An Argument for the Double-Stack as a Carry Gun

An Argument for the Double-Stack as a Carry Gun

The newer breed of single-stack 9mm handguns, epitomized by such weapons as the Smith and Wesson M&P Shield, Glock 43, and the Walther PPS, are all the rage among concealed carriers these days. Such handguns provide adequate shootability, sufficient ammunition capacity for general civilian needs, and prove very easy to carry. Civilian defenders rarely encounter the dedicated criminal element that police officers occasionally face. The vast majority of citizen force encounters end after the criminal becomes late for a different appointment once he sees a gun produced or takes incoming fire. If we just look at averages, a good single-stack 9mm handgun is a capable weapon for concealed carry.

However, the problem with the entire statistics and probabilities argument is that they sound good until you find yourself an anomaly. I honestly have nothing against relatively small guns, I often carry a small-frame five-shot revolver when I need deep concealment, so I can hardly criticize carrying the even more formidable single-stack 9mm. I know a lot of macho guys who tout carrying only a full-size handgun, yet never actually have a gun on them. A smaller gun is still a formidable defensive weapon, but I find many people talk themselves out of trying to carry something larger and more capable before they give it a chance.

I am of the opinion that the weapon class that offers the most versatility and capability relative to feasible concealment is the double-stack compact or sub-compact models of handguns. Weapons like the Smith and Wesson M&P9c, the Glock 26, or the Sig p320 Sub-compact epitomize this selection. These are all chambered in 9mm, the ideal cartridge for such guns as it proves more controllable than the larger caliber service rounds and it also maximizes ammunition capacity. These guns are considerably smaller than their full-size counterparts, but they retain much of the capability.

These days the gun I most often carry is the Glock 26. The compact size of the 26 gives up some performance compared to the full-size guns, especially if carried with the flush fitting magazine which leaves the pinky finger falling under the grip for most shooters. With good technique, however, this size of handgun is very capable. The M&P9 Compact is similar, even a bit larger than the Glock 26, and it offers two more rounds of capacity in the flush-fit magazine. The Glock 26 and M&P9 Compact both represent what I truly love about this format: they prove substantially easier to conceal than the full-size models, yet still prove very formidable. They provide significantly more on-board capacity than do the single-stack options, and they have one truly excellent advantage: they accept full-size magazines.

I carry my Glock 26 with the flush-fit ten round magazine, but I carry a Magpul GL9 twenty-one round magazine as a reload. The Magpul Glock magazines have proven utterly reliable, but you should be wary of using after-market magazines in handguns as they can prove unreliable. The Glock 26 is compatible with the factory Glock 17 magazine, which provides seventeen rounds of ammunition as a reload. The M&P9 Compact holds twelve rounds in the flush-fit magazine, but can accept the standard M&P seventeen round magazine. This ability makes the compact double-stack gun much more versatile than a single-stack gun. You can carry with the flush-fit magazine for concealment, but you can leave it next to your bed at night with a full-size magazine making it a good home defense gun. When carrying a spare magazine as a reload I find that the extra height of the larger full-capacity magazines prove no hindrance and carry as easily as a spare compact magazine. This depends on how you carry your reload, of course.

So why are single-stack 9mms all the rage if the double-stack compact has these advantages?

The difference, of course, is the width. The double-stack model is wider to accommodate the higher-capacity staggered magazine. This width is essentially the deciding factor. For some people this width truly makes carrying the double-stack more difficult than a single-stack. However, the point I wish to make is that for many people the width difference is greatly exaggerated in their own mind. Depending on your body type and your mode of carry the width may make a substantial difference, or it may make no difference at all. I think many new concealed carriers talk themselves out of carrying a larger gun before they actually try it.

For myself, the width makes little difference in my ability to conceal the gun. What makes the definitive difference, however, is the height of the grip, and many other concealed carriers find this to be the case. I find the Glock 26, for example, conceals better than the Glock 19 or Glock 17. However, the Glock 43, the single-stack version that is almost identical in dimensions to the 26 except for the fact that it is thinner, conceals roughly the same. The heel of the grip is what gives me trouble when concealing and the thinner gun offers no significant advantage. Therefore, why would I carry the smaller gun which offers less capacity and can’t accept full-size magazines? The Smith and Wesson M&P9 Compact is actually slightly shorter in the grip than the uber-popular single-stack M&P Shield and with the flush fit magazine the compact offers 12+1 rounds as opposed to the Shield’s flush fit magazine capacity of 7+1. If the width makes no difference in concealment for you there is no denying the difference in capability between the two weapons.

If the thinner gun truly works better for you I completely respect that, but I think many simply never do the comparison in the first place. If you have not tried to conceal a double-stack compact, give it a go. Some people with small hands find the double-stack autos a bit big in the grip and actually prefer the smaller gun for shooting, so this is also a valid concern. However, a lot of new concealed carriers just automatically default to the smaller gun without actually comparing it to the concealability of the slightly larger but more capable double-stack compact.

So, in closing, let me re-iterate that I believe the modern single-stack 9mm is a good concealed carry weapon and if it works well for you then you roam the world considerably well-armed and far more prepared than most people. However, if you are new to concealed carry my recommendation is to actually try the double-stack compact gun to see the difference first hand. If there is no appreciable difference in concealability I would argue that more bullets is always better! Combine that with the ability to accept a full-size reload, and a double-stack compact 9mm is a gun that is small enough for most to conceal but big enough to really fight with.

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  • Talldog

    There are other considerations, but in terms of concealability, the difference between my Ruger SR9c double stack and my Shield 9 is practically nonexistent. However, CT is a mag restricted state (10), and my Shield’s MagGuts equipped mags hold 8 and 9 rounds, so not much of a difference there.

  • a_b704

    I would much rather carry a G34 than a Shield. But that is just not practical here, except in Winter.

  • I prefer single stack, from an ergonomic perspective. John Browning understood it with the 1911. Many double stacks are like gripping a 2×2. Welcome back McLovin.

  • Bob Folken

    I personally like my Springfield XDs 45ACP. 5 round mag with 7 round mag for reload.

  • nicholsda

    9 rounds of 9mm vs 9 rounds of .45ACP. I’ll stick with the 1911, Thank you very much. As statistics show, most encounters by concealed weapons carriers only show 2 or 3 rounds fired. So using a smaller round really does not equal using a larger round.

  • David Douglass

    Depends on what I wear. At the least there’s a single stack Springfield polymer, somewhere on me. There’s a double stack polymer Springfield in a Sneaky Pete holster. And in places where I can legally open carry, I display a Springfield TRP instead of the double stack polymer pistol.
    The important part is the ammo for EDC. I have tested everything over the past five years—everything. And Lehigh Defense’s Xtreme Defense ammo in all calibers is superior to anything out there. A 380 in this round produces 1150 fps, 14″ of penetration, a 2.5″ wound cavity out of a 65 gr bullet-Fluid Transfer Monolithic.
    9 mm – 1450 fps, 17.5″ penetration, 2.5″ wound cavity, 90 gr FTM bullet.
    40 cal. – 1350 fps, 19″ penetration, 3.0″ wound cavity, 115 gr FTM bullet
    45 cal. – 1350 fps, 19.5″ penetration, 2.5″ wound cavity, 120 gr FTM bullet.
    10 mm – 1500 fps, 21″ penetration, 3.15″ wound cavity, 115 gr FTM bullet.

    The recoil is significantly less than any of the best hollow points on the market in the 1.75-200 dollar per rd. And muzzle rise is also a lot less and much easier for quick follow up shots.

    This ammo is the key to my peace of mind. And since this ammo is caliber-blind, producing the same results essentially. why not choose the double stack Springfield XDM 9 mm with both size mags. And a Springfield Mod 2 compact 40 cal. as my backup. I do miss my big bore 45’s though but Lehigh made them less reasonable.

  • all steel commander w/23# recoil spring. 230g +P federal HST. Look at Lucky Gunner’s tests. Very extensive. The HST and Winchester Ranger T were tops in 45. I’ve used the Remington 185g +P in the past, very potent stuff. I’d like to try 45 Super in the future. Figure another 200fps. Buffalo Bore makes some interesting ammo for 45 Super.

  • john northrop

    Bought a 43. Need to sell it. Can carry and conceal my 26 exactly the same as i have been for 10 years! Why did I buy the hype? Lol. G26 with G19 of G17 Mag for backup everyday. X-GRIP helps a lot on those bigger mags. Just have no use for the single stack myself. Why limit myself so severely when the footprint is almost exactly identical.

  • Fred Miller

    I don’t like most double stack guns because they basically require a larger framed hand for a comfortable fit. They also have a tendency to print, and I live in a state where that’s definitely a no-no. Concealed carry guns guns were designed for the purpose of carrying comfortably and without anyone knowing you’re carrying. My three carry guns are a Ruger LCP2 (for deep concealment), a Ruger LC9s, and a Sig P938. I love these guns because when I’m carrying, I don’t even remember I have them until I want or need them. They all shoot really well and have been reliable. I have a couple of double stacks in Sig and Springfield in .45ACP, but never carry them (unless I’m in the woods where the bears are) because they’re not specifically designed as concealed guns, nor are as comfortable. I know quite a few people who carry full size guns (like 1911s), but most I know don’t.

    • Iowa10

      I do remember the Founding Fathers put a disclaimer in the Second Amendment: you can bear arms, but printing is not covered by this natural right.

      • Ku

        In addition to the “printing disclaimer” – I seem to remember the addendum that states something about IF YOU ARE NOT AN ACTIVE OR RETIRED GOVERNMENT LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENT YOU DON’T NEED MORE THAN 10 BULLETS AND YOU DEFINITELY DON’T NEED A SEMI-AUTOMATIC RIFLE.

        • Fred Miller

          Maybe not need them, but everybody has them.

  • Mikial

    If I to go deep, I carry a single stack. If I have some latitude in how I dress, I carry a full sized .45 or 9mm. It’s all about fitting your carry to the situation. I never carry anything smaller than a 9mm. With the gun designs now you don’t have to compromise to a .380 or smaller.

  • wynndaddy

    I was drawn into this articles believing it was all about single stack vs double…..Come on ladies next time let us know from the get go its about a lot of talk about 9 mm…. There still some men in the world that can handled more gun than that in both single and double…9 single vs 9 double stack should read.. I would of passed…

  • Mike Reese

    I carry a sub-compact Px4 Storm or compact XD Mod 2 in 9mm. Both have flush 13 rd double stack mags. XD spare is 17 rd, Px4 is 17 or 20 rods. XD is striker model while Px4 is DA/SA. XD is thinner but decocker/safety on Px4 gives me something my arthritic hands can push against as my left hand really can’t grip anymore. Single stack ok. I have LCP Custom for pocket carry. That will fit in my swimsuit.