One of the oldest forms of walking around with a concealed handgun, the practice of pocket carry has been around for centuries and is still alive and well today but needs a few tricks to pull off properly.
Pocket carry is a bad idea...
While owning a gun isn't for everyone, the prospect of carrying a gun when outside of the home is for an even smaller subset of the population. Keeping with that mantra, toting around a gun in your pocket is not for everyone. Some will advocate against it, full stop, while others have successfully used the method for years and it is their primary method of carrying.
First of all, even though pocket carry has been a very real thing for generations, so have negligent discharges. With that critical safety factor in mind, always use a purpose-designed holster when electing to pocket carry as this keeps the gun's trigger protected and the action cleaner while also orienting the grip for a better presentation.
In a nutshell, a gun shouldn't be able to float around in the user's pocket. This also points to making sure you train regularly and effectively with your draw in the same method you carry.
Reholstering, safely, usually means taking the holster out of the pocket, but there is no time limit on doing this either on the range or in real life.
Drawing from a seated position, such as in your car or while at a desk, is usually out of the question with pocket carry. To test this concept out, just put your keys in your pocket and try to pull them out while seating and look elegant doing it.
Likewise, the only thing that goes in the gun pocket is the gun and holster as you don't want to draw your .38 snubby and find it has two dimes and a receipt from Walgreens stuck to it. This can sometimes be hard to get used to if you are a packrat.
Another rock against pocket carry is that it limits the size and style of handgun that can be carried, but more on that later.
Pocket carry is a good idea...
In situations where using a more traditional waist-mounted holster--be it inside an inside-the-waistband or outside-the-waistband setup-- is not an option, such at the gym, while wearing basketball shorts for a quick trip to the store, or if you have to be tucked in and you don't have a tuckable holster you like, pocket carry is an excellent option to still have something along for the ride.
They are among the most comfortable guns to have on you, and, let's face it, many people will eschew something heavier for something more convenient. Moreover, it allows an easy option for the carry of a backup gun or BUG.
What size makes the cut?
While you *could* carry a 5.56 NATO AR pistol in your pocket-- provided the pocket was deep enough or you buy a lot of 5.11 stuff-- the majority of men's pants will only accommodate a handgun that fits inside a box of about 6-inches long and 4-inches high. This gives you sort of a ballpark range to look for, with smaller than that 6x4 figure naturally being better.
Weight is also a factor because nothing says "hey look at the gun in my pocket" like a 1.75-pound .45 Officer's Model drawing your pants down on one side as you stroll around the produce section.
When it comes to women's pants, for some reason, the pocket size is typically a lot smaller, to the point of being just a faux pocket. We don't know why. It's not our fault. There is always jacket- and coat-pocket carry, but that gets into a whole different range of issues outside the scope of this piece and we don't have all day.
Or are you just happy to see me?
Front pocket carry is often very bulky looking, especially when wearing slacks or straight-cut trousers, and can print very easily when seated or crouched. This can be mitigated with the proper holster and handgun choice. Back pocket carry, provided the pocket is deep enough, is another option but requires an odd draw stroke from the 5- or 7- o'clock position.
Either way, be sure your method of carrying breaks up the outline of the gun. One benefit that we have in the 21st Century that the well-armed gentleman of the 19th did not is that everyone today lugs around increasingly larger mobile devices, which can help explain away that brick-shaped blob in your pocket without a lot of scrutinies.
Training, training, training
If you aren't well-versed in any form of concealed carry, you're behind the 8-ball, and this can be even more true when it comes to pocket carry. The user with a free-floating gun wandering around the pocket of their baggy cargo pants, who also has to clear a cover garment, then come up on target in a stressful situation has a lot of obstacles to overcome to maintain their air addiction. However, the individual who regularly trains their draw and presentation to the point that they have a consistent good grip-- which can be done from the safety of home with an unloaded gun-- and chooses a holster that works with the user rather than against them, is in much better shape.
Further, significant live fire on a micro-sized handgun is needed to ensure its reliability, especially with the self-defense load that it will carry.
Small guns have small sights. Short slides are typically hard to rack. Most guns in this category have a snappy recoil, particularly when it comes to .380 ACP blowback action pistols. These speedbumps all need to be smoothed out with regular use so they don't come as a surprise at the worst of times.
When properly tuned in, pocket carry can be effective and can produce a very fast draw, inside the one-second range. Is it perfect for everyone? Nothing is, but it will likely still be around 150 years from now.