Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. I am not handing out legal advice. I make no claim to be an expert on the use of firearms. The following are just my personal opinions and observations. If you carry a concealed weapon, you and you alone are responsible for your own actions. Also, I am writing this article from the standpoint of a "civilian," not a law enforcement officer (LEO). Different rules and tactics apply for LEOS.
Choosing a Mousegun/Pocketgun
I define a "mousegun" as a handgun that weighs less than 16 ounces empty, and/or will fit easily in a front pants pocket. This is my own personal definition, so take it or leave it. If you want to define a mousegun some other way, that's fine with me. A pocketgun is obviously one that you carry in your pocket.
There are many choices in the mousegun world. There are derringers, semi-auto pistols, and revolvers. There are all kinds of calibers available, from .22 long rifle on up to shotgun shells. With single or double shot derringers in particular, you can get any caliber you like, and still stay under 16 ounces, and have a pocketable firearm. On the other hand, one or two shots isn't much. What if you have two assailants? How will you defend yourself? A few extra rounds would come in handy!
My personal recommendation for a mousegun/pocketgun is some sort of semi-auto pistol in either 9mm or .380acp. Why choose a small .32acp pistol, when you can shoot a more powerful .380acp pistol that is about the same size and weight? And if you can pocket a 9mm pistol, why settle for the smaller .380acp? Of course, price and availability come into the equation, as well as "shootability." The 9mm round in a very small pistol may be too much for some people to handle well and comfortably. And a $1000 9mm Rohrbaugh pistol may be an ideal choice for you, but beyond your budget. The small .22 revolvers by North American Arms are too small in my opinion. And they are single-action only, which means they are difficult to shoot quickly or accurately in stressful situations. The grip is very small, and they are hard to hold. It is also my personal opinion (with which many will disagree) that the small j-frame S&W pistols are still a bit too large for comfortable pocket carry. You may feel differently, and if the j-frame works for you, that's great!
Here are some photos of some well-known pocket guns...
Kel-Tec P3AT (.380 ACP)
S & W 342PD
Kahr PM9 (9mm)
Choosing a pistol is also a very personal decision. You need a pistol that you like. It doesn't matter what anyone else says about it. If you don't like it, then it's not for you. It also needs to be reliable, and you can't take anyone's word about which pistols are reliable. Get yourself a pistol you like, and work with it. Shoot it enough so that you are confident that it will go bang if you have to pull the trigger in a time of great need. Carry it it your pocket long enough that you are confident in your ability to conceal your firearm, and carry it all day long without feeling burdened by it. I love the GLOCK 27 pistol for front pocket carry in my khaki pants. But because it is a bit larger and heavier than most pocket pistols, I had to work up to it. My first pocketgun was a Kel-Tec p3at. Then I found the Kel-Tec PF9, which would fit well in my pocket. Finally I found a holster that really worked well with the GLOCK 27. So, the GLOCK 27 is NOW my personal choice, but it may not work for you, for a pocket gun.
My choice for a pocketgun is really two choices, one for weekdays and one for Sunday. I go to church every Sunday, and I wear a suit. On week days I wear khaki slacks. On weekdays I find that I can comfortably conceal my GLOCK 27 in my khaki pants front pocket. But I can't do it in my thinner suit pants on Sunday. The material is too thin, and the pants are a little tighter, and the GLOCK just won't conceal well and feel comfortable. So when I wear a suit, I carry a Kel-Tec P3AT in my front pocket, and that works very well. The Kahr PM9 and the Ruger LCP (.380acp), or a Seecamp .380 also seem to me to be fine pocketable mouseguns. Some people like the .380 pistols from North American Arms, which are small, but they are a bit heavier. The brand doesn't matter. Find one that conceals easily, is comfortable to carry all day long, and is reliable in your personal experience.
Someone is probably objecting: if you are wearing a sport coat, or a suit coat, then you don't need to carry a mousegun at all! Just carry a larger gun with an IWB (in the waist band) holster, and your coat will conceal it. That's true. However, I find that I am often removing my coat for one reason or another, and the larger guns won't work for me, for absolute concealment. I like a pocketgun, in my front pants pocket. That's what works for me. If you want to carry a larger gun some other way, and if that works with your lifestyle, then go for it! I would if I could, but I can't. If you wear bluejeans every day, with an oversized untucked shirt, well don't worry about a mousegun! I think if that was my daily dress I would carry a GLOCK 22 or a 1911 style .45 all the time. Don't worry too much about caliber. Any caliber will do, if the bullets are placed in vital zones.
For more suggestions about choosing a mousegun, click here for my web page about "Defining a True Pocket Pistol."
Avoid Bullets That Over-Penetrate
One of Jeff Cooper's Four Laws for Firearms is: "Be aware of what is beside or behind your target." We should all have memorized the four laws a long time ago. Here they are for a refresher...
Cooper's Fourth Law makes us think twice about our ammunition. Full-metal-jacket bullets can easily pass all the way through a "Bad Guy," and hit another person standing behind the BG. This is "over-penetration." Too much penetration is a bad thing, and may lead to injuring innocent bystanders. You don't want to end up shooting a good person, and bringing about the very grief you are trying to prevent! For .380 pistols, FMJ bullets are probably OK. They will probably not go all the way through the body of a BG. If your pistol shoots .22 bullets, then use hollow points. The smallness of the .22 bullet makes it a slick penetrator. For 9mm, .40S&W or .45acp, hollow points are preferable, as they will expand inside the BG, and won't over-penetrate.
Here is a photograph illustrating full-metal-jacket versus hollow-point bullets...
The most important factor with regard to tactics is a realitic admission of the limitations of a mousegun. A mousegun is not suitable for engaging bad guys at long distance. Mouseguns are weapons of last resort, meant to be used really close up and personal. The purpose of a mousegun is simply to give you an edge - a chance to get out with your life. Sights are rudimentary, and mouseguns are not tack drivers. They are not range guns. They are not rifles. Most mouseguns are designed to be "shot little and carried often," not the other way around. If you are under pressure, and are armed with a mousegun, you will do amazingly well to hit a man-sized target at three yards. Fast, excited shooting at over three yards is very iffy.
One reason I am delighted that I have found a way to carry my GLOCK 27 in my pocket is that it is not exactly a mousegun. It shoots 40S&W rounds, compared to the less powerful .380 in my Kel-Tec P3AT. It is 100% reliable, and I find that it is quite accurate at 20 yards. If you can get comfortable with a pocketgun that is really more than a mousegun, that's the way to go.
Whatever pistol you carry, be aware that if you shoot at a bad guy who is more than just a few yards away, you are opening yourself up for a homicide charge. You may ONLY use your firearm if you are truly in life-threatening danger. If the bad guy is more than seven yards away, your life is probably not at risk, and legally (maybe not morally) it is your duty to run, not to fire your weapon, UNLESS YOU ARE A POLICEMAN. Then different rules apply.
Mouseguns are not suitable for firefights. If you are armed with only a mousegun, you do NOT run towards the gunfire. Mouseguns are strictly for personal defense. For example, if you happen to be in a shopping mall, and you hear and see a BG (bad guy) 40 yards down the hallway with an AK47, you had better realize right away that you are simply not equipped to go into battle. Grab your loved ones if they are near, and turn and run away as fast as you can. Discretion is the better part of valor. On the other hand, if you are near the BG when he pulls his AK47 out from under his coat, by all means do your best to draw and take him out. You are too close to run away, and close enough to hit your target.
If you are in an armed robbery situation in a restaurant, and the robbery is going on a room's length away, and you are not personally threatened, then keep your seat, and do no more than get ready. If you can see your way to a rear exit, and think you can get out before the BG notices and shoots at you, then get up and leave. Get your mousegun ready for use, draw it invisibly (under the table would be good), but don't use it unless you must. Maybe the BG won't come to your area of the restaurant. You are not there to be a hero. Your mousegun doesn't give you enough firepower to enable you to be a hero. You are not a policeman, either, so don't try to act like one. Remember this: THE BEST USE OF A MOUSEGUN IS NOT TO HAVE TO USE IT AT ALL. When I say to use it only as a last resort, I mean it! Use it ONLY when you have NO OTHER OPTION AT ALL.
If you are eating in a restaurant, and an armed BG comes in, and starts lining up the patrons, or herding them to a back room, and you have no escape route, you need to be ready for a more aggressive approach. If the BG is a room's length away from you, your mousegun may not be accurate enough to hit the BG, and if you try you may hit innocent patrons. But a deeply concealed mousegun may give you the edge you need to survive and even rescue others. How to use your mousegun in such a situation: 1) If possible, put your hand on your gun and get a good grip; 2) Wait for the BG to get within three yards of you - two is better than three; 3) Stand or sit with your "weak side" towards the BG, and draw your mousegun in such a way that the BG can't see what you are doing; 4) When the BG is not looking directly at you, and his firearm is not pointed at you in particular, immediately turn and immediately fire at the BG.
As Tuco said in the film The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, "When you have to shoot, shoot, don't talk." DON'T TALK TO THE BG. Don't say "stop or I'll shoot." Don't say, "Freeze." Don't say "Drop your weapon." Don't say anything at all, just shoot immediately and without any warning. Shot placement is more important than bullet caliber, so shoot into the center of mass, into the neck, or the head of the BG. If you are really up close (within three feet), go for the head shot first. Don't stop shooting until the BG is "stopped." "Stopped" means that he is no longer a threat. Perhaps he has dropped his weapon. Perhaps he is unconcious. You will have to judge the situation, but be certain he has been STOPPED. If he is still moving and still firmly gripping his weapon, he has not yet been stopped. He should be considered dangerous and a threat to your life and the lives of those around you as long as his weapon is in his hand.
Another thought (suggested by a reader at the USRange): "Consider taking one step to either side to provide a 'clearer' background (taking innocent bystanders out of the picture - either behind your intended target or behind you, in the event he returns fire)." This is in line with Cooper's Fourth Rule for safe gun handling. "Always be sure of what is behind or beside your target."
If there is more than one BG, and you have no clear exit, you should use your mousegun to take out the one nearest you. If you are successful, the second BG may flee, or he may shoot YOU. If he is not close to you, it will be difficult for you to engage him with a mousegun. If stopping the BG near you gives you an opportunity to flee out the door, do so. You are not a policeman. You probably can't do a one-man rescue of everyone there. If you can flee, then flee. On the other hand, if the first BG has a rifle, or a larger handgun, you may be able to take it, and use it against a second BG. If there are more than two Bad Guys doing the crime, your goose is probably cooked. It's an uncertain situation, and as always, you are in God's hands. We may be brave and clever, or we may be stupid, but it is certainly God who decides the ultimate outcome. Silent prayer is not a bad idea, but don't close your eyes!
Summarizing Mousegun Tactics
Finally, when the shooting is over, and the BG is not a threat any longer, put your gun back in your pocket or holster, and call 911, and inform the person on the line that "there was a self-defense shooting at" your location. Don't say that you are the shooter. Don't say anything else. Don't tell anyone where your mousegun is. Just put your mousegun in your pocket, and join the rest of the crowd, and wait for the police. Don't leave the scene. Don't talk to the other people about the shooting. Keep cool and keep quiet. Keep your mousegun in your pocket. "Out of sight is out of mind."
Half of the people there won't remember exactly what you did or did not do. They will not remember accurately what you said. It's better to keep quiet. They will all be witnesses at your trial, if there is one, and you may very well be arrested and charged with a homicide. You may also be sued by the BG for a million dollars, if he survives. So keep your mouth shut. WHATEVER you say may be used against you in court.
(A friendly and wise reader sent me the following email about the above paragraph, and I insert it here, because I agree with him about supporting the NRA-ILA. The NRA is a great help to gun owners.)
"This is a REAL and serious threat to law-abiding CCWers even in "good shoots." Fortunately, the NRA-ILA is well aware of it and has been fighting to pass their model Castle Doctrine law in states throughout the nation. Half of the states have passed it so far.
"For info on their model law, see: http://www.nraila.org/Issues/FactSheets/Read.aspx?id=188
"For their successes in passing their model law, see: http://www.nraila.org/maps/cd.jpg
"I encourage you to encourage your readers to join the NRA and help pass this law in more states. If nothing else, please encourage your readers to sign up for the NRA-ILA's free email alerts so they know when to help the NRA pass this, and other pro-RKBA laws, when the time is right. See: https://secure.nraila.org/EmailSignup.aspx"
When the police show up, just obey orders like everyone else. When they ask "Who shot the BG," raise your hand slowly and say "I was afraid for my life." Don't pull your mousegun out of your pocket until they order you to do so. Do exactly what they tell you to do, right away. Don't argue. Don't say anything except, "I was afraid for my life. That's all I can think about right now." Don't boast about what you did. If you are taken into custody, don't talk with the police about the shooting. Just say, "I was afraid for my life." You should have already called your lawyer, right after the 911 call. If you have a permit to carry a concealed gun, you should also have already found a lawyer who handles firearm self-defense cases; and his card should be in your wallet right now. Don't talk with anyone else about what happened.
Some lawyers advise you to NEVER talk with the police. Not just in the few minutes after an incident but NEVER. An innocent person (YOU) can be hung by his/her own seemingly innocent words. For example, suppose a murder happens and you tell the police truthfully that you were 20 miles away, but there is no EVIDENCE of that. Then suppose a witness makes an honest mistake and genuinely but incorrectly says he saw you two blocks from the murder. Your talking (and telling the truth) has you caught in a perceived "lie" that will look bad and help convict you. If you had not talked there would only be a witness putting you in the area. There are many other risks that talking opens up. For example, the police may make a genuine mistake and misquote what you said. A policeman once commented: "Going into a interview with an experienced LEO thinking you can win is like going up against a pro boxer and expecting to win. It is naive pride."
Xavier's Five Rules for Concealed Carry (From his Blog: Nurse with a Gun)
We all should know the Four Rules of Firearms Safety. They should be ingrained in our bones. Recently I read of the Five Rules of Concealed Carry. It was a good start, but did not quite make the grade. I have borrowed heavily from them though, and present my own Rules of Concealed Carry here.
1. Your concealed handgun is for protection of life only.
Draw your concealed firearm solely in preparation to protect yourself or an innocent third party from the wrongful and life threatening criminal actions of another. A CCW license does not give you any greater rights or responsibilities than any other citizen. It merely provides you with the means of legally carrying a firearm to protect your own life or the lives of others.
2. Know exactly when you can use your gun.
A criminal adversary must have, or reasonably appear to have:
a. the ability to inflict serious bodily injury (he is armed, reasonably appears to be armed with a deadly weapon, or a considerable disparity of force exists),
b. the opportunity to inflict serious bodily harm (he is physically positioned to harm you), and
c. his intent (hostile actions or words) indicates that he means to place you in jeopardy -- to do you serious or fatal physical harm.
When all three of these "attack potential" elements are in place simultaneously, then you are facing a reasonably perceived deadly threat that can justify an emergency deadly force response.
3. If you can run away -- RUN!
Just because you are armed does not necessarily mean you must confront a bad guy at gunpoint. Develop your "situation awareness" skills so you can be alert to detect and avoid trouble altogether. Keep in mind that if you successfully evade a potential confrontation, the single negative consequence involved might be your bruised ego, which should heal with mature rationalization. By contrast, if you force a confrontation you risk the possibility of you or a family member being killed or suffering lifelong crippling/disfiguring physical injury, criminal liability and/or financial ruin from a civil lawsuit. Flee if you can, fight only as a last resort.
4. Display your CCW, be prepared to go to jail.
You should expect to be arrested by police at gunpoint, and be charged with a crime anytime your concealed handgun is seen by another citizen in public, regardless of how unintentional, innocent or justified the situation might seem. Choose a method of carry that keeps your gun reliably hidden from public view at all times.
You have no control over how a stranger will react to seeing (or learning about) your concealed handgun. He or she might become alarmed and report you to police as a "man or woman with a gun." Depending on his or her feelings about firearms, this person might be willing to maliciously embellish his or her story in an attempt to have your gun seized by police or to get you arrested. An alarmed citizen who reports a "man with a gun" is going to be more credible to police than you when you are stopped because you match the suspect's description, and you are found to have a concealed handgun in your possession. Under these circumstances, you have been accused, apprehended, and are in a defensive position. If you must draw your gun, make certain you are the first to notify police.
Before you deliberately expose your gun in public, ask yourself: "Is this worth going to jail for?" The only time this question should warrant a "yes" response is when an adversary has at least, both ability and intent, and is actively seeking the opportunity to do you great harm.
5. Don't let your emotions get the best of you.
Develop and practice self control. If, despite your best efforts to the contrary, you do get into some kind of heated dispute with another person while you are armed, never mention, imply or exhibit your gun for the purpose of intimidation or one-upmanship. You will simply make a bad situation worse -- for yourself. You can carry a gun, or you can have a temper. You may even do both for a while, but it will not last very long.
With the growing population of gun toters, it is imperative that we establish a few simple guidelines to help introduce others into the world of concealed carry. These five are the best I've found.
Xavier has also written "The Concealed Carry Creed," which is worth reading and reciting from time to time:
Finally, read "The Mouse That Roared," (Ken Giorno)