WHAT EVER HAPPENED to carrying actual fighting guns? If I never see another article touting a “lightweight, easy-to-carry-all-day” such and such, I’ll be ecstatic. When a fight comes, I want a chunk of gun in my hand, not some featherweight Mattel toy.
I’m not going to tell anyone how to live their life or what they should carry. Some people simply can’t carry a bigger gun because they work or live in an NPE (Non-Permissive Environment) where the discovery of a handgun would be disastrous. In this instance, it’s better to have any gun than none at all. But to purposely carry something small because you don’t want to be inconvenienced is just foolish. I know a lot of folks will read this and think, “What the hell is this guy thinking?” Please bear with me and you’ll see my reasoning.
When folks go to the range, what do they normally shoot? The gun they like to shoot, which is normally a full-size pistol! They have no problem shooting a couple hundred rounds through it, but when they’re done, the big gun gets put away, and the little gun, which hasn’t seen the light of day or a bullet down its barrel in six months or more, is the one chosen to protect life and limb.
Do you see the problem here? How about when they go to a shooting course, such as one from Gunsite, Yavapai Firearms Academy, or Defense Training, International? Rarely will anyone take a small revolver or semi-auto, simply because shooting 300 to 400 rounds a day through one will test anyone’s endurance.
Modern full-size 9mm handguns, typified by the Glock 17 and the Smith & Wesson M&P, are great fighting sidearms and are my preference for a carry gun. Carrying one really isn’t that difficult with the right carry gear and a little thought put into it.
What do they have going for them? Why am I so adamant? For one, they give the shooter a full firing grip and that grip-to-shooter interface is one of the most important aspects of good shooting. The new Gen 4 Glock 17 and the M&P series both come with different backstraps to accommodate different hand sizes. In the event that doesn’t work, many firms offer grip reduction and contouring services to fit almost any hand. The ability to get the whole firing hand on the grip is important to many shooters as that feeling of control adds a great deal of confidence. Yes, we can add grip extensions to fit the little finger, but it isn’t the same feeling.
Along with the full firing grip, we also have a longer barrel and sight radius. More barrel out front equals less muzzle flip, which equals getting back on target quicker and putting rounds in the bad guy sooner. The longer barrel is also more conducive to longer range shooting; we’ve known this for a long time, but it still bears repeating.
Yes, I know most fights happen at 3 to 5 yards, but not all of them. If you have to take a longer shot, say 25 yards or more, it’s much easier to do so with a larger handgun. Is shooting at long range something I’m going to do all the time? Absolutely not! But I’ll put in the work so I know the capabilities of both my equipment and myself.
For those who would say “I’d never shoot at anything farther than (insert your preferred distance here)” or “ I’ll never have to shoot that far away,” I wish I had your crystal ball to know exactly how and where my next fight will be. Sometimes, the fight will be what it is, not what you want it to be, and sometimes you’ll have to make a longer shot. It’s happened before, and it’ll happen again. Take a look at the places you go: church, the mall, your favorite bookstore or restaurant. Look at some of the distances in those places and then honestly ask yourself if you can make that shot, on demand, with what you’re carrying right now.
Another factor to look at is ammunition capacity. Typically, full-size guns will hold more ammo than compact ones. Smaller 9mms typically hold somewhere between five and eight rounds; my Glock 17 holds 18 rounds total, my M&P holds the same, and the Springfield XD(M) holds a total of 20 rounds. Last time I looked, no one ever said more ammo was a bad thing. Personally, I’ve never been anywhere in the world where I wanted a smaller gun or less ammo.
Look, bad guys travel in packs, and typically we’re seeing one to three bad guys per engagement. Having more ammo on board allows me to fight longer before I have to worry about reloading. It’s not so I can hose rounds downrange; we still have a responsibility to ensure the final resting place of every round we discharge is in the body of the bad guy. Additionally, the lack of recoil provided by a full-size auto is pleasing to the novice shooter and an aid to the experienced shooter in firing quickly and accurately when the situation is desperate.
Carrying The Big Gun
So, you’ve decided to carry a full-size 9mm. What kind of holster do you use? That’s always a major factor, since everyone’s lifestyle and requirements are different. My lifestyle allows me to wear jeans or tactical-style pants the majority of the time, along with a heavy belt to carry all of my gear. I typically carry my Glock 17 in the appendix position in a Dale Fricke Archangel IWB holster along with a spare magazine on my left side, and my clothing choices allow me to conceal it all on a daily basis.
Other options may include the traditional strong side, outside the waistband carry, or inside the waistband (IWB) carry. Inside the waistband is more concealable and provides more options for clothing. However, a lot of folks bought their pants to fit them, not them and a sidearm, so it can become problematic. In this case, off-body carry becomes an option, facilitated by using a shoulder bag such as those offered by Maxpedition or 5.11. Remember that with off-body carry, the bag itself can become a target, so make sure you have a plan in place to defend it if you utilize this method of carry.
Tell you what: next time you go to the range, do all your usual shooting with the little gun. Shoot at point-blank range and out to 50 yards or more. Shoot from the ground, shoot weak-handed, and see how difficult it really is.
If you don’t have a good belt, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Since I’m in jeans most days, I normally wear a 1.-inch nylon or leather belt. If your belt loops won’t accommodate that wide of a belt, it’s easy to find narrower belts that are designed to carry a gun. Bearing that in mind, understand that the cheap belts you find at the local super store out there won’t cut it. I know it’s a pain for gun shops to stock a bunch of belts in different sizes, but they are really doing the public a disservice by not having them there for customers to try out. At the very least, it’d be good if the guys behind the gun counter had some knowledge about what is actually out on the market instead of just what’s in the store (and you’ll often be lucky if they even know that).
Tell you what: next time you go to the range, do all your usual shooting and drills with the little gun. Shoot at point-blank range and all the way out to 50 yards or more. Shoot from the ground, shoot weak-handed, shoot one-handed, and see how difficult it really is. If you still want to fall in with the ranks of the gun shop warriors and keyboard commandos who always rattle off the old “all you need is a 2-inch J-frame ‘cause all fights happen at close range” mantra, go right ahead. However, if you are willing to look at things objectively and really think it through, you’ll see it’s better to have the bigger gun with you.
[ Steve Collins owns Martial Arms Tactical, LLC in SW Missouri, teaching concealed carry and defensive firearms and tactics. He is a former member of the US Army Marksmanship Unit and an NRA Certified Instructor. For more information on training opportunities, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.martialarmstactical.com ]
Simply Rugged Holsters:
Blade Tech Holsters:
Wilderness Instructor Belts:
Dale Fricke Holsters:
John Farnam/Defense Training, Int.:
Yavapai Firearms Academy, Inc.: