We’ve all been there. You need to head out the door to run a quick errand, but you aren’t dressed to effectively carry or conceal your sidearm. But a carry gun does not do any good if you don’t have it with you. For times like these, it would be nice to have a smaller pistol you could just put in your pocket. Which begs the question, what is the best gun for pocket carry?
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The pocket pistol is trim, snag-free, and reasonably lightweight. It needs to print little, if any, in the pocket and be able to handle some lint and finish wear. With these things in mind, we’ll talk over some of the current and classic choices for the best gun for pocket carry.
Kel Tec P32
The Kel Tec P32 in .32 ACP is a feather of a little pistol designed to hide anywhere. It only weighs 7 ounces empty, so it won’t pull your shorts down if you wear it on your run or on a quick trip to the store. A pocket clip attachment is available if you want to shove the weapon in your pocket but not have to dig for it. I know two gentlemen who carried the P32 as their everyday carry gun, and both stated that it was so light and unobtrusive that they often forgot it was there until they reached into their pocket for their keys after work. If you must have more power, then the now-discontinued Kel Tec P11 will give you a pistol firing 9mm Luger in a package slightly larger than the P32.
A member of Beretta’s illustrious lineage of pocket pistols, the .32 ACP Tomcat is a well-built gun. The pistol is manufactured of solid steel and is very compact with a 2 3/8” barrel length. Magazine capacity is seven rounds, plus the barrel has a tip-up feature that allows a shell to be loaded (for 7+1 carry) without working the slide. The tip-up makes cleaning easier as well, and the gun can be fired in single or double action. Being a 1911 fan myself I like the traditional features like the external hammer and manual safety and appreciate their inclusion on the Tomcat. For those who prefer to shoot quietly (or channel their inner secret agent), Beretta also produces a version of this pistol with a threaded barrel for suppressor attachment.
S&W 340PD Hammerless
The powerhouse on this list, the 340PD is a 5-shot double-action-only revolver. Chambered in .357 Magnum and rated for continuous +P ammunition usage, this weapon is a solid revolver. It is also very light at under 12 ounces empty due to the scandium frame. The hammer shroud allows for a snag-free draw, and the Hi-Viz sight helps you get on target fast. In my opinion, the 340PD is the Cadillac of pocket guns, but it will also have snappy recoil due to its light weight and powerful chambering. Put in the range time to master this one, you won’t regret it.
The .25 Auto’s
Little pistols chambered in .25 ACP have been a pocket carry staple since Colt introduced the cartridge in its 1908 Vest Pocket Pistol, aka the Baby Browning. Called muff guns or mouse guns, these little weapons have defended many individuals over the years despite their diminutive size. A number of companies in South America and Europe, especially from Brazil and Italy, produced these guns for years, and thousands were imported to the US before 1968. I had a nickel-plated one made by Rigarmi for a few years. It was what a pocket pistol should be, reliable, inexpensive, and compact. I wish I still had it.
NAA Mini Revolver
Produced by North American Arms in Provo, UT, these little single-action .22 revolvers can be carried nearly anywhere and any which way. The basic .22 LR model is 4 inches long overall and is available with a folding grip that allows you to carry it like a knife with a pocket clip. Some people may disparage these weapons for lack of power, but if you need to carry deep and light, this is the smallest pistol you can get. There is even a belt buckle holster available for these guns. If you need more power than a .22LR can provide, NAA also produces mini revolvers in .22 Magnum
I was not going to end this list with a nod to the mighty Glock. The model 43 is a 10-round 9mm handgun with a smaller overall size than the old Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless (a great pick in its own right). Glock made the 43 the perfect size to slip in the front pocket of your jeans with a liner holster like the Nemesis by Desantis.
While this is the largest pistol discussed here, it is also the one with the highest magazine capacity and the easiest to shoot well with the larger grip size. This means you can become proficient with this handgun with less effort (also cheaper ammo) than some of the other picks. The longer barrel/sight radius will give greater accuracy as well. The model 43 is a good friend if you need to walk your dog in a bad part of town.
A carry gun does no good if you do not carry it. A pocket pistol makes it more convenient to carry a handgun and increases the likelihood that you will grab a weapon on the way out of the house. As Paul Harrel is fond of saying, the most important part of carry is program compliance. The second half of this is practice. These little pistols can be more difficult to shoot accurately then their larger siblings and, just like your primary weapon, require range and drill time to acquire familiarity and proficiency.
The pocket pistol can be a valuable addition to your self-defense arsenal and is worth considering after the events of the last few years. But hopefully, you will never need to use it.
Until next time.