Tiny Guns and the PHLster Enigma

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How Well Do Tiny Guns Work With the PHLster Enigma?

Folks often ask where to find an Enigma compatible holster for extremely small guns like the Sig P238, 938, or the Ruger LCPII. While some holsters work better than others (yes, we have recommendations!), first you need a brief warning about what to expect when using an extremely small gun with the PHLster Enigma.

We’ll cover everything you need to know before you invest.

Tiny Gun Examples

First, let’s define the category. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to define “tiny guns” as guns smaller in size than the ever-popular little Glock 42, which is the smallest gun we make an Enigma Express for. Some folks also refer to this size category as “pocket guns.” While it doesn’t have tightly defined boundaries, here are some examples of guns we consider “tiny” for the purposes of our holsters.

  • Sig P238
  • Ruger LCP, LCPII, and LCP Max
  • S&W Bodyguard
  • Kimber Micro
  • Kimber Solo
  • Keltec P-3AT
  • Walther PPK
  • Beretta Pico

The Mechanics of Concealing Tiny Guns

Tiny guns are, well, TINY!  They should be easy to conceal. But ironically, tiny guns can actually be quite a struggle to conceal when wearing them on a traditional belt holster or Enigma. This is due to the Keel Principle.

Simply put, the Keel Principle means that tiny guns don’t have enough mass below the waterline (your belt line), so they tend to tip out at the top. Like the Keel on a sailboat, the length of the holster below the belt normally helps balance the weight, making it more concealable and comfortable. BUT since tiny guns have short muzzles, they don’t have enough keel below the belt to be balanced. This makes the grip of the firearm want to tip out and print, while the muzzle digs in and creates an uncomfortable hotspot.

Grip Clearance and Tiny Guns

Sometimes holster manufacturers try to “solve” this imbalance by putting the grip of the gun closer to the belt, or in the case of bellybands and corset holsters, by covering it with fabric. This sort of works, but it causes an unacceptably slow and impeded draw. It’s essential to have proper grip clearance on your holster so that you can draw the gun quickly and safely in an emergency. To avoid fumbles and tragic mishaps, you must be able to get your hand fully around the grip of the gun before the gun clears the holster. For these reasons, we don’t recommend holsters that compromise grip clearance to improve concealment.

(Note: This is separate from the topic of deep carry,  which is when you deliberately carry your gun below the waistband. Deep carry holsters must also provide proper grip clearance, so the same principles apply even in that special use case.)

How To Check Grip Clearance

With the gun inserted into the holster, check that you have enough space to put a US quarter between the grip of the gun and the wing of the holster. If you have larger hands, make sure you have room to fully grip the gun without interference from the holster’s wing. (Note: Before buying an Enigma, make sure your holster also fits all the other compatibility criteria from the Fit Guide.)

Using the Enigma with Tiny Guns

You CAN use the Enigma with tiny guns, but here’s what you need to know first.

Since the gun is so tiny, all the Enigma concealment features will be oversized in relation to the gun. In other words, the holster shell and the entire Enigma footprint will be larger than the gun. Customers who try the Enigma with micro guns are sometimes disappointed because they’re expecting the overall footprint to be smaller.

Take a look at the picture below. You can see how the holster is longer than the muzzle of the gun at the bottom. This is necessary in order to fit the two screws that attach the Modwing. Tiny guns are so small that they don’t have enough space below the trigger guard to mount holster hardware, so extra length must be added to the holster.

You’ll also notice that the material of the Enigma’s faceplate sticks out quite a ways past the holster. Since the gun is so small, you’ll end up with a lot of that faceplate material contacting your skin. So you’ll definitely want to use a liner layer like an undershirt or bandeau underneath your Enigma for comfort.

Enigma Comptaible Holster Recommendations for Tiny Guns

If you are okay with the larger footprint and you’d still like to use the Enigma anyway, here is everything you’ll need to know to proceed, broken down into easy steps. Follow the steps — in order — for a smoother experience!

First, you’ll need to find and purchase a compatible holster for your gun from another manufacturer. Do this before ordering your Enigma, because other manufacturers may have long lead times. The Enigma has a 30-day return window, so make sure you have your holster in hand when your Enigma arrives. That way you’ll have time to assemble and adjust it, and you can make sure you like it before the return window is up!

For small guns, we recommend choosing a holster with no clip blocking (raised bumps for belt clip hardware, which you don’t need and will add unnecessary bulk). You can still use a holster that has clip blocking, but it will be slightly more bulky.

Here are a few holsters we recommend:

  •  Quick Ship Stealth holster shell from Holsterco.
      • Choose the RCS Overhook for your belt attachment, and put in the notes that it’s for the Enigma.
      • This holster requires the fixed retention kit for Enigma assembly.
  • The Zero G from Eclipse Holsters. 
      • Order the “Delta wing kit” at checkout.
      • This holster requires the fixed retention kit for Enigma assembly.
  • The Enigma shell from Green Force Tactical.
  • The IWB holster from Rounded Concealment. These holsters do have clip blocking, and they may have low grip clearance. We recommend this company only if you can’t find anything else, and you’re okay with these limitations.
      • Order the “holster claw kit” option.
      • Requires the Fixed Retention Kit  for Enigma assembly.

If you have any questions about other companies’ options or ordering, please contact them. We’re not affiliated with other holster companies, so we can’t answer questions about their order process and options.

Once you have your compatible holster in hand, you’ll need to order the Standard Engima OS.

Note: The Standard Enigma OS is not compatible with lights or lasers that attach in front of the firearm’s trigger guard. If your tiny gun has a light or laser, you cannot use the Enigma (unless you’re willing to take it off and find a compatible holster from the list above). Do not attempt to use the Light Bearing Enigma OS with a tiny gun – you will not have a good experience.

We’re sorry we can’t accommodate lights or lasers on tiny guns, but please keep us in mind for your future needs!

Next, you’ll assemble your Enigma using our instructions and resources.

Special notes for small gun assembly and adjustment:
  • If your holster has adjustable retention, you’ll need to order the Fixed Retention Conversion Kit, and follow the special instructions for working with adjustable retention holsters during assembly.
  • Make sure your spacers are not too tall for your gun. You can find instructions for checking spacer height here.
  • Smaller guns require less grip rotation. Therefore, you may want to remove the modwing insert. This can be done without disassembling your Enigma. This video may be helpful.

Do you need extra holster length?*

*If you’re carrying a longer-muzzled gun or a revolver, adding extra holster length may not be necessary for you, but for short semiautomatic guns, it’s often helpful.

Guns with short muzzles can be top-heavy and difficult to conceal comfortably. To solve this, some holsters have extra length added to the muzzle end. Like the keel on a boat, the extra muzzle length helps balance the holster, making it more comfortable and easier to conceal. This is especially true if you have a bit of a belly, which tends to push the grip out more and make the muzzle dig in.

Note that while extra muzzle length reduces grip printing, it can increase muzzle printing, which can be a concern with lower carry positions and tight fitting pants such as leggings or yoga pants. 

Learn more about the Keel Principle here.