So what is the best pocket-sized pistol for concealed carry? This is a frequently asked question around our gun shop. While a few brands and models pop to the front of my mind, regardless of who is asking the question, the answer often depends on a few questions. The first and most obvious question is what size is the pocket? I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the same pistol for a 300lb man and a 120lb woman just because of their ability to effectively conceal the firearm. While some might consider the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm a pocket pistol, most would find that pistol a bit too large to reasonably carry in a pocket. There are, however, a few that I suggest because of their size and feature versatility.
4. Any mini-revolver by North American Arms
Many look at the North American Arms line of petite revolvers and immediately dismiss them as novelty or specialty firearms, never really giving them legitimate consideration as a viable concealed carry option. I must admit, that’s what I did the first time that I saw one. The more I researched the line, however, the more I realized that they could serve as an effective CCW option for many reasons. First of all, the options are practically endless, whether you are considering size, grips, caliber, barrel length, finish, etc. With 5 or 6 round capacity on most models, you generally won’t sacrifice capacity in exchange for their small footprint. What remains as a sticking point for most is the caliber options, primarily only .22lr or .22WMR (22 Magnum), with many models coming with cylinders for multiple calibers. Ideally you would want a firearm with a little more force, but target shooting for accuracy was never the designed intention for these pistols. Within self-defense distances, which are typically within 6 feet, both calibers offer viable threat-stopping power. The ease of operation is another attractive feature of these pistols, only requiring a pull of the hammer and a short trigger. All-in-all I would highly recommend a North American Arms revolver to anyone looking for a pocket-sized option for CCW. A full line of NAA pistols can be found here.
3. Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard .380
I have to say, although this is the third option on my list, it’s not really one of my favorites. The Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .380 only makes an appearance at #3 because of a few key features: A manual safety, and a Crimson Trace laser. Among new shooters, and typically among ladies looking for a small frame pistol, a manual safety can be a deal-breaker. For the majority of those that carry concealed firearms a manual safety is a liability and just an extra unnecessary step. This is especially the case for the Bodyguard pistol, which has a safety that is partially recessed into the frame/slide, making it difficult for many to manipulate. A manual safety is still a must-have for many in the shooting community, making the S&W Bodyguard basically the only option in the pocket-sized pistol market (They do offer models without manual a manual safety.). If lasers are your thing, you really can’t do better than Crimson Trace, which is now owned by Smith & Wesson. Although laser options exist for other guns on this list, this is really the best example of an integrated laser. Here is the feature list from Smith & Wesson’s website:
• Stainless Steel Drift Adjustable Sights
• Two magazines included (finger groove and flat butt plate)
• Ergonomic grip
• High-strength polymer frame
• External takedown lever and slide stop
• Manual thumb safety
• Double action fire control (2nd strike compatibility)
• Stainless steel barrel and slide
The Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard 380 can be found here.
2. Ruger LCPII
The original Ruger LCP enjoyed years atop the pocket-pistol sales figures. In recent years, however, many other manufacturers have brought similar firearms to market, decreasing the overall demand for the original LCP. In response, Ruger designed the second generation of the beloved pistol, taking suggestions both from loyal customers as well as the general direction of the gun market. The glass-filled nylon grip texture gives this pistol a great feel in the hand, and the included magazine extension provides enough room for a full-fisted grip with most hand sizes. The trigger is the biggest change, in my opinion, having gone from a typical long double action squeeze of the original to the new, crisp and much shorter pull of the LCPII. The included pocket holster only adds to the value and eliminates the need for any other shopping when purchasing, which is very appealing for many, especially newer shooters that may not know what holster to choose. These pistols seem to be a well-planned step in the evolution of the LCP line of pistols, and are still at a great price point. Here are the specs from Ruger’s website:
Compact at just 5.17″ long and 3.71″ tall, the LCP® II is designed to fit a variety of holsters and provide concealed carry options.
Rugged construction with through-hardened steel slide and black, one-piece, high-performance, glass-filled nylon grip frame.
Short, crisp trigger pull with single-action feel.
Textured grip frame provides a secure and comfortable grip. Larger grip frame surface provides better distribution of recoil forces.
Includes finger grip extension floorplate that can be added to the magazine for comfort and grip.
Easy-to-rack slide designed to hold open after last round ejection.
Blued, alloy steel barrel.
Improved sights for superior visibility. Fixed front and rear sights are integral to the slide, while the hammer is recessed within the slide.
Safety features include bladed trigger safety; neutrally balanced sear with significant engagement and strong spring tension; and hammer catch to help prevent the hammer from contacting the firing pin unless the trigger is pulled.
Also includes a pocket holster and one 6-round magazine.
Note: Six-round LCP® magazines are compatible with the LCP® II, but will not activate the last round hold-open feature of the LCP® II. Seven-round LCP® magazines are NOT compatible with the LCP® II.
You can find the Ruger LCPII here.
1. Remington RM380 .380ACP
A lot of customers have been steering clear of Remington pistols due to the slow-motion train wreck that was the original release of the R51 pistol years ago. While Remington has not found widespread success with the new release of the R51 pistol, the RM380 has shown to be a needed offering in the compact .380 market. With an overall width just under an inch and under 6” in total length, this one definitely fits the description of pocket-sized pistol. For most the pistol feels good in the hand, either with or without the included magazine extension that allows even the pinky a resting place for most hand sizes. The all-metal frame and slide give good overall weight and really helps with recoil, and makes it less snappy than many other pistols of this size. An ambidextrous magazine release is a nice added feature, as well as an empty magazine slide catch. What really sells this pistol, especially to new or inexperienced shooters, is the easy slide-pull. I’m not sure of the exact force required to pull the slide back, but it feels significantly less than almost any other pistol in this size. Overall, I think that the Remington RM380 pistol is my top choice for anyone looking in this size range. Here’s the specs:
Caliber: .380 auto
Overall length: 5.27″
Barrel Length: 2.9″
Overall height: 3.86″
Pull weight: 8-9 lbs.
Weight (empty): 12.2 oz.
While many viable firearms did not find their way onto the list, these have been some of our most popular options at the shop. I know not everyone will agree with these selections, but I bet that all would agree that having a firearm is better than not having one in a self-defense situation. Let me know your favorite pocket-carry firearm in the comments. As always… Stay Safe, Stay Free.