Some things were meant to be together, like peanut butter and jelly, but pocket pistols and lasers? There is a great irony in the fact that the handguns carried most by citizens for personal defense are also inherently the most difficult to shoot. Yes, when we are standing around in the gun shop we all talk about custom M1911s, Glock 22s, Sig Sauer P220s, but when it comes to what lawful gun carriers are actually concealing on their persons day in and day out, it often boils down to compact revolvers and subcompact autopistols. The sales figures alone will prove me right on this.

When Ruger introduced the Light Compact Pistol (LCP) in .380 ACP, they were met with unprecedented demand. This popularity was so great that Ruger was admittedly surprised by the amount of orders for the little guns. Production schedules had to be adjusted and increased to satisfy a market hungry for these pocket blasters.


The LCP is a double-action-only, semi-automatic with a steel slide and a glass-filled nylon frame. A single column magazine holds six rounds of .380 ACP ammunition. The LCP has a smooth-faced double-action-only (DAO) trigger. Empty weight for the little pistol is a mere 9.4 ounces. The overall length is 5.16 inches and the height is 3.6 inches. As for thickness, at its widest, the subcompact pistol is 0.82 inches. The 2.75-inch barrel is alloy steel with 1-in-16-inch rifling.

The Ruger LCR (Light Compact Revolver) is a DAO handgun with a five-shot cylinder. Chambered for .38 Special ammunition, it will accept the hot +P loads. What is most notable about the LCR is the use of polymer as the frame housing. The LCR is actually composed of three primary materials: stainless steel, aluminum and polymer. The barrel and cylinder are constructed of steel, the frame is aluminum and the external housing is glass-fiber-filled polymer. The empty weight of the standard LCR pistol is only 13.5 ounces. The barrel is 1.88 inches long with 1-in-16-inch rifling. Overall length is 6.5 inches and height is 4.5 inches.

Pocket Pistol Conundrum

It cannot be denied that the factors that make the Ruger LCR and LCP the most popular—compact size and light weight—also work against them when it comes to actually putting rounds on target. These pistols have purpose-built, long, double-action triggers, while their sight radius is short and the grip surface is small by design. All these features are great for discreet carry for extended periods of time.

Naturally, the key to success with any firearm is training and practice. That’s a given. When we are discussing compact/subcompact handguns, this fact is more critical. The short sight radius, coupled with a long trigger stroke, is much less forgiving than your favorite full-sized duty pistol. Your prized 1911 with a 4.5-pound crisp trigger is likely a joy to shoot, but is that the gun you drop in your pocket at 10 p.m. when you run out for milk or diapers?

Crimson Trace

It did not take long for Ruger to realize the benefits of equipping their LCR revolvers with Crimson Trace Lasergrips (800-442-2406; LCR handguns are available direct from the factory with Lasergrips or you can install them on your gun aftermarket.

The LCP can come equipped with a Crimson Trace Laserguard, which affixes to the triggerguard. The Crimson Trace Model LG-431 is a slender red-laser aiming device that fits snuggly to the frame of the LCP.

One of the biggest benefits of CT lasers versus other laser aiming devices is their instinctive pressure switch. Located in the center of the grip, the pressure switch can be activated with either hand when a secure grip is made on the pistol or revolver.

Why is this so important? There is precious little time in a defensive shooting situation to locate and activate a small on/off switch. If the switching setup is not instinctive or a part of the normal weapon presentation process, you can forget about finding it under high stress.

Reality-Based Training

If all of your practice is on the square range in daylight, it is difficult to truly understand the benefits that a laser-aiming device offers. Read the FBI statistics on Law Enforcement Officers Killed in the Line of Duty. You will see that the majority of felonious assaults on cops take place during hours of darkness. Also, nearly 75 percent of the officers killed with firearms in 2008 were within 20 feet of their attacker.

Does this mean every attack occurs in poor light and up close? No, of course it does not. However, if you find yourself in ample light with distance between you and your attacker that is a rare case indeed and you are ahead of the game.

Pressing the trigger during a deadly force encounter is not a simple task. We, the good guys, play by a set of moral and legal rules. We must be absolutely sure of our target and what is around it. We must have as much mental clarity as we can muster and be sure that we are doing what is absolutely necessary. The bad guy isn’t handicapped at all by morality or legality—that’s what makes them the bad guys.

The most important tool in a fight is the brain. Once your brain has given you permission to fire your weapon, you need one other indicator or “Go Code” that tells you the weapon is properly aligned with the target. That Go Code can be a clear front sight indexed on the threat. Should you be unable to discern a clear front sight, this is where the laser shines (forgive the pun).

Laser sights are not meant to replace standard sights—they are an emergency redundant system. If you can see your front sight clearly, that is your Go Code. If a red laser dot appears on the target and that’s the first thing you see then that becomes your Go Code.

Also, it must be understood that lasers are not a replacement for good training nor are they some type of mystical bullet guidance system. The bottom line is this, get the best equipment you can afford, train with it and know your limitations. If Lasergrips on a compact gun give you an added level of confidence and comfort I can’t see that as anything other than a big plus when your life is on the line. To find out more, visit

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