the front sight. A smooth, rolling DAO trigger pull rounds out the package.


If you read my last article about the ongoing battle with the LCR, you’ll remember that I wished I could find a pair of stocks that I loved.  Well, I think I finally have.  This is the Hogue Monogrip for the LCR, sans fingergrooves.  It really ties the gun together.  This LCR throws wadcutters through the same hole, so I’m really glad that I found something I could really get a good hold on.  The grip angle feels far more like a pistol in general, and this set of stocks makes it feel even moreso.  I’m a surgeon…I can’t be needlessly battering the heck out of my hands.

If you’re a pocket carry guy (I’m not, really) then obviously these stocks will be way too big for that mode of carry, unless you’re Paul Bunyan.  I carry my revolvers at 12:30 AIWB, or at 4:00, and the stock length doesn’t matter so much there.  These are really grippy, too.  But I imagine they’ll, “dumb,” down a bit after rubbing against the firehose material of my jacket.

So, NOW the real testing of the Ruger LCR can begin.  Stay tuned.

The LCR with the Hogue, “Boot Grip,” which carries great but doesn’t have much to hold on to. For the smaller fingered/hand readers out there, I would look at this set of stocks if that is something you desire. But for the above average sized kids like me, you’re going to need something bigger if you plan on shooting this thing extensively. The OEM stocks are just OK…in terms of rank order, I’d put the Hogue Monogrip sans finger grooves FIRST, the OEM Hogue finger groove stocks SECOND, and the Hogue Boot grip, THIRD. The holster is a pancake variant, very nicely made by the great Sam Andrews of Andrews Custom Leather.