Pocket Pistols: Still Viable Or Deader Than Elvis?

Once the gentleman’s way to carry concealed, pocket pistols have fallen out of style. Should they be left to rest, or do they still have merit as defensive weapons?

Defining Characteristics Of Pocket Pistols:

  • Small enough to be comfortably concealed in a pocket.
  • Typically semi-automatic if not a Derringer.
  • Commonly chambered for .22, .25 ACP, .32 ACP, or .380 ACP.
  • Have been replaced in common usage by subcompact 9mm pistols.

These days we take holsters for granted. Whatever model of pistol you’ve chosen to carry, odds are you’ll have no trouble finding a holster that was made for it. For much of modern history, however, the only holster choices were the military belt-style which are worn on display for the world to see. Until recently, those who wished to conceal a handgun did so by either tucking the gun in their waistline “Mexican style,” or by choosing a pistol small enough to be carried in a pocket. Unergonomic and chambered for anemic calibers, it’s understandable why the world moved on as technology progressed, but this ultra-small class of pocket pistols may still have their place.

Beretta 950 Jetfire
Beretta 950 Jetfire, .25 ACP. Photo: Wikipedia

Not For Bear Country

The greatest argument against pocket pistols is the fact that they are chambered for calibers considered far too anemic for proper self-defense today. Colonel Jeff Cooper once said this on the subject:

“Carry a .25 if it makes you feel good, but do not ever load it. If you load it you may shoot it. If you shoot it you may hit somebody, and if you hit somebody, and he finds out about it, he may be very angry with you.”

It’s a funny quote, and there’s some truth to it, but it is directly at odds with another common adage:

Rule #1 of a gunfight: Bring a gun.

So, which to listen to? Ideally, both. While it’s true that a pocket pistol of any kind would prove too weak to dissuade a bear from mauling you, humans are not so resilient. During the pocket pistol’s heyday, they were as popular with grandmas as they were with criminals, and any coroner from this era will tell you that these mouse guns have put more than their fair share of people in the ground. Ultimately, shot placement if far more important than ballistic capability regardless of the round being fired. The efficiency of modern bullet construction has placed less emphasis on pistol marksmanship than there was during the days of FMJs, but it hasn’t changed the reality that a .22 in the eye will kill someone just as dead as emptying a box of 9mm into their chest.

This obviously is not an argument against carrying more powerful calibers with modern defensive loads, but it is an argument that having a pocket pistol is better than only having a knife or your fists.

Raven 25
Raven MP-25 “Saturday night special”. Photo: Wikipedia

Better Than Nothin’

How many times have you stepped out of your house unarmed because you’re “only checking the mail?” While it’s a pretty safe bet that your trip to the end of the driveway will be uneventful, you never know for sure. Pocket pistols fill that niche between “I want to be armed” and “I don’t want to get dressed”, offering a convenient way to carry a lethal weapon without donning jeans and a belt.

Pocket pistols’ primary draw is their unparalleled concealability. Whether being carried in an ankle holster, stuffed in a pocket or affixed to a spring-loaded arm contraption à la Travis Bickle, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better gun to do it with than a pocket pistol.

Taxi Driver
Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver with his S&W Escort. Photo: IMFDB

Finding The Best Pocket Pistol

For a class of gun that’s existence is justified by an “its better than nothing” attitude, some might feel that not too much thought needs to be given to the selection process. Pocket pistols are also often used as backup guns, however, and even your plan B needs to be reliable. There are a wide variety of pocket pistols in existence, spanning a slew of different calibers, makes, models and designs. The issue is further complicated by the fact that many of these pistols are no longer in production and are only available used.

There are a lot of factors to consider for such a small gun, but for a pocket pistol to adequately fulfill its role it must be as reliable and lethal as possible while still balancing compactness and usability. These are many of the same considerations driving the contemporary subcompact 9mm industry, only on a smaller scale. Just like people have trouble choosing between Springfield Hellcat and a Sig P365, you may find yourself deliberating between a Beretta Tomcat and a Kel-Tec P32. If you do your homework and pick the right pocket pistol for you, it will give you a disproportionate amount of utility for its size.

More On Pocket Guns:

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Pocket Pistols: Still Viable Or Deader Than Elvis? is written by Adam Borisenko for gundigest.com

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