Guns & Patriots

Pocket Carry of Small Caliber Concealed Handguns

Best of the breed small caliber handguns. Starting from 12 o’clock and moving clockwise are pictured the Beretta .32 wide body Tomcat, Smith and Wesson Model 317 .22 LR 8-shot revolver, Smith and Wesson Model 351PD .22 Magnum 7-shot revolver, Kel-tec P-32 semi-automatic pistol, NAA .22 Magnum Pug 5-shot mini-revolver, and the Beretta .22 LR Bobcat semi-auto.

Concealing a substantial handgun on your person is not easy. It requires forethought and commitment. While concealed means out of sight, if your piece prints through your clothing, it is not out of sight, but instead is a clue that you are carrying. You may not be breaking any laws when your firearm prints through your clothing, but you have just given up the element of surprise which is the reason to carry concealed. So, what do you do if it is difficult at best to effectively conceal a handgun on your hip or inside your waist band?

To carry or not to carry? Not a question!

One answer is to not carry. There are many folks who make this choice to avoid the hassle. However, for me and for many of you who are reading this piece, that is not a viable option. Carrying all the time, that is, always being armed makes the most sense and is the only answer. There has to be a better solution!

A small gun in your pocket

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Likewise, a gun in your pocket is worth two or more at home. Therefore, a little .22 LR pistol in your pocket is worth more to you from the standpoint of personal defense on the street than is a big .45 left at home. So, if the only way you can conveniently carry a gun is to carry a small caliber handgun in your pocket, do so, and go forth armed even if the little gun in your pocket is what some folks call a “mouse gun”. The good news is that nowadays, there are more choices of quality pocket guns than ever and more pocket holsters for those guns to choose from.

Small caliber “mouse guns”

Small caliber handguns are defined as handguns chambering the .380ACP, or smaller diameter cartridges such as the .22 LR, .22 Magnum, .25 ACP, or .32 ACP. These small bore guns are typically also small in size. So, small caliber handguns are carried when concealment is more important that power. The thing is that everything in life is a trade off.

In this installment, we shall talk about the .22s and .32s that are designed for pocket carry. In the next installment, we shall cover pocket .380 ACPs and up, and we shall examine pocket holsters in a future installment. While some say that friends don’t encourage friends to carry so called “mouse guns”, it is my belief that good friends encourage friends to (1) carry something as opposed to nothing, and (2) carry the biggest caliber gun they can manage to tote, even if it’s just a .22 LR.   

Advantages of pocket carry

Carrying a gun in your pocket offers a number of advantages over other modes of concealed carry assuming the gun you choose is not too big or bulky and your pockets are not too small.
•    Concealing a small gun in your pocket is easy and convenient.
•    You can have as many guns on you as you have pockets.
•    You can have your hand on your gun at the ready should you need to present your piece.
•    You save valuable real estate on your waist and other areas of your body for things like cell phones and other devices.
•    You can tuck your shirt in.
•    You don’t have to wear oversized or baggy clothes.
•    You eliminate the need for cover garments.
•    Pocket carry is more comfortable than hip carry for many folks who are very big around the hips and waist.

Disadvantages of pocket carry

There are also a number of disadvantages to carrying a gun in your pocket.
•    A gun in your pocket can be hard to access while seated especially for those with a belly or a big waist size.
•    If you need to carry other things in your pockets such as keys and wallets, carrying a gun takes up valuable real estate.
•    Unless you have a good pocket holster, the gun can end up upside down, muzzle pointing at your head!
•    Unless you have the gun well secured in a good pocket holster, the trigger is dangerously exposed to foreign objects.
•    Drawing a gun out of your pocket can be impeded if the gun is too big or if you are wearing other stuff on your waist.
•    If the gun is too heavy, it can pull you pants down!
•    If you choose the wrong pocket holster, that holster could come out of your pocket with the gun when you attempt to draw your gun out of your pocket.

All of these disadvantages can be mitigated by choosing the right size gun for your pocket and the right holster. This just might be a mouse gun in a well made pocket holster.

Best of the breed .22 LR and .22 Magnum pocket guns

 The .22 Long Rifle rimfire cartridge is inexpensive to shoot. That is a good thing as the price of ammo has risen sharply in the past several years and it is important to practice with the guns you choose to rely on to defend your life. In my experience, there are several .22 LR and .22 Magnum handguns that are the best of the breed. One is the little .22 caliber Beretta Model 21A Bobcat semi-auto with the its tip-up barrel feature for easy and safe loading and unloading. This cat will hiss with hot .22 LR loads such as CCI’s 40 grain Velocitor Gold Dot Hollow Points ( A second excellent choice is Smith and Wesson’s 8-shot Chiefs Special Model 317 AirLite snubnose revolver chambered for .22 Long Rifle. This is the lightest 8 shot revolver I’ve ever handled. It weighs in at 12 ounces with a 2 inch barrel and is made of high quality aluminum alloy with a steel liner in the barrel ( A third excellent choice is the North American Arms line of single action .22 LR mini-revolvers (

The .22 Magnum packs a mean punch for a little cartridge. In .22 Magnum, I also enthusiastically recommend the North American Arms line of single action 5-shot mini-revolvers. My favorite is the NAA Pug. NAA also has a new break-top or top-break version of the pug out called the Ranger. It allows for speed reloading five .22 Magnums on the fly. Smith and Wesson’s Model 351PD 7-shot .22 Magnum Airlite snubby revolver is also a winner.

Best of the breed .32 ACP pocket pistols

The venerable .32 ACP cartridge was made for pocket pistols. Larry Seecamp’s LWS .32 double action only semi-automatic mini-pistol ushered in a new era of micro pocket pistols in the 1980’s. His jewel of a gun functions flawlessly like a Swiss watch and is still viable and available new and used today. I must admit I am still smitten by this gun. Predictably others were as well and a host of manufacturers followed with their own versions. NAA produced their .32 ACP Guardian which is a solid and reliable stainless steel truck of a pistol. Both the NAA Guardian and the Seecamp .32 pistols are of a quality suitable to be  family heirlooms.
Beretta’s .32 caliber Beretta Tomcat semi-auto also features a tip-up barrel for easy and safe loading and unloading. Like its smaller sibling, the .22 Bobcat, this cat will really hiss with quality .32 ACP hollow-points such as Speer Gold Dots, Federal Hydra-Shoks, Corbons, and Winchester Silvertips.

George Kellgren, the founder of Kel-tec firearms ushered in another new era by miniaturizing the .32 ACP pistol into a 6.6 ounce polymer wonder. My Kel-tec .32 pistols are my gym guns, as well as back pocket back-up guns. They never ever fail to go bang when I press the trigger. They have surprisingly light recoil for such an ultra-light, ultra-thin pistol. They are so light weight that I have to add an extra magazine to my gun pocket just so I know I have a gun there!

Each of the handguns mentioned above are highly recommended. You have good choices. They leave you with no excuse for ever going unarmed.


North American Arms.
L.W. Seecamp.
Smith and Wesson.

Bruce N. Eimer, Ph.D., psychologist and NRA Certified Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor, trains law abiding citizens in the defensive use of firearms. His company, Personal Defense Solutions, LLC, also runs the classes required to obtain the Florida, Virginia, and Utah non-resident multi-state CCW permits. To learn more, visit: Dr. Eimer is also the founder and global moderator of the forum.

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  • T_SC

    I carry the Beretta Tomcat, in an Uncle Mike’s IWB soft holster.  I find that it conceals well when I have to wear a skirt, or dress slacks.  It is very reliable, and has little recoil for a short barreled 32.  I figure if I really need to use it, I’ll be close enough to aim true and take down my attacker.  I don’t need to be shooting accross a parking lot anyway. 

    I really like my Springfield XD 40, but I can only carry it if I wear bulky clothing and a cover jacket or oversized shirt.  Here in SC that is just NOT an option in the summer. 

  • charlesbrandon

    I carry a .22 Long Rifle Little pistol in my Fanny pack which is on my front instead of the backside. I also have a .32 Walther PPK that I sometimes carry. 

  • Buzz

    Allow me to add a plug for the .32 H&R Magnum.  Smith & Wesson has made some very capable featherweight revolvers in this caliber (432, 432, 332, 331).  They are not currently manufactured but can be found in new or like-new condition.  They can fire the .32 S&W Long for practice.  The .32 Mag is said to have the stopping power of a standard-velocity .38sp.

  • opar5

    NAA made 500 .22WMR “Ranger” break-tops, but try to find one at a reasonable cost, as you correctly state, no more are scheduled to be made.

  • chipster61

    Great Article!! I’ve often wondered in the world of small caliber pocket pistols why one of the gun manufactors doesn’t make a .22WMR semi-auto pistol.  One that would hold 10 to 12 rounds double stacked in the magazine.   I think that a .22WMR is somewhat under rated by most.  No it doesn’t have the knock down of the bigger calibers, but there have been a lot of people killed with a .22

  • Mort Leith

    A .380 with hollo-pts is about as small caliber as you really want to go..

    Face it, a .22 takes quite a few center shots to actually stop somebody, not to mention the velocity and ‘carry-past-target’ issue.

  • Doug Huggins

    NObody wants to be shot, not even with a .17 round…stopping power is one thing, dtrrence is usually enough…and a .22LR has been known to kill with a single round…just not likely to knock a drunk or druggie back enough to stop them instantly…

  • ManuelM

    55 years ago I shot an intruder with a .22 short out of my fathers night stand.  He ran and died an hour later at the hospital.  I do not recommend the round except that practice is cheap and a well placed shot is better then a missed one. 
    Most times my carry is a S&W, model 60, .38 spl in a leg holster.

  • JS

    I love my little NAA 22LR with the holster grips. Folds up nice and small and you can tuck it in your shirt pocket, throw it in your pants pocket if you’re wearing shorts or jeans, or just use the belt clip and attach to your belt or waistband. When it unfolds, you have a nice sized grip to grab on to. I keep mine loaded up with the CCI stingers. I use this gun when I can’t carry my primary which is a 327 federal magnum snub nose.

  • Brian Maday

    Sometimes “less is more”… a .22 lr Snakeshot in the face usually slows ‘em down pretty well, with a well-delivered kick in the nuts (IF it’s 1-on-1) – and nobody has to fight any kind of ‘kill’ charge. And lawsuits are cheaper if the assailant tries to fight later…

  • sddso75

    22 Magnum autoloaders rarely work, even when made in full size. Small autoloaders present far greater design and developmental engineering challenges: any rimfire round is problematic in a semi-auto and the 22 Mag is the worst. Geometry is all wrong. On top of that, loadings are optimized for rifles, not handguns, and especially not ultra-short-barrel handguns. A number of gunmakers have made the attempt.

  • sddso75

    No 32 H&R autoloaders are on the market. It’s only available in revolvers. Which might be an advantage; revolvers still outperform autoloaders about 100 to 1 in terms of reliability. Typically, a 32 H&R revolver will be more accurate than any autoloader.

    Those interested should check out the 327 Federal. Delivered energy is nearly twice that of the 32 H&R, well above most 38 Special loads, and is closing in on the 357. Charter and Taurus sold 327s for a time but have stopped, for unclear reasons. S&W and Ruger offer the only new guns now available; pricey but superior

  • Derek Weaver

    Absolutely right. .22WMR is a rifle cartridge through and through and it would be very hard for an autoloader to cycle a cartridge with those dimensions. I truly wish they could, though. It would be a deadly package.

  • Derek Weaver

    Good point, but I wouldn’t go that far!!

  • Ron04

    While I will concede that ANYTHING on your person is better than SOMETHING ELSE in the car, I think you’re all nuts. I too own the Beretta 21A and I love it, but its NOT a self defense gun, nor a self defense round. Anyone who relies on ANY of the make believe calibers mentioned here is simply not been around enough ballistics in the real world. There is NO REASON why the smallest person can’t find a way to conceal and carry a J frame revolver in .38 spl loaded with + P ammo. Anything else is a compromise YOU should not stake your life on.

  • guy r west

    think ive already seen one in the store

  • guy r west

    got to admit ime shoping but cant seem too find much that matches my income level but as some have pointed out something is better than nothing