8 best concealed carry revolvers

8 best concealed carry revolvers

Written by Mark Buff , GunZee founder and CEO.

Revolvers are excellent CCW weapons—consistent and easy to conceal. Though lower in capacity than semi-automatic pistols, these quality concealed carry wheel guns pack impressive stopping power into discrete, wearable frames. 

Quick links:

Smith & Wesson 442

Ruger LCR

Colt Cobra

Charter Arms Bulldog

Kimber K6s

Ruger SP101

Smith & Wesson 642

Rock Island M206

Why revolvers?

How to choose?

Disadvantages of revolvers

Interested in revolvers for self-defense? We’ll discuss some pros and cons of having one as your CCW weapon. Stay with us as we highlight some of the best concealed carry revolvers for EDC.

If you wear your revolver in a KYDEX holster, apply our memory foam padding and experience the most comfortable carry ever! 

Look what Ralph has to say about GunZee original holster pad for compact guns.

Smith & Wesson 442

Smith & Wesson J-FRAME SERIES MODEL 442.

Image source: https://www.smith-wesson.com/product/model-442

 

Features

Details

Caliber

.38 S&W Special 

Capacity

5

Barrel length

1.30”

Height

4.30”

MSRP

$539.00


The Smith & Wesson Model 442 is an excellent option for concealed carry, offering a perfect blend of user-friendliness, portability, and unwavering reliability. As an ultralight variant of Smith & Wesson's renowned J-frame revolvers, the Model 442 stands out as a great choice for everyday self-defense.

One of the standout features of the Model 442 is its weight, or rather, the lack thereof. This revolver tips the scales at a mere 15 ounces when unloaded, thanks to its aluminum frame coupled with a steel barrel and cylinder. This lightweight construction makes it incredibly comfortable to carry all day, ensuring that you won't be burdened by your sidearm. 

The Model 442 is chambered to handle .38 Special +P ammunition, delivering ample stopping power from its snub-nose barrel. This means you can carry it with the peace of mind that it packs enough punch to get the job done if the need arises.

One of the Model 442's intelligent design choices is the shrouded hammer, which eliminates any snag hazards when drawing from concealed carry positions, be it from under your clothing or within a purse. This ensures quick and smooth deployment when it matters most. 

The double-action trigger mechanism allows for rapid fire without the need to manually cock the hammer between shots, ensuring you can respond swiftly to threats. When precision aiming is called for, the single-action mode offers a crisp and precise trigger break, giving you the control you need for accurate shots.

This reviewer finds 442 to be an excellent choice for a carry weapon.

Ruger LCR

Features

Details

Caliber

.357 Magnum

Capacity

5

Barrel length

1.87”

Height

4.50”

MSRP

$859.00


The LCR’s monolithic frame is constructed from 400-series stainless steel, ensuring both strength and durability. What sets this model apart is its patented friction-reducing cam, a next-generation innovation in fire control systems. This design results in a smooth and consistent trigger pull that doesn't stack, delivering precise control when it matters most.

The polymer fire control housing, another patented feature, holds all the fire control components in their proper dimensional relationships. This not only reduces weight but also helps mitigate recoil, making it easier to manage the .357 Magnum rounds.

The stainless steel cylinder is a testament to Ruger's commitment to quality. Its PVD finish ensures excellent durability, while extensive fluting effectively reduces weight without compromising structural integrity.

Ergonomics plays a crucial role in the LCR's design. The Hogue Tamer Monogrip is a standout feature that significantly reduces perceived recoil and makes the .357 Magnum rounds more manageable. Additionally, the grip peg allows for a variety of grip styles to be installed, ensuring a comfortable fit for different users.

The Ruger LCR comes with a replaceable, pinned ramp front sight with a white bar, enhancing target acquisition and accuracy. The U-notch integral rear sight complements the front sight, offering a well-rounded sight picture.

“The excellent handling and recoil characteristics of the LCR platform make this a great shooting gun for its compact size. I don't think you will find a comparably sized snubby revolver that shoots any better. If unpleasant recoil has dissuaded you from carrying a magnum snubby in the past, this could be your solution.” —Duane A. Daiker, US Concealed Carry 

Colt King Cobra

Colt KING COBRA.

Image source: https://www.colt.com/detail-page/king-cobra-2/ attribute_pa_variant=king-cobra

Features

Details

Caliber

.357 Magnum

Capacity

6

Barrel length

3”

Height

4.9”

MSRP

$899.00


Built on Colt's proven double-action revolver lineage and paired with thoughtful upgrades, the robust King Cobra stands ready to rule its territory once again.

Weighing a solid 28-ounce unloaded, the brushed stainless steel King Cobra manages recoil well relative to more compact models. This helps the 3-inch barrel deliver steady accuracy when precision shots under stress count the most. The overmolded Hogue grips soak up recoil while promoting weapon retention and quick follow-up shots.

While higher capacity semi-automatic handguns have captured the interest of late, the King Cobra provides reassuring reliability with six ready-to-go .357 cartridges on tap in the cylinder. The double-action trigger allows rapid shooting without cocking the hammer manually to cover threats at close quarters.

“Despite the sight radius imposed by its 3-inch barrel, the first six bullets impacted our 50-yard target with plenty of room around its edges, a testament to the quality of the King Cobra’s DA trigger. Once could be a fluke, but the next three cylinder loads confirmed it — the little gun can shoot.” —Iain Harrison, Recoil

Charter Arms Bulldog

Features

Details

Caliber

.44 Special

Capacity

5

Barrel length

3.0”

Height

4.7”

MSRP

$436.99


The Charter Arms Bulldog revolver packs robust .44 firepower into a compact snub-nosed revolver weighing in at 20 ounces. Despite the short 3-inch barrel, the full-power .44 Special cartridges provide almost twice the muzzle energy of lesser .38 Special rounds.

The Bulldog’s manageable size balances portability for concealed carry with greater takedown capability over typical pocket guns. The ergonomic rubber grips help soak up mild felt recoil, enabling fast follow-up shots using the double-action trigger. For careful aim, thumbing the hammer back activates a crisp single action let off.

Though this 5-shot revolver has less capacity than auto pistols, Charter Arms’ time-tested reliability makes each shot count when circumstances demand defensive use. The durable, no-frills carbon steel construction stands up to real-world carry to provide a lifetime of dependable functioning.

Kimber K6s

Features

Details

Caliber

.357 Magnum

Capacity

6

Barrel length

2”

Height

4.46”

MSRP

$985.00


With a weight of just 23 ounces, the K6s' 2-inch barrel and compact cylinder smoothed of sharp edges slip cleanly into holsters while retaining enough ballistic integrity to make each of its 6 shots count. The stainless construction shrugs off moisture while lending a slick, snag-free profile aided by an internal hammer nested seamlessly into the frame.

While versatile enough to eat lighter .38 Special ammo, the K6s steps up in a big way by packing the muzzle velocity of Magnum cartridges when threats demand maximum stopping power. The smooth double-action trigger delivers controlled rapid fire while the single-action mode offers a crisp let-off suited for precision aim when feasible.

The expert fit and finish expected of Kimber shines through in the K6s to yield outsized performance from its small stature. For concealed carry practitioners wanting full-power backup from a discreet package, the K6s is a popular choice.

Ruger SP101

Features

Details

Caliber

9mm

Capacity

5

Barrel length

2.25”

Height

4.78”

MSRP

$919.00


The Ruger SP101 revolver has long set the bar for snub nose .38/.357 Magnum performance, and now the 9mm version brings ample power to the concealed carry realm in a more shootable full-steel package.

Tipping scales at brawny but carry-friendly 25 ounces, the satin stainless SP101 manages the 9mm cartridge easily, enabling accurate repeat shots without excessive recoil. The smooth double-action trigger cocking and optimized grip angle promote an intuitive in-hand feel, while the adjustable rear sight hones the point of impact.

A relatively small 5-shot capacity is balanced by substantial stopping power. Triple-locking the cylinder into the stainless steel frame ensures perfect chamber alignment shot after shot.

While snappier than a full-size 9mm, the SP101 9mm strikes a versatile balance of power, sturdiness, and carry comfort. Ruger’s transfer bar safety system prevents discharges if dropped while permitting smooth, reliable shooting when needed most.

Smith & Wesson 642

Smith & Wesson 642.

Image source: https://www.smith-wesson.com/product/j-frame-163810

Features

Details

Caliber

.38 S&W Special 

Capacity

5

Barrel length

1.88”

Height

4.3”

MSRP

$539.00


The Smith & Wesson 642 airweight revolver builds on S&W's proven J-frame guns to offer a well-balanced concealed carry option. 

It weighs just 15 ounces, thanks to its lightweight alloy frame. The combination of a stainless steel barrel and cylinder ensures durability and corrosion resistance, critical for a concealed carry firearm.

Just like the Model 442, the Model 642 features a snag-free enclosed hammer, a thoughtful design choice that minimizes the risk of hang-ups when drawing from concealment. This feature enhances your ability to respond swiftly in high-stress situations. 

The Model 642 is rated for continuous +P use. It showcases its robust build and ability to handle the increased pressures of +P ammunition, adding an extra layer of versatility and effectiveness.

This YouTube commenter loves his 542 although it is not “an easy gun to shoot.”

Rock Island M206

Features

Details

Caliber

.38 Special

Capacity

6

Barrel length

2”

Height

4.67”

MSRP

$259.99


The Rock Island Armory M206 revolver packs 6 rounds of .38 Special firepower into a snag-free small frame. The compact steel frame topped with wood grips fits comfortably for all-day carry. 

The 2” barrel and hammerless design promote a smooth draw while minimizing printing under clothing. Low-profile fixed sights keep the silhouette trim yet usable at close defensive distances.

Built to handle +P .38 Special loads, each round packs proven takedown capability from the short sight radius. The double-action trigger enables rapid-fire through repeat pulls without cocking, while the single-action mode provides a crisp let-off for precision shots.

With proven reliability from its simple design, the M206 handles +P .38 Special loads with aplomb. The grip fills the hand securely, promoting control through modest but workable recoil. Remain accurate in low light situations thanks to the rear sight's crisp square notch aligning quickly on target.

Your revolver should always be kept in tip-top shape to be sure it is ready for action whenever duty calls. Get a GunZee handgun cleaning kit and never worry about the reliability of your revolver again.

Why should I choose a revolver as my concealed carry weapon?

When you choose a concealed carry weapon, reliability and ease of use are critical. Revolvers are a great option because they are less prone to issues that could cost you in a self-defense encounter.

Here are some factors that make revolvers a good choice for concealed carry:

  • Less prone to jamming than semi-automatics. The simple mechanism makes misfeeds unlikely, ensuring firing when needed most.
  • No external safety to fumble with. Manual safeties can lead to dangerous delays if struggling to disengage in an emergency.
  • Easy to visually check if loaded. Open the cylinder to easily see the loaded status, unlike semi-autos requiring manipulating the slide.
  • Can fire multiple shots rapidly with one hand. The double-action allows quick follow-up shots.
  • A thinner profile aids in concealability for discreet carry purposes without printing.
  • No slide or magazine can reveal the weapon under clothing. A smoother profile helps maintain concealment.
  • Very reliable with fewer parts and feed issues.
  • Lower maintenance without needing to clean or lubricate a semi-automatic slide mechanism.
  • Quick reloads are possible with speed loaders. Faster than collecting ejected magazines from the ground during a firefight.

How do I choose the right concealed carry revolver?

When you choose a concealed carry revolver you should find a balance between firepower and ease of carry. You want a gun that is powerful enough to neutralize a threat, but small and light enough to keep comfortably hidden.

Here are the factors you should consider:

  • Size and weight. Compact "snub nose" barrels 2-3 inches long reduce printing under clothing while keeping the overall frame small and light. Titanium and polymer options can reduce weight.
  • Barrel length. 2-3 inches optimizes power in a short package. Too short of a barrel limits ballistics, while longer barrels print more under clothing.
  • Action type. Double-action allows firing without cocking the hammer, enabling rapid shooting if needed. Single action provides a lighter, crispier trigger.
  • Sight options. Fixed sights maintain reliability while adjustable sights allow fine-tuning accuracy. Tritium night sights are crucial for low-light engagements.
  • Grip material and design. Rubber grips improve weapon retention and recoil control compared to wood or metal. Consider compact grips for easier concealment.
  • Hammer type. Shrouded hammers snag less than exposed hammers when drawing from concealment, but exposed hammers allow single-action shooting if preferred.

With countless revolver models on the market, evaluate your specific needs based on these criteria to help narrow your search. Test firing several options helps ensure you choose the right gun for your ability and daily carry comfort preferences.

What are the disadvantages of revolvers?

Here are some potential disadvantages of revolvers compared to semi-automatic pistols:

  1. Slower reloading. Revolvers must be loaded one bullet at a time via the cylinder rather than quickly inserting a full magazine. This makes tactical and speed reloads slower unless using speedloaders.
  2. Increased weight. The cylinder design of revolvers contributes to their overall weight. This is why revolvers are usually heavier than semi-auto handguns. This extra weight can make them more difficult to carry concealed, especially for extended periods. 
  3. Lower ammunition capacity. Most revolvers only hold 5-6 rounds in their cylinders compared to 10+ in many semi-auto magazines.
  4. Increased thickness. The cylinder necessary for revolver function makes them thicker than semi-automatic pistols of comparable barrel length. This could negatively impact concealability.
  5. Complex unloading. To fully unload a revolver, each chambered round must be ejected manually via the extractor rod under the barrel as opposed to pressing a magazine release button.
  6. More recoil. Generally, recoil forces are more noticeable in a revolver than in a semi-auto pistol. This can hinder rapid target reacquisition and accurate follow-up shots.

While revolvers still maintain benefits such as reliability and ease of use under stress, these disadvantages are why many prefer semi-automatic pistols for EDC. 

However, revolvers remain perfectly viable personal defense weapons— especially for concealed carry roles where ammunition capacity and reloads may be less crucial than the reliability factor.

CCW revolvers FAQ

What is the most popular concealed carry revolver?

The S&W J-Frame revolvers like the Model 642 are among the most popular concealed carry revolvers. Their lightweight, small profiles and reliability have made Smith & Wesson the leader in compact revolver sales for decades.

Are revolvers good for everyday carry?

Revolvers can be excellent choices for everyday carry purposes because of their simplicity and reliability. Not having to worry about clearing malfunctions that often occur with semi-automatic pistols is an advantage for personal defense guns.

What is the easiest revolver to carry?

Ultralight polymer or alloy-framed snub-nose revolvers like the Smith & Wesson 340PD are the easiest to carry all day. Weighing just 12 ounces unloaded, their compact shape and light weight make them very portable and concealable pieces to have on hand.

What is more reliable: a revolver or a pistol?

The reliability of a revolver versus a pistol is a topic of debate. Revolvers are often praised for their mechanical simplicity and resistance to malfunctions, making them potentially more reliable than pistols in certain conditions. Modern pistols are also highly reliable due to advancements in design and manufacturing.

What is the smallest 6-round 357 revolver?

The Kimber K6S is currently among the smallest production .357 Magnum revolvers on the market, offering a full 6-round capacity in a package under 8 inches long and weighing 23 ounces. Its 2-inch barrel keeps the size down considerably while maintaining enough velocity for personal defense.

Should you carry a revolver fully loaded?

It's generally recommended to carry a revolver fully loaded with a live round in every chamber. Skipping chambers could allow bullets to jump under heavy recoil which reduces accuracy. Carrying fully loaded takes full advantage of the limited capacity revolvers have compared to semi-auto pistols.

What is the best revolver caliber for self-defense?

The .38 Special and .357 Magnum calibers offer proven stopping power from short revolver barrels and manageable levels of recoil control for accurate defensive shots under duress. They dominate the market for good reason—ample power without punishing blast compared to larger calibers.

What is the advantage of a hammerless revolver?

Hammerless revolvers, also known as double-action-only (DAO), fully enclose the hammer within the frame. This provides a snag-free draw from concealment without catching on clothing and also keeps the overall profile thinner for easier carrying comfort compared to exposed-hammer models.

What is the best concealed carry gun for self-defense?

The best CCW self-defense guns are usually 9mm semi-automatics. The Sig Sauer P365 is one of the top choices for most experts. It provides over 10 rounds of ammunition on tap and holsters comfortably for daily wear.

What features help control recoil in a revolver?

A heavier revolver can help tame felt recoil, as the weight absorbs more recoil energy. Rubberized grips also allow you to control the gun better. In addition, some revolvers have match-grade or adjustable triggers to customize trigger pull, improving accuracy.

Why choose a polymer-framed double stack semi-auto for defensive use?

For defensive shooting, many choose higher-capacity double-stack semi-autos from trusted makers. The excellent trigger pull on many models allows for great accuracy. Double-stack magazines hold 10+ rounds, while polymer frames aid concealment and resist corrosion better than steel.

About the author: Mark Buff is the founder and CEO of GunZee. He is an ardent firearms enthusiast and has been carrying concealed for more than 15 years. He created GunZee to solve his own problem: that of uncomfortable KYDEX holsters. His patented GunZee memory foam holster pad makes inside-the-waistband carry super comfortable.

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What is the lightest concealed carry pistol?

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