I’m a big fan of pocket carry. One of its most endearing benefits is that it allows me to carry in locations that I would not be able to go with a belt or shoulder holster. Because the gun is hidden in a pocket, I don’t need a jacket or vest for concealment, which is great for locations where such clothing would not be appropriate. Wearing a formal suit at work, where others are dressed casually, would certainly look odd. I especially enjoy not wearing a concealment garment in the hot weather, and I like the ability to wear a t-shirt and shorts and still have my gun—all without anyone being the wiser.
If you haven’t tried it yourself, it might be hard to believe that pocket carry offers a very fast draw. The secret lies in the ability to have your hand in your pocket with a complete grip on the gun without anyone knowing it. Cutting out half of the steps required makes the draw lightning fast. A hand in the pocket is a very normal and non-confrontational position, and won’t alarm anyone. I very often walk down the street or “hang out” with my hand in my pocket. It’s a very common thing to do and no one blinks an eye. Even if you don’t start with your hand in your pocket, draw time can be just as fast as a regular holster with practice.
Pocket Carry in Practice
Not often thought of, another benefit is that is unlikelihood that someone could detect a gun in a pocket by casual contact such as bumping into you or by giving you a hug. Even if they feel it, no one will guess that the bulge is a gun because people are not accustomed to thinking about guns in pockets. For all most people know, the only way to carry a gun is ‘Mexican style’ like they see in the movies. An encounter with a long-lost friend or visit from a relative with a gun on your belt could get you raised eyebrows after a friendly embrace. While an acquaintance or relative may not mind, it is probably not be a good idea for others to discover that you carry.
In the winter, with your heavy coat zipped up and gloves on, getting to your gun fast can be a problem. While leaving your coat open and hands exposed may work on short outdoor excursions, colder weather may find you bundled up tight. That’s where a revolver in your winter coat pocket can be a real lifesaver. Not only can it be easily accessed—your hand can be right on the gun in your pocket—but you can shoot right through your coat for an instant defense!
Not needing a concealment garment means that you don’t have to worry about exposing your gun when you reach up or bend over. It’s so easy and fast to just slip a gun in your pocket that it’s more likely that you will actually carry! Those quick trips to the local stop-and-rob seem like a drag when you think about donning your leather, but, slipping a gun into your pocket is as natural as grabbing your keys.
I started carrying in my pants pocket about 10 years ago when I got a “shirt-and-tie” office job. Previously, either working for myself or as an independent representative, my clothing and carry habits were not scrutinized by a legion of higher-ups. While the new office job certainly did not have a prohibition against suit jackets or sport coats, it would have been out of place with the casual atmosphere, not to mention uncomfortably hot in the windowless, stuffy environment.
Choosing a Gun
Picking a gun for pocket carry took some consideration and testing. In my younger years, I had often carried a Seecamp .32, but those days were gone—.38 or 9mm was my minimum. Having a choice, I don’t want to fight a fire with an extinguisher the size of a can of spray paint, and I don’t want to use a small gun in a big fight. I wanted a fighting caliber, if I ever found myself in the unlucky circumstance of having to defend myself. I quickly found that the increased size and weight of the bigger gun created its own challenges. The first few months of my new job saw lots of on the job training; not only business, but also the business of pocket carry.
The common adage of carrying a firearm is that you need to dress around your gun. It is just as true with pocket carry as with belt carry. The number one issue is to wear the right kind of pants. For me, pleated pants offer the best concealment and ease of draw. I know lots of folks who pocket carry in jeans, but I just can’t seem to wiggle my hand into the tight pocket nor get the gun out fast.
The Right Clothes
When clothing shopping, the most important thing to look for in pants is to find ones with the correctly-sized pocket openings. If the opening is too small, you won’t be able to get the gun out easily. With my hand size and the gun that I carry, I find that I need a minimum of 6-inch pocket opening to work well. When shopping, I carry a strip of paper with me cut to the 6-inch length to help me pick out which pants will work. Finding pants with wide opening can be a daunting task because most pants won’t work. Don’t get discouraged; keep shopping, they are out there.
In addition to the width of the pocket opening, you also need to make sure the pocket depth is deep enough to conceal the gun. However, don’t worry about that when choosing your clothes because a tailor can easily extend the pocket length.
While some people like to stick a gun in their pocket without a holster, a properly designed holster is essential for pocket carry. A pocket holster does three things; it keeps the gun in an upright position—without it the gun will rotate and flip, it helps keep pocket lint out of the gun’s action, and very importantly, it breaks up the outline of the gun so it does not “print” like a gun while in your pocket.
When walking and sitting, a pocket gun will most likely bulge, but if the holster is doing its job, it will look more like a wallet, not a gun. It’s like I said, people are not accustomed to thinking about guns in pockets, so they don’t look for them and they don’t suspect pocket bulges are guns. Thanks to cell phones, bulges have become legal. I have pocket carried for over 10 years, in very anti-gun environments, without anyone ever noticing.
When picking a holster, look for one that has a flat outer facing panel to break up the outline of the gun. Mitch Rosen Extraordinary Gunleather’s PSF has a suede pad front panel, while Kramer Handgun Leather’s design uses a piece of Kydex to flatten the bulge. On the less expensive side, many holster companies such as Uncle Mikes, Desantis, and Safariland—just to name a few—offer simple pocket holsters.
To choose a holster, one of the first things to do is to decide how you want to draw. Disengaging the gun from the holster can be done in three ways:
- While in your pocket, you push the holster down with your thumb while drawing the gun upwards.
- You hook the holster to your pocket opening as your draw.
- The holster fits the gun loosely and stays in your pocket during the draw by friction.
While some people extol the virtues of loose-fitting holsters that stay in the pocket by friction, I have not had much luck with them. You only need to have the holster to come out with the gun once (at the wrong time) to have a big problem. I prefer the proactive approach of removing the holster from the gun myself. If you decide to us the “hook method” ensure there is a place on the holster that is designed to be hooked.
The same is true of the “push off” concept. Both are good solutions, but both, as with all things, take some practice to master. No matter which method you choose, make sure the holster is not so loose so the gun to can easily fall out by itself. I’ve heard all too many stories of someone standing up from a nice comfy couch only to find the gun laying the seat.
Filling your pocket with a gun, reduces the number of pockets you have for other things. If you generally have personal items in all of your pockets, you need to find a new home for some. I used to carry my keys and change in the pocket that I now use for my firearm. Coins now reside in a rear pocket because it’s a very bad idea to put anything in your pocket that may impede your draw. A few poorly placed coins can easily jam your gun into your holster. Having run out of pockets, I now have a Kubaton on my keyring that’s sole purpose is to carry my keys hooked in my waist of my pants. Another option would be to hook your keys to your belt loops.
Once I graduated from the Seecamp, my preferred carry was a Smith and Wesson, model 340 light weight J-frame revolver. After carrying that for a few months, I changed to the Kahr P40 for the increased capacity. I ended up going back to the revolver for two reasons
- Revolvers are less sensitive to dirt than semi-automatics, and I discovered that pocket carry, even with a holster, does involve a lot of pocket dust and lint.
- I find the shape of revolvers makes drawing easier. Small autos have a squared-edged slide which I find gets caught as I am trying to draw. The shape of revolvers is angled and makes drawing easier.
I prefer a revolver with a spurless hammer or an internal hammer to make drawing easy. If your revolver has a spur, you can still use it for pocket carry, but you just have to remember to cover the spur with your thumb to keep it from getting caught. If you want to be able to shoot through your pocket, a hammerless or shrouded hammer will allow you to fire the entire cylinder without jamming. With an exposed hammer, it is possible to get fabric caught between the hammer and firing pin which can keep the gun from firing.
Like everything else, pocket carry does have its disadvantages. The biggest drawback of pocket carry is that the draw is slow if you’re sitting down, especially so when seat belted in your car. The only way to get around it is to practice leaning forward and drawing when seated and to also practice releasing your seatbelt before drawing. Lastly, your 14-round, custom built, ported, supergun just won’t fit in your pocket. You are limited to what will reasonably fit in your pocket.
While physical size may be restricted, you don’t have to be limited to in power. Pocket carry is not just for micro guns. With the right pants and pocket holster, you can easily carry a J-frame size gun. I started my pocket carry with a little Seecamp, before moving up to a lightweight J-frame. After my switch back to revolvers from a semi-auto, I wanted an even more powerful round than .38 special.
Interested in carrying my full-size, steel Ruger .357 Magnum SP101, I was afraid that it was just too heavy. I experimented with it and found that as long as my belt was tight enough to support the pants, the extra weight was not problem. As a test, I carried the SP101 in one pocket and the lightweight J-frame in the other and found almost no difference in comfort despite the differences in weight.
Whether for a primary gun, back-up gun, or winter gun solution, consider pocket carry. With a little experimentation and practice I think you will find that it’s quite a handy carry method.
Do you pocket carry? Which holster do you use? Share your answers in the comment section.
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