Becoming more and more popular these days, pocket pistols have snared a serious market share with the shooting public. They are carried as secondary hideout weapons, or often as a primary gun in situations precluding a full sized weapon. Walking around the house or dropped in a pocket for a quick trip to the corner store, more and more gun owners every day are choosing to make a small pistol part of their defensive strategy.
This is nothing new in history. At one time no gentleman left home without a small pistol carefully stowed in a vest pocket or purse. Both in the former
The ‘Baby Browning’ and little Beretta are considered classics for concealed vest pocket carry, and many a shopkeeper carried a top break revolver under his apron as well. Police officers routinely had a small backup pistol as part of their daily kit, and still do.
For generations, firearms makers have catered to this segment of the buying public, but today’s selection is better than it’s ever been before. The variety of small revolvers and automatics designed for concealed and pocket carry is almost staggering. Taurus alone offers more than thirty variations of its small revolvers, and numerous builders now offer sub-compact autos clearly designed for pocket carry. Pocket ‘holsters’ have now come to the market (and about time) that hold the weapon safely at the proper angle for trouble free carry and draw. Perhaps best exemplifying the pocket pistol genre, the concealed hammer ‘bodyguard’ type of snubnose revolver is showing resurgence.
One question that comes to mind… at least to the terminally inquisitive amongst us is this; can pocket pistols be fired from…well… the pocket? Certainly a firearm can be fired from within ones clothing, or through a barrier, but what about from the pocket it’s carried in?
There can only be one good reason to fire a pistol from the pocket instead of drawing it first. That would be a threat so close, so sudden, and so dangerous that an armed response in a split second is the only reasonable reaction. A situation so close and so dire the second it takes to draw the weapon is one second too long.
In such a situation the pistol takes on its most important role; bodily defense. The requirements of a defensive pistol are many, but chief among them is reliability. The weapon must work as expected, and do so every time.
In that situation, we can assume the range will be close. Arms length probably, and even touching is possible. With an attacker trying to gain physical control, even the act of sliding a hand into the pocket might be all that’s possible. Accuracy is not an issue, as aiming would be instinctive. It would be a true case of ‘point shooting’.
The question remains… will the pistol function as designed when fired from the pocket? If it fires once (as almost all surely will) will it be able to fire again, or be rendered inoperative at a time when it’s needed most?
Follow along as this small scale test is run……
For a ‘pocket’, a typical pair of blue jeans pants was used. Jackets would have suited as well but I wished to explore a worst case scenario; a pocket just loose enough to grasp and fire the pistol. Made of fairly stiff fabric and having an inner lining, it approximated a light jacket pocket as well.
First up was the Beretta auto in .380. Typical for a small carry pistol, the Beretta is noted for outstanding reliability. Its slim build fits the pocket nicely, and it’s miniscule sights and rounded hammer rowel leave little to snag the fabric. Certainly it would fire from a pocket, at least once, but how serviceable would it be afterwards?
The very first attempt showed an immediate problem. The pistol fired once and then malfunctioned. The slide had operated normally, extracting the fired case and beginning to load the next round from the magazine. That’s where it all ended, as the fired case neatly ‘stove piped’ in the action, blocking the slide from going forward. The fabric close to the pistol had not allowed the empty to fly free, and the weapon was inoperative till cleared.Attempted again, this time three rounds were fired before the same malfunction occurred. Once again, a stove piped empty blocked the action and took the weapon out of service.
Forming a generalized conclusion from very limited data, it seems that firing an auto from within a pocket is a recipe for trouble. There is every chance, If not likelihood the weapon will be rendered inoperative when it’s needed the most.
Moving on to revolvers, the external hammer .38 snubnose came up to bat. The pistol managed to function for four rounds before fabric bunched under the hammer and blocked the mechanism. Not only would it not fire again, but it was thoroughly snagged on the pocket lining and difficult to remove. It took two hands and several moments to clear it.
Once again making a fairly general observation, a revolver with an external hammer has problems functioning with wadded up cloth stuffed under the hammer. This is not the weapon for firing from within a pocket reliably.
Finally, the vintage H+R concealed hammer revolver in .38 S+W. This pistol is reasonable small, quite light for its type, and has nothing on it to snag fabric. In these features it shares the stage with the Bodyguard type revolver, excepting the potency of its cartridge. The .38 S+W is a weak sister compared to even the .38 special, and is a holdover from the days of low pressure black powder cartridges.
Fired from the pants pocket, the H+R hammerless top break performed flawlessly. All five rounds fired smoothly, and the pistol was withdrawn afterwards without a hint of snagging. It appears the shop keepers and barmen of the roaring twenties had an idea what they were doing!
There really wasn’t enough testing to arrive at a solid conclusion, but the anecdotal evidence found here suggests only one type of pocket pistol can be reliably fired from the pocket in a split second defensive situation; The hammerless or concealed hammer revolver.