Concealed Carry

Commonality Among Handguns

Commonality Among Handguns

A friend of mine is very knowledgeable concerning handguns.

He owns a number of excellent handguns including a Colt .38 Super and a number of Colt Snake guns (Pythons, Cobras and Diamondbacks), but he confided that the handguns that are at ready in his home to repel boarders are all the same type.

Double-action revolvers are at the ready, loaded with Remington hollow points.

These .38 Special handguns are chosen because his wife and teenage grandson who live with him are able to use them reasonably well.

They are trustworthy folks, but not quite as gunny as my friend.

The handgun choice he has made is worth considering. By the same token, some have favored handguns that are modern and effective, but the spouse has much different tastes.

I know a couple that have diverse ideas on personal defense.

The female part of the pair favors a Taurus M44 . 44 Magnum loaded with .44 Special Speer Gold Dots, the male favors a .45 Commander loaded with Federal Hydra Shock.

Each is well-armed and each has fired the other’s handgun enough to be familiar with the piece to a useful extent.

The bottom line is — must a family all choose the same sidearm to preserve commonality among handguns? Is it important to be able to swap magazines or use the other’s firearms easily? Does it make ammunition supply easier?

One thing about shooting and civilian use versus institutional use I really appreciate — we are free to choose the best tool for the job and the handgun that suits our hand size and lifestyle.

Let’s look at some considerations and issues. For some such as my friend, commonality among handguns is the best program. For others, individuality is the key.

GLOCK and CZ Handguns
The GLOCK and CZ striker-fired pistols operate in the same manner. Even the takedown is identical. Excellent commonality among handguns.

With few exceptions, institutional users issue a single handgun type, although frame sizes may differ.

9mm Luger, .40 S&W and .45 ACP GLOCK or SIG pistols are commonly issued or allowed for private purchase. A few agencies have a broader policy.

Double-action first shot, double-action-only, selective double-action, safe action, fast action and the single-action self-loader are useful to one degree or the other.

Some of us own several types of pistols. It might behoove the person in question to commit to a single type of handgun and completely master it.

The affordable and reliable Bersa Thunder .380 has a manual of arms that demands the user master it to deploy the pistol with speed.

The Beretta Tomcat is a double-action first-shot pistol with a different manual of arms than the Bersa. The difference in safety location makes a great deal of difference in these double-action first shot pistols.

Bersa and Beretta Handguns
Double-action first shot pistols are often the most complicated. The Bersa, below, features a slide-mounted safety/decocker lever. The Beretta Tomcat, top, features a frame-mounted safety.

Young people on a budget often purchase what they can afford. They may be savvier than the economical choice they must live with.

Most of us purchase a big gun and a small gun as our first handguns, not necessarily in that order. Young people on a budget — or seniors — are concerned with overall protection more than recreational use.

Should a couple choose the same type of handgun for each shooter? Even though one may be more ‘gunny’ than the other, should they each deploy the same handgun? Should the backup be a smaller version of the primary?

Compromises are inherent in every choice, but there are good answers to these questions. There are both advantages and disadvantages in commonality among handguns.

As an example, if one spouse is only comfortable with a revolver, then the other will feel limited by giving up their 1911 .45 as a personal-defense handgun.

An EAA Windicator loaded with .38 Special +P might be indicated as a house gun in this instance.

The revolver may be kept at the ready without springs compressed or worries that the magazine will not feed. And that is the key.

A person carrying a more complicated handgun, a handgun that requires a more complex manual of arms, will be able to use a revolver by simply grasping the handle and pressing the trigger.

The shooter that is revolver oriented may stumble with a self-loader, even if it is the simpler DAO type.

Frame-Mounted and Slide-Mounted Safety
A considerable difference in handling comes from a frame-mounted and slide-mounted safety. These two do not offer commonality among handguns.

As for backup handguns, in the age of the GLOCK, many carry a GLOCK 19 primary and a GLOCK 42 backup. I carry a 1911 .45 and don’t like the small, single-action backup guns.

If the backup is carried in a pocket such as a jacket or crews pocket, cocked and locked carry isn’t really viable. If you carry a backup, it is the handgun you probably practice less with.

You will be less familiar with the action. If you carry a self-loader with a safety, the backup up should be the same action or a simpler action, such as a revolver or a DAO self-loading pistol.

An experienced peace officer I knew well, was in a struggle for his holstered SIG P226 and drew his backup, a double-action first-shot pistol with a slide-mounted safety, and attempted to shoot his attacker.

He was unable to thumb the safety off in the heat of the moment. He survived, but he went to a revolver for backup after this. The backup should never be more complicated than the primary weapon.

As an example, I would not deploy a SIG P228 as a primary and an on-safe Walther PPK as a backup. There is too much difference in the operational imperatives.

The backup should be identical to the primary or it should be a simple, double-action-only pistol or revolver.

Four GLOCK Pistols
GLOCKs offer commonality of handling. These are 9mm GLOCK pistols. The magazines differ in the single-column magazine pistols but the trigger actions and sights are the same. So is takedown.

Why Have Commonality Among Handguns?

Some family members view the handgun with as much enthusiasm as a spare tire and jack. It is good to have, necessary, but not exciting.

They enjoy training as much as we enjoyed high school fire drills.

It isn’t just the distaff side — I have a family member who has her head on straight and owns a handgun, but cannot convince her husband to gun up.

At least one of them is armed! We should be realistic. A self-loader, any self-loader, demands attention to the manual of arms and range work a minimum of once a month.

If range time is closer to two or three times a year, you may want to choose a revolver.

Three 1911 Pistols
These Government Model, Commander and Officer Model 1911 handguns are not the same size but handle in the same fashion. The safety, trigger and magazine release are the same. The longer Government Model magazine will lock and function in the Officer Model.

Choosing a handgun that each may use well is much more important when it comes to the house gun than the carry gun, as others may need to access the handgun at home.

The rub is the carry gun often becomes the house gun for many of us. We carry the gun when out and then make it ready for home defense when we return.

Having a dedicated home-defense handgun is a good thing. I have one, a Colt Cobra .38 Special. This is in addition to the carry gun I make ready at home.

As long as the handgun is at least a .38 or 9mm and good quality, you will be able to defend yourself if you have practiced.

If for some reason the spouse or family member is limited physically to using a small caliber such as a .22LR or .380 ACP, then at least they are armed.

Snub Nose Revolver and 1911 Pistol
A long time-proven system is a .45 ACP primary and a snub .38 backup. A simpler backup works for a self-loading pistol. Not necessarily commonality among handguns, but a system that works.

If you are only able to afford one home-defense handgun, then the lowest level of training must be the default choice.

With a finite amount of cash on hand, are two Hi-Point pistols better than one Smith and Wesson SD40? Probably so.

Are two .38 revolvers better to have than the Taurus 24/7 9mm?

Having two armed citizens does not automatically double your chances of success, but with a partner you have practiced tactics with, your defensive status goes up exponentially.

One thing is certain — your other half should be familiar with your handgun in case of the dreaded worst-case scenario. You may be wounded or unable to access the handgun.

The qualified adult in the home should be able to access the handgun and be familiar with its operation.

SIG P229 Pistols
SIG P229 handguns are excellent defense guns. These are a 9mm, top, and a .40, lower. This isn’t ideal for all-around use. The magazines appear identical, which could lead to a bad goof.

Many of you are happy firing diverse firearms. Realize that practice is needed to stay sharp.

The old hand that has been at the game for decades suffers less deterioration of skill when they do not practice enough, that is simply a fact of life.

Going back and forth between carry guns isn’t the best program for survival, and the pros do not engage in a gun of the month contest.

By the same token, the handgun should always be carried in the same position or placed ready at home in the same place.

If I am carrying a Colt Commander in a belt holster or a SIG P220 in an inside the waistband holster, they are still behind the hip.

Browning Hi-Power and 1911 Handguns
As far as handling goes, each of these 9mm handguns feature a single-action trigger press, manual safety and a Browning-type magazine release. Parts and magazines are not interchangeable, but handling is.

There are handguns that are more similar than they first appear.

The CZ 75, GLOCK 17, SIG P226 and Beretta 92 are quality firearms. I would not criticize anyone that prefers the CZ 75 over the SIG P226 or vice versa.

If I carry a SIG, my wife would get the SIG as well. If she prefers the GLOCK and cannot live with the SIG, then why not have two GLOCKs? It only makes sense.

Holsters of the best type are expensive, and so are spare magazines. In an emergency, magazine discipline could mean a great deal.

When the bottom line is considered, the differences between quality handguns are often conversational at best, and one seldom exhibits an overwhelming advantage over the other given a skilled user.

Running a combat course with a CZ 75 9mm, SIG P226 9mm and H&K P30 may invite comparison, but there is little that may be done tactically with one that cannot be done with the other.

If you enjoy accumulating quality handguns that’s fine, but if combat ability is the bottom line, then commonality among handguns means a great deal.

Be certain you are able to trust your partner in an emergency and that they have skill at arms with the chosen firearm.

The bottom line is determination and will to survive. The tools are just that, tools, and they are just one part of the picture.

Two Snub-Nose Revolvers
Snub-nose .38s are light, handy and easy to use well. These Colt and Smith and Wesson revolvers differ in detail, but one is as simple to use as the other.

Ammunition Commonality

The common calibers are the best choices. This means the 9mm Luger, .38 Special and .45 ACP.

I have the greatest respect for the .40 S&W, but one spouse carrying a .40 and one a 9mm is a recipe for a mix-up.

9mm and .40 magazines from the same maker fit the same frame, and most often 9mm and .40 ammunition will fit the same magazine.

Few have rigid discipline to keep magazines separated when they are identical in appearance. The 9mm is everyone’s caliber these days for good reason.

Having several handguns chambered for the same cartridge may not be as useful if they do not all use the same magazines.

Revolver and 1911 .45 ACP Handguns
Here is another type of commonality among handguns — a revolver and a handgun chambered for the same cartridge, in this case, the .45 ACP.

Do you try and keep commonality among handguns and your defensive firearms? What caliber(s) do you select? Let us know in the comments below.

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
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 (12)

  1. Sure, a .22 can kill, but killing isn’t the goal; stopping the attack is. I’ll take my chances of stopping an attack with a larger caliber with more velocity and power; I’m not going to hope I can avoid danger as I wait for someone to bleed out with a .22 hole or two in him.

  2. What the author was trying to get us all to consider is how are we going to war-game our defense? Whichever handgun works best for the individual for personal every day carry is the right gun for them if they are training / practicing regularly. Why? As a smaller fellow, it is difficult to hide anything bigger than a G43 or a S&W 38spl Airweight. My wife has a gun purse with her Taurus model 82 38spl 4″ barrel revolver. She is pretty good with her 16″ barrel AR-15 too. That gun resides in the bedroom in condition 1 status always. I keep Taurus model 82 38spl 6 round revolvers around the house in designated hide positions (even the bathrooms). My wife can fire a 38spl just fine, just does not like the caliber in snub sized guns. I keep a Mossberg 590A1 12 gauge with 9 pellet 2&3/4″ rounds in it for HD. Yes, the wife can operate it pretty well. We have and do talk about defense. That is what the author is getting at. Would I find fault with using a 38 spl on a bad guy if it is at hand and dispatching said bad guy is warranted? No, it works fine. I look to a handgun as (1) immediately available, must use now or (2) a tool to use in order to get a long gun, period. Everyone has their own situation, just talk and work it out. Be ready, whatever you decide is the best solution.

  3. I agree with the author for the most part. My wifeuses a S&W model 60, where my primary CCW is a Sign P365. I do and sure we can both operate the other’s weapon, when I can get her to the range (I’m retired, but she’s still working, so finding the time is sometimes problematic). Yes, I’ve other guns in various calibers in the safe, but these two are the only ones loaded and ready to use. She enjoys shooting the P365, but due to some arthritis, she finds operating the slide difficult during a flare up, thus the revolver and speed loaders are still ok to use even during a flare up.

  4. I dont carry a BUG, or multiple mags. I do shoot my edc regularly and rotate magazines and ammo. At my bedside is a DA 44spc revolver. I very much like the simplicity of the revolver for bedside. No fumbling, no magazine to worry about or manual safety of any kind. I do not worry about reloads as it is primarily to get me to my long gun if the threat is not already resolved.

  5. My father taught me to avoid manual safeties. Whether it’s a revolver, Glock, or CZ75, I can grab it and pull the trigger, and it will shoot until it runs out. I always carry in the same spot.
    My parents both have .38 revolvers, and that’s what I carry when I visit them – Mom could take the guns or ammo off our corpses and keep fighting with no trouble.

  6. This article gave me reassuring insight; I carry an S&W j-frame 38sp revolver; I have an almost identical one for home defense but is has an external hammer where my carry does not. I originally carried a S&W J-frame but it is a 22LR with no external hammer. I then bought the 38 with an internal hammer when the last Corona stimulus came in. The issue with the hammer, if you don’t use revolvers, is that the hammer will catch on your clothes if you try to draw it quickly out of your pocket: i don’t use holsters; I use my regular pants pockets. Print through is not an issue since the S&W Airweight series are very small and usually less than a pound. So all of my revolvers have the same common J-frame and 2 use the same ammo (38sp) but the smaller one uses 22LR. So yes commonality of ammo and handgun are very reassuring as they are very familiar.

  7. I agree on making sure the manual of arms are similar even if the weapons are not identical. My wife carries a Ruger LC9S and keeps a SAR BP9 compact at her bedside. Both have the safety in the same position and both fire on first trigger pull. However the SAR is a DA/SA and the Ruger striker-fired. She is very proficient with both and prefers the SAR over anything else we currently have. Personally I carry a Desert Eagle 1911U on a regular basis, cocked and locked, as I prefer the .45 over a 9mm. It is also my bedside gun as well. Wife is well versed in shooting it, but really doesn’t like it as it is a handful. I’m considering going back to my M&P Shield9 as she is more comfortable with it.

  8. I found this article interesting as I do carry a full size Beretta APX .40 and have a Glock 23 (also .40) as a backup/concealer. I intentionally chose similar operating guns in the same calibers to purposely simplify my ammo selection in not having to manage different calibers at home. I do store them together in a biometric safe, but the operation of the two are nearly identical, and the magazines could not be confused in a panic because one is matte black plastic (G23) and the other is a gloss black metal (APX).

    One of my own parameters in this selection was if I can easily feel the differences in magazines in the dark so I could swap mags in low/no light if I ever had to. I can do that easily with these 2 pistols. And because they are the same caliber I could also hand load magazines in the dark knowing they both use the same ammo.

    I have Trijicon HD night sights on both, so my sight pictures are familiar. And I chose similar mounted lights (o-light minis) for both pistols as well because they are both rechargeable and can use the same charger if I only had one. They are also interchangeable between the pistols if one light were to fail.

    Now my rifles? That’s a whole different story…

  9. Being old, and having “cut my teeth” using a 1911, I have decided I like my carry gun to have a thumb safety whether it be a 1911 or some type of 9mm. I have decided to carry a S&W M&P 9mm now as my primary carry gun but it has a 1911 style thumb safety as does my CZ 75. I jokingly say that I don’t know what to do with my right thumb if it isn’t “riding” the thumb safety.

  10. Maybe I am going about this all wrong, but neither me or my wife are carrying back ups. My preferred choice is a Glock 19 with 2 additional mags, and my wife carries a Glock 43X with 1 additional mag. We do go to the range at least twice a month, training mostly on photo realistic targets than just dots to shoot at. Both guns then become our home guns, hers on her side of the bed and mine likewise on my side.

  11. I’ve always favored the .38/.357 caliber for my revolvers and the 9mm for my semi-autos. I’ve carried S&W and Ruger in both configurations. When I have them on my person, they are always carried in the same position. They are returned to the same place as soon as I get home. I don’t have to try to remember where they’re at in case of an emergency. Two exceptions. My wife keeps a 7 shot .25 by the bed because of being unable to manage a larger gun like she used to (health reasons). I keep a single action .357 near my chair in the living room.
    It may be just because these are the ones I’ve used most of my life, but they are the pistols I’m most comfortable with. Whether it was duty-carry, at the range, or shooting a snake in the back yard, they’ve never failed me.

  12. I agree that a backup firearm carried in a jacket pocket or cargo pants pocket is not a viable solution.
    Here’s one that is:
    I carry my CZ-P01 on my belt in half-cock with a round in the pipe. I feel safe doing this because my P01 has a decocker in lieu of a safety. My backup is a CZ 2075 Rami BD, carried in my pants cargo pocket also in the half cock condition. It too has a decocker.
    In a panic situation, all I have to do is grab the gun, and pull the trigger.

    The Rami will accept magazines from the P01, but not vice-versa. The manual of arms is identical.
    I like to think I have my bases covered, but welcome others thoughts.

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