Tips for Choosing Your Next Concealed Carry Gun

Tips for Choosing Your Next Concealed Carry Gun

By Salvatore via Concealed Nation.

Many individuals are on the verge of choosing their first weapon for personal protection. Selecting a handgun is a demanding decision as the requirements for each individual are different. It is a highly personal choice. Handguns in particular are very individual. There is no one-size-fits-all. This article is intended to assist you in making this choice, particularly as it pertains to selecting a gun for concealed carry applications.

If selecting a handgun only for home defense there is little reason to compromise on anything. Get a full-size combat handgun and get the one you most prefer. For a gun that you will carry concealed, however, most people must make some compromises due to lifestyle, environment, and dress requirements. In general, concealed carriers always walk the line between carrying a serious gun, and carrying a convenient gun. Sometimes, however, too much emphasis is placed on convenience. If you wish to carry a serious gun, you are simply going to have to make changes in your dress to accommodate it. If it is simply not possible to carry a larger gun, then carrying a small gun is still much better than carrying no gun, but you should strive to carry a formidable weapon. Remember the reason you are carrying the gun in the first place: to defend yourself or others from violence. Larger handguns are more efficient for fighting than diminutive guns, so carry as much gun as you can.

You may find that you inevitably need more than one carry gun. Perhaps you can carry a formidable gun much of the time but certain settings or obligations restrict you to a smaller gun. This being the case, you may eventually need to implement a couple of different carry options. If selecting your first carry gun, the hardest part of the process is often just evaluating your own needs and selecting the weapon that will work for you most often and in the most circumstances. Often a new carrier will select a gun that ends up being too large and later will get a different gun that is smaller and more concealable. Others do the opposite, and get a very small gun and later procure something more capable and easier to shoot. Let’s look at the general classes of weapons suitable for concealed carry to assist with your choice.

Compact Autos

Typically full-size combat handguns, as is carried by on-duty law enforcement personnel in open belt holsters, are referred to as service pistols. The next step down in size from service pistols is what we typically referred to as “compact” autos. These guns are usually almost identical to the full-size variant, often capable of using the full-size magazines, but they are slightly reduced in dimensions. On paper the compact version often does not seem much smaller than the full size model, but there is a substantial difference in concealability. Examples of this would include guns like the Glock 19 and Glock 26, the Smith and Wesson M&P9 compact, the Ruger SR9 compact, and the list goes on. These examples are all smaller than the full-size gun, but are very capable defensive weapons and are even compatible with the magazines of the full-size variant. These are just several examples, and many of the well-known defensive handguns are produced in compact size.

The compact auto class is what I strongly recommend for people to consider. They are typically easier to carry than the full-size service pistol, but they are serious guns. Once gaining some experience most shooters will be able to perform solidly with these compacts even to the point that many find relatively little difference at all between the compact and full-size variant in performance. These guns, when chambered in 9mm, usually hold between 10 and 15 rounds of ammunition as well, whereas the full size equivalent will usually hold 17 or 18 rounds, so you are gaining concealability but sacrificing ammunition capacity, but you are still carrying a gun with significant capability. A good compact auto is my top recommendation for carry, but you will have to make a bit more of a commitment to carrying such a weapon compared to the smaller choices. The compact also will serve as a capable home defense gun as well, so if you need to fill both roles with an initial handgun, this is a good option.

Single Stack 9mm Autos

The next size down, if you will, for a concealed carry choice, is going to be a single-stack 9mm. This breed of weapon is a relatively new phenomenon in terms of there being so many choices now available. This class of gun has grown popular in the last few years. The reason being: they are substantially easier to carry than full-size or even compact guns. What we have in a “single-stack” auto is a gun that is much thinner than a full-size or compact “double-stack” auto because these smaller framed pistols are built to accommodate an ammunition magazine that has only a single line of rounds stacked on top of one another, whereas the full-size and compact pistol variants typically have a staggered magazine that have essentially two rows of stacked rounds in the magazine. Therefore, the single-stack is thinner and easier to carry. The down side, however, is the single-stack carries less ammunition than does the double-stack design. These guns typically hold between 6 and eight rounds in the magazine. This class of weapon is typified by the Smith and Wesson M&P shield, which is similar in other dimensions to the M&P compact, but is much thinner. The Glock 43, Ruger LC9s and Walther PPS are also good guns in this category. If a full-size pistol, or even a compact model, proves too difficult to carry concealed a single-stack 9mm is my next recommendation.

Small Frame Revolvers

The small revolver is still a major player in the world of concealed carry. This class of gun is best represented by the Smith and Wesson J-frame variants and the Ruger LCR. The benefit to these guns is that they are amazingly concealable, even more so than the single stack autos for most people, due to their rounded shape. Small revolvers tend to be very versatile for different carry modes, such as pocket or ankle carry due to their design features. The revolver also provides a very user friendly operation and the design is very reliable. The down side to this class of gun is that they are incredibly difficult for an inexperienced shooter to shoot well. These guns are small and have a very heavy double-action trigger pull. Inexperienced shooters have a very hard time making accurate shots with these guns and most new shooters will perform significantly better with a small single-stack 9mm. Another down side is that these revolvers typically only hold 5 rounds and reloading them is slower than reloading an auto loader. Nevertheless, the small revolver still sells like crazy, and it is a very versatile weapon that is good for deep concealment.

Pocket Autos

The smallest category of concealed carry guns that are still somewhat viable as a defensive firearm are the very small pocket autos chambered in 380 ACP, which is the lightest cartridge I would even consider for defensive purposes (actually I don’t like anything lighter than 38 Special +P, but again, a 380 is a lot more gun than no gun). The benefit to these is that they are very small, even more concealable than the small frame revolvers. The down sides, however, are many. First, they prove just as difficult to shoot, if not more so, than the small revolvers as most have heavy double-action trigger pulls. Second, they are chambered in a significantly weaker cartridge than the service calibers. Third, they are more prone to reliability issues than larger autos.

Generally, I do not recommend this class of gun for carry at all. If you truly need to carry something very small I advise using a small revolver, as the slightly larger gun is still very concealable yet far more robust, reliable, and powerful. These pocket autos, however, prove to be immensely popular as many people prioritize convenience over all else. Again, I will say this: if you are only willing to carry a small 380 ACP it is still far more gun than no gun, but be realistic about the actual abilities, or lack thereof, of such a firearm. For people who work in environments that require extreme concealment and discretion a small auto in the pocket may be the only alternative. If so, it is a lot more gun than no gun. If you have the ability, though, a more capable weapon would be my suggestion. If you can’t carry more gun, then be sure to train with your small pocket gun to maximize your ability with it should you need it.

So, in conclusion, I have presented to you the primary classes of concealed carry firearms that are sold and carried today by armed citizens. My general advice is to carry more gun rather than less. Convenience should not outweigh the practicality of the weapon. However, for those who can only carry something very small, a modern single-stack 9mm or a small frame revolver provide capable personal protection, the single-stack auto probably being more shoot-able for most. However, if you can manage it, my top suggestion is a compact auto. Above all else you need to train to proficiency with the gun so that you can carry and handle it safely and competently should you need to use it if the worst comes to pass.

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  • Donald

    Sig Sauer P238 with Hornady Critical Defense works very well for my wife, very accurate and easy to shoot. Well enough I am considering one for myself.

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    • 2ThinkN_Do2

      And if you want more bang in a similar package; get the P938 (9mm). Virtually the same size, so yes it has more recoil. To smooth it out, buy the recoil absorbing Hogue rubber grip and get the finger extension +1 magazine. If you want to go all out, buy the SAS version which has more rounded edges (called carry melt treatment). I like mine and that’s how I upgraded it.

  • Jason Donovan

    It’s actually even easier in my state to choose a firearm because California has a roster of approved handguns and nearly all guns available today are not on it. So, ALL we lucky Californians have to do is walk in and see what’s available at ANY gun store and pick whatever still remains.

    Ok, in reality, yes I live in communistfornia and it sucks but I can’t move and wont until my kid gets to college. I can’t stand how little is available in our state and it’s frustrating.

    • G50AE

      Try getting a concealed carry permit in that state. I hear it is quite a mess.

      • Jason Donovan

        You do realize 1. this was sarcasm 2. I have a CCW and it was by the skin of my teeth.

        I was joking about the stupid roster because Communistfornia has found a way to ban all new handguns on the market and every year they get rid of more and more of the remaining handguns because they aren’t made anymore. Glock has a manufacturing plant JUST for California to make Gen 3 glocks because that’s ALL they can sell in Cali.

        • G50AE

          I am curious why the Gen 4 Glocks are banned but not the Gen 3?

          • Jason Donovan

            The Gen 3 were on the list of approved handguns before the new laws came into effect. Therefore, they were grandfathered in but any changes to the design and it is no longer “grandfathered” in. Thus why gen 4 are not available and gen 3 are

          • G50AE

            That makes about as much sense as any of the other California gun laws, which is to say ZERO. Charles Manson was quoted as saying, “Sometimes No sense is good sense.” Apparently the California state legislature has taken his advice when it comes to gun laws.

          • Jason Donovan

            If you want pure stupidity, you have to look no further than to California Politicians. Hell, one of our more boisterous anti-gun politicians and co-author on several anti-gun laws was arrested for selling illegal guns to gangs…lookup Leland Yee…and have a good laugh at our expense.

          • G50AE

            I am familiar with Mr. Yee’s exploits.

            I am also familiar with a man by the name of Jim March, who has quite effectively shown that the California Concealed Carry permit system is at best, political favouritism, and at worst, outright racist in its application.

          • Jason Donovan

            Well aware of Jim, but the issue is we, California, is a state filled with idiots who don’t take the time to understand before they pass their vote. Had they, as a whole, done that…we would never have passed the micro-stamping law that has respectively stopped the sales of all new firearms in our state. We have several groups in California who fight regularly against the stupid laws but each fight can take several years and no one knows which way the justice system will lean no a days.

          • G50AE

            Wait, there is a “justice system” in California?!? I would have never thought so.

          • Jason Donovan

            Of course there is a justice system. It focuses on taking away gun rights from law abiding citizens, forcing more politically correct nonsense down everyone’s throat, and punishing anyone who questions the system…and it seems to be working perfectly.

  • halfcocked

    I have had lots of hand guns over the last 30 yrs but all full size, now I carry concealed and full size is out of the question and looking at the concealed market it was clearly one choice a 40 cal…why carry 6 or 8 rounds in 9mm when I could carry 7 or 8 in 40…if its all about stopping the threat..well 9mm not cutting it for me , when you hear they had to shoot 15 times and I don’t care about that one shot one kill crap because that’s what it is …crap talk…I carry a S&W M&P shield in 40 cal and two extra 7 rd mags and train every month even though I’ve shot and hunted most of my adult life, my tip to you is….. IWB kytex holster and two kytex mag holders on a 1.75 Hanks concealed carry belt…the right tools for the right job…plain & simple

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      • Charles

        Prove it!

    • Jason Donovan

      Halfcocked, you make a few assumptions that are simply just stupid.
      1. .40’s recoil far more than most other sub-compacts and not everyone likes or can handle that.
      2. my little .380 has prevented me from being attacked on 2 occasions…and not a round was fired.
      3. My firearm is intended to keep a threat from walking up and killing me or my family. I am not trying to engage them like we’re in fallujah, just hold them off till police can arrive and handle things.

      You sound like a gung-ho douchebag who is looking for a reason to pull out your pistol and blast off a few rounds the first chance you get. I’ve been in fire fights there no-cock and I wouldn’t wish them on anyone. You seem to think everyone should carry 10 extra mags, multiple knives, maybe a backup pistol and more mags, and be ready for WW3. I’ve seen guys hopped up on PCP take multiple .40 rounds and still knock down officers, but I’ve also seen guys get hit with a .22 and drop so the field varies so widely, that I really just attribute it to shot placement and not caliber. You may need a .40 to compensate for your tiny manhood, but I’ll keep my .380 in my pocket holster and feel JUST as safe. As for all those others who are comfortable with .40s…if you can handle it…great. To each their own and as long as you find a gun you’re comfortable with and can fire effectively, that’s what’s important, not the caliber or type.

      • Aquaman

        Spot-on comment.
        I personally carry .40 because I like the round and I am not uncomfortable carrying it daily…but everything you said about the excessive carrying is very true! I’d be fine with carrying any caliber as long as the intended purpose is fulfilled, escalate the situation as quickly and as safely possible. Most of the time, people will change their minds very quickly when a gun is pointed at them, and I’m willing to bet the last thing on their mind is “What caliber is that?”
        In short, self-defense firearms, like the name suggests, are for defensive measures, not offensive engagements.

  • 2ThinkN_Do2

    At the end of the day, if you won’t carry it, it isn’t of any value if the need arises. With that in mind, The #1 decision is; “Do I see myself carrying this daily?”And here are the reasons I use in determining that: Does it work with all my clothing choices? Does it feel like a part of me? Am I confident & comfortable shooting it and is it reliable? If it cannot fill those needs, I am not going to carry it very often, if at all. Seriously, if you like to wear shorts and lightweight t-shirts, you’re probably not going to be carrying anything double stack, full or even intermediate sized without exhibiting some printing at some point. Unless you are using one of those pouch type carry devices that resemble phone pouches or hip/fanny packs (at least I know my physique will not allow it). With that in my mind, I generally carry a compact 3 1/2” barrel or less, single stack in 380, 9 or 40. Always carry at least 1 extra mag (l like to have no less than 12). Even in the cooler jacket weather months, I will bring out a 45/1911 or double stack 9, but they are of the intermediate barrel length (4 – 4.25). My favorites to carry have been: Ruger LCP, Kahr K9 or MK40, Sig P938, Remington RM380, Kimber SCPROHD, CZ75D PCR Compact. You might notice that except for the LCP, these are all metal or alloy frame models.

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