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 PAFOA.org, 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.