When analyzing the role of the small, deep concealment gun I consider it a tool that is a last resort in forcing a “break in contact” with the criminal entity. I have heard Claude Werner use this term when he refers to the mission of the armed citizen, which is to “force a break in contact” with the criminal. Werner, known as the Tactical Professor within the training circuit due to his ever-analytical mind, explains that an armed citizen does not need to hunt down bad guys and arrest them, they only need to force the criminal to break contact. I think Werner summarizes the mission of the armed citizen better than anyone else in this regard.
This break in contact is usually all that is required for the citizen self-defender to prevail; hence the reason that most citizen-oriented use of force occurrences are successful if the citizen can get the gun out and into play. Most defensive gun uses are resolved without a shot being fired, and most that do require shooting are hardly Die Hard-like scenarios. Typically, only a few rounds are required. The reason is obvious; criminals want to prey upon victims, not people who will shoot them in the face. When the gun comes out, criminals, most often, become late for a different appointment. The limited, deep concealment gun can force this break in contact.
Now, granted, there are the outliers, and I believe in carrying tools and developing skill for the outliers, but that is not always possible. Having spent many of my waking hours with only a small-frame revolver on my body I don’t feel unarmed as the outliers are, indeed, outliers. I believe in, and suggest, carrying “as much gun” as one can. But, the reality is that certain obligations in life require deep concealment that full-size guns simply will not accommodate. Therefore, the small, deep concealment gun is the inevitable companion.
With consideration of the “break in contact” concept, I have, over the years, adopted a minimalist approach concerning my deep concealment gun. When opting to carry a very small handgun to accommodate deep concealment needs, the overwhelming priority is, indeed, deep concealment. Therefore, if able to carry multiple reloads and an entire battery of support gear, why not just carry a larger gun to begin with? For many years now my deep concealment gun has been a Ruger LCR revolver. I usually just carry a speed strip with it, although I sometimes embrace a speedloader, but always seem to come back to the conclusion that the bulky nature of speedloaders is counterintuitive to the deep concealment role this particular gun plays, and the slower, but infinitely more concealable, speed strip inevitably goes back in the pocket.
LCRs, JFrames, and the small pocket autos, fall into the deep concealment category and these platforms are, undeniably, limited in capability. They can be shot well if the user is accomplished with the platform, but they are limited compared to full-size auto loaders. Still, these small guns certainly serve to force a break in contact the vast majority of times that they are used, but be aware of the limitations compared to full-size pistols.
Generally, deep concealment handguns are:
Less Shootable: Again, if the shooter is up to the task, small revolvers and pocket autos can be shot quite well and perform far above the “belly gun” limitation most espouse. However, with that said, most shooters will always be more capable with a full-frame gun.
Limited Ammo Capacity: Obviously, a five-shot JFrame or LCR is limited in capacity. This limitation should factor into your defensive plan when carrying such a gun. Most defensive gun uses will not require more ammunition than this, but there are always outliers. Any threat that emerges will, realistically, need to be resolved with the limited ammo in the gun.
Hard to Reload: Small autos are harder to reload quickly than full-size guns, and small revolvers are simply too slow to reload, realistically, in mid-fight.
More Difficult Handling Characteristics: These small guns are harder to manipulate as the reduced size of the grip makes for a more challenging draw stroke and the smaller size makes further manipulations such as malfunction clearance and other tasks more difficult.
With these principles in mind, I would suggest:
First, the deep concealment gun should be carried when deep concealment is needed, but not when such restrictions are not in play. I am still an advocate of carrying a serious gun whenever possible, so if not restricted by dress or environment, why carry the small gun?
Second, if carrying such a deep concealment tool you will need to resolve the situation with only the ammunition available in the gun. The feasibility of reloading such guns during a fight is a pipe dream, especially concerning small revolvers. Having a reload for a “post-fight” top off is the more realistic concern compared to the notion of reloading the gun during a fight.
The acceptance and understanding of our defensive tools, both the benefits and limitations, is essential. A small, deep concealment gun is a necessity for almost all concealed carriers, but let’s remain realistic about the role that it plays and condition ourselves to understand that the tool is a last-resort for forcing a break in contact when confronted by a violent criminal entity. Is that not what the handgun should be for most civilian applications anyway?