Pocket pistols — those little handguns with a barrel of 3.5 inches or less, a round capacity of 7+1 or less, that can fit in a pocket and often make perfect concealed carry guns. While these guns may require extra practice to manipulate and achieve acceptable accuracy, their light weight and portability keep them at the top of many shopping lists as a first, or next, firearm.
Here are seven choices of pocket pistol — the “Seven Dwarves” — that have stood the test of time and dependability either as my own carry guns, or as the choice of respected friends in the gun industry.
1. Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .380
This little semi-auto has some available factory options including color, Crimson Trace laser and thumb safety. The 2.75 inch barrel contributes little to an overall length of 5 inches. It only weighs 12.5 ounces unloaded. Capacity is 6+1. A good deal with a great name behind it, starting around $250.
2. Ruger LCR
The Lightweight Compact Revolver is made with a no-snag but chunky shape, perfect for jacket pocket carry. Features like the white tape on the front sight and an optional Lasermax laser are cheap and disposable, but this is a dependable little double action-only wheelgun. It’s also chambered in virtually whatever you want it to be: 22LR, 22WMR, .327, 9mm Luger, .38 with +P rating, and .357. The tiny barrel is less than 2 inches. Weights vary from 13.5 to 17 ounces depending on caliber. Pick one up for under $400.
3. Glock 42
This smallest of all Glocks, chambered in .380, is one I’ve spent the most time wearing and firing of the guns on this list. It’s not the easiest to shoot well and the six-round mag could be bigger. But, ease of carry, reliability, and availability of great add-ons like tritium sights and the Streamlight TLR-6 laser/light make it a go-to choice. It’s 13.6 ounces unloaded and 5.94 inches overall, with a 3.25-inch barrel. Current prices hover around $400.
4. Beretta Nano
This designed-for-concealment 9mm makes this the most modern design on the list. With a total length of 5 inches, standard six-round mag, and unloaded weight of just 20 ounces, it’s a very compact choice. It lacks some expected features like a slide stop, but it does also come with an eight-round mag. A local friend’s fondness for this double action trigger pull pistol has helped earn it a place on this list. Prices vary widely; considering its record I’d look for a sub-$300 model and plan on spending time on warranty work and ammo experimentation.
5. Smith & Wesson Airweight
The hammerless version of this .38 Special, +P-rated revolver is the perfect choice for the person who wants a simple, lifelong concealment weapon. It’s 6.3 inches long overall; S&W is mum on barrel length but dimensions are similar to the Ruger LCR. S&W bubbles up a steady stream of updates of this classic J-frame to the market. Prices vary widely from $200 used to $600 new, depending on material and features. It’s a snappy shooter, but one of great quality that will last for a long time with proper maintenance.
6. Ruger LCP II
No way would I have recommended its forerunner, the LCP, but this little .380 is a testament to Ruger’s commitment to responding to customer feedback. With a truly decent trigger and functionality that now closer resembles that of most pistols, the second generation has made a fan of me with remarkable reliability, ease of carry, and a reasonable price point. Still, it’s very much a fine motor-specific handgun to manipulate. It has a 2.5-inch barrel, six-round mag, 5.17-inch overall length, and weighs less than 11 ounces. There are plenty of worse choices at the $300 price point.
7. Kahr CT380
Another economical .380, the Kahr has increasingly spent daytime hours in my waistband thanks to its easy-to-wear, thin profile and comforting 7+1 capacity. I specify daylight hours because there are no night sights nor auxiliary lights readily available for this model. My copy required some factory work on the extractor to be reliable with every type of ammo, but since then it hasn’t missed a beat. Look for prices in the high $200s.
A handgun is not safe in a pocket unless it’s also inside a sheath or holster that protects the trigger guard and barrel from unintended penetration by objects inside or outside of the pocket. This inner container can also keep the gun from rotating in the pocket space, keeping it indexed for quick access.