“Pocket Gun” is a term that dates back to the first cartridge guns of the post-Civil War era. It referred to vest pockets because pants pockets weren’t really a common thing yet. Fashion eventually advanced to the point that you could drop your piece into your pants before heading out, but it required certain wardrobe modifications.
Times change, as does clothing, guns and ammo, but the human desire to take the easiest path forward is timeless. Today we have the equivalent firepower of most military service pistols of the 20th century with twice the reliability and better ammunition, all in a pocket-sized envelope. And what do we do with it? We stick it in our pants pocket.
However, there are a number of reasons why sticking your 21st-century heater in the pocket of your jeans is a poor choice.
Other things wind up in your pocket – Coins, pens, keys, the remains of that phone number from the cutie you met last night that went through the wash: Some of these things are capable of getting into the trigger guard and making your gun discharge. Others are capable of creating a bore obstruction, disengaging the magazine or jamming the action. Not good.
Pockets are not designed to hold guns – Most pants have pockets made of material so thin you can almost see through it. Even so-called tactical pants with sturdy construction won’t hold up to the constant wear of a muzzle and front sight sawing through the material. And you can spot a pocket carrier by the tell-tale wear spots where the muzzle rides well before the eventual blowout. Sooner or later you’re going to squat down to get the latest gun rag off the newsstand, and your blaster is going to crown. Not good.
Guns don’t stay put in a pocket – When you do need to draw your pocket gun in a hurry, you’re going to find that it’s going to take a bit of effort to get it aligned right. Sure, you dropped it in your khakis muzzle down, but it turned upside down. Or backwards. Really not good.
Pockets aren’t designed for you to get out something that large in a hurry – Anyone who has done any formal handgun training knows that on day one you are taught to move off the line of attack. This is done by stepping to the side as you draw your gun, so as to make yourself a harder target. Unfortunately for pocket carriers, when you step to the side or make any move, your pants pocket is stretched tight against your leg, trapping anything in it. So, you’ll have to stop to get your gun out while someone is trying to shoot you. No Bueno.
Texas gunfighter John Wesley Hardin carried a pair of revolvers in his pants pockets, which were all custom-lined with leather for the purpose. The modern pistolero is well-advised to emulate this method if choosing to pocket carry by using a pocket holster that accomplishes the same thing.
A pocket holster will keep your gun in the proper position if you choose to go this route, giving you the fastest presentation possible from the pocket. A properly designed rig will cover the trigger guard so that the pen you took from the hotel won’t end up blowing a hole in your leather bucket seats — or any closely located body parts. It will also feature a closed bottom so that lint and other pocket-dwelling debris won’t create a bore obstruction.
A good pocket holster will also break up the outline of your piece — a bonus if you don’t like getting stopped and asked for your carry permit by Officer Friendly.
Speaking of Officer Friendly, he associates anyone carrying a gun without a holster with someone who needs to be checked for warrants. This goes for pre- and post-defensive shooting because criminals typically don’t use holsters in case they need to drop their gat in a hurry. Even with a quality pocket holster, though, the “pants pinch” will still limit your draw.
Alternatives to Pocket Holsters
If you have a pocket-sized gun, there are a number of options that place the gun in the same neighborhood as your pants pocket. Inside the waistband holster options put the gun at or just below the belt line, in a rig designed to hold the gun in the proper position and enable a speedy draw.
Another option is appendix carry holsters, which approximate the front pants pocket location but without the downsides.