Shooting Revolvers and Autos From the Pocket

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The GLOCK 43 was good for one shot. We expected it to jam in the lining of the coats, but it locked up when it couldn't clear the spent case.

The GLOCK 43 was good for one shot. We expected it to jam in the lining of the coats, but it locked up when it couldn’t clear the spent case.

I have heard stories about shooting from the pocket without drawing the gun first–anecdotes from people with first-hand experience as well as the “I know a guy who has a friend who tried it” variety. I became interested in seeing what the real-world applications of this method might be along with what limitations this technique would impose.

Safety First

Not wanting to leave the range with either a hole that I didn’t bring with me, scorched flesh or some other embarrassing injury, we decided that a few safety protocols would be necessary for this operation to succeed. First of all, the participants in this exercise reviewed Col. Cooper’s 4 Rules of Gun Safety. Next we employed some pre-tests using safety gear to determine the feasibility of this technique before jumping in with both feet. Finally, we agreed on each person’s on-range roles and responsibilities in regard to the loading and handling of the weapons involved in this test.

The perfect pocket pistol? At least for firing from inside a coat. This Smith has a laser, too--though it doesn't do you much good inside the pocket.

The perfect pocket pistol? At least for firing from inside a coat. This Smith has a laser, too–though it doesn’t do you much good inside the pocket.

Weapon Selection

There are a vast number of weapons that will fit in your pocket. I wanted to select two guns that (to me) represent modern self-defense handguns with a reputation for reliability. Some concepts were rejected out of hand as they seemed to present a high probability of failure. A couple of examples of these were exposed hammer revolvers and pistols with external safety controls.

What we selected for the test was the Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard .38 and the new Glock 43 in 9 mm. We believe these two types of guns clearly represented the highest probability of success with this method of shooting, even as we acknowledge that there are numerous brands and models that would represent an equally fine choice. These also happened to be readily available the day of testing.

I think equally important as what we selected in firearms, is our selection of ammunition for this test. This test needed to be performed with self-defense ammunition. To that end we selected Hornady Critical Duty 9mm for the Glock. For the Smith & Wesson we selected Remington Golden Saber, mostly–and several other JHPs we had on hand.

Safety? Within reason. A gloved hand inside a tight pocket. As it turned out, there was no heat to speak of.

Safety? Within reason. A gloved hand inside a tight pocket. As it turned out, there was no heat to speak of.

Proof of concept

Having never done this before, I needed a baseline to assure me that I was not going to injure myself. I also wanted verification that the guns were not going to fail to function no matter how I positioned them. The method that I employed to do this was to first, glove up. This would offer me some protection on my hands and allow me to see if there was any powder burn or pressure issues that would prohibit safe functioning during the test. The next portion was to simply fire the guns through the pocket of an old pair of blue jeans. This would allow me to control how the gun was positioned and keep the action from becoming caught in the fabric.

It was quickly evident to me that the guns would function and there was no heat or pressure issues that I experienced while firing the guns. The one issue that I quickly noticed is that it is very difficult to be aware of your muzzle when firing from a garment. I’m sure some of you are having a forehead palm moment, but hear me out! This is more than just not being able to see the muzzle. You are dealing with clothing that will not allow a visual confirmation. It is definitely a new sensory input when attempting to manipulate the gun safely.

We shot from distances ranging from contact to 15 feet. The closer you are, the better it works. Not a surprise.

We shot from distances ranging from contact to 15 feet. The closer you are, the better it works. Not a surprise.

Trust but Verify

I think it was President Reagan who said in reference to the Soviet Union, “We should trust but verify.” My plan was to do just the same thing with these two little pocket pistols. So, the initial distance chosen was 9 feet. My first garment was a leather dress jacket. I felt that it was important to have a garment that was not just nylon or cotton. Also, my wife hates this particular jacket and forbid me to ever wear it in public with her. From one pocket I fired two rounds from the revolver and from the other pocket two rounds from the pistol. Functioning was flawless for both guns. However accuracy, at best, was just acceptable.

Next, I moved to 15 feet and switched to a nylon jacket. I also reversed the guns in my pockets. First, I fired two rounds from the little Glock and then two rounds from the M&P. As before, the issue was not functioning but rather accuracy. I got three of the four rounds on target somewhere but most would not have been highly effective hits.

The next test was performed by my colleague David Higginbotham, Editor-in-Chief of Guns America. This was what we called the Real-World Test. Starting at almost contact distance, David first fired from inside the pocket while retreating, then retrieving the gun for aimed fire as more distance was created. The little Smith & Wesson performed flawlessly and accuracy was well worthy of embracing this technique as a close-quarters self-defense tool. The only thing left was to replicate the test with the popular Glock 43. We began the test and the first shot quickly struck the target center-mass but then the gun fell silent. The gun was retrieved to reveal a very interesting level 2 malfunction. This would have required removing the magazine, racking the gun, reinserting the magazine and cycling the slide to get back in the fight.

The nylon coat offered nice concealment, and the gun poked through the hole easily for better follow-up shots.

The nylon coat offered nice concealment, and the gun poked through the hole easily for better follow-up shots.

What worked and what did not

This is one of the few recaps I’ve done where there’s no ambiguity. Only the revolver with no exposed hammer is going to deliver 100% reliability in shooting from your jacket pocket. In the words of Walt Rauch, “This is a bad breath technique” (meaning that you would have to be close enough to smell the perp’s breath for it to be effective). I would be reluctant to rely on this technique at even a mere 9 feet. One detail worth noting is that I consistently had more accuracy from the revolver regardless of distance. I think this is because the grip is just more intuitive for this unique style of shooting.

Limits of shooting from the pocket

The limits became brighter and brighter as we fired round after round. Shooting from the pocket requires you to be indexed on a single target. I would not recommend this with multiple targets. Your clothing must have enough room to allow you to operate the gun. Most people will find distance to be uncomfortably close in order to be assured of well-placed hits.

And don’t forget that carrying your gun in your coat pocket, free from a holster (so it can be used in this manner), isn’t always easy or advisable. It is an element of staging your gun that requires planning and caution.

Final thoughts and advice

To use this technique for self-defense you must practice! This is not for beginners and your choice of weapon is critical. But this is a valid self-defense method of shooting within a narrow set of circumstances. The one facet of this shooting-through technique that we did not test is shooting from a complete off-body platform such as a briefcase or man purse of some kind. I would be interested in revisiting that at another time.

{ 37 comments… add one }
  • Alexander W. November 30, 2016, 10:54 am

    The 642 has served law enforcement well, most notably the FBI and the DEA. Don’t mistake its size and caliber for a gun for the weak, if you know what you’re doing, almost anything is fatal, and the 642 is no different, especially with it’s praised low-recoil. Woman, man, it doesn’t matter, the 642 is one of the best conceal carry guns.

  • Greg Bailey July 9, 2015, 6:49 pm

    Have seen video in past of .357 mag from pocket setting a jacket on fire due to substantial flash from that round. Recommend trying this yourself with each pistol/load combination you carry to determine which are and aren’t suitable for this technique.

  • Ken Keith July 8, 2015, 8:58 am

    Good article; however it seems obvious to me that the semi-auto would be a waste of time. I bought my wife a S&W 642 for her purse. Five shot revolver, no exterior moving parts associated with the hammer mechanism, I told her just to reach in as if she were handing over her wallet, three shots from the purse and save the last two for when she has the laser on them. Beware bad guys, my 5′-3″ tall 110 lb. wife doesn’t need a man to protect her.

  • Larry July 7, 2015, 8:04 pm

    Very informative information. Makes a lot of sense. Thanks guys.

  • Frank Boyer July 7, 2015, 3:41 pm

    Great job John .. as a FFL for the past 15 years as well as a professional firearms instructor for the past 30+ years this is always a topic for discussion .. I teach many different styles depending on the course I am certified to teach but over the years I have always said you need to be able to shoot from a pocket, man purse, back pack, regular purse or what ever .. I do realize that this attitude doesn’t sit well with some but with proper education and practice you can stand and do what is necessary to win .. fyi my wife carries a s&w lady-smith, its a great gun, packs a wallop .. keep up the great info.

  • Mick Dodge July 6, 2015, 11:57 pm

    Is that a rocket in yer pocket or are you just happy to see me
    winky winky…

  • Jim July 6, 2015, 11:12 pm

    The answer is a S&W 640 with a 3″ barrel and a Tamiami Hip Grip. The hip grip is a tongue grip; gives a nice palm swell and eliminates the need for a holster. The revolver is stainless (no sweat/rust issues). The 3″ barrel version has a Full Length ejector rod (positive case extraction). Fully hammerless, it can be fired from a pocket or a purse without drawing. I can conceal this wearing jeans and a tucked-in shirt (or shorts). You put it in a pocket (as opposed to drawing from waist carry) if things are looking iffy but you don’t want to display the weapon. Draw is also easy (no projections to slow you down or hang you up). Longer sight radius (3″ barrel) allows for aimed fire. Put in a Wolff spring kit and a Brownell’s .015 over length firing pin and you you have a sweet, positive ignition, carry gun.

  • Jack July 6, 2015, 8:09 pm

    I sometimes take my lcr out of my holster and place it in my jacket pocket when I’m walking from my vehicle or to my vehicle at night or questionable areas. That was why I purchased the hammerless model. I’m worried about a sneak attack.
    But always be aware of your surroundings.

  • C DeWitt July 6, 2015, 4:22 pm

    I have a .38 wheel w/bobed hammer. Would not work from pocket. Must at least be shrouded, no? Looks as if I ll have to draw to get follow up.

  • Jo July 6, 2015, 2:54 pm

    I would be interested in any tests you do on firing from a purse. My husband got me a purse that looks like a cross between a purse and a computer bag and is designed for a gun to fit in the middle section, zipped from the back side. There is lots of room and I always felt that if I was in a life or death situation I would just shoot from the purse without removing the gun. Since there is more room in this ‘pocket’ (at least big enough to put my laptop in it), I never thought about there being a problem using my Springfield XD 9 mm. Please let me know if you find this to be an issue also. Thank you for your article. I found it very interesting.

    • Jay July 8, 2015, 8:02 am

      Jo, remember that most perps when picking a woman as a target are going to be grabbing for your purse and run. Do you want them to have your gun too? Women need to use another method of concealed carry that way you don’t loose your means of protection. There are many viable options out there for women, look it up and try them out! Yes, you can shoot through your purse as long as its not so full that something in it is going to obstruct the muzzle, practice with a similar old purse with items in it, always keeping safety in mind!!!

  • S Martin July 6, 2015, 2:06 pm

    Less than unprofessional. Unsafe muzzle direction and unloading technique during Glock 43 reveiw. Muzzle pointed at himself during examination and worse, covering, bumping muzzle with hand while unloading it. Not a safe way to handle and or demonstrate a firearm.
    S. Martin
    Shooting instructor

  • Frank July 6, 2015, 12:51 pm

    Why don you try firing a .22 magnum derringer with its 3″ ring of fire.

  • max hoyle July 6, 2015, 12:04 pm

    Dean Grinnel did this 20 years ago and he had some luck with revolver but slide never cycled in a pocket, you didn;t mention this.

  • Bill P. July 6, 2015, 11:56 am

    Comment from Dean F. ” and feel that routine carry of an unholstered pistol in one’s pocket is just overly dangerous and that the risk of an AD is not worth the time such a carrying method MIGHT save…”

    Kindly elaborate on your comment please.

  • gvhparkridge July 6, 2015, 11:28 am

    Great video, thanks, I passed it on to a couple friends…..good work

  • Old Clockguy July 6, 2015, 11:17 am

    Well, a very intriguing non-scientific test of a long thought about technique that could possibly be used for personal self defense, here are my own reactive thoughts on the demonstration. First of all, no matter how you carry or what your intentions be for leaving your home armed, it stands to reason that no single scenario will be all inclusive to the real world that you will enter into as you leave your personal confines. So, even though you walk out into the world packing 6 different weapons in various modes of readiness, you still need to keep a level head when a threat is exposed and maybe be able to recognize and act on possibly no more than a split second opportunity when you can gain advantage over the threat and be able to survive the confrontation. Personal defense includes not only the quick and accurate use of any weapon at hand but also the ability to choose the proper “weapon” to survive the encounter. This may mean that “at bad breath range”, you can stop the intrusion of your safety with a well placed punch to the head or kick to the family jewel chest. Whatever works best for the situation facing you.

    We have available to us today so many means and positions to carry a weapon concealed and so many devices to aid in carrying that weapon accordingly, that I tend to discount the importance of carrying loose or holstered in a coat or jacket pocket as any more important than carrying a backup knife in the back pocket of my pants. Without accuracy, the potential stealth and speed with which one might be able to deploy and fire a weapon toward the imposing danger from within a coat pocket is minimal to the safety of the individual. I at least want the option to level my weapon and draw a sight pattern on the perp rather than depend on the angle that I hold that pocket gun at my side getting the job done. The only time I remember seeing anyone hitting anything consistently, shooting from the hip, was in western movies or old films of Annie Oakley’s feats of shooting.

    When a confrontation reaches that point where you MUST take action to survive, I will not be a static target, first of all. As my draw is executed, I want to be taking evasive action, making it at least a bit more difficult for the threat to hit a moving target. One has to remember that, in most cases of attempted armed robbery, the perp is also in a heightened state of alarm, nervous, and trying to cover all areas of vision in front of him.

    Wearing an outer garment already provides good cover for an IWB or other means of concealed carry from which one can defend themselves. I saw no compelling motive in this test to warrant carrying a small pocket gun in my coat pocket in preference to a well hidden IWB carry under the already worn outer garment. And, as someone mentioned already, down here in FL we seldom wear “big boy pants” let alone coats so the concealment is that of the chosen position of carry and/or an un-tucked T-shirt to conceal the carry in all but the few cold months we experience.

    Finally, I want to congratulate John on his astute summation of this test. He obviously has thought out many of the possibilities involving having to fire a weapon from within a garment pocket. I agree with his verdict that, of the two types of weapons used in his test, the revolver excelled in performance hands down. But the overall opportunity of use of this technique is such that it may not merit the importance of other methods of carry on a day to day basis. I don’t want even a small weapon weighing down one pocket of a coat or jacket and possibly becoming an obstruction to reaching my IWB weapon should the need arise. I am comfortable with my technique of draw as it is now and probably would not risk involving other less positive means of protection in favor of one more object to carry around.

    We all risk our lives no matter where we are or what we are doing. The point of the exercise is to minimize the chances of sacrificing our personal safety to those beyond our control and prepare as best we can for those with which we stand some chance of successful dealing. I will always take my chances on dealing with LEO questions about action and intention when it comes to my being able to give those answers in fair and honest format. Dead is dead no matter how right you were in your intentions. I want to stay on the “live” side of THAT equation as long as possible and I see action as much more of a controlling factor than intention in any situation.

  • Don Bishop July 6, 2015, 11:15 am

    Getting your hand into the pocket of a pair of Levi’s is nearly impossible from a sitting position. (Unless you have exceptionally baggy jeans and no girth.) My point is that the clothing you select is important as well. Your clothing can create limitations or opportunities.

  • Old Clockguy July 6, 2015, 11:10 am

    Well, a very intriguing non-scientific test of a long thought about technique that could possibly be used for personal self defense, here are my own reactive thoughts on the demonstration. First of all, no matter how you carry or what your intentions be for leaving your home armed, it stands to reason that no single scenario will be all inclusive to the real world that you will enter into as you leave your personal confines. So, even though you walk out into the world packing 6 different weapons in various modes of readiness, you still need to keep a level head when a threat is exposed and maybe be able to recognize and act on that one split second opportunity when you can gain advantage over the threat and be able to survive the confrontation. Personal defense includes not only the quick and accurate use of any weapon at hand but also the ability to choose the proper “weapon” to survive the encounter. This may mean that “at bad breath range”, you can stop the intrusion of your safety with a well placed punch to the head or kick to the family jewel chest. Whatever works best for the situation facing you.

    We have available to us today so many means and positions to carry a weapon concealed and so many devices to aid in carrying that weapon accordingly, that I tend to discount the importance of carrying loose or holstered in a coat or jacket pocket as any more important than carrying a backup knife in the back pocket of my pants. Without accuracy, the potential stealth and speed with which one might be able to deploy and fire a weapon toward the imposing danger from within a coat pocket is minimal to the safety of the individual. I at least want the option to level my weapon and draw a sight pattern on the perp rather than depend on the angle that I hold that pocket gun at my side getting the job done. The only time I remember seeing anyone hitting anything consistently, shooting from the hip, was in western movies or old films of Annie Oakley’s feats of shooting.

    When a confrontation reaches that point where you MUST take action to survive, I will not be a static target, first of all. As my draw is executed, I want to be taking evasive action, making it at least a bit more difficult for the threat to hit a moving target. One has to remember that, in most cases of attempted armed robbery, the perp is also in a heightened state of alarm, nervous, and trying to cover all areas of vision in front of him.

    Wearing an outer garment already provides good cover for an IWB or other means of concealed carry from which one can defend themselves. I saw no compelling motive in this test to warrant carrying a small pocket gun in my coat pocket in preference to a well hidden IWB carry under the already worn outer garment. And, as someone mentioned already, down here in FL we seldom wear “big boy pants” let alone coats so the concealment is that of the chosen position of carry and/or an un-tucked T-shirt to conceal the carry in all but the few cold months we experience.

    Finally, I want to congratulate John on his astute summation of this test. He obviously has thought out many of the possibilities involving having to fire a weapon from within a garment pocket. I agree with his verdict that, of the two types of weapons used in his test, the revolver excelled in performance hands down. But the overall opportunity of use of this technique is such that it may not merit the importance of other methods of carry on a day to day basis. I don’t want even a small weapon weighing down one pocket of a coat or jacket and possibly becoming an obstruction to reaching my IWB weapon should the need arise. I am comfortable with my technique of draw as it is now and probably would not risk involving other less positive means of protection in favor of one more object to carry around.

    We all risk our lives no matter where we are or what we are doing. The point of the exercise is to minimize the chances of sacrificing our personal safety to those beyond our control and prepare as best we can for those with which we stand some chance of successful dealing. I will always take my chances on dealing with LEO questions about action and intention when it comes to my being able to give those answers in fair and honest format. Dead is dead no matter how right you were in your intentions. I want to stay on the “live” side of THAT equation as long as possible and I see action as much more of a controlling factor than intention in any situation.

  • Marcelino July 6, 2015, 11:00 am

    Great reviewed. The statement, “that the first shot or round is very disrupted,” is not only for the aggressor but also for a decent armed citizen; the elderly, woman with children or a pair of lovers on an leisurely walk. Solution train/practice. The internet café shooting in Ocala, FL, is a great start. You can see and study it from youtube.

  • Marcelino July 6, 2015, 10:39 am

    Great reviewed and the statement, “the first round or shot will be tremendously disrupted,” knowing this training/ practice should kick in.

  • Downriver July 6, 2015, 9:44 am

    This is about as stupid as anything fat Jon ever wrote, and that’s saying a lot

  • Nick Shoup July 6, 2015, 9:44 am

    I look forward to this study being done with a man purse.

  • Mike July 6, 2015, 9:32 am

    I wish you had tried it with the gun in a pocket holster too.

  • Bryan Erickson July 6, 2015, 8:34 am

    great article , but you missed an important malfunction ? if you keep your pistol in your pocket, make sure the clip doesn’t become disengages ! i have never fired from the pocket , but have checked my guardian 32 several times , and the clip had dropped out ! at one time i carried a 3913 s & w in an sob holster . i leaned back in a chair , and the clip dropped to the floor ! very embarrasing !

  • Bryan Erickson July 6, 2015, 8:34 am

    great article , but you missed an important malfunction ? if you keep your pistol in your pocket, make sure the clip doesn’t become disengages ! i have never fired from the pocket , but have checked my guardian 32 several times , and the clip had dropped out ! at one time i carried a 3913 s & w in an sob holster . i leaned back in a chair , and the clip dropped to the floor ! very embarrasing !

    • Jay July 8, 2015, 7:53 am

      Bryan please Do Not Repeat the anti-gunners agenda words as it make all firearm owners look like buffoons! There is no Clip they are Magazines!!

      • donald comfort July 8, 2015, 8:17 pm

        Jay Thank You

  • Greg A July 6, 2015, 8:19 am

    A small, shrouded-hammer, DA/SA revolver I find best, point it like you point your finger. 10-20 feet range. Find grips that fit you well for this, and PRACTICE.

  • Dean F. July 6, 2015, 8:03 am

    Back when I still worked in the “private sector” transporting payrolls in NYC, I would routinely draw my Model 10 and, while still holding it in a one-handed shooting grip, would place it in my jacket pocket before exiting the car and walking down the street. When I switched to a Mod. 469, I stopped doing this as I feared the auto-loader would become a single shot. I would only carry the Mod. 10 when I felt the risk of attack was high. I pocket carry, off-duty, IN A POCKET HOLSTER and feel that routine carry of an unholstered pistol in one’s pocket is just overly dangerous and that the risk of an AD is not worth the time such a carrying method MIGHT save…IMHO.

    • Larry July 6, 2015, 1:56 pm

      Dean, I couldn’t agree more. Unless I am undergoing the Zimmerman treatment by Travon, I will be pulling my gun from it’s pocket holster before firing it.

    • donald comfort July 8, 2015, 8:14 pm

      Dean, I agree with you. The one major point, one I feel is critical, not mentioned is that whatever you decide
      to carry in a pocket gets dirty quickly. The weapon of choice needs to be inspected for lint, dust etc OFTEN
      and cleaned accordingly, especially any semi auto

  • John M July 6, 2015, 7:52 am

    With the limit of distance and accuracy I would reserve this technique as a last resort method when the attacker has you under control or is on top of you with you on the ground and doesn’t expect it at that point.

  • Lou Gots July 6, 2015, 5:09 am

    Good article. I agree with most of the conclusions. Depending on the weather, I carry either a Ruger LCR or a S&W 296ti (5-shot hammerless titanium .44 Spcl.) in a light-weight, unzipped windbreaker or a hoodie. When I’m down in FL, the LCR in the pocket of surfer-type “baggies” does it.

    A lot of practice with snap-caps is a good way to prepare oneself for what we all hope does not happen.

    That the author’s experiments produced semi-auto malfunctions is no surprise. How could it not? One may as well have a single-shot derringer as a semi=auto for in-the-poscket carry.

  • Martin B July 1, 2015, 6:48 pm

    I may be wrong (conceivable but unlikely), but the Glock 43 failed when fired from the left hand pocket, yet seemed to work well when fired from the right hand pocket. Could this be because the wearer’s body causes the ejected round to jam, whereas the outside of the pocket itself does not do this? In other words, from the right hand pocket, the material has sufficient elasticity to allow the fired case to eject safely. But your concerns about accuracy are also a point well made. So revolver it is.

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