1791 Gunleather Open Top J-Frame Holster

Do you have a small revolver that you’re trying to figure out how to carry? Might we suggest an open top J-Frame holster from 1791 Gunleather? Read on for a possible solution to your dilemma!

S&W 642
The S&W 642 revolver in .38 Special is the candidate for the 1791 holster.

I recently received a holster from 1791 Gunleather. With the myriad of holsters out there on the market, I have to confess that I wasn’t familiar with this company until recently. I’m glad I caught up with them because they are putting out some products that are top-shelf. Let’s take a look at what the consumer can expect.

Open Top J-Frame Holster


The holster I received for a review is their open top J-Frame model that fits the Smith & Wesson J-Frame and also the Ruger LCR revolver. It is an OWB type holster. The revolver I carried is the S&W 642 in .38 Special with a 1 7/8-inch barrel.

When I received the holster, I was a little taken aback; it is an unexpectedly heavy-duty rig. To say that the leather is thick is an understatement. The individual pieces used are nearly 1/4-inch thick. Where those pieces come together and are joined, they are about 3/8-inch thick. I want to use the word robust, but I’m not even sure that is an adequate description here.

The edges of the leather holster.
That’s some thick leather! This holster is built in a sturdy fashion. The edge of the leather is very nicely finished too. This view is of the mouth of the holster.

On the outboard side of the holster near the mouth, there is a slab of leather attached to reinforce that area. However, it’s not just a slab of leather – they’ve sewn a slab of carbon fiber into this space so that the leather will never soften. Soft leather can eventually get into the trigger guard and cause an accidental discharge. I’m not sure it was needed, but they put it there. They aren’t ones to skimp on materials or workmanship, that’s evident.

The reinforced front of the holster.
A piece of carbon fiber is sewn into the outside portion of the holster to prevent softening over time. It is covered by a piece of leather. A lot of thought went into the design of this open top J-Frame revolver.

Belt Loops

The leather around the area of the belt loops is about 3/8-inch thick and is likely to hold up in the event of a nuclear blast. The loops will fit belts up to 1 3/4-inches wide. When worn, the holster has a slight forward cant.

The back of 1791's open top J-Frame holster
The belt loops can be seen here, they will fit belts up to 1 3/4-inches.
The holster on the belt.
On the belt, the holster keeps the revolver tucked into the body nicely, adding to concealment.


1791 products come in four finishes, with my holster being in Stealth Black. The others are Classic Brown (a medium brown color), Signature Brown (a very dark brown color), and Vintage (a worn, brown color). All are pleasing to the eye, and I think the worn look of the Vintage is my favorite. Classy all the way, for sure!

Classic Brown finish of a 1791 holster.
Here is the Classic Brown finish, seen in the open top holster. Photo: 1791 Gunleather.
Vintage finish of thumb break holster.
Here’s a 1791 holster featuring the Vintage finish. This one sports a thumb break and will not fit my 642. The Vintage finish is quite attractive.
Thumb break holster with Vintage finish.
The other side of the thumb break holster’s Vintage finish. The quality of these holsters is nothing short of astounding.

The edges of the holster area also very nicely finished, being rounded and smoothed perfectly. It really adds a nice touch to the holster that other makers could take a lesson from. I cannot picture these edges curling over in time. With some holsters, this becomes an issue that is dangerous because the edge of the holster could get into the trigger guard, causing an unintended pull of the trigger. I.e., a negligent discharge. With these edged being as thick as they are, I cannot see this as ever being an issue with a 1791 holster.

I’d fully expect this holster to last at least a lifetime, if not longer.


There is double stitching around the belt loop area. It is very heavy and well done. This holster won’t be coming apart any time soon.

Side view of holster with revolver in it.
The stitching is well done and double-stitched at critical points. The trigger is covered for safety.


You’ll want to allow a little time to break this holster in. Fit at first was quite tight. Several dozen draws from the holster began to smooth the inside out and the tightness began to ease somewhat. This is not a criticism, it is to be expected with a leather holster that is wet molded to the handgun, as these are.

View from the top of the holster.
Retention for this holster is excellent. Even after it’s broken in, it still retains the revolver well. Like that Crimson Trace product placement?

I left the handgun in the holster overnight for a few nights, which also seemed to help. It is now much easier to draw from, yet it retains the revolver very well. It’s not going to fall out accidentally.

When the revolver is inserted, the trigger guard is also completely covered, ensuring safety.

Overall, the holster carries the little revolver well. Given the overbuilt, stout quality of the holster, it seems almost overkill to carry such a tiny handgun in the holster. Again, it’s not a criticism, it’s just the nature of how this holster is built.

Personally, I’d prefer to carry a small revolver in an Inside The Waistband holster, as it conceals a bit better. However, the option of the OWB holster is also nice.

Holster, revolver, and speed strips.
The 1791 Open Top holster, S&W 642, and a few speed strips round out the package.

1791 also offers this holster to fit numerous other pistol brands, including: Arex, Beretta, Glock, H&K, Keltec, Kimber, Ruger, Sig Sauer, Smith & Wesson, Springfield Armory, Walther, Taurus, and others.

If it’s manufactured, they probably make a holster for it.

It seems that this OWB holster would be perfect for many of the autos that are out there on the market. We’ll report on some of those options soon. 

If you’re not a fan of the open top J-frame holster, do not despair. They also make thumb-break styles for additional retention and security. 


At the time of this writing, the holster retails for $51.99. In my estimation, that is a spectacular value, considering the fact that the holster oozes quality from top to bottom.


Considering my very positive experience with this holster, I would definitely buy another holster from 1791 Gunleather in the future. Their attention to detail is outstanding.

It carries the revolver safely and comfortably while offering excellent retention. The price is also modest when compared to other holster makers on the market. You just can’t go wrong with these guys!

One final thought: no matter which holster (or holsters) you’re using, you need to safe the weapon and practice your drawstroke.

About 1791 Gunleather

Based in Miami, Florida, 1791 Gunleather offers a lifetime warranty on all of their holsters and gear. They use 100% certified American, Heavy Native Steerhide in their holsters. They incorporate four generations of professional leather artisans into the making of each holster – and when you get one of their holsters into your hands, you will believe it! This company makes a badass holster and stands behind it. 

Why 1791? Because it was the year that the Bill of Rights was ratified.

Their Products

Aside from holsters, they make other gear as well, including belts and magazine holders. They make inside the waistband (IWB) holsters, outside the waistband (OWB) holsters, and 2-way holsters, among others. Check out their website for the full line because it’s too expansive to list here.

Jim Davis served in the PA Dept. of Corrections for 16 ½ years as a corrections officer in the State Correctional Institute at Graterford and later at SCI Phoenix. He served on the Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT), several of those years as a sniper, and also the Fire Emergency Response Team (FERT). For 25 years, he was a professional instructor, teaching topics including Defensive Tactics, Riot Control and Tactical Operations, Immediate Responder, and cognitive programs as an adjunct instructor at the DOC Training Academy. He was then promoted to the title of corrections counselor, where he ran a caseload and facilitated cognitive therapy classes to inmates. His total service time was close to 29 years. He was involved in many violent encounters on duty, including incidents of fatalities. He is a dedicated Christian and attributes any skills that he has to the glory of God.

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