There is a certain expectation one has when considering the purchase of a pistol classified as a “pocket handgun.” The idea itself is more than 200 years old.

Of course, pockets were bigger back in the day when petite, singe-shot flintlock pistols could be hidden in one’s waistcoat to discourage highwaymen and other miscreants bent on mischief. Interestingly, today’s pocket handguns are no larger, and most are actually smaller, can carry from six to 10 rounds and disappear seamlessly into a trouser pocket with a proper holster.

Calibers back in the days of the flintlock and caplock pistol were anywhere from a lead ball no greater in dimension than a pea to the robust .454 (roughly a .45 caliber round ball). Fast-forward almost 200 years and the choices are pretty much the same, .25 ACP all the way up to .45 ACP. The means of operation and the capacity of handguns, however, have changed significantly!

To qualify as a 21st-century pocket handgun, a subcompact revolver or semi-auto must not exceed an overall length of 6.5 inches, be no greater than 1.25-inches (or less) in width and under 5 inches in height. None of these pocket-sized dimensions, however, have any bearing on caliber today, with modern pocket pistols ranging all the way up to .45 ACP. With semi-autos, average capacity for pocket carry is six or seven rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber; revolvers generally are limited to five-round cylinders. This category also includes two-round over/under pocket pistols in comparable calibers, while many of the latest pocket-sized semi-autos offer the same large-caliber defensive firepower once reserved for compact and subcompact holster carry models.

While pocket pistols are, by design, intended for close-quarters personal defense situations, the same handgun kept bedside is no less of a deterrent to an intruder who would violate the sanctity of one’s home. In point of fact, today’s pocket pistols are by far the most universal of all handguns, a verity that would no doubt amuse a 19th-century Philadelphia gunmaker named Henry Deringer.



Bond Arms

Charter Arms

Chiappa Firearms




Heckler & Koch

Kimber America

North American Arms





Sig Sauer

Smith & Wesson

Springfield Armory




25 Compact Carry Handguns For Self-Defense

Beretta 92 Timeline

Bersa’s BP380CC: Easy-To-Conceal and Great for Self-Defense

11 Charter Arms Bulldog Revolvers

Chiappa X-Caliber Weapon System: New for 2015 | VIDEO

Colt Mustang XSP: A Next-Gen Take on the .380 Pocketlite

Gun Review: Diamondback’s Deep Cover DB380 Pistol

The Evolution of GLOCK Pistols

Heckler & Koch’s Stylish, Street-Ready P30SK 9mm

Little Big Man: Meet the Remington RM380

Gun Review: Ruger’s New LCP Custom

First Look: SCCY’s Ultra-Compact CPX-3 Pistol

Xtra Duty: Springfield’s XD Mod.2 Service Model

Up Next

Locked and Loaded: Secure Your Weapon with the Perfect Gun Safe

It's important to be an informed consumer when buying a large gun safe. So...