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Old March 4, 2018, 05:59 PM   #1
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Selecting a Handgun for Concealed Carry

One can read about the recommendations of expert defensive shooting trainers regarding pistols for concealed carry. What one gains from that, I think, is two-fold: (1)their expert opinions , and (2) the benefit of their observations of hundreds or more students shooing different guns for days on end. The latter can give insight into how shooters handle guns, and how well the guns perform in terms of reliability in very extensive shooing with different kinds of ammunition.

At least one expert strongly advises that a defensive semiautomatic pistol require no extra step--ie, no step other than grasping and pressing the tigger--to fire it. In other words, no separate frame mounted safety switch, unless the gun is a single action semi-auto with a 1911 type safety. That trainer saw me fumble in a drill with a gun that did have such a safety, but his advice has long preceded that incident.

One can also find opinions supported by observations and research regarding caliber and other factors.

Few of if any of us have the opportunity to observe so many people shooting so many guns ourselves. But a two or three day course will expose us to some things we usually do not see otherwise.

I chose my first carry piece based on what I had read in reviews and on what I handled in gun stores. The only advice I had received was to choose something without an un-shrouded eternal hammer, to avoid snagging and to mitigate legal liability involving allegations of unintentional discharge. I really knew nothing about defensive shooting. My many years at the range were not focussed on that. I chose a popular revolver that could be pocketed.

That first handgun proved to be a poor choice. Difficulty in shooting rapidly, the limited ammunition capacity, and stinging recoil made it the wrong gun for primary carry.

I didn't realize that until I had participated in a good defensive pistol shooting class.

Since that time I have taken more training; discussed defensive shooting with a number of well-known experts; and engaged in discussions on this board with people who know more than I.

I am not an expert, and I never will be. But I thought it might be helpful to try to take what I have learned from others, compile it, and put together a framework for the use of others in selecting a concealed carry handgun.

To establish a starting benchmark, let's consider what most people have probably never considered when they take their first guns to the square range for practice: (1) that an assailant may well be moving very quickly, giving very little time to shoot; and (2) that actually effecting a physical stop timely requires striking small body parts hidden within the opaque three dimensional envelope of the assailant's moving body, making multiple quick hits the only viable way to increase the likelihood of a stop.

Our time shooting water jugs or steel plates, where a hit is a hit, may have led us to ignore that fact.

There is no substitute for training, but here are some thoughts to consider before selection a carry piece.

I would suggest that a defensive concealed weapon has two main requirements: concealbility for the individual, and effectiveness.

The first depends upon clothing and body build, and upon how one intends to carry. By the way, do not underestimate the importance of a good holster and belt.

The second is more complex, and part but not all of it is specific to an individual:

Part of effectiveness involves penetration. Penetration is something that is either adequate or not. Best advice: use something that meets the requirements of FBI protocols.

Another part of effectiveness is shootability. That will be influenced by grip size and trigger pull, which will be very individual factors.

Effectiveness in stopping an assailant requires being able to fire fast enough and often enough to have a good chance of hitting something critical in the short time allowed. That depends upon controllability, upon the time needed to fire the first shot and ready the gun for the next one, and upon capacity.

Controllability may be to some extent an individual issue , but there are the laws of physics. Some people may contend that they can "handle recoil", but the movement of the gun slows rate of fire for anyone, and a really light gun or powerful cartridge gives anyone a disadvantage in self defense. That is why some expert trainers and a number of agencies have switched from larger rounds to new premium 9mm loads

That brings up ammunition capacity. It is really not an individual issue--it will have to be what it has to be in the event, and averages just do not matter. It is, however, subject to a lot of judgment--informed judgment.

How can the individual choose?
  • Eliminate from the list of candidates anything that does not meet accepted penetration requirements.
  • Try the candidates for concealment.
  • Shoot them in realisic conditions--in good FoF drills if possible, many of them, with Simunitions, or at least in other realistic defensive drills.
  • Make an informed decision on capacity.

On that last one, JohnKSa put together some analysis that is worth looking at:
Thinking about that and learning what one can about wounding effectiveness, together with what we learn in realistic live fire training exercises, can help with the decision on capacity.

One often hears "I am comfortable with my...". Well, that's fine, as long as that "comfort" is based on an informed decision.

Each carrier has to select for himself. I hope I have pointed out some worthwhile things to consider.
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Old March 4, 2018, 06:11 PM   #2
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Great post. I think that it may merit sticky status.
" The rifle itself has no moral stature, since it has no will of its own. Naturally, it may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles." Col. Jeff Cooper
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Old March 5, 2018, 07:02 PM   #3
Glenn E. Meyer
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Excellent essay. The core idea that the gun is for its use and not for display or symbolism is well taken.

I like the emphasis on realistic practice. The square range is good but not sufficient.
NRA, TSRA, IDPA, NTI, Polite Soc. - Aux Armes, Citoyens
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Old March 7, 2018, 11:39 PM   #4
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I've had my CCW permit about 20 years. I bought many guns and many holsters trying to get that best CCW piece.

My holy grail is a 600 Nitro, 30 round, 15 once pocket pistol. Since I can't find such a beast, I've compromised with a Glock 26 as my usual carry piece.

It is point and shoot with no external controls. Not too small nor too big and I'm OK with modern 9mm ammo. And I'm more likely to carry it over my 1911's. I do have a couple dinky little 380's for speedo carry.
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Old March 8, 2018, 10:03 AM   #5
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Link corrected.
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Old March 8, 2018, 02:17 PM   #6
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I agree with your perspective...well said !
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Old March 20, 2018, 08:17 AM   #7
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On the weekends, when I am not in slacks,...
Sounds like a crazy weekend.
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Old March 20, 2018, 09:25 AM   #8
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At 82 YOA, I can dress any way I want. And do 711 pants, shirt or sweater (weather dependent) outside the waist holster, tight fit Kydex, no snap, or holding device.

Same gun, same place, always. Glock 19 4th gen, night sights, I shoot it well.

For many reasons, 5 shot snubbies, wee semi-autos? Might not cut it. Sixteen rounds of 147g Win. Ranger T? Just feel good.
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Old March 20, 2018, 05:09 PM   #9
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45 acp is what i am most accurate with in rapid fire scenario. Surprisingly, I am also very good with an N frame smith in 44 magnum or special as well, but the magnum is quite overkill for a CCW.
S&W highway patrolman 28-2/ Springfield mil spec 1911 (semi custom)/ Sig P220 match elite .45 acp/ Sig P226 ST .40/ Remington 870 tactical magnum/ Taurus pt22/ S&W 629-1 3" .44 mag/ S&W 629 PC V-Comp/ Beretta M9/ Stevens/Savage 311A 12 ga double bbl/ Magnum research Desert Eagle XIX .44 mag/ S&W 460 xvr/ Glock g40 10mm longslide/ H&K usp compact .45 acp/ Ruger SuperBlackhawk Lipsey Edition/ S&W 686+ 3-5-7 talo edition
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Old March 21, 2018, 01:47 AM   #10
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At least one expert strongly advises that a defensive semiautomatic pistol require no extra step--ie, no step other than grasping and pressing the tigger--to fire it. In other words, no separate frame mounted safety switch, unless the gun is a single action semi-auto with a 1911 type safety.
I'm not an expert but I firmly believe in this. I think the chain of safety should be a trained brain, a good holster, and practiced use of the trigger. I don't want to be fiddling with extraneous mechanical doodads when a second is too long to spare.

For me, there is no "unless". I'll always enjoy shooting a 1911 at the range but I never carry one for defense.
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Old March 21, 2018, 08:17 AM   #11
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Superb essay. I believe a CCW should be reliable, compact and tested with more than 300rds. I personally carry one in the pipe and for that i dont feel comfortable with striker fired guns. My preferred gun is CZ P01 with FMJs
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Old March 21, 2018, 06:46 PM   #12
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After two years of carrying a 2+lb gun I decided to go lighter, some guys fixate on caliber some on capacity, me it’s weight.

The right carry gun is the one you carry all the time.

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Old March 22, 2018, 01:23 AM   #13
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I believe a CCW should be reliable, compact and tested with more than 300rds. I personally carry one in the pipe and for that i dont feel comfortable with striker fired guns. My preferred gun is CZ P01 with FMJs
I like the CZ P-01 but why FMJ?
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Old March 22, 2018, 06:28 AM   #14
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Outstanding article, OldMarksman. It provides a good "road map" of the decision-making process in selecting a carry pistol.

I have to admit, though, that my first carry piece was driven more by budget than anything else. My finances were such that I really had to "love the one you're with." A new gun was just not in the cards, at least not without trading something else off. Fortunately, I already had a 1911. At that point, just about everything in my safe was wood and steel, although I apparently made an irrational exception for polymer shotgun stocks. In hindsight, my aversion to polymer pistols really didn't make much sense. Anyway, all I had to spring for was a new belt and a holster. Unfortunately, that 1911 was a gov't model, so it weighed just slightly more than an Edsel on my belt.

Fast forward about three years, and we'd kind of gotten back on our feet. Enough so that I could actually consider a new, or at least a new-to-me pistol. As much as I loved my 1911, I was tired of lugging it around. I wanted something lighter. That meant some combination of: (1) smaller; and/or (2) a different materials. When I really got to digging into the issue, I really began to wonder if I wanted to stay with .45 acp. I'm a firm believer that the big ol' slow bullet will do its part if I do mine, but I also recognize that I've never been in a gunfight. My hit ratio just might not be what I'd hope for if I ever am. So maybe a few extra bullets on board would be a good thing. As a buddy of mine likes to say, "The only time you can have too much ammo is if you're on fire or trying to swim."

So I did a little haggling. I did a little horse-trading. I wound up with a Gen 4 Glock 19. Dangitall. I didn't want to like it, but it was noticeably lighter than the 1911. It went bang when it was supposed to. It put holes in the paper where I pointed it. The 1911 still saw intermittent belt duty, but I became increasingly uncomfortable with it, because it was the only carry gun in my stable that had a thumb safety. (Somewhere along the line, I'd also picked up an LCR for pocket carry.) Eventually, I decided that I needed for all of my carry pistols to be of the "point and shoot" variety. No more thumb safeties on carry pistols. I don't have the time to train enough to carry pistols that operate differently.
I'm a lawyer, but I'm not your lawyer. If you need some honest-to-goodness legal advice, go buy some.
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Old March 24, 2018, 05:30 AM   #15
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Spats, I am with you. The day I stopped carrying a Light Weight Commander, with an 8 shot magazine, 9 rounds total, of good hollow points, that fed all the time.

Was the day I missed the safety catch, in a big match, IPSC style, on my 1911. Adrenalin?

Possibly not quite the adrenalin, generated at 0-dark 30, coming out of a movie, in downtown wherever. That's when I went to the only hi capacity pistol (As we called them then!) I trusted to go bang every time I pressed the trigger, on my just acquired G17. Eighteen rounds, compared to 9?

As soon as the Glock 19 entered the scene? Did not mind going from 18 to 16, a huge difference (to me) in comfort, and concealability, still.

My G19 gen 4, sitting behind me, on the bedside table, I can see it in the dark, those TruGlow night sights work! To locate the gun, and see in poor light. Mods I can not live without, 25c trigger polish, 4.5 lb release, snip the bottom corner off the magazine catch, it dug into my second finger!
Glock manufactured slide release (slide lock lever?) works for Sevigny.
Flush fit butt plug helps in those rapid mag changes that IDPA competition calls for, possibly never that necessary in an alteration? But it does not hurt anything either.

I purchased this Gen 4 when they first came on the market! Huge mistake!

Many main springs later. Cartridge cases bouncing off my safety glasses hot ones! Bleats from Smyrna GA, "You are weak/limp wristing" my Gen 4 is perfect. No malfunctions of any kind ever. And still has that gorgeous black finish.

That was just supposed to be agreeing with you Spats! Went on a bit, a product of it being too early for breakfast, and only sleeping 6 hours.
And having a Wife who has no trouble sleeping 8!

Be Safe.

Last edited by Brit; March 26, 2018 at 06:42 AM.
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