Considerations for Concealed Carry Handguns

By CTD Rob published on in Concealed Carry

In a perfect world, all guns would do all things and they would all do them perfectly. Unfortunately, the vast majority of guns are usually only good in just one or two roles. The characteristics that make up certain types of firearms typically correspond to whatever market the manufacturer was trying to tackle. For the deer hunter, a highly accurate bolt-action rifle in a medium to large size caliber does the trick perfectly. Rate of fire and magazine capacity is far less important. For the soldier, rate of fire, magazine capacity, weight, caliber and ruggedness are just a few of the important specifications. For concealed carry, what characteristics make the perfect gun? Has someone already made it?

Caliber

Kimber 1911

Kimber 1911

If you ask 10 gun store clerks about the best possible concealed carry handgun, you’ll probably get 10 different answers. It is a confusing market with a myriad of players and they all claim to have the best of the best. A good place to start when thinking about carrying concealed is finding that perfect balance between handgun size and caliber. In the old days, many carry guns in use were of smaller calibers. The .22 LR, .25 and .32 ACP covered every corner of the concealed carry market. However, since few calibers came close to having a good combination of power and size, the .380 ACP ended up holding the crown for years. For revolvers, the .38 Special filled multiple roles in both concealed carry and duty guns. This trend continues today as a great number of concealed carry revolvers are .38 Specials. For semi-autos, the 9mm overtook the .380 ACP and tends to be the leading concealed carry cartridge. Newer advances in materials and technology allow manufacturers to design smaller and smaller handguns, without having to sacrifice caliber. Don’t discount the larger calibers however, as some shooters can handle the snappy recoils. Concealable .40 S&W and .45 ACP are commonplace and some don’t mind the slightly increased size.

Action

Once you determine your caliber, it’s time to look at action. If you chose a caliber normally associated with revolvers, then you might be looking at a double-action revolver. This means you don’t have to pull the hammer back before shooting. I don’t know too many people who try to conceal a Colt Single Action Army anyway. Revolvers tend to be comparatively thin, which means easy concealment. Many modern concealable revolvers have an internal hammer as well. This could be a great thing, since you don’t have to worry about the hammer snagging on purses or clothing. Still, a standard external hammer is fine since it gives you the option of pulling back the hammer for more accurate shots at the range. Another advantage to most revolvers is safety. A double action trigger tends to be long and heavy, so you’ll worry less about negligent discharges.

Kahr Sights

Striker Fired Semi-Automatic

For the semi-auto fans out there, you have a few choices. Some concealed carry semi-autos are double-action only. This means, much like a revolver, they tend to have a long and heavy trigger every time you shoot. This is a great safety feature but can influence accuracy, especially if the shooter is less experienced. Some of these handguns have thumb safeties while others do not. This is a personal choice only you can make.

Single-action semi-autos, like the venerable Colt 1911 are excellent for accuracy, but you must remain cognizant about the trigger. Once you rack the slide and cock the hammer, that trigger is going to be short and light. While proper safety is always the most important aspect of gun ownership, it never hurts to be a extra careful when dealing with a short and light trigger. I have to say that most of the negligent discharges I’ve seen have been from being careless around a single-action semi-auto.

Single-action/double-action handguns still make up a large portion of the market. The main difference here is you do not have to pull the hammer back on the first shot. As long as you previously chambered a round, a single pull of the trigger will cock and release the hammer. While the weapon cycles, the slide will push back the hammer, which will make your trigger pull much shorter on your follow-up shots. It takes some getting used to and you should always be aware of the position of the hammer.

Striker-fired handguns are a sort of middle ground. When firing a cartridge or loading the chamber, the striker will rest in a partially cocked position. The trigger serves the function of completing the cocking cycle and then releasing the striker or hammer. While technically two actions, it differs from a double-action trigger in that the trigger is not capable of fully cocking the striker. It differs from single action in that if the striker or hammer were to release, it would generally not be capable of igniting the primer.

Sights

Another characteristic to consider are the sights. Adjustable sights are always nice, but they may not be completely necessary on a concealed carry gun. Since most defensive situations happen at very close range, high precision shots are not always possible. If you practice with your gun, as you should, you’ll know how it shoots and your firing process will become second nature. Adjustable sights are also more susceptible to breakage. It’s rare, but getting them caught on doorways and other objects can knock them out of alignment or break them off.

Single Stack or Double

Single Stack Magazine

Single Stack Magazine

For semi-automatic handguns, there are two main magazine types. A single stack is simply a magazine that holds all your ammunition in a single row, one on top of the other. This makes for a very thin profile and works wonders for concealment. The original 1911 design is a single stack, as is the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield. A double stack, like a GLOCK magazine, staggers the ammunition on one side and then the other. This gives you more ammo while retaining a shorter grip. The drawback here is the grip tends to be much wider. The sweet spot is to have a double stack, which is still thin enough to conceal. For many people, the GLOCK 26 is wide, but not too wide to carry. This is a personal preference feature since both types are perfectly valid.

Finding the Perfect Match

Every consideration is important when deciding to carry concealed. Remember this tool could potentially save your life or the life of a loved one. While no gun is absolutely perfect, weighing all the options is a good first step in choosing which handgun is right for you.

What is your perfect concealed carry pistol? Tell us in the comment section.

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Comments (65)

  • Steve Powers

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    Great article! I often read comments (even some posted here) about folks carrying different CCW’s depending on the weather or the particular time of year: ex. winter vs. summer. After living most of my life in the northeast, and now living in Texas, one thing I’ve learned is that it’ makes much more sense to me at least, and is also much less expensive, to invest in different holsters for your pistol rather than spending so much money on different pistols. I have 2 concealed carry pistols; a Glock 27 and an H&K P2000.
    Since both are chambered in .40 it saves me from having to buy different caliber ammunition. I use Hornady Critical Defense or Federal Hydra-Shock in both. But the real value is the variety of holsters I use for different times of year or different modes of carry. I wear a Thiess IWB which works well either with jeans or belted shorts and any pullover (including tee shirts) as well as button down shirts. I wear a 3 speed holster when wearing
    beltless shorts such as gym shorts. When wearing dress clothes, I have a cell pal IWB which works great and Blackhawk OWB if wearing a jacket, heavy hoodie type sweatshirt or a jacket that I know I won’t be removing. I have a belly band holster as well, although I seldom if ever wear it because the others do the job well in every type of weather we’re having. I wish I had the budget to support having several different pistols at my disposal, but unfortunately I don’t so I figure this way gives me the most “bang” for the buck! (Pun intended) One other advantage is that these are the only pistols I shoot, and as a result I have become very proficient with both. I take both guns, 200-250 rounds of ammo to the range 3-4 times a month and practice, practice, practice! Also, dry fire (with the P2000) and practicing drawing and sight picture and re-holstering at home has been a definite plus in my book. Stay safe everyone and always remember to be in condition yellow at a minimum and always be aware of your surroundings.
    “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom”
    – Author unknown (to me)

    Reply

  • Charles Miller

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    In my opinion, this was one of the best articles on weapon selection as well as ammo considerations.
    Well Done!

    Reply

  • Owen McCullen

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    For Preacher:

    Best of luck. I am glad that your pistol worked so well for you. I hate to see any good person suffer at the hands of criminals.
    For additional reading on the subject, check out the Miami/Dade FBI felony car stop on two bank robbers. It demonstrated the inadequacy of the 9MM when loaded with the best ammo the FBI could secure.
    There is also the case of a Chicago police officer who emptied two full magazines from a Glock 17 into the chest of his attacker at point blank, or contact, range, while the attacker had his hands on the officer’s throat. The attacker strangled the cop to death and ran for several city blocks before expiring from blood loss. Two full magazines of 9MM from a Glock 17 failed to save the officer’s life.
    I know of no similar events where a .45 ACP was used.
    So, readings like those, both of which I believe are well documented instances of defensive shooting were instrumental in forming my opinions. There are quite a few others, but I do not believe they are as well known.
    I have read that when the Germans crowned the 9MM “Parabellum” (roughly translated “for war”) they knew it was intended to be a wounding or disabling round and not a killing round. They were interested in wounding and not killing because it tied up more of an opposing nation’s resources to treat wounded than deal with the dead. If true, then the 9MM was intended from the inception to wound and not to kill.
    Heaven forbid I ever have to use my pistol but if I must, I want the outcome to be decisive and in my favor. I also hope that one round shall be sufficient, and not the entire magazine.
    Good luck.
    Owen

    Reply

  • Preacher

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    For Owen. Wonderful insight and a lifetime of experience to go with it. Thanks for taking the time to write, Owen. I live in a remote place, no neighbors. Last June, I came home, alone, not knowing that there were three men inside my home, and two more outside. It took 25 minutes for the first sheriff to arrive. By that time, I had called on my neighbor for backup and we were holding two men at gunpoint. Another man actually ran straight to a HP car screaming, “Let me in!” So your point about the presence of a weapon being enough is 90% of all cases is right on.

    I guess my only other thought on the stopping force of a 380 is that, if the first shot doesn’t stop the bad guy, the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth shots are all within a half second of each other. And cumulatively, when I unload my 380, it will stop a grizzly or a crackhead.

    Reply

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