When I think of holsters for classic stainless steel S&W K-frame revolvers, I typically think of something made of nice high quality leather, or an old school law enforcement duty holster. Kydex is not something I usually associate with revolvers. That would be like mixing classic muscle car styling with modern vehicle design. Oh wait, people do that.
At the end of last year I decided that 2017 would the year of the revolver for me, so I knew I needed at least two things, a revolver, and a good holster. Finding the revolver was easy enough, the holster was another story. If I was really going to do this, the revolver would have to be a full time gun, meaning it would be the gun primarily carried, practiced with, and used for matches and classes. In order for a gun to fill all of those needs, that gun needed to be a “duty sized” revolver that held 6 rounds. The gun I ended up with was an S&W 66 with a 4” barrel. Not a small gun. With the revolver selected, it was time to find a holster that could handle regular trips to the range for practice, the occasional firearms training class, and that concealed a duty sized revolver well enough that it could be carried under most conditions. So the search began.
There were a few kydex holster makers that I had heard really good things about, but the problem with the kydex guys is that not all of them make a holster for a not so commonly carried gun like a 4” K-frame. If they do, it is generally an OWB type holster, because after all, who carries a 4” K-frame IWB. Fortunately, JM Custom Kydex offers some of their IWB holsters for the K-frame. Initially, I was looking for a holster that had the mounting solution (i.e. belt loops), offset from the main body of the holster in hopes that it would help reduce the overall thickness of the package. Putting belt loops near the widest part of the revolver, the cylinder, seemed like a no go to me. What initially got me looking at JMCK is that they had such a holster, the IWB 1. My plan was to go with the IWB 1, but before I placed the order, a little nagging voice in my head said I should send an e-mail to Tony Meyer, the man behind the magic at JMCK, and ask for his advice on the matter. In the e-mail, I told him what I was carrying, what position on my body I planned to carry it, and about how big of a dude I am. I sent my e-mail at 7:30pm, and had an answer before noon the next day. Turns out, the IWB 1 was being discontinued, and Tony pointed me towards his IWB 3 holster with the wide hole pattern for the PDS loops and a 25* cant. I was skeptical at first because it put the belt loops basically on top of the cylinder, which I was trying to avoid, but then I remembered who the expert was, and rolled with the IWB 3. By the way, this is the same type of holster Tom Givens uses if you didn’t already know that. Right at 7 weeks later, I had my new holster.
Out of the Box
When I pulled the holster out of the packaging, I was impressed. The build quality was excellent, the holster had very clean lines, nicely polished edges, and just gave off that vibe that “this dude knows how to build a holster”. The holster has Pull the Dot snaps and loops, secured to the holster on a ridge to help clear the belt and top of the pants for carrying IWB. Built into the holster is a cool little tuck feature over the trigger guard area of the revolver that helps to tuck the butt of the gun into the side of the body. There are two tension adjustment points, one just in front of where the trigger guard would be, and the other just in front of the crane/front of the frame. The holster is made using the least amount of kydex possible which reduces the bulk and footprint of the holster. For a gun as large as a .357 K-frame, that makes a difference in how comfortable the holster is and how easy it is to carry. Even though my older S&W 66 is a true 4” gun, the holster would also fit the recently released S&W 66’s with the 4.25” barrel. That is good for guys running the newer guns, but does add an extra ¼” to the overall length of the holster that I don’t really need. When running an IWB at a traditional 3-4 o’clock position on the belt
with a significant amount of cant, that extra ¼” can sometimes be an issue, but is specific to this model of firearm, and I would imagine could have been addressed if I would have thought to mention it.
The holster has a discernible click when the gun is fully seated into the holster, which is nice. The tension was a bit loose for my taste, but a couple twist on the tension screws and all was right in the world. Out of the box, I was very impressed with the quality of the holster.
A Month Later
I am a month into running this holster, and have used it every day of that month. I have worn this holster for more than a couple 16 hour days, long hours in a vehicle, ran it in an IDPA match, ran it in practice on the range, used it to teach a class or two, chased my kids around the backyard with it on, worn it with a suit and tie, and worn it with jeans and a t-shirt. To be honest, it has worked better than I expected. The tuck feature built into the holster actually works amazingly well. I was afraid that the added width would be problematic, but it really hasn’t been as big of an issue as I expected it to be.
On occasion, depending on what type of clothing I am wearing and how I twist my body, the PDS loops print a little through my shirt, but the rest of the gun is invisible. The holster has remained secure on the belt under all conditions, and the grip stays consistently in the same place regardless of activity level. That is a key performance issue because if I ever need to draw the handgun, if the grip of the revolver is stable and always in the same place, I am more likely to have a consistent draw.
One of the challenges associated with revolver holsters is all the protrusions, namely the cylinder itself. If the holster is not formed just right, these protrusions can cause discomfort when the holster is worn for longer periods of time. This holster does not have any really sharp edges or corners. There is a protrusion where the cylinder is, but those edges are soft and nicely contoured. I have not had any comfort issues with this holster, even when worn for very long days.
The IWB 3 does ride really low, and there is not a method for adjustment of ride height. With the way the holster is cut, combined with the low ride height, the rear sight of the revolver sits just at or below the top of the belt and is not contained within the holster. So far that hasn’t been an issue, but if the belt rolls over the top edge of the holster it may make it more difficult to reholster. Personally, I like a holster that rides low, so no big deal as far as I am concerned and I have not noted any specific issues associated with the ride height. Some people may prefer the holster to ride higher though, and there is not a method to adjust the ride height that I am aware of.
I have also noted that the top of the holster presses against the rear sight blade. I suppose the rear sight should be robust enough that having a little pressure applied to it will not push it off zero, but it does make me a little nervous. It is however an easy end user adjustment to fix, I just haven’t yet because I wanted to test the holster in its factory configuration.
I had heard before I ordered this holster that JMCK puts out a good product, but a good kydex revolver holster can be a tough nut to crack. A revolver, especially a duty sized revolver, is a big gun with all the funky contours and curves that come with a revolver, and there is a decent amount of heft on top of that. The quality of the holster in both build and design has to be top notch to make the gun comfortable to carry, easy to conceal, and easily accessible. At the end of it all, I think for a concealable revolver holster, this is about as good as they come.