According to research by the Crime Prevention Research Center, over 19 million Americans in 2020 had concealed handgun permits – allowing them to carry a gun for personal defense. Of course, this factor doesn’t include adults who carry without a permit in the 15 states that do not require one.
One of the more popular styles of concealed carry pistols is of course the pocket pistol.
What to Look for in a Quality Pocket Pistol
1. Appropriate Size
The key benchmark on such guns is typically a height less than 4-inches and a weight less than 15-ounces, roughly the same profile as a large mobile device like an iPhone. On the downside, these palm-sized pistols are low in capacity, are often chambered in less than ideal calibers, and, due to their slight weight, can present a healthy recoil.
In order to determine the best pocket pistols, we chatted with firearms experts at some of the largest gun retailers in the nation, as well as local gun shop owners in the Oregon area.
They provided us with the criteria we used to focus in on the pocket-sized recommendations below – these are readily available and ideal for concealed carry.
2. Holster Preference
More than just a way to be prepared to defend against lethal force, concealed carry is for many a lifestyle. Following the mantra of “better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it,” many every day carry (or EDC) their preferred handgun – be it a full-size or pocket gun.
Of course, regardless of how carefully selected your personal defense pistol may be, there’s no substitute for regular training through a combination of safe dry fire/unloaded drill as well as live-fire range sessions.
With that, the safest way to carry is in a holster – one that provides a reliable presentation of the grip to the user on each draw while keeping the trigger guard covered to help prevent negligent discharges– after all, it is embarrassing to shoot yourself with your own gun, especially in public.
3. Carry Position Fit
The preferred carry method for pocket pistols is typically inside the waistband, or IWB, on the strong side from the 1 o’clock to 4 o’clock position for right-hand users (11- to 8 o’clock for left), with the positions closer to the navel reserved for those who like to appendix carry. This allows the user to best protect their gun with their arm and core strength during an incident in which retention is a must.
Small of the Back Carry
Small of the back carry is less popular due to the fact it is harder to sit comfortably or draw from a seated position such as when driving a vehicle.
Likewise, outside the waistband, or OWB carry, is typically reserved for those who prefer to carry openly– a practice which can draw negative attention to the user or– those who use a cover garment such as a vest, jacket or overshirt.
Shoulder holsters, a favorite of 1970s movies and 1980s cop shows, have limited appeal these days but are still viable concealed carry options for those who, like OWB practitioners, use a cover garment. Further, shoulder holsters are a smart choice for people who spend a lot of time in cramped, seated positions, such as individuals who drive most of the day.
Pocket carry, limited to smaller guns, is hard to draw from and many find it even harder not to have their firearm “print” while seating.
Nonetheless, this can work well for those without belts but still wanting to carry, such as when wearing basketball shorts to the gym or going to the beach.
Off Body Carry
Using a backpack, bag, or briefcase works in cases where form-fitting clothing may make it harder to conceal. On the downside, one can dangerously become separated from their accessory and lose access to their carry piece.
Moreover, the added time and training required to be able to access a gun held in a bag is a problem to be weighed. Ideally, you want to be able to react to a threat, draw and be up on target in less than two seconds, or about the time it takes to say, “alligator.”
Ankle carry, usually reserved for pocket-sized handguns, can also put the user at a time penalty and requires additional training to be able to draw from such a position quickly. When utilized, most advocates for ankle carry do so for a back-up gun or if they spend long periods in a seated position where they can better access their shoes, for instance at a desk.
The Best Pocket Pistols Reviewed
1. Sig P365 (Best Overall)
Sig Sauer made waves two years ago with the micro-compact P365, which has an overall length of just 5.8-inches and a 17.8-ounce weight. Less than 4.3-inches high, it still offers a 10+1 readily expandable capacity.
In a different take on instinctive shooting, the company also offers the P365 SAS which ditches traditional front and rear sights for an FT Bullseye sight set into the slide top, producing a svelte snag-free draw.
2. Ruger LCP (Lightest)
With a height of just 3.6-inches, the Ruger LCP is ready and willing to clock in for pocket carry. Bringing 6+1 rounds of .380ACP along for the ride, it weighs just 9.6-ounces in its standard model. One thing to note – a .380 only has about 2/3rd the stopping power as a .38 Special, so if stopping power is a critical criterion for you there are bigger caliber pocket pistols available.
Best of all, it can often be had for as low as $200.
One of the best deep concealment pocket pistols
In addition to the ease of use, the LCP is incredibly popular, so you’ll have a massive array of both pocket and IWB/OWB holsters to choose from.
- Superbly concealable
- All steel frame & slide
- Proven performer
- 7 round capacity
- Possibly under-powered
3. Beretta Tomcat (Shortest)
Evolved from a long line of tip-up barrel “cat” guns from the Italian firearms icon, such as the Minx and Bobcat, the short-barreled Beretta Model 3032 Tomcat has been in production since 1996.
About the size of a cell phone, the Tomcat is 3.7-inches high and has a magazine capacity of 7+1 rounds of .32ACP packed into a sub-five-inch overall length.
The two-position safety engages smoothly and keeps things under control, which both locks the slide and preventing the pistol from firing. The magazine release is located to the left of the grip, making one-handed operation quick and easy.
The dual single or double action semi-auto options on the pistol make it a go-to firearm for both deep concealment LE and extremely popular as a backup.
A quality carry experience
- Easy to use
- Incredibly short
- Pronounced recoil
4. Diamondback DB9 (Budget Option)
Despite its slightly awkward looks, the sub-$300 Diamondback DB9 is just 4-inches high and weighs 13.4-ounces, which puts it and the Kel-Tec PF-9 in the same club of being about the only “pocketable” 9mm pistols on the concealed carry market.
Reliable, it makes a good companion for trips to the gym or corner store.
A lightweight pocket performer
5. Glock 42 (Also Great)
The Glock 42 certainly looks and operates like a “real” gun – because it is. While technically not a pocket pistol in the traditional sense, it’s the smallest Glock you can get you hands on at just under an inch wide and about 4″ tall, all while offering a 6 round capacity at just shy of 14 oz empty.
Plus it comes with some niceties that are found on other Glocks, including an adjustable rear sight, a 5.5-pound trigger that resets smoothly after firing, and the striker-fired semi-automatic pistol build that made the Austrians’ famous to begin with.
Of course, this being a Glock there’s no external safeties which is ideal as these will almost certainly slow your drawing and firing during practice or in a live situation.
An impressive revolver for this price point
A History of Pocket Pistols
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