Sunday, March 01, 2015

So You Want to Carry a Pocket Pistol...

Before I get to far into this...  understand that this is not the typical BloggerBlaster gun nerd post.  A friend just got her first pistol... and I thought I would write up a post for her.

So... there is a big category of concealed carry pistols we call micro-pistols or mouse guns.  Generally speaking these are double-action only hammer fired .380 pistols. Think Ruger LCP, Taurus 738, ect ect ect...  I really hate the term mouse gun because it makes me think of the tiny little .22lrs with flip up barrels.  There is a world of difference between those mouse guns... and these .380s.  Regardless... we're talking about the .380s here.

Normally here I would be berating your choice of caliber but I am not going to today.  The fact is my wife carried a .380 for years and there is just no doubt in my mind she would've been effective with it on a bad day.  This is Dr Who we're talking about... and her little stainless .380 was one of the most accurate sub-compact pistols I've ever played with.  She could make a 3 hole triangle the size of a quarter on your forehead from 20 yards away. 

Here's what I know about the .380...   there are certain typs of ammunition you can use in it that meet my criteria for carry.  Remember I want to dump as much energy as possible into an attacker.  So I want the bullet to stop in the attacker.  That means I need penetration... but not to much penetration.  Now the FBI guidelines for qualifying pistols for agent use were 12 inches of penetration... but not more than 18 inches of penetration in FBI ballistic gel.

Guess what?  .380 federal hydrashoks do just that.  And not just one shot... but every shot.  Even through heavy denim they perform consistently.

So that's my advice.   If you're carrying one of these micro-compact pocket 380s...  go get some federal hydrashoks for your every day carry needs.


Shoot a lot.   You are going to need to hit center mass if you're using a .380.  That means a shot to the sternum... and within say... 2 to 3 inches to either side of it.   You need to be able to put your shots there consistently.    I would work at very short distances at first then work your way out as you master each distance.  I would start at say 8 feet.  Shoot sets of 3 shots.   When you can go 3 for 3 on center mass hits... 5 times in a row... then move then move the target back a few feet... and start again.

There are lots of shooting aids out there to help you be more accurate and I'm not going into it right now... but the main thing is to get out there and shoot.

So you have your pistol...  what else do you need besides a couple boxes of hydrashoks?   Well hydrashoks are relatively cheap in .380 but that doesn't mean you're gonna want to practice with them.  Get several boxes of cheap FMJ ammo to practice with.  i recommend blazer.  Blazer is good quality new production ammo and its pretty reasonable.  But honestly what ever you find to shoot is good.  I would also suggest you to run a box of hydrashoks through your pistol a few times a year just to keep in mind how your pistol shoots with them.  Different ammo has a different point of impact sometimes.. and it certainly feels different in the weapon when it goes off.

What else?  You need a holster...  and I would suggest at least 3 magazines.  Then you need shooting glasses... electronic ear protection (yes its worth it.  at this point its stupid to use anything else)... and a pistol safe to keep right by your bed.  The pistol safe should be something you can access extremely fast in the dark.

now...  I know what you're thinking.  Nate... dammit... you can't possibly be saying hydrashoks are the only thing that works in .380.

No.  I'm not.  In fact I know hornady XTPs work very well too.   But that's about it.  There are a few small ammo manufacturers out there that have some stuff that is effective.. but the hydrashoks and the XTPs are the only ones that meet the Nate Standard.  Nope... not even your precious bufalo bore... or corbon...  not in .380 anyway.   The vast majority of .380 ammo simply does not expand.  Those high end corbons?  Well... They literally act no different than a cheap FMJ.

Now... Ruger LCP or Taurus 738?  Let the flame war begin!

Personally I like the Taurus better... trigger is way nicer.


Unknown said...

Well worded sir.

XTP's are now packaged as Critical Defense (i don't know if many of the old original XTP packages are still floating around.

Your one of the few people that have actually caught that the Taurus has a better trigger. However for those that have not purchased a pistol yet I would advise them to at least handle a S&W Bodyguard .380. While a little bit more, the original model comes with a built in laser that is sighted in at the factory(note they now make them with and without the laser, so mind the details when you see the price).

Since Ruger basically ripped off Kel Tec on their LCP, you can do a procedure on the LCP called a "Fluff and Buff". It will help it smooth up some, but it won't work miracles.

As much as you practice shooting, get a set of snap caps, that way you can practice trigger control, malfunction drills and reloads in the safe comfort of your house. With the small guns it takes even more practice to do a reload right (which is why the New York reload works well on them)



Nate said...

Thanks Wolf...

By the by folks.. if you don't know the slang... a New York reload is when you pull out another gun instead of reloading.

Raggededge said...


Why not move up to 9mm for a pocket pistol? The pocket pistol market has exploded in recent years and while .380 dominated the pocket pistol market, 9mm has now caught up. The Ruger LC9s, M&P Shield and the Sig P938 are all chambered in 9mm. To me, the advantage of 9mm is ammo availability at a cheaper price than .380. This means you will shoot more and become more proficient. In addition, I find that recoil is almost indistinguishable between the 2 rounds.

Res Ipsa said...

I'm siding with Raggededge. If you are getting a pocket pistol why not buy a 9?

I agree that you are still stuck with 2 or 3 manufactures of acceptable ammo so you don't gain much there. You do how ever get a bigger bullet and better performance in about the same size package. In the case of the Sig he mentions you also get a single action trigger with 1911 controls.

Nate said...

again guys.. I didn't write this to get into a caliber debate. Is 9mm better than a.380? That wasn't the question. I find that there are a couple of 380 ammo types out there that actually may get the job done... and LOTS of folks carry 380s because that's what they have.

The point was to get some good information to folks who had already made a decision or who had the decision made for them.

I don't do the pocket pistol thing remember? A pocket pistol for me is a snubby wheel gun.

Athor Pel said...

I was gonna ask whether anyone has shot a Boberg then I took a closer look at them and saw that they don't make one in .380.

Never mind.

Stilicho said...

It's an interesting topic because sometimes it's difficult to conceal your EDC gun, so it's good to have an alternative available. A micro 9mm in a pocket, an appendix rig, or an ankle holster, etc. is better than not carrying.

Raggededge said...

The gun manufacturers have really stepped up their game in regards to pocket pistols. I just picked up the Ruger LC9s Pro for $350. It has a really nice trigger, very accurate and it's trivial to conceal. To Stilicho's point, I feel I always have a carry option if my EDC is out of the question.

patrick kelly said...

If you're going to carry a pocket pistol in a pocket, especially front pants pocket(in anti-printing holster), there are reasons why a smaller .380 is better than a slightly larger, clunkier 9.

Just do a quick draw and fire drill from that pocket with both and see what I mean.

I do a drill like this often to keep my skills up.

Stand in front of torso taget, close enough to touch it. Draw and fire, one handed, point and shoot, while maneuvering backward to pre-positioned cover (whatever you have, we have fake walls and barrels to move around).

Empty the mag, use cover, reload, and empty that mag.

I rarely have more than 2 misses out of 15 shots. This isn't quite pray and spray, it is controlled, point and shoot rapid fire, I don't even look for my sights.

I know this probably violates some sense of good shooting, but it serves to simulate a somewhat panicked situation and expected range and performance of a pocket pistol.

ymmv..this drill is not for beginners.

Res Ipsa said...

patrick kelly

That's a good practical drill.

Stilicho said...

What do you guys think of pocket pistol (.380 or 9mm) vs ankle carry of small .40?

Raggededge said...


Which .40 ankle carry did you have in mind?

Stilicho said...

Wide open at this point. I picked .40 due to potential for more rounds in relatively small pistol.

Res Ipsa said...


I think you should take the time to practice with an ankle style holster before you go that route. Get one for a gun you already have and try it out. Then go to the range and practice drawing and shooting. I've never been able to get that arrangement to work for me, but you may like it just fine. No sense in investing in a gun for that application unless you like the application.

Stilicho said...

Res Ipsa...It won't work for any of my current pistols (full size) unless I buy some bell bottom jeans.

Susan said...

FYI: Just heard Rush say that due to all the blowback from both houses of Congress, the ATF has walked back their proposed ban of the AR-15 ammo. Of course left unsaid is the blowback from the NRA membership and other devoted believers of the rights of the 2nd.

Just thought I would pass that along.

Res Ipsa said...


if you're set on trying it, the classic ankle gun is a 38 stub nose with the hammer bobbed off. I'd step it up to a 357 if I was going that route. The reason the hammer is docked is to keep it from snagging on the pants. If you are going to try a semiauto I'd get a hammerless model for the same reason.

Just a thought here but, in order to keep the gun small enough to ride on your ankle you will have to give up some velocity and energy. If you are trying to max out bullet capacity then you are going to want to (this may get me banned) check out a Glock 27 or similar.

FWIW the Glock 27 is still 6.4 in OAL, 1.18 wide. A Smith 340 is 6.3 in oal its also the lightest. A sig P938 is the smallest at 5.9 oal and 1.1 wide.

These guns run from$650 to $1,000. The Smith is the most expensive and also the most popular. The P938 is a 9mm, the glock a 40 and the Smith a 357. The Glock carries 9 rounds the sig 7 and the smith 5. The glock is going to be the heaviest and most bulky of the 3. In my mind that tends to disqualify it for ankle carry.

There is a reason that the S&W J frames are so popular in this application 11 oz, thin profile and 357 mag performance. If the price tag is too much on a Smith you can save $200 by getting a Ruger and its only a little heavier.

Stilicho said...

Any thoughts on the XDM compacts or similar striker fired semi autos?

Res Ipsa said...

I've never owned one. I've had good luck with Springfield and would feel good giving them a try. You're not thinking about using one in an ankle holster are you?

Raggededge said...


I have the XD Mod.2 and I don't think there is anyway you could comfortably carry it in an ankle holster. As for the gun itself, I really enjoy shooting it. The trigger is not great though, it's not horrible, but my brother got the Sig P320 and that trigger is much nicer.

Stilicho said...

Res, Edge,

Here's my situation: my edc is a commander sized 1911, but I often have to wear a suit and tie for work. Tuckable holsters don't really work that well because your shirt will bunch up and work its way out and printing is a problem as well. Now, I make do with it when I have to, but it doesn't contribute to a professional appearance which is important. Thus, I'm considering an ankle holster or pocket carry for when I have to suit up. Pocket carry is limited to a 9 or (most likely) a .380...neither of which is great. That's why I'm considering an ankle rig as well and wondering if there's a compact, striker fired semi auto in .40 (you get a fewer rounds than 9mm but more stopping power). I might even go to 9mm for an ankle rig if I have to, but not before I figure out if there's a .40 that would work. I suppose appendix carry might be an option, but the same problems with printing and lack of professional appearance would be there as well. Thoughts?

Raggededge said...


When I have to suit up, I use a Remora Holster. I bought one on a lark because I didn't think there was anyway that they would work well. However, they do work quite well and really help with printing because you can adjust them to ride quite low on your side. Since friction and not clips are what keep it in place, I'm able to completely tuck my shirt in over the holster. I find that I'm able to adjust the holster in such a way that printing is not an issue. I use a remora for my xd mod.2 for reference.

Res Ipsa said...

My preferred carry is a commander sized 1911 as well.

If you keep your sport jacket on there are a lot of great holsters that will work. If you are a situation like I am where a jacket isn't covering your strong side carry then you are limited.

The #1 problem with strong side carry concealment under a sport coat, isn't holster choice. Any good inside the waist band, tension retention system will fit the bill. The problem is love handles. Love handles push the butt of the gun outwards and cause a partial print. The solution to love handles is exercise and eating less food.

You can get around love handles by shifting carry passion, or buy seating the holster deeper inside your waist band to the point that only part of the handle is showing. This is typically uncomfortable and a difficult position to draw from. I still find it to be an easier position to draw from than an ankle holster.

I found myself needing a different carry rig because of a requirement at my job. We had to wear company approved polo shirts.

I opted for a 9mm pocket pistol. I had Smoking Gun Holsters design a wallet type holster that has the same dimensions as a I-Pad. Since I have slacks on there is lots of room for the gun and holster in my front strong side pocket. Any printing looks like a I-pad or cell phone. I've passed getting the once over from security and police more than once and not been called on it.

If you decide to carry like this, you can stay with a single action auto, like the Sig P938. If your pockets are big enough and you get them sewn with some reinforcement, you might even be able to go to an officers model instead.

I went with a Sig and carry in my front pocket. I carry condition 1. You get the better trigger, familiar safety and gun controls.

If you are sold on an ankle holster seriously look at getting a lightweight S&W J frame. I keep harping on this because gun weight is your enemy on an ankle rig. A lot of getting a ankle rig to work depends on the shape of your calf and the method of attaching the holster. The best rigs have a band that you secure right below you knee and above the calf. To keep this from chafing you will have to wear over the calf socks. It might work great for you and you might not think it uncomfortable. To each his own.

Stilicho said...

Love handles aren't a problem, but keeping the shirt properly tucked is a pain in the ass. Plus I spend more time with my jacket off than on and the unbalanced waistline seems very noticeable to me. On the upside, pockets are fairly decent on suit pants as well as khaki slacks, so maybe the pocket 9 is the way to go. Thanks.

Res Ipsa said...

Hope it helped.

Sometimes you just have to try different rigs and see what works.

Stilicho said...

Yep. I think I'll try a belly band to carry my commander before I go the pocket route. We'll see what works.

Russ said...

Hey now... Where are you getting that data from badly the lack of expansion on the .380 cor-bons?

Raggededge said...

Russ, watch this video. The Cor-Bons failed miserably when shot through denim.

Cor-Bon Fail

JUDGE said...

Nate, could you suggest some books or articles that accurately depict pre civil war working class rural life? Non fiction preferably. Thanks

Russ said...

Can't argue with that then. I'll pass on the cor-bons of I get a 380

WaterBoy said...

For your enjoyment

Res Ipsa said...


Do you have email address for Gregg, or some other way to contact him? I've not gotten an response from him in awhile.

BGSteve said...

What no mention of Glocks being the Barbie dolls of guns with all the accessories?

Papapete said...

Good news. Governor Brownback just signed Constitutional carry in Kansas today.