The “Run-to-the-Store Gun”

A recent thread on Reddit, of all places, spurred me to write something on the topic of what I call the “run-to-the-store” pistol.  Here’s how this tends to work:  people online discuss their vast arsenals, the benefits of a Sig P226 versus a Glock 17 versus an HK (actually, on Reddit, it’s almost invariably a Taurus or XD), along with AR vs. AK, Daniel Defense vs. BCM, 9mm vs. .45, etc.  But then comes the good old, “But when I just have to run to the gas station/7-11 to get some milk, I usually just throw my X into my pocket”, where X can be a Ruger LCP, Kahr .380, J-frame, or some other model offering limited capacity, poor grip characteristics, (often) poor sights, and dubious fight-stopping ability.  The usual rationale for said decision is that “it’s just a quick run out” and “I don’t feel like putting on my holster, gun, spare magazine, etc.”  Truth be told, I know of at least one ex-Tier One Operator—now a member of the training industry—who told me he often does this.

Ruger LCP .380 with Crimson Trace laser (left) with Smith and Wesson 442 .38 Special with Crimson Trace laser grips.

Many who utilize this policy seem to subscribe to the “a little gun you have with you is better than the big gun you left at home” philosophy, and I get that.  After all, surely the first key to winning a gunfight is having a gun!  Still, let us think about this for a moment.  As John Murphy  of FPF Training discussed in the class I took here, and as I am sure I have heard Tom Givens say on various podcasts, gas stations and convenience stores are the water holes of our world.  Just like a lion might lurk in the shadows around a water hole in Africa, sizing up his prey, so too do the less-than-upstanding members of our world.  Anyone who watches the videos put out there by John Correia at Active Self Protection (Follow ASP on Facebook. Seriously!) can testify that the number of incidents that happen in and around gas stations and convenience stores is ridiculously high.   There’s a reason so many people refer to such places as “Stop ‘n Robs”.

In short, due mostly to laziness, the person who practices this habit of just throwing a J-Frame or LCP into his pocket is actually heading into one of the places he is most likely to need a firearm.  Think about that.  If you were heading to a location where there was more than the typical chance of you needing your firearm, wouldn’t you want all the firearm you could carry? 

Where I live is pretty much purely residential, a “good neighborhood” with just some property crime and rarely any violent crime.  The nearest stores are more than a mile and several turns away.  I can understand heading out for a walk, to walk the dog, etc., in such a neighborhood with a small pocket pistol.  But if I am heading anyplace where commerce is taking place, then I want something more.

My best advice for the pocket-sized guns is to use them in the following roles:

  • As an around-the-house gun.  I am a big believer in keeping a gun on me at home (as I touched on here), and in this case, for the sake of convenience, a smaller gun works well.  It is unobtrusive, light, and can be carried in virtually any clothing.  Since I am at home, I should have warning of any intruders, and so can literally use the small gun to fight my way to something more substantial.
  • As a backup gun.  Whether worn on an ankle, in an outer coat pocket in the winter (as John discussed here), or some other location, a small, highly concealable gun could be your ace-in-the-hole if things go really badly for you.
  • As an NPE gun.  NPE refers to a non-permissive environment, i.e. a place where firearms are not allowed by policy, law, or what I will call general tradition (where dress such as formal business attire or athletic garb would hinder the carry of a larger pistol).  I am not advocating anyone break any laws, but a small pistol like a J Frame or LCP can be very well hidden and serve as the gun to carry when you “cannot” carry a gun.  

So, keep your pocket guns to the above roles, and when you head to your local gas station/convenience store, remember that you are at a water hole for humans.  Let your situational awareness kick up a notch so that you can recognize what is happening and, hopefully, avoid the need to draw your pistol.  But if the worst happens, you will be glad you brought along your “more serious” pistol.

What role do small, pocket-pistols serve for you?  Please share below or on our Facebook page.  Also, if you do not currently follow us on Facebook, please start.  Everything we post here gets cross-posted there, but we occasionally make small remarks, link to things of interest, or post photos on our Facebook page that do not make it here on the blog.  Thanks for reading, and if you find our articles of value, please share them among like-minded folks.


26 thoughts on “The “Run-to-the-Store Gun”

    1. First thing comes to mind is why am I here , poor planning ? Not that I hunker down or hide but really , second as a citizen should I be a tactical undercover vigilante? Truthfully the answer to both of these is NO ! Third is it my responsibility to police the area and put an end to all threats , again NO ! Upon arrival of LEO’s everybody involved is a Suspect , should I find myself in fear of my or others life I am prepared on a citizen level with my .357 J-FRAME and almost fear the high capacity extra mag knife in the other hand CITIZEN trying to HELP as I do the criminal. Know your limits Warriors


      1. Dale,

        Not entirely sure what any of that means, but thanks for the comment!–Robert


  1. Not a big fan of the “run to the store” pocket pistol idea. If I’m going to the store, I’m bringing the full payload….compact 9mm, backup 9mm, and spare mag. After all, the store is where I’m the most likely to need it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I carry a lcp custom and must say it is convenient however have I felt like 5 plus one was inappropriate compared to my glock 26 with 12 plus one .I have to say yes.this post gives me something to consider above convince of a pocket carry


  3. I carry a Walther PPX on the weekend or when i go outside my normal weekday routine. But my place of employment does not permit me to have a firearm. So rather than try to hide my ppx in the car and discreetly remove or put on my holster and 2 mags, I just keep my Ruger LCP in the glove box. Really just so I have something when I leave work in case I need to swing by Fred Meyer. It also conceals well in an ankle holster for when I go to the movies, the fair, etc.


    1. Sounds like a great plan to me, considering the workplace constraints. Although for me, a trip to the movies means something bigger along with my brightest flashlight, even if it does carry a little bigger than my usual light. Thanks for the comment!


    2. Isn’t it risky to keep a gun in your glove box ? When I go somewhere I can’t take my gun I put it in a small gun safe (GunVault’s Mini) tethered to the seat frame by a wire cable.


  4. I loaded my glock42 with a really nasty round from grizzly, their extreme series. It’s a solid machined copper round that is really moving out the barrel(1200+ fps).
    I believe that carrying anything is better than not, but a small gun needs careful consideration with ammo as well.


    1. I’m not familiar with that round. Honestly, with .380 out of a pocket gun, my primary concerns are A) does the round feed reliably and B) will the round penetrate far enough to hit what I need it to hit. Some of these new whiz-bang rounds fail miserably in that regard. I’m as likely to use ball ammo in my LCP as any of the new loads, though I’m always looking.

      Thanks for the comment!


  5. Part of my situational awareness is to plan only to be at these type stores in the mornings for gas. Rarely in the afternoon for snacks and never in the evenings. Guilty as charged… Model 640 jframe EDC


    1. If that 640 really is your EDC then hopefully you are good with it. I regard the J Frames as true experts’ guns. If you can handle it expertly, then you are probably good to go, especially because you already recognize the danger areas that such locations have become.

      Thanks for the comment.


      1. I carry a S&W 342 AIWB at work and pretty much everywhere. I’m not nearly as good with it as I’d like to be and it’s far more difficult for me to shoot well than my G26. I’m still searching for a way to carry the G26 concealed at work that let’s me do my job as a grease monkey in Georgia. I haven’t yet figured out a way to carry the G26 that doesn’t interfere with my ability to do my job.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Greg,

        Thanks for the comment.

        Someone on a shared Facebook page said he is in a similar situation. A plumber, I think, in and out of tight quarters, crawl spaces, etc., all day. So he carries something small (don’t recall if he specified what exactly). I’d lump your situation into the 3rd category I described in the article, where dress or job duties preclude a larger gun.

        Having aid that, if you can easily carry a J Frame AIWB and still do your job, I’m surprised a G26 won’t work for you. If it really will not, I’d look at a G43, which is not just thinner but also lighter by a good margin. 6+1 with faster reloads, better sight radius, and much more mild recoil than a J Frame makes it a much more effective option. My opinion, provided for free:)

        All the best! Stay safe!



  6. I have read several of your blog articles, and you have more than once described your neighborhood a’s having very little crime. In fact, you said that your chances of needing a gun there are almost nill. You have said that for this reason, you feel comfortable with an lcp around the house, on walks, etc. I too, live in such a neighborhood, and I thought much like you do. Last March, two armed mean tried to break in while I, my wife, and children were home. I had my Glock 19 on me, and that is what I used to defend my family. I can tell you that as I drew down on the first intruder, I actually had a sense of relief that it was the 19 I was using, and not my lcp, and to be honest, not even my Glock 26. As someone that has been through the experience that so many train for, plan for, strategize for, I can say that you will wish it wasn’t the lcp in your pocket at home when your families life is on the line. Just some thoughts…


    1. Anonymous (?),

      Glad you go through it okay.

      Yes, I probably would prefer to have something more substantial “on me” at home. This is a trade-off I am willing to make–in my home–where I have access to other options and, short of Superman busting through my dining room wall, I should have some warning of anyone’s efforts to gain entry (warning = time). Not sure of the circumstances of your situation, how they gained access, etc. Definitely food for thought, though. Thanks for the post!
      P.S. I shoot my G26 as well as my 19 (sometimes better!), so I’d be cool with either option.


  7. Just wondering what distance people are defending against? I carry my S&W 442 with Hornady self defense loads for close encounters. We are not law enforcement, not my people, not my problem. JMTC.


    1. John,

      If we look at the stats Tom Givens has provided to the world of gunfights his students have been involved in, MOST were from 3-5 yards. However, he has had outliers at, if I remember correctly, 11, 15, and 22 yards. These were all LEGAL defensive gun uses.

      I do not own a crystal ball. I do not know when or where I might have to defend myself. When visiting the type of stores that are featured in countless armed robbery videos available online, I prefer to carry something with more capacity that is easier to shoot well.

      Thanks for the question/comment.



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