5 Small Pistols for Your Story’s Protagonist

Best handguns for writing fiction

Handguns are some of the most common weapons in fiction. Here are some small selections worth considering that aren’t Glocks. That’s right. Not every pistol in fiction is a Glock. ~Ben (Image by Jon Campbell via sxc.hu)

Following up his post about close quarters combat and clearing rooms, Michael Connick is back with another great guest post. This one is about five small pistols perfect for your story’s protagonist. Enjoy!


From my novel, Funhouse Mirrors:

One of the reasons I hate gloves is that they can slow down my ability to quickly draw a weapon out of a holster and fire it. You see, my right front pants pocket contains a special holster with a Walther PPK pistol in it. I’ve also got a spare magazine for this pistol in my left rear pants pocket.

Less than two years ago, I had used a small pistol carried in just such a pocket holster to successfully defend myself from a psychopathic killer who was a KGB agent. This killer had been determined to end my life, but instead I ended his. To me, this incident was an education in just how easy it would be to lose my life if I ever became lazy and let my guard down. The world of spies in which I now live can be a very dangerous one, indeed.

The story in Funhouse Mirrors takes place in the early 1980s, and the Walther PPK, still made today, would have been considered an excellent choice as a small, easily concealable, handgun to carry for self protection.

Today, writers of modern fiction have an innumerably larger variety of handguns available for arming their protagonists. This truly is a golden age of handguns.

Why a Handgun?

Tips for handguns writing fiction

Michael Connick is the author of “Trapped in a House of Mirrors” and “Funhouse Mirrors.” Both are available at all fine book retailers. (Image courtesy of the author)

The reason people carry handguns is because they are lightweight and easily concealable, not because they are the most lethal weapon available. More 80% of the people shot with a handgun survive, according to The Wall Street Journal. Shot placement is far more crucial when using a handgun than a rifle.

Your protagonist is going to need to be a good marksman, or very lucky, to kill someone with a handgun. That’s why you will commonly read newspaper stories where police officers have shot someone six or more times. It can easily take that many shots to stop an attacker by using a handgun, much less to kill them.

Size Matters

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“Funhouse Mirrors” is the latest book from Michael Connick. Click the cover to see more.

The next fact for the author to keep in mind regarding handgun selection is that size definitely matters. Small handguns are experts’ guns. They take a very well-trained and capable marksman to shoot them effectively. The smaller the gun, the harder it is to get an effective grip on it, which is critical for fast and accurate shooting, and the larger the felt recoil will be into the shooter’s hand.

Their short sight radius – the distance between the front and rear sights – makes them harder to aim accurately. Tiny guns are easy to conceal, but harder to use.

5 Small Handguns for Writing Fiction

The following are five possible handguns, all of which are owned by me. They range from micro to maxi in size and offer a good range of example weapons with which to arm your characters.

Tiny: Raven MP-25

Best handguns for writing fiction tips

The Raven MP-25 is about as small as it gets. (Image via the author.)

This tiny handgun is the chambered in .25 ACP and is the most concealable of the guns discussed here. It’s also the oldest of the lot, having been manufactured in the 1970s as one of a large group of handguns disparagingly known at that time as “Saturday Night Specials.”

It has a six-round magazine and features a very simple and somewhat crude design, yet is surprisingly durable and reliable if kept clean and oiled. I’ve shot 100s of rounds through mine without a single malfunction.

Tips for writing guns in fiction

The Raven slips easily into a pocket holster, which is a type of holster (surprise, surprise) designed to be inserted into a pants pocket. (Image via the author.)

They are very cheap to acquire (I paid $50 for mine) and are still popular with low-grade criminals. The tiny bullet they fire is surprisingly powerful. I’ve shot them through car doors and hit targets inside. It’s the ultimate lightweight, small, and cheap handgun. It can be easily be concealed in a pocket holster.

Small: Beretta Alleycat

Best pistols for writing fiction

The Beretta Alleycat is a little larger than the Raven. (Image via the author.)

This little handgun is chambered in a slightly larger caliber, .32 APC, and features a seven-round magazine. It also has a completely unique feature: a tip-up barrel. Because of this design, the shooter never needs to rack the slide and can load the first round directly into the chamber of the pistol.

This is great for anyone with poor hand strength, due to age, physical size, or injury. It has great sights for such a small gun and when loaded with the proper hollow point ammunition can actually be a formidable little firearm.

Tips for writing pistols in fiction

When slipped into a pocket, this holster is designed to give the appearance of a wallet. (Image via the author.)

The pocket holster shown in the above picture provides a unique way to conceal it, as the side of the holster facing the outside of the pocket mimics the shape of a wallet.

Still Pretty Small: SIG Sauer P290RS

Best small handguns writing fiction

This SIG Sauer is a good choice for a character’s small, 9mm pistol. (Image via the author.)

This subcompact pistol is the most formidable little handgun so far, chambered in 9mm with an eight-round magazine. This caliber is the standard for most law enforcement and military handguns.

Writing fiction best handguns pistols protagonist

(Image via the author.)

It has excellent sights and is extremely accurate. I’ve actually shot three-inch groups with it at 25-yard targets. It’s small enough to be carried inside a pants pocket.

A Nice Balance Between Small and Large: FN FNS-9 Compact

Best handguns writing fiction concealed carry

At the intersection of smaller and larger pistols is this FN option. (Image via the author.)

This is my primary concealed carry pistol. Its size provides the best compromise I’ve found between small enough to conceal and large enough to be easy to shoot well.

While not as well known as Glock, FN is a very old firearms manufacturer headquartered in Belgium. FN manufactures most of the rifles and machine guns used by the U.S. military and is known for its high quality products.

The FNS-9 Compact is an extremely accurate handgun chambered in 9mm with 12- or 17-round magazines. I’ve even successfully shot it in USPSA and IDPA competitions.

Best concealed carry handguns writing fiction

Characters in need of a concealed carry option that fits inside the waistband might go with the FNS-9 Compact. (Image via the author.)

The picture above shows it being carrying in an appendix position inside the waistband holster. Appendix position refers to carrying the holster well in front of the hip. It’s an effective position for concealing a handgun under a shirt and enables fast draws of the handgun.

Full-Sized: FN FNS-9 Longslide

Concealed carry guns for fiction writing

The largest gun on this list is the FNS-9 Longslide. (Image via the author.)

This is a full-sized 9mm handgun that would typically be carried by a uniformed officer in an outside-the-waistband (i.e. not concealed) holster like one shown below.

Best 9mm handgun pistol writing fiction

(Image via the author.)

It is extraordinarily accurate and has a 17-round magazine. I’ve even hit torso-sized targets at 110 yards with this pistol. It is possible to conceal this large handgun under a heavy jacket, or in a large purse or briefcase. It provides the person carrying it with an extremely capable handgun.


I’ve given you a variety of choices for arming your protagonist. Just remember the tradeoff between size and ease of use and the relative weakness of a handgun compared to a rifle. It doesn’t work as it is depicted in many movies. Handgun bullets can’t knock people down or cause heads to explode!

About Michael Connick

Fiction writing tips firearms tactics shooting raids

Connick’s books are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all other fine book retailers. (Image provided by the author)

Michael Connick has had a long career with the intelligence community, the Department of Defense, and the technology industry. He has also carried a concealed handgun for over 35 years, and participated in extensive firearms and self-defense training from governmental, law enforcement, and private organizations.

He now resides in the little college town of Huntington, West Virginia, where he writes, competes in Practical Pistol and Rifle competitions, and is very happily married to a truly wonderful wife. He is the author of two Cold War spy novels, Trapped in a Hall of Mirrors: How The Luckiest Man in the World Became a Spy and Funhouse Mirrors. More information can be found about Connick at http://michaelconnick.com.

12 thoughts on “5 Small Pistols for Your Story’s Protagonist

  1. I have found the Sig P232 a marvelous little .380 ACP. It has the same diameter round as a 9mm, but with less power. The grip is barely full size (if you have small hands), fits comfortably in the hand with the standard grip, and wonderfully with the hogue-type finger-channel grip.

    Very accurate, with a long enough barrel that its easy to aim, and the slim profile still makes it easy to disappear.

    Also, it’s a Sig, so it’s expensive but very reliable.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post, Michael! You made me miss my 9mm Glock…. with laser sight…. 😦 But it kept stove-piping on me and after the gunsmith checked and re-checked, we knew it was all me. Limp wrist. Which brings me to ask how the trigger pulls are on these handguns? I’d guess the smaller weapons have an easier pull (and therefore easier for the more delicate women to fire) but is that an assumption I should make? (I’ve since found I prefer my .22 S&W revolver — lighter weight, easier to carry, even on a holster, and I though it’s double-action, I fire more accurately without cocking the gun first (ironically…). While most law enforcement (and PIs and bounty hunters) probably prefer semi-autos to revolvers, do you have any advice regarding revolvers in fiction?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Trigger pull on these weapons is really all over the place. Small handguns don’t necessarily have lighter trigger pulls.

      Revolvers tend to be more reliable than semi-autos and can be used for contact shots (barrel actually touching victim) without going out of battery and malfunctioning. Their big limitation is capacity, typically only 5 or 6 rounds. They are also much harder to reload than semi-automatics. Today, they seem to primarily be used as backup weapons in case the primary firearm is lost or malfunctions.


  3. Very nice to read, thanks for sharing! Remembering my most beloved, aging street-shaman, who is just 200 bucks away from registering his private investigator license, I can add one handgun:


    Please remember that my protagonist is European and must expect gang-style attacks, Salafist bullies n stuff, or misguided but trained combat-doggies… 😉


    • The .357 Sig catridge is something of an unusual round and you won’t find many handguns in the US in that caliber. The few people I know who own guns chambered in that caliber do seem to like them, though. The only problem is that the ammo is expensive and sometimes hard to find.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, and just for transparency: I am on German territory, with complete handgun ban for civilians. Hence I appreciate the explanation of available ammunition, but luckily I am just an author researching, not one in dire need of a handgun for real. Goodbye.


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