The first time I pocket-carried regularly was when I was a police officer. I had my service gun and back-up of course, both carried in proper holsters, but I also usually had a Davis D32 derringer in my right-front pants-pocket as an absolute last-ditch weapon. While I could not envision any likely circumstance when it would be needed, it was small, easy and comfortable to carry, so why not?
Fast-forward a couple of decades. I work in a workshop attached to my home. It’s pretty secure, so I never really felt the need to be armed in the shop until the backyard got rather overgrown and I started spotting rats occasionally. In response I took to dropping a .32 revolver in my back pocket when I went out to the shop. Shortly after that I made a pocket-holster for it, and I realized this was a very convenient, no fuss way of carrying. I made a pocket holster for a snub-nose .38, then one for my Detonics Combat Master .45. I usually favor a belt holster, but I was seduced (by my own laziness) into using pocket-carry most of the time, either in a pants pocket or, in colder weather, a jacket pocket.
Look, I’m no self-defense guru or gunfighting expert. I’m just a guy with some experience, and I want to share what I’ve learned. After a few years of daily pocket-carry I’ve come to a conclusion, and it is this: Pocket-carry kind of sucks.
Hold on, hear me out. I’m not saying it’s stupid, I’m not challenging your choices, but let’s face it, there are pros and cons to pocket-carry. The pros might save your life… but the cons can get you killed if you don’t take them into account when planning your self-defense strategy.
The Pros are:
*Easy- just stick the holster in your pocket.
*Low-profile- good for hot weather when an overgarment would be too conspicuous and/or too uncomfortable.
*Access- In a tense situation if the gun is in a jacket-pocket it’s possible to have your hand on the gun without ‘brandishing.’
*Some people would count the ability to fire through a coat-pocket to be among the ‘Pros,’ and I suppose it is. But I’ve seen people try it and miss a target three feet from the muzzle. Apparently it’s not easy- but should work well enough at contact distance.
*Better than not carrying a gun at all.
*Forget about a quick draw, especially if your hand is not already on the gun. Even if it is in a good pocket holster a belt holster would be significantly faster.
*Pants-pocket carry: if you are sitting in a vehicle the gun might as well be on Pluto- you won’t be drawing it in a hurry. Chairs are almost as bad, especially if the gun is in a front pocket. Far better to have it in a jacket-pocket, but it’s still going to be slow and you can’t always wear a jacket. Also in a tussle a gun in a jacket pocket will be difficult, perhaps impossible, to deploy, or even get your hand on to fire through the pocket.
The main issues of pocket carry pretty much all boil down to access- it’s going to be relatively slow. This is not necessarily a fatal flaw (and I do mean ‘fatal’) With good situational awareness you may be able to give yourself time to draw, either as the situation develops or when a suspect is distracted. Try to get behind cover or at least out of sight before drawing. Yes, this is always a good idea, but with pocket carry it can mean that you get to go home once the dust settles.
Practice your draw from the pocket. Don’t try to do it fast, just try to do it so that it works. Not just on your feet, either- when on the ground, when crouching or kneeling etc. Find the limitations and relative speed of doing this in these different positions, and how you need to shift to accommodate the draw. Figure out if it can be done stealthily, and in what positions and under what circumstances.
Choice of gun matters, of course, and this will vary depending on what you wear. Needless to say you should probably carry the largest gun that works with your outfit, but again this will vary with your physical size. I’m a big guy- the Detonics .45 in a proper holster vanishes easily into the front pocket of my cargo pants. You might be limited to something like the tiny Kel Tec P32. Doesn’t matter- something is better than nothing.
It also shouldn’t need to be said that you need to practice with whatever you are carrying. I know a lot of folks that use an NAA mini-revolver for pocket-carry. A surprising number of them don’t practice with theirs; they’ve shot it enough to make sure it works and that’s it. The rationale is that it’s meant for contact- distance, and aiming is irrelevant. News-flash: people sometimes miss at contact distance. Plus you do not get to dictate the terms of the engagement, and it’s fully possible you may need to engage at well beyond arms length.
It’s generally true that the smaller the gun the more you need to practice. This is not because small guns are inaccurate, it’s just that they tend to have small grips, tiny sights etc. that make it difficult to shoot them accurately.
Whichever carry method or methods you adopt it is vital to understand the limitations and issues, and to know what you can do from those positions under a variety of circumstances. Not to be melodramatic, but your life may depend on it.
Michael Tinker Pearce, 8 July 2019