Concealed Carry

Pocket Carry — Realistic or Lazy?

Gun, Watch, Knife Pocket Dump

If we’re disciplined with concealed carry and are able to, we carry our guns 90% of the time or more. Most will go their entire life without needing to use it. What am I getting at? We spend much more time carrying our CCW than using it. This is why comfort plays such a large role in concealed carry. Some have more or less tolerance to handgun size and weight, but everyone wants to be comfortable. 

If you can comfortably carry a full-size or compact handgun all day, every day, that’s great. However, for the average carrier, this is too cumbersome. I always believe it’s better to have a small gun on you than a big gun left at home. 

Glock 43 and S&W Shield
Though the Shield Plus is only a little larger than the Glock 43, that makes a lot of difference in the pocket.

I am not an action hero, and I don’t play one on TV… yet! After getting my LTC, all I had was a Glock 19. I made due and carried it every day for about two years. As with everything, after a while, you get used to it, but there will always be times where the gun is uncomfortable. 

I knew I needed something with a smaller footprint. Thickness and weight were my main concerns. I began to test some of the popular subcompacts, micro 9s, carry .380s, and snub nose revolvers to see what would work best for me. Additionally, carrying on the waistband, though made easier by a smaller pistol, was still causing some discomfort. That is when I turned to pocket carry. 

Guns

As I mentioned, size is your main consideration when selecting a firearm. The pistol will not only need to fit in your pocket, it will need to do so discreetly, without obviously bulging and printing. This will need to be done with a proper holster, which can add bulk depending on the material and construction. 

Glock 43 on jeans and jacket
You can carry your pistol in your pants or jacket pocket.

Do you want a semi-auto or a revolver? What caliber are you comfortable with? These are a couple things you should consider. There are tons of great pocket carry guns, but we’ll take a look at some of the most popular options. 

It seems every firearm company nowadays is making a micro 9. Most run accurately and reliably, it’ll be up to you to decide which one fits your hand or you shoot best. The SIG P365, Springfield Hellcat, S&W Shield Plus, Canik METE MC9, Taurus GX4, Glock 43, Ruger Max-9, and many others are great. However, these are right on the line of pocket carry. Depending on the size of your pockets, they may or may not fit without printing, if at all. 

For something smaller, there are plenty of great .380s and even some smaller 9mm options. The Ruger LCP Max, Glock 42, Diamondback DB9, Kahr CM9, and Beretta Tomcat (.32 ACP) are incredibly small and easy to carry. This is a safe zone for carry handgun size that I believe would work for most everyone.

Several micro 9mm pistols in a row
Finding the “best” pocket pistol is largely a personal decision.

Revolvers have a different silhouette and therefore tend to conceal a bit better in the pocket than semi-autos. Smith & Wesson J-Frames are the gold standard, but there are other great snub nose revolvers. Most of your snub nose revolvers will be chambered in .38 Special or .357 Magnum, but you will also see .327 Fed Mag, 9mm, and .22s. 

If you find yourself only able to carry the smallest of firearms, there are some tiny options that will disappear in almost any pocket. These will typically be chambered in .22 LR or .22 WMR. The Standard Manufacturing Switch Gun, Trailblazer LifeCard, and NAA Mini Revolver are worthy contenders. Although some consider these novelty guns, they have some self-defense merit. 

Holsters

A good holster is essential for safe carry because it will cover the trigger and prevent a negligent discharge. Sticky Holsters makes a simple and inexpensive option constructed of a thick nylon fabric with a rubbery “sticky” outer texture to keep the holster in the pocket during the draw. These “universal fit” holsters are available for different size handguns, but offer very little retention. As you use the holster, it will begin to mold to your gun and provide more security, but it will never be as snug as a true fitted holster. 

S&W J-Frame on Sticky Holster
A good J-Frame and a Sticky Holster go well together.

There are leather and Kydex options that will offer more security over the trigger guard. Kydex tends to be thinner and more durable. I stay away from leather as it tends to add bulk and make my leg sweat. The trick is making sure the design allows you to retrieve the pistol from your pocket without taking the holster with it. The gun does you no good if it’s stuck in the holster. Most pocket holsters will feature a sort of wing that will hook into the edge of your pocket to catch the holster as you draw the pistol.

One good minimalist option is a trigger guard cover with string. This is a Kydex guard that snaps over your trigger guard to cover the trigger and nothing else. It is secured to the belt with a loop of cord and then tucked into the waistband or pocket. The cord attaches the holster to the belt so that it is peeled away during the draw stroke. This will add the least amount of bulk to your setup, but is not as secure. 

Ostrich Leather Pocket Holster
Leather is a classy option.

Other Considerations

At this point, you’ve probably already decided on whether or not pocket carry is for you. It likely comes down to your propensity for danger, or at least perceived propensity for danger. 

As convenient as pocket carry is, you should also consider your skill level. Don’t carry a gun you can’t use safely and effectively, it may be taken from you, or you may cause injury to innocent bystanders. 

Be realistic, most people won’t carry a full-size Glock 17 with a Streamlight TLR-1, Trijicon RMR, and 33-round mag. I am exaggerating for effect, but you get my point. If we try, we will burn out and give up. Some will likely stop carrying altogether. Give yourself a break and try out pocket carry. 

Do you ever pocket carry? What does your pocket carry setup look like? Share your answer in the comment section.

About the Author:

Alex Cole

Alex is a younger firearms enthusiast who’s been shooting since he was a kid. He loves consuming all information related to guns and is constantly trying to enhance his knowledge, understanding, and use of firearms. Not a day goes by where he doesn’t do something firearms-related and he tries to visit the range at least a couple of times a month to maintain and improve his shooting skills.

His primary focus is on handguns, but he loves all types of firearms. He enjoys disassembling and reassembling firearms to see how they work and installs most of the upgrades to his firearms himself, taking it as a chance to learn. He’s not only interested in modern handguns and rifles, he appreciates the classics for both historical value and real-world use.
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 (35)

  1. After I retired a buddy of mine suggested I look at the Kel-Tec .380………its a great weapon and I have carried it in everything from Jeans to shorts to even suit pants…..I got a lil Uncle Mikes Holster and its perfect…….the gun comes out and the holster stays in my pocket so no need for any kind of clip……..I’ve never actually used the gun , but did have to use it once……it even surprised me how quickly the weapon came out and how easily ……I drew the weapon and dont even remember doing it and I got the drop on the guy,,,,,he decided it was time to leave…….thats why its always a good idea to practice with a pocket carry weapon…(Empty of course)….then when you need it you can do what you need to do without thinking about it……

  2. I have been pocket carrying for almost ten years. I carry a S&W bodyguard 380 with a built in laser. I carried in in a uncle mikes pocket holster for almost 8 years everyday from when I got dressed in the morning till I got undressed before bed time. I finally had to get a new pocket holster for it and got a sticky and in my opinion it is not as good as the uncle mikes. I did also get a fox IWB for it and it is great. Also got one for my S& W shield 9 plus. The380 in the fox holster carried at 3 o’clock position you can hardly see that I have it and can draw it in about 3 seconds or less.

  3. I wear suspenders. That is why I carry a Ruger LC9 in a Tuff pocket holster. Just don’t use the pinky extension magazine, or you will wear a hole in your pocket.

  4. Glock 43. Fits my inside vest pocket. Fits inside my Roper cc cowboy boots. Also have an SSCY .380. It is slightly bulkier than the glock but still a good cc weapon too.

  5. I have a good friend whose brother was shot with a .380 from 7 feet away. His brother has been in and out of the hospital at least 4 times in the last year as a result of the injury. If the EMT’s hadn’t shown up within ten minutes of having been shot, he would not have survived. We don’t know exactly what the hardware was, but I think it shows the lethality of .380. The last statistic I saw was that 90% of gun battles occur within ten feet, so I’m happy carrying a .380. The trick is the ammo! I’m one of those with a belly and no butt, so pocket carry is the answer. I’m not afraid to carry a .380.

  6. Kel-Tec 32 ACP is great for my summertime pocket carry but I still can’t find a holster for it. Still looking…….

  7. From the beginning of my L.E. career I had a “gun pocket” added to uniform pants. It was a heavier muslin type material sized for a J frame S.&W.. My Airweight Bodyguard, loaded with +P L.S.W.C.H.P. and a Bianchi Speed Strip carried well, no noticeable imprint. Carried on my offside, it was concealed, present, and at the ready. I also had a gun pocket sewn into the offside pocket of my winter parka. It also carried well there. Being on my offside, in a pocket, accessible while casually standing with your hand in your pocket… For off duty I tried to carry my weapon in nearly the same position as my on duty weapon. Often I did carry my on duty weapon in a Alessi I.W.B.. That holster concealed well, was quite secure, and allowed me to carry a weapon which I had a documented history of qualifications. This was a Colt Combat Commander, satin nickel, Pachmayer grips, improved sights, .45 caliber (usually Speer 200 gr. J.H.P.. If the weather was warm I often carried my Bodyguard.

  8. I only pocket carry a P3at, when “dressed up” or need deeper concealment. Such as at the dentist. It might be awkward for him to say, “is that a pistol on your hip.” My 3at has been reliable. It does meet the first rule, have a gun. I don’t think it would make a main gun.

  9. My daily carry is a KelTec P3AT with the optional belt clip and with a added Crimson Trace red laser in 380 .At home I have many options but if needed my goto gun is a Semi Auto 20 g .

  10. My 2 edc are my 9mm sig 365xl with Romeo red dot and M&M S&W ez shield .380 with trigger mounted laser.

    I pocket carry both in pocket with sticky holsters. Usually in warmer weather I carry the .380.

    With minimal practice, you can quickly and effectively unholster and fire.

  11. Great article and the comments are solidly informative. Generally I also go the cargo shorts or pants route with the sidearm holstered in the front right pocket when the hot weather arrives. I alternate between a J – frame S&W M 60 and a Beretta Tomcat. I have found Galco pocket holsters to be both concealable and sturdily made. The only thing I would add to the article is to be sure and take the holster out of your pocket when reholstering…this could save you a lot of angst.

  12. Have been pocket carrying for nearly a half century with more than a half dozen different handg over that course of time. Current carry is a SIG P-365 in a DeSantis holster and I wear nothing but Tru-Spec Original Tactical pants. Plenty of pockets for gun, knife, keys, spare mag, flashlight, cell phone, etc. am able to draw unhindered with these pants and I have never had a printing problem – wide, deep front pockets. I carry except when I go to bed and even then, I have several guns readily accessible.

  13. My pocket carry is my S&W 380 Body Gard. Meets all of my requirements and fits into my pocket perfectly and an extra magazine nestled in my watch pocket. No one ever notices it.

  14. When home or in a minimal threat situation I usually pocket carry (S&W 642 38 spl). I usually carry a Bianchi speed strip as a reload.

  15. Always carry my edc in a Sneaky Pete holster. Owb is a must for me because of my larger size. I do occasionally carry in the pocket for night time walks with my dog or a short quick trip to the store. My pocket carry is either my Diamond Back db9 or my Bond Arms Stinger. I use a Sticky holster in the pocket for both.

  16. I’d like to recommend the Kimber KS-6 in a DeSantis pocket holster. It fits well in most jeans, and is slimmer than other snub nose revolvers. Since it’s a .357, it can shoot .38’s as well. The KS-6 is a little pricier, but has a six-round capacity and is extremely well-made.

  17. Most of the time I carry OWB open at home, or concealed with a cover in public, a Sig 365. However, at the beach or visiting relatives, who would freak out if I went to the breakfast table carrying OWB, I carry a Ruger ll 380 in a pocket holster in front right pocket. It’s undetectable in the cargo shorts I wear. By the way, the pocket gun is the only one I have ever had to deploy in a self defense situation. Fortunately for everyone, the presence of the firearm diffused the situation.

  18. I to carry a UNCLE MIKES holster in the pocket, covers the trigger guard, but mine also serves as a IWB, an its a size 12, an an easy draw out of the pocket. It carries my EC9 ruger.

  19. With the development of the .327 & 30 Super Carry, wonder why firearm manufacturers don’t design smaller size handguns for these new rounds. A S&W 3″ model 60, with (6) rounds in .327 would be ideal as a modern take of the classic “KIT GUN”, or better-known today as an EDC gun. A lock breach clone of a .380, but in 30 Super Carry seems to be a no-brainer. The point of the 30 Super Carry was to get almost 9mm performance, but why keep using a 9mm size pistol, when a smaller pistol would make more sense. (6) or (8) rounds in a pistol that I am carrying is so much better than the (10) or (12) round version let at home. Me – How about RIA make a “Baby Rock” in 30 Super Carry. While the basic 1911 design is about 112 years old, it still works! Using a 1911 type grip Safety, a “Cocked and Locked” carry would also mean that a slick 1911 type trigger pull would be possible.

  20. My first wife used to attend meetings in downtown Dallas, and took the bus. The area of the meetings was OK but the several blocks she had to walk were iffy. She was only 4′ 8″, so she carried an NAA .22WMR. Since any encounter would be close we took it to the gun range and the instructor showed her the best method to use it close-up. Thank God she never needed it.

  21. Love my Bodyguard 380 with XS big dot sights. Small gun big sights on target every time. I use a Daltech leather pocket holster that holds the gun and an extra magazine. The whole package is very flat 4.5in wide x 6in tall no printing at all in any pocket, even the back pants pocket. I have always pocket carried, I simply never wanted to carry on a belt.

  22. I always pocket carry a Springfield Armory Hellcat in a size specific Alien Gear holster. This holster will accommodate an optical sight when I get one.

  23. My go to CCW is a Glock 43 with a Crimson Trace trigger guard mounted laser. The laser sight came with a pocket holster included, my first introduction to pocket carry. 99.9% of my CC is now with this pocket holster.

  24. I have been carrying in the pocket for years but mostly because I lived in a warmer climate where layers of clothes was not the norm and you would stick out. I had a sticky pocket holster but it was a bad quality and broke apart. I presently use a leather one and most people don’t know I have it on me.

  25. I love auto’s but you cant beat a 9mm LCR Ruger in your pocket , lighter and smaller that most compact auto’s and fits the curve of your leg better , i dont have it in a holster and do construction lol but i never have anything else in that pocket either !

  26. I’ve been carrying pocket for many yrs, as its my go to 99% of the time. But you can also pocket carry a ” UNCLE MIKES” neoprene holsters, they stick in a pants pocket just like a Sticky holster. But I carry a SS 9mm in the winter, or a .380 in the summer, as I live in Fl, an 90% of the time we wear shorts. Its easy to do, along with your wallet, keys, phone , pocket knife, spare mag,.

  27. I mistakenly said I push my Uncle Mike’s holster off with my thumb against the waistband clip, I actually push it off with my index finger due to the clip being on the other side of the holster. Also, the holster is an Uncle Mike’s neoprene holster in a size 10.

  28. I could have written the first comment by DREWR myself. My “always” gun is an S&W 340SC in a Mika pocket holster. I’ve never had to pull it, but there have been a couple of occasions where I had a full firing grip on it while my hand – as far as any onlookers could tell – was simply in my pocket. I found during practice that once you have your grip, drawing, firing, and hitting your target (at least if its up close) can be done in around half a second.

  29. I pocket carry cause I have tried everything that is supposed to be comfortable. Only for skinny guys bigger men like me and lving in a hot climate like Texas cannot conceal comfortable or without Bing obvious. So pocket is the way to go

  30. I have 2 guns I switch off Kahr 380, Walther 9mm, The Kaher is in my rear pocket. The Walther inside the waist. Both are comfortable. I feel more protected with the 9mm.i have a holster made for the 9mm. I carry 90+% of the time.

  31. The main benefit of pocket carry is the ability to get a full firing grip on your gun without anyone noticing. I’ve done a lot of pocket carry working at places where I would be fired if they knew I had a gun. I have worked many jobs at night, and have often stood waiting at the gas pump with a full firing grip on my pistol late at night.

    I currently carry a larger pistol IWB, and sometimes miss the ability to grip my gun without giving anything away.

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