14 Great Pocket Pistols for Personal Defense

Stay safe while being discreet.

posted on December 29, 2017
Pocket pistols for self defense

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:

Ruger LCP Max


This pistol is perhaps the most efficient pocket-pistol of them all. The Ruger LCP Max is the updated version of the Ruger LCP. It features 10 round flush fit and 12 round extended magazine in .380 ACP. The slide is only .81 inches wide, while the gun weighs only 10.6 ounces! It is equipped with an upgraded trigger from the original LCP and comes with a tritium front sight. The patented “barrel cam geometry” reduces felt recoil, while the slide serrations and raised cocking ears make slide manipulation a breeze. Of course, this pocket rocket bears the Ruger name and reliability that comes along with it. The LCP Max is loaded with features and capacity right out of the box that are hard to beat.

Caliber: .380 ACP
Capacity: 10 rounds
Barrel Length: 2.80 inches
Overall Length: 5.17 inches
MSRP: $499

Kimber Ultra Carry


Although this Kimber stretches the boundaries of “pocket carry” at 25 ounces and 1.28 inches thick, we just couldn’t leave out the .45 ACP. The benefits of the Ultra-carry are its accurate bull-barrel and crisp single-stage trigger. The weight of the pistol will allow the shooter to keep their sights on target while managing recoil. This is certainly the most expensive of our pocket-carry list, but it’s a mini 1911 with an all-aluminum frame and a steel slide. It also comes in a variety of cool-looking slide and grip combinations.

Caliber: .45 ACP
Capacity: 7 rounds
Barrel Length: 3 inches
Overall Length: 6.8 inches
MSRP: $1,119


SIG Sauer P938


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

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 

Beretta Tomcat



We had to throw a .32 ACP Beretta on the list, these guns are just cool. The Tomcat is tiny and light at only 14.5 ounces but comes with features such as a SA/DA trigger and a threaded barrel. Speaking of the barrel, it features the unique tilt-up barrel design instead of the classing tilting action. There is no need to rack this little pistol, just insert the loaded magazine and flip up the barrel to chamber a round instead. The .32 ACP is a fun little round which functions well as a pocket pistol caliber. Rest assured this pistol is built with the same precise engineering and design as all Berettas are, while looking just as classy.

Caliber: .32 ACP
Capacity: 7 rounds
Barrel Length: 2.9 inches
Overall Length: 5.42 inches
MSRP: $649

Taurus 380


For a more affordable revolver option, it’s hard to beat the “Ultra-Lite” Taurus 380. This pistol has a height of only 4.40 inches with an adjustable rear sight. The alloy frame and comfortable rubber grips keep the weight at only 16 ounces. Available in either matte black anodized or natural anodized, its aesthetically pleasing as well. This affordable double-action revolver from Taurus is a pocket pistol for the masses.

Caliber: .38 Spl.
Capacity: 5 rounds
Barrel Length: 1.75 inches
Overall Length: 5.95 inches
MSRP: $559

SIG Sauer P365


If you’re going to carry this one without the manual safety, a pocket-holster would be a wise choice. The reigning king of “micro-compact” pistols can indeed be carried in the pocket, although at 17.8 ounces in weight, it can get a little heavy. The P365 has an ergonomic grip and a clean trigger which make the pistol very easy to shoot. Steel 3-dot night-sights top off the Nitron-coated steel slide. Available 12 round magazines allow the user more capacity with little added length to the grip. 13 rounds in a very shootable pocket pistol puts this one near the top of the list.

Caliber: 9mm
Capacity: 10 rounds
Barrel Length: 3.1 inches
Overall Length: 5.8 inches
MSRP: $599

S&W 642

Small frame revolvers have always been great pocket companions. The 642 upped the game by using an all-alloy frame to keep the weight down to 14.6 ounces. An internal double-action hammer and a simple ramp front sight keep the gun snag-free. With an only 1.3 inches width, we just couldn’t keep the 642 off the pocket-pistol list.

Caliber: .38 Spl. +P
Capacity: 5 rounds
Barrel Length: 1.88
Overall Length: 6.31
MSRP: $539

LCP II lite rack

RUGER LCP II (Lite Rack)
The LCP II Lite Rack is almost identical in size and weight as the LCP Max, weighing in at only one ounce more. Although the LCP Max has the benefit of a more potent round, this .22LR has significantly less recoil along with the actual ammunition weighing less. The slide will be easier to rack and recoil much easier to control for people with weak or reduced grip strength. The .22LR ammo of yesterday is much different than today. With potent hollow-point rounds such as Federal Punch and others, this little pistol would still make an excellent deterrent.

Caliber: .22LR
Capacity: 10 rounds
Barrel Length: 2.75
Overall Length: 5.20 inches
MSRP: $439




With its patented 13 round magazine, the striker-fired Hellcat kicked off the higher-capacity micro compact 9mm craze. However, it works great as a pocket pistol when used with a flush-fitting 11 round magazine. Other great features include a Picatinny rail on the frame, tritium night sights and the option to mount a red dot optic.

Caliber: 9mm
Capacity: 11/13 rounds
Barrel Length: 3 inches
Overall Length: 6 inches
MSRP: $599

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 

Ruger LCR

The Ruger LCR is easily the most versatile of all the pocket-pistols. This little revolver is small but varies in weight depending on caliber from 13.5 to 17.2 ounces. The list of calibers is impressive though: .38 Spl +P, .22LR, .357 Mag., 9mm, and even .327 Federal Magnum. They all have 1.87 inch barrels and a five round capacity, six rounds with .327 Mag. and eight rounds with the .22LR version. The frame is lightweight but still strong due to its 7000 series aluminum construction. A smooth double-action trigger pull and Hogue grips helps with recoil and overall control, while the internal hammer and ramped front sight makes it virtually snag free. Let your caliber dreams run wild with the Ruger LCR.

Caliber: Multi
Capacity: 5-8 rounds
Barrel Length: 1.87 inches
Overall Length: 6.50 inches
MSRP: $739-$859

Glock 43


The Glock name is legendary for one main reason, reliability. At just over 1 pound in weight, this isn’t the lightest pistol in the bunch, but you can pretty much guarantee it to get the job done. The single-stack 6 round magazine is decent for a 9mm pocket pistol and its 1.06-inch width helps make it more easily concealable. Equipped with Glock’s safe-action trigger and an extended beavertail, it can be carried safely and shot comfortably.

Caliber: 9mm
Capacity: 6 rounds
Barrel Length: 3.41 inches
Overall Length: 6.26 inches
MSRP: $529.99

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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