So, you're ready to take that plunge and carry every day. You want something reliable, effective, and easy to conceal, right? So if that's your criteria, picking out a gun should be pretty simple, right?
So, what IS the best firearm out there?
It's a basic question, and there are lots of answers, depending on who you ask.
Some people swear by Glocks. Others are Ruger fans. Still others are tried-and-true Smith & Wesson enthusiasts. There is no right or wrong; only what works best for you.
Here is a breakdown of things you should take into consideration.
We'll go over the types of rounds; pistol sizes, and the pros and cons of each; what you should look for in a self-defense weapon; and how you should make your final decision.
Types of rounds
I'm sure you're aware of many of them, but the 9mm and the .45 ACP are the most common choices for carry. You'll find strong advocates for both.
To help you decide, ask other conceal carriers what they prefer. If not applicable, what does your local law enforcement use? When in doubt, the easier and cheaper route may be to go with a 9mm.
Side note: if someone you know carries and recommends a .22LR, keep in mind that while yes they can deter an attacker, they are not actually recommended for a conceal carry situation. But if that's the absolute best you can do, it's better than nothing.
Also, keep in mind that if you live in a colder state, that means more layers of clothing to penetrate. And while a .22LR may make it through the jacket and hoodie, it will likely loose the momentum needed to do actual damage.
Another popular ammo choice is the .380. They are very concealable because they are typically smaller than a 9mm subcompact. And also trickier to shoot if you have big hands. The .380s also have a long trigger pull, which could also be hard to shoot if you have small hands.
And generally, smaller, lighter handguns will give off more felt recoil.
A .380 won't have as much bang as a 9mm, but unlike the 22LR, it's acceptable for self-defense.
My next query is, how many rounds do you want?
Some people are fine with five in the magazine plus one in the chamber (5+1), and others won't leave the house without twenty rounds plus an additional magazine. Find a nice medium that you're comfortable with.
Which leads to... Double or single stacked?
Just so we're on the same page, double stacked means that there's two rows of rounds in the magazine. It means an overall wider firearm. Single stacked, as you would imagine, has a single row of rounds in the magazine. This would mean a thinner handle, and since the handle is what does the printing, it's good to try stuff out first.
If you're a guy, I'd say you could pull off a double-stack. If you're smaller or petite, and wear tighter-fitting clothing, consider a single stack.
But really though, double or single doesn't make a huge difference in overall concealability; it depends on the firearm. Double stacked is nice in the sub-compact category because you get more rounds in a smaller frame.
Also, consider where you will be carrying the firearm. If your preference is at the 4 or 5 o'clock position, than a double-stacked full size is going to be super obvious when you're sitting or bending over.
We'll go more into this later, but consider where you live.
I'm in the Midwest, and we wear hoodies/sweaters/cardigans for a good chunk of the year. With a hoodie on, you can conceal almost anything.
If budget allows, consider getting one gun for winter, and another to carry in summer. But if you can only afford one, make sure you can still carry it in the summer, when you're wearing less bulk.
Remember, at the end of the day, it matters that you actually carry it.
And then we can go into the interesting aspect of firing mechanisms. I would recommend a striker fired handgun, because the trigger pull is almost identical every time. They're simpler to learn and easier to maintain.
The other options would be double action/single action (DS/SA), double action only (DAO), and single action only (SAO).
If that intrigues you, and you want to know more (or if you like being bored), Tac Cat explains it pretty well here.
Next up we've got the sizes to choose from.
Your fantastic four are the full size, compact, subcompact and micro.
The full size would be the most common, usually found on the belts of cops across the United States.
They usually measure five or more inches in height, and seven or more inches in length. Not surprisingly, magazine capacity is high, with some models holding close to 20 rounds. The drawback is it's not easy to conceal, but with the size and weight they can be the most comfortable to shoot.
Popular models would include the Glock 17, Sig Sauer P226, Beretta 92, and the Ruger SR 1911.
Slightly smaller on the scale we've got the compacts. Shorter barrel, slide, frame length and height. The magazine capacity is often times the same as the full size version, or a little reduced. What's cool about the compacts is some of them accept magazines off the full-size version.
For example, I used to have the Ruger American pistol full-size and compact, and the full-size magazine fit in the compact. So less reloading while practicing with the compact! That was a nice perk for me.
The compact is kinda that “sweet spot” for concealing, because it hits that perfect middle ground for higher capacity than sub-compact, but easier to conceal than a full-size.
Popular models for your consideration: Glock 19, Sig Sauer P 320, Smith & Wesson M&P, and the Springfield XD(M).
Sub-compacts might just be my favorite, just because they're so effortless to conceal. You'll find a barrel length of less than three inches, with an overall length of around six inches. The mags usually hold between 7-10 rounds, significantly less than the compacts.
As mentioned, they're easier to conceal, but keep in mind that they can be snappier than the compacts, therefor uncomfortable to shoot for extended periods of time. Be sure to test it out fully on the range.
Your ideal models for the sub-compacts would be (in no particular order) the Glock 26, Sig Sauer P239, Smith & Wesson M&P Shield, and the Ruger LCR.
And, last in line, the babies of the family: the micro pistols. These puppies are pretty darn cute, and are basically the smallest you can get. You could walk around with them in your pants pocket! (But don't.)
The micros are often selected as a backup gun, or when deep concealment is necessary. They often hold less than five rounds, commonly found in calibers such as .25 ACP, .32 ACP, and the .380 Auto.
They're often a little difficult to shoot, given the small handle and lightness. Be prepared for significant recoil despite the small calibers.
The popular ones would be the Glock 42, Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard, Berett Pico, and the Sig Sauer P290RS.
I have the Ruger LCP2 .380 with the extended mag, which brings it from 6+1 up to 7+1, which is the same count as my Ruger LC9s 9mm. Not only does it bump it up a round, it makes it easier to shoot because there's a longer grip!
The LCP2 has a pretty hand-friendly ergonomic design from the factory, but I also put a rubber grip sleeve on it, giving it another edge because the handle is wider.
Can I also mention that this baby is wicked accurate?
Yes, that's rust you see on the rail.
Keep that in mind when purchasing Rugers;
the triggers are out of this world, but expect a cheaper finish.
Remember, if you just can't fathom concealing a sub-compact, or if budget is your concern, and you still want the capacity, there's always a way.
Bringing it together
So, this is all good and well, but what should you specifically be looking for in a concealed carry weapon?
Consider, do you want effortless to conceal, or to conceal with some effort?
(You don't have to dress around your gun, no one is recommending that.)
There are plenty of ladies walking around with a Glock 17 in a Dene Adams corset holster with a spare mag next to it and you just can't tell.
The opposite end of the scale would be someone walking around with a Smith & Wesson Bodyguard in a flash-bang.
Figure out what would be best for you.
And remember: the most important role the gun plays is stopping an attacker. NOT how easily it disappears in a holster.
But if your top priorities are reliability and aftermarket support, go with a Glock. Some people love to hate them, but everyone else loves them. (Just kidding, but not..)
They're more expensive, don't look the absolute coolest, but I'm completely in love with my Glock 19. They're effective, reliable, and have inexpensive aftermarket magazines/trigger assemblies/everything else. Effective and reliable is basically what you're looking for, right?
Not to mention most U.S. law-enforcement departments and military agencies use them. I'm sure they did research and found out that Glock actually IS the best. wink
And, bonus, the finishes are higher end than the Rugers, so nothing's gonna rust out. You get what you pay for!
Now you need to get some range time. Don't underestimate the importance of this!
If you know someone who has the same gun you're interested in, ask to try it out at the range with them. You can also rent a wide variety at most indoor ranges.
Go through a checklist:
You need to find a gun that you can operate well.
If the range allows, try drawing from an appendix carry holster and time how fast you can fire a shot. (Be sure to look your gun back into your holster!)
More important than overall time, how accurate was the shot?
Was it fairly comfortable to shoot?
Once you've answered these questions, it's time to make your final choice. No one should make it for you. If you end up with a purchase you didn't really like, will you still carry it?
Maybe the one you want is a hundred bucks more than an alternative. What's it worth to you? Can you defend yourself with the alternative? Will you actually carry the alternative?
A gun can't save your life when it's in the safe at home.
That seems obvious, but many people, over time, get choosy about when they actually carry their firearm.
Don't let this happen to you. Do you research, make an informed decision, and spend time at the range. Keep the ember of caution burning, and never leave home without your firearm.
And then, train, train, train.
And have fun!
Check out these links for other great tools in selecting a firearm.
Here's a video explanation on pistol actions.
What was your first gun, and why?
Let me know in the comments below!