“Pocket carry” is a method of concealed carry where a handgun is concealed in the wearer’s pocket. This carry method requires a handgun that is actually small enough to carry in a typical pants pocket and its popularity has increased as the market continues to be flooded with sub-compact handguns. It is my intention to have an honest discussion about pocket carry, its advantages, its disadvantages, and its viability as a carry method.
Let’s get one thing out of the way before we delve too deeply into this discussion. I will assume in this post that we are referring to pocket carry with the use of a holster that is purpose built for pocket carry. I would never consider carrying a handgun in my pocket without a holster that completely covers the trigger guard – anything less is a negligent discharge waiting to happen. A holster will also help prevent the intrusion of pocket lint and other debris into your handgun.
Holsters that are designed for pocket carry will have some method of keeping the holster in the pocket during the draw stroke. If your pocket carry holster tends to come out with the handgun when you practice your draw stroke on the range, throw it out and buy a different design.
There are some advantages to consider when discussing pocket carry. The most obvious are comfort and convenience. It is extremely convenient to be able to drop a holstered handgun into your pocket and it is typically a very comfortable way to carry a handgun. While comfort and convenience are nice, there are many far more important factors to consider when choosing a carry method. Clint Smith wisely said that carrying a gun “is supposed to be comforting, not comfortable.”
Two other advantages to pocket carry that are rarely mentioned but are, in my mind, the most compelling advantages that this carry method offers are the ability to appear complacent and the ability to appear compliant while indexing your handgun.
Consider a situation where you are walking through a parking garage and you see someone approaching while holding an object that you can’t identify in the dim lighting. You can’t just pull your shirt up and put your hand on your gun. That would be irresponsible since you haven’t identified a threat yet. However, you could place your hands in your pockets and appear to be complacent while you are actually establishing a firing grip on your handgun and preparing to draw if necessary. That is the ability to appear complacent and it can be a tremendous advantage.
Now consider the same situation except this time you don’t see the person approaching. They get the drop on you and they want to force you into your car at gunpoint. The situation is grave and your mind is telling you that you will need to fight back in order to live. You reach into your pocket to appear compliant by “getting your keys” and instead you index your handgun and prepare to defend your life. This ability to appear compliant might buy you the split seconds that you need to produce your handgun and defend your life.
Before we get carried away by the compelling advantages of pocket carry, we should take an honest look at some very compelling disadvantages.
A pocket can be a terrible environment to store a handgun. It can be humid and dirty. Even when you clean your pockets, reliability threatening lint forms quickly. Great care must be taken to clear the handgun of all lint and grit before it works its way into the barrel or lock work.
Drawing a handgun from a pocket will generally take longer than producing one from the belt. The hand must slip into the pocket quickly which can be a bit tricky and the pockets sit lower than the belt which extends the draw stroke. Drawing from a pocket does not take very much longer than drawing from concealment but it does take longer. We generally try to reduce the time and increase the efficiency of our draw stroke. Pocket carry does the opposite.
A handgun that is carried in the pocket can be difficult to access with both hands. Even a mildly flexible person can access a handgun from a belt holster with their support hand but a pocket is a different story. It can be done but it is not easy, efficient, or graceful.
It can be difficult to access a pocket carry handgun while seated. When you are seated, your pockets are typically drawn tight which makes it difficult to get your hand into the pocket. It also changes the angle of the draw in a way that makes it all but impossible to draw your handgun without pointing it directly at your leg.
Finally, pocket carry gives you one less pocket to carry other gear. That may seem like a small thing but think about it. You should never carry anything in your pocket with your handgun. That is an accident waiting to happen and it could impede your draw stroke. The pocket that you will carry your handgun in is probably also the pocket that you clip your knife in or where you carry your keys. You will have to make other arrangements for these items and then carry them that way consistently so that you don’t reach into your pocket to get your keys and pull out a handgun instead. Don’t laugh. It happens.
Viable or Not?
So where does all of this discussion leave us? Is pocket carry a viable carry method or not? I can only answer for myself and say, “it depends.” In my opinion, based on the discussion above, pocket carry is not a suitable primary carry method but it can be an acceptable method for carrying a back up handgun. By carrying your back up with this method you can leverage the advantages of pocket carry while mitigating the disadvantages because it is not your only handgun.
Pocket carry is a compromise. You are exchanging a smooth, reliable draw stroke for comfort and convenience. That is a lousy trade but in some cases it may be an acceptable trade. I limit my use of pocket carry to a back up role. You will have to decide for yourself.
Good points all around Matt. I don’t concealed carry but what about rear pocket carry? That is something I would consider – whether it’s a viable option remains to be seen I guess.
I think the ability to index the gun in the pocket while keeping it concealed is an often overlooked advantage… I sometimes also carry in my Maxpedition Jumbo which allows me to do the same, while keeping my gun literally in hand while out of sight…
Dann in Ohio
Dan, one thing to consider regarding rear pocket carry. Typically the front of your pants will be more baggy and conceal friendly vs the back of your pants. Think about how you can see the outline of peoples wallets in their pants, the same will be with a handgun. Typically rear pockets are also shallower than front pockets. Depending on your specific pants, the gun may print or not be totally concealed, opening up the possibility that someone could disarm you rather easily from the rear.
I’ve strongly considered pocket carry.. but I don’t think I’ll ever have enough pockets it my daily garb.
My daily loadout – wallet, keys, pocket knife, cell phone, ipod…
There is no spare room at all in my front pockets. And I’m really sure the gun would print in the back ones.