Everyone wants to know what the best gun for concealed carry may be. There are a number of criteria a person must consider before purchasing a new pistol. Use of the pistol, size, shape, weight, capacity, fit, and ergonomics, is the most important. We’ll discuss those criteria as well as other considerations when selecting your gun for concealed carry.
Budget Carry Pistol
Choosing a firearm based on price is probably a good way to waste some money. Obviously, your budget is important and the gun you have is better than the top-tier firearm still sitting in the case at the gun store because you cannot afford it. But whenever possible budget should be set aside when selecting a firearm because there are so many more important criteria. I’ve seen pins rolling out of pistols in Defensive Pistols classes, and I’ve seen screws walk themselves loose from recoil.
Remember we are talking about a pistol which you may one day use to save your life. For that reason consider the concealed carry gun an investment and not an expense. Your life may literally depend on it. When I purchase my guns for concealed carry, I am usually looking in the $500-700 range which opens up a huge market for quality handguns. I have a student who carries a $1,200 pistol, and I have another who is a single parent with 5 kids and a $250 revolver was all she could afford.
Features of a Concealed Carry Pistol
First and foremost, in my opinion, is the features of the firearm. What features are important to me maybe meaningless to you. In fact, for all the reasons I like my own carry firearm are the same reasons some people absolutely hate it. So each person must identify what is important to them. Revolver or semi-auto? Assuming semi-auto hammer-fired or striker fired? Single action only, double action only, or single action-double action? Manual thumb safety or not? Capacity? Weight?
What about the slide, if it is a semi-automatic pistol can you operate the slide? Smaller lighter firearms will often have heavy recoil springs because if not they can be very snappy. If you cannot operate the slides, you might want to consider a revolver, or practice, practice, practice. All of these features are important when selecting a gun for concealed carry.
Size, Fit and Ergonomics of the Best Gun for Concealed Carry
The size of the gun is important. What I can carry just might be too heavy for you. What I can conceal, you might not be able to. This is something that is unique to each body frame. Also, remember there is such a thing as too small. Everything about choosing a gun for concealed carry is finding the right balance. In this case, balancing the size and the weight. Remember you’ll carry it more than you’ll shoot it, but when the time comes to shoot it, you’ve got to be able to hit what you want.
Let’s not even discuss caliber, because the great debate about 9mm vs 45 and 380 vs 9mm will rage on for all time. And to make things worse, in regards to caliber, manufacturers are now working on a brand new caliber, “The super 30”. My recommendation is to shoot the largest caliber you can most accurately and consistently shoot. This caliber selection may vary from firearm to firearm based on the fit, feel, and physics of the firearm. I generally encourage new shooters to start at 9mm, which is a very good middle of the range round. You can go up or down in caliber from there.
Let’s talk about fit and size. A firearm that has all the desired features may not have the proper fit. Fit is important for a natural point of aim. Fit is important for proper operation of the controls such as trigger finger position, safety disengagement, magazine release, etc… If the gun does not fit your hand it is not the right gun for you. How do you know if it fits? Well, the only way to know is to feel it. Go to the gun store and feel it, squeeze it. Work the controls. Press the trigger. If the store has trigger locks that won’t take off, you are in the wrong store. Make sure it fits your hand. Make sure you can operate the controls without doing something weird with your hands or fingers.
Another feature not to be under-rated is the availability of aftermarket accessories such as holsters or sights. While maybe you have no intention of swapping out the sights, you will need some means of carrying, and that means is usually a holster. If you cannot find a safe and comfortable holster, you will be less likely to carry it. Not all holsters are safe, and you could always go into the custom market for holster manufacturers but aftermarket parts and accessories are something you need to consider if choosing your new concealed carry pistol.
After you have determined if the concealed carry gun fits your hand, or you think it fits your hand, shoot it. Rent it, and shoot it. Many gun stores rent the most common carry guns. The costs can be $10-$20 rental fees. Some stores charge you per firearm others charge you a flat fee for your session and allow you to swap. The stores allowing you to swap rental guns are the best in my opinion, for buying your first handgun.
Now consider your budget. Yep, we’re back to that. You have found the perfect firearm for you. Can you afford it? Let’s hope so. If it is out of your budget, are there other firearms that also fit your criteria of features and fit within your budget? Probably.
Another intangible consideration in regards to budget is if it is too good to drop it, you shouldn’t be carrying it. What does this mean? Well essentially if you are in so much love with your firearm that you are afraid to scuff or scratch, or afraid to lose it due to confiscation of evidence, maybe you shouldn’t be carrying it. If you are afraid of holster wear from practice, then you probably won’t practice. This precious type of firearm is sometimes referred to as “BBQ carry”. It’s unnecessary.
Color of your concealed carry Pistol
I’ve overheard some people swooning over the color of a pistol. While I know “people eat with their eyes first”, don’t settle on an inferior pistol simply because it is pretty. The color of the pistol doesn’t matter to its’ operation. While I’m not opposed to pink or FDE firearms, don’t let that be your deciding factor unless all things are equal.
Recommendations for the best gun for concealed carry…
I personally try not to give recommendations of which firearm is better because there is no way of knowing which is the best for you, and selecting each needs to be done on a case-by-case basis. Anyone who has taken my class knows the answer to, “Which is better, the 1911 or Glock?” The answer is: “Yes.” Either or can be better depending on your selection criteria.
Because everyone reading these articles about the best carry concealed pistol wants fast answers, here is a list of some of the more popular concealed carry firearms. In January 2022, GunBroker ranked the most popular selling pistols. Removing the 1911 and Glock 17 from the list (due to their size) the following list are the most popular pistols that could realistically be used for concealed carry in 2021.
Sig Sauer 365
Ruger LCP II
Smith & Wesson M&P 380 EZ
So what is the best gun for concealed carry?
The best gun for concealed carry is the gun that fits you, the gun that you can comfortably shoot, the gun that you can operate, and of course the best gun for concealed carry is the one that you can afford.