(This is part three of a three part series on sub-compact pocket pistols. Please also visit ‘Choosing a Lightweight, Small, Concealable Sub-Compact or Pocket Pistol‘ and ‘Which Caliber to Choose for a Sub-Compact Pocket Pistol‘.)
There’s one main reason to choose a sub-compact small caliber pistol instead of a full size larger caliber pistol. The ability to comfortably carry it in an ultra-concealed manner. (A second possibility is using it as your backup gun if you are carrying two pistols with you. And for a third reason, read on down to the section on the time/surprise advantage you can get with a pocket pistol.)
The rationale for the sub-compact is that it is better to have a less than ideal weapon conveniently on your person when you unexpectedly need it, than to have a full size optimized weapon – but not with you. So in such cases, the ability to carry the sub-compact is of over-riding importance.
You can use all the regular methods of carry with a small pistol, of course. Inside the waistband, ankle, shoulder, whatever. But there’s one additional carry option that is probably your best choice, especially for men. Where better to carry a ‘pocket pistol’ than in your pocket!
Yes, you should consider carrying a pocket pistol in your pocket. You want to get a pocket ‘holster’ – this mainly acts to disguise the outline of the pistol, so that instead of looking like a pistol in your pocket, it looks like something flat and rectangular.
It also provides a bit of protection around the trigger, and by flattening out the barrel, lessens the stress on the bottom of your pocket. You’ll still wear through pockets at an accelerated rate, but if you’re like me, and buy trousers at Walmart for $15 – $20 a pair, that’s no big deal, and it is probably cheaper/easier to simply buy more pairs of trousers than to repair pockets that you’ve worn through.
Pocket holsters usually have some sort of grip or anti-slip on them so that when you grab your pistol and pull it from your pocket, the holster (at least in theory, although not always in practice) stays behind. But don’t worry about it; if the holster stays with the gun, you can shoot your first shot through it and it won’t make any difference at all.
Pocket holsters are not only very concealable, they are also better than any other type of holster for unobstrusively preparing to draw. With most types of holsters, if a person reaches to put their hand on their weapon, it is 99% obvious – especially to a bad guy who is trying to decide if the person is a vulnerable target – what they are doing. But what is suspicious or unusual about a person who has his hands in his pockets? Nothing at all.
Indeed, you could even manage a draw in an extreme case if a mugger surprises you on the street and demands your wallet. Hand over your wallet and drop it, then say ‘Oh, I’ve got a bill fold too’ or something like that, reach in your pocket while the bad guy is distracted, and either take out (or shoot through the pocket) your pistol. (Note – it is seldom appropriate to shoot a mugger unless you’re convinced he/they are not going to simply let you go after taking your money.) (Second note – this may work if the guy has a knife, I’m not sure I’d want to try it if he had a gun pointed directly at me!)
The Time and Tactical (Surprise) Advantage of a Pocket Pistol
Which leads to an unexpected benefit of pocket pistols that you can uniquely experience with them and no other type of carry weapon.
This is the ability to have your hand already wrapped around your pistol and ready to take it out of your pocket, a capability that gives you an extra margin of perhaps 0.5 – 1 second over the time it would take you to suddenly reach for your pistol, get a good firing grip, and then remove it from wherever it is being carried. If you’ve a clutzy shoulder holster, or something with a retention/snap, or (perhaps worst of all) an ankle holster, your time advantage lengthens even more.
What can you do with even as small as ‘only’ 0.5 seconds of advantage? Well, put it this way – in that same 0.5 seconds, the bad guy can get maybe 10 ft – 15 ft closer to you. In that same 0.5 seconds, you can possibly fire two more rounds at him, and stop him sooner and further away. In that same 0.5 seconds, you’ve seized the initiative and the other guy is now having to react to you and your control of the situation, rather than you having to react to him.
More likely, your time advantage is even more than 0.5 seconds – more like 1 second, giving you even more of an edge.
But be careful – ‘Wild West’ rules sort of apply even in this modern age – the other guy has to draw first, or, in modern parlance, has to become a real lethal threat. You can’t shoot someone because you think they’re going to become a threat; you can only do so when they have become a real threat and when you have no other alternative (such as running away).
This time and surprise advantage is so great that it can win a battle for you. When I’m carrying both a regular pistol in a regular rig and a pocket pistol in my pocket, if I feel threatened, I stick my hands in my pockets and look casual, calm, and unaware (hoping to de-escalate the situation rather than prematurely responding to what might not be a threat), while actually being the total opposite. If it becomes necessary, I’ll use the time/surprise advantage of my pocket pistol to triage any threat that may eventuate, then switch to my main gun for the real work to finish the job.
This switching of pistols might be in the form of a ‘New York reload’ – ie, empty the pocket pistol’s magazine at the threat(s) then rather than reload it, draw the main gun for the rest of the job. Or it could be, if attempting to control a situation that might not call for lethal force, rapidly presenting the pocket pistol, swapping it to my support hand, then presenting the main pistol with my firing hand and pocketing the smaller pistol at that point. If a bad guy is surprised to see someone he thought to be a helpless victim suddenly present one pistol from nowhere, imagine his laundry bill when you then pull a second bigger pistol and point that at him authoritatively too!
So, here’s a key factor in choosing your pocket pistol. You want it to be small enough to truly fit in your pocket. You’ll discover that not all pockets are the same size – some trousers have deeper pockets than others, so choose an appropriate pair of trousers then test out guns complete with their appropriate pocket holsters before selecting the pistol you buy.
Worst case scenario, you might have to buy two or three pocket holsters if the gun store doesn’t have holsters available for you to try with their pistols. But the pocket holsters are generally ambidextrous, and there are only a few sizes that between them fit almost all pocket pistols, and they’re not tremendously expensive, so it is a small and necessary investment in researching a pocket pistol.
In my case, my Seecamp fits in every pocket I have, even tailored suit trousers. I consider my PPK too heavy, so rarely put it in a pocket, but will carry my Ruger LCR .38 SPL revolver (just under 16 ounces loaded with five rounds) and find it fits in many but not all casual trouser pockets but not in dress type trousers.
(This was part three of a three part series on sub-compact pocket pistols. Please also visit ‘Choosing a Lightweight, Small, Concealable Sub-Compact or Pocket Pistol‘ and ‘Which Caliber to Choose for a Sub-Compact Pocket Pistol‘.)