9 Best 38 Revolvers For CCW – Sep’ 2023

Taurus Protector 38 Special

Winners at a Glance

The Smith & Wesson 642 is the best 38 Special revolver for concealed carry. But there are new contenders for the throne.

Smith & Wesson Model 642

Smith & Wesson Model 642

  • Overall Winner
Best Price
Colt Cobra

Colt Cobra

  • The perfect gun, for a price
Best Price
Ruger LCR

Ruger LCR

  • Best concealed carry
Best Price
S&W M&P Bodyguard

S&W M&P Bodyguard

  • A legend in the CCW World
Best Price
Rock Island Armory M206

Rock Island Armory M206

  • Best cheap pistol
Best Price


The 38 Special revolver is still a mainstay of the personal defense world and there’s a lot to be said for simple, straightforward 38 Revolvers.

They’re light, compact, relatively foolproof and largely low recoil. So these are great self defense guns for new shooters who just aren’t ready for 9mm semi-automatic pistols.

Also they are great pocket pistols, back up guns and secret last line of defense for many of you.

So what is the best 38 Special revolver for sale in 2023?

Here are our picks.

Smith & Wesson 642. The best 38 revolver on the market?

1. Smith & Wesson Model 642 38 Special Revolver

  • Price: $519.00
  • Barrel Length: 1.875 inch
  • Overall Length: 6.31 inch
  • Weight Empty: 0.94lb
  • Capacity: 5

Overall Winner

Price: 3/5 Performance: 5/5 Reliability: 5/5 Prestige: 4/5

The S&W 642 38 Special revolver is one of the best-selling double-action revolvers of all time for a reason.

It is perfect for CCW because the almost concealed hammer can’t get snagged on clothing.

After all this time it is still an excellent option for personal defense and arguably should be the first port of call for new shooters. Simple, basic and almost infallible, the snubnose S&W5 shot 38 Special revolver is about as accessible as guns get.

The Model 642 38 Special Revolver is an Airweight,38 Special a group of extremely lightweight J-Frame revolvers, or small frame revolvers. At under 1 lb, this is one of the lightest carry guns that you can find, although you might want to check out the Model 442 38 Special revolvers too. 

Recoil is a thing with these lightweight revolvers, but then this isn’t a 357 Magnum revolver.

The concealed hammer is still able to be cocked, which means you can operate the Model 638 in single action or double action revolver mode.  For the best concealed carry revolver, that’s a selling point…

The Colt Cobra 38 Special revolver. The legend is back. Buy yours online now at the USA Gun Shop.

2. Colt Cobra

  • Price: $907.99
  • Barrel Length: 2 inch
  • Overall Length: 7.25 inch
  • Weight: 1.5lb
  • Capacity: 6 rounds

Perfect Gun, For a Price

Price: 1.5/5 Performance: 5/5 Reliability: 5/5 Prestige: 4.5/5

The Colt features an all stainless steel frame with rubber grips. It has a two-inch barrel and an exposed hammer. Both of these are conscious choices that give you options, but also come at a cost when it comes to concealability.

The exposed hammer allows for a short trigger squeeze in single-action, or a long trigger pull in double-action mode for safe carrying. Because of its added size and weight, the recoil felt is minimal and this might just be the best gun on this list for that bizarre reason.

The Colt Cobra is one of the most shootable carry revolvers on the market for personal defense. It is large enough to hold comfortably, yet small enough to conceal easily.

The Cobra also holds six rounds, while most of the other 38 Special revolvers only hold five. One round might not sound like a lot, but when it really matters then, well, it’s a lot.

For more great pistols, revolvers, 1911s and well everything, check this post of the best Colt handguns for sale and some great Colt semi auto pistols.

Charter Arms Undercover 38sp revolver for sale. Get the best prices and find guns for sale online now at your favorite USA gunbroker.

3. Charter Arms Undercover Lite 38 Special

  • Price: $370.99
  • Caliber: 38 Special
  • Barrel length: 2 inch
  • Total Length: 6 inch
  • Weight: 0.8lb
  • Capacity: 5

Cheap, Solid Contender

Price: 4/5 Performance: 3.5/5 Reliability: 4/5 Prestige: 2/5

Charter Arms made its name known in the firearm industry for producing a popular backup gun for police officers. That same gun lives on today, a .38 revolver with a 2-inch barrel that weighs in at just 1 lb.

This matte stainless Charter Arms Undercover Lite 38 Special revolver is a great combination of size, weight, and stopping power. Of course the Undercover Lite is also one of the least expensive guns on the list, coming in at under $400.  

Check here for the full line of Charter Arms pistols, too, many of them matte steel and looking good. Others are pink and lavender, and, well, you decide…

The Ruger LCR is one of the greatest pistols of all time. Get your 38 special Ruger LCR today and buy guns online.

4. Ruger LCR 38 Special

  • Price: $548.99
  • Caliber: 38 Special Ammo
  • Barrel length: 1.87 inch
  • Total: 6.5 inch
  • Weight: 0.84lb
  • Capacity: 5

Best for CCW

Price: 3/5 Performance: 4/5 Reliability: 4/5 Prestige: 2.5/5

The Ruger LCR has a true internal hammer and therefore is a double-action revolver only. Because the hammer is internal, the LCR Ruger makes an excellent concealed carry revolver and it almost redefines the term small frame revolver.

At just 13.5 oz, the LCR Ruger also comes in as one of the lightest revolvers here. You can opt for the Ruger LCRx with the exposed hammer, too, with two options for the trigger pull. The Ruger LCRx is cool, but this is easier to conceal.

Both offer a red ramp front sight, which is a solid fiber optic front sight for rapid target acquisition.

The enclosed hammer Ruger LCR is a good choice for new CCW license holders, women and anybody that likes pure simplicity.

The Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 38 special revolver combined with a Crimson Trace laser sight is the best way not to miss.

5. S&W M&P Bodyguard .38 w/ Crimson Trace Laser 

  • Price: $429.99
  • Caliber: 38 Special
  • Barrel: 1.875 inch
  • Total Length: 6.6 inch
  • Weight: 0.84lb
  • Capacity: 5

Legendary CCW

Price: 3/5 Performance: 4/5 Reliability: 4/5 Prestige: 4/5

The Smith and Wesson M&P Bodyguard is a great concealed carry revolver in this review and it comes with; a Crimson Trace laser.

The laser makes this aluminum alloy frame carry gun great for new shooters, or anyone who wants to feel a little better about their aim.

At just 6.6 inches with a barrel under 2 inches, the Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard is easy to conceal and that is a great start for the best 38 Special pistol.

Now the S&W M&P Bodyguard with the laser pointer is about as point and squirt as guns can get as you don’t even need to master the smooth channel frame cut rear sight and fixed front sight.

For some, that’s a major selling point with the S&W M&P Bodyguard and there are plenty of other options in the S&W Performance Center model.

The company makes great firearms/handguns/revolvers and these 38 Special revolvers are legends for good reason that still find a place in gun safes around the land.

Ruger GP100. A match grade revolver and one of the best wheelguns.

6. Ruger GP100

  • Price: $850.00+
  • Caliber: 38 S&W Special
  • Action: Single/double
  • Barrel length: 4-6 inch
  • Total Length: 6.5 inch
  • Weight: 1.5lb
  • Capacity: 6 rounds

Best Target Pistol

Price: 2/5 Performance: 4/5 Reliability: 4/5 Prestige: 3/5

The 38 Special Only Ruger GP100 was a thing for a while, but most people now like the dual caliber 357 Magnum option that also shoots the lighter ammo and gives you a guaranteed 38 Special +P Revolver too.

So check out this selection of stainless revolver features that are specialist long range shooters, competition pistols, and more in the right hands.

This could also be a great general purpose handgun with a stainless steel frame for range plinking and home defense. Now it is a high price, high spec handgun. But it’s also very, very good.

The fiber optic front sight with adjustable rear sights is an obvious nod to competition, but you can use it too and night sights on 38 revolvers are definitely good when things go bump in the night.

The Ruger SP101 is another option if you’re looking for a small frame revolver. You can get a Ruger SP101 DAO trigger action with an enclosed hammer or a SA/DA trigger action with an external hammer. It’s chambered in 357 Magnum, or .38 Special, with a similar rubber grip, and is also a good general purpose handgun.

So the similarities with the GP100 are more pronounced than the differences. For home defense we’d take the longer barrel versions.

Rock Island Armory M206 38 Special revolver. A cheap carry gun that follows the tried and trusted principles of the classic police revolver design.

7. Rock Island Armory M206

  • Price: $261.99
  • Caliber: 38 S&W Special
  • Action: Single/Double
  • Barrel length: 2 inch
  • Total Length: 6.5 inch
  • Weight: 1.5lb
  • Capacity: 5

Best Cheap Pistol

Price: 4/5 Performance: 3/5 Reliability: 4/5 Prestige: 2/5

RIA has a reputation for producing a solid and affordable firearms especially it’s semi autos that include double stack 9mm 1911s now.

Essentially the matte black stainless M206 38 Special Rock Island concealed carry revolver is a tribute to the classic police revolver, the S&W Special.

There’s nothing particularly innovative with these Rock Island Armory concealed carry revolvers, apart from the fin that offers a type of smooth channel frame cut sight. And it is a durable little gun that is easy to conceal and meant for daily carry.

The company can sell you the Rock Island Armory M200 revolvers for concealed carry with a 4 inch barrel, too, or a hammerless M206. But this is really all about the utilitarian matte black budget single/double action 38 revolvers with a spur style external hammer.

Rock Island Armory can sell you a 357 revolver, too, the Rock Island Armory Armory AL3.0, with a 2″ snub nose barrel. But the felt recoil is intense and the best 38 Special revolver is probably better for personal defense in most instances.

Taurus 85 Ultralite. A dual caliber self defense pistol that is perfect for CCW or fun at the range.

8. Taurus 856 Ultra Lite 38 Special

  • Price: $219.99
  • Caliber: 38 Special +P Revolver
  • Barrel: 2 inch
  • Total Length: 6.5 inch
  • Weight: 0.84lb
  • Capacity: 5

The snub nose Taurus 856 38 Special revolvers are probably the best-selling revolvers not made by S&W. Their most recent offering, the Taurus 856 Ultra Lite, comes in at just 13.5 oz, making it a great gun to concealed carry every day. We especially like the non slip rubber grips.

The Taurus 856 Ultra Lite is the most affordable gun in this review, and this Taurus model works if you’re on a budget.  In fact this matte black Taurus model is a brilliant concealed carry revolver, period.

Consider the Taurus 856 Defender 38 Special revolvers, too, which are the Taurus 856CH concealed hammer version with a DAO trigger pull.

On another day, we’d have recommended the Taurus 856CH Defender first, but that’s life. And you can buy a stainless steel cylinder version of the Taurus 856 38 Special, of course, with the same cushioned rubber grips and red ramp front sight.

These are some of the best concealed carry revolvers not too much money can buy.

Smith and Wesson Model 10 revolver for sale. Get your .38 revolver here at the best gun store in America.

9. Smith & Wesson Model 10

  • Price: $500+
  • Barrel: 4 inch
  • Total: 8.9 inch
  • Weight: 2.15lb
  • Capacity: 6 rounds

The Smith and Wesson 10 is the original S&W Special classic military & police revolver and arguably the stand out long range shooter here.

It is also the most popular gun of the 20th century, by the numbers, with more than 6 million produced over the course of 100 years.

So if you’re looking for a piece of history, then this is really the one you want. It is the archetype, the definition of the 38 genre, if you want to get all high-brow about this…

These were THE revolvers for concealed carry.

Before semi-automatic pistols became popular in the 1990s, nearly every law enforcement officer in the United States carried a Model 10 on their hip. It has the classic styling with a blued steel finish and wooden grips.

With a 4″ barrel and 34.4 oz, this is not the best concealed carry revolver. If you’re interested in law enforcement history, however, this item is a collector’s piece.

Of course you can get the best 38 Special stainless version of these concealed carry revolvers, an engraved special edition S&W Special, what you want really.

Where to Buy 38 Ammunition

If you want 38 ammo, Special +P ammo, ammo for your rifle, shotgun ammo, rimfire ammo, just about anything else really, then we can help you out there. Palmetto State Armory has turned into a great source of ammunition. You can also find budget guns on the Palmetto State Armory website.

Check these suppliers for the best deals and gun parts too.

The Rough Rider Barkeep. A great .22 revolver

Consider a 22 Long Rifle Pistol

If you’re already looking at 38 revolvers, rather than the vast numbers of the best 9mm microcompact pistols out there, then you have specific reasons like hand strength issues. So maybe a 22 revolver isn’t such a crazy idea after all.

There are some intriguing 22LR options, too, including the Ruger Wrangler and the Heritage Rough Rider. The Ruger Wrangler is a modern day cowboy six shooter with almost no felt recoil.

The Heritage Rough Rider has evolved into a model line in its own right, from the tiny boot gun, the Barkeep, through the 16″ barrel length.

What Else To Buy Online?

What are the options if you’re looking for a smaller caliber handgun? You could always organise the price low to high on Guns.com with 38 revolvers and try and spot a bargain. Or you can go on user ratings.

The Taurus Judge and Smith & Wesson Governor are both viable options, but we’re not massive fans and both brands are well covered here. The Taurus Judge, though, is a popular gun and a great option.

There are plenty of Semi Automatic pistols, revolvers and more, aside from the Smith and Wesson M&P Bodyguard 38 revolvers. I mean 9mm is the obvious choice, with the likes of the Sig Sauer P365 and Springfield Armory Hellcat leading the charge and occupying ever smaller carry holsters.

A 380 Auto could also be an option for women and those without the hand strength to rack or fire the 9mm handguns.

You can also look at air guns, depending on your local gun laws. I mean they’re not great, but anything is better than nothing right? And air guns that shoot arrows really are a thing now and you can buy a gun online pretty easy without the help of an FFL dealer.

Springfield Armory Hellcat 9mm pistol for sale. A new 9mm Micro compact and a Sig P365 rival

Micro Compact 9mms Are Seriously Good

Those Micro Compact 9mm semi auto pistols have seriously impinged on the 380 ACP Auto class, as well as these revolvers. But that’s simply progress, when you think about it.

Check out that list of the best micro 9mm pistols, then find a brand new 45 ACP handgun, black powder guns, optics, scopes, bolt action rifles for big game, bolt action pistols, parts & accessories, carry holsters, ankle holsters, pocket holsters and so much more.

So if optics, scopes or other calibers are your thing, check out our other posts. We have everything from gun cleaning supplies, gun cases to shoes, boots and a single shot 50BMG rifle.

Looking for caliber conversion kits for your revolver or maintenance for your home firearms? A new rear sight? The best carry holsters? A gun safe? Gun storage? Handgun ammo? Lever action rifles? We can help.

Lots of them come with free shipping on orders, a gift card, shooting targets and other bonuses too. Keep an eye on our main content. Skip to content here.

The Original S&W Special

You can get an original S&W Model 10 S&W if you’re into the history. And also a large number of tribute acts that have sprung up over the years.

Check out the used S&W for sale options on Guns.com here.

The double action revolver was designed around the new .38 Special cartridge with a medium K-frame. It was always known as the Model 10, which evolved from the snappily titled S&W Model 1899 Hand Ejector revolver.

In 1902 the Hand Ejector changed its name to the much better .38 Military & Police Model. This was the official sidearm in World War 1 and World War 2. That’s pretty good going for any handguns, revolvers, firearms, handguns etc.

After the war S&W returned to the top rated civilian Model 10. But pretty much everybody continued to call this sweet double action the S&W Special.

It’s the best-selling gun of the last century, with more than 6 million units produced from 1900-2000 and a world of available gun parts and upgrades. This is an all-time Hall of Fame entry. So get yours, and a small piece of history. Also, it’s probably California legal…

Colt Detective Special

Where to Buy a Colt Detective Special

The Colt Detective Special was introduced in 1927 and is officially the first snub nosed revolver. John Henry Fitzgerald took the Colt Police Positive Special and reduced the barrel to 2 inches and removed the front half of the trigger guard.

This Fitz Special was the precursor the first production snub nosed revolver, and the cut trigger guard didn’t make it to the final version.

Designed for plain clothes detectives as a conceal carry, it went on to become a best seller and was not discontinued until 1986. You can still find them on the used market here, but they do command a high price.

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