Concealed Carry Pistol: Criteria, Comparisons, and My 9mm Choices

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Concealed Carry Pistol: Criteria, Comparisons, and My 9mm Choices
Concealed Carry Pistol: Criteria, Comparisons, and My 9mm Choices
Concealed Carry Pistol: Criteria, Comparisons, and My 9mm Choices
Concealed Carry Pistol: Criteria, Comparisons, and My 9mm Choices

Frequently students ask me to suggest some concealed carry pistols in 9mm for them to consider. They want a few options to begin their own research and to save them some time narrowing down the huge list of choices. It is difficult and very personal to whittle down the list, but here are just five of the criteria I use to do that and 12 options in 9mm pistols I suggest you consider at the present time. I believe it is very important to try each (or at least your top 3) of your carry options for yourself before you buy. I use a standard drill that is based on testing application of the fundamentals by the shooter for each of their top options, so they can compare the criteria for each carry option. Note that my .45 and other caliber carry options and other very good guns are not included here, because I tailored the options to match my personal preferences. I like primarily compact size 9mm for carry. Below represents only my current 9mm options, since I prefer that caliber for my carry gun, but I do carry others.

Some Criteria for my Concealed Carry 9mm Handgun are:

1. Accuracy– well-placed shots (slow and fast-fired) hitting the target in a 9-inch diameter area with one-handed and two-handed shots at tactical, combat distances of 3, 5, 7, 10, and 15 yards; without gun modifications (out of the box); 9mm gives me less movement and more accuracy with the right ammo;

2. Reliability– consistency of target hits over repeated trials with the gun; being able to count on the handgun to be a quality, well-functioning gun, without malfunctions and stoppages, to hit the target each time I shoot the gun;

3. Ergonomics– the way the gun adapts to my hands; is it comfortable and can I easily reach the controls, trigger, magazine release button, slide lock lever, grip angle, type of safeties, decocker (if present), etc.

4. Trigger Press– can I press the trigger easily and make the gun fire efffectively, while minimizing movement of my fingers, hands, wrist, arm, and body and controlling recoil and getting acceptable target hits; I prefer 4 to 6 pounds of trigger press and no trigger modifications with a short reset and travel for my carry handgun;

5. Concealability– can I conceal the handgun easily, given my body characteristics, my method of preferred carry, and the dimensions of the gun. For carry, I pay particular attention to the width and angle of the grip and frame area (so for ME the Glock 19 below is not a carry consideration with its steeper grip angle and extra relative width), how well, easily, and where my trigger finger touches the trigger, barrel length (3-4″ for carry), capacity in rounds, total gun length, and loaded gun weight. For my aging eyes, easily seen sights are a plus and can be added as preferred to just about any gun, if not standard equipment.

Here are 12 current 9mm Pistol Options with their standard configurations that meet the criteria for me, at this time (not in priority rank). Try to narrow down the list to only your top 3 pistols to use in your handgun evaluation drill. I use a standard drill that has 5 shooting stages, firing 5 shots, at 3, 5, 7, 10, and 15 yard distances with one-hand and two-hand grips and a standing shooting position.

I believe you have to actually handle and shoot the guns to decide for yourself. I know this is a big time-consuming challenge, but the reward of knowing you took the time and effort to actually decide this for yourself, based on your own thought-out criteria and hands-on experience, will be well worth it. So, what price is it worth to you to “bite the bullet” and spend the time to evaluate your top 3 guns? I believe the benefits are priceless and far outweigh the costs of this. After all, your life and the life of your loved ones could be at stake here. As an example, I just recently had a friend and student of mine spend a few hours at the range with me making this important decision. He narrowed my list (and his list) of guns down to a list of 4 of the guns I own and ran my drill to decide on his best carry gun. He and I are confident that he made the best decision by following a standard drill and evaluation process for each gun. He demonstrated to himself through live-fire structured, shooting scenarios what gun he was most accurate with and enjoyed shooting the most. This was not just randomly shoot-paper fun. He then made a fine decision and was rewarded. He presented the comparison data, his hits and variations by gun by distances, and all his results to his wife, convincing her that he could defend her and himself in a violent encounter with one particular handgun. His wife recognized the importance of the results, wanted him to get that particular gun, and actually bought the gun for him as an early Christmas present. Wow! Let’s get started now on paring our list down, shooting our final choices, and getting a new gun for Christmas. Go for it! Here are my finalists:

9MM HandgunActionWeight (oz)Barrel Length "Total Length "Capacity (Rounds)Height "Width "
Ruger LC9s
Manual safety
DAO
Striker Fired
17.23.106.0074.500.90
SIG P938
Fiber Optic Fr. Sight
Manual Safety
SAO16.03.005.9073.901.10
Springfield EMP
Tritium Night Sights-1911 Style
Match Barrel & Trigger-grip Safety
SAO23.003.006.6394.811.11
Smith & Wesson M&P 9C
No Manual Safety
DAO
Striker Fired
21.73.506.70124.301.20
Springfield XDs 4.0
Fiber Optic Fr. Sight
No Manual Safety-Grip Safety
DAO
Striker Fired
25.004.007.007-9 w/ ect.4.400.90
Ruger SR9C
Manual Safety
DAO
Striker Fired
23.43.506.85104.611.27
Heckler & Koch Model P30 -
LEM V1

Luminescent Ft. Sight
Rail - Bobbed Hammer
DAO
Hammer Fired
26.003.866.99155.431.37
SIG P320 Carry
No Manual Safety
DAO
Striker Fired
26.003.907.20155.311.40
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield
With or W/O Manual Safety
DAO
Striker Fired
19.003.106.1074.600.95
Springfield XD-9 Mod 2
No Manual Safety-Grip Safety
DAO
Striker Fired
26.003.006.2513-16 w/ ext.4.751.19
Glock 19 *DAO
Striker Fired
23.654.017.36154.991.18
Kimber Solo **SAW
Striker Fired
17.002.705.506-8 w/ ext.3.901.15
*Does NOT Meet My Grip Criteria
**Does NOT Meet My Barrel Length & Trigger Pull Criteria- with 2.7″ barrel and 7# pull

 

Handgun Testing and Evaluation Drill

Now that you have narrowed down your possible 9mm handgun purchase options, it is very important to rent or borrow the finalists and actually shoot before you buy. We help our students by providing many handguns for them to choose from, with them providing their own ammo. It is less expensive to rent a handgun, fire some rounds yourself through it to evaluate it, than fork over the $600 or more to buy the wrong handgun. You should shoot each of the pistols on your short list following a standard drill process with the same procedures/steps while using your criteria to more objectively evaluate the performance of each gun, while following the shooting basics. It is important to use the same decision making criteria and try your best to apply the shooting fundamentals for each stage of the drill to get valid and reliable results for your decision making. The routine drill we use will help you standardize your approach to more fairly evaluate your accuracy with & handling of each gun. With our standard drill, I have students use my 4-Step Shooting Process which focuses on the basics of sight alignment, front sight focus, breath control to minimize movement, and trigger press and control for each gun. At each stage of the drill at different distances, students focus on the eight fundamentals of shooting. This basic drill is a good indicator of your abilities, your application of the fundamentals of shooting, and your match to the handgun for results. It can be repeated with fast fire for each stage, especially for considering close combat-tactical use with your concealed carry gun.

Your standard drill or mine for all guns evaluated is useful when checking your ability to use and control a certain handgun well and when checking a new technique, treating all guns the same as much as possible. Recognize that a handgun that is too powerful for some (such as a .40 sub-compact or snub-nosed .357 Magnum) may strike far from the point of aim and will scatter the grouping of hits on the target. So, most will do well with the first few stages, then have a larger grouping of hits at longer distances as recoil becomes tiring. That is why it is important to fire the short-distance stages first. If you do fine at short distances and then a problem becomes apparent at 15 yards, you have accomplished the goal so do not get discouraged. Remember, you are not shooting to beat the qualification drill nor competing against other shooters. You are shooting to learn about the blending of the features and performance of each handgun with your skills and preferences for your purpose, while applying the fundamentals, to help you decide on the best gun for yourself. You are really judging the gun and yourself together, while deciding if that is the best gun for your purpose. So, recognize that key difference… and have fun! Incidentally, your performance with the handgun might help you learn some technique, skill, or fundamental that can be improved.

If you want to evaluate the gun up very close for combat or tactical shooting, you can rerun your standard drill stages using only the front sight or Flash Sight Picture shooting with gradual rapid fire at closer distances. But, recognize when evaluating a gun that accuracy is more important than speed, although certainly both are important in self-defense and your use for the gun is a major consideration. While variations are possible, ensure the revised drill and stages are consistent for each gun evaluated.

Continued success!

Photo with Permission from HKuulapaa.

This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney in your state or jurisdiction for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense, stand your ground law, and concealed carry. This is not legal advice and not legal opinions. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.

© 2014 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected].