Choose Your Gun: Best Compact Concealed Carry Handgun

» QUESTION: In a recent discussion with a group that we socialize with, the subject of concealed carry came up. In the conversation, we shared what type of handgun and accompanying ammunition each one of us preferred. I was astounded at some of the differences of opinion there were in our small group. The vast majority opted to carry what I consider barely adequate, more of a convenience than a tool for fighting. My idea of an ideal compact pistol is a lightweight Colt Commander in .45 ACP with Black Hills 230-grain JHP ammunition. Others preferred .38 Special five-shot revolvers or small auto pistols in .380 ACP or 9mm. One felt that the Beretta 21A chambered in .22 LR carried in a wallet-style holster was the answer to the question. In your opinion, what constitutes the ideal compact carry handgun?

» ANSWER: I appreciate your confidence in me in asking what I consider the ideal compact handgun, but in truth, my opinion might only matter to me because of the circumstances in which I live. It’s pretty much an individual choice when a person puts some time into considering why they are carrying concealed in the first place.

There are so many variables in each of us as individuals and how we live our daily lives that we have to form a set of criteria that we want to meet, along with what kinds of compromises we are willing to make to best suit our overall purpose.

I am of the opinion that the reason we have compact and subcompact handguns is more for a matter of convenience to carry than anything else. Some folks with the ability to carry concealed won’t, in some cases, because a standard-sized gun is too much trouble to lug around all the time. It’s what they have, but it’s heavy, bulky and inconvenient, so they leave it at home and take their chances. Compact handguns help with the convenience factor by making the guns easier and more likely to be carried than their full-sized counterparts.

The quest for smaller, lighter, more convenient handguns eventually brings us to a point of diminishing return, however. The smaller and lighter the gun is, the more difficult to shoot it becomes. The objective of shooting, after all, is hitting your target on demand, often more than once, perhaps with an element of urgency added in, since time is often of the essence in a critical incident.

 

Here again there are exceptions and compromises. Your friend who carries the .22 LR Beretta, for example, might have a specific circumstance that precludes other alternatives. As I have written previously in this column, a .22 rimfire might not be ideal in a gunfight, but it certainly beats a sharp stick.

 

Discounting convenience, I believe that fitting the gun to the hand is essential to a concealed carry handgun of any size. This benefits the individual in positioning the muzzle on the intended target through the natural ability of eye/hand coordination. A gun that fits the hand optimizes control of the trigger as well as manages the recoil and recovery for multiple shots, should they be warranted. Odds are, in a dynamic, close-proximity encounter, the gun will be used with one hand in a less-than-ideal shooting position, and proper gun fit greatly increases the likelihood of effective shots on target under such a circumstance.

Like many other areas of carrying concealed, caliber ends up being a compromise between bullet diameter and magazine capacity. A lot of consideration has to go to what the shooter can control in the platform in which it is being used. My standard answer when asked what caliber a person should equip themselves with is the most powerful one that you can hit the target on demand with one hand. I do qualify that by suggesting that the 9mm Parabellum, .38 Special or .380 ACP are the minimums that I, and most of my colleagues, consider suitable for personal defense.

Here again there are exceptions and compromises. Your friend who carries the .22 LR Beretta, for example, might have a specific circumstance that precludes other alternatives. As I have written previously in this column, a .22 rimfire might not be ideal in a gunfight, but it certainly beats a sharp stick.

Of course, there is more to selecting the ideal handgun than mentioned here, such as body size and type, wardrobe preferences, ranges of motion and level of fitness, to name a few. The commitment to carrying concealed and the forethought of why we need or want to carry concealed will take a person a long way in the decision of what would be the ideal concealed carry handgun for him or her. It’s a personal choice for each of us when all the facts are laid on the table.

Related: Learn what to look for when choosing your best gun…

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