Over the last few years, the number and style of guns suitable for pocket carry have blossomed. At one time, we had just a few selections of small semi-automatics in underpowered calibers and a few snub-nosed revolvers in .38 Special, but today you can find small, effective semi-autos from a variety of well-known manufacturers, as well as compact revolvers in calibers ranging from .22 Long Rifle to .357 Magnum.

I’ve been blessed to have worked at a variety of office jobs that tolerated guns in the workplace but still had business-casual dress codes. I found that pocket carry was the way to go in such environments, and I’ve carried a gun in my pocket — day in, day out — for more than 10 years now. I’ve learned a few things while doing so.

Carry The Most Effective Gun You Can

There are plenty of people out there who ridicule the idea of carrying .380 ACP or .38 Special pocket guns, condemning them as “weak” or “underpowered.” While they certainly can be described as such in comparison to full-sized service pistols, I can have one with me pretty much everywhere it is legal to do so, and the draw speed on my “weak and underpowered” .380 pocket gun is blazing-fast compared to the draw speed of a 9mm left in my car 100 yards away in the parking lot.

Is a pocket gun an optimal solution for countering the threat of lethal force? No. Is it a better solution than a bad attitude and harsh language? Almost certainly.

We are living in a golden age of pocket guns. From the Kel-Tec P-3AT to the Ruger LCR, from the SIG P238 to the Taurus TCP (and let us not forget the Smith & Wesson Bodyguard line), there are wide varieties of features and calibers from which to choose at prices that will fit just about any budget. Also, keep in mind that with an add-on or built-in laser, the days of relying on the small (or non-existent) sights on a pocket pistol are over. In the right lighting conditions, a laser on your small gun can extend the effective range out to 25 yards and beyond (not to mention make closer, more precise shots much easier to perform).

Holsters Are Not Optional

Firearm in a pocket holster

I’ve found that there’s enough room inside one front pocket of an average pair of slacks for my keys and wallet, leaving the other pocket free to carry just my defensive firearm.

I’ve gotten in the habit of dropping a Ruger LCPII into a Sticky Holsters pocket unit whenever I want to pocket carry. The holster is not optional for me for all the same reasons that it’s not optional when I carry a pistol on my belt: A holster on my belt keeps the gun oriented correctly, it helps cover up the fact that I’m carrying a gun and it keeps random bits of flotsam and jetsam from working their way into the trigger and making the gun go bang when I really, really don’t want it to. Every single one of those reasons is also true with pocket carry, so get a good holster and use it every time.

Pockets are made to carry stuff, and the temptation might be to load up the pocket that contains your gun with your keys, wallet and whatever else you’re leaving the house carrying.

Resist that temptation, because other objects like pens and keys can work their way into the tightest of holsters and into the trigger guard of your gun, leading to a very dangerous situation for yourself and others. I’ve found that there’s enough room inside one front pocket of an average pair of slacks for my keys and wallet, leaving the other pocket free to carry just my defensive firearm.

Pocket Carry Is Fast On The Draw

There are few acts more casual or natural than putting one of our hands in a convenient pocket. We do it every day, and no one bats an eye when we do. This becomes a tremendous advantage when things start to feel dicey and when it becomes apparent that lethal force might have to come into play. Starting with your hand on your gun, inside your pocket, effectively halves your draw time, and one-second draws (or quicker) are not out of the question with pocket carry.

Before we go any further, let’s pause for a moment to acknowledge the reality that pocket carry probably isn’t for most women, because the fact of the matter is, the majority of women’s clothing doesn’t really have functional pockets. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that women’s workplace fashions are much more tolerant of untucked tops than are men’s workplace fashions, so while pocket carry might not work, there are all kinds of waistband holsters that can work under untucked shirts in business environments, giving women carry options not open to guys like me.

Downsides Of Pocket Guns

Newton’s Second Law of Motion says that force equals mass times acceleration. What that means with regard to a pocket gun is that it’s going to recoil more in your hands than a full-sized gun shooting the same ammunition. Also, because it’s smaller, a pocket gun is harder to hold onto than a larger gun, making recoil effects even more noticeable.

In addition to this, a pocket gun typically holds only a limited amount of full-power ammunition, as with a .38 Special revolver or a .45 derringer, or an adequate amount of nominal-power ammunition, as with a pocket .380. This makes shot placement even more important than it normally is. To make matters worse, a pocket gun typically has poor or non-existent sights, making accurate fire challenging.

However, because a pocket gun is so small, light and convenient, there are very few reasons not to carry one wherever possible. Yes, it is not as powerful as a full-sized service pistol, but the old cliché is still more correct than it isn’t: “A .380 in your pocket beats a .45 in the truck.” Carry what you can and make sure you know the limits of what you carry (as well as its capabilities) when it comes to protecting yourself and others.

Practice Makes Perfect

Achieving competence with your pocket gun is an uphill struggle, and drills that are easy to execute with larger guns can be far more challenging with a 2-inch barrel. There are, however, some drills that can improve your skills with a smaller pistol.

One of the most common drills in general firearms training is especially useful for the pocket gun owner: the “3×5 Card Drill.” Tape a 3×5 index card to a target that’s 3 yards away and shoot six rounds into it for maximum accuracy. The goal here is to have all six shots touching. If you can do that three times in a row, move the target back a yard and try again. You’ll soon find out what your maximum range is for precisely placed shots.

Another effective skill-builder for the user of a smaller gun is the “Bill Drill,” which involves putting a large volume of fire on target as quickly as possible.

The “Mozambique Drill” (or “Failure to Stop Drill”) helps you become accustomed to the idea that you might need to quickly switch from center-mass shots to a central nervous system shot to stop an attacker. This takes on new emphasis when you consider that .380 ACP or .38 Special cartridges sent from a pocket gun have less of a chance of penetrating into a vital area than the same rounds sent through a longer barrel.

Another effective skill-builder for the user of a smaller gun is the “Bill Drill,” which involves putting a large volume of fire on target as quickly as possible. The “Bill Drill” consists of six shots fired as rapidly as possible into the center of a standard combat target without sacrificing accuracy. It is normally shot at 7 yards, but you might find you’ll need to stand a bit closer than that if you shoot it with a pocket gun.

Carry More than Your Gun

Ever walk out of the office after a long day’s work and have to cross a darkened parking lot? Me too, which is why I carry a small flashlight on me pretty much everywhere I go. I also carry a small pocket knife, because I’ve found there’s always some task that requires a sharp edge, like opening up a package or removing a nylon tie from a cluster of computer cables.

I also like to carry a less-lethal option with me, like a small can of OC spray, to help in situations where something short of lethal force is required to bring things to a happy conclusion. In addition to this, because my pocket gun of choice is currently a six-shot Ruger LCPII, carrying a spare magazine makes a whole lot of sense to me too.

The Choices We Face

Is a pocket pistol the optimal choice for the general stopping of deadly threats? Well … no, not really. Given a choice, I’d much prefer to carry a larger, more powerful gun on a regular basis, but that choice is sometimes made for me by others. As such, I carry as effective a gun as I can wherever and whenever I can, and I train with that gun regularly enough to understand what I can and can’t do with it under stress. It’s not the best option I have for defending my life, but it’s better than hoping for the best to happen while waiting for someone else to save the day.