Size Matters… A look at the sizes of CCW guns

I recently completed my clean-up of nearly 1400 responses to the CCW survey I asked you to fill out last month.

During the clean-up I normalized all the gun names, derived calibers when they were available, scoured review sites and manufacture websites to gather information capacity, height, width and weight.

In the 1st real dive into the data I created 2 of the most interesting and ugly charts I have ever seen related to the topic of concealed carry gun selection.

In today’s post I thought I would walk you through the process and some of the learnings.

Step 1. Defining the relevant data

As I mentioned before I received nearly 1400 responses, but some people identified themselves as people who don’t carry (Illinois, California, NYC) or people who only carry when the “Think they will need it.”

That is better than nothing I guess, but it is easy to say your CCW is a Desert Eagle if you don’t actually have to conceal or carry it. Therefore, I limited the response to those that said they carried “Daily”, “A few times a week” or “Weekly.”

After all we are trying to figure out what people ACTUALLY carry.

Step 2. Plotting the data

There are a number of important statistics when thinking about a concealed carry gun including length, width, height, trigger reach, slide width, sight radius… unfortunately many dimensions aren’t available for all guns. When they are they aren’t consistent.

Some manufacturers round to the tenth some the hundredth, some are in millimeters and need converted. So to make meaningful groups I rounded each figure to the nearest tenth. Therefore a width of 1.2″ is everything from 1.15″ to 1.24″. And I standardized measurements for like guns… all 1911′s are 1.25″ in my data.

I am aware that the 1911 slide is thinner, but the grips aren’t. I saw widths in manufacturers data from 1.25 to 1.6… I thought this was the best approach.

I then plotted the data in 3 charts.

  1. Width * Length
  2. Height * Length
  3. Height * Width

Immediately a correlation between the 3 dimensions became clear. If you want a small gun, you want it to be small in all dimensions of you aren’t size sensitive, you aren’t likely to be sensitive in any direction.


Step 3. Colorizing the chart

I am a visual person so I used Excel’s conditional formatting function to create a “Heat Map” on each chart and the summarizing data on each side where lower numbers are shown in a light yellow and higher numbers are in green.

I need to apologize for the colors.  I have the most control on the software on the laptop but I made the charts on the desktop because of the larger screen. The yellow and green is awful, but it was the best choice.

This created obvious “hot spots” along the perimeter for preferences in that dimension. For example it is pretty hard to argue that there are spikes in the width for .8 -.9 and 1.2-1.3. Obviously those are the sweet spots for single stack and double stack guns.

There is also a single hot spot between these figures that corresponds to the M&P Shield. If you removed this anomaly the spikes would be even more obvious.

Step 4. Finding Patterns

The next step was to look at the summary data on the outside of the chart to find the “sweet spots” for gun size that fill a particular niche. Ironically this happened to mesh well with my view of gun sizes written 2 years ago… Understanding the differences in Gun Sizes

  • The blue corresponds with “Pocket Carry” guns
  • The green corresponds with “Discrete Carry” and “Concealed Carry”
  • The red corresponds with “Service Weapons”

Step 5. Identifying Class Defining Guns

There are obvious points where the guns dimensions are “just right” and create hot spots on the chart. I just connected the dots and then went looking for the guns that fit the mold.

Green – The Ruger LCP and the Kel-Tec P-3AT define this group on the small side and the Kahr PM9/CM9 are on the large size, but the class identifying gun has to be the Ruger LCP.

Orange - The green area above spans single and double stack guns that too big for pocket carry, but are still on the small side. So maybe the fact that a gun that spans the single and double stack is a hot spot shouldn’t be a surprise… The Smith & Wesson M&P Shield. But I was surprised to see the K line of pistols from Kahr Arms is the same size.

Blue – The only gun that is going to be called out that wasn’t one of my recommendations for a concealed carry gun is the blue line and the Glock 26. As you can see it is a middle of the zone gun for width and length, it is just a little short and its popularity defines the bottom edge. My guess is the Glock 26 is the gun for the person whose main concern is the grip printing.

Red - The Glock 19 is literally in a class of its own… and obviously a really popular one. This is why I have tried to lobby Smith & Wesson to build a  mid-sized, 15 rd M&P. I even did a Photoshop mock-up of what it would look like.

By this time it should be obvious that there is approximately even spacing in the grip length for these class identifying guns and the next step would be the 5.4″-5.5″ length of the Glock 17, M&P and 1911.

One thing to note is there are smaller hot spots that are more niche that are right where you would expect them to be looking at the spacing of the dimensions in the class identifying guns.

  • At 5.5″ L, ~4″ H and 1.1″ there is the Colt Mustang/Pony and the Sig 238.
  • At 6.8″ L, 4.8″ H and 1.25″ there is the Officers Model 1911 and the Glock 30

My personal frustrations with the M&P9 can also be seen. It has a full size grip, with a shorter length meaning less sight radius. Based on this chart, it doesn’t fit the pattern. It should have had an 8″ slide or a 5.1″ grip.

Step 5. What other choices are there in these zones?

The next step was to plug-in the ranges identified by the overlaps above and chart it.



Questions about the chart?

Where is my gun?

1 of 3 things could have happened…

  1. It didn’t make the list because it didn’t fit my zones. Please see my comments about the M&P.
  2. No one that completed the survey identified it as a primary carry gun.
  3. As I was putting together the data one or more of the dimensions wasn’t available. The dimensions that were available were used to define the zones, but not to complete the chart. Please ask the manufacture to put a complete list of specs on their website.

When I put together the full analysis hopefully it will be there for you.

The specs are wrong?

There are often different numbers listed for the same gun depending on if the mag was in or out. Who measured it. Etc. I tried to identify the best number but couldn’t always.

Why is the same gun listed more than once?

It is either a different caliber (or unknown caliber) or a different model. For all of the 1911′s I just called them 1911′s regardless of their size, frame material, checkering pattern etc. Then for the ones I could, I entered in the correct specs for the model (Except of course for width, I made them all 1.25″ )

Cool Learnings?

#1 – Even the people who carry the LCP and P-3AT know they aren’t any good to shoot. 

The fact that so many people carry a gun that they wouldn’t recommend has to be the sharp stick principle.

#2 – Kel-Tec owners aren’t very proud of their guns

The Ruger LCP and the LC9 are nearly identical to the Kel-Tec P-3AT and PF-9. They rate them nearly the same in shootability, but far lower as a CCW gun and are less likely to recommend them.

#3 – People that shoot 40 like their guns

40 Shooters rate there guns higher than the same gun in 9… but more people carry the 9 and the 9 is more likely to be recommended to a new shooter.

#4 – CCW’ers think big guns are easier to shoot

Well duh.

#5 – Revolvers aren’t good for new shooters

The J-frame fits really nicely in the Concealed Carry Gun zone and was rated very highly for concealed carry. But only Ruger LCR’s and some guy with a Taurus had more that 50% of the people who carry a revolver, said they would recommend it to a new shooter.


Well that is it for now.  There will be more coming about age, gender, training frequency, competition et cetera.  Subscribe so you don’t miss it.

Also leave a comment and tell me what you think of the analysis. If you really like it (or hate it) share it with a friend.



  1. SS says

    “My guess is the Glock 26 is the gun for the person whose main concern is the grip printing.”

    That’s the only thing I worry about printing.

  2. Mr Evilwrench says

    It may just be I’m up too early with not enough sleep, but that dented my brain. I’m gonna say I wasn’t in one of your zones, but I’m used to that.

  3. Gregg Walls says

    “My guess is the Glock 26 is the gun for the person whose main concern is the grip printing.”

    I believe that it is a mistake to discount weight. I have a 19 and a 26 and prefer to carry the 26. The size difference isn’t huge but the weight difference is significant. the 26 is much easier to conceal in “normal” clothes.

  4. blehtastic says

    PF9′s just require practice. I’m warming up to mine. Given the size constraints, all pocketable guns are going to kind of stink at practical accuracy without a lot of trigger time.


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