If my emails are any indication, there are a lot of people out there carrying a revolver in their pocket. It might be a backup or secondary gun, but for a lot of people — especially those who live in warmer climates — it’s a primary defensive arm.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that here in Oregon we don’t get a lot of truly hot weather. This last summer was an exception to that rule (I endured a record number of 100-degree days, a rarity for our climate), but everything is relative. To me, anything over 80 degrees is quite warm and when the temperature climbs that high I usually change from long pants to short pants. This happens around the first of July and becomes my standard attire until the heat abates in September. In that wardrobe my carry options become somewhat limited and I fall back on pocket carry.
The benefits and problems of pocket carry
Why pocket carry — couldn’t I just use a cover garment over an IWB holster? I’d stand out like a sore thumb! I also don’t abide the current fashion of wearing untucked shirts to hide an gun carried in the “appendix” position, so that’s out. (I may have long hair, but my shirt is tucked in nice and tidy!) The bottom line is that I, like many others, transition to pocket carry of a revolver during the “heat of the summer”.
Of course those aren’t the only reasons people carry in the pocket. In nicer clothes and non-permissive environments, pocket carry may be the least obtrusive manner of having a defensive firearm at the ready. If you live in a suit in a professional environment you may find that pocket carry is the easiest way to hide that gun amongst even the nosiest co-workers.
No matter why you choose pocket carry, your pocket isn’t as clean as you might think! There is still an amazing amount of debris that can work its way into the gun; lint, of course, is omnipresent in any pocket, but you’d be surprised how much actual dirt finds its way in there even in suit pants. Even the normally reliable revolver can suffer under those conditions!
How can you keep your revolver in good condition?
What should you do to maintain your pocket revolver? Here are eight points to consider:
1) First, pick a revolver that is as well sealed as possible. An exposed hammer — even if it’s shrouded — is one more little place through which debris can work its way into the action. Far better, from both a handling and maintenance standpoint, are the enclosed hammer (sometimes erroneously called “hammerless”) guns like the S&W Centennial series. This series is typified by guns like the models 442, 642, and 640 (though there are others.) They are as well sealed as revolvers get and are tailor-made for pocket carry.
2) Always use a holster. This should be a no-brainer; any gun carried in a pocket should have a holster. First and foremost it’s a safety issue; it keeps things from getting around the trigger and causing a shot to be fired. Those “things” include fingers, and there are a lot of news stories you can find about pocket-carried handguns firing from people shifting the things around from outside the pocket. The holster anchors the gun in the pocket so that it doesn’t shift, and covers the trigger to prevent anything from activating it.
From a maintenance standpoint the pocket holster also keeps out a lot of debris. I’d say that it conservatively deflects about 80% of the stuff that would otherwise end up on and eventually in the gun. It also delays perspiration from getting to the gun and causing rust. (Your gun is stainless or alloy? Bet the operating parts aren’t!) My current favorite is the DeSantis Nemesis holster, which has a very sticky rubber covering on the outside to anchor it firmly in the pocket, a large “wing” to keep the gun in an upright position, and it fits tightly enough and comes up far enough on the gun to keep pocket detritus out. The rubber and neoprene construction also forms a very effective vapor barrier against perspiration.
3) Take the gun out of the holster and the holster out of the pocket at night. While good pocket holster keeps perspiration from directly touching the gun, a pocket is usually a humid environment — particularly in the summer months. The holster is going to get a little damp in any event, and eventually that dampness will get to the gun. Take the gun out of the holster and allow it to air dry; the same is true for the holster. It’s like wearing the same pair of boots or socks everyday — they eventually need to air out. Do the same with your revolver and the holster!
4) Brush away the lint. Every week or so, while the gun is out of the holster getting fresh air, unload it and brush the gun clean. Even in a good pocket holster you’re likely to find lint and dirt on the back side of the trigger and in other places. Take a few minutes with a toothbrush and get that stuff off the gun before it works its way into the action. At the same time, inspect the bore and chambers to make sure they’re clean, too. If not use a bore brush, mop or patch to get it all out.
5) Inspect the gun carefully for corrosion. While you’re brushing the gun down is a good time to check all the operating surfaces for rust: the back of the trigger, the cylinder, underneath the extractor star, and the bore of the barrel are all places that can attract moisture and allow corrosion to form. Think your alloy or stainless frame is immune? Think again! Although they’re certainly more resistant, I’ve seen more than one example where corrosion eventually took hold. If you find any, get a brass brush and brush it away then treat with oil or a good rust preventative.
6) Take the grips off occasionally. Underneath the grips is a common place for corrosion to form, and it’s a good idea to take them off and inspect the area occasionally; if you perspire heavily, or live in a humid environment (particularly near salt water), this is particularly important. If you fall into either category, treating the area where the grips contact metal with Boeshield T-9 (a favorite here in the humid Pacific Northwest) or another rust preventative may be advisable.
7) Consider rubber grips in extreme conditions. If you have wooden grips on your gun they can absorb and retain enough moisture next to the frame to result in corrosion — no matter how often you clean. Rubber grips aren’t permeable and thus won’t hold moisture, and may be a better choice in extreme environments. (It’s still important to remove them and clean occasionally, however.)
8) When you clean your barrel after shooting, use the old trick of leaving the bore with a thin film of oil or CLP. After you’ve cleaned the bore and run clean, dry patches through follow up with a patch that’s just been dampened in your favorite oil or CLP. That will coat the bore and resist any moisture that might want to cling to the lands and grooves. It will, however, attract more lint and makes it imperative that you follow the recommendation of brushing the bore out every so often!
Pocket carry is a great convenience, and in many cases it’s the best way to carry a defensive firearm — particularly, as I’ve said, in hot or more formal environments. Just remember that pocket carry may require a little more attention and care on your part to keep that vital rescue equipment in top condition. It’s not hard, though, and if you follow these eight prescriptions your pocket revolver will always be ready in case you need it!
– Grant Cunningham