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)

  • James Smith

    |

    Only one thing I will add . Mind you , I love Rugers . But the LCP is built too close to “not stout enough” for me . If even ONE round of +p or a reload with ANY extra powder gets into the barrel , the barrel won’t hold the pressure . I have personally seen 2 Explode next to me on the practice range . LC9 yes , any of their revolvers -Yes ,& I love their rifles ….. But an LCP – not for me buddy . I’ll stick with my Kahr 9mm or my .38 snubbie thx .

    Reply

  • left coast chuck

    |

    I don’t know, but one source claims that S&W has sold 4 million of their M&P Shield. I don’t know how many of the other models have sold that many. I wish I had the money and lived in a state where I could personally test each of the guns mentioned. Actually, if I had the money I wouldn’t live in this state. Personally, I like a gun with a hammer. Hammer down – gun not cocked. Hammer back – gun cocked. Striker fired – hmm is this thing cocked or not? Just call me old fashioned or a Luddite or an atavism I just lean toward a pistol with a hammer.

    Reply

  • John Embree

    |

    If you have an LC9 (with that horrible trigger), there is a fix. Go online and find the trigger fix for the LC9 —- it is very easy to put in and will cut the trigger pull to half! (just as good as the LC9s). Costs around a hundred bucks, but is worth it. Need I say, mine has been changed and I now love the gun! My other CCW guns are: Springfield XDS (45acp) — good gun, and a Ruger SR9c — which I love — it shoots the best among the three but is a bit large to carry.

    Reply

  • Dennis H

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    I have an LC9s, an LCP and a SCCY 9mm for pocket carry depending on the event, the day, the season and my mood. No, not all at one time. One at a time. Every now and then I’ll throw in a .22 (J-22 Jennings as a “back up”. My XD’s too big and my cannon, a Hi-Point .45 (bought for the price more than anything though I was really surprised at its durability, reliability and simplicity) is the gun for choice when I’m stomping around in the bush up here in the Pacific Northwest. Those are worn open carry in a belt or shoulder holster.

    Reply

  • Dean C Gilbert

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    I say carry what you are comfortable with. I’ll stick with my Taurus PT-111 G-2. Never had a jam and super accurate. Can’t ask for more.

    Reply

  • WacoJohn

    |

    I have a Kel-Tec P-11 and am considering it for open carry. My greatest hesitation is over a 9 lb trigger pull. By the time I get a round off, hand is shaking a bit. I would buy something MORE suitable except I have too many guns now. Might be time to sell a few of ’em off.

    Reply

  • Marc

    |

    My choice is the Ruger SR40C and I usually carry with the 15 rd mag with one in the pipe. Yes, it sticks out a bit more, but the comfort of having those extra rounds more than makes up for it. It’s a great pistol that is comfortable, fits great in the palm of my hand, easy to shoot and is quite accurate.

    Reply

  • dave

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    i too have a love for the LC9. fits nice in most arrangements & feels comfortable in my hand. lots of choices for IWB/OWB/ANKLE/CROSS-D/SHOULDER & more. new to the game, but getting more comfortable, daily.

    Reply

  • Scott Fanning

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    Best carry gun is a Smith 340CT. Lightest revolver, .357 magnum, hammerless. No muss, no fuss. Guaranteed to go bang, and very accurate if you keep the laser sighted in. Lots of pocket lint on it though.

    Reply

  • Tony Smith

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    Have the S&W MP BG380 and purchased a trigger mod kit from Galloway Precision. The improvement in trigger is all the gun needed.

    Reply

    • Tom S

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      Ruger LCP SUCK.. GOT TWO ONE WON’T EVEN WORK AT ALL!!
      Company Ruger wants me to 700 bucks I will but everyone I speak with will how ruger product can really suck! Stick with 22 and rifles

      Reply

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