When choosing a handgun, the analogy to a vehicle—something most of us use every day—is useful. We all understand the term “dead weight.” That is the weight of the bed or truck (or the support structure in architecture), but that’s not what we are looking at today—when unloaded. Live weight is the truck loaded. The handgun, ammo, holster, and spare gun load add up quickly in live weight. Sticks of copy and reams of paper have been slugged during this discussion and we now offer bytes by the millions. The thing is, while there must be room for personal choice, there is a bottom line for performance and quality. If you like a small car you can easily drive in the city that’s fine. But you cannot pick up a dining room set with it.
If in the worst-case scenario, a truck runs a stop sign and hits the Smart Car, well, you may have wished you had something a tad big larger. By the same token, any gun is good for a threat. However, if you really need the pistol you may wish you had something larger and more appropriate for the task at hand.
There are very small guns that people find attractive and make all kinds of excuses for wearing them. Some are high quality; others are dangerous in my opinion. I think that the middle of road and a handgun that fires a credible cartridge with a good chance of being effective is ideal. The pistol should be a mid-size so to speak.
A good number want the security—false security—of carrying a gun, but they don’t want to invest in proper training and carry gear. They just want a gun, regardless whether it is potentially ineffective. If the gun is so light that it is unnoticed, it may be misplaced or lost. Don’t laugh. I have seen plenty of this in my career.
Guns have been left in lavatories, bedrooms on the dresser, and dropped between car seats. The gun should not be comfortable it should be comforting. You don’t want to give up your CWP because of a dumb move, so always be aware of exactly where the carry piece is.
Several years ago, the FBI did a study on duty guns. FBI agents are better trained and in better shape than many of us, but just the same, the results were interesting. The study concluded that a handgun over 35 ounces becomes a burden on the belt, and the rank and file will complain or even leave the gun in the car. In other words, a 3-inch barrel .38 on the belt is better than a .357 Magnum you don’t carry.
So, is an Officers Model 9mm better than a Government Model .45 you don’t carry. Then again, modern, polymer-framed Glock handguns are light and reliable. A Glock 43 9mm is just one example. Of course, you will shoot the Glock 19 better but…
Then there is the fellow who tells you that most, if not all, personal defense shootings occur at very short range. That is true, but you do not get hits by instinctive shooting any more than you can drive a car with your eyes closed. You must aim somehow, even if using the meat and paper-type aiming is all you have.
The junk guns are not very accurate past bad breath range. There are so many scenarios that could happen, from an adversary behind cover to a mass shooter in a public place, that is why it is important for the handgun be reasonably accurate. Even a quality snub nose .38 Special will place all its shots in the cranium at 7 yards, but the shooter behind the trigger must do his or her job. Medium-sized handguns such as a 3-inch barrel revolver or a compact self-loader are much easier to shoot well. I think that a handgun with the potential to place all five shots into 5 inches at 25 yards is a realistic minimum.
Then there are those who feel that the .32 and .380 are just fine, so long as they put the bullet in the right place. This usually comes from someone who has only fired their handgun during the CWP class and doesn’t shoot very well. Despite feel good ballistic preaching and revisionist history, no, the little gun doesn’t perform like the big gun.
Don’t use small calibers to attempt to solve a big caliber problem. The baseline should be a .38 Special or 9mm Luger caliber handgun. I guarantee you, with proper training you will fire and use a compact 9mm or 3-inch barrel revolver better than the smaller guns. The grips fit most hands better, the controls are easier to manipulate, and the sight radius allows better accuracy.
Actually fire the guns, and you will understand the difference in hit probability. Hitting more accurately with a more powerful round seems attractive to a thinking person. Remember, there are three factors in the application of force in this light. They are direction, strength, and point of application. The first and second properties are combined in a mathematical calculation called vector. The point of application is the point of the arrow, and the spot on the target where the force does the most good and the most meaningful damage. This means accurate delivery.
Others claim they cannot conceal an effective handgun. I feel their pain. You may be the envy of everyone around you—as the rest of us attempt to cut weight. However, a thin person may have to wear looser fitting clothing and perhaps take a longer look at holsters to conceal a bulge on their hip. Wear a quality IWB—supple leather works best for me—over the right rear pocket. The draw is compromised but you simply cannot wear a handgun on the point of the hip and conceal it. You will look like a water moccasin that has swallowed a muskrat. It isn’t pretty.
The draw is compromised, just a little, but concealment is excellent. Buy a quality rig not a $10 fabric holster at a chain store. Galco is a good name, Blackhawk! has interesting designs, and Crossbreed makes more than one favorite. If you go the custom route, then you will find several very interesting designs, well made, crafted one at a time just for you. At the minimum you will be able to conceal a Glock 43 X or an Officer’s Model Citadel.
Think hard about the concept of concealed carry. What are you carrying for? What is the likely scenario? What is the worst-case scenario? Don’t be the person in the unenviable situation of being armed with a deadly weapon but unable to defense themselves well.
The Best Choices?
- Citadel 9mm Officers Model – Reliable, accurate well past 25 yards, and fast to a first shot hit there is a lot of love about the Citadel.
- Smith and Wesson Model 60 3-Inch Barrel – Compared to the 2- inch barrel snubnoses, that bit of extra sight radius and dampening weight makes a difference.
- CZ P10C – Just enough larger than the Glock 26 to make a difference, the CZ P10c is among the finest of the striker-fired compact handguns.
There are others, choose the one that suits you best.
Which pistol or pistols do you regularly carry for CCW and why? What decision making went into picking the barrel length of the handgun? Share your answers in the comment section.
Sign up for K-Var’s weekly newsletter and discounts here.
My normal carry – depending on the weather and where I’ll be visiting – is usually a Taurus Millennium G2 (PT111) – 9mm, 3.2″ barrel, 12 round mag (I have a 15 round also, often in a pocket). Wasn’t really looking for anything when I bought it but picked it up and the fit and feel was perfect for me. Initially the trigger was a little rough but that has smoothed out. It’s never failed to fire since I’ve owed it and the price was/is surprisingly low.
I’d be interested in what you consider “junk guns” (to avoid lawsuits, you could call ’em “guns you don’t recommend”). I personally don’t like Glocks – had a couple and traded ’em off but would be interested in your opinion of guns not to buy.
hayward wiliams says
You have made a good choice.
Junk is the millions of zinc frame striker fired .32 and .380 autos that are not safe to carry chamber loaded and the worn out guns seen in the pawn shops —–
not that I have not found good pieces at the shop
Wow…. what about the thousands of us that are older or have weaker hands and struggle with racking or recoil? Let’s take your CZ choice. Personally I find it harder to rack than my .380 Ez and I feel much more confident with the .380 to have accurate follow up shots and to clear jams in a panic situation. In my opinion it’s better to carry a firearm that you are confident to use rather than one that you struggle to use no matter the caliber.
If it is dead reliable I’d choose it over a 5 round snub nose every day of the week.
A 9mm is a better round, but if you can’t rack the slide, and this is workable for you, then it is the best choice, in my opinion.
Kevin Graham says
In the past 43 years, I have used everything from a Ruger LCP .380 to a S&W .44 Magnum 6″ as my EDC.
I am not a big fan of polymer frame pistols. I don’t like the safe trigger. It pinches my trigger finger no matter where I put it.
I carried for years a S&W model 60 .38 2″5 shot. Great EDC. Then I found myself face to face with 5 hoodlums without a speed loader.
I carried a Sig P220 .45 compact for years. Also a great EDC. 6+1.
Then I discovered CZ. Now I Carry either a CZ RAMI or CZ PCR Compact for EDC. Both are 9mm. An Exceptional EDC! I have shot thousands of rounds through each and never experienced a malfunction. Both are very accurate.
Final thoughts. Practice, practice, practice with whatever You carry! You will be very happy You did, if the need arrises. And, shot placement is very important with any caliber of handgun. Some bad guys can take multiple hits from any handgun (.45 ACP included)and keep on fighting. If possible, bring a 12GA. if You know in advance You are going into a gun fight.
Carried a Colt Government Model for many years, and every summer, rust from sweat was always a battle. When S&W came out with the 45 Shield I got one and after getting to trust it, carried it this past summer. With a Hyve extension, it is the same 8+1 as the Colt. Accuracy at 50 yards is on par with the Colt. From what I read the only trade off is @100 fps with a 230 gr round.
Now how comfortable will it be going back to the Colt this winter. Gonna try it. Either it will be fine, or in a week I’ll be back to the shield.
(A G19 is not an option in a capacity limited communist state, so it is 8+1 45 or only 10+1 9mm. Checked out a G30 and it seemed “thick as a brick” for summer carry compared to the shield, though I do have a 10 round backup mag for the Colt)
My normal EDC is a Ruger SR9c. 3.4″ barrel and 10 in the magazine. 17 in my spare magazine. I wear it IWB at the 4 o’clock position in a Crossbreed style holster made by a local gun shop. I also have with me everywhere I go, a North American Arms Sidewinder in .22mag in my pocket. Sometimes ya just have to leave the pistol in the truck when entering an establishment that doesn’t want people carrying.
This artical reminded me of the old ’60s TV show, “The FBI” with Effram Zimbalist Jr. (AKA “One shot”). He could take out the bad guy at 300 yards with his trusty .38 snubby.
Call me old school if ya want … But I still carry my S&W 642 Airweight, .38. A Performance Center model that goes everywhere, everyday. No safety, no jams, no magazines … goes bang every time. If I feel I need more than five rounds … I have two of them… one on my belt , one in my pocket. Plus a couple of strip loaders … all loaded with high performance defense ammo. Hey, it works for me and has every day for many years.
william s Palmer says
Lol, I can’t help but laugh when I read the comments of those who think they need a semi with 30 rds on them to feel safe. Get a life. I am a CCW holder for over 40 yrs and a certified trainer,and ex govt agt that spent yrs in the field in Europe taking out the trash. I never saw a bad guy who was more dead, from a .45acp rd than one from a .22lr rd. Dead is dead. This idea that the avg person is going to be ready ad able to defend themselves becausevthey are armed is garbage. It is a lie, and gets people killed. The greater likely hood is they hurt themselves or some innocent bystander. We took out professionals who were armed to the teeth,and they never saw it coming. Walk up, say hi and put two in their face before they could execute their Gunsite trained 4 point draw!! The firearm is to help you in a last ditch scenario,to get out of harms way,and escape…period. Anyone who thinks they are going to be the hero and engage the bad guys in a running gun battle is an idiot and a fool and is to be avoided! I have carried every firearm kniw to man, and they will all kill you, if you know what you are doing. A .22lr has killed more people than many other rds,and still does to this day. Two in the head does it every time. I have been trained by the best and have trained some of the best. Combat is not the street, and the streets of Kabul are not the streets of Detroit. If you do not understand or know the difference,you are part of the problem. Rules of engagement are totally different, and the service mentality of better to be tried by 12 than carried by 6 is bull, when you are spending 20 yrs in jail. You tough guy bravado will stop real fast!! People are different in size shape, physical ability,mental attitude etc. There is no one right answer. A firearm is a tool, and you only use a tool if you know how to use it properly. Ever see the guy who uses the screwdriver as a pry bar? Is that you? Not everyone lives their life in constant fear of being robbed,assaulted,or killed. Time you started using the big head instead of the small one…the firearm is not always the answer. Awareness, intelligence, avoidance, dE escalation techniques. Time to look in the mirror. Are you really in danger on a daily basis, do you really want to shoot someone, are you prepared for the inevitable consequences? You better know for sure.
Snarky McSnarkerson says
So after reading your thorough, thoughtful and thought provoking comment, I have to ask, you mean a screwdriver isn’t a pry bar?
WOW – That is one hell-of-a rant.
Here’s what I got to say to it, even though I am NOT an Ex-Navy SEAL CIA Operative, and even if everything you say is true.
Having been under a table during a public shooting when I was a kid, I learned that waiting 5 minutes for a cop to arrive, feels like 5 hours when shots are being fired, and is not a good plan to rely on for survival.
So in a country where regular run-of-the-mill NON-Ex-Navy-SEAL-CIA-operative common citizens have the right to keep AND BEAR arms, for AS LONG AS there is a right to keep AND BEAR arms, it is a better option to have that “tool” on your belt just in case. But I WILL agree, if one DOES, then one BETTER GET IT RIGHT to avoid doing that 20 years in jail. It’s allotta responsibility.
I agree that William Palmer seems to have an attitude problem. I’m not calling BS on everything he said because some of it is actually true but his “method of presentation” needs some work. His “Walk up, say hi and put two in their face” scenario isn’t what it taught however or at least wasn’t in the past. While I wasn’t a Ex-Navy Seal, Green Beret, CIA Operative either, I did serve with a unit in Europe that doesn’t exist and didn’t when I was in it – mostly as a paper pusher. I’d like to remind him that month you hear of an 80-year-old woman “taking out” an armed intruder. I’d also like to suggest that – veteran to “agent” – he find some counseling to get to the source of his anger problems.
William Palmer says
I usually carry a Glock 42,with Hornady Critical Defense or an S&W 49,with Hornady ammo. The 49 rides in a leather pocket holster,in my jacket or vest. When I am somewhere and I feel an “alert” triggering my senses, my hand is in the pocket,on the pistol, I can fire without taking it out,unlike an auto. Yes,it is for close encounters. Frankly if they are farther away, i am moving away from the kill zone,out of the lane, and making my way to a safer place. It is a technique that works,and we used in real life. The best firearm to have many times is the one the other guy does not know you have! The best way to survive a deadly encounter, is to not be in it.
Kevin Graham says
WOW. I SUBMIT A COMMENT ABOUT THIS ARTICLE AND IT IS NEVER PUBLISHED. WHY.?
David Dolbee says
Sorry, I was sick over the weekend and did not get to moderating the comments. ~Dave Dolbee