My recommendations for a Concealed Carry Gun

In May (on my birthday actually), I defined the 6 classes I mentally classify handguns into as…

Deagle Class – This guns are identifiable by their gargantuan size, 6″ plus barrels and ability to handle a cartridge with an overall length greater than 1.5″

Competition Class – Typically guns in this class are within .25″ of 8.75” in length and 6” height.

Service Weapon Class – They are the size typically carried by police and military personnel and are designed with the dual purpose of being both carried and shot.  But since they are typically carried outside the waistband they have a full grip, a barrel length of 4.5″ – 5″ and are limited to 9mm, 40S&W and 45ACP calibers.

Concealed Carry Class – They have a shorter grip length than service weapons and therefore reduced capacity; guns in this class typically have 12-15 rounds in their 9mm variants.

All guns in this class are too big to be easily carried/drawn from a pocket and are best carried on a belt. While their capacity and size still makes them capable to be shot in local competition or used for home defense, they do begin to make compromises in sight radius, weight and capacity that reduces their desirability for those tasks.

Discreet Carry Class – The Single stack variants of concealed carry class and typically have between 6-8 rounds in their 9mm variants and while some can be carried in very large pockets, they are still best carried on the belt. Their thinner profile makes them disappear under sweaters and their lighter weight makes them a little easier to carry every day, and they are not very well suited to any other task.

Pocket Carry Class – These little guns are typically very thin and therefore easy to carry, but their small-size can make even smaller calibers difficult to shoot.

Since I am wrapping up my tests of the M&P9 and the M&P Shield, I am a known to be a “Glock Guy”, I am getting hits from this post on, and I hadn’t put a stake in the ground on anything controversial in a while I thought I would do a recommendation post.

I’m sure someone reading this carry’s a 1911 as a back-up for their other 1911, but for practical purposes I even the service weapon class of firearms is really too big for concealed carry, but since that is a common size for home defense and competition I’m going to start there… Deagle’s and Competition Class guns are special purpose guns and I’m going to set them aside entirely.

Best in Class Service Weapon – Smith & Wesson M&P… with a couple of caveats

Until my recent gun test I hated the golf ball-shaped grips, the fish scales, the magazine construction and the mushy trigger, but I found those gun issues had not affect on my ability to shoot the gun.  And the magazine design actually makes it drop free much easier than my Glocks.

I still hate the “Suprise Reset” and I can’t understand why that decision was every made, but that can be fixed.

If you buy an M&P, be sure to get one that fits your needs.  I will not be buying my T&E gun because of the magazine drop safety, that might be fine for a home defense gun or range toy, but it would be very annoying on a competition gun.  Additionally, I don’t see why the M&P needs a safety, but it is an option for those in not in free America.

Honorable, mention goes to the Glock 17, but it was beat due to the comfort of the M&P, the fact S&W is an US based company, and the fact the S&W won’t bite you with a high grip.  Additionally the Glock sights need replaced as bad as the M&P trigger so I consider it a wash.

Concealed Carry Class – Glock 19

This has been my EDC choice for years, so it shouldn’t be a surprise.  I don’t find this size gun any harder to conceal than a Glock 26 or an M&P9c.  I like the fact I can get a full grip and the 3 extra rounds.

Like all Glocks the sights are horrible, but they are easily replaced.

In this category there is no-honorable mention because there really isn’t comparable. S&W seems hesitant to build the Mid-sized M&P, which with a M&P Shield trigger would likely be better than the G19, and suggest using a pinky extension instead.

Discreet Carry Class – M&P Shield

I am really amazed by this little gun, to the point that I am willing to break my own “no safeties” rule.

The Shield is extremely well thought out. The safety is difficult to engage, easy to disengage and rests in an indentation in your thumb to avoid contact when shooting.  The grips have flat sides, unlike the other M&P models, and doesn’t make you feel like you are holding a golf ball. And maybe most importantly the trigger actually has a reset!

Honorable mention goes to the Kahr CM/W9. All Kahr guns have the same great long, smooth double action triggers, they are all accurate, and by changing the barrel, reducing some machining time and adding 1 MIM part, Kahr has been able to make them significantly more affordable.

(This excludes the PM9 w/ the safety.  The trigger is awesome, but the safety is absolutely horrible)

These guns are tight, do require a break-in, and are very temperamental with regards to limp-wristing and chambering a round so I don’t really recommend them for the new shooter.  Making things worse all 5 of my magazines are prone to popping rounds out when I am carrying them in my pocket.

This class is so deep I’ll even throw-in the Ruger LC9 for consideration.

Pocket Carry Class – Ruger LCP

Personally I would never recommend pocket carry to anyone and I think these guns are too hard to shoot for new shooter and .380 is too difficult to find and to expense to practice as much as you need to be proficient.

If you are going to buy one… get the LCP.

There are definitely higher quality guns, but I believe for the price difference you would be better served buying 2 guns.

One thing I would avoid in this class for sure is any gun with a safety.  They are there either to make it possible to pocket carry a single action gun, which I think is a bad idea, or shoved on as an afterthought and are too difficult to actuate.

So that is what I think.  If you agree post a comment letting me know, if you disagree tell me why I’m wrong in the comments below.


As one final note to head of 3 questions I know are coming…

1) Springfield’s weren’t mentioned because I am completely biased against them, but even trying to be objective I don’t think they do anything better than my choices.

2) I have zero experience SR series of pistols.  The blogger at God, Gals, Guns, Grub loves them and thinks they are the best choice for him, his wife and daughters.

3) Revolvers are those roundish guns right? My 1st choice would be a Colt Detective Special because it holds 6 rounds.  After that pick a J-frame (642), SP101 or LCR.


  1. says

    +1 for the LC9.

    I have long been a guy who said you need to carry at least a G19 sized handgun, but my tune is changing a little after spending some time with the LC9.

  2. says

    I don’t believe there is a best first carry gun just like I don’t believe there is a best vehicle. There is only “best” for a given person and their situation at that time. A major problem is that many first time carry buyers are also first time handgun buyers. They don’t even realize that’s like learning to drive in an F1 car.

    I try to steer people into a long term relationship with firearms and suggest the 22LR semi then full sized 9mm then carry gun (by which point they’ll know what they want). And take them to the range to see why. But that’s a lot for many people to swallow up front. If they’re mindful, committed, long term thinker types I’ll say G19 or M&P9c and try to help’em over the rough spots of changing their lifestyle. If they will be getting a talisman whatever is suggested then, hey, LCP or J-frame in whatever color they like.

    I can’t argue with any of your specific suggestions. Other than the Shield (I have a PM9) I own a copy of all of those and like them all very much.

    • says

      I agree, which is why I gave my opinion on a gun in each class.

      I have a Shield and the PM9, I have the same holsters for each and the Shield is on my hip and the PM9 stayed in the same in favor of the G19.

  3. says

    Great post. This is very similar to a document that I’ve made available to my CCW students. For me, the M&P9c conceals much easier than a Glock 19, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for most people. There is also something to be said for consistency. I keep a full size M&P in the bedroom and carry the compact version with the same sights, Apex kit installed, and CT grips on both. Makes training easier.

    The Shield blows everything else out of the water in that size category. No contest. I hated the safety at first, but after 1000 rounds, it’s really not so bad, and flipping it off on the draw is much easier than I thought it would be.

    I will put in a vote for the Sig P238 on the pocket class, as long as you don’t actually carry it in a pocket. I think the LCP and similar tiny DAO guns are completely unusable. The Sig is very easy to handle, even for a novice. The safety is well designed, and not a problem for most. The slide stop is way too big, however, and it’s difficult to grip the gun without resting a finger on it so that it either fails to lock back the slide or locks it back prematurely. I think it’s easier to train around the P238′s complicated controls than it is it to learn how to hit anything with an LCP past six inches.

  4. Bill says

    I’m amazed at how the Shield (and to a lesser extent the LCP and LC 9 have become the “go to” guns when they have ABSOLUTELY NO HISTORY! They simply haven’t been around long enough to find out all the bugs that are there, and a self defense gun should have no bugs, or at least should have known bugs/features that are workable. Grip safety, frame safety, thumb safety, etc are all things that need to be worked through and can be with guns of long reputation.

    How is is that guns that are just released suddenly deserve to be the piece the determines whether you live or die?

    Sorry, but the only guns on your list that work for me in their place as self defense guns have a much longer history than those three!

    I’m NOT a Glock guy, but of the guns mentioned in this post, they are the only ones with enough history to be considered safe for personal protection in my book. (The M&P is rapidly getting there, and I would consider it after I had shot several thousand rounds through the one I was going to carry.)

    • says

      Great question, I’ll do a post on it, but in short… S&W reused many parts from the larger M&P and we know it works. The M&P itself is gaining far more share of the LEO market than anyone else and there are enough rounds through them we know they are trustworthy. As for the Shield itself, they sent out a metric ton for T&E and with 1 exception (and with crappy ammo) I don’t know of any that had trouble. My example has over 1000 rounds and over 3000 safety activation to see if the positive feel diminished with time. No issues.

      The quality manufacturers with modern designs have learned how to make guns work. I will continue to shoot and train with my shield (just like everyone else), but you can bet many of use have wrung our copies out.

  5. says

    On your revolver recommendations, I kinda agree. I have the Colt Detective Special, the LCR, and a SP101 and like them all. The weight of the Detective Special does mellow out the recoil compared to the LCR which tends to sting my hand. The only downside is that that Colt trigger really stacks when shooting double action. Now if revolversmith Grant Cunningham was only accepting new business….

  6. says

    No surprise that the Glock 19 is winning your poll. I have to say it was my vote, too. If you’re going to carry, carry something that will not only feel right in your hand, but also do the job when you need it. Great article!

  7. says

    After taking my first pistol shooteroonie class, I think perhaps the safety on the M&P (those that have them) is an accommodation. It may have to do with S&W surveying various peoples’ pattern-mapping behavior – and S&W wanting to make it an easy transition from a 1911-type to a striker-fired for those who would feel lost without the safety-snick that they are so accustomed-to.

  8. Stephen Beronius says

    I researched my first carry gun exhaustively. I watched head to head comparisons, Read the forums of people using them. I fired what was available to me. I read articles and reviews. I sought out the most respected commentators who put there name on the line. I chose a Walther PPQ M2 9mm over the Glock 19 (and others) for all the same reasons you like the Glock so well. The PPQ and Gl 19 are very evenly matched but the trigger on the PPQ is what sold me. The aesthetics of Glocks didn’t help them either. Some describe it as the finest trigger on a polymer striker fired handgun yet.

    • B. A. W. says

      I own a Glock 19, Kahr CM9, M&P Shield and Walther PPS. For Home defense I have gravitated to the Glock. I am most accurate at the range with it.

      The shield and PPS are about the identical size (even many holsters fit both) & basically I would say a beginner should use the Shield (due to safety). I recommend the PPS in general for its better features. It operates and breaks down so much like a Glock. The CM9 shoots amazingly well for such a small gun. I don’t carry it that much simply because I am concerned about fumbling it when the time comes to really need it, the gun being too small. I also find that the small size of a gun for carry is overrated, a very slim PPS and even Glock 19 are no problem to conceal.

  9. says

    There should be more respect and recognitation. More people can say something but no one know wheter it will be the thruth or not. And to be honest with those new changes from the goverement I hope there are more changes regarding guns,gun holders and the handling of these kind of special situations.Even KDS and talked about that last week.

  10. WG says

    I am still in the selection phase myself. Having made many visits to the range and/or local gun shops, read countless reviews, watched a ton of videos, it is very obvious that not everyone will ever agree on what the best firearm is for any particular purpose. This review is no different. And no disrespect intended toward Glock, but I would never buy one. They don’t point naturally for me. Its that grip angle that makes it feel all wrong. Of course its not just Glock, there are several others that don’t work for me either due to grip size/contour, etc. It just goes to show you that trying out the firearms first is very important. Also, for myself, I’ve come to the realization that the categories of single stack, mid size, pocket carry, etc, don’t mean much. I’ll buy what I can shoot the most accurately, and I’ll find a way to conceal it. If a Walther PPQ is less comfortable to carry concealed than a Glock 43, then so be it. I can shoot the PPQ significantly more accurately, and that is what matters most.

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