Pocket carry, specifically pants pocket carry, offers many significant advantages over carrying a pistol in a conventional belt or inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster. These include convenience, simplicity, universality and excellent concealment without the need for a cover garment or even an untucked shirt. Because of these advantages, it should come as no surprise that some of the greatest gun experts in history were staunch advocates of pocket carry. J.H. FitzGerald, author of the classic book Shooting, carried that way almost exclusively, and actually had special leather holsters built into the front pockets of his trousers to support this tactic.

While pocket carry remains an extremely popular and viable option, fashion has changed considerably since the days of J.H. FitzGerald. The heavy, loose-fitting trousers that were the fashion standard back then have given way to tighter-fitting styles made from lighter materials. Many pants styles today offer neither the support nor the concealment of classic old-school trousers.

One way of working around this is to change your wardrobe to focus on pants styles that offer larger pockets and a looser fit—like Dockers, cargo pants and modern “tactical” pants. Unfortunately, guns carried in cargo pockets move a lot and have a tendency to bump into things when you walk. They also ride lower and are somewhat harder to draw from than hip-level pockets. While many brands of tactical pants feature pockets specifically designed to facilitate pocket carry, they are sometimes less discreet than normal pants and can be as much of a tell as “shoot me first” photographer’s vests.

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Even if the front pockets of your pants are up to the task of accommodating the carry of a pistol, tucking a gun there has a few serious disadvantages. First and foremost, front-pocket carry makes for a very slow draw—particularly if you have large hands, a substantial pistol or both. The act of getting your whole mitt in the pocket, achieving a firing grip and then pulling the combined unit out can be a serious challenge. While flattening your grip and putting your thumb over the top of the pistol can help, the process is still a slow one.

If drawing from a front pocket is tough, integrating that draw with any type of tactical movement is even tougher. When you move, your hip flexes and the path of your draw stroke now goes directly into your pelvis and your hand and gun are trapped in your pocket.

Legendary Lessons

pocket carry, back-pocket carry, concealed carry
A DeSantis pocket holster keeps this Kahr CW380 well oriented for a positive draw. Keep your finger off the trigger until you need to fire.

One of the most unique guns in my collection is a classic .25 ACP Seecamp that was one of several “back pocket” guns of the legendary Col. Rex Applegate. Long before the current concealed-carry movement, “The Colonel” had forgotten more about the nuances of packing well-hidden handguns than most of us will ever know. One of his favorite methods of ensuring that he was always armed was to simply drop a .32- or .25-caliber Seecamp in his back pocket. Carrying there was comfortable, kept the gun easily accessible and turned a natural reach for one’s wallet into a wonderfully crafty draw stroke.

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Recently, I pulled the Colonel’s Seecamp out of the safe to shoot a few rounds in his memory. The hairline cracks in the grip panels—clear evidence of years of back-pocket carry—inspired me to give his preferred carry method a try. Having carried a folding knife in my right back pocket since high school, the presence of a weapon there was nothing new. After a few practice draws I was hooked and my back-pocket knife has now been replaced with a Kahr CW380 in a DeSantis pocket holster.

Versatile Draws

Back-pocket carry offers many advantages—especially when the pocket pistol is carried in “patch-style” pockets like those found on jeans. With a suitable pocket holster, this method of carry is extremely comfortable and very compatible with a broad range of clothing styles. When set up for a dominant-hand draw, it also displaces a man’s wallet and creates an ideal ruse to go for your gun. Remember, however, that you must always maintain positive control over the gun no matter where you carry.

Drawing from this position is easier and smoother than a front-pocket draw because the body part under the pocket is convex. This makes static draws a snap and makes the gun readily accessible when moving, kneeling or crouching behind cover.

Back-pocket carry is also advantageous during contact-distance encounters and fights that go to the ground. Getting your gun into the fight during these dynamic struggles typically requires achieving some degree of control with your non-dominant hand while executing a one-handed draw with the other. Back-pocket carry supports this almost as well as conventional belt holsters, and in some cases even better.

The secret to a smooth, reliable back-pocket draw is having a solid platform for the gun. A pocket made of strong fabric, in good condition and supported by a sturdy belt works best.

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A high-quality pocket holster is also a must because it protects the gun and trigger, reduces printing and keeps the gun in a consistent orientation within the pocket. The latter function is particularly important because it enables you to achieve a solid grip as soon as your hand enters the pocket and eliminates fumbling.

Many pocket holsters are designed with integral “hooks” that snag the pocket corner during the draw to allow the gun to clear the holster. This works well in front pockets but is not as reliable with the wide mouths of back pockets. To compensate, you should train to either change the angle of your draw to purposely snag the pocket mouth or clear the holster by pushing it away with the middle finger of the gun hand after the draw.

Just like guns, all pockets are not created equal. The back pocket can be an excellent home for a pistol and is a worthy alternative to typical front-pocket carry methods. Try out these tactics and see what works best for you.

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