Concealed Carry

Are All-Metal Carry Guns Really a Viable Option?

Beretta M9, SIG P226, Walther Q4SF, and all-metal S&W M&P 2.0.semi-automatic 9mm pistols

I wondered if the advent of guns such as the Springfield Hellcat, SIG P365, and S&W Shield Plus had made some of my older carry guns obsolete. I’m talking specifically about guns with steel and alloy frames rather than polymer. I decided to conduct a test. My metal guns include the Beretta M9, SIG P226, Walther Q4SF, and the all metal S&W M&P 2.0. I figured to carry each one of these guns for 3–5 days to see how they fared compared to the SIG P365 or Shield Plus I’ve been carrying lately. On board with me so far?

Loading Up

When I loaded my M9, it tipped the scales at 38.9 ounces. Compare that with the Shield Plus fully loaded at 25.8 ounces and you get a 13.1-ounce difference. The Shield carries 18 rounds of .30 Super Carry and the M9 carries 16 rounds of 9mm. Not too much difference there. Would I notice the weight difference on my hip? There’s only one way to know.

Beretta M9, SIG P226, Walther Q4SF, and all-metal S&W M&P 2.0.semi-automatic 9mm pistols
My metal guns include the Beretta M9, SIG P226, Walther Q4SF, and the all-metal S&W M&P 2.0. I figured to carry each one of these guns for 3–5 days to see how they fared compared to the SIG P365 or Shield Plus I’d been carrying lately.

Using a Bullard Leather Company IWB holster, I donned the M9 in the three o’clock position. It felt pretty good, but I’d have to give it some wearing time to make a quality judgement. One thing I’d have to remember was that the Shield has no thumb safety but the M9 does.

Day one of carrying the M9 was not uncomfortable at all, but I found I was more aware of my gun than I was when carrying something such as the Shield or the SIG P365. The lighter, smaller guns seem to disappear from my awareness, because I’m not feeling it when I wear one of them. I was definitely feeling the heavier gun, but not in a bad way. I found myself wanting to go shoot it.

The day I replaced the M9 in my holster with a SIG P226, it felt like old home week. Seriously, the P226 was one of the first guns I carried when starting out my concealed carry days. That one was a .40 caliber, and somewhere along the way, I sold it. The replacement was a Legion P226 9mm.

The SIG is even heavier than the Beretta, weighing in at 40 ounces loaded. That’s twice the 20 ounces of my SIG P365. Although I do enjoy the lighter weight of the P365, I don’t find the P226 uncomfortable at all.

Next was the Walther Q4 SF. ‘Steel Frame’ is even part of the name on this one. It has the best trigger of any gun I own and is dead-on accurate, which makes it fun to own. However, I was about to find out whether it was fun to carry. Tipping the scales at two ounces less than three pounds (46 ounces) this gun was heavy to hold, and it was going to be heavy to wear.

Beretta M9 and Girsan Regard semi-automatic 9mm handguns
The author used the Beretta M9 and the Girsan Regard interchangeably during this test.

I’ve got one of those Nexus belts that you slide through the buckle to tighten. I gave it an extra umph to ensure my pants weren’t going to slide down on me with the Walther tugging at them. Fifteen minutes into the Q4’s allotted time, I was ready to throw in the towel and admit there is such thing as a gun that’s too heavy to carry concealed all day. This is where the alloy frame may reign supreme, the steel is just too heavy.

Maybe this is what some of you feel about carrying a 30-ounce gun. I do have a PDP that’s a very similar gun but with a polymer frame. I’m thinking that would be my Walther choice. For now, this one doesn’t fit all-metal parameters.

I gave up on the Walther Q4SF as a carry gun the first day. I moved on to the next gun on my list, the Smith and Wesson Metal M&P 2.0. Fully loaded, it weighs 30 ounces, which is a whole pound less than the Walther Q4 SF. I’ve owned and carried M&Ps through the years and having this one in all metal is kind of a novelty. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not a serious gun.

SIG P226 Legion in a leather holster
The author used a leather holster worn at the 3 o’clock position to carry some of the steel guns. Here it is carrying a SIG P226 Legion.

I switched to a N8 Tactical IWB holster, because the M&P grip texture is rough and the N8 holster has a backing to protect me from the uncomfortable rubbing of the grip against my skin. After several days of carrying the M&P, I switched back to the lighter weight of the SIG P365. I knew instantly why the smaller guns were developed.

Even for a serious, carry every day, kinda guy like me, I must admit some of my ‘admired and trusted’ guns are a little too uncomfortable to carry compared to guns such as the Hellcat, SIG P365, and Shield Plus — all of which give you enough gun to hold onto and significant capacity. However, they aren’t so heavy that they pull on you all day.

How did they shoot?

I promised my steel guns when I started this project that I would take them shooting before it was all done, and I did. I had a couple of other shooting projects on my plate but made room in the shooting bag for the M9, P226, Walther Q4SF, and Metal M&P 2.0. At the last minute, I swapped the M9 for my Girsan Regard, a clone that matches the M9 in size and weight.

Paper target showing bullet holes from testing different handguns
Top left is the Girsan Regard, top right is the SIG P226. On the second row, the left target is the Walther Q4SF. Normally, it’s a great shooter. However, the author let two rounds get. The right hand target on that row is from the S&W M&P.

I have not shot the Regard much and felt this would be good use of my range time while still fulfilling the original purpose I had set. As part of my shooting outing, I put up a target sheet with six individual targets. My plan was to use the top four for the steel guns, one target for each.

There’s a picture of those targets posted here. Top left was the Girsan Regard, top right was the SIG P226. On the second row, the left target was the Walther Q4SF. Normally, it’s a great shooter, but I let two rounds get away (flyers). To me it was a simple matter of not properly exercising the sighting, breathing, and trigger control fundamentals properly.

The righthand target on that row was the S&W M&P. All four of those guns are great shooters and will fare well as home defense guns or vehicle console guns. I’ve given some thought, also, to their role as carry guns and it boils down to this. If I have time to dress properly and a special place to go, one of those guns (except for the Walther), will more than likely make the trip.

However, if I leave the house unexpectedly wearing my everyday clothes, I’m more than likely going to pick up the holster and belt combination that I have loaded, as my carry gun for the day. Does that make sense? Sometimes I leave the house with such short warning, I simply stick one of the smaller carry guns in my pocket.

Final Thoughts

I know why the smaller guns were produced, and I’m on board with it. My caution to all who will listen. A smaller gun needs more practice, more range time, more overall consideration, and investment of time than a full-size gun does to be proficient. Remember, we don’t carry a gun because it’s comfortable to carry. We carry it because we might be forced to use it.

N8Tactical IWB holster with a S&W M&P 2.0 9mm gun
The author switched from the King Tuk holster to an N8 Tactical IWB holster for the M&P because the M&P grip texture is rough and N8 holster has a backing to protect the shooter from the uncomfortable rubbing of that grip against their skin.

Now it’s time to consider larger handguns that don’t weigh much more. I have several guns in the Glock 19 size and weight category that are not a problem to carry. The Glock 19 is one, and it is joined by the Walther PDP, Beretta PX4, CZ P07, and a few others. Also, I’ve always been able to carry and shoot Commander-size 1911s.

Where do you fall on the all-steel carry gun debate? What size carry gun you are comfortable with? Share your answers in the comment section.

About the Author:

David Freeman

David is an NRA Instructor in pistol, rifle and shotgun, a Chief Range Safety Officer and is certified by the State of Texas to teach the Texas License to Carry Course and the Hunter Education Course. He has also owned and operated a gun store. David's passion is to pass along knowledge and information to help shooters of all ages and experience levels enjoy shooting sports and have the confidence to protect their homes and persons. He flew medevac helicopters in Vietnam and worked for many years as a corporate pilot before becoming actively involved in the firearm industry.
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 (32)

  1. Plastic, steel, bubble gum. It makes NO difference what the gun is made from. What counts is; can you hit what you shoot at?

  2. The CZ 75 compact is with me no matter how hot or cold it gets outside and is the last firearm I will ever part with . Im lucky because my gut never grew below the belt line and when it gets close I start heading it off . Carried Glock 17 for duty until I retired so a full size weapon just feels like any other day . The world is going to s:#%+ around us and there are no shortages of threats so a sidearm that leaves a big dent even when empty is not a bad thing to tote .

  3. Decades in LE, S&W Model15 to 5904. With old age, 78, my waist has lowered. LW firearms are fine on my belt, but steel firearms ride in a shoulder rig.

  4. Calling it “polymer” doesn’t magically imbue it with superior qualities: plastic is plastic! Just like Tonka toys went from multi-generational steel toys to plastic crap that doesn’t even make it from oldest to youngest in the same generation, plastic guns won’t last. They are fine if rarely used and dumped before they get too old but you’ll never know when the plastic has crossed the line from safe to junk ’til it blows-up in your face. You’ll never find your great-grandkids shooting your Glock but mine will still be able to shoot that WWI-vintage 1911.

    I own 2 plastic guns: a Hi-Point JHP 45 (tacklebox gun & emergency boat anchor that will be discarded after 3,000 rounds or 10 years – whichever comes first for the $173 pistol,) and a Walther CCP M2 I won in a contest (and might trust to 5,000 rounds or 15 years) I seriously doubt I’ll buy many more new plastic pistols and will NEVER buy a used one! Hell, I don’t even trust aluminum frames with high round counts, ‘though age isn’t a worry with them.

    Plastic guns are like everything else plastic – cheap to make and disposable. They’ll never supplant real guns.

  5. I used to work part time as a deputy and issued was a SIG P226… hated that thing. With all the other stuff I had to carry I dang sure didn’t want that SIG adding more weight. My full time job issued the then new M&P that we switched to… which I found was GREAT after having had to carry a 4″ S&W 686 with two speed loaders. I dunno, these days for me it’s either my Shield Plus or SD40, both of which are sans safety. If I’m carrying all steel it’s my 6 shot .38spl snub. 1911 never interested me in any way shape or form. Beretta M9, was issused one technically but basically left it in the armory. Never really liked it. In the end, polymer, alloy, or steel… carry what you like, are comfortable with, and can hit what you’re aiming at. That’s all that really matters.

  6. I did carry a glock 17 but with the optic and flashlight it is now night stand. In bear country my 1911 in ten MM gives a little reassuring weight. In hot weather in the city the question of imprinting moves my carry to a little p238 that may not stop a big adversary but is better than a pocket knife and if this all metal 380 jams it wont be much of a club.

  7. I generally use a polymer gun such as a S&W M&P EZ these days, but my favorite is still my old S&W Mod 911. It’s a .40 caliber single stack and all steel. It’s a little heavier, but that extra weight greatly reduces muzzle flip which results in faster recovery back onto my target.
    My all-time favorite, though, is not really what I consider non-concealable. It’s a S&W Mod. 28. It’s the old “Highway Patrolman,” a roughly 6″ barrel .357. With speed loaders I can consistently fire 6, reload & fire 6, reload & fire 6 and reload again in under 30 seconds, and it maintains small groups at 15 yards every time. [Yes, I’m using .38 spl. in the gun.] The thing is, it’s so versatile. I can use .38 spl, .357 magnum, .38spl armor piercing, snake loads, and the proverbial +P and +P+ loads.
    (Not everything has to be “defensive” against a “bad guy.” It’s good on the hiking trail, in camp, and if you meet a bear you can’t just walk away from.

  8. Old school here. I prefer a steel pistol to shoot hands down, however I forced myself to go through a reassessment a number of years ago for a daily carry. Maybe I’m just getting old, fat, and lazy, but I found more “reasons” not to carry which led me to determine that comfort matters. I prefer a 1911, but to me many of the current pistols are just too fat, chunky, angled, knobby, whatever. I feel like I’m holstering a porcupine or at leat a possum. My criteria for a carry is sleek, comfortable (hand and pudge), reliable, and cheap enough to “lose” of necessity. I’ve settled on a Ruger LC9s for my daily. It meets my standard and I just refuse to get into arguments with those planning on taking on a roaming platoon. I still prefer steel at the range, though.

  9. I’m 71yo… appendix carry a full size all metal series 70 1911 … bottom line… hardly know it’s there but glad it is !!

  10. I know the plastic guns are here, lighter and work acceptably well. I have never found one that I was more accurate with regardless of the size.
    Being from Texas the new law regarding concealed carry requiring carrying in a holster on a belt, is annoying. Thigh pocket cargo shorts give easier access and in a full coverage IWB holster you have zero silhouette, and are perfectly safe.
    Considering a Kimber Micro 9, yes less ammo but a small carry board will cargo pocket carry 3 or 4 mags easy. It’s a lot to think about.

  11. I don’t think we carry a gun because it is comfortable to carry, but it could be that we might forgo carrying said gun because it is uncomfortable, whether or not it is intentional. I am not allowed by my state to carry on the street, but wen I have been out in the desert or where ever, it did get a little uncomfortable on my hip, getting in and out of a vehicle.
    I can understand not remembering to bring it in the morning.

  12. I’m 67 years old. I only own metal guns, several of the semi autos are all steel with a few aluminum frames. All of my revolvers are all steel. I have no problem carrying a Browning Hi Power, a S&W 559 or a Baby Eagle in 9mm, they are all steel guns. My revolvers are all S&W and range from J frame to N frame. I admit the J frames are very easy to carry but it’s also fine to carry a N frame model 28-2 4″. I only carry OWB at 9 o’clock for a right hand cross draw. Even a full size stainless Ruger SR1911 works fine for me.

  13. I have carried several different 9mm, sccy, Beretta, Glock 19 seems to be my favorite on my hip. Also in cold weather I have 5 shot s&w 38 in my ankle holster…

  14. 1911.P35.Cz75d..These are the pistols I’ve carried for many decades. weight was never consideration.I strap it on in the morning, and forget about it .Very rarely aware of it A good holster on a good belt, and I’m one of those belt and suspenders guys. So, anyway, I’ve not been impressed at the with the plastipistols..they don’t feel right in my hands. Comparing steel to polymer is like Comparing a Zippo to a Bic lighter. And if T.S.H.T.F and your piece is all tied up with a double feed on top of a case blowout, you still have a weapon in your hand. Steel club good.

  15. I am quire comfortable with my P365. Very small and lightweight. A carry gun does you no good unless you carry it. It’s easy to carry a P365 even if you pick it up as you go out the door and slip it into your pocket with a pocket holster. I love my 1911s but have never carried one. To each his or her own, but P365 for me.

  16. Comfort, reliability, and accuracy determined my selection of carry weapons.
    I have settled on two Sig Sauers in my collection. First is a 225A1 and second is my old 239, both in 9mm.
    They are both light, easily concealed, and can be loaded with very effective rounds.

  17. Back in 1982 or so, my local gun store was pushing the Glock and wound up leaving the store with a Colt M1911A1 instead, costing less than half the price of the Glock on “Sale”! Not because it was cheaper, but simply because it was something I was more comfortable with after leaving the US Army in 1981! The weight of the Glock reminded me of a plastic cap gun that I had back in the late ’50’s and early ’60’s as a child! I don’t know what it is, but simply holding a polymer pistol conveys the feeling of something cheap and/or something cheaply constructed…

  18. I’m in my 70’s and have been carrying all-metal Sigs for decades now (the ONLY mistake I’ve ever made is selling my Sig .40 caliber, my first CCW gun, back when I was in my 40’s. I would LOVE to have that gun back).

    I also have the Sig 365 and while it’s fun to stick in a pocket I kind of hate shooting it. I would NOT want to rely upon it in a serious situation, whereas with any of my metal Sigs I feel I could defend myself in almost any scenerio. As to carrying – perhaps if you are a tiny man (or a woman) a smaller pistol makes sense, but in a proper hip holster I’m not even aware it’s there, even after wearing it all day. And, as I said, there’s no comparison in shooting – almost no recoil (at 9mm) and easy peasy to hit any target even if I’m away from the range for months.

    I want my daughter to carry the 365 and she probably will after we spend some more range time, but even SHE shoots the all metal Sigs better. If you are a person who can shoot a polymer or micro pistol well I really envy you. For me there is no contest.

  19. I started carrying a Colt LW Commander .45ACP in a Roy Baker “The Pancake Maker” OWB holster in the 1970’s. I haven’t changed much. Now I carry a .45ACP Ruger LW Commander in an OWB polymer holster. Still works for me.

    For summertime I carry a Ruger LCRx .38 in a polymer IWB holster loaded with standard pressure Underwood meat drill ammo. I’m good.

  20. I am 83 years old and have been carrying for 6 or 8 years. I started with a Glock G21 Too hard to hide and a little heavy. Next I went to a G30 for a couple of years until a friend talked me into a G36 not much difference. Decided 6+1 not enough rounds so I went back to the G30 at 10+1. For me, poly is the only way to go.

  21. Rockit, Dakota and others about the 1911. I, too, have carried 1911 Commanders and loved them. Before I became a writer, my two primary carry guns were the Sig Fastback Emperor Scorpion Carry Commander and the S&W SW1911SC E Series Round Butt Scandium Commander. As a writer, however, it is necessary to alter my carry routine frequently to test whatever I’m writing about. Also, I’ve become much more recoil sensitive these past few years, so shooting and carrying a .45 is not as appealing to me. I’ve got two 9mm Commanders, a Ruger and a Taurus, either of which would make a good carry gun in my opinion. Guns like the Hellcat Pro, Sig P365 and Shield Plus are easier to carry and fine to shoot once you’ve tried them and can be life changers.

  22. I’ve yet to buy into the micro-gun trend. I prefer an all metal hammer fired gun generally and carry a CZ P-01 with 14+1 or a snub nosed .357 with 6 and an HKS speed loader for a total of 12. Both, and always, OWB at 3:00. I don’t condone gun hopping from one carry gun to others, without considerable training in between. So I keep it to just these two and they cover me for almost every scenario. That said, if I did switch up, it would be only to other guns with the same firing manual of arms. So, no single action 1911’s, no thumb safety on one but not on another. I mean why complicate your life any more than necessary? The delay caused by trying to figure out what you’re shooting, when you’re shooting it, results in death. Period.

  23. I am nearly 81 years old. My carry weapon is an all steel double-stack 9mm 1911, weighing about 45oz fully loaded. It is very comfortably carried in a hybrid two-clip holster from SwapRig, the only company which made a holster to fit it with an underbarrel laser.

  24. I enjoyed the article and believe that the polymers are here to stay. The steel / alloy models are not going to disappear anytime soon.
    Whichever one that one selects, there is a trade off. The question boils down to what trade offs one is more willing to accept.

  25. David, I knew before I finished the article, you would be hearing from the 1911 crowd. By the exclusion of the 1911 in this article, you may have committed a Cardinal Sin. LOL. That said; I always heard people say they carried the 1911 concealed for years, and at the time my thoughts were; Well you know…. So I tried it myself, and found other than just the shear weight of it, it is actually quite comfortable, and easy, to conceal, but like you found, you will always know it is there. If brought out, it does have an intimidation factor the little ones do not seem to have too. LOL

  26. For many years I carried a Browning Hi Power. For the past 10 years or so I have carried a Kimber Ultra Carry II stainless and alloy gun in 45 ACP. It weighs 31 ounces loaded. I usually use an OWB holster worn at 4 to 5 o’clock. It is very accurate and dependable and the rig is very comfortable and easy to conceal. I am so used to i, I frequently have to check to make sure it is there. I have several alternatives, including striker fired polymer frames, but I prefer the all metal 1911 compact.

  27. My personal opinion is that the holster is more of a consideration than the pistol in the holster, and 99%+ seem to have been designed by trendoids to be sold to ‘cool’ people. That is why I feel the holster that fits you best will carry the gun that you can use the best. It is like car tires in that you can have super csr but if you put the wrong tires on it you are just asking for trouble. The great car depends on the right tires, too.

  28. When I was young and broke I carried a full size Llama 45. As soon as I could afford it I switched to a Colt Commander. Years later I solved the problem by using a gun bearer (my wife) who toted a 38. Now she insists I carry my own weight, so I keep it small and light (38 or 9mm subcompact) unless I’m at home (Glock 20), in the woods (S&W 29), or in my car (9mm, 38, or 357). Frankly, I’d rather tote a light carbine like Luca McCain or a scatter gun like Shotgun Slade, but too many people will stare at me.

  29. I don’t necessarily disagree with you, but I personally prefer the 1911 type in 45acp which I have carried for roughly 40 years and on some occasions I go to the Glock 19, I prefer the 1911 types in the compact or commander as I can shoot them more accurately and to me that is what is important.

  30. In an age where everyone is wanting the ultra lite “wonder gun”, nice to read an article about metal carry guns. While not for everyone, anyone that is recoil sensitive, the difference between a 13 oz and a 24 oz handgun, recoil wise, is a major issue. As many folks are not starting off using a .22LR handgun to learn how to handle/shoot, these ultra lite handguns can actually create many bad habits. There is a reason why most experienced shooters refer to these ultra lite handguns as “Carry a lot, shoot little” guns.

  31. I can’t believe this topic is even worthy of an article. Seriously? As if by some magical intervention by Planet 9 has caused all metal guns to become obsolete? WTF???

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.

Discover more from The Shooter's Log

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading