Best Concealed Carry Options By: Chris Stockton

So many options what shoe fits best?

  With literally thousands of pistols options to chose from from brand, model, caliber and even accessories such as holsters and lights and lasers the combination possibilities are endless.  The goal is to narrow the scope of the best makes, models, calibers and accessories for the job.  If you ever hear a person recommend only one pistol make model and type you should always be suspicious because how do you know that is what is right for you.  What is right for one person may or may not be right for the next person a great example is shoes everyone's foot is different and some shoes feel good and some just don't.  Does that mean the shoes that don't fit right or don't feel good are bad well no it may fit perfect on another person.  The same is going to be true for pistols so when you hear a person say "you should buy XYZ pistol its the best" remember the shoe analogy in the back of your mind.  So instead of recommending one brand model and caliber we are going to talk about the most effective options and then the most cost effective pistols that fit this criteria.  So what common items make up a good concealed carry pistol?  Size, caliber, weight & material of frame, ease of use, safety or no safety, price, reliable, availability of aftermarket parts, reputation of manufactor and model are all factors that we are taking in to consideration when we consider a concealed carry pistol.  

The size should be small enough to conceal but if you end up with a pistol too small then many times we face a pistol that loses many things such as  "ease of use" factor making it difficult to reload, shooting and aim.  Another thing you lose with the very small pistol many times we also downgrade in caliber because of size I have even seen people carry a .22 caliber pistol which I highly recommend against.  If you have ever shot a .22 at a animial that weights more than 10 pounds you will already know why this is a poor idea.   Some people would argue that a person could be killed with a .22 yes this is true but  a person can also be killed with a pellet gun, hammer or a pen but because someone has died from it doesnt make it the most effective and doesnt mean it will work everytime.  The reverse is true with having to carry very large pistols in odd ball calibers and this may be a good idea if you are defending against a bear attack but for most people using it for protection against humans anything over .45 caliber begins to be more coumbersome than its worth.   

Caliber should be common and easy for you to practice with and easy to buy in a store good examples would be 9mm and 40 S&W and 45 ACP.   There are many other calibers that are effective but are extremely expensive and unlikely that you would be able to afford to practice with this type of ammo.  A good example might be .357 sig which is extremely effective but the caliber isnt easy to buy at a local store and is also expensive making the user and owner less reulcatnt to train and practice.  The 40S&W is my personal choice for carry as it has a good balance of recoil and stopping power.  The 9mm cartridge is often debated as being too weak or ineffective if you are shooting standard ball ammuniton I would agree.  For carry the only ammo you should carry is hollowpoints.  There will be a followup article on the differences and charteristics of hollowpoints and which are best.  The caliber debate is widely talked about in the firearms community but most experts will agree that one of the above calibers will do and the shot placement and training is often more important than your over all choice.  The main point being if you a trained and hit your target everytime in the right spot and do that before getting shot/stabbed yourself that is more important than the caliber of your bullet.  That being said you should try all three of the calibers (9mm, 40S&W, 45ACP) and find out the largest caliber you are comfortable shooting.  

Weight is also a key feature if you are planning to carry the pistol all day long.  When a pistol is extremely light such as small airweight large caliber revolvers the recoil is much greater.  A big myth is for a beginner they should get a air weight 357 mag snub nose for concealed carry.  Ususally they fire it a few times and realize it recoils much more than they can handle at least for starting off as a beginner.  Simple physics is that the lighter the gun and the bigger the caliber the more it will recoil.  Many people see a large pistol and think it will kick greater than a smaller pistol because the pistol is larger and it much kick more right?  If the larger gun and the smaller gun are firiing the same caliber the larger one that weights more will kick less.  So what is the best combo?  Polymer guns are my favorite as I started out carrying a 1911 for 4 years and even though it was stainless it still got very tarnished and the weight is much more also.  Polymer pistols are lighter, stronger and more resistant to water, sweat as plastic cant rust.  A polymer pistol is stronger because it has the ablility to flex if you ever have seen any test videos for nuklear bombs you will see all buildings gone and yet the trees are still standing, why?  A building is ridged like steel and has no ablility to flex like a tree or polymer thus polymer can take more abuse and still keep going.  Drop tests prove this as you can drop steel and it will bend and could possibly stop it from functioning.  Where as polymer will allow a little flex and will keep going.  

Ease of use is a primary factor in selecting a firearm and this will change from person to person because of hand size.  However many modern pistol manufactures have intergraded grips that can easily be changed out to accomidate several different hand sizes.   You should be able to pick up the sights quickly and the bore axis should be as low as possible this is the gap between your barrel and your finger.  (See picture)  The lower the bore axis on a pistol the better this helps recoil and helps light up the sights quicker.  Another thing is can you acess all of the features on the pistol with out changing the grip of the pistol. Such as the magazine release, slide lock or external safety if the pistol has one.  Can you easily point the pistol does it feel comfortable in your hand?  Another factor for ease of use is the pistol easy to take a part and clean if you shoot regularly and carry you should be cleaning your pistol regularly to ensure that it will last and work when you need it to.  

Having a manual safety on a firearm is a personal choice.  But in most cases I prefer no safety on my concealed carry pistol.  When a pistol is in single action mode such as a 1911 or a bretta m9 most in the industry would say it is only safe to carry it on safe and hammer down if it is a single & double action pistol.  I would also agree and if a pistol has a safety on it I am not intrestedin it as a carry pistol with the exception would be the 1911 because of the egrnomics of where the safety is located.

Because the word "safety" many people that makes the pistol more safe.  The truth is that your actions are more importanant than a mechaical device because a mechanical device will not replace training and a safe shooter.  I realize this and see a safety as a item that could potentually get you killed.  I was demonstrating a malfuntion drill to a student with his firearm a bretta 92 pistol and when I racked the slide in with out knowing turned on the safety and the next round failed to fire so I taped racked again and again and then realized something more is at work here... Safety was turned on while my hand went on a slide.  Now if that had been my life on the line I most likely would have been killed before I got the gun working.  Many pistols have a safety in locations where you can accidently turn them on and because of this I would not have a manual safety on my pistol. Pistols that dont need a safety are often called striker fired pistols but the trigger is pre-set.  which is another reason why I prefer pre-set trigger (striker or hammer) for the purposes of a handgun concealed carry.  (link of wikipedia that has pre-set trigger link to explain verbage)

For a quality concealed carry pistol you can expect to pay over 450 used and 550 more or less for a new concealed carry pistol.  If you are spending significatnly less than these amounts listed you may be buying a pistol that is unreliable cheap and in most cases its better to save money longer than to settle for a pistol that works sometimes.  Reliablility is key when you are selecting any firearm for protection if it doesnt work 100% of the time you life depends on it working all the time.  Think about this do you want a seat belt that works just "sometimes" or a fire extghisher that might work.  For items such as personal protection we want it to work 100% of the time.  Sometimes people even guy $1000+ pistols and to not have them work when I conduct a concealed carry class.  A example that is worth mentioning is I did a private concealed carry class for a group of people this past week and 3 out of 4 pistols there jammed malfunctioned several times while we only shoot 50 rounds for this qualification.  2 of the 4 pistols were over 1000 dollars.  So price doesnt always equal reliablity.  All of the pistols I mention are pistols I would bet my life on working everytime.  I have also seen many problems in the catagory of pistols that cost 350 or less new.  You should be skeptical of these pistols I have seen many cheap pistols also fail while going threw a simple 50 round qualification.  

Repuation what pistols have a repuation of working everytime.  There are several manufactures that have reliable pistols that work every time but the ones that fit my basic guidelines above are the following:  Glock compact & Subcompact models  all Springfeild XD & XDM 3" to  4" models, Kahr PM9, Smith & Wesson  3" & 4" models  

These pistols are a good place to start.  There are many more good options but this is a good place to start and they are in my opinion the ideal concealed carry pistols.  I hope this has helped you in your quest of selecting a concealed carry pistol.

There will be a video to follow as we will be updating this article after shot show.  


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