With the prevalence of mass shootings in the U.S. and extremists often targeting places of worship, more and more religious institutions are allowing concealed carry. If your church is considering starting a security team or allowing guns to be carried, you may have some questions. What kind of gun should you carry in church? Is your everyday carry firearm a good “church gun?” How can I best be prepared to protect my family and other parishioners?
Can Your Everyday Concealed Carry Firearm Be a Church Gun?
Using your everyday carry (EDC) gun as your church gun is a solid choice. But there are some other factors. Guns for EDC — such as a micro .380 or 9mm — are geared toward extended all-day comfort. And everyday guns are designed for close-range personal defense. Those firearms are meant to be used against one or maybe two adversaries focused solely on one victim.
Looking at the hate crime committed in Buffalo, retired police officer Aaron Slater Jr. intervened at Tops Supermarket. However, he only managed to fire one round on the active shooter with his everyday carry gun. Unfortunately, the round struck the attacker’s body armor with zero effect.
Similar to a busy market on a Saturday, there are many innocents to consider in a church setting. If you carry a gun in church as I do, you should first recognize that you aren’t just protecting your family. You could be responsible for the lives of the entire congregation. The stakes are higher in a place of worship. The gun you carry should meet certain parameters to confront those stakes.
Selecting Your Gun to Carry in Church
In selecting an appropriate Church Gun and ammo combination, I recommend using three broad parameters: precision, power and penetration.
Your church gun must possess extreme intrinsic accuracy. You may need to take a shot at a long distance. I prefer iron sights for an unimpeded field of view. Tritium sights from XS Sights are my favorite. Another possible sighting addition are laser sights from Crimson Trace. The laser dot sight will help confirm in extremely fluid situations that the pathway to the shooter is clear. Match-grade barrels are also preferred.
You may be facing a shooter who is armed with a rifle or shotgun. Your handgun needs to be the most effective one you can confidently use. Five- or six-shot revolvers, .380s or micro-compact 9mms likely won’t measure up due to the short barrels. A 4- to 5-inch barrel is ideal. And my recommended caliber choices are 9mm, .38 Super, .357 SIG, .40 S&W, 10mm and.45 ACP.
The most important thing about penetration is that it has to be controlled. The best ammo for a church defense mission comes from Liberty Ammunition in the form of their Civil Defense line. These ultra-lightweight, ultra-high-speed projectiles deliver explosive expansion and projectile disintegration, helping prevent overpenetration. Liberty manufactures loads for all the aforementioned calibers except .38 Super. When I carry my Super, it is loaded with 115-grain Cor-Bon JHPs.
Church Gun Makes and Models
Fortunately, there are plenty of handguns that meet the above parameters. Here are some of my choices.
- Full- or commander-sized 1911 pistols. The excellent Springfield Armory Garrison pistols come in 9mm or .45 ACP with match barrels and are decently priced. Colt 1911s are the original “fighting autos.”
- The Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0 Compact. The M&P series are my favorite polymer-framed handguns and feature a 4-inch barrel with available thumb safeties.
- Full- or mid-sized Glock pistols. The Glock 31 in the powerhouse .357 SIG caliber is my top choice.
- The new 9mm Springfield Armory SA-35. It is all steel and superbly accurate. Plus, it holds 15+1 rounds with trim dimensions that make it easy to carry and shoot.
- Any full- or mid-sized SIG Sauer chambered in 9mm, .357, .40, .45 ACP or 10mm. The new P210 Carry shows great potential as a gun to carry in church.
- Remington’s R1 Executive Ultralite in .45 ACP. Even though it has a 3.5-inch barrel, it is accurate and has a full-sized grip, great sights and smooth action.
- Ruger American or Ruger 5.7. The Ruger 5.7 weighs only 24.5 ounces and holds 20+1 rounds of 5.7x28mm ammo. The Ruger American is also a solid choice.
- Custom 1911s, such as those from Alchemy Custom Weaponry, Cabot Guns, Wilson Combat and Les Baer are also good choices.
Preparing to Carry in Church
In order to prepare for an active threat event in a church, center your training around accuracy, using a B27 silhouette at distances out to at least 25 yards. Due to the trend of assailants wearing body armor, point of aim on a threat should be at the belt buckle. Practice shooting with two hands and one-hand only. Video-based simulation training can be a great addition if available. You need to have complete confidence in your ability. As Wyatt Earp said, “Fast is fine, but accuracy is FINAL. You have to learn to take your time in a hurry.”
Purchase a quality piece that meets the three Ps, and if you train reliably and carry every Sunday, it may be possible for you to prevent or mitigate a disaster at church. Make sure you check local laws and with your pastors before carrying.
If you’re looking for a practical blueprint for church security teams, look no further than Keeping Your Church Safe by Ron Aguiar.