What Is The Best Holster For Smith & Wessons 38 Special?

LAST UPDATED: April 24th 2017
GUIDE: Chris Browning

So, you’ve just picked up your brand-new Smith & Wesson .38 Special snub-nosed revolver! Perhaps you purchased it to use for concealed carry, and you’re anxious to add it to your daily routine.

But first, you’ll need the right holster to securely take it along with you.

There are numerous options available to you. Some of the more popular holster styles may or may not suit your taste. These may include pocket holsters, pancake-type belt slides, paddle holsters, belt clips, belly bands, or ankle holsters.

Each has their good points as well as their bad. Let’s have a quick glance at some of these popular styles.

My pick would have to be the Suede Leather holster by Relentless Tactical. It’s got the belt/waistband clip, but can also fit in a pocket with ease. Not only that, but you could wear it IWB cross draw simply by putting it on your weak side.

Type of Holsters

Some type of hostler that would be suitable for you pistol are:

  • Pocket Holsters
  • Pancake Holsters
  • Paddle Holsters
  • Belt Clip Holsters
  • Belly Bands
  • Ankle Holsters

Now let’s have a closer look at these types of holster before choosing a particular one.

Pocket Holsters

This style of holster has become increasingly popular, available in nylon or leather. They’re designed to fit inconspicuously into your pocket and hold your weapon in its proper position.

brown pocket holsterThe shape as well as a rougher outer material serves to keep the holster in the pocket when drawing the pistol.

They’re also not as form-fitting as other holsters, as this serves to break up the outline of the firearm in your pocket.

While these do tend to work well in deep pockets such as slacks, they’re a little more difficult to use in jeans, especially women’s jeans.

For some strange reason, manufacturers seem to be shrinking women’s pockets – literally!.

Pancake Holsters

brown pancake holsterThese holsters, made of either leather or nylon, are designed to be worn outside the waistband and are flatter to ease concealment.

They usually have two slots to slide a belt through, and are, to a degree, shaped to fit specific models.

A pancake holster sits tight and secure against the belt. These can come with or without thumbs straps.

However, when using this for concealed carry, make sure your clothing fits over it to properly conceal your handgun.

Paddle Holsters

Paddle HolsterThese are often made of high-strength polymer and mounted on a scoop-like paddle. They slip into a waistband with or without a belt.

They are form-fitted to specific firearm models, and usually have adjustable retaining screws.

Some even offer adjustable cant (angle of carry) levels. If you choose to use one of these holsters for concealed carry, you’ll have to make certain your shirt will cover it.

Although the paddle fits into your pants, the firearm actually sits outside your waistband.

Belt Clip Holsters

Inside The Waistband (IWB) HolstersA belt clip holster can come in either inside- (IWB) or outside- (OWB) waistband models. Some of them not only clip to the belt or waistband, but also have built-in belt slides.

They are made from either leather or nylon, and can come with or without thumb straps.

Remember, if you decide to got with an OWB holster and intend to carry concealed, make certain your clothing will allow the holster to remain hidden.

If your holster choice does have a retaining strap, make sure to practice releasing it.

Belly Bands

belly band gun holsterBelly band holsters are usually built around a neoprene material (similar to knee braces you pick up at your local pharmacy), which gives the rig a bit of elasticity.

Surgical-grade elastic is stitched to the neoprene, forming the pocket for the pistol.

Some may also have optional retention straps as well as as spare magazine holder. This type of holster may appeal to the woman in your life, and some are even made with a lace appearance.

With a belly band, take into account the amount of time it might take you to draw, especially if your holster has the optional retention strap.

Ankle Holsters

Ankle HolstersThese are usually made of neoprene, similar to belly bands, but intended to be worn around the ankle under the pants.

Many of them come with spare magazine pouches (for semi-automatics) and may or may not have a retention strap for better safety.

Keep in mind that ankle holsters for concealment won’t work when wearing shorts or most dresses, and may require extra time to draw in an emergency.

However, if you spend a lot of time in your car or at a desk, this might be a good choice.

Specific Holster Models For Smith & Wessons 38 Special

Now that we’ve discussed holster styles in general, let’s look at a couple specific models in more detail.

1. The Ultimate Suede Leather IWB Holster by Relentless Tactical

This is a leather holster with metal waistband clip. This holster will fit most J frame revolvers and comes with Relentless Tactical’s lifetime warranty.

The Ultimate Suede Leather IWB Holster by Relentless TacticalThe suede should make for a comfortable fit, and the clip is mounted to a thick, sturdy-looking strip of leather stitched to the holster.

One disadvantage to this holster might be its lack of a retaining strap. You could also use this as a pocket holster; just slip it in a pocket.

The outer surface is suede and will grip your pocket lining. Since it’s not form fit to a specific gun model, some pistols may not fit as well as others.

2. Belly Band for Concealed Carry by Concealed Carrier, LLC

Belly Band for Concealed Carry by Concealed Carrier, LLCThis is a stretchy neoprene belly belt that can be worn around the belly as well as inside the waistband if you prefer.

It will fit up to a 44 inch belly, but make sure to measure around the belly button and not the waist to ensure a good fit.

This seems to be an extremely versatile holster, which can also be used higher on the torso like a shoulder rig.

You can even carry it in the small of the back (SOB). The holster fits a wide range of different pistols and has a retention strap for a secure fit.

It also has a spare magazine holster that can be used for other things such as a phone, keys, or money.

3. Pistol Holder by Sticky Holsters

sticky holsterThis is an ambidextrous, self-sticking holster that stays put when put in the pocket or waistband.

It uses the compression of your body and pants to secure the holster and keep a lightning-quick draw.

There are no metal clips or straps to worry about, and this might also work in a back pocket as well. 

4. Small of Back (SOB) Concealed Carry Leather Holster by Pro Carry

This is a pancake-style holster made of top grain leather and boasting proper cant (carry) angle, giving you a quick draw.

small of back Concealed Carry Leather Holster by Pro CarryThe molded to fit the firearm leather gives extra retention and the large belt slots slide easily onto a belt.

The fact that it’s designed for SOB carry means it’s not convertible to a cross draw or a strong side holster unless you’re left-handed or ambidextrous.

5. Nemesis Ambidextrous Pocket Holster by DeSantis Gunhide

Desantis Ambi Nemesis HolsterThis is a nylon pocket holster for inserting in the pocket of your slacks or deep pocket jeans. At just 1.6 ounces, this is a lightweight holster.

The bulk of the holster is thick enough to break up the lines of your pistol, making it even less obvious when in a pocket.

The outer shell is fibrous to stick to your pocket, while the lining is smooth to allow for ease in draw.

The holster is somewhat form-fitting, but may allow a little play. 

A Word About Barrel Length

Smith and Wesson produces several types of .38 Special caliber handguns, and most of the holsters listed here are for the snub-nosed barrels: those barrels measuring in at around 2 inches.

Other .38 caliber firearms are available in 4 inch, 6.5 inch, and over 8 inch barrel lengths. If you’re not sure of your weapon’s barrel length, check the owner’s manual or the paperwork from the sale.

If you’re still not sure, measure the barrel from the longest part of the barrel tip to just before the rolling cylinder. Make certain you know what length barrel you have before buying a holster, especially online, as they’re more difficult to return.

Final Thoughts

I bet now you know exactly what you might be looking for. We’ve covered a wide range of different types and brands of holsters, and you’ll know best what will suit your lifestyle.

Some women seem to prefer a belly band holster over a purse holster (the gun in your purse won’t do any good if the bad guy takes away your bag, or you drop it while in a run), and men of certain body types seem to like it as well.

Many others prefer the pocket holster, as it pretty much works with anything you might want to wear.