By George Oliveira
Pocket carry is a great alternative when belt-borne holsters aren’t an option. It can be very fast on the draw. Standing around with your hands casually in your pockets is and looks quite natural. Doing so allows you to have a full grip on your pocket pistol and the draw is lightening-quick since your hand is already on your gun.
Pocket carry is also a good choice when hugs and accidental bump-frisks might happen such as at family get-togethers. It’s a great option in non permissive environments since most people don’t expect someone to carry a gun in a pocket and it also makes a great carry method for a back-up gun.
To qualify for service in my pocket, a handgun has to meet four criteria:
- It must be 100% reliable with carry ammunition. No if, ands or buts. My reliability test is 500 rounds of FMJ ammunition plus 200 rounds of carry ammunition, all run flawlessly. Yes, ammunition, especially carry ammo, is expensive, but failure at the wrong time is much more costly.
- For me, 9mm is my choice. It’s a formidable caliber, especially with +P or +P+ ammunition, and offers high capacity. I understand that many shooters like even smaller calibers, but 9mm is my personal minimal caliber limit. Your mileage may vary.
- The firearm’s size must be compact enough to not only fit in the pocket, but small enough to allow it to be drawn from the pocket with a hand wrapped around its grip. The frame can’t be too thick otherwise it could be difficult navigating the pocket opening, and the grip shouldn’t extend beyond the hand as it most likely will snag while being drawn. A pistol with a grip shorter than the hand is wasting valuable ammo-estate. Fill the hand with ammunition!
- The shape of the rear end of the slide must be angled. A square-edge slide tends to get caught in the corner of the pocket during the draw stroke. That means that the gun shouldn’t get caught in the pocket during the draw even once. When it comes to life-saving tools and techniques, 99.9% success is failure in my book.
Once a pistol passes my four-point test, it comes down to how well it can be shot and its magazine capacity.
Notice that I didn’t include “accuracy.” A firearm can be inherently accurate, but demonstrate reduced practical accuracy. That is, it’s difficult to actually shoot it accurately.
Small revolvers are a good example. They’re very accurate guns, but their short sight radius, minimalistic sights and long, heavy trigger pull make it hard for shooters to attain the level of accuracy that they’re capable of achieving.
With all of that said and done, the last criteria is capacity. The more here, the better. After a gunfight, no one ever said that they wished they had less ammunition.
My pocket carry journey started with lightweight snubbies. Never really enjoying their recoil, I found that I didn’t practice as much as I should with them. It didn’t take too many cylinders worth of shooting for it to strain my wrist.
I tried carrying a heavier gun, a Ruger’s SP101. It’s a great gun and its steel frame greatly reduces recoil to a very comfortable level. I carried a light .38 in one pocket and the SP101 in the other. Surprisingly, I found the extra weight didn’t bother me. The SP101 reigned supreme for me as a pocket gun for several years.
That is, until Smith & Wesson introduced the M&P Shield. The Shield was about the same size as the SP101, lighter, has much better trigger, real sights and offered three extra rounds. What’s not to love? The Shield was my new pocket gun.
It was, until SIG SAUER introduced the P365. Its 12+1 capacity bests the Shield’s 8+1 and it’s even a bit smaller. Wow!
Capacity is where SIG’s new P65 really shines. It comes with two 10-round magazines, one flush and one extended, but, both leave the had unfulfilled. But their optional 12-round magazine fills the hand perfectly without extending beyond the hand’s grasp. Not only does the magazine offer higher capacity, it fits the hand better making it easier to shoot accurately.
What’s really amazing about the design of the P365 is that it manages to packs 12+1 rounds into a package that others only manage to get ten or less into.
I know that the P365 has had its growing pains, in particular, there are several reports of broken strikers. I changed out the factory MIM striker on my pistol with a steel version from Lightning Strike, and tested it extensively with both practice and carry ammo. All seems good, and the P365 is now officially my new pocket gun.
That is until…?