Pocket Gun Guide

Pocket Gun Guide


I was sitting around a campfire one night with a crew that included cops and ex-cops. Eventually the topic turned to — what else? — favorite carry guns. I expected to hear a lot of votes for high-capacity 9mms, but to my surprise, many of the LE guys said their favorite off-duty carry gun was a J-frame revolver.

And when you think about it, it makes sense — not necessarily the platform but the size. Smaller guns are more comfortable to carry, and when your everyday non-work life involves running around town doing chores, it's a heck of a lot easier to drop a gun into your pocket than it is to strap on a belt holster and change your clothes. Not that you don't need a holster or to dress properly with a pocket gun, but the process is a heck of a lot easier. And that's why the smallest semiautomatics and revolvers are so hugely popular.

The information presented below is largely intended for those who are new or relatively new to concealed carry guns, but I think even veteran carry types will find some interesting tidbits. This isn't intended to be an all-inclusive array of guns but rather what we think are significant examples of the variety you can find in gun stores today. The definition of pocket gun subjective because, like people, pockets come in all shapes and sizes. But we settled on pistols less than 6.5 inches long, 4.5 inches tall and with an unloaded weight of less than 20 ounces. For revolvers we stuck with a weight of around 20 ounces and barrels around two inches.



Semiautomatic pistols are the most popular guns today because they're easy to conceal due to their flat design, they offer more firepower and they're easy to reload. But they're also more complicated to operate, and they can malfunction. Here are the different types.

DOUBLE-ACTION ONLY Every pull of the trigger cocks the gun and fires it. Trigger pulls are therefore long and heavy. That makes DAO guns harder to shoot but also safer in a pocket because of the necessity of a deliberate trigger pull.

STRIKER-FIRED Similar to DAO except the striker, which fires the gun, is pre-loaded — resulting in a consistent and relatively light trigger pull. Some designs include a manual safety, some do not.

SINGLE-ACTION When carried with a round in the chamber, hammer cocked and thumb safety on — known as "cocked and locked" — deactivating the thumb safety and squeezing the grip safety (if present) produces a light, crisp trigger pull every time. Therefore most people shoot this type well.

DOUBLE-ACTION/SINGLE-ACTION Initial pull of the trigger cocks and fires the gun, so it's long and heavy. But subsequent pulls are light and short because the gun is cocked with each shot. The advantage is, in most cases, the first shot requires simply pressing the trigger. The disadvantage is

transitioning from the heavy first pull to the light second pull, which can make it hard to shoot accurately unless you practice a lot.

SandWMandPBodyguard380Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard .380

  • double-action only
  • 5.3x3.8 inches
  • 12.8 ounces
  • .380 Auto
  • $379 — $519

A polymer-frame DAO, the Bodyguard is available with or without a Crimson Trace green or red laser and with or without thumb safety.


TaurusCurveTaurus Curve

  • double-action only
  • 5.2x3.7 inches
  • 10.2 ounces
  • .380 Auto
  • $392

This novel gun was designed to fit the curves of the human body, and while it's not for everyone (like traditionalists or lefties), our reviewer found it to be a capable if offbeat choice.


SigSauerP238SIG Sauer P238

  • single-action
  • 5.5x3.9 inches
  • 15.2 ounces
  • .380 Auto
  • $738 — $766

Available in a variety of grips and finishes, but common features include SIGlite night sights and six-round capacity. Offered in versions with and without ambidextrous thumb safety.



  • double-action only
  • 5.7x4.0 inches
  • 15 ounces
  • 9mm
  • $314

Aluminum alloy frame and Zytel polymer frame keep this gun very light. Comes with finger-extension mags installed, but flat bases are included for better concealment. CPX-1 is same gun but with manual safety.


BerettaPicoBeretta Pico

  • double-action only
  • 5.1x4.0 inches
  • 11.5 ounces
  • .380 Auto
  • $399

One of the slimmest autos on the market at only 18mm wide. It's modular, meaning you can customize the grip frames. Sights are easy to change, and the magazine release is ambidextrous.


RemingtonRM380Remington RM380

  • double-action only
  • 5.3x3.9 inches
  • 12.2 ounces
  • .380 Auto
  • $417 — $609

Selling point for many people will be the small amount of force to rack the slide. Also, the trigger guard is undercut, allowing a high-hand hold for better control. Available with or without laser grips.


RugerLC9sRuger LC9s

  • striker-fired
  • 6.0x4.5 inches
  • 17.2 ounces
  • 9mm
  • $479

The LC9s is notable because it's not only a striker-fired gun with integral trigger safety but also a 9mm, which means more power in what is still a pocket-size pistol. Available with or without manual safety.


KimberMicro380Kimber Micro 380

  • single-action
  • 5.6x4.0 inches
  • 13.4 ounces
  • .380 Auto
  • $993 (as shown)

Available in a wide variety of configurations (RCP with laser grips shown), and there's a new 9mm version too. Like a 1911 in every way except it lacks a grip safety. Thumb safety is ambidextrous.


KahrPM40Kahr PM40

  • double-action only
  • 5.5x4.0 inches
  • 17.7 ounces
  • .40 S&W
  • $810 — $987

Kahr offers several models that would qualify as pocket pistols, but if it's power you want, you won't find many .40s this small. Offered in stainless, black, with night sights and thumb safety.


WaltherPPKWalther PPK

  • single-action/double-action
  • 6.1x3.8 inches
  • 21.1 ounces
  • .380 Auto
  • $700

I bent the weight rules, but no pocket pistol guide would be complete without Mr. Bond's iconic pistol—the lone SA/DA gun in our list. A classy if somewhat dated choice.



Revolvers enjoy a long history as "hideout guns," and while today they're overshadowed by semiautos, as the story at the beginning of this article illustrates, some people still prefer them.

Why? Ease of use and complete reliability. And unlike semiautomatics, with a revolver you have fewer decisions to make because revolvers come in only two flavors: double action and single action, and single-action revolvers aren't found in the pocket gun universe.

With a double-action revolver, pressing the trigger rotates the cylinder, cocks the gun and fires it, so the trigger pull is typically long and heavy. If you choose a gun with a fully enclosed internal hammer (a so-called "hammerless" revolver), you'll always have to deal with that trigger pull. If you choose a revolver with an exposed hammer, you have the option of drawing back the hammer to rotate the cylinder and cock the gun, then firing the revolver with a single-action trigger press.

The advantage of the hammerless design is clear when it comes to pocket guns: no hammer to snag on clothing when you draw the gun. Still, some like the single-action trigger-press option of the exposed-hammer gun because it allows for more deliberate and accurate fire.

SandWMandPBodyguard38Smith & Wesson

M&P Bodyguard 38

  • hammerless
  • 1.9-inch barrel
  • 14.4 ounces
  • .38 Special
  • $539

Upper frame is aluminum alloy, which keeps weight down, and it features an ambidextrous cylinder release for easy loading and unloading. Comes standard with integral laser.


RugerLCRRuger LCR

  • hammerless
  • 1.9-inch barrel
  • 13.4 ounces (.38)
  • .22 WMR, .38 Special +P, .327 Federal, .357 Magnum
  • $579 — $669

Monolothic aluminum frame in .38 and .22; steel in .327 and .357. Cam trigger system gives smooth trigger pull. The LCRx version of the gun features an exposed trigger.


RockIslandArmory206Rock Island Armory 206

  • hammerless (shown)
  • 2.0-inch barrel
  • 24 ounces
  • .38 Special
  • $492

It's on the heavy side for a pocket gun, but it's one of the few in its class that has a six-round capacity; others hold only five shots. Available in an exposed-hammer version as well.


Taurus605PLYSS2Taurus 605 PLYSS2

  • exposed hammer
  • 2.0-inch barrel
  • 19.8 ounces
  • .357 Magnum/.38 Special
  • $371

Polymer frame makes this a light .357, and the fiber-optic front sight is a great option for low-light situations. Rubber grips will help control the gun with magnum loads.


SandW640ProS&W 640 Pro

  • hammerless
  • 2.125-inch barrel
  • 22.4 ounces
  • .357 Magnum/.38 Special
  • $839

The classic J frame, but as a Pro series gun it's an upgraded model with a better trigger and also tritium night sights. Fluting on the barrel shaves a bit of weight. This is my gun, and I love it.


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