The term “pocket pistol” is a bit subjective. Depending upon the user’s size and mode of dress, a pocket pistol might be nearly any standard-sized handgun. In the northeastern part of the United States, heavy winter coats worn by citizens have deep hand-warming pockets into which most duty-sized pistols will fit.
Conversely, my daughter owns fashionable jeans and shorts and the pockets are mostly for decoration. She can barely fit a mobile phone in them. For someone like this, even the classic Seecamp .32 ACP would be too big for pocket carry.
There really are no hard and fast rules for pocket pistols, but some of the characteristics that make a handgun desirable for pocket carry include small size, low weight, and snag-free construction featuring a minimum number of external controls.
Size: Here we are in subjective territory again. When it comes to size, the handgun should be compact enough to ride comfortably in the garment chosen without causing it to bulge unduly or “stick out” and print.
Weight: By using aluminum and high-impact polymer construction, handgun makers can reduce the overall weight of the gun considerably. One pound to 20 ounces seems to be the benchmark for pocket pistols. Many firearms makers have been able produce sub-1-pound compact handguns while maintaining .35-caliber bores.
Construction: Large external hammers, safety or decocking levers, and sharp angles sights are all potentially a “no-no” for pocket pistol. Any part of the handgun that pokes or rubs unduly on the garment material is cause for concern. A pocket holster or scabbard is always a prudent idea. However, items like a large hammer spur or squared rear target sight will invariable catch when you need to get the gun out in a hurry.
Some bad guys will fade away at the sight of a tiny .22 LR pistol. Unfortunately, many will not and need a bit stronger persuasion. If, due to physical limitations, all you can control is a .22 LR pistol, then it’s certainly better that harsh words. However, larger projectiles make larger holes in bad guys and tend to get their attention more quickly.
When it comes to manufacturing reasonably priced “pocket pistols” designed to the get the job done, few are as capable as Taurus. The following is a brief roundup of their centerfire pistols that would fit within this somewhat broad category.
The Taurus Model 738 TCP .380 is definitely the little guy of the bunch. Tipping the scales at less than 11 ounces empty, it’s not going to pull down your shorts. Overall length for the 738 is a mere 5.25 inches with a 2.84-inch barrel. The trigger design is true double-action-only (DAO). Each press is a long DAO. There are no external safety levers or hammers. The striker mechanism is completely concealed by the slide. As for sights, they are merely a channel and a front bump built into the slide. It’s a trade-off.
A single-column magazine feeds the tiny pistol and holds six rounds, bringing the carry total to 6+1. TCP models are available with blue or stainless steel slides. The polymer frame can be had in black, or pink for the ladies.
Slim Series 709 & 740
Not small but also not large, the “Slim” series of pistols from Taurus fills a niche with a Model 709 in 9mm and a 740 in .40 S&W. Each of the “Slim” pistols is fed by a single-stack magazine. The 9mm version holds 7+1 rounds; the .40 S&W gun holds one less cartridge.
All the Slim pistols have black polymer frames and steel slides, and each is available in blue or stainless steel. Empty weight for each pistol is a mere 19 ounces. Both models have Taurus’ double-action/single-action (DA/SA) trigger with a small manual safety lever located on the left side of the frame. The barrels are 3 inches and 3.2 inches, respectively.
The newest compact gun in the Taurus stable is the PT638. This pistol is just a bit smaller than a Springfield XDM 3.8 or similar-sized handgun. Like the others, the PT638 uses a black polymer frame to support a stainless steel slide. The slide finish is available in blue or stainless as well. As indicated by the name, the PT638 Pro SA uses a single-action trigger. The firing pin is pre-staged when a round is chambered. Pressing the safety lever-equipped trigger completes the cocking process and the striker/firing-pin is released.
A dual-column magazine feeds the gun and brings its capacity to a full 15+1 rounds. For those folks who refuse to live in free America, you will be able to buy 10-round magazines for your pistol in the future. The frame has a short light/accessory rail. As you would expect, there is checkering molded into the front and backstrap of the frame.
The adjustable sights on the pistol are the white three-dot variety. For my money, I can do without three dots to look at. I would rather have an easy-to-see front sight and a muted rear sight. Putting twice as much light-reflecting material on the rear sight versus the front makes no sense from the shooter’s perspective. This is particularly true if the gun in question is designed for personal protection, as the PT638 seems to be. In addition to the safety lever on the trigger, Taurus has included a manual thumb safety that is ambidextrous and located on the frame. The Taurus Security System is also built into the slide and activated with a special key.
Not everyone who has the need for self-protection is a gun person. For many citizens, gun ownership simply means having a gun that they can comfortably shoot and keep on hand “just in case.”
During a recent pistol-training course, I encountered a husband and wife team who were taking the training for personal protection reasons. The husband owned an older M1911 and he was content to keep it for his defensive pistol. His wife, on the other hand, had no handgun experience and was visibly shaken when attempting to hold up and fire the large, steel-framed gun.
The woman in question was in her mid-50s with a slight build, perhaps 5 foot 2 inches tall. She certainly had the need for a defensive handgun, but she was not a “gun person” and probably never would be. When I discovered the PT638 recently, it occurred to me that such a handgun would be a perfect fit for a person like this woman.
Running the PT638
My first encounter with the PT638 was during a media event co-sponsored by Taurus and Winchester Ammunition. The Taurus representatives introduced us to one of the first PT638 pistols to arrive from the factory in Brazil. We had plenty of Winchester USA and PDX1 ammunition to test in the gun. My initial impressions were so positive that I arranged to have a gun shipped to my home FFL for review.
With my loaner PT638 in hand, I headed out to the range with several different boxes of .380 ACP ammunition. My first chore was to run each load over the Shooting Chrony and see what kind of speeds I’d get. My home range is essentially at sea level and the speeds may be lower than you might record. All of the ammunition posted velocities in the upper 800 to lower 900 feet per second (fps) range. This is on par for .380 ACP ammunition fired from a 3-inch barrel.
As for consistent accuracy, all loads posted five shots in the 2-inch range. The SA trigger certainly assisted in placing rounds reliably on target. With a silhouette target placed at 7 yards, I fired several magazines through the pistol, and it consumed each and every round without any issues.
Regardless of the caliber you choose, the first step in personal defense is having a gun. Approaching armed defense from a practical standpoint, we must understand that a handgun will never supply the fight-stopping capability of a rifle or shotgun. That said, if the occasion ever arises to use a handgun to stop an attack, you must be deliberate and put rounds where they will do the most good. On a human attacker, this area would be the upper chest or thoracic cavity.
Tactical Response training courses teach the hierarchy of “Mindset, Tactics, Skill, and Gear.” Owning a gun simply takes care of the “gear” portion. It’s up to each individual to get his or her head right and obtain the training and instruction necessary to make the gear work under the extreme stress of a life-threatening assault. Is a compact or pocket pistol what you need? Only you can make that decision. When you’ve made the choice to be armed, Taurus has the hardware to fill your needs.