In a world of perpetual autumn where waist-length jackets are always worn, concealing a handgun on your hip is never an issue. But here in the temperate zone of Earth, it’s eventually summer and hot.
So each year as we transition from wearing long sleeves and jeans to tee shirts and shorts, how we adapt our concealment technique is important. One of the most popular concealment techniques that just seems to go with summer time is pocket carry.
Regardless of the weather, gun toters have been lining their front pants pocket with a compact handgun since the 1800’s. The trick is to do it correctly to avoid shooting yourself during an attempted draw. The things that make it possible to actually hide a gun in a pants pocket are also the things that make it hard and dangerous to get the gun back out.
So pocket carry requires a properly fitted pocket holster.
As I discuss this valuable technique for concealed carry, allow me to present a maxim: never carry a handgun of any style or function in your pocket without a properly fitted pocket holster. Can we agree that just dropping a handgun loosely into your pants pocket and then later when you are likely in a somewhat austere situation trying to retrieve it quickly is a recipe for disaster?
Pocket holsters make the tactic of pocket carry work. Here’s why: a well designed pocket holster to be used in your pants pocket has many of the attributes of your favorite hip holster, such as high quality materials and (where applicable) strong stitching. A pocket holster should be molded to fit just one make (if not at least one size) gun, and not be made as a generic “gun bag” that fits a broad range of handgun. Most importantly, a good pocket holster covers the trigger guard fully to prevent anything from getting onto the trigger. It is designed to keep the gun sitting upright and oriented in the best possible position to allow you to reach in and obtain a proper grip.
Another important attribute some manufacturers overlook is that the pocket holster should be made to be easily inserted into front pants pockets of clothing, while harder to remove. This means material on the outside of the holster (such as rough suede or a synthetic bullhide) that creates friction against the lining of your pocket to hold it stable.
Of course, you also have to pick a pocket that properly pockets the pocket-sized gun. Women’s pants have different pocket shapes and sizes than men’s, right? Not all pockets will work for this. I’ve seen women’s blue jeans you couldn’t get a paper clip into much less a handgun! Even with men, if you pocket carry and the unmistakable outline of a gun is printing through your pants and stretched so tight you can read the serial number, you’re not really concealing anything.
You also have to have a handgun that is pocket-sized. For my friend Ralph who is 6’5 or so, this doesn’t rule out many guns. But for my friend Shelley who is 5’2, what makes a potential pocket gun is quite different.
Fortunately there are a broad range of suitable defensive power handguns in smaller packages from a wide range of manufacturers. If you can shoot a very compact single-stack .40 S&W or 9mm well enough to carry, then you can have your choice of easy to carry pocket guns. The .380 ACP guns are more common in this size range and lighter and easier to carry in a pocket holster, but unless I’m really desperate I do not go below that for defensive work. There are too many pocketable 9mm’s for me to worry about that (plus I’m a great fan of compact snub-nosed .38 Special revolvers).
Anyway, to see if this technique will work for you, you have to try it with an empty, safe gun first. To practice this technique, first ensure there is nothing in your front, strong side pants pocket. Nothing. This is not the place for spare change, keys, or a knife. Check the fit of your intended everyday carry (EDC) gun and pocket holster with an empty, safe handgun first to be sure everything works and is reasonably comfortable.
Practice inserting the empty, safe handgun into the pocket holster and then into your pants pocket a few times to be sure. A training simulator, like a plastic or rubber exact replica gun works for this as well. Walk around, sit, bend about in front of a mirror, get in and out of the car, etc. all with the dry gun to be sure this works for you, and more importantly actually conceals it!
The general drill order here is: With an empty gun in your strong hand (and your trigger finger away from the trigger) bring the pocket holster up in your support hand into your “workspace”—just in front of your upper chest but out in front of you, arms bent comfortably as if you were halfway down on a pushup. Insert the gun into the holster being sure your support hand fingers aren’t in front of the muzzle. Hold the holster by the side not the end.
Now if the holster is made of a hard synthetic or wet molded leather it won’t fall off the gun as you let go with the support hand. If your holster is made of suede or soft nylon, use your trigger finger and thumb of your strong hand on the outside of the holster to keep them together as you remove your support hand. (That hand goes to your mid chest just like with your basic draw stroke.) Insert the gun and holster into your pocket keeping your trigger finger outside the holster in your pants pocket as it slides in. Do not use your support hand to spread open your pants pocket. When you do technically you’re violating Safety Rule #2 and pointing the gun at your own hand.
If you are pocketing a striker fired pistol like an M&P, Glock, or Springfield XD you might want to put your strong hand thumb on the back of the slide as you insert the package into your pocket to avoid it moving rearward during this procedure.
To draw the gun—again using an empty gun for the first two dozen practice sessions—bring your support hand to your chest as with a standard draw stroke and presentation. With your strong hand go into the pocket far enough to obtain the best grip you can on your gun. Ideally it’s a perfect grip, but it depends on your hand and your pocket.
Remove the gun out and up into Position Two, muzzle now downrange and support hand still on your chest. The pocket holster should still be in your pocket. Continue your presentation as normal, picking up your support hand as you guide the gun forward at the target. Front sight, press. Repeat as necessary.
As stated above a proper pocket holster has material on its outside that will cause sufficient drag against the inside of your pocket to keep it in your pants as you draw the gun. The whole design philosophy here is so that when drawing the gun, it comes out but not the holster. If this doesn’t occur, change holsters or buy new pockets!
To re-holster (re-pocket) do not try to put the gun back in the holster while it’s still in your pocket. Take the pocket holster out with your support hand and start over holstering your gun as above.
Some other tips I’ve seen pros use include wearing a loose fitting top over your pants even though the gun is in your pocket. I’ve personally inserted a checkbook between my pocket holster and the inside of my pocket to break-up the outline and avoid “printing”. And lastly, resist the urge to look at your pocket all the time or touch it or cover it with your hand. Subconsciously you’re showing everyone where your gun is.
Next before you’re ready to go live with pocket carry as your concealment method, train this technique on a safe gun range. I hate the thought of ever having to actually employ an emergency procedure like a gun draw stroke from my pocket without doing it dozens of times dry fire and dozens of time live fire first. I would absolutely loathe discovering the gun won’t come out when I really, really need it!
I have used this method of concealment for over twenty-five years in hot weather and also cold. Pocket Carry with Pocket Holsters works well if you invest some time and training.
Now don’t forget once you’ve trained a new method of concealed carry to document your training session with the CCW Guardian Smartphone app.