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Making Pocket-Sized Pistols Suck Less

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You’ve been carrying that double-stack polymer 9mm for years now, so long that you’re used to everything about it. But in the last year, the new hotness caught your attention, and you grabbed one of these new awesome super slim stack-and-a-half wondernine subcompacts like a P365 or Glock 48. They’ve been all the rage in the concealed-carry community, because they’re so small and easy to conceal. It’s like not wearing a gun at all, and that’s awesome, right?

Only one problem: Every time you head to the range, your shooting ability is noticeably lessened with that skinny mini than it was with your old tried-and-true double. You’re torn, because you carry a gun in case you have to shoot someone, and that means performance is paramount. Then again, you really like the concealability and convenience of the little gun. 

Mossberg MC2C Pistol pocket sized pistols

It’s totally understandable. This is a conundrum partially caused by physics and partially caused by technique. This article will help you identify and solve the problem in the way that’s best for you.


First and foremost, it’s harder to shoot a smaller gun than a larger one. Just accept that reality right now. You’ll have to work harder and concentrate more when shooting to fight the physics disadvantages the small gun brings to the table. 

pocket sized pistols Naroh Arms N1
These small guns are easy to conceal, but much more difficult to shoot.

Newton’s Second Law says that the acceleration of an object, like a handgun, is equal to the force on the object divided by the mass of the object. The force exerted is caused by the gunpowder going off, which is the same no matter the gun it’s in and therefore is constant. But since that tiny gun has less mass, the divisor is smaller and so the acceleration is greater, translating into more felt recoil. There’s nothing else you can adjust in that equation but to make the gun heavier, making it harder to carry. 

But all is not lost; you can understand how we fight back against physics and maximize your ability to control the gun. And then you can set the gun up to give you as much help as possible.


Always start looking for answers with software rather than hardware. Don’t blame the tool before you look at the loose nut behind the trigger. The answer here, of course, is to grip the gun. Hard. No, harder than that. You’ve probably seen some shooters with big bear paws or powerlifter forearms who can crush that gun enough to make it do what they want. But even if you don’t have those kinds of attributes, you can use good technique to better control recoil.

Pocket Pistol Grip Pinky Glock 43
A pinky on a mag extension increases your grip force by 33 percent.

First, recognize that the pinky is king when it comes to recoil control. Physics works for us here just like it worked against us before. Any orthopedist who specializes in hands will tell you that the pinky finger contributes at least 33 percent of the grip strength of your hand, and between it and your ring finger it can be as much as 67 percent when working together. That strength translates to the gun moving less and shooting better.

Second, the physics works for you when you use the pinky. Because the pinky is farthest from the force being exerted by the gun on your hand, it has the longest lever on the grip to exert force in the opposite direction. So when it’s time to grip the gun, focus on that pinky. Grip with your pinkies as much as you can, and you’ll find that tiny gun will give you less trouble.

Making pocket sized pistols suck less rob

Third, use your support hand to help with recoil. If you think of your dominant hand as C-clamping the gun (focusing on pinky pressure!) from front to back, think of your support hand as C-clamping the gun from side to side. That way, the grip is surrounded on all sides, and you can take advantage of all the texturing of the grip panels “sticking” to your hands and mitigating muzzle rise. With tiny guns, the dominant hand can lose contact with the side of the gun, so use your support-hand grip pressure to bring as much of both hands into contact with the grip as possible.

Fourth, grip the gun as high as you can. If you get up under that beavertail as high as possible, you decrease the angle that the gun has to generate torque that you feel as muzzle rise. It also leaves as much space as possible for your fingers to get on the grip on the bottom of the gun, which also helps. Place your hands as high on the gun as you can and focus the grip as low as you can.

Pocket Sized Pistols Glock 43 Sig p365
We always want to maximize our success while balancing concealability. The number of CCW-focused firearms isn’t likely to decrease in the coming years.

Fifth and finally, don’t lock your elbows. A tiny bit of flex in the elbows brings the gun in toward you and engages your pecs, letting you exert inward pressure on the gun. Think
of tucking your elbows down rather than out, and it’ll tighten your pressure on your pinkies too. This needn’t be pronounced at all; it just needs to unlock your elbows.


Now that we’ve worked the software angle, it’s worth looking at hardware as well. You might’ve already invested in the gun, magazines, and accessories and can’t justify buying a new one, but there are a couple of items that can help if you can invest in them.

First, make sure the gun enables you to get your pinkies on the grip. In most subcompact stack-and-a-half guns, those with larger hands will have their pinkies dangling uselessly off the end of the grip — that’s not helpful. If you have small hands and can get all fingers on the grip of a small gun, that’s awesome. If not, get a pinky extension for your magazine so that you can. These can be anything from a simple base plate swap with a bit more real estate to adapters that add magazine capacity. 

Sig P365 with red dot romeo SIg Sauer pocket sized pistol

If you struggle with concealing the gun with a pinky extension, it’s time to expand your adaptation game a bit. A good holster with a quality clawing system combined with a good belt will go a long way to making sure it doesn’t stick out, and you’ll have to spend some time tweaking it to get the best concealment. But don’t forget — you’re carrying the gun for the off chance you might have to use it, so putting in that effort to be able to effectively carry it with the pinky extension is time and money well spent.

Finally, if you’re really invested in your tiny gun, you might take it to a competent plastic surgeon to have the trigger guard undercut to allow for a higher grip on the gun. That’ll cost a bit of money and take some time, but you can revert to carrying your double-stack while it’s getting worked on. The undercut tends to also do away with the “Glock Knuckle” that a lot of shooters experience (which happens to other brands, too … I get it with my HKs) and lets you grip higher on the frame.


With these tips, you can do the best job possible of controlling recoil on your tiny gun. It’s worth it to maximize your performance while also maximizing your ability to successfully carry a gun. Grip the gun effectively and efficiently, set your gun up for success in recoil control, and your tiny wondernine can perform to its max. 

[Editor's Note: Photography by RECOIL Staff.]

This Article First Appeared in CONCEALMENT #20.

Pocket-Sized Pistols Featured


Caliber: 9mm
Barrel Length: 3.1 inches
Width: 1 inch
Weight Unloaded: 17.8 ounces
Capacity: 10 + 1
MSRP: $600

Glock 43

Caliber: 9mm
Barrel Length: 3.41 inches
Width: 1.06 inch
Weight Unloaded: 16.23 ounces
Capacity: 6 + 1
MSRP: $500

Mossberg MC2SC (Replaced the MC1SC)

Caliber: 9mm
Barrel Length: 3.4 inches
Width: 1.03 inches
Weight Unloaded: 19.5 ounces
Capacity: 10 + 1 / 11 + 1
MSRP: $425

Naroh Arms N1

Caliber: 9mm
Barrel Length: 3.1 inches
Width: 1.3 inches
Weight Unloaded: 14.4 ounces
Capacity: 7+1 rounds
MSRP: $400

More on 9mm and Concealed Carry Pistols

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