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Since the making of the first handgun designed for concealment, made more than 200 years ago, the idea has always been the same: place the greatest possible firepower in the smallest possible size—something fit to be hidden in a trouser pocket, vest, coat or ladies handbag. The first medium-caliber pocket gun was the six-shot Smith & Wesson Model No. 2 chambered in .32 rimfire. The Model No. 2 brought into reality the idea of a small, pocket-sized revolver with a modest but effective caliber, a six-shot capacity and easy loading and reloading capability. If that sounds like many of today’s concealed carry guns, whether a revolver, single shot, or autoloader, it is no coincidence. Read on for the top 12 compact classics for CCW self-defense.

Beretta Nano 9mm
Beretta Nano 9mm

Beretta Nano 9mm

One word here: “innovation.” The Beretta Nano is a mere 5.63 inches in length with a 3-inch barrel, 4.17 inches in height and 0.9 inches in width. For a 6+1 capacity 9mm, that is really compact. The Nano uses a one-piece polymer frame and grip surrounding an independent (and removable) stainless steel fire control sub-chassis that contains frame rails, trigger and striker firing system. Technically, that is the gun, so all that surrounds it can be changed, allowing for the use of frames with integrated accessories like a laser-sighting system or a tactical flashlight.

* Caliber: 9mm
* OA Length: 5.63 inches
* Weight: 19.8 ounces
* Capacity: 6+1

For more information, visit http://www.beretta.com

Bond Arms Backup
Bond Arms Backup

Bond Arms Backup

The derringer, invented in 1852 and later reconstituted in its modern form with the 1866 introduction of the Remington-Elliot, is a design that’s truly withstood the test of time. Bond Arms, leaders in the derringer business, makes a host of handy two-shots, perhaps most notably the Backup. Measuring 4.5 inches end to end, the tactically rugged Backup features rubber grips, a matte black frame and bead-blasted stainless barrels. An interchangeable 2.5-inch barrel allows for the use of .38/.357, .45 LC and 9mm cartridges.

* Caliber: .45 ACP
* OA Length: 4.5 inches
* Weight: 19 ounces
* Capacity: 2

For more information, visit http://www.bondarms.com

Colt .380 Mustang Pocketlite
Colt .380 Mustang Pocketlite

Colt .380 Mustang Pocketlite

A lot of small-caliber semi-autos were produced in the mid- to late 20th century, but none were as innovative as the Colt Mustang, introduced in 1986. Based largely on the legendary Colt Model 1911, the scaled-down Mustang .380 was produced in a variety of models from 1986 until 1999, including five versions of the Pocketlite. In 2011, Colt reintroduced the .380 Mustang Pocketlite, combining an aluminum alloy frame and a stainless steel slide, and in 2013 introduced the Mustang XSP, which features a lighter, polymer frame.

* Caliber: .380 ACP
* OA Length: 5.5 inches
* Weight: 12.5 ounces
* Capacity: 6+1

For more information, visit http://www.colt.com

Glock 42
Glock 42

Glock 42

What sets the Glock 42 apart from its Glock siblings is its size and caliber. It’s the smallest Glock ever and is chambered in .380 ACP. Endearing it to Glock enthusiasts, and setting it apart from its industry peers, is its bevy of tried-and-true Glock-style features—a dual recoil spring assembly, cold-hammer-forged barrel, the Safe Action trigger system and a reversible magazine catch. With a trigger reach of 2.4 inches and reset of 0.49 inches, the fit and feel of the trigger is the same as that of its larger Glock counterparts.

* Caliber: . 380 ACP
* OA Length: 5.94 inches
* Weight: 13.76 ounces
* Capacity: 6+1

For more information, visit http://us.glock.com

Kahr PM9
Kahr PM9

Kahr PM9

Advancements in design are what highlight Kahr’s contributions to concealed carry pistols. The 14-ounce, DAO, striker-fired PM9 use a lightweight polymer frame, a stainless steel slide, which rides along steel frame inserts, and a polygonal rifled barrel for extreme accuracy. Ideal for concealed-carry use and quick to get into action, the gun has no external safety mechanism. The PM9 employs the Kahr trigger system to provide a smooth, light and stage-free trigger stroke that requires 0.7 inches of movement to rotate a cam, unlocking a spring-loaded striker safety and drawing the striker to full-cock position before releasing it to fire a round.

* Caliber: 9mm
* OA Length: 5.42 inches
* Weight: 14 ounces
* Capacity: 6+1

For more information, visit http://www.kahr.com

Kimber Solo Carry 9mm
Kimber Solo Carry 9mm

Kimber Solo Carry 9mm

In the world of 9mm pocket pistols, the Kimber Solo Carry stands alone as the smallest ever built and one of the few not to rely on a polymer frame. The steel slide and alloy frame produce a sturdy pistol that weighs a mere 17 ounces, and measures 5.5 inches in length, 3.9 inches in height and only 0.99 inches in width. Only slightly larger in overall dimension than most .380s, this 6+1 capacity pistol looks like a very small Model 1911 and is as familiar to operate. The Solo is a true double action, with ambidextrous magazine releases and safeties that are easy to operate and melted for easy draws from concealment.

* Caliber: 9mm
* OA Length: 5.5 inches
* Weight: 17 ounces
* Capacity: 6+1

For more information, visit http://www.kimberamerica.com

North American Arms Sidewinder
North American Arms Sidewinder

North American Arms Sidewinder

A revolver reminiscent of the vest pocket guns sported by Old West riverboat gamblers, the NAA Sidewinder is no mere curiosity. Exceedingly small (5 inches long overall) and lightweight (6.7 ounces), the 1-inch-barreled Sidewinder provides users with five rounds of backup .22 Magnum firepower in an eminently portable package. Unlike other NAA mini mags, the Sidewinder features a swing-out cylinder for easier reloading, and a .22 LR conversion cylinder is available for practicing with less expensive rounds.

* Caliber: .22 Magnum
* OA Length: 5 inches
* Weight: 6.7 ounces
* Capacity: 5

For more information, visit http://www.northamericanarms.com

Ruger LCP .380
Ruger LCP .380

Ruger LCP .380

Pocketing an LCP has been a natural since it was introduced in 2008, creating a demand from consumers that put the famous American armsmaker on double shifts to get the innovative little .380 on dealer shelves. Six years later, the LCP has few peers when it comes to popularity, ranking among the most carried pocket pistols in America, and for good reason—Ruger did it right. Weighing only 9.4 ounces, the LCP uses a composite frame, aluminum subframe grip frame and a through-hardened steel slide with 2.75-inch steel barrel.

* Caliber: .380 ACP
* OA Length: 5.16 inches
* Weight: 9.4 ounces
* Capacity: 6+1

For more information, visit http://www.ruger.com

S&W M36 J-Frame
S&W M36 J-Frame

S&W M36 J-Frame

The Smith & Wesson J-Frame is more than a handgun model; it is a design paradigm that has remained in production since 1950 and the debut of the Chief’s Special. The J-Frame is among the smallest concealed-carry designs to chamber an effective defensive round, the .38 special. Today, the J-Frame remains one of the most popular revolver designs, including the latest Model 36 (originally the Chief’s Special), plus 36 additional S&W J-Frame versions in calibers up to .38 +P and .357 Magnum.

* Caliber: .38 Spl. +P
* OA Length: 6.94 inches
* Weight: 19.5 ounces
* Capacity: 5

For more information, visit http://www.smith-wesson.com

Sig Sauer P938
Sig Sauer P938

Sig Sauer P938

With an overall length that is barely 0.25 inches greater than the .380 ACP Sig P238’s, the P938 offers the ballistic advantage of the 9mm cartridge in a pocket-sized pistol. The gun’s single-action trigger gives the P938 unmatched accuracy for a pistol this size. Fans of the 1911 will also find the P938’s ambidextrous thumb safety in a familiar location and easy to use.

* Caliber: 9mm
* OA Length: 5.9 inches
* Weight: 16 ounces
* Capacity: 6+1

For more information, visit http://www.sigsauer.com

Springfield XD-S 3.3 .45 ACP
Springfield XD-S 3.3 .45 ACP

Springfield XD-S 3.3 .45 ACP

In 2011, Springfield made the first “pocketable” 5+1 .45 semi-automatic in history—the XD-S 3.3 .45 ACP. Measuring 6.3 inches in length and 1 inch in width, the 3.3 .45 will fit into the average trouser pocket and disappear. Despite its dimensions, the gun is quite manageable recoil-wise, and accuracy with the 3.3-inch barrel, low profile white-dot rear and red fiber-optic front sights is exceptional.

* Caliber: .45 ACP
* OA Length: 6.3 inches
* Weight: 21.5 ounces
* Capacity: 5+1

For more information, visit http://www.springfield-armory.com

Walther PPK .380 ACP
Walther PPK .380 ACP

Walther PPK .380 ACP

Introduced in 1931, the Walther PPK set the standard for .380 ACP semi-autos by being the first to offer a single-action/double-action trigger. The gun also features a decocker, a thumb safety for carry with a loaded chamber. The pistol’s trim dimensions—6.1 inches long, 3.8 inches high and 1 inch wide—made it suitable for concealed carry. The PPK is also one of the very few early 20th-century semi-autos still being made today and in use the world over.

* Caliber: .380 ACP
* OA Length: 6.1 inches
* Weight: 22.4 ounces
* Capacity: 6+1

For more information, visit http://www.waltherarms.com

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