Why I don’t Like Pocket Pistols
The concealed carry craze we’ve been experiencing the last ten years has brought about one of the best markets for carry guns. Gun designers took heed of this massive influx of new shooters, needing to carry a gun that is friendly to concealment. Compact means a lot of things to a lot of different people. For example, some consider the Glock 19 a compact weapon, to others, it is a duty sized weapon.
One of the most popular models of concealed carry guns is the pocket pistol. The pocket pistol these days is typically defined as a small, 380 semi-automatic handgun, small enough to easily fit in the pocket. Ruger, Smith and Wesson, Taurus, Kel-Tec, Beretta, all make pocket pistols. The pocket pistol concept is nothing new, its been around since the early 20th century. Quality, caliber, and size has varied greatly when it comes to pocket pistols.
It’s not the gun’s fault.
It’s not necessarily the gun’s fault. I’ve owned and fired a wide variety of these pocket pistols and as far as guns go they are often well-built weapons. The Smith and Wesson Bodyguard 380 is a well-built weapon that is reliable, and capable of good accuracy at impressive ranges. For example, Jerry Miculek can hit targets at 250 yards with one. (He’s also a God among mere mortals though) The Ruger LCP and Beretta Pico are two guns I’ve had trigger time with that are well made, reliable, and innovative in their own right. It’s not the individual guns I like, it’s the inherent qualities of pocket pistols.
That sounds rude I know, but it’s not that they’re bad people, it’s just their level of commitment to concealed carry is low. Choosing the easiest to carry weapon for your own comfort is a relatively poor idea, but some people can make it work. The majority of people choose a micro automatic because it’s comfortable to carry, regardless of how uncomfortable it is in any other situation.
First and foremost these guns are typically extremely difficult to fire fast and accurately. I teach concealed carry classes and new shooters armed with pocket pistols are an instructor’s nightmare. I keep a Ruger Mark 3 around for these folks because of how difficult it is to shoot pocket pistols. I’ve had students at five yards completely miss the target, not the bull’s eye, the entire target. Most pocket pistols are equipped with a double action only trigger. DAO triggers are most commonly long and heavy. Long and heavy triggers are no friends to accurate shooting, especially for beginners.
Next, the grips are abysmally short. This is done to maximize concealment. These grips make it difficult to get any kind of sure grip on the weapon. When you only have a finger and a half for grip you are going to have issues holding the weapon steady. This short grip causes a number of different problems for shooters outside of the accuracy realm. They are also thin, superbly thin, which means all the recoil is directed into one area of your hand. A wider grip displaces the recoil throughout your hand, resulting in a more comfortable weapon. Combined with the superbly lightweight nature of these weapons you feel every ounce of recoil.
So now you have a gun with a lot of recoils, even when it’s in mild calibers like 9mm and 380 acp, and a short grip that offers minimal control. This means after a round or two you have to readjust your grip to have an inkling of accuracy. Also, most of these weapons have some kind of nub masking itself as sights. These are difficult to see during the day, and forget about it at night.
Train, train, train
You are also limited when it comes to caliber. Some pocket pistols are 9mm, but the vast majority are 380 ACP. Personally, 380 ACP is the smallest acceptable round for carry in my opinion. I’m a big proponent in shot placement is king in a gunfight, with a weapon so difficult to shoot that is pretty tough to accomplish. So when you are limited to a small caliber, with less than stellar penetration you need to make up for it in some way. Unfortunately, you don’t even have capacity on your side, because of these guns are limited to 6 to 7 rounds.
If you are a new shooter looking to conceal carry I can’t steer you far enough away from these weapons. A lot of new shooters are immediately going to find the recoil discomforting, and how hard the weapon is to shirt disheartening. Often times this means people will stop practicing with these weapons and this is a fatal flaw.
If you are dedicated to carrying a pocket gun, a teeny tiny, micro gun, you need to practice. These weapons require more practice than any other class of modern handgun. You need time, lots and lots of time, and lots of rounds to become proficient with these weapons. If you choose to go this route, you better choose to start shooting, a lot. You need to overcome that recoil, master that trigger, and be able to put accurate rounds on target in a variety of stressful situations. Along the way you may find it more comfortable, and easier to switch to a larger compact pistol.
I can make a few suggestions for concealed carry guns that aren’t pocket pistols. I suggest these weapons based on experience with them, so it doesn’t cover all compact weapons. Some of my favorites include the S&W Shield, the Glock 26 or 43, the Walther PPS, the Beretta PX4 Storm compact, the CZ 2075 Rami, and the Ruger LC9S. Any of these weapons will serve you well, and are much easier to shoot than any pocket pistol. If you are still dedicated to a pocket pistol, I suggest buying some bulk ammo and hitting the range. Every round fired is going to be invaluable for any future defensive situations.