Sunday, May 16, 2010

Fobus Smith & Wesson J357 Paddle Holster Review

Fobus Holster Review, J357 Review, Fobus Review, Paddle Holster Review
Since I currently own two J-frame Smith & Wesson .38 Special revolvers (a Lady's Smith and an Airweight), I thought it would be nice to get a conceal and carry holster.  I ended up getting the Fobus Smith & Wesson J357 Paddle Holster.  You can find this holster at for $22.66 plus $3.27 S&H.  In doing this holster review, I found that there are some things that can be objective and others can not. Those that can not become a matter of pure preference based on your likes/dislikes and comfort based on the size of your body.  As you are reading this review, I will try to point out when things are just my opinion.  Below in italics is what Fobus advertises about this holster.
  • Fits Smith & Wesson: 5 Shot J Frame .38, .357 cal. revolvers
  • Low profile design for concealment.
  • Passive retention around trigger guard allows rapid presentation, yet securely locks handgun in place.
  • Rubberized paddle provides extra stability and increased comfort.
  • Steel reinforced rivet attachment system (paddle and holster body).
The Fobus Holster Model J357 comes as shown in the photo below.  The holster is fully assembled and there are no loose parts.

The back of the bag is shown below and is actually worth reading, at least the section on "Instructions For Use Of The Fobus Holsters", specifically the sentence below in italics. I have also made bold the key points. 
It is designed to grip the gun in a way that makes it difficult to draw if not properly executed.  The paddle should be work in the pats with the retaining prongs below the belt.  This will cause the holster to be at a slight forward cant.  The draw must snap the gun rapidly out using as straight a draw as possible, in line with the holster cant.  A little practice will perfect your draw.  A slow steady draw will not work.

The following photos show the holster after removed from the bag.  One of the main reasons I wanted the paddle type holster was that I like the idea of putting it on and taking it off without removing my belt.  Also, the paddle provides more hip comfort when wearing the more popular baggy style short.  After wearing this holster all afternoon, I was pleased with the comfort.

The holster weighed in at 2.95 ounces.  The back on the Fobus bag states it should weigh in a about 2 ounces.  The actual weight is nearly 50% greater.  I don't see this as an issue, but it is clearly not 2 ounces.

I was impressed with how well and snug my Airweight fit in the holster.  Since the Lady's Smith is basically the same pistol, it fit just as good.  The next photos show my Airweight inside the holster.

The pistol is held in the holster by indents in the molding that snap inside the trigger guard.  The photo below shows the two indents in the molding (darker areas).

My very first impression of the holster after 5 minutes was that it was a great snug fit, but too tight to be practical.  Now that I have read the directions above on the correct technique to draw the holster and have been wearing and drawing the pistol for several hours, I'm starting to think the fit is good.  When you place the pistol in the holster, it clicks firmly in place.  The "snap the gun rapidly out" technique does work quite well once you get the hang of it.  It also helps if you are wearing properly fitting shorts or pants.  I was not worried about the pistol coming out of the holster.  Also I think it is a plus that you don't have any snaps or buttons should the situation arise where you actually need to draw the pistol under stress.  Both of the Airweight and Lady's Smith are hammerless and I'm a firm believer in "simpler is better".

Bottom Line:
The Fobus Smith & Wesson J357 Paddle Holster is worth the money.  It is comfortable and holds the pistol securely in place.  If you purchase one, your first impression will probably be like mine on how tight the pistol is held in place, but give it some time and practice drawing you will probably come to the same positive conclusion as I did.  The most important thing anyone can do with a holster and pistol is become comfortable using them, which means practice, practice and more practice.  If that day ever comes when you need the pistol, you will not regret the practice.

Over the next several weeks I will continue to wear the holster and also get my wife to wear the holster.  I will update the review afterward with any new thoughts or comments.


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  2. Just got one for my Smith Model 38. Thanks for the tip about drawing straight up and practice. I didn't think it would work but it does. Perfect pair Fobus J357/M38. - j.