14 Great Pocket Pistols for Personal Defense

posted on December 29, 2017

In the world of personal defense, pocket pistols are often called upon to provide effective protection in a package that can be easily carried. As the gun community becomes more diverse, people are more interested than ever in pocket pistols that are up to snuff. They call for a firearm that's well-hidden until needed and is reliable, shootable and comfortably carried.

While the definition of a "pocket" pistol is largely flexible depending on the size of the pocket, generally, an example measures no more than 6.5 inches long and measures less than 1.25 inches wide. It is readily identified as a maneuverable, short-barreled, self-defense pistol. Many of these guns are chambered in calibers that are the same as full-size assemblies and what they sacrifice in accuracy, they make up for in concealability. Here’s our lineup of 14 great pocket pistols for personal defense:

Beretta Pico

Measuring only 0.71 inch wide, the Beretta Pico is definitely the thinnest pistol on the market and is one of the smallest overall options out there for concealed carry, making it a definite option for pocket use. In addition to its incredibly compact size, the Pico is built with a number of attractive features, such as adjustable sights, ambidextrous magazine release and its specially designed low-recoil system.

The gun is built with pocket use in mind, featuring a rounded profile that disappears easily with the use of a quality holster. The pistol ships with two six-round magazines.

Caliber: .380 ACP
Capacity: 6+1
Barrel Length: 2.7 inches
Overall Length: 5.1 inches
MSRP: $300

Bond Arms BullPup9

Bond Arms purchased the unique BullPup9 design from Boberg Arms and made several refinements to the platform, creating an innovative personal-defense pistol that operates using a unique bullpup-style operating system. Unlike traditional semi-automatic pistols that strip rounds to the front of the magazine, The BullPup9 actually extracts rounds from the rear. This allows for a much longer barrel to be used in a smaller platform suitable for pocket carry.

However, this unique system is not without its drawbacks. The magazine is, of course, a proprietary design, and only certain kinds of ammunition can be used in the BullPup9. If bullets aren't crimped tightly enough, the extraction of the round from the magazine can mechanically disassemble the round inside the gun. Also, only a limited number of guns are produced by Bond Arms each month.

Caliber: 9mm
Capacity: 7+1
Barrel Length: 3.35 inches
Overall Length: 5.1 inches
MSRP: $977

Colt 380 Mustang

When Colt comes to mind, consumers generally think of traditional, full-size 1911 guns. With the 380 Mustang, the company took the traditional look, feel and reliability of its full-size guns and provided it in a compact, pocket-size platform. This pistol features a traditional single-action trigger combined with a stainless-steel slide and a polymer frame, creating an easily carried platform that weighs less than a pound when loaded.

This is a light, reliable pocket pistol and an ample concealed-carry choice. Carriers should be conscientious of potential snag points, but this pistol is a traditional, albeit smaller, reflection of Colt dependable design.

Caliber: .380 ACP
Capacity: 6+1
Barrel Length: 2.75 inches
Overall Length: 5.5 inches
MSRP: $599

Glock G42

The Glock G42 is similar in shape and feel to its larger brothers and sisters, making it a natural choice for those already familiar with the platform. It marries the .380 ACP round in a standard 6+1 capacity with an overall length just shy of 6 inches. Despite the clamor for a larger-caliber model, which eventually resulted in the introduction of the G43 in 9mm, the .380 ACP G42 continues to be a popular choice for those looking for the smallest possible option.

Though it is slightly larger than most of the pistols in this lineup, the G42’s curves and smooth appearance make for a manageable pocket carry. Serrations on the rear of the slide may prove to be too slick for racking the slide in a hurry in damp conditions.

Caliber: .380 ACP
Capacity: 6+1
Barrel Length: 3.25 inches
Overall Length: 5.94 inches
MSRP: $399 

Heizer Defense PKO-45

Heizer Defense announced at the end of 2017 that it was finally shipping models of its highly anticipated PKO-45, one of the smallest .45 ACP personal-defense guns on the market. Manufactured with a stainless-steel frame and barrel, the PKO measures only 0.80 inch wide, making it the thinnest .45 available today. The PKO-45 also uses a unique fixed-barrel arrangement in which the guide rod actually sits over the top of the barrel. The company claims this unique setup works to reduce felt recoil.

The Heizer Defense PKO-45 operates with an internal-hammer design and features an ambidextrous safety. The total weight of the gun is 28 ounces. Magazine capacity is five rounds, although an extended magazine is also available that increases capacity to seven rounds.

Caliber: .45 ACP
Capacity: 5+1
Barrel Length: 2.75 inches
Overall Length: 5 inches
MSRP: $899

Kahr Arms CT-380

This polymer pocket pistol is a cost-effective solution for those carriers that are seeking out a reliable compact pistol without breaking the bank. Despite being chambered in .380 ACP, this pistol carries an additional round compared to most 6+1 setups. A few downsides on the CT-380 include a long trigger pull, as well as potential snag points on the frame and slide that could compromise smooth draws and returns.

As for appearances, the CT-380 looks like a more economical firearm. As a result of this simple design, functionality across this compact pistol is improved. A smoother release of magazines and improved breaking stack the deck in the shooter’s favor.

Multiple carriers confess to a necessary break-in period for the CT-380. Anticipate sending a few boxes of ammunition downrange before performance begins to smooth out.

Caliber: .380 ACP
Capacity: 7+1
Barrel Length: 3 inches
Overall Length: 5.52 inches
MSRP: $419 

Kel-Tec P-11

Initially, the Kel-Tec was one of the smallest pistols available on the market. Nowadays, there are much smaller options available, but Kel-Tec continues to offer its P-11, since it continues to offer a number of benefits over similar-size pocket pistols. For one, users get a gun chambered in 9mm rather than the less-powerful .380 ACP. Also notable is the 10+1 round capacity, which far surpasses any other pistol in this lineup.

Aesthetically, the P-11 is not as much of a refined piece. It is wholly a concealed-carry pistol on the larger side for pocket-pistol carry, but it is manageable. Accurate and moderately smooth in curvature and design, this pistol feels more like tool you can use hard and put away wet. All in all, this is a dependable pistol and a solid choice, particularly for those individuals on a budget.

Caliber: 9mm
Capacity: 10+1
Barrel Length: 3.1 inches
Overall Length: 5.6 inches
MSRP: $347.27 

Kimber Micro 9

No doubt the Cadillac of this round-up, Kimber’s reputation for precision and reliability don’t fall short. Even through torture-testing environments, the Micro 9 breaches through the finish line sitting pretty. The 9mm chambering is resolute enough to provide proven stopping power while still being small enough to fit easily into any pocket.

In terms of potential shortcomings, the Micro 9’s unfailing adherence to the 1911 chassis creat potential snag points, including the iron sights and a prominent beaver tail. Nevertheless, despite the higher price tag that comes with the Micro 9, you can expect to have a quality firearm that provides confidence.

Caliber: 9mm
Capacity: 6+1
Barrel Length: 3.15 inches
Overall Length: 6.1 inches
MSRP: $790 (for the Desert Tan model pictured above) 

Remington RM380

The Remington RM380 is a great carry gun that links ergonomics with functionality. Its curves mix traditional full-size accents with an apparent mind for concealability. It rivals the Taurus Curve in size and, due to its size and lengthy trigger pull, is really only well-suited for close-range personal defense.

Carriers should consider the short grip that may require the use of a magazine extender for individuals out there with larger hands. Additionally, the RM380's lengthy trigger pull breaks late. Suffice to say, carriers should practice (as with all firearms) drawing, firing and holstering in order to build confidence and skill.

Caliber: .380 ACP
Capacity: 6+1
Barrel Length: 2.9 inches
Overall Length: 5.27 inches
MSRP: $436 

Ruger LCP II

The Ruger LCP II, in appearance alone, offers the best blend of ergonomics and function. The subdued size of the iron sights in addition to its curves make this a fluid pistol that carries forward reliability and toughness. What is most unmistakable about this pistol however, is its size. Smaller than most sub-compacts, The Ruger LCP II separates itself from the crowd with respect to pocket concealability. Most carriers will tolerate minor frustrations with any concealed carry firearm but the LCP dethrones discomfort, thanks to its small size.

The LCP has gained considerable popularity and it’s difficult to find a gun shop that doesn’t carry a supply on hand. Supply has truly married with demand in this case, mostly in part to this pistol’s practicality but also its price. The new LCP II is priced well within the range of the average consumer, and the company still sells its original LCP model at a reduced MSRP of $259.

Caliber: .380 ACP
Capacity: 6+1
Barrel Length: 2.75 inches
Overall Length: 5.17 inches
MSRP: $349  

Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard 380

Researching and compiling a roster of pocket pistols would not be complete without a reliable unit from Smith and Wesson’s M&P line. This is a solid compact pistol that doesn’t sacrifice performance for style. The Bodyguard’s purpose is all in the name and truly is a dependable pistol that can face threats confidently.

Carriers of this pistol will probably attest to its occasionally frustrating assembly and disassembly features. Additionally, the trigger breaks late. There are aftermarket modifications that can be made but out of the box, owners should be aware of these potential frustrations and practice accordingly.

In size, the Bodyguard mirrors nicely to the Kahr CT-380, is a little bigger than the LCP, and appears dwarfed compared to the Glock 42. Again, due to its size, this pistol makes for a phenomenal pocket carry but may fumble around in larger set of hands. Regardless, a steady set of hands will reveal that for its size, the Bodyguard is a fairly accurate piece.

Caliber: .380 ACP
Capacity: 6+1
Barrel Length: 2.75 inches
Overall Length: 5.3 inches
MSRP: $379 

SIG Sauer P290RS

As SIG continues to pave the way forward in terms of its personal-defense lineup, a pocket pistol to accompany some of the company's larger personal-defense guns is a welcome sight. Modern ergonomics balance the tradeoff between smooth curves and the hard-angled features that aid in the pistol’s operation but could potentially hinder smooth draws and reholstering. The 9mm chambering, combined with the barrel’s distinctive bell-shaped tip, makes for a more powerful, more accurate pocket pistol.

For those carriers that appreciate some heft in a compact or sub-compact pistol, the P290RS offers a solid, 1-inch wide slide that gives this pistol a likeness to a full-size companion. A potential drawback resides in its grip. For those with larger hands, alternate grip panels and an extended magazine are recommended. Additionally, there’s the small matter of price. SIG prices can often be a deterrent for some prospective buyers, but for what is sacrificed in the wallet, the P290RS certainly makes up for in quality and a feature-rich design.

Caliber: 9mm
Capacity: 6+1
Barrel Length: 2.9 inches
Overall Length: 5.5 inches
MSRP: $492

Taurus Curve

Most notably, the Curve does just that; it curves. If a prospective buyer is seeking out a pistol that hugs to natural lines of drift along the body, this jumps to the top of the list as a suggested purchase. For more experienced pistol pwners, the unnatural curve of the pistol grip may seem foreign and distracting but this design makes it much easier to actually carry the gun, a purpose for which it was expressly designed.

The Curve does not have any iron sights. This is an even “closer”-quarters pistol that relies on the immediacy of the situation and proximity to the target. The user "aims" the gun by looking through the back of the slide. Additionally, the barrel contours to its rounded slide in the name of a smooth return to a holstered position against the body. As a result, the end of the barrel is not rifled.

This pistol is not a dual-purpose range-and-personal-defense firearm. Its design is unique to the concealed-carry user and should be used accordingly. The ergonomics are complemented by a standard 6+1 payload, rendering the Curve capable of mitigating threats. The carrier should be aware of this pistol’s unconventional safeties and should practice clearing, loading and shooting accordingly.

Caliber: .380 ACP
Capacity: 6+1
Barrel Length: 2.7 inches
Overall Length: 5.2 inches
MSRP: $392.42 

Walther Arms PPK

The Walther PPK is one of those guns that needs no introduction, having been the signature sidearm of the famous James Bond, the fictional British spy at the center of dozens of books, films and video games. Technically speaking, the Walther PPK chosen as Bond's principal sidearm was chambered in 7.65mm Browning, which is the typically European designation of the .32 ACP. However, Walther amped up its PPK offering with upgraded chamberings in .380 ACP, making it more suitable for personal defense.

While a classic design, it isn't without its shortcomings. The all-steel construction makes it a heavy gun for its size, though the added weight does make it more comfortable to shoot. In addition, the pistol is known to be picky regarding ammo selection, so owners should be sure to thoroughly test any defensive ammo in the gun before counting on it for personal defense.

Caliber: .380 ACP
Capacity: 6+1
Barrel Length: 3.3 inches
Overall Length: 6.1 inches
MSRP: $699

At the end of the day, any of these pistols are capable of effectively stopping a threat. Select a pocket pistol that serves as an appropriate extension of yourself, and practice situations that enhance your personal-defense capabilities. As always, be safe, be active and be vigilant.


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