Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Thoughts on Pocket Holsters

This morning I received the following comment from an anonymous readers;

Anonymous said...

I would like to hear your thoughts on actually carrying and deploying this pistol from I assume a pocket holster and I assume "cocked and locked" condition. If this is the case, do you have any apprehension about the idea of a cocked and locked pistol without a grip safety in your pocket?

I thought this was an insightful question so rather than talk about it in the comment section I thought I would write about it within the blog.


I have no apprehension about carrying the P238 cocked and locked in my pocket as long as certain conditions are met:

1. It must be carried in a pocket holster. Any handgun carried in a pocket must be carried in a pocket holster in order to keep the pistol in place. If you do not use one you will find that the loaded magazine has made it grip heavy causing the grip to to shift downward in your pocket. This leaves it in an inverted "v" position. When you attempt to draw your hand will find itself grasping the the rear of the slide instead of the grips.

I like the synthetic holsters from Uncle Mike's or DeSantis. I have had instances where a leather holster comes out of the pocket with the pistol. Even those that have a rougher exterior still rely on a lip at the top of the holster on which the thumb can push off. Some have a hooked portion at the bottom of the holster which will hopefully catch on the bottom of the pocket opening as the pistol is drawn. The synthetic pocket holsters are made with a tacky exterior that grips the inside of the pocket so the holster stays put when the pistol is presented.

2. The pocket holster must cover the trigger and side-frame mounted safety in order to protect the safety from becoming disengaged and the trigger from becoming engaged. If these things happen it will go bang.

The Uncle Mike's pocket holster shown above is small but provides no protection to the safety and the trigger.

This Uncle Mike's pocket holster fits perfectly, is lightweight, thin and offers the proper protection to the safety and trigger.

This DeSantis pocket holster goes a bit too far. It offers excellent protection (and believe me this holster is pretty much guaranteed to stay in the pocket) but the SIG P238 sits so low that it is going to take another second or so to grasp it properly in order to draw.

The lack of a grip safety is really of no mind to me. John M. Browning only put it on the 1911 because the Army was afraid of accident discharges if dropped by the Calvary while riding on horseback. Browning left it off of the P35 better known as the Browning High Power which is also a single action pistol with just the frame mounted slide safety.

The cocked and locked pistol in the proper pocket holster is just fine as long as you put it in your pocket and leave it alone. Many people who are new to their CCW permit get a pocket pistol, place it in their pocket and then fidget with it. I used to do this and I recall talking with a business colleague who told me that he was waiting for his wife in a Sears and was completely zoned out when he realized his hand was in his pocket, gripping the pistol, with his finger on the trigger of his Kahr PM40.

I also have an inside-the-waistband tuckable holster for the SIG P238 because not every pair of pants I have are conducive to holding a pocket pistol. The first consideration is the depth of the pocket. You have probably not thought much about this if you haven't carried a handgun in your pocket. Some pockets are just not deep enough to conceal the handgun. The second consideration is the structure and weight of material of the pants. Material that is light and loose allows the pistol flop around and possible print against the fabric or allow the pistol to shift even though it is in a pocket holster. Chinos and denim are the best fabrics for keeping the pistol in place and guarding against it printing. However, blue jeans pose a somewhat different problem. First of all the pockets are usually rather tight against the body making it a little more difficult to get into the pocket and retrieve the pistol. The second consideration is the shape of the pocket opening. Chinos and dress slacks usually have a vertical slash pocket which is very easy and quick to access. The pocket opening on jeans however, are usually somewhat horizontal. That opening, coupled with the tightness of the material covering the pocket make it more difficult to draw a pocket pistol. I said difficult, not impossible. If you normally wear jeans and desire to carry a pocket pistol you are going to have to spend a little more time practicing your draw. You will need to unload the pistol and check it twice more, making sure that there is not a round in the chamber. You will need to practice stabbing your flattened hand into your pocket to access and get a good purchase on your pistol. It is not difficult, but you will not perform this well in a stressful situation unless you practice and build up muscle memory so that the movements are automatic without conscious thought.

So that's it for pocket holsters. If you have a question or comment, please let me know.


Anonymous said...

Since I was the author of the question that provoked your comment, I guess I can wade back in here. I think your response is very well thought out and I appreciate the look at various pocket holsters. The only one thing you left out (and this may seem like picking the odd nit) is the detent on the safety itself. I have seen various pistols where the safety leaver can just be sort of smeared off without any sense of resistance.

If I were going to carry the little SIG like this, I would want a very positive stop, both up and down, on that safety and a strong spring behind that plunger so I knew damn well it was on safe and it would stay that way. Again, this is the only possible element missing from your reading on this issue of "cocked and locked" in your pocket. Thanks for a very well considered response to my question.

Average Joe's Handgun Reviews said...

Anonymous, you are certainly correct. As I said in the original review of the P238:
"I also like that the safety locks with a very positive "click" and stays in place. On both my Mustang and Colt Government model there was some loose "play" in the engagement of the safety. I was always mindful that the safety might become disengaged while in my pocket. I do not have this phobia with the SIG."

So I am going to be OK with the SIG but it must be evaluated on any single action pistol carried in the pocket or not. I had a Colt Government model in the 1970's where a stiff breeze could disengage the safety. I can't tell you how many times I took it out of it's pancake holster and found that the safety had been swept off.

Thanks for reading the blog and writing your comments.

Unknown said...

I'm interested in knowing the brand and model on the IWB holster you mentioned. I have a P238 and would like a functional IWB holster for daily carry.


Average Joe's Handgun Reviews said...


I use the Galco U.S.A, Ultimate Second Amendment holster for the P238. You can see it on their website at: http://www.usgalco.com/HolsterPG3.asp?ProductID=1752&GunID=502

Galco also makes a couple of other IWB holster for the P238. The "Tuck and Go" and the "UDC, Ultra Deep Cover". Enjoy!

RB said...

Average Joe,

Great review. May I ask what model/product number is the second uncle mikes holster? I was looking at the Desantis, too, do you sincerely believe that it will cause a significant reduction in draw time? I will probably not carry this most often in a jacket or cargo pocket, so it will take some time to get to. Thoughts?



Average Joe's Handgun Reviews said...


It's a number 2. Pocket holsters are just slightly slower to draw from than any other concealed carry holster if carrying in a pants pocket. If it is a question of being a half second slower and leaving the pistol at home, I'd take the pocket holster. However pocket holsters also offer the advantage of being able to put your hand in your pocket without telegraphing that you are going for a pistol.