Survival Debate: Pocket Carry vs. Concealed Carry

Several years back I got into a discussion with my brother who lives back in the Midwest about concealed carry Best Concealed Carry Gunoptions.  At the time, I was living in Seattle and had obtained my concealed carry permit from the state of Washington and was carrying a subcompact .40 cal S&W.  My brother liked my choice of carry pistol but also stated that when he went out for the night or took his dog for a walk, he liked to just pop his KelTec .380 pistol into his pocket and walk out the door.  He liked the little .380 so much that it became his primary carry pistol in his front pocket.

At the time I found that concept very interesting.  I was in agreement with my brother that there were times when carrying a subcompact or compact pistol was a pain in the ass.  For instance, when I just wanted to wear shorts, t-shirt and flipflops.  Shortly thereafter, we took the KelTec .380 to the range and I found the small pistol wanting.  My exact words were, “I wouldn’t trust my life or my family’s life to this thing.”  The sites on the KelTec were terrible at best and I think it might have even jammed up a few times.  After that experience, I decided against pocket carry.

Several years later I got into another discussion with a friend of mine who served as tank officer with the US Army.  SHTF concealed carry gunHe had a similar attitude as my brother’s about pocket carry but he also carried a compact pistol in certain situations.  His choice of pocket carry was also the KelTec .380 but his decision was a little bit more involved than my brother’s criteria.  He stated that his concealed carry decision came down to three factors:
1.  Threat Level
2.  Clothing
3.  Situation

For the first factor, Threat Level, at any elevated threat or concern my friend would upgrade his pistol, which in this case was the Glock 19.  This would include trips to the mall, grocery store, hiking, driving downtown, strip malls, gas stations, road trips, and many other daily activities.  Low threat levels might be walking the dog, back yard BBQ, bike ride, etc when he would just use the pocket carry .380.

The second factor, Clothing, is pretty self explanatory.  Sometimes if you are wearing a t-shirt and shorts on a hot Best Pocket Carry Pistolday, the last thing you want to add to your person is a belt, holster, and pistol.  The last factor, Situation, is sort of the X factor.  If you are going a place with a high police presence, such as dropping a friend off at a major airport, you might just go with pocket carry.  But if you are going to a backyard BBQ at a friend’s house who lives in a tough neighborhood, you might upgrade from pocket carry to concealed carry.

What do you think?  Do you have multiple options for concealed carry?  Or do you prefer one over the other – pocket carry or concealed carry?

Pocket Carry Pros:
Light weight
Less detectable
Quick draw from hand in pocket position
More clothing options
Easily concealable
Low recoil (small caliber pistol options)

Pocket Carry Cons:
Smaller Magazine Capacity
Less knock down capability (there are exceptions to this)
Some pant or short’s pockets are not designed well for pistols
Some pockets show pistol print

Concealed Carry Pros:
Higher magazine capacity
More options for personal defense calibers
Better fit for adult hands
More pistol options
Better sights

Concealed Carry Cons:
More weight
Sometimes requires a belt
More recoil (*higher caliber rounds)
Less clothing options

Written by Jimmy C

Jimmy C was an infantry Marine in the USMC and USMCR for 6 years. Jim began a life learning about and working towards self-sufficiency using old-world practices. Jim has stockpiled years of food, water, ammunition, and is developing a survival network in his community in order to ensure the survival of his family. Read his full interview here. Read more of Jimmy's articles.

22 thoughts on “Survival Debate: Pocket Carry vs. Concealed Carry”

  1. No pocket carry. Get a friend to struggle with you and try to get your gun out. It is almost impossible. Only time I would consider pocket carry would be for a second smaller gun as a backup. No matter what my dress (and it usually is cargo shorts, tee-shirt and sandals), I carry the same gun ( S&W mod 60 357 mag) every day in a Galco Summer comfort IWB holster at the 5 o-clock position. It gives me total familiarity and consistency, so I never have to think about where my gun is located or which one I have with me.

  2. I agree with JAS, IFm I HAD to pocket carry it would be loose fitting slacks with a decent J-frame "type" of revolver. Other than that, my EDC is a Glock 26 with extended Glock 19 mags and grip adapters. I dress around that pistol and have had no issues at all. Of course, I carry OWB as I have for decades now, (old dog thing) in the same place. Although I have been experimenting with a shoulder holster of late. Still undecided on that,it IS excellent for the long driving trips I do take frequently.

  3. You say tamata I say tomato —
    First is it reliable. if it's not then it is not a "carry" gun IMO.
    If anything you have IS reliable it makes no difference the caliber, criminals are cowards at heart and seek out those they think they can intimidate with numbers or their weapons, If you can shoot back they disappear quickly.
    Most People in gunfights are not aware of the caliber only that they do not want to get shot and or get the hell out of there.
    The only requirement is at least 5 shot, more is better but accuracy & reliability is an absolute must.

      • …OK,
        but be really really certain about your draw. with pocket carry, the muzzle may be pointing at the contents of your drawers.
        lots of people still carry even a modern revolver, on an empty chamber.

        • Keep your finger away from the trigger until your ready to shoot and you will have no problems with any modern handgun, a modern revolver with an empty chamber…. that's an optimist!

          • by "modern" I mean one which was re-designed to not fire, when dropped:
            transfer bar, no firing pin on the hammer. my faith is in the Deity, never in a mechanical device. also take extra care when re-holstering…
            people much smarter than I still mess up on occasion.

          • I understand however you really won't need to re-holster your firearm in the average self defense scenario: 3 rounds in 3 seconds at 3 feet
            more bullets is always better… with your revolver you can draw and fire without having to perform any other things (safeties or put a round in the chamber) right? I was referring to the ability to immediately fire your weapon. however I believe that losing a bullet is unnecessary, and they should make new revolvers with a place to rest the hammer so you don't lose a round.

          • It is mechanically impossible for a transfer bar revolver to fire without trigger action. Empty chambers don't add safety, they reduce capacity.

            Side note: I saw an Indian website promoting that women who carry should have only two rounds and an empty chamber, and should only shoot to scare the bad guy away. Keep in mind, their nation limits the few people who can carry to .32 S&W.

            If you don't trust the gun, then find one you do trust, or don't carry.

  4. The first rule of a "gun fight" … is have a gun! if you can't carry your weapon you may s well not have it. I personally like the Sig Sauer P232. It's great for "pocket carry" as well as in the waist-band etc. While I would count on it to "storm a castle" I know that it will ensure that I get out of any situation. Training is the most important factor with any weapon, but with my P238 I am confident that I will get out alive.

  5. I carry a Springfield XDS in 45 acp. I like the caliber but when you are in hot weather you don't wear a jacket. I can carry open in my state but don't want to alarm the ignorant among us. I have been trying to buy a Double Tap in 45 but the price is too high and the reviews are not favorable, (hurts) I like wearing loose slacks and putting my wife's Charter Arms undercover in my pocket. I bought her a S&W bodyguard so she still is my backup. Carrying the little 38 in my pocket causes me a little concern that it shows. When I walk into a building or around questionable persons I put my hands in my pocket which will let me draw quickly if I ever need to. Thinking about getting a ankle holster for it.

  6. I agree with the summary of pros and cons presented in the article with one exception: an unreliable firearm is not an option nor is it a necessary compromise, even for pocket carry. Furthermore, the debate need not be between the .380 in your pocket versus the .45 on your hip.

    There are a number of excellent 9 mm sub-compacts that are suitable for pocket carry. My primary carry is a Kimber Solo: I had reliability issues shortly after I bought it which Kimber promptly corrected; I also have reliability problems if I am not careful about the ammo that I use. However, when I stay within the manufacturer's recommendations (my Kimber likes 124 or 147 grain Hornady) it has been reliable while at the same time easily able to fit in the pocket of any pants or shorts I own. I also have a used Ruger LC9 that is only slightly larger, entirely suitable for pocket carry, and reliable with any ammunition I have tried.

    80% of my carry is now pocket carry; if wearing dress pants (i.e. in church) where I do not expect a direct threat I typically carry in an ankle holster. When the weather cools and I often wear a fleece or sweater I prefer OWB. However, pocket carry is my go to and I am confident I can hit where I am aiming with the excellent Kimber trigger and sights.

    Because of the very small size I have never had anyone indicate that they were aware I was carrying in my pocket, on my ankle or on my hip. I wish our culture was comfortable with knowing that someone is carrying a firearm, but it is not: discretion is essential to avoid frightening the sheep. Furthermore, I generally ignore signs posted by businesses that forbid concealed weapons (which is legal in my state), confident that they will never know unless there is a crisis in which case "trespass" is the least of my concerns. I am not confident I can conceal a large lump on my hip, but no one raises an alarm over what is in a man's pockets.

  7. I have the Sig P938. Its a 9mm and fits in your back pocket nicely. Probably not in the front pocket of pants but easily in parka or vest. It is a "tweaner" of pocket and concealed carry.

  8. I have done both pocket carry and concealed carry. I have made it a point when I do so to try to select weapons and carry modes that do not flash and are almost guaranteed not to get noticed. Unfortunately that usually means that the speed with which I can access the weapon is somewhat slower than I would like it to be. However, as it is my belief that eventually the government will attempt to make civilian ownership of firearms illegal in this country, then I had better start preparing for that now in terms of weapon selection, carry mode and practicing for that eventual scenario.

    One of the situations that I found myself in was working as an unarmed security guard for midnight shift at the only large covered shopping mall in a 50 mile radius in Florida. At the time I did not have a concealed carry permit. It was also not unknown for the local police department to eventually drop by just to say, "hello". Unfortunately that did not guarantee that any officers would be there when/if I ever truly needed them. Under those circumstances getting made as running around with a concealed firearm would have resulted in getting fired and likely having to deal with a felony bust. However, I wanted to have a weapon available to me.

    To deal with that situation I ended up carrying one of the North American Arms Mini Revolvers (.22 Winchester Magnum/.22 LR convertible, loaded with .22 Winmag) in a shirt pocket. It was small enough that nobody ever noticed it. I had no concerns at all about the reliability of the piece. Granted that it would have been marginal at best in terms of stopping power, and accuracy at much more than arm's reach was questionable, but at least it was a firearm. While this was not anywhere near an "optimal" situation, nevertheless it gave me peace of mind and none of the police officers who I chatted with while carrying it ever appeared to suspect anything.

    These days I live in Washington State. I also broke down and eventually coughed up the money to get a concealed carry permit. Part of the process was my eventually deciding that my disgust at having to pay money to the government to turn my God given, unalienable, second amendment guaranteed right into a privilege which the state could grant me did not outweigh the potential ramifications of what would happen if God forbid I ever did have to use a weapon.

    The weapon that I am currently carrying concealed is not an "optimum" concealed carry piece in that it is just barely within the limits of something that I can actually conceal. If I had the money to get another piece for concealed carry I would do so in a heartbeat (likely a compact .45 ACP) and the current weapon would get relegated to home defense. But the Smith and Wesson Governor I have nevertheless can be concealed and definitely has the horsepower to deal with reasonable defensive weapon use scenarios. I usually have it loaded with .45 Long Colt Mag Safe ammunition. I carry it in a "Thunderwear" holster (kind of like a carpenter's apron you wear under your pants) and several police officers and other people who normally carry concealed firearms that I have talked to have told me that they weren't able to make the weapon when so carried. Of course it also helps that I am approximately 6' 2" tall and weigh in at around 260 lbs. A smaller person might not be able to carry that particular weapon in that manner without attracting attention.

    While that particular holster is not as fast as I would like it to be in terms of draw speed, again I place a higher emphasis on not flashing the weapon/not getting made than other people might. Also, it means that I do not have to change my mode of concealed carry when the seasons change. The temperature can hit triple digits in the area of Washington State that I live in during the summer, and single digits during the winter. Same carry mode applies in all conditions. So I think that this is a reasonable solution to most defensive use scenarios and definitely contributes to my peace of mind.

  9. I'm not a big fan of pocket carry but I have to admit sometimes I just carry my subcompact .380 in a pocket holster just for convenience but only for short trips or just going outside to check things out, I find it a pain to put on a holster just to go outside and when I make short trips I place the gun in my center consul until I get out of the car, I would rather carry concealed and have an assortment of guns ranging from my sub compact, a mid size and a full size 1911 style 9mm, depending on the time of year and clothing, by all means the full size 9mm is my favorite, but I'm looking at a 1911 45

  10. I believe carrying a gun is suppose to be comforting not necessarily comfortable!
    If you are confident with a 380 in your pocket go for it!
    As Serenabit said: First rule of a gun fight, have a gun!
    In hot weather, I down size to a Charter Arms 44spl Bull Dog. I carry it in an IWB
    With two plus reloads! In colder weather I lean to a 45acp.
    Either a Colt or my Para 14. With either carry, I carry two extra mags!
    In my younger years when licenses where not heard of. I may of slip a small
    auto into my back pocket!
    And as thing get a bit more chaotic. I have thought of carrying a small revolver
    in a coat pocket.
    Would use to give me time to get to my full size gun if needed! (Cold weather only)
    Maybe I miss it. I know this article was not about extra ammo.
    The ones who carry a 380acp. Do you carry a spare mag?

  11. I did this dance between glock 27. Then went with LCP for pocket carry. Then px4 Storm compact .40. I loved that PX4 storm ALOT!(weighed a bit much) But I went back to Glock 27 40. Its really not bad to carry in the summer time. In fact if you are wearing a belt and have a hybrid holster, I think its the best thing you could carry. IMO

  12. I have pocket carried a compact 380 semi-auto for many years, and that has always been my primary CCW. I've tried larger handguns in IWB holsters, and they were always just too inconvenient for me – either forcing me to make additional or alternative clothing choices, or having me be concerned about printing. I realize that there are certainly ways around those concerns, I'd just rather ALWAYS be armed, and never have to inconvenience myself. Like most of us, I'll probably go my entire life without ever having to shoot anyone, or even to have to display my weapon — but for me the big plus is always having one on me — and my pocket 380 semi-auto ALWAYS fits the bill for me – as I ALWAYS have pockets!

  13. BOTH; first, a wise old warrior once told me, in a gun fight, you will never have the gun you want, you will have the gun you have, what he meant is that people get lazy, weak and complacent and end up carrying a lesser gun out of comfort. Also, the rule in the real world is two is one, one is none. I say carry your pocket guns as BUGs, and carry a real handgun for your every day self defense. I dont always carry a BUG, I usually make that decision based on where and what im doing. I do ALWAYS carry a full sized large frame auto and an extra mag as well as a good sharp knife. if I ever have to commit to the fight, I WILL have the gun I want not the gun I have.

  14. Picking a CC or pocket firearm is a verry personal thing like donuts…. Some like frosting some like sprinkles. I'm a plane cake kind of guy.
    I'm old school when it comes to CC with a semi auto…. My choice is a Colt 1911 officers with 7 round mags.
    I figure if I can't do the job or at least keep their head down I'm doing something wrong. It's thin bit has a full sized grip that fits my big paws. My colt is reliable! They have a hamer so one in the pipe and as I'm pulling I'm cocking. I've had work done to it and the mag feed is nicely beveled so I can slap a new mag in prity dam quick…
    Let's face it if you need more then 7 then you are FUBAR!

    When its hot I carry in a fanny pack…. 55, gray, bumuda shorts and Hawaiian shirt with a fanny pack. Nothing out of place to attract attention there.
    FYI: the pack I use is from GEAR 911. Well made,simple, fits my wide load and at a good price.

  15. Due to working multiple different assignments, sometimes in the same week, I have to carry a variety of holsters in a variety of different positions. I practices with all positions, but I try to keep the weapon generally in the same place (right side of my body, 1 o'clock to 4 o'clock position) regardless of my posting.

    That being said, I've never considered pocket carry to be an option. Pocket carry essentially limits you to .380 or .38 caliber. I suppose you could get away with a snub-nose .357, but I can't imagine that being an easy gun to retrieve from a pocket in a hurry. For me, anything small enough to fit in my pocket is either going to be an inferior caliber or too small for me to shoot reliably. Thus, not an option.

    I carry a variety of IWB and OWB holsters. I'm a huge fan of Wild Bill's Concealment holsters. Admittedly I've not tried a Crossbreed or Galco King/Super tuck.


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