By Richard L. Johnson - 11/11/2013
One of the most convenient ways to carry a handgun for self-defense is in a pocket. With the right sized gun and a good pocket holster, a gun can ride comfortably and unnoticed in all but the tightest of pants.
Here are my top six guns for pocket carry.
I think it is hard to beat the Kahr PM9 and CM9 pistols for pocket carry. They offer exceptional reliability and accuracy with a smooth trigger and good sights.
Smith & Wesson .38 J frame
Like all of the guns on this list, these pistols are double action only. Both are chambered in 9mm, and use six round magazines. Unloaded, both guns weigh less than a pound in part due to their polymer frames.
The PM9 and CM9 are substantially the same gun, with the CM9 being the lower cost version. The CM9 uses a number of MIM parts instead of machined parts, a conventional barrel instead of a match grade one, and a pinned front sight instead of a dovetailed one.
I personally own a CM9 and have gotten great reliability with it. The added machining of the PM9 is nice, but I am satisfied with the CM9. MSRP on the PM9 is $786, while the CM9 is $517.
This hammerless J-frame revolver has spent more time in my front pocket than any other gun I own. It is rugged, reliable and accurate. It handles +P .38 Special ammo without a problem, and holds five of the cartridges in the cylinder.
Recoil is manageable, even with the old FBI load: 158 grain LSWC-HP +P ammo. The aluminum frame on my gun has held up to thousands of rounds, including several hundred +P and +P+ loads.
It does have a short extractor rod, and a smaller cylinder release, but neither of these has caused me trouble enough to leave this one in the safe. The suggested retail price is $459.
The LCR is Ruger's modern interpretation of the hammerless, small-frame revolver. Using a substantial amount of polymer in the gun frame, the gun caught the attention of many people when it was introduced at the 2009 SHOT Show.
The LCR has an exceptionally good trigger for an inexpensive gun, and the felt recoil is noticeably less than the above-mentioned 642. Unlike the 642, the LCR has a pinned front sight, which allows the shooter to replace it with an aftermarket sight. It holds five rounds of the .38 Special ammo and is +P rated.
The one thing I do not like about the LCR is that the trigger feels slower to reset than the Smith & Wesson. The S&W triggers virtually jump back out for another shot. Pricing starts at $529.
Charter Arms Off Duty
Charter Arms is perhaps best known for the .44 Special Bulldog, but I think one of their best guns is the Off Duty. This gun is a direct competitor to the 642. Both are aluminum framed, five-shot revolvers chambered for the .38 Special. But there are subtle differences.
The Off Duty has a full-size cylinder release that I like a great deal. Although fixed and not replaceable, the front sight is larger and easier to see than on the 642. The gun also has a fully shrouded, full-length extractor rod.
A little gritty, the trigger isn't as nice as the 642 or LCR, but it is perfectly acceptable. The gun is also the lightest of the three revolvers, weighing only 12 ounces (unloaded.) MSRP is $411, making it the cheapest of the three revolvers included in this list.
The LCP is a tiny .380 ACP pistol that may be in the pockets of more gun owners than any other sub-9mm handgun. While not the first .380 pistol of its size and general configuration, it does seem to be the one that consumers have resonated with.
Weighing only 9.4 ounces in the standard configuration, the little gun holds 6+1 rounds and can be concealed in virtually any pocket. The sights on the gun are small, and would be difficult to use in low light conditions. Ruger offers Crimson Trace and LaserMax aiming lasers as options on the pistol.
With a suggested retail price of $379, it is not hard to see why many people have picked this gun as their carry everywhere gun.
As one of the lightest 9mm pistols on the market, the PF-9 makes for a credible pocket carry pistol. Unloaded, the gun weights less than 13 ounces. When you add eight rounds (7+1), the gun still comes in under a pound.
For a small handgun, the PF-9 has surprisingly good sights. I've found the guns to be reasonably accurate and reliable. The gun I spent time with had no problems running hollow point or ball ammo. Kel-Tec states the gun is +P rated.
I find the PF-9 is close to being too big for pocket carry. I figure I am a fairly average sized guy, and the gun could be too large for someone smaller than me.
At only $333 (MSRP), the PF-9 is the least expensive gun in this list. While I would advise against buying guns solely on price, finding a bargain is a nice bonus.
So, what did I miss? What is your favorite pocket gun and why?