I left the gun range disappointed in my performance and frustrated that I couldn’t do better. The purpose of the range trip was to do a comparison of three handguns I had recently reviewed with the idea of deciding which, if any, of them would become my new EDC gun. I had done better with each of them before, so I knew it wasn’t the guns.
The guns shot well. I just couldn’t shoot them well — at least not that day. I felt like I owed you guys, our readers, an explanation, because I probably told you that at least one of these guns was something I would be comfortable carrying as my primary EDC. Based on today’s experience, I’m reconsidering.
Are you carrying enough gun?
We used to call pocket pistols “mouse guns.” I’m talking about guns such as the Bersa Thunder, Kel-Tec P3-AT, Ruger LCP, Smith and Wesson BodyGuard, and Taurus 738. These guns might be okay for a backup gun carried in your pocket or hidden elsewhere on your body, but many of my clients were under the assumption that carrying one of these little guns was all the gun they needed. Now that we have so many new offerings in a category being labeled Micro 9s, it might be time to consider whether one of these is all the gun you need to carry.
First, let’s consider three situations, and for each situation two possible tools for getting out of the situation. You figure out which tool you think would be the most effective. First situation, your car is stuck in a deep, muddy ditch. Do you want a Volkswagen Beetle or a four-wheel-drive Chevy pickup to pull it out? Next, you have a flat tire. Do you want the bumper jack that came with the car or a hydraulic floor jack to hoist the car so you can change the tire? In the third situation, you’re doing some landscaping and need to fasten some railroad ties together with spikes. Do you go to the tool shed for a sledgehammer or tack hammer?
I think you get the point. You need enough tool for the job. So, when an armed robber is trying to steal your car, which gun would you rather have with you? A Taurus 738 .380 or a Springfield XDm .45 ACP? Everyone wants to concentrate on how easy a gun is to carry. It’s not how easy the gun is to carry that’s important but how effective it is when you have to put it to work.
Handgun Size Matters
The industry has given us full-size guns, mid-size guns, compacts, and subcompacts. Then came the single-stack 9s. All the major manufacturers, and many of the lesser-known manufacturers, have a candidate — Smith and Wesson Shield, Glock 43, Springfield XD-S, Bersa BP-9C, Kel-Tec P11, Diamondback DB9, and others.
The limited capacity of the single-stack 9s has always been an issue for many. A couple of manufacturers, SCCY (with its CPX and DVG series) and Taurus (with the G2C followed by the G3C and G4X) built guns that were approximately the same size yet had double-stack magazines, allowing them to hold 10 or 12 rounds. When Smith and Wesson, Ruger, Kimber, and Springfield launched new models with double-stack magazines that expanded the capacity of their small guns, someone started calling them Micro 9s to delineate them from the single-stack 9s.
I can think of five or six existing models that compete for these guns in size and capacity, and we now have so many of these to choose from it could make a gun buyer dizzy trying to decide which one is right for them. I’ve shot and even carried most of them. They’re all well-built with the features you need and want. These guns all shoot well, but as I mentioned previously, we as shooters may not shoot them well, especially under stress.
Under stress, you lose a lot of the physical coordination that you would normally have. Fine movements of the fingers and hands are degraded most of all. When a defensive technique requires you to perform finely coordinated movements with your fingers, such as locating and operating small buttons and levers, that procedure will probably break down under combative stress.
Stress will distort your perception of time and space. Events will appear to take place in slow motion, making you think you have more time than you do. Be aware of this. For instance, you may think you shot only three bullets, but you actually shot more. If you think you shot only three rounds, it’s very possible you can multiply it by three and that is approximately how many you fired under stress.
Due to space–time distortion, your weapon could be out of ammunition. Reload not when you have to, but when there is a lull in the battle. Do not drop a partially loaded magazine. Retain it in case you later need those rounds.
There is much more to it than this, but with just this small look at things that will most likely affect you during the need to deploy your pistol, can you see how the size of the gun might affect your ability to deploy it effectively? I see it even when not under stress. My normal, smooth trigger press sometimes lets me down, and I find myself pushing sideways on the trigger rather than pulling it straight back. This results in holes all around the target, but not where I intend them to be. Most of these guns have great sights, and I can line them up with the target. However, the darn trigger press gets me, and I’m an experienced shooter who shoots a lot.
Carrying a small gun is not the same as carrying a 5-inch 1911, SIG P226, SIG P320, or any of the full-size guns you may own. If you have decided to carry a single-stack 9 or a Micro 9, it is imperative that you practice, practice, practice, and not just standing at a firing line and aiming at a stationary target. Just doing that will present challenges, but as you become consistent at putting your rounds where you want them, add drills to your range practice. At home with a triple-checked unloaded gun, and all ammunition removed from the room, practice drawing the gun from concealment. Dry fire like crazy, but of course, practice good safety by removing all ammo from the gun before any dry-fire practice.
There is no requirement that you buy a Micro 9 except perhaps as a backup. With a proper belt and a good holster, you can carry and conceal a full-size gun. I recommend that you do. Professionals (people who make their living carrying a gun, teaching others to carry a gun, or writing about carrying a gun) generally don’t carry small guns as their primary. That should tell you something.
A full or mid-size gun has more surface area which means better recoil control. The extra weight helps keep the muzzle on target. Full-size guns have a longer sight radius which helps with accuracy, and they have more ammo on board.
If you are carrying a full or mid-size gun and have a rig that’s comfortable and easy to wear, keep it. If you’re just starting out and looking for a carry gun, look at the full- or mid-size guns for that purpose. As far as carrying it goes, IWB usually works best.
Get a good gun belt, a holster made for your gun, and you should be ready to go. If you want a Micro 9 because they’re cool, make it your backup gun. Even as a backup gun, please make the commitment to learn to shoot it well — especially under pressure.
Conclusion: Handgun Size
So, what have I decided to carry? My EDC before all the Micro 9s were presented was a Mossberg MC2C. The SIG P365 and Hellcat Pro are similar in size to the Mossberg, so I could carry either of them, but I see no reason to abandon the Mossberg. I’ve added a new backup gun; however, and that’s the Smith and Wesson CSX. The CSX is very easy to conceal, and I found I could shoot it pretty well. Being the gun guy I am, with the choices I have available, don’t be surprised if I vary from this selection from time to time.
I’d love to get your take on what I’ve outlined here, and if it’s an excuse for why you can’t carry a full-size gun, go ahead, and put it out there. Bet I can help.