If you’re in the market for the best concealed carry gun it’s important to first think about your needs. Each year brings new designs and improvements from trusted brands like Glock, SIG Sauer, Springfield Armory and Smith & Wesson. And the search for the best gun for concealed carry becomes more personalized and nuanced.
Here you’ll find a curated selection of the best concealed carry handguns. From the compact efficiency of the Glock 43X to the dependable performance of the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield, a comprehensive overview will help you make an informed decision on your concealed carry choice. The first factors to consider would be size, caliber, reliability and personal comfort.
Best Handguns to Concealed Carry
The best concealed carry gun depends greatly on the individual shooter. Personal comfort, ease of use and effectiveness are key factors that differ from person to person. It’s crucial to try out different models and test them before making a decision. The ideal concealed carry gun should be one that the shooter can handle confidently and efficiently under stress. The USCCA offers plenty of firearms reviews as well as other information about firearms, gear and gadgets you may be considering.
Though the Glock 19 is a compact pistol, many shooters fire the Glock 19 practically as well as the full-sized Glock 17. Some find the Glock 19 is faster from concealed carry due to its shorter slide. The Glock 19 is among the best all-around personal-defense pistols. Reliability, shootability and the 16-round capacity add up to a great defensive tool. There are many more Glock guns for concealed carry.
Though Glock is better known for its double-stack handguns, the single-stack 9mm Glock 43 was a big win for the manufacturer. Features of the G43 include a large magazine release button, an aggressively textured grip and the expected built-in beavertail. Trigger distance is 2.56 inches, which is slightly shorter than the G19’s. It has a six-round capacity, which should encourage you to carry a spare magazine. Felt recoil is negligible. Some compact 9mms on the market are problematically snappy, but not this one. The G43 is a reliable and accurate concealed carry gun.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield
The M&P Shield line is the compact, single-stack version of the very popular full-sized polymer-framed M&P line. The Shield puts full-sized power of the 9mm, .40 and .45 ACP calibers into pistols that are easy to conceal and will not become annoying after a full day of carry.
SIG Sauer P365
The P365 is a great blend of good features, from its stainless nitron-coated slide to its smooth but not too light trigger. And with its redesigned magazine release allowing rapid manipulation, plus the ease of cleaning and maintenance, the P365 is an outstanding handgun in every way. Some shooters may prefer the deep concealment advantages of the SAS and others find the SIG P365XL the best compromise of size and weight. Whichever you choose, the P365 is a formidable defensive tool. There are several options from SIG Sauer for concealed carry.
The Springfield Hellcat offers outstanding ergonomics, a great price point and a set of sights that even aging eyes can pick up very quickly. Touted by Springfield Armory as the highest-capacity micro-compact 9mm pistol in the world, the Hellcat can easily carry 13+1 with its extended magazine, and the flush-fit magazine holds 11 rounds. As far as concealability goes, the Hellcat carries a 3-inch barrel and is 6 inches long, 4 inches tall (with the flush-fit magazine in place) and just 1 inch wide. That 1-inch measurement seems to be the gold standard for modern concealed carry pistols, and the Hellcat matches that dimension thanks largely to a patented magazine that offers enhanced capacity in a narrow space.
The original Ruger LCP .380, introduced in 2008, ushered in a very successful series of hammer-fired deep-concealment semi-automatic pistols. The pistol weighs 9.6 ounces and has a 6+1 magazine capacity. It can be easily hidden in nearly any type of holster configuration. In 2016, Ruger upgraded the LCP to the LCP II.
Best Concealed Carry Handgun Size
Choosing the right size handgun for concealed carry depends on several personal factors, including wardrobe, daily routines and carrying position. If your preferred concealed carry clothing is generally fitted or lightweight, a compact or subcompact firearm, such as the Glock 43X or SIG Sauer P365, might be more suitable. Remember, the ultimate goal is to balance accessibility and concealment while maintaining comfort throughout the day.
The handgun you are considering should also feel good when you hold it at the gunshop. You need to be able to secure it firmly in one hand. (Worry about the two-hand grip later.) If it is a semi-automatic pistol and feels too large for your hand, see if it is equipped with grip adaptors. Then have the salesperson fit it with a smaller size. The pistols grip should also not be too small in the hand. Tiny automatics are notoriously hard to control. If it doesn’t feel great to hold when empty, its sure not going to feel good to fire.
Whether you prefer appendix, hip or ankle holsters, the size and shape of the handgun should allow for comfortable and unobtrusive carry. Don’t pick a handgun that can only be carried in one holster due to its large size. The best concealed carry guns can be carried in multiple holster types: inside-the-waistband, outside-the-waistband, waist pack or pocket holsters. You will want to have multiple carry options.
Revolvers from Colt, Smith & Wesson and Ruger have reputations for relentless reliability built over many years. Revolver reliability stems from the fact that the actions run from direct human mechanical power via the trigger. Those are opposed to the recoil, blowback or gas systems that operate semiautomatic pistol actions. However, there are many semi-automatic pistols that are exquisitely reliable. Most malfunctions in semi-automatic pistols are operator-induced.
Be Familiar With Your Carry Gun
Picking a handgun that you can’t load, unload, field-strip or operate without help is dangerous. If the trigger is too difficult to pull with just one trigger finger or if the slide can’t be racked easily, then that gun is not right for you.
Revolvers, being much simpler and easier to operate, might also be a good option for those challenged with smaller hands or weaker grips. S&W M&P Bodyguards and Ruger LCR’s both feature improved trigger geometry to accommodate a wide range of users. Another solution might be pistols like the S&W EZ .380 and 9mm pistols that feature specially designed, easy-to-retract slides.
Choosing the Best Concealed Carry Caliber
There are a lot of great calibers to choose from these days that allow you to tailor the gun to you and make it a pleasure to shoot as well as effective. Recoil and muzzle blast should be tolerable when choosing the best concealed carry caliber. Cartridges like the .22LR, .32 H&R Magnum, .380 ACP, .38 Special and 9mm are some of the best calibers available for concealed carry users who are searching for controllable calibers with a reasonable amount of power. The .45 ACP as well as other great calibers like the .38 Super, .357 SIG, .357 Magnum and 10mm were left off the list because they have stouter recoil and sharper muzzle blast.
Properly Securing Your Firearm
When considering the best gun for your lifestyle, also think about how you’ll secure your firearm. Are there children in your home or that visit? Do you have other family members or friends from which to think about securing your firearm? For instance, even though my son has been trained carefully about the dangers of firearms when misused, I still feel more comfortable carrying double-action revolvers and semi-automatics or semi-automatic pistols with 1911-style manual safeties in addition to any built-in trigger safety mechanisms. The addition of a manual safety lever gives me more peace of mind.
But Which Handgun Is Best For CCW?
The gun which makes the best concealed carry handgun for me may not be for you and vice-versa. There may be a lot of trial and error. You may want to start your search at a gun dealer with a range facility where you can rent and shoot various handguns before purchasing. Doing that will likely save you a lot of money in the long run. Though nothing says you have to stop searching for the best concealed carry gun after your first purchase.