Concealed Carry

Milk Run Guns: Best Firearms for Quick Trips

Two Snub Nose Revolvers

A “milk run,” by definition, is a routine uneventful trip. As in, a real run to get a gallon of milk. Sometimes milk runs don’t turn out well.

As an example, my grandmother told me of how her cousin, a young girl, was carrying milk from the milking stalls to the home along a narrow road and was attacked and killed by a mountain lion.

This occurred in 1921 and made a great impression on my grandmother.

Perhaps it would be best not to consider any trip a simple milk run. On the other hand, statistics support the definition.

The great majority of the time, a run to the convenience store is without incident.

Statistics are useful. Just the same, folks have drowned in creeks of an average two-foot depth. Possibilities are endless.

If you are part of the concealed-carry lifestyle, you cannot be situationally armed.

If you only pack the iron when you are going to make a night deposit at the bank — a bad idea some of us must accept — or making a run through a bad neighborhood, whatever that is, you will not have the gun when you need it.

The bad guys are not always heeled. They usually get heeled just before they are bound to commit an assault. We don’t have that luxury.

We must be armed at all time to be able to stop a lethal attack. The bad guys plan the assault down to the minute. We cannot foresee an attack.

If we could, we would be armed with an autoloading shotgun, not a pistol!

Ruger Max9 Pistol
If you are going to simply toss the gun into the back pocket without a spare magazine, the 13-shot Ruger Max9 makes a lot of sense.

My Milk Run Gun

I work at home, but generally have a bit of travel every day.

The Waffle House is a frequent destination, although Eggs Up Grill is sometimes on the list.

The gun shop, the pawnshop and other destinations, and especially the firing range, are on the agenda.

I get dressed and carefully thread the inside-the-waistband holster to the belt, wear a spare magazine carrier, a formidable folding knife, and a .38 in an ankle holster. I wear sturdy boots.

During the evening hours, I am dressed more comfortably, often with a .38 in the back pocket and slip-on shoes.

If the wife asks me to run to the Food Lion for a gallon of milk, then I am not motivated to ‘suit up’ again.

Sometimes I gas up at night if I have forgotten during the day, sometimes it is a run to the Dollar Tree.

We try to stay stocked up, but like everyone else, we don’t always succeed.

So, I have smaller, easy-to-carry pistols that are easily ‘belted on,’  As another example, I loathe leaving a firearm in a vehicle.

Just the same, you cannot take a firearm into a medical facility, and I certainly didn’t wish to leave my Wilson Combat CQB in the truck!

So a milk run gun went to the routine doctor’s appointment and stayed in the Jeep. So, what is the milk run gun?

GLOCK in Inside the Waistband holster
The DeSantis Slim-Tuck offers easy on and off carry, and is far better than not wearing a holster!

Other Good Options

It should be a relatively compact and reliable firearm.

Like all the others, it is proven and of a suitable caliber for personal defense — although I make some concession in this regard.

The pistol is small and light, and suitable for a relatively short period of travel.

I don’t like pocket carry, especially without a holster, but sometimes we make concessions.

A pistol that I trust as much as any handgun, is a vintage Colt 1903 Hammerless.

This svelte, reliable and surprisingly accurate handgun is a type that has seen action all over the world.

It is so flat and so fast handling I cannot praise this gun enough. Another choice that is a strong favorite among my friends is the CZ 83.

This compact double-action first shot pistol carries 13 rounds of .380 ACP.

Along with the Beretta 84, this is a pistol with plenty of capacity and excellent accuracy.

A class of milk run guns that are a classic are the various snub-nose .38 Special revolvers.

While there are better choices, nothing quite balances like these guns.

Throw them in a back pocket or jacket pocket and you are good to go.

I also have a couple of small-frame .357 Magnum revolvers that are little, if any, larger than the snub .38.

In a different role, they are sometimes my long-term companions when hiking.

Hiking is usually a milk run, but I like to have a compact first-aid kit, a hatchet in case I need a hasty shelter, and a light handgun.

I have needed the first-aid kit and the hatchet, but not the handgun. I hope it stays that way.

Colt 1903 and GLOCK milk run guns
The author’s Colt 1903 is still a trusted sidearm, but the GLOCK 43X is certainly a better choice.

What About Concealed Carry?

These are rough and ready firearms, just the right size for quickly thrusting into a pocket or a belt for a quick run.

The carry may not be comfortable or secure in the long term, but it works for the short term.

On the subject, however, there may be another solution to the milk run gun.

I like a secure holster with a good balance of speed and retention, and one that is securely attached to the belt.

However, a paddle holster is a good shot at the milk run gun and carrying a service-size pistol during the milk run.

Perhaps you won’t carry a spare mag, the backup or your knife, but you have a pistol.

Galco offers a number of quality pancake holsters well-suited to this type of duty. Just a thought.

Another option I have used more is situational or perhaps seasonal. During the cooler months, I often deploy a shoulder holster.

The shoulder holster takes some time to adjust properly and only the best examples offer comfort and usefulness.

Just the same, once you have the shoulder holster adjusted properly, it keeps the weight of the handgun balanced on the shoulders, off the back, and makes for a good way to carry a handgun and a couple of spare magazines.

During the winter, I wear the shoulder holster during the day and hang it on the bedpost at night.

If I need to make that milk run I simply don the harness and snap it to the belt. It works well.

1911s in Shoulder Holster milk run guns
Just maybe, a Mernicle custom dual shoulder holster for the more serious runs? It throws across the shoulders easily!

Conclusion: Best Milk Run Guns

Milk run guns are an American heritage.

As a child, I remember my grandfather carried a five-inch barrel .38 most of the time, but on Sunday, his off-day, he pocketed a small break-top .38.

This was his pocket gun or Sunday gun, another name for the milk run gun.

Today, we have excellent choices in milk run guns and should take advantage of them.

Do you have any favorite milk run guns? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (24)

  1. Glock 32 in a pocket holster with a spare Glock 31 mag in the back pocket, goes everywhere I do, including in the home. 357 Sig is dependable. Occasionally, in the yard around the house in jeans, SCCY 9mm in front pocket holster. These 10 rounds of 9mm should get me to the house for the long guns.

  2. Mine is a Smith and Wesson model 457 in .45 ACP, I Carry it with hammer down and pull trigger as double action which I’ve had since the mid 1980’s. Will need to replace it since my holster is very worn but the patina on the pistol is awesome.
    I agree with Evans….. “I’d rather have it and not need it, then need it and not have it”.

  3. I hurt my back a year ago and couldn’t take the weight of my 3″ 1911 any more. I got a Seecamp in 32 that I could appendix carry along with a spare mag. I am now able to carry a single stack 9mm on the belt and the Seecamp is in the jacket pocket. Always carry as you never know what is going to happen.

  4. My light gun is a Walther ppk/s. Big enough I can shoot it well, heavy enough it’s like shooting a double deuce, and still smaller and lighter than my glock 19 and 1911.

  5. I usually will grab my Ruger LC9S for “Milk Runs”. I find it very comfortable with it’s rounded contours.

  6. I too have appreciated the benefits of a 1903 Colt as a Sunday gun, but in recent years have left them at home in the safe in favor of more modern choices. My “newest” 1903 is about ninety years old. Another favorite is a late ’60s vintage Smith & Wesson #49 Bodyguard. I carry it in a belt case that looks like a large smartphone case. I can fit a speedloader into the same case, or use my ’60s era Toronto Police ammunition pouch, which is easier to reach with my off hand. Another quick and easy Sunday gun would be one of my Ruger LCP .380 pistols. One of them has a belt clip to hold it in a boot top, or waistband. Any of the LCPs will also ride comfortably in the case I mentioned for the S&W #49. Another small handgun that has been of use for a “milk run” has been one of those .38 caliber double-barreled derringers. However, I share the dislike for pocket guns. Since I was once a leatherworker, I would hope to make a wrist holster to carry the derringer under a coat sleeve someday.

  7. To the store milk run is a Glock 43 in a Davis leather IWB clip holster. Very light and thin. Shorter run is a well worn Beretta Tomcat in the pocket. Like the guy said, if you are not willing to protect yourself, why should someone else.

  8. I carry a Keltec PF9 9mm. It is light and fits in a pocket or a light weight holster.
    It gets hot in Texas and this works will in cargo short pockets. 7 shots of 9mm should be enough.
    My M&P 9mm is just too heavy for short runs without changing into full size carry clothes.

  9. While I can’t say I don’t sometimes carry a .380 across the street to the mailbox or when my time away from home is short and limited, it occurs to me that a firefight is a firefight.

    Or, an attack is an attack, and so on. For me the difference is more likely to be the rest of my EDC, not so much the gun as I don’t think an assailant or criminal schedules their activities around my choice of carry weapon.

  10. My “milk run” partner is a Sig P365 with 13 rounds, condition One, thumb safety on. I have not been able to find a good enough holster to conceal it on my smallish frame. So I got into making kydex holsters. I made one for an inside the belt. The holster and gun are outside my pants, but inside the belt, so between the belt and pants. This allows the holster and gun to lie flat against my frame, concealed by even just a T-shirt. No other holster has worked as well for me. I wear it everywhere I go. I wear shorts a lot, even sport shorts that do not require belts. In that case, I wear the holster on a belt and wrap it around my waist, concealed by a T-shirt.
    My 13 rounds of 9mm Critical Defense is backed up by another 12 round mag. I find my CZ-82 in 9×18 Mak is just too heavy to carry and too big to conceal. My 1911’s also stay home due to size and limited round capacity.
    I have other, smaller guns like the Ruger LCP and Sig P238, but the P365 meets my needs for ammo power, high round count and concealability. I exercise situational awareness from the moment the garage door opens until I am back inside my house. Hopefully, I will never have to use my firearm, but IF it ever happens, I will be armed and ready to protect myself.

  11. I carry a NAA 22mag five shot revolver in my watch pocket along with a sewn 10 round carrier. Loaded with hollow points sometimes with bird shot for smaller critters.

  12. My favorite is a Bersa Thunder Combat.380. 16 rounds of accurate hell, light weight, small and takes good defensive hollow point ammo. In the cool weather it’s perfect for throwing in a coat pocket and an extra mag in the other pocket to balance the jacket/coat.

  13. My “Milk Gun” is a Sig P380 which is a very accurate weapon at 11 yards or less. With any .380 the ammo selection is critical and I usually carry a spare magazine. For carry, I will only load Hornady Critical Defense, Buffalo Bore +P HP, Speer Gold Dot or Federal Hydra Shok, (Whichever I can find these days) and all having good expansion. I always carry with a holster, either OWB on the hip or IWB at kidney. I agree with Bob, better to “Have and not need than to need and not have.”

  14. Another great gun for “milk runs and Carry and Conceal” is the KIMBER Micor 9. Small, plenty of shots and very easy and accurate to shoot.35

  15. As I “mature”, I find myself returning to what worked best to begin with. I have a lot of milk run options, having always been a fan of the guns of summer as I call the little guys. 99.985% of the time I will have a Glock 19 in a Black Dog pancake or an IWB or a S&W J-frame in a pocket, on an ankle, in a bellyband, or a tuckable. I love all the rest, but have had a J-frame or three in the house since 1981 when I bought a used model 60. The G17 was my IDPA gun and the G19 is a notch handier. The rest were all have to have purchases, but those two are lifers.

  16. My everyday, go-to carry is my Sig P365 with a Taurus Spectrum 380 as a back up, either in an ankle holster or in the back pocket. Never leave home without it/them.

  17. Springfield Hellcat here too. I also run with it, drive with it and take it many places in the summer in shorts and a t-shirt.

  18. S&W model 60 with a Barami hip grip.
    It’s an old police trade in. It works, it doesn’t matter if it gets sweaty, it’s not the most tactically advanced firearm but it works and I have owned it long enough to know how to shoot it quite well.
    Deeper, simpler cover garment in hot weather and short trip to the mailbox, I know, I know, this one defies all safe gun handling techniques and I don’t recommend it but I go with my Ruger LCP with a ClipDraw installed.
    My gym shorts support it without a belt and even a small.380 is better than my old scarred up knuckles.

  19. Most will consider this too small a caliber for personal defense. In its favor is that the Hornady cartridges expand reliably out of its 2″ barrel, it is as reliable as any single-action revolver, and it is so very easy to carry, it is with me always (except where legally prohibited). At 7 yards I can reliable put all five rounds into a paper plate (angle of bad guy accuracy).

    My “milk run gun” (really my “always in the pocket gun, pocket holster, of course) is a North American Arms Black Widow which I’ve practiced with and carried since 2001.

  20. In the past 30 years, I have traveled 42 U.S. states extensively, Mexico, & Canada. I drove most of it in a regular vehicle, some in an 18 wheeler. In all of these travels, I walked right up on 2 armed robberies, 1 in progress. I was armed, but I actually had no idea they were being held up at the time.
    The first hold-up was at a 7/11 in Little Rock, Arkansas. I was doing an equipment service job at a business behind the 7/11 at 11:00 pm. A guy walked up to me and asked if I had any money. I stuck my hand in my pocket & said “No, but I have something else.”,,,, and he got in his vehicle and drove away. I told the business owner about it, & they just happened to be a reserve deputy.I gave his tag number & vehicle description to them, it was relayed to the Sheriff’s office & State Troopers. He was arrested on the interstate within minutes. He had just held up the 7/11 before the interaction with me, but I had no idea at the time he talked to me.
    The 2nd hold-up, it was a service station within 15 miles of home. I had a 380, of course. I walked in and noticed everyone acted kinda weird, and one guy was at the counter, which had 2 openings. I just bought smokes and left. I did notice another guy was in& out of the door a couple of times, but paid it no attention. I didn’t know until the next day, the gas station attendant told me he was being held up when I bought the smokes. He said they got arrested on down the road, and it was an armed robbery. They had done a whole string of hold-ups.
    My answer is—- Get a Keltec 380, or a Ruger LCP 380,,, or some kind of dependable 380 pocket gun, become proficient with it. Shoot the ammunition out every 30 days & reload with fresh ammunition, & carry it 24/7 until it has no finish left, buy a new one. Repeat.
    If you don’t prepare to defend yourself, don’t expect anyone else to, & don’t think it can’t happen to you. Be very wary of anyone needing help at a gas station or on the road too. A huge percentage of these are plotting to rob you——— but that’s a whole other topic, but it’s going on more than you realize.

  21. Bob
    I agree with you about the “Milk Guns”. Like the old adage says… “I’d rather have it and not need it, then need it and not have it”.

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