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Pocket pistol is a size; not a preferred location.

There have been a number of disturbing incidents lately that remind us that "pocket pistol" or "purse pistol" are size descriptions, not recommendations on how to carry.

Idaho's legislature recently overrode the rules of the public colleges and universities by authorizing holders of Idaho's enhanced concealed weapon license and retired law enforcement officers to carry on campus. Opponents predicted tragedies involving drunken students and students upset about bad grades.

The first incident has turned out to be an accidental discharge at Idaho State University in Pocatello: "An Idaho State University assistant professor with a concealed-carry gun permit shot himself in the foot with a semiautomatic handgun that accidentally discharged from inside his pocket in a chemistry classroom full of students, police said on Wednesday." (1)

News accounts gave no detail explaining how this happened, but my guess is that the trigger guard was not enclosed in the professor's pocket, and either a finger, edge of a wallet or key got inside the trigger guard causing a discharge. "Pocket pistol" is a size description, not a preferred way of carrying.

Always have a pocket pistol in a pocket holster that covers the trigger guard. A pocket holster like Uncle Mike's Nylon Open-Top Inside-The-Pocket Holster makes sense because it prevents stuff in your pocket from pulling the trigger, protects the finish of the gun from getting scratched, and reduces "printing" where the shape of the gun makes a pattern on your pocket visible on the outside.

Even putting a pocket pistol into an "inside the waistband" holster in your pocket is a good idea, because such holsters have enough exterior friction that holds the holster in the pocket, and usually cover the trigger guard.

In Utah, one of the states that takes gun rights seriously, a sixth grade teacher accidentally shot the toilet she was on in the faculty restroom, injuring herself as fragments hit her leg. "Teachers are not required to disclose that they are carrying a weapon, and administrators are prohibited from asking if they carry or barring them from bringing their weapons." (2)

Other embarrassing and much more tragic incidents include a woman in northern Idaho whose two-year-old reached into her purse, firing a pistol that killed his mother. (3) Before you say, "Stupid woman." She was a nuclear research scientist. (4) More recently, a three-year-old reaching for his mother's iPod in her purse, in an Albuquerque motel room, managed to shoot his mother and father. (5)

There is another reason to avoid pocket/purse carry, and that is that stuff falls out. I embarrassedly admit to a recent non-tragic, but still unfortunate incident. I was carrying an American Arms PX-22 in a coat pocket, and as I exited a car in my driveway, the pistol fell out.

No discharge; the PX-22 is a licensed copy of the Walther PPK and has a firing pin block, making it impossible for a fall to cause the firing pin to discharge a chambered round. But because the gun landed butt first on the concrete, the plastic finger rest extension of the magazine cracked. Fortunately, Triple K makes a replacement magazine for this orphan gun.

Keep your gun on your person at all times, ideally in a holster enclosing the trigger guard, because if you keep a gun somewhere off your body, you are in danger of dropping it, losing it, or having someone else access it. I know that on hot days, this can be difficult, but you need to plan for such eventualities.

Even the belly bag/fanny pack solution makes more sense than a coat pocket. A lot of women, who are an increasing fraction of gun carriers, need to think carefully about wardrobe choices if you are going to carry a gun. A purse, even one designed for carrying a gun, seems like a risky proposition, unless there are security provisions to make it hard to access the gun for children. I can't say that I have seen such gun purses, but then again, my fashion style isn't metrosexual enough to be looking at such fashion.

We need to be really careful how we carry guns, not just to avoid bullet holes in our feet, and also to not give anti-gunners any excuses, but also to prevent damage to our guns.

(1) Laura Zuckerman, "Idaho professor accidentally shoots himself in the foot in chemistry class," Reuters, September 3, 2014,, last accessed February 23, 2015.

(2) "Utah Teacher Hurt When Gun Accidently Shatters Toilet," NBC News, September 11, 2014,, last accessed February 23, 2015.

(3) Lisa Cowan, "Police: 2-year-old shoots, kills mom in N. Idaho Wal-Mart," Associated Press, December 30, 2014,, last accessed February 23, 2015.

(4) Jessica Glenza, "Idaho woman shot dead by two-year-old son was nuclear scientist," The Guardian, December 31, 2014, http://www.theguardian.eom/us-news/2014/dec/31/idaho-nuclear-scien tist-shot-dead-son-walmart, last accessed February 23, 2015.

(5) Peter Holley, "After finding a loaded gun in mother's purse, toddler shoots both parents," Washington Post, February 1, 2015, wp/2015/02/01/after-finding-a-loaded-gun-in-mothers-purse-arizona-toddler-shoots-both-paren ts/, last accessed February 23, 2014.

Clayton Cramer teaches history at the College of Western Idaho.
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Author:Cramer, Clayton E.
Publication:Shotgun News
Geographic Code:1U8ID
Date:Apr 1, 2015
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