POCKET PISTOLS: We’ve Come A Long Way in the Last 100 Years, Baby

Photo by John Boch.

America has changed in a lot of ways in the last 100+ years, not the least of which when it comes to the small pocket pistols we carry. At the turn of last century, just as they do today, plenty of gentleman and more than a few gentle ladies carried pocket pistols for personal protection.

In bad news for today’s bad guys, the technology has brought the self-defense capabilities of today’s pocket guns a long way from where they started.

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Back in the day, a gun owner might have a tiny carried a hammerless .22 rimfire tucked away in his vest pocket or her handbag. Maybe a little revolver like this R.F. Sedgley Baby Hammerless Model 1916 .22 short with a 1 3/8ths-inch barrel.

Photo by John Boch

Firing the little .22 Short 29-grain lead round-nosed projectile at about 710 fps, that works out to about 32ft-lbs of energy. Not exactly inspirational when it comes to stopping power unless rabid mice want a piece of you. Yes, a true mouse gun.

Old timers have told me that the danger from these little pistols wasn’t dying from the gunshot, but painfully lingering for a few days before assuming room temperature due to a gut infection.

Photo by John Boch

The cylinder holds six rounds and the trigger folds up neatly against the frame with this particular specimen.

The fastest way to reload? Have a second gun. Failing that, carrying an extra cylinder might prove helpful. A good guy might have time to “reload” the little revolver with a fresh cylinder, assuming the bad guy hasn’t beaten him to death first.

Photo by John Boch.

No, I haven’t shot this little revolver. I might test the trigger pull with CB caps, but nothing from a box that reads “high velocity” on the side. And you won’t find it on any Everyday Carry posts from my pocket, either.

Today Americans have embraced .380 ACP pocket pistols. Especially for self-defense with the explosion of new concealed carry licenses in states that require them – and without licenses in the 16 states that have no such requirement. In fact, the .380 semi-automatic handguns have grown to become the second most popular caliber of handguns produced behind the 9mm.

Photo by John Boch

For pocket carry, the Ruger LCP II remains one of the best micro concealed carry pistols out there. TTAG rated it four-stars, denying it five stars based on the all-black sights and lack of a second mag. I used neon green paint on my front sight blade and mine came with a second mag. Hence, I’d give it a solid five stars.

Barely bigger than the Baby Hammerless, and weighing in at just over 10 ounces, the slim polymer frame, double-action LCP II slipped into a pocket holster fits neatly into even the smallest pockets.

Even better, it carries one extra round for a total of seven shots of more powerful .380 Auto for effective personal defense. With a 6-round magazine filled with Hornady XTP 90-grain rounds, the 2.75″ barrel produces about 900fps, or about 162 ft-lbs of energy. While 162 ft-lbs isn’t exactly a bear-stopper, it certainly beats the incredibly anemic 32 ft-lbs from the Baby Hammerless .22 short.

What’s more, that little LCP II, in even marginally skilled hands, will make consistent hits out to twenty-five yards, something I’m not sure the Baby Hammerless could do. Unless, of course, the target spans the side of a large barn.

Bottom line: It’s good to live in today’s world.

What’s your pocket carry gun of choice? Do you carry a semi-auto, either as a primary or backup? A Bond Arms derringer or a modern mini revolver like one from North American Arms? Maybe a Smith & Wesson J-frame? Do you pocket-carry something larger form GLOCK, Kahr or Beretta? Let us know what your favorite is and why in the comments.

comments

  1. avatar MB says:

    Ruger LCP2 or Sig P365 depending on where I am going and what I am wearing. Both in Vedder pocket locker holsters. Sig V Crown 90gr .380 for the Ruger, Hornady XTP 147gr for the Sig One or the other even in church or at home. Both go to range with me every week. Neither one is “fun” to shoot, but I run a box thru them every week.

    1. avatar Rad Man says:

      Yup, LCP2 in an Outlaw kydex owb holster at 4:00. Super comfy.

  2. avatar Scott says:

    A little heavy and pricey, but you can’t beat the Kimber k6s in 357 Magnum. I’m not sure I had ever held a Kimber or thought much about them until I looked at one of these on an introductory sale one day, had some extra cash, and bought it on a whim. The first time I shot it I was blown away by the excellent trigger pull and accuracy for a snub nosed revolver. Ergonomics makes it controllable in full power 357 like Buffalo Bore, although the recoil is stout and not recommended for someone inexperienced with handguns. Start with mild 38 Specials and work up to it. In my area the four footed furry critter is, at times, as much a danger as the two footed variety so this is the pocket pistol for me and, yes the 357 has an advantage over the 38 Special even in two to three inch barrels.

  3. avatar Andrew Lias says:

    It is amusing how far we’ve come. Consider that 100 years ago .32 ACP was considered a viable military side arm round in much if not most of the world.

    1. avatar Binder says:

      And what exactly is the point of a M9 when you are carrying a rifle? You are in a squad, better 2-3 extra magazines than a pistol. They had big revolvers and 9mm / 45 handguns for people who were using a pistol as a primary 100 years ago.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        When going into hostile territory carry the back up sidearm AND the extra rifle ammo. I’ve done it and loved the little extra peace of mind that both brought.

        When every thing goes right you’ve just shed a little more sweat. When things go south…….

      2. avatar jwtaylor says:

        First, because at close range transitioning to your pistol is always faster than reloading another magazine.
        Second, because you aren’t always in a squad. Especially with today’s military. I was often by myself with the local Afghans.
        And finally, because you don’t always have your rifle strapped to you and ready to deploy. But your pistol can buy on you all the time, 24/7, and ready to quickly draw and shoot.

  4. avatar jwm says:

    J frame.

    1. avatar Art out West says:

      J-frame or LCP depending on the mood

  5. avatar Phil LA says:

    After seeing the daily pocket dumps I feel compelled to carry 3 knives, 1 magazine, 1 chapstick, 1 copy of the constitution, 2 full size flashlights, 3 tourniquets, a cell phone, wallet, keys, ipad and a binder of field notes.

    Oh and a LCP if I have room.

    1. avatar Anner says:

      No smart watch?

    2. avatar Ding Ding says:

      You forgot you “American Rectal Rangers: Second Minnesota Division” challenge coin, lol. And if you stroll to the end of your driveway with Dave Canterbury, six folders and 235 yards of paracord, but only 8 fl. oz. of water because you know.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        When Canterbury goes for a walk he’s likely planning on filming half a dozen you tube vids while he’s out.

    3. avatar billy-bob says:

      Field notes. Don’t forget the field notes.

  6. avatar Kevin says:

    I also slip an LCP2 in my pocket when I can’t easily carry anything else. It comes with a soft pocket holster, and some fluorescent orange paint on the front sight really does the trick. It’s a very impressive little pistol, and the price is right.

    1. avatar Joel says:

      I’ve carried a Taurus TCP for years. When I retire it I’ll probaby get an LCP2. It fixed all the things I didn’t like about the original.

      I also carry a NNA .22 mag quite often.

  7. avatar Binder says:

    Even today crappy .22 pocket pistols are still available. And back 100 years ago good .380 (and .32) were around
    1903 Pocket Hammerless.

    1. avatar LKB says:

      +1. The 1903 Pocket Hammerless (designed by, who else, JMB) is still an elegant design.

      I have one (circa 1944, originally issued to US Army General Staff) that I recently shot with DZ and JWT. Everybody loves it. Why nobody has resurrected that design is a mystery to me.

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          I want one with an improved safety, blued with a high polish, chambered in .380ACP and made by Colt. If it costs $2k, so be it.

        2. avatar Cody says:

          I get that the safety is flat, but that kind of fits in with the nature of the pistol. I’m not sure how you could improve it without it becoming a potential snag point. I guess you could just leave it off and rely on the grip safety.

        3. avatar Matt(TX) says:

          Browning Black Label 1911-380 I handled one just last week. Solid gun.
          http://blog.cheaperthandirt.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/1911_380_browning.jpg
          sorry CTD was just the 1st pic I found.

      1. avatar jwtaylor says:

        Spectacular pistol.

    2. avatar Specialist38 says:

      Trouser pockets were much bigger back in the 20s, 30s, and 40s.

      My uncle was a big fella (6’7″) and carried his 6.5 inch S&W 38 special in his front pocket.

      He told me short guys (everybody else) carried a 4 inch. A lot of folks carried in a holster in their back pocket under their coat. Breuer Bros made a hip pocket holster for years.

      Now we have cargo pants.

      1. avatar Miner49er says:

        Pocket carry is OK, but it can be dangerous. Here is a cautionary tale regarding EDC pocket pistols.

        “Up-and-coming country singer Justin Carter has died after a gun accidentally fired while he was filming a music video. He was 35.
        Carters’ mother, Cindy McClellan, told Fox News her son was filming a music video in Houston, Texas, on Saturday when a gun in his pocket “went off and caught my son in the corner of his eye.”

        1. avatar MB says:

          Miner49er @How the F do you shoot yourself in the eye with a pocket gun? From what I heard, this was suppose to be a “prop gun”, ( did somebody replace it with real gun? ) a momentary lapse in judgement sounds like most likely cause. Others have been killed by prop guns loaded with blanks, case in point, Jon-Erik Hexum put a prop 44 magnum gun loaded with blanks to his temple in pulled the trigger, the concussion shattered his skull and he died. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon-Erik_Hexum. Sad, but both of these “accidents” were preventable if the 4 rules of gun safety were applied.

        2. avatar Specialist38 says:

          I don’t pocket carry without a holster that is firm. I use a Densantis Nemesis for the LCP, a Kramer for the J frame, and a Mika for the LCR.

          Dont know the particulars on this shooting but I am betting some safety rule was violated.

          YMMV.

  8. avatar Michael says:

    A pair of S&W J frames with internal hammers, one in each jacket pocket, filled with Remington .38 +Ps, 5 round strip with same ammo. Each carried in Tuff Products Pocket ‘Roo holster. I don’t think it’s gonna get any better than this. Your results may vary. Where I live there is more action than Dodge City when the cattle drive arrived. The good guys are still ahead, but the bad guys have taken to shooting anybody there what ain’t them. Interesting times. -30-

  9. avatar Aristotle’s Owl says:

    Seecamp .32

    1. avatar Randy says:

      Exactly — Seecamp .32 acp! It can be easily carried in a shirt/pants pocket with a Sticky holster.

      1. avatar LazrBeam says:

        So can my Remington RM380. I think the Sig P365 I just recently acquired is gonna fit in the same Sticky pocket holster.

  10. avatar Sean G./The Rookie says:

    My P32 is my go to “No excuse not to carry” gun. It’s perfect for quick trips to the store, and dining out, etc. when I can’t carry something larger. Slips right into the front pocket in its Remora sticky holster and I’m good to go.

  11. avatar Matt o says:

    maybe for semi autos, but there is very little difference between my colt pocket positive in 38 s&w from 1916 and a brand new j frame in how they carry and shoot.

    1. avatar Specialist38 says:

      Big difference in how they hit if you use decent 38+P in the modern.

      My father in law has a pocket positive in 32 Long and it is sweet gun. Much smaller than a J,frame, but accurate.

    2. avatar LazrBeam says:

      Big difference in safety as the 1916 revolver most assuredly doesn’t have a transfer bar safety. Don’t drop that sucker with a full cylinder.

      1. avatar Specialist38 says:

        The Colt “Positive” revolver actually did have a hammer block safety. The used it until the early 70s before going to the MkIII lockwork.

        Later Prewar Smith and Wessons did have a hammerbloxk actuated by the hand. Thses could become fouled and fail to prevent hammer movement. It was changed during/after the war to a hammerblock actuated by the rebound spring housing. S&W used this until they went to a frame mounted firing pin in the 2000s.

      2. avatar John in AK says:

        Sorry, but no.

        The 1916 Police Positive, as does every other Colt DA revolver since 1892, has a very effective hammer-block mechanism linked to the trigger and powered by the rebound lever that functions just as well as any ‘transfer bar’ mechanism, and does it more elegantly. This mechanism makes the revolver absolutely drop-safe, and allows it to carried fully loaded.

  12. avatar FormerParatrooper says:

    Daily carry is a Springfield XDS 9mm, and a Lcp2 as back up.

    When I need something a little lighter and discreet a JP. Sauer & Sohn Model 1913, .32 ACP is my pocket gun.

    The JP was my Grandfathers. He maintained it meticulously and it shoots very well for close quarters.

    1. avatar Matt(TX) says:

      Cool looking little gun. May I suggest a review?

  13. avatar Baldwin says:

    Pocket pistols…designed and made specifically for concealed carry…for over 100 years (well over 100 years)…long before having to obtain “permission” to conceal. Design and functional improvements abound…freedom to exercise the right to keep and bear concealed, not so much. With every advance in firearms design and availability comes infringement of the rights necessary to engage in the ________( insert: hobby, lifestyle, necessity, whim, enjoyment of, etc,). The two are inseparable from each other.

  14. avatar Rokurota says:

    Carrying my Ruger LC9s in the pocket today.

  15. avatar Old man says:

    It’s so easy slip my Ruger .380 in my pocket! It stays with my car keys, so when I pick up my keys the gun is picked up also. I have tried several holsters, but it works best for me without a holster. Great gun, much easier to carry than my .44 Magnum. I believe it will be better for defence because it will be with me and not at home!

    1. avatar John Eschelweck says:

      Thanks Beaver. You don’t put other crap in your gun pocket!. Do your homework. You may as well be anti-gun. You are going to get someone hurt. Freakn eh man!!

    2. avatar Joel says:

      I couldn’t find a pocket holster I liked when I first stared carrying, so now I make my own. I need to submit a how to article to TTAG one day. A very nice leather pocket holster can be made in a couple hours. (Not including dry time.) with materials available at most craft stores. (Hobby lobby in my case.) costs about $20-$30 iniatially but it works out to around $6 per pocket holster.

  16. avatar possum says:

    Well the new stuff is better, but the old stuff is more fun if you ask me. And I am pretty sure my great grandkids will not see many 150 old Gloocks. Well actually that’s a pretty good bet because in 150 years a person will need to go to a museum to look at a gunm

  17. avatar Mark says:

    Glock 26, VP9SK, Sig P320SC. Yes, these are my pocket guns. They fit just fine in my front pocket and they are amazing back up guns.

  18. avatar Kman says:

    Gen1 LCP in Nemesis mostly followed by PPS M2 in Remora (in right pants).
    Usually a spare magazine.
    Never felt at a loss for protection.
    Nice thing about pocket carry is getting your hand on the pistol while being discreet.

  19. avatar Danny Villanueva says:

    A Sig P365 is my main carry. For pocket, a Ruger LCR in .327 Magnum.

    1. avatar LazrBeam says:

      I will frequently swap out the RM380, or Shield, or P365 for either an LCR or LCRx in .327 Fed Mag as well. I really, really like and am impressed with the .327. Any of these, in a pocket holster, fit well in cargo pockets.

  20. avatar Ardent says:

    I keep a .380 SW Bodyguard on my ankle as a BUG to whatever primary I’m carrying that day…does that count?

    Tiny guns in .380 are great, and I don’t fault those who rely on them, I just feel better with a larger, more shootable pistol in at least 9×19. That said, my little BG is always there, on the couch, while I’m reloading my primary on the range, in a custom pocket holster in my house coat while I’m in my Pjs. It’s so small and light that it’s truly a no excuse gun, and it’s reliable, accurate and with 6+1 of Hornady critical defense, potent and capable. Outside of my home where all the guns are though I always take something more substantial. My lifestyle allows for it, and I’m comforted by it, so why not? That said, if all I’ve got is my little BG, I still wouldn’t feel poorly armed…just not as well armed as I could or would like to be.

  21. avatar Jay in Florida says:

    My pocket carry which I never do anymore. Was my Sig P238. Havent even fired a 380 in the past 5 years.

  22. avatar Specialist38 says:

    EDC Ruger LCP gen 2.

    Sometimes carry a J frame Smith or LCR.

    The 43 is just a little too big.

  23. avatar Gdrkn says:

    Depending on what I’m wearing I pocket carry my Kimber Solo 9mm with Hornady critical defense or my NAA Guardian 32acp loaded with extreme cavitators.

  24. avatar KevinB. says:

    I have a Taurus TCP pocket pistol that’s snappy but very controllable and accurate. I carry in my front pocket, no pocket holster, and sometimes I can’t tell its even there. I also carry a S&W MP Shield 380 EZ and it has nothing to do with hand or wrist problems – I just love .380s and would love to see Smith or Glock make a double stack mid size gun.

    1. avatar Joel says:

      The TCP is a great little gun. I stopped keeping track of how many rounds I had thru mine after I hit 1,000. I’d guess I’m between 1,500 and 2,000 round count by now.

  25. avatar James69 says:

    KelTec P3AT – X . (lol) I use the extended 9 round mag, with one in the chamber. Larger grip works better and it stays put during pocket carry. I figure 10 rounds of interceptor(ARX) should take care of any problems. Just like a Glock 19X except smaller….

    As I type this I’m caring a poly judge in my pocket….winter carry.

  26. avatar Lord_Ligonier says:

    The .380 is the most lethal round in history.

    It is responsible for 40 million deaths.

    An FN M1910, serial number 19074, chambered in .380 ACP was the handgun used by Gavrilo Princip to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, the act that precipitated the First World War.

  27. avatar JW says:

    “I was armed to the teeth with a pitiful little Smith & Wesson’s seven-shooter, which carried a ball like a homeopathic pill, and it took the whole seven to make a dose for an adult. But I thought it was grand. It appeared to me to be a dangerous weapon. It had only one fault—you could not hit anything with it.” —Mark Twain

    1. avatar jwm says:

      Twain represented the msm of his day. Not surprising he would denigrate a firearm. In a humorous, aw shucks, fashion.

  28. avatar Jean-Claude says:

    My EDC is a Kahr CM9, carried IWB at 4:00, with my Kahr CW380 in my pocket as a backup. Sometimes the CW380 is my only carry.

    But I’m starting to reconsider the idea of the really tiny .380 Auto. My CW380 is not always reliable. I’ve looked into other .380s, and there are always stories of unreliable pistols. I think the tilting barrel design is too complicated to be shrunk into such a tiny package. I considered going to an LCP2, but I found reports of those also being finicky.

    A PPK/S is on my short list, but the new Walther produced models are more than I want to spend on a pocket pistol. I’ve tried the LCP and the P38T, but the triggers are awful and they feel cheap to me.

    I’m probably going to end up with a J frame in my pocket. Absolutely reliable. Potent cartridge. There is absolutely nothing wrong with .38 +P.

  29. avatar raptor jesus says:

    Ruger LCR with a kydex trigger guard.

    It’s like a J-frame – except it doesn’t hurt to shoot and the trigger doesn’t suck.

  30. avatar OldProf49 says:

    I think most concealed carriers who pocket carry will agree that their options are nearly limitless. From tiny .22’s, small .32’s and .380’s, to only slightly larger 9’s, .38’s, 40’s and even 45’s, we’ve never had so many choices. But if we go back a hundred years to 1919, dedicated CCers had better choices than the Baby Hammerless .22 short mentioned above. Colt, Remington, and Savage produced .25, .32 and .380 pocket pistols. Colt, Smith & Wesson, Iver Johnson, etc. made small and medium sized revolvers in .32 and .38 S&W and 38 Special. There was even the British Webley Bulldog in .45 (not acp). And don’t forget the thousands of single action revolvers with short barrels, rounded grips and other modifications for concealed carry. Yes, it’s better today, but yesterday’s sheepdogs also had lots of choices.

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