In Defense of Small Pistols in Fiction

Kel Tec P32

Mouse guns are small handguns that are easy to conceal, but hard to use accurately. While exact definitions can vary, they are generally considered to be the smallest handguns that still retain practical value. This .32 caliber Kel Tec would qualify as a mouse gun.
By James Case from Philadelphia, Mississippi, U.S.A. (Kel Tec P32 .32) [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve defended the use of small pistols, aka “mouse guns,” in fiction before, and it appears I’m not the only one with the belief that getting shot sucks no matter the caliber. Michael Connick, who recently contributed a great piece about everyday carry setups, is here to back me up. Enjoy!


benefits of mouse guns

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)

As someone whose primary concealed carry weapon is a 9mm FN FNS-9 Compact pistol, which is almost seven inches long and weighs almost a pound and a half, it may surprise you to learn that I’m also a big fan of mouse guns. Why? Well, here’s the somewhat involved story regarding my strange fascination with these little handguns.

First of all, let me give you my definition of a mouse gun. I consider any handgun in a caliber lower than .380 ACP (.22 LR, .25 ACP, .32 ACP, etc.) that is small enough to be completely concealed within a typical adult male’s hand to be a mouse gun.

Firearm Experts Don’t Always Carry Big Guns

My mouse gun story begins with an opportunity to meet with Claude Werner, also known within the firearms community as the “Tactical Professor.” Claude has had an extensive career in Special Operations, as well as a firearms instructor. At one time he was the chief instructor at the Rogers Shooting School; arguably the toughest firearms training institution in the country. He’s something of a heavy hitter in the defensive handgun world.

So, while speaking with him, I just had to ask, “What kind of handgun do you personally carry for self-protection?” I half-expected to hear something like “a Desert Eagle in .50 Action Express.” His real answer completely shocked me: “A .32 caliber pistol.”

I immediately asked him, “Why?” He stated that all handgun bullets really suck in their ability to stop a attacker when compared to rifle bullets. By understanding the limitations of all pistols and focusing on good shot placement, the mouse gun was simply the best self-defense tool for him personally.

Accuracy Trumps Caliber: Use What’s Easy for the Character to Shoot

What is the best caliber for a handgun

When it comes to handguns, smaller calibers are generally easier to shoot than larger calibers. The easier the firearm is to shoot, the more likely the operator will practice with it. That means better shot placement, which is ultimately what counts. A miss is a miss regardless of caliber. (Image by Brian Lary via

That really got me thinking. I’ve been hearing for years that I should be wary of the stopping power of handgun bullets, even big old .45’s. I’ve also heard that there is really very little difference in the lethality of 9mm, .40, and .45 calibers. In fact, for many years now, the .32 caliber cartridge has been accepted throughout Europe and South America as a reasonable defensive caliber. Finally, there’s that oft-cited statistic that more people have been killed by .22s than by any other caliber. (I couldn’t find a source for this, but it’s a reasonable assumption that the .22 would rank highly out of ubiquity alone. ~Ben)

Maybe handgun caliber really doesn’t matter all that much as long as shot placement is spot on!

A Mouse Gun Recommendation for Fiction: .32 Beretta Tomcat

So, after thinking all this through I went out and bought a mouse gun that I’ve always thought was really cool: a .32 ACP Beretta Tomcat. That’s one of the baby Berettas that has a tip-up barrel. This handgun is less than five inches long and well less than four inches tall. It weighs just 14.5 ounces and has a seven-round magazine.

As you can clearly see in the below picture, it is small enough to be completely hidden inside my hand:

Self-defense tips for mouse guns

A Beretta Tomcat in .32 would work well in the real world and in fiction. (author image)

My particular pistol is actually an Alleycat, which is just a Tomcat model with “night sights.” They really just have a tritium vial on the front sight, but what was really important to me was that the Alleycat has factory installed XS Big Dot sights. I thought these larger than normal sights would be perfect for such a small handgun with a very limited sight radius, and I ended up being correct in my opinion.

How Well Do Mouse Guns Perform?

I was very surprised the very first time I took this mouse gun out to the range to shoot. For years I’ve heard these guns were only good for shooting at “bad breath” distances. Regardless, I started off shooting it at 10 yards and was soon knocking down 8-inch steel plates without any problem. I then backed up to 15 yards and continued to knock the plates down. Finally, I backed up to 25 yards and continued to hit the steel plates. I was frankly amazed. Such shots are not typically easy even with a much larger handgun.

This little pistol has almost no recoil and is amazingly accurate and very easy for me to shoot. I shot the gun better the very first time I fired it than most handguns I’ve ever tried. Here I was, killing little plates out to 25 yards with the Alleycat, even when shooting it one-handed. It was that easy for me to shoot this mouse gun!

Ever since then I’ve made it a point to try and carry my Alleycat whenever it feels appropriate to do so. When I’m carrying my much larger FNS-9 Compact, I sometimes also carry the Alleycat in a pocket holster as a backup gun. If I need to wear clothing making it impossible to effectively conceal the FNS-9 Compact, or if I’m in a situation where I need to practice very “deep concealment,” the little Alleycat can become my only concealed handgun and is confidently carried along with a spare magazine. I’ve become a firm mouse gun believer!

Don’t Count Out Small Handguns (Mouse Guns) for Writing Fiction

So, if appropriate, don’t hesitate to equip your protagonist with one of the many little mouse guns currently available on the market. Just make sure that they have sufficient training and experience to shoot such a tiny handgun well, and it might be able to save their lives!

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

8 thoughts on “In Defense of Small Pistols in Fiction

  1. Pingback: Latest Article of Mine in “The Writer’s Guide to Weapons” – Michael Connick

  2. I still live in a country with firearm-ban. Contemplating your article I found only this:

    I agree on not being able to put my hands on the gun types making it harder to imagine and write their usage in a convincing or plausible way though… A gun too small means a bad grip, a gun too high in caliber may mean you kinda involuntarily disarm yourself on first shot..?


  3. I’ve read stories where the protagonist only used the pistol to threaten their opponent into backing off or surrendering. Just looking down the wrong end of a gun was enough to make one reconsider matters I would guess.

    As for doing actual damage, it didn’t matter whether they were carrying an elephant gun, automatic pistol or a ladies Saturday night special. Training, brains and guts was the only thing that mattered.


  4. Great read, as usual. A few of my fictional characters briefly carry “mouse guns” for a different reason: survivability. A good antagonist is a nearly unstoppable force, in my mind. If the protagonist dumps an entire magazine of .45 ACP into the bad guy…then character development for the antagonist ends. But if our hero wounds the antagonist with a diminutive pepperbox he pulled from a lady’spurse? Oh, then you have an injured, angry character that is Hell-bent on revenge…


    • Weeeeelll there’s the kicker
      You can put as much handgun ammo as you want in your target; he may well just eat it and keep going.
      Let’s look at that cop who carries 145 rounds of 9mm now.
      He put a couple dozen .45 ACP rounds into a guy, but the man did not stop. Nine of them were mortal, but not fatal, injuries, including heart, lungs etc.
      The enemy continued to fight and stayed operable for about ten seconds before the officer nailed him with three headshots.
      As a side note it also makes the enemy look cooler.
      “I thought you shot him!”
      “I did! I fired a full mag from a Glock 21 into him!”
      “Why the fuck wasn’t he dead?!”
      “I dunno! He didn’t have armour, I saw the blood!”
      But in the end, you can do what you want and still have it be realistic. I’m reminded of this one account from the GWOT, from I think it was a Ranger?
      He saw a rookie, in his first mission inside a Humvee, just start taking rounds and not missing a beat. The guy took rounds to his plate, yeah, but AKM rounds also chewed up his arm and side. He kept passing ammo to the machine gunner up top.
      At the same time, there’s accounts of people going down at twenty yards from one .22LR wound.
      In summation:


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