Throwback Thursday: Readers Choice — The 12 Best Concealed Carry Guns

By Suzanne Wiley published on in Firearms

Reader ‘Lee’ writes, “…Why not create an unbiased list of firearms instead of a thinly veiled attempt at trying to sell something?” and ‘Papasan 173’ responds, “Why not go to an unbiased authorized list of guns? Oh yeah! There isn’t one. Don’t come to a gun dealer’s newsletter and complain because they are trying to sell guns.”

My comparison piece, The Top 15 Smallest Pistols got plenty of Shooter’s Log readers’ pretty riled up. Quite a few of you seemed offended that I had left out your favorite gun. In fact, the list was actually described as “horse turds,” “pos” and even “erroneous.” Ouch!

I guess you could compare it to when your significant other tells you that your favorite shirt does indeed make you look fat.

It is impossible to come up with the definitive list of “the best” of anything, because “the best” is all relative. Reader Rodney summed it up perfectly, “Not all shooters are the same, everybody holds their pistol different, no matter how many times you tell or show them. All these pistols are good, but only as good as the shooter.”

Here are the top 12 smallest and best-concealed semiautomatic handguns according to you:

User ratings are based on Cheaper Than Dirt! customer reviews and reviews found on other gun blogs—not author’s personal ratings.

Ruger LCP

Picture shows the compact Ruger LCP semi-automatic handgun.

Winning handgun of the year in 2008 and 2011, the LCP remains a top seller.

Ruger should be so proud, if only it could feel all the love you guys show for the LCs! With how many of you mentioned the Ruger LC9, LCP, and LC380, these are clearly great carry guns. Brian wrote that the LC9 “is probably the best 9mm pocket pistol from sales to size out there and beats Kahr’s inconsistent reliability and cheapest price by $100 without the cheap skanky advertising.” McRuger is also a big fan (obviously), “My favorite carry is Ruger LC9. I can carry the LC9 with a Blackhawk pocket holster regardless of what I wear and nearly forget its there. The LC9 is accurate and has performed flawlessly.”

Trek let us know how he felt with real talk, “Rugers are not on the list? Something is wrong with that. The newer LC9s is a great pocket gun. The trigger is nothing like the predecessor LC9. Great light and small. And what about no LCP on this list? One of the most affordable .380 pocket options out there and is smaller than most mentioned in this list. Rugers are a great choice.” I guess the missing Rugers are what made my original list erroneous.

Ruger LCP
Caliber .380 ACP
Barrel Length 2.75 inches
Capacity 6 rounds
Overall Height 3.6 inches
Overall Length 5.2 inches
Overall Width 0.8 inches
Weight Unloaded 9.7 ounces
Sights Integral
Grip Glass-filled nylon
Price MSRP starting at $389
User rating 4.23 out of 5 stars

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Ruger LC380

What do you get when you cross the LC9 and the LCP? The Ruger LC380.

What do you get when you cross the LC9 and the LCP? The Ruger LC380.

 
Ruger LC380
Caliber .380 ACP
Barrel Length 3.1 inches
Capacity 7 rounds
Overall Height 4.5 inches
Overall Length 6 inches
Overall Width 0.9 inches
Weight Unloaded 17.2 ounces
Sights Drift adjustable 3-dot
Frame Glass-filled nylon
Price MSRP starting at $449
User rating 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Ruger LC9s

Ruger LC9s Pro, striker-fired handgun

Ruger added a striker-fired version of the LC9 called the LC9s.

 
Ruger LC9s
Caliber 9mm
Barrel Length 3.1 inches
Capacity 7 rounds
Overall Height 4.5 inches
Overall Length 6 inches
Overall Width 0.9 inches
Weight Unloaded 17.2 ounces
Sights Drift adjustable 3-dot
Grip Glass-filled nylon
Price MSRP starting at $449
User rating 4 out of 5 stars

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Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .380

Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 380 in black, pointed to the right on white background

Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 380

Frequent commenter G-Man couldn’t believe I had left the S&W .380 Bodyguard off the list and fair enough. My apologies for skipping over a gun that does meet the criteria for a good carry gun. The Bodyguard semiautomatic .380 has a 2.75-inch barrel and is only 5.25 inches in overall length. Mike owns it and loves it. While Jack Haskins had this to say, “I was disappointed not to find my S&W .380 Bodyguard listed in this article. I find it very easy to shoot and very accurate. The only draw back is the long trigger pull. For a carry gun it is very good.”

 
Smith & Wesson Bodyguard
Caliber .380 ACP
Barrel Length 2.75 inches
Capacity 6 rounds
Overall Height 4.17 inches
Overall Length 5.25 inches
Overall Width 0.75 inch
Weight Unloaded 12 ounces
Sights Drift adjustable/integrated laser is optional
Grip Polymer
Price Starting at $332.35
User rating 4 out of 5 stars

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Bersa Thunder .380

Picture shows a Bersa Thunder .380 pistol with pink lasergrip.

My favorite feature of the Bersa is its accuracy.

Though I like the Bersa Thunder .380, it did not make the first list because it isn’t as subcompact as the others. With a 3.5-inch barrel, 6.6-inch overall length, 1.3-inch width and 23-ounce weight, it is even bigger than the S&W Shield which was the largest pistol on the original list. Jim says, “You didn’t mention Bersa. The last time I qualified for CHL my Bersa went up against PPK, H&K, Beretta and Glock. My Bersa shot super tight groups—a perfect score with no jams. While the other guns shot all over the target and also some had jams.” I agree with you Jim, I was very surprised at how accurate the Bersa Thunder .380 was when I tested it.

 
Bersa Thunder
Caliber .380 ACP
Barrel Length 3.5 inches
Capacity 10 rounds
Overall Height 4.7 inches
Overall Length 6.6 inches
Overall Width 1.3 inches
Weight Unloaded 18.9 ounces
Sights Integral blade front/notched-bar dovetail rear
Grip Checkered polymer/Crimson Trace lasergrip optional
Price Starting at $352.91
User rating 4 out of 5 stars

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Springfield XD-S

Springfield 3.3 XD-S

Springfield 3.3 XD-S

I get the feeling that many of you would not argue the Springfield XD-S’s 2013 award for “handgun of the year” by American Rifleman. Available in .45 ACP or 9mm with either a 3.3- or 4-inch barrel, at 0.9 inches wide, it rivals the size of many of the others, but has upgraded sights and excellent ergonomics. In fact, Michael thinks it should be “number one on the list.” Thomas Bonds carries the .45 model every day and Bud Parker can’t “say a bad word about it.”

 
Springfield XD-S
Caliber 9mm/.45 ACP
Barrel Length 3.3 and 4 inches
Capacity 7/8 and 5/6 rounds
Overall Height 4.4 or 5 inches
Overall Length 6.3 inches
Overall Width 0.90 inches
Weight Unloaded Up to 24.5 ounces
Sights Fiber optic front/dovetail rear
Grip Polymer
Price Starting at $509
User rating 5 out of 5 stars

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Kel-Tec P-32

Kel-Tec P-32

Kel-Tec P-32

I don’t want to get into any caliber wars here, but after The Top 15 Smallest Pistols published, I had a friend tell me they carry a .32 ACP every day. And I guess a lot of you do, too. The Kel-Tec is indeed very small. It has a 2.7-inch barrel, is only 3.5 inches tall and weighs a mere 6.6 ounces—probably the lightest in the bunch. Tom Gough says, “I have a Kel-Tec P-32 and with the extended magazine, holds 10 rounds, and with the extended magazine it gives a full grip which allows me to shoot it very well. I carry this gun when wandering around in cut-off jeans and a T-shirt behind the back and it never prints.”

 
Kel-Tec P-32
Caliber .32 ACP
Barrel Length 2.7 inches
Capacity 7 rounds
Overall Height 3.5 inches
Overall Length 5.1 inches
Overall Width 0.75 inch
Weight Unloaded 6.6 ounces
Sights Fixed
Grip High-impact polymer Dupont ST-8018 grip
Price Starting at $230.37
User rating 5 out of 5 stars

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SIG Sauer P938

Picture shows the left side of SIG P938 handgun with black frame, stainless steel slide and wood grips.

If you need a new concealed carry gun or want to switch from a revolver to a semiautomatic, check out the SIG P938.

 

I didn’t do a scientific study on your comments, but I think its safe to say that if this were a popularity contest the SIG P938 would be voted captain of the cheerleading team or football quarterback and I’ll be the one crowning it homecoming King or Queen…depending on what model SIG P938 you own. Not only is it an aesthetically beautiful piece, no matter what grips or finish it comes in, it is easy to operate for men, women, younger and older and extremely comfortable carry no matter what method you prefer. I always suggest those looking for a concealed carry to try the P938. It holds six rounds of 9mm—better than the .380 ACP, in my opinion—has a thumb safety, nights sights and is slim and lightweight enough you don’t have to dress for the gun. The majority of complaints I hear about the P938 is the price. But then again, you can’t put a price on your life now can you?

Praises for the SIG P938 9mm:

  • Fine choice
  • Best small carry gun there is
  • The last small pistol
  • Finest small gun on the market
  • One of the very best sub-compact autos
  • Love my Sig p238 Nitron with Rosewood grips
  • Fast follow up shots and an order of magnitude better than my Ruger LCP
  • What a phenomenal piece of hardware
  • I have three, it’s a great gun and is now my carry gun, replacing a Sig P229
 
SIG Sauer P938
Caliber 9mm
Barrel Length 3 inches
Capacity 6 rounds
Overall Height 3.9 inches
Overall Length 5.9 inches
Overall Width 1.1 inches
Weight Unloaded 16 ounces
Sights Night sights
Grip Various
Price $655.20
User rating 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Taurus 738 TCP

Picture shows a slim pink pistol with black slide made by Taurus.

For around $250, you get an accurate and reliable self-defense weapon that will conceal just about anywhere.

 

“I can’t believe you didn’t include the Taurus TCP 380.” -John

Taurus 738 TCP owners report its accuracy at self-defense distances, even with its minimal sights. It has an interesting look and when first introduced, it was available in a wide variety of different colors—that appealed to those hesitant about shooting or owning a gun. When it was new, it was Taurus’ lightest .380 pistol. It now contends with the Curve, both weighing 10.2 ounces unloaded. It retails for less than $250, which is why I’m sure many chose the Taurus TCP over the many other, and more expensive, choices.

 
Taurus 738 TCP
Caliber .380 ACP
Barrel Length 3.3 inches
Capacity 6 rounds
Overall Height 3.75 inches
Overall Length 5.19 inches
Overall Width 0.87 inches
Weight Unloaded 10.2 ounces
Sights Fixed
Grip Checkered polymer
Price Starting at $246.42
User rating 3 out of 5 stars

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Kel-Tec P-11

Kel-Tec P-11 pistol right black

The P-11 is especially well suited for plain-clothes police officers, security personnel, or as a secondary weapon for military service members.

 

 

G-Man makes a very good point when he says, “The Kel-Tec PF-9 was given a nod, but not the P-11, which holds 10 +1 rounds of 9mm fire power to carry for the money at the basic size of the PF-9. #truth, G-Man. The Kel-Tec P-11 does in fact, have the same specifications at the less-capacity Kel-Tec PF-9, except it is a tad wider and a couple of ounces heavier. That’s more than a fair trade off for the higher round count you get in the P-11’s magazine. Not only that, but surprisingly it’s cheaper, too. For $241.62, you can get the 10-round P-11, while the PF-9 starts at $247.94. Kind of a no-brainer, right?

 
Kel-Tec P-11
Caliber 9mm
Barrel Length 3.1 inches
Capacity 10 rounds
Overall Height 4.3 inches
Overall Length 5.6 inches
Overall Width 1 inch
Weight Unloaded 14 ounces
Sights Fixed front/adjustable rear
Grip High impact polymer DuPont ST-8018
Price Starting at $241.62
User rating 4 out of 5 stars

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Seecamp LWS 380

Engraved Seecamp .380 pistol.

“By far the smallest and best quality is a Seecamp .380, puts all of these to shame.”

Tom says, “Now that Seecamp makes a .380 the same size as their .25 and .32 and is smaller than any of the above, I think it deserves a note.” L.W. Seecamp Co. is a company with an interesting history. They have been making pistols since 1973, focusing on double-action only small-caliber pistols. The LWS 380 has a 2-inch barrel and is only 4.25 inches long overall. Those who own it understand its $810 MSRP. W.J. Tutwiler says, “It has been out longer than any on your list, is smaller than any on your list and is all steel. To top it all off, you can order a personalized serial number if it hasn’t already been taken. Tough to top that.” Josh agrees, “By far the smallest and best quality is a Seecamp .380, puts all of these to shame.” Les also votes for the Seecamp, “It is a true pocket pistol and the fit and finish is A-1 top shelf.”

 

 
Seecamp .380
Caliber .380 ACP
Barrel Length 2.06 inches
Capacity 6 rounds
Overall Height 3.25 inches
Overall Length 4.25 inches
Overall Width 0.91 inches
Weight Unloaded 10.50 ounces
Sights None
Grip N/A
Price MSRP $810
User rating 4 out of 5 stars

 

Boberg XR9-S

Boberg XR9-S

Boberg XR9-S

T McMurry just might be right; the Boberg XR9-S is the shortest 9mm on the list at 5.1 inches long. It is a not even an inch wide and has a 3.65-inch barrel, yet, “recoil is equivalent to a .380.” Bobergs are “handmade” says the owner of two of them. Some of you might say, “Oh, so that explains why it looks a little weird,” but that is not the case at all. The Boberg XR9-S has a different type of loading mechanism, once only used successfully in machine guns. The Boberg loads ammo “nose forward,” meaning the ‘XR Feeding Technology’ grabs the rim of the cartridge and loads the cartridge backwards into the gun. T McMurry says, “Down South it’s nice to have that kind of power in a true pocket pistol. They are super accurate at 25 yards and because of low recoil, fun to shoot.” Are you ready for the big kicker? The Boberg sells for just a teeny less than a grand.

 
Boberg Arms XR9-S
Caliber 9mm
Barrel Length 3.35 inches
Capacity 7 rounds
Overall Height 4.2 inches
Overall Length 5.1 inches
Overall Width 0.96 inches
Weight Unloaded 17.4 ounces
Sights Low profile dovetail windage adjustable
Grip High-toughness Zytel polymer
Price $994.07
User rating 4.5 out of 5 stars

 

Runners up: Glock 33, Springfield EMP, Rorbaugh R9, Glock 30S, Kahr CM40, Kimber Micro, Walther PPK/S .380 ACP, Kahr MK9 2000.

To learn more about the best concealed handguns, read the following reviews:

Thank you readers for the lively debate. I love hearing your opinions, suggestions, and ideas. Let’s keep this list going. In the comment section, tell us what great-concealed carry gun is missing.

Product pricing and availability are as of time of publication and subject to change without notice at any time.

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The mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, "The Shooter's Log," is to provide information-not opinions-to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (219)

  • Stephen Kidder

    |

    Honestly I’m a flat out gun nut and have been for my entire 62 years (well, minus maybe the first 6 years (, and I wish I had “one of each!”
    My EDC is my Glock Gen 4 19. In the summer when I’m wearing shorts and a tee shirt, my G43 is in a DeSantis pocker holster. Reasonable minds may differ, the debate will never end, everyone likes what they have, that’s why they have it! Most of you wouldn’t like my wife, but, her thick body would shield me from most bullets…oh hell did I say that? Lol! I carry the G43 because I’d rather have “less” of “more” than “more” of “less.” But let me say again, reasonable minds may differ. I wouldn’t want my wife to be shot by anything! ROTFL!

    Reply

    • Ian

      |

      I read it twice wondering where the Glocks were – notability the G43. Then I realized it was from ’15. I knew it was throwback but didn’t know how far back. The 43 areived in 2015. I have no doubt it would be on this list today. Surely replacing the Taurus or a Kel-Tec.

      Reply

    • GunFlint1

      |

      Personally, I’ve had about every gun listed in this test, And for various reasons retained only two. . if it’s something I want for deep concealment, and risk risk my life with their are only two winners. Glock 43, SIG 938. I feel 9MM is your bare minimum , but 380 is better than throwing rocks.

      Reply

  • Bob

    |

    If the article is new for 2017 why do the comments start back in 2015?

    I carry my Walther PPK .380 every day. It’s a bit larger than most of the list, but happy to see it made the runner-ups. With the molded clip I can get all of my fingers around the grip and not have my pinky in the wind. One thing I don’t like is the locking screw that requires a special tool for breakdown. If you leave it un-locked it slowly works loss too – so you have to carry that tool with you always. Also, prices still aren’t as low as the 9mm alternatives.

    Reply

    • Dave Dolbee

      |

      Throwback Thursday is a common term in blogging indicating the article has been republished. ~Dave Dolbee

      Reply

  • Chilibreath

    |

    I really take exception with many (not all) folks who give the impression they are the guru of guns. Yes, there are pluses and minuses to everyone’s opinion of what makes the best “carry” gun, but in the end it all boils down to personal preference… some folks like small guns and some like bigger guns, it’s as simple as that. And if you want to base your well thought out opinion(s) on facts then let’s do it… I was a big city street cop for a number of years and I’ve seen the results gunshot wounds every way possible, and I carry a 5-shot snubby when I go to town for dinner. If I were back in the Corps in a war zone I’d probably carry something bigger, but today I’m a civilian in a civilian environment, no need to overthink it.

    Reply

    • Brother Scott

      |

      Here is something to ponder. Why do so many shooters carry a compact or sub-compact 9mm, .380 or similar for their concealability…. then practice with something entirely different? Next time you do a little range work, look for it. It’s fascinating. People will lock their small “carry gun” in the trunk or the glove box, then go wail away with a full size .45 or Hand-Cannon Magnum for an hour or more only to go back to the car, exchange the two again and head home… Never trigger pull 1 on the gun they usually carry.

      Reply

  • Bill

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    I’m surprised that no J-frame made the list. I still like mine, but I also love the Ruger LC9s.

    Reply

  • Minroe

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    What about the Colt Mustang, XSP. A great little gun in .380. My only complaint with Colt is they put a rail in the weapon but NOBODY makes a laser that will fit. Rails are too small. Duh?

    Reply

  • Damian

    |

    I will stick with my colt officers 45 short slide acp and my P64 mak as my backup in ankle holster none of the above except maybe the sig would i want to carry daily

    Reply

  • dave

    |

    i am happy to say my choice made the list. my ruger fits my hand very well & to me, that is what counts. it does not mean i an very good with it, but it is comfortable. hope i never have to use it seriously. going to the range is great. thanks for the list.

    Reply

  • Doug

    |

    I know I’ll probably take some heat for saying this but I wouldn’t trust my life to anything smaller than 9mm. Sure, shot placement is the key but don’t discount weight (ft.lb.) imparted on the subject. I also make my choices based on capacity. Any gun holding less than 7-9 rounds, to me, is a loser for concealed carry. It may be fun to have the smallest pistol and if that’s all you can afford, go for it, but for personal protection my standards are not swayed by “fun” or unique.

    Reply

    • JH

      |

      Not giving any heat at all here for your opinion on the 9mm, but adding what I’ve believed for my entire career: never trust your life on ANY one thing. 9mm, .45, 5.56, 408 SOCOM whatever. ALWAYS have a secondary/backup weapon!

      Reply

  • rt66paul

    |

    What about the Makarov, Cz 82, 83 and the P64? These are steel guns, built for the military and they don’t have problems. Did I mention they are not plastic?

    Reply

    • Darrell

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      I also prefer my CZ82 and my P64.
      My wife’s is a Bersa .380

      Reply

    • JohnHR

      |

      You beat me to the punch. While my main carry pistols are, and in no particular order a Kimber CDP, Springfield .40 EMP, and a Smith & Wesson .357 Model 629 with a 2 and 5/8 in inch barrel, I also carry an East German Makarov, or a P-64, or a CZ 82, as a back up pistol.
      They may be older than dirt but they work, and work quite well.
      I don’t think the Makarov 9×18 round gets the credit it deserved and will take it over a .380 any day of the week.

      Reply

  • CC74

    |

    Wow, just reading through a few of these comments really makes me laugh out loud. I see people who are complete authorities on guns that they have never owned, carried, or fired! I guess personal preference really is that authoritative. I appreciate the effort that Suzzane went to, to put this list together. As was stated in the beginning, it is not an exhaustive list at all, but more of an addendum to the first one she made.

    Good job, Suzzane. I may not like all the guns on the list, but I do like reading about them.

    To everyone else with a negative or scathing comment, Yes, she gets paid to try to sell guns. No, she won’t get your favorite gun on the list everytime (I didn’t see any Kimbers on the second list). If you don’t like the way Cheaper Than Dirt publishes their blog, go elsewhere, please, but don’t attack someone who is doing their job and doing their best to please as many people as possible.

    I like, carry, and own some of the Rugers on the list. I have shot most of the others. Glock makes a good gun, Ruger makes a good gun (and it’s made right here in America, can’t say that for Glock). S&W makes a good gun. My point you ask? There are many guns out there because there are many people who like and shoot something different than me.

    Keep up the good articles. I, for one, enjoy reading them.

    Reply

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