Pocket pistols work for me because they align my carry style with my lifestyle. I’m one of millions of retired senior citizens in my state. That’s my peer group, so I groom myself and dress to look just like any other 70-year-old man. In warm weather, I wear loose-fitting khaki golf shorts and either a polo or T-shirt. During what passes for winter down here, the dress of the day is plain khaki long pants and a short- or long-sleeve shirt worn outside the pants or a sweatshirt with some sort of undershirt. Clothes like these don’t have a lot of pockets, so I’ll often carry a small shoulder bag with a few personal care items that are of little value. Even though the bag stands out a bit, I can usually put on my trifocals and blend into the background with the other grandparents at the local restaurant. On the other hand, stealth doesn’t always work, and there are places like parking lots where criminal predators can easily single individuals out. So, you have to be prepared. If you can’t easily conceal a Glock 19 under your T-shirt, maybe a Glock 43 might work. Prefer a revolver? Then a S&W J-Frame or Colt Cobra could also do the job, provided you have the right IWB holster. If you choose the right gun and holster, it’s possible to dress around your carry rig no matter what your lifestyle demands.
I often carry a Glock 43, which holds up to seven rounds. To ensure maximum tactical effectiveness, this pistol been modified to make it easier to shoot accurately. First, I added a set of Trijicon HD sights. These sights are made of steel and feature tritium inserts. Taller than the factory sights, the front sight has a blaze orange dot that shows up brightly but does not glare in the midday Florida sun. The second modification involved installing a Hogue grip sleeve. The G43 has a narrow grip, and I have large hands. The grip sleeve adds enough girth to the grip so that the pad of my trigger finger is placed squarely on the trigger face, giving me a clean, straight-back trigger pull. The sleeve, however, does not make the grip nearly as wide as the double-column magazine of the Glock 26. Therefore, the grip does not print through most T-shirts. Lastly, I added a Ghost trigger connector. Its pull weight measures a very consistent 5.75 pounds on my RCBS trigger pull scale. The pull is very smooth, allowing for excellent trigger control. My S&W Model 340 PD likewise has new sights, a set of Crimson Trace Lasergrips and a trigger job by Jim Garthwaite.
Paying attention to detail doesn’t end with the gun. Getting the best performance from a pocket pistol also requires a holster that conceals the gun deeply under light clothing and still facilitates a fast presentation. The holster I chose for the Glock 43 is an IWB rig that I requested as a special order from Rusty Sherrick. I asked him to construct it from very thin horsehide with a rough-side-out finish. This conceals well when worn in the appendix position. If I carry my S&W Model 340 PD revolver, I use a Dark Star Gear polymer holster. The key to using either of these holsters is to wear a shirt or sweatshirt that is neither too loose or too tight and looks good untucked. If it is too loose, the shirt will catch on the gun’s grip, and it will look as if you have a second hip on your strong side. If the cover garment is too tight, the gun will print. If you must tuck the upper garment, then try to find either an overshirt or vest that does not scream “gun.”
There are many good defensive loads that perform well in short-barreled handguns. Personally, I’m partial to CCI’s Short Barrel loads, CorBon DPXs, Federal HSTs, Remington’s Ultimate Defense Compact Handgun loads and Winchester’s PDX1 Defender line. For somewhat deeper but still controlled penetration, the lighter-weight bullets in the fluted solid lines from Black Hills, Underwood and PolyCase are also good choices. These loads exhibit good energy transfer and are designed for approximately 12 to 18 inches of penetration in 10-percent ballistic gelatin. Selecting ammo for your specific needs will depend upon your gun’s accuracy and reliability along with your penetration requirements. Finally, if you’re going to make every shot count, you have to train with your carry gun. You need to go to the range on a regular basis, draw from concealment and shoot at a realistic target. I especially like the silhouette and picture targets that contain a visual threat stimulus available from Action Targets. And while you’re at it, practice reloads and post-engagement scanning with your gun pointed in a safe direction before you reholster.
I never carry a pocket pistol, or any other defensive firearm, without at least one reload. I normally carry at least two spare magazines or speedloaders whenever I utilize any pocket handgun as my primary. Sometimes I’ll carry three reloads depending upon what I can easily conceal in the clothes I’m wearing. On a few occasions, I’ve also carried my S&W Bodyguard or 340 PD as a “New York reload” in addition to using a pocket pistol as my primary carry gun. This gives me a minimum of 15 to 20 shots, which is roughly equivalent to a high-capacity magazine for many compact and full-sized versions of today’s double-stack 9mm pistols. That may not be a lot of ammo if you get pinned down, but it’s a lot better than five or six shots.
The two major disadvantages to using a pocket gun as a primary carry piece are time and distance. The time disadvantage stems from the need to reload, which takes at least two seconds. Most people are capable of firing 16 to 20 shots from a full-sized, double-stack 9mm in less than 10 seconds, so this can be a real problem. To get even 15 shots off from most pocket 9mms, you’ll need two reloads. Now you’re up to 14 seconds. It’s easy to lose the fire initiative and be put at a distinct tactical disadvantage when you’re reloading. Distance comes into play because pocket guns generally have short sight radii. Compared to full-sized duty guns, it becomes increasingly harder to hit as targets increase in range beyond 5 yards. Try this: Use a timer to draw and fire two shots at a target placed 5 yards away with your pocket pistol. Write down your time and score. Move the target to 15 yards and repeat the exercise. Run the same test with a full-sized double-stack of the same caliber. Compare your times and scores and it’s likely that the full-sized gun will be faster and more accurate than the pocket gun.
Prevailing wisdom states that we should always pack at least one double-stack pistol when carrying concealed. That’s excellent advice, but it’s not easy to follow when the temperature and humidity are both above 90. Let’s face it, wearing vests and T-shirts with big bulges are dead giveaways in warm climates. Of course, a person can carry a double-stack pistol off-body, but going around with a sagging bag that’s big enough to contain a large rock is even less discreet. Either way, carrying in such an obvious manner tells a potential aggressor that you’re armed. This can be a deterrent, but it can also be interpreted as a challenge to grab your gun. So, what’s a person to do? My personal solution is to downsize the gun and casually dress around it. Carrying a pocket pistol as your primary defensive firearm trades firepower for stealth, so it’s not for everyone or every occasion. It does work for me under most circumstances here in Florida, however.
- RELATED STORY: 7 Critical Things to Consider with Off-Body Carry
- RELATED STORY: 8 Reasons Why Revolvers Are a Great Choice for New Shooters
Scroll through the gallery above to learn about six must-know tips for using a pocket pistol as your primary carry gun.
This article was originally published in “Pocket Pistols” 2018. To order a copy, go to outdoorgroupstore.com.
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