Looking for a self-defense gun that won’t make you stand out like a nearly-naked girl on the beach?
The mouse gun, the pocket protector, the backup gun, whatever you call it—in the industry, we call them micropistols. While cheaper than the bigger compact pistols like the Glock 42 or Sig 365, one dares not call these cost-conscious mini pistols “Saturday Night Specials.” (That’s an old gun-banner’s dog-whistle term.) These are high-quality handguns worthy of your holster. As a purveyor of fine weaponry, these are the guns I suggest to customers who request something they can easily slip into a pocket.
Four polymer framed single stack pistols immediately come to mind:
Smith & Wesson Body Guard BG .380 auto
Ruger LCP .380 auto
Kel-Tec p32 .32 auto
Diamond Back DB380 .380 auto / DB9 9mm
Rather than influence the customer with my own thoughts, I set one of each of these on the counter and let the customer tell me what they like about each one.
Just because these pistols all share a similar size, does not mean they have the same feel. It seems like it is a flip of the coin which pistol a customer will tell you feels best to them. Personally, I prefer the smoothness of the Ruger LCP series over the rougher texture of the S&W BG380. Remember buying a pistol to carry concealed (CCW) is like getting married … you will have to live with your decision. What feels like a minor quibble in the gun store might turn into a dealbreaker after you’ve been using and carrying the gun for a couple of months. That said, I don’t like to let them make a final decision until I have shown the customer the extended magazine (if one comes with the pistol). Every once in while that extra 1/4 inch’s worth of room for a pinky finger is enough to make all the difference in grip feel.
Managing Trigger Expectations
It’s important to manage expectations when it comes to micropistols. They are not meant as target pistols, so they don’t have trick triggers. That’s by design; heavy, slow triggers function as built-in safeties for this class of pistol. This is not to say that the trigger is unusable, but the reality is that these are meant to shove into a pocket or purse. The heavy trigger keeps the pistol from accidentally going off.
Manual Safety: Yea or Nay
If a customer insists on having a manual safety, that will weed out most of the choices as the Ruger LCP, Keltecs, and Diamond Back pistols do not have manual safeties. (They rely on the aforementioned heavy trigger as the safety.) If you want one, the S&W BG380 and the Ruger LCP II are going to be your only options in this size class. The BG380 is offered from the factory with both safety or no safety options, and there are aftermarket safety delete kits for it as well. Why do I mention the safety delete kit, both to you and to my customers? Well, one of the biggest complaints on the S&W offering is that the safety is small and sharp and hard to manipulate on and off. So hard that some pistols can require two hands to take off safe. Not cool for a pistol your life will be dependent on.
If you are one of those people that love the feel of the BG380 but hate the safety, you can fix it. For the Ruger, unfortunately, to get a manual safety you will have to jump up to the more expensive LCP II–a .22LR pistol. Interestingly on top of a push button manual safety also includes a trigger safety sort of like a Glock trigger.
Capacity is king! (Unless you want to conceal, that is…)
DB9 6+1 9mm
DB380 6+1 380 ACP
Ruger LCP 6+1 380 ACP
S&W BG380 6+1 380 ACP
KelTec P3AT 6+1 .380 ACP (discontinued but can be purchased used)
Keltec P32 7+1 .32 ACP
Ruger LCP II Max 10+1 .380 ACP
Ruger LCP II 10=1 .22LR
Since the micro class pistols are, for all intents and purposes, the same size, the standard capacity is six rounds in the magazine plus one in the chamber. Note that the Diamondback DB9 has to be one of the smallest 9mm pistols available if you need more stopping power than offered by the 380acp.
To gain capacity, the LCP Max moves from a single-stack magazine to a 10-round double-stack magazine. Even though length and width are the same as the single stack offerings, the fatness of grip will put a creepy bulge in your pants.
The KelTec P32 gains one extra round in its single-stack magazine due to the fact that the .32 ACP round is a smaller diameter than the .380, so one more round fits for a 7+1 capacity advantage. If stopping power is low on your list, but capacity and the skinny single stack magazine is more important to you, the Ruger LCP II gives you 10 rounds plus one all with out any extra bulk in your pants.
Max Power (insert Simpsons joke here)
Modern polymer micropistols replace a long lineage of heavier all-metal micropistols, like the classic Baby Browning .25 ACP pistol. Back in the heyday of the Baby Browning, that chambering was considered suitable to get yourself out of trouble. Then came the .32 ACP, and then the “powerful” .380 ACP was developed. Micropistols are not meant for sustained firefights; they’re really a “last resort” type of pistol. With traditional thinking the bigger the round the better, which is true to a point. Engineers have had hundreds of years to develop bullet technology and there are plenty of fine self defense loads for these smaller calibers. But back to the gun store environment, if power and availability are your main concerns nothing beats the DB9. The DB9 is even rated for plus P power 9mm self-defense loads, which is mind blowing for such a small package. Yes, the recoil and muzzle blast would be intense, but in a self-defense situation you have to figure that an ouchy wrist would be way down on the priority list.
Next down the list power- and availability-wise is the .380 ACP. Modern self-defense loads are no joke, but in general a good .380 ACP self-defense load will be more expensive than the same 9mm load.
The modern micro pistol is such a versatile piece of equipment. Due to their size and weight, you can CCW with practically any clothing. This is the pistol I grab when I am wearing swimming shorts, t-shirt, and sandals. Yes micropistols do have their limitations, and they definitely would not be my first choice for a shootout with an evil-doer. But the modern polymer micropistol that you have in your pocket beats out the full-size .45 you left at home, every single day.
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