Pocket Pistols

Following the Top New Guns Of 2017, we now have the list of 14 Great Pocket Pistols for Personal Defense.

I’m going to start off with a question: how can a pistol with the following characteristics be called “great”?

The magazine is, of course, a proprietary design, and only certain kinds of ammunition can be used in the BullPup9. If bullets aren’t crimped tightly enough, the extraction of the round from the magazine can mechanically disassemble the round inside the gun. Also, only a limited number of guns are produced by Bond Arms each month.

Forgive me if I shudder at the thought of ammo being pulled apart inside the gun. I’m a huge fan of Bond Arms Derringers — owned one for many years and carried it as a backup with complete confidence — but I can’t help thinking they’ve stepped outside their area of expertise here.

But that’s just an aside. There’s a bigger issue at play, and it’s this.

I see the need for a pocket pistol (or, as we used to call them, “7-11 guns”) — you shove it in your pocket when you’re out running an errand simply because any gun is better than no gun, right?

Well, not exactly. If you peruse the above list of pocket pistols, what will strike you quite forcibly is that they mostly shoot lil’ tiny boolets because if you shoot something manly (i.e. effective), the tiny frames of said guns makes them almost impossible to control with any degree of confidence and therefore of accuracy. I’ve fired enough of the pistols on the list to be pretty sure of my ground on this issue — the little Kel-Tec, for example, is cheap, handy and not too nasty, but at any distance outside halitosis range, you’re almost better off throwing the gun than shooting it.

The guns that look as though they will be effective are, surprise surprise, the ones which are basically shrunken full-size pistols like the Kimber Micro 9 and the Glock 42 — which begs the question, “Why not, then, just carry their slightly-bigger brothers with confidence?”

I don’t like pocket pistols much, and I hate them as a primary self-defense weapon. And yes, I’ve been as guilty as anyone else when sticking a little popgun into my pocket when running out to make an emergency purchase from the liquor store or convenience store, because yes, I too can be lazy.

But it’s a bad habit, and I’ve worked really hard to overcome it over the years. Now, in those circumstances, I forget the pocket pistol and go instead with my backup handgun, a S&W Mod 637 Airweight chambered in .38 Special +P.

A wise man once told me: “If you use a pocket pistol on someone, there’d better be some serious powder burns on his skin afterwards” — in other words, you use it with the muzzle pressed up against his neck or chest before you pull the trigger.

And under those conditions, don’t bother with a pocket pistol shooting its BB +P rounds; use a decent pocket pistol, such as made by the aforementioned Bond Arms, but chambered in something like .357 Magnum, .45 Long Colt or .410ga (the last two, of course, being interchangeable).

If you think of a pocket pistol as being “last-ditch” rather than “primary”, you won’t go wrong, I promise you.

To spell it out: the pocket pistol should be the third gun you carry, rather than the only one — and I would suggest that under those circumstances, you can do a lot better than any of the fourteen listed.



  1. Both the Bond and the Remington are the result of acquisitions…the Bond is a rebranded Boberg, the R380 is a cloned Rohrbaugh. The Boberg design is interesting, it pulls the round backward from the magazine. It’s intended to give another inch of barrel length without increasing total size. The Rohrbaugh is very similar to the Seecamp or Cz-45. I own one of the Rohrbaughs. Expensive, high quality, recoil is heavy but not painful.

    I’m a fan of pocket pistols. When you live in a state without shall-issue, even people who have a carry permit have to be very discreet.

  2. Jeff Cooper said something to the effect that of course you should carry a pocket pistol (IIRC he specifically was talking about .25s) if it makes you feel better, but you should by no means LOAD it, because if you load it you may shoot someone with it, and if you shoot someone with it, and they realize it, they may become dangerously annoyed…..

  3. I would be more than annoyed if shot with a .25; snark aside, I might be dead. A .380 still isn’t optimal, but the gun you have on you is always ALWAYS better than the hand cannon you left at home.

    That weird little thing from Taurus is intriguing. I’d like to see what a real gun company would come up with.

  4. Damn it! Revolvers get stiffed again. Those who know WTH they’re talking about realize few things are slicker than a J-frame-ish revolver with a concealed hammer in a good pocket holster, preferably in .38 Spl. +P. Yeah, I concede that it’s probably not wise to have as your only piece, but I’ve rarely been accused of that affliction, least of all by my ex.

    Sometimes, though, I will also carry my Glock 19, usually only on the weekends when I’m out and about. I’ve owned an LC9 and a Kel-Tec .380, and both have gone on to other homes. The LC9 was a snappy, unpleasant little beast, and the Kel-Tec was unreliable (yes, I disclosed this fact to the buyer). Shooting the J-frame with my handloads is relatively benign, so it’s easy to practice with.

    If you search for them, there are shooting drills/tests on the ‘net that’ll measure your performance with a given PP; they are real eye openers, but they expose weaknesses that can be worked upon, assuming the gumption is there.

  5. “S&W Mod 637 Airweight”

    That’s the gun I got for my wife for Valentine’s Day one year!

    Fun, but punishing on the web of my thumb.

  6. I have a KelTec P32, and I carry it sometimes. I can consistently hit a man-size target at 10 yards with it and I think an FMJ at such range would really make me want to go do something else. But my idea of a pocket pistol is a J-frame loaded with +P hollowpoints.

  7. My main carry piece is an LC9. Unlike the correspondent above, I do not find it a particularly unpleasant pistol to shoot. I am a relatively big guy, but felt recoil is certainly an odd thing and small differences can make a large subjective difference.

    I also have a full sized Ruger 45 ACP that I carry rarely, mostly if I am doing outdoorsy things and am open carrying. I just do not see it being a viable option for concealed carry.

    To me, it is all good. I think the pistol you have is always better than the pistol you do not have. 90%+ cases of firearm self defense do not involve firing rounds, so you are 90% better off as soon as you have something with you. Even if you have something that is 50% effective, that gets you to 95% with one round fired. 2 rounds fired gets you to 97.5%. (This is not entirely true because the bad guy gets a vote too, but you get the idea.)

  8. Here’s another “back in the day” post from an old guy. When I started as a deputy in 1991 lots of us carried Beretta Model 21s in .25 auto because they were readily available, small and relatively cheap. Mine rode in my left front pants pocket. If anybody got into a wrestling match and tried to get my full size Smith 686 wheel gun away from me, I was going to draw the Beretta and empty the pistol into the bad guy’s ear. Thankfully that theory was never tested. I still have the Beretta but haven’t shot it in 20 years. Today I carry a Ruger LCP with some decent hollow point ammunition in the same location when I’m working. For general running around town I like something a bit more substantial and I alternate between an older Kimber Ultra Carry II and 2 spare magazines and a Smith 640 that I load with Plus P .38s and two speed loaders. They may not meet the definition of a “pocket gun” but I think that they’ll do the job. On rare occasions I carry a Charter Arms Bulldog .44 special. Its a good recent production gun and I kind of like the big holes that the .44 special makes. I carry the Bulldog when I’m in locations that are less than gun friendly. As a LEO I can carry in all states (and we’ll save that argument for another time) but I observe local limits on magazine capacity and hollow points when I’m in third world shite holes like New York, New Jersey or Chicago. A powerful five shot snubby loaded with 240 gr semi wadcutters is a decent fight stopper and if the DA wants to confiscate my pistol I’m not out a whole lot of money.

  9. A good belt and a good holster do wonders for making guns smaller.
    I’ve toted a Glock 19 under a t-shirt with no problems using the right combo.

    As for pocket guns, I’ve carried a 9mm Shield in a simple leather pocket holster for the past few years, and a S&W J frame before that. Both work very well in that role, but I find the Shield is more shootable, has better sights, and carries more rounds. It can squirm a bit with the flush mag, but $.50 of skateboard tape on the grip will cure that.

  10. I’ll add that any list of pocket pistols that doesn’t include the Seecamp is very, very lacking. The LWS-32 is a superb pistol.

  11. That list was *awful*.

    There is nothing “great” about the Beretta Pico. The trigger is cr*p.

    Many of those pistols won’t fit in trouser or most jacket pockets–you’ll need a large coat, and at that point you might as well use a clip-on holster and a 9mm to .45 caliber handgun.

    As Mr. M. points out, any list of pocket pistols that doesn’t include the Seecamp is a failure of understanding.

    Then again, it’s shooting illustrated. Can’t expect them to know much, can you?

  12. I’ve played with and carried the LCP, Kahr and Bodyguard. All were as reliable as the sunrise with multiple loads. The S&W in particular was a tackdriver with Gold Dots…like cloverleafs at 10 yds if you fineness the trigger. I feel better protected carrying a larger pistol…but don’t feel unprotected or underprotected carrying them…no need for powder burns.

  13. Just clicked over. “PPK” and “comfortable to shoot” do not belong in a sentance together, unless bridged by “is NOT”.
    I had one, and it’s like shooting a handful of razorblades.

  14. I’ve been packing a Kimber Gold Match for over ten years.
    Summer, it’s in a iwb Fugly by Dragon Leatherworks under a tee shirt.
    Winter, it’s in a vertical clamshell shoulder rig by Edwards out of Oregon.
    Got enough shit in my pockets to add a popgun.

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