In the last year or two, snubbies and .380 semi autos have seen a HUGE resurgence in popularity. If the chest-thumping .45 fanboys will hold their boos til the end, I will make my case for the pocket gun. As a card-carrying gun nut, I have THREE sub-compact pistols. Granted, I JUST got my permit to carry, I've been practicing drawing from concealment for about four years--since I first put my name on the list to take the class from the Sheriff's Department.
First, let me bloviate about carrying concealed. I emplore you to practice using your concealment holster EXACTLY the way you plan to carry, and with NO LIVE AMMO present, practice drawing and firing the first round. You'll find kinks in your form this way. I know I did. Also, try doing every-day motions that could reveal your gun. Revealing your gun or having it "print" against your clothing MAY be illegal in your state (it is in Iowa). Practice reaching something from a high shelf, or picking up something off the ground. Sit down and stand up. Does your shirt hang up on the grip? Also practice using the toilet. (*Do this previous bit at home, before you go out in the world!* I hate to specify that, but I really don't want to be sued.)There have been some high profile cases of people carrying concealed firing rounds off in public toilets while trying to catch a falling firearm. Make sure the only noise from the lavvy is coming from you, and not your gun. Practice WITHOUT LIVE AMMO PRESENT before going live in the real world. It will pay big dividends.
Starting from least kinetic energy, my S&W 442 (lowest in the pic). It holds five rounds of .38SPL and is rated for +P ammunition. It is absurdly light and small, which are big advantages during Iowa's tropical summers. I love my S&W revolvers, which is why I still own the 442. It is hard to shoot well (but I do because I'm awesome), slow to reload, and absolutely wild under recoil. With a gun this small and light, you have NO REASON not to carry it when possible. However, you better practice your ass off with a piece like this. J-frames are really a master's weapon, and shouldn't be carried by folks who don't want to put in the time with it. But thankfully, there are many other choices in this frame size that are more forgiving.
The P64 (the middle one) is a very, very good weapon and really deserves your consideration. It is incredibly accurate, about 15% more powerful than a .38SPl from a short barrel, reloads faster, is controllable under recoil, and is very thin. This gun just BEGS to be carried concealed. Ammo is even very cheap. It is a bit slower from the holster than the 442, and is noticeably heavier in a pocket, though it is hardly a heavyweight. I also find that, in my hand, it points very naturally. It disappears well in a pocket holster in the inside breast pocket of my stylish leather jacket or a diminutive inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster. The only reason I still own the 442 is that is is marginally lighter, and that if I am cut, my blood spells out "S&W". Also, I think the P64 is terribly gramatically correct, which I admire. You see below:The only proper use for quotation marks is to either quote from another source or when being ironic. Clearly, the Reds printed P64 on the first gun ever produced, and then quoted it when producing the next 46,000,000 P64s. Damn if I don't admire proper grammar. Well played, communist slaves, well played indeed.
Then there's my M&P9C (top), which I absolutely adore. I've shot it out to 50 yards a few times and can usually keep my whole group on an 8.5"x11" sheet of paper, which is pretty damn good for a gun with a 3.5" barrel, and a gun nut from the flatlands behind the trigger. It is considerably bigger than the other two, but is still concealable quite handily in an IWB holster under just a t-shirt, though I'd probably opt for a cover shirt as insurance (think a t-shirt under an unbuttoned button-up shirt). The trigger is fantastic, the ergonomics are fantastic, it is light, but still has very little recoil. It's chambered in 9x19mm, so it is the most powerful of the three, carries 13 rounds (12 in the mag, one in the pipe), and is generally a work of genius. The only problem is the size, which isn't all that problematic. I could still carry it most of the time, but the P64 and 442 are more concealable, and lighter. I'll still keep this thing around though because it is just such a great firearm.
The great thing about these little friends is that they can go anywhere and everywhere with you! Sure, a 1911 in 10mm might be more impressive, and packs WAY more whoop-ass, but isn't practical to carry everywhere if you aren't an enormous person. The gun you have in your pocket is always better than the gun you left in the glove box or at home because you didn't feel like carrying it.