Concealed Carry Gun – What Makes it Kick-Ass?

By Tom McHale

Bonus Top 5 Concealed Carry Gun video at the end!

concealed carry gun
It's now practical to equip a concealed carry gun with both light and laser.

Tom McHale headshot low-res square

USA -(Ammoland.com)- There are a lot of things to consider when choosing your ideal concealed carry gun.

Type of action, weight, size, caliber, capacity, holster options and more.

Hopefully, it goes without saying that absolute reliability if the number one criteria on the list. If you can’t count on it to work every single time, then it’s as valuable as a parachute guaranteed to work 67% of the time or your money back!

Here are some of the things I consider along with a few illustrative examples of my ideal Kick-Ass Concealed Carry Gun combinations.

Concealed Carry Gun Capacity

Statistically, most defensive gun uses involve relatively few shots fired. Actually, the majority of defensive gun uses result in zero shots fired. With that said, it’s pretty obvious that the environment is changing. Criminals are working in teams, and the threat of domestic terror attacks increases with each passing day. I can’t tell you what is “enough” in terms of capacity.

I can tell you that no one wishes they had less ammunition after a defensive gun use.

Ruger LCP-LM Pistol with LaserMax CenterFire Lasers
Ruger LCP-LM Pistol with LaserMax CenterFire Lasers

As you know, it’s all about tradeoffs. Every extra cartridge, whether in the gun or a separate carrier, brings bulk and weight. I have a Ruger LCP .380 ACP. It’s tiny and weighs exactly 43% of nothing. It holds 6+1 rounds. It's super convenient to carry. I also have a Sig Sauer P229 chambered in .357 Sig. That is somewhat larger and weighs 29.6 ounces empty, which is about the same as a half-liter bottle of my homemade beer. On the other hand, it holds 12+1 rounds of big boom ammo. With which gun do I feel more comfortable? That’s an easy one.

I'm constantly swapping carry guns because I test them for a living. What do I find? I almost always prefer carrying something with at least 10-round total capacity. But that’s just me.

Concealed Carry Gun Calibers

Sig Sauer Concealed Carry Gun Ammo
Sig Sauer Concealed Carry Gun Ammo img: www.luckygunner.com

As long as you stick to the main ones, 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP and even .380 ACP, it really doesn’t matter. Contrary to all the internet anecdotes you’ll hear, when you add up all the actual shooting events and do the math, the figures for one shot stops and number of shots to incapacitate just aren’t that different. Multiple studies show that one shot stops for all of these calibers hover around 40% plus or minus a couple of percentage points. Likewise, the average number of shots to incapacitate an attacker range right around two, give or take.

Choose the caliber you can shoot fast, accurately, and with confidence and disregard the Google Warriors.

Concealed Carry Gun Low-light Capability

Almost by definition, you need to think about low-light suitability with your carry gun. As most defensive gun uses happen in low-light or dark environments, you’ll want Tritium night sights at a minimum. However, Tritium sights do nothing to help you verify your target, so you really ought to seriously consider adding light to your concealed carry setup.

A related topic is aiming in the dark. Ask any of the top notch shooters who showed up at the first Crimson Trace Midnight 3-Gun Invitational with night sights and a hand-held flashlight how long it took them to switch over to lasers.

Without exception that I know of, they all found out that lasers are faster in the dark, especially when you’re seeking and engaging targets.

With a variety of cost-effective options on the market, there's little reason not to add a light or laser to your concealed carry gun.
With a variety of cost-effective options on the market, there's little reason not to add a light or laser to your concealed carry gun.

With the new crop of lights and lasers, it’s feasible to outfit your concealed carry gun with at least a laser and often both a light and laser. The bulk and weight penalties are negligible. The only slightly hard part is finding a compatible holster simply because of the wide variety of guns, lights and lasers. Even that’s easier now. Check out the new Crimson Trace Holster Resource Guide. If you choose to go with Lasergrips only or a Lasermax Guide Rod Laser, then your existing holster will almost certainly work as is.

Sample Concealed Carry Gun Packages

Let’s take a look at a few different potential concealed carry gun packages. As there is no “one right answer” we’ll take this opportunity to show a small variety of possible solutions, each with different advantages.

Thin Is In!

How about a Springfield Armory XD-S 9mm? The single-stack design keeps a narrow profile, especially when carried inside the waistband. Unlike many of the 9mm subcompact guns, this one still offers respectable capacity with seven rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber. The extended magazine brings the count to 9+1 – just one less than the noticeably thicker Glock 26 double-stack.

A pair of Springfield Armory XD-S pistols in 9mm and .45 ACP with N82 Tactical IWB holsters.
A pair of Springfield Armory XD-S pistols in 9mm and .45 ACP with N82 Tactical IWB holsters.

Two holsters stand out for this carry gun. I like the Galco Pocket Protector holster paired with the PMC pocket magazine carrier. The Pocket Protector has a reinforced mouth and a stable base to maintain perfect orientation. The rough side out leather and hook design keep the holster in your pocket when you draw. The magazine carrier goes in the opposite side pocket and keeps your magazine up high and oriented correctly for quick access.

For inside the waistband (IWB) carry, the Nate 82 Tactical original model is hard to beat. The generous back panel is not only comfortable but uses layered materials to provide a moisture barrier and stability against the body. If you want positive retention features, check out the Professional model.

Lights and lasers? How about adding a Crimson Trace LG-469G Laser? There are a number of holsters that accept the combination, and the integrated mount offers an instinctive activation button on the grip. It’s a clean and elegant solution.

If It Was Good Enough for John Moses Browning

Plenty of us like to carry a classic 1911. Maybe we like the full Government size or one of the more compact Commander or Officer models. The single-stack design makes carrying a 1911 surprisingly easy. Of course, the weight is always something to consider. I like it because it’s a gun I can shoot with confidence, regardless of caliber. The ergonomics and single-action trigger make this a gun that’s easy to shoot accurately.

For carry, consider adding the integrated Crimson Trace Lightguard. The clever mount even works on classic dustcovers without a rail and the activation button stays out of the way of Lasergrips if you choose to add those also. Equipped with both light and laser, virtually no bulk is added, yet both activate with a natural grip.

The Crimson Trace Lightguard adds a light to a standard 1911. It's slim like the 1911 too.
The Crimson Trace Lightguard adds a light to a standard 1911. It's slim like the 1911 too.

For the holster, I almost always use the Galco KingTuk Hybrid. The large panel provides plenty of stability to distribute the weight of the all-metal classic.

Got Double-Action?

Carrying a double-action pistol makes a lot of sense. The heavy and long first trigger press adds an additional layer of “are you really sure” factor, just like a classic double-action revolver. If you ever take a class with pistol guru Ernie Langdon, he’ll even teach you how to work double-action to your advantage, integrating the long trigger press into the process of raising your gun to target.

For the perfect carry combination, I like the Sig Sauer P229. While the exterior dimensions are roughly the same, you can choose your favorite caliber from 9mm, .40 S&W, and .357 Sig. I carry a P229 in .357 Sig but am currently experimenting with a P229 chambered in 9mm. That gives me a little more controllability and two extra rounds over the .357 Sig model.

There's a strong case to be made for choosing double-action for a concealed carry gun.
There's a strong case to be made for choosing double-action for a concealed carry gun.

For a holster, check out the Blackpoint Tactical Leather Wing Holster for outside the waistband carry. A kydex shell bookended by leather belt mount “wings” provides the best of both worlds. The gun locks into place, but the wings allow the rig to curve to your body contour. For IWB carry, the Galco KingTuk does a great job. The shorter grip of the P229 makes it virtually disappear with a casual cover garment like an untucked shirt.

Sig P226 and P229 models can take Lasergrips and both carry well in Galco KingTuk IWB holsters.
Sig P226 and P229 models can take Lasergrips and both carry well in Galco KingTuk IWB holsters.

I stock my concealed carry gun with Crimson Trace LG-429 Lasergrips and SigLite night sights for low light use.

Snubbie Anyone?

How could a list of sample Concealed Carry Gun packages not include what is arguably the most popular carry setup of all time? I’m talking about the J-frame or snubbie revolver. Check out Smith & Wesson’s 442 Airweight or Ruger’s variation, the LCR.

Use this as a primary with a Galco Pocket Protector Holster or perhaps a Blackhawk! Leather Speed Classic. This outside the waistband option features an elastic front strap that allows you to rock the revolver out in a forward motion. Inspired by the Berns-Martin design, it’s a classic as the name implies.

Since we're talking the ideal concealed carry gun, think about upgrading the standard sights with an XS Big Dot. For snubbie use, that will give you plenty of precision, but more importantly, speed and low-light utility.

Yes, you can add a light to a snubbie revolver. Check out The Griplight.
Yes, you can add a light to a snubbie revolver. Check out The Griplight.

Want light? Check out a new invention from American Handgunner Editor Roy Huntington. He’s developed a light integrated with a J-frame grip. It activates automatically and prepares your snub nose for low light operation.

Clearly there are more rocking concealed carry gun solutions than Hollywood Award Each Other Adoration shows. These are just intended to illustrate some of the options out there and consider some of the potential tradeoffs. Ultimately, it will be you that has to decide the big questions like capacity versus portability.

More is always better, but if it becomes too big and bulky, you may not have your concealed carry gun when you need it most.

About

Tom McHale is the author of the Insanely Practical Guides book series that guides new and experienced shooters alike in a fun, approachable, and practical way. His books are available in print and eBook format on Amazon. You can also find him on Google+, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.


Still want a second opinion on a Concealed Carry Gun? Check what the guys at TheFirearmBlog.com have to say in this video:

  • 21 thoughts on “Concealed Carry Gun – What Makes it Kick-Ass?

    1. Another totally useless article on “concealed carry.” Unless you’re trying to show how to dress a mannequin with a holster and a firearm.

      The most important question you left lying on the floor:

      “If you’re only choice is to draw your CCW, can you draw, aim, and, if absolutely necessary, fire it accuractely in less than 1.5 seconds given what you have chosen as your CCW gun and holster?”

      Why 1.5 seconds?

      Ever hear of the Tueller drill? It was originally constructed to show how quickly a perp with a pocket knife, standing 21 feet away from you, can reach you and stab or slash you in about 1.5 seconds with deadly consequences.

      The most powerful gun in the world and the most comfortable holster in the world aren’t worth dog crap if you can’t stop your attacker by drawing your gun, raising it to eye level, sighting in your target, and put your finger next to the trigger in 1.5 seconds.

      So, it’s not about comfort. It’s not about caliber or stopping power. It’s not even about round count initially. It’s about the discharge of the first round in your chamber.

      Yep, that first shot.

      God forbid, if you ever have to shoot another person, you also have to be ready for a boatload worth of legal consequences after the shoot. But, you won’t have to worry about it if you don’t survive.

      So, let me get back to what 90% of CCW’s should do but don’t do.

      PRACTICE getting into position. drawing your gun, raising it to eye level, sighting in your target, and put your finger next to the trigger 50-100 times every day, then again with loud heavy death metal music in the room to raise the stress level.

      BTW, I’m lefty and cross-draw from an IWB.

    2. Good article. I was looking for a more comfortable holster for my Colt New Agent & needed a replacement for my Kahr PM9, as the clip on my Mitch Rosen XP9 had been sprung. The price of the Nate 82 holsters also spurred me to take advantage of a significant sale discount on a laser for the Kahr, as Nate had a model for Kahrs which have a laser mounted on the trigger guard while also offering the IWB tuckable feature. Thank you for the article and the inclusion of the N82 products.

    3. I pocket carry a 357 LCR Ruger with Crimson Trace grip using Five Star Firearms speed loaders. Pocket carry is the way to go, it’s the fastest draw and the LCR is an easy weapon to carry. I still carry the Springfield Arms 45 compact in the winter but even then I have the LCR in my pocket. There is nothing like having your hand in your pocket on the grip without looking like you have a weapon ready to go when the hair on the back of your neck perks up.

    4. I was initially apprehensive about carrying a single action 1911. Keeping it in condition 3, mag inserted, no round in the chamber, was a way of life with Military Police prior to the advent of the M9 and even then condition 1 was a bozo no no in till after 9/11. I got my concealed carry taken care of and started to really practice while in a condition 1. Practice make great. It doesn’t make perfect; no one living is perfect. My peference is any frame size 1911 and Kimber is the pistol. I also spent a lot of holster for all the wrong reasons. I guess I should have done a lot more reading on the subject. As it turns out there are some outstanding inexpensive holsters out there. While it is nice to have functional cool, cool cost money.

    5. I started out carrying a Ruger LC9 9MM, with a owb holster for almost 3 years, I hated the trigger, but was accurate enough for defensive purposes within 20 feet. I recently switched to a Sig Sauer P938 with night sites, it fits tight to the body in my milt sparks vm-2 holster, I also use a milt sparks extra mag holder. It’s very comfortable during driving, which was one of my concerns due to the fact that I travel more than 60% of my time for work.

    6. I agree that the choice of carry gun is very personal. My everyday-carry is an XD Model 2… standard capacity is 16+1, yet it weighs only 29 ounces, and is quite comfortable to carry. One of Springfield’s primary advertising/marketing points is that the XD Mod2 is only one-tenth of an inch “fatter” than any single-stack pistol, adding to its concealability. A match-grade barrel is standard, and the grip is improved, which translates to remarkable accuracy. It is moderately priced (not exactly cheap, but commonly available just under $500), and carries a lifetime warranty. Best compromise to suit my needs.

      No, I am not in any way affiliated with Springfield… just a very satisfied customer.

    7. I carry a AMT Government 1911 in .45, 5.5″ barrel with a two port compensator in a Blackhawk Level 2 Serpa CQC Holster, I feel very protected

    8. This truly is a personal choice. While any firearm is better than no firearm, if you think a .380 or a .22WMR is just as good as a higher caliber gun, you are sadly mistaken. Being able to take an armed assailant out with as few rounds as possible may make the difference in whether you survive or die (if that situation ever presents itself). I carry inside the waistband at 4 o’clock. I carry a Bersa Thunder subcompact .45 A.C.P. every day and it fits my body well. I like the fact that it is double action/single action and feel safe carrying safety off or on. The safety is situated in such a way that I can release it during my draw without adding and time to the process. I have used Federal Hydroshock ammo up until recently recently but now have switched to Oath Tango. I am in regularly in a situation where I want to be sure the round stop in the assailant and doesn’t over penetrate and take out someone behind him or in the next round. The tango is more devastating to the assailant as well but that is secondary. I have been carrying for a while and, admittedly, I’m a pretty big guy (6’2″ 230 lbs) but I do not consider carrying a big gun a problem at all.

    9. You’re absolutely right. Whatever weapon you’re comfortable carrying and are proficient with will work just fine. Nothing replaces practice and more practice.

    10. Let’s not confuse ” concealed carry” with our constitutional right.
      The phrase ” concealed carry” has been bestowed on civilians by the Federal Goverment.
      I don’t concern myself with the fact I may be showing a ” print” or outline of my carry weapon, moreover, the fact that a bad guy has recognized my carry, may have averted a confrontation—as I think it has at least once.
      Unless a .45 is uncomfortable…. By all means carry it!…. If a person notices your gun and they question your decision to carry, simply reply…. I will protect you and your family —- smile and walk away.

    11. The proper weapon for concealed carry is a personal choice. If it’s too bulky you’ll tend to leave it at home a lot and the one time you need it you wont’ have it. My current CC weapon is a Llama Micro-MaX .380, which required considerable smithing to make it reliable when it was new. I know many consider .380 a bit whimpy for personal protection but for me it was an upgrade from the .25 Berretta I used to carry, when concealability was more important than firepower. The Llama is small enough that I’m ot tempted to leave it home most of the time and three well-placed hollow points will do the job. My advice is learn to shoot accurately whith a weapon that’s comfortable enough to carry all the time. If that means a micro .380 or a derrenger, that’s yuor choice. As long as you have it handy when you need it. A .50 Desert Eagle or a .44 automag doesn’t do you any good if it’s left at home.

    12. Carry a firearm you can shoot accurately and fast, a firearm that is reliable, and one that you will actually carry (not leave behind because it is too large or can’t be concealed easily). With today’s excellent self defense ammo manufactured in a variety of different calibers, the argument regarding caliber has almost become moot. Always carry extra ammo in a spare magazine (if a semi-automatic) or speed loader or speed strip (if a revolver). The whole argument regarding this caliber versus that caliber is no longer applicable, carry always because you never know when you are going to need to defend yourself. Stop whining about it and just carry! Nuff said.

    13. The title has concealed carry in it. Not hot chocolate. I want to be free and spread the message of freedom. So where else should I voice my opinion. I just think people should give it some thought. When people hear ” concealed carry ” , they assume it entailes a permission slip. It shouldn’t be that way. It should be freedom, period.

    14. Lot’s of cool, gee whiz stuff. I have a CT laser on the tiny P32 I carry in a cell phone case when I have absolutely no other options for carry because of circumstances. It helps a lot because a P32 has zip for sights, and even with CorBons, you really need to get good hits to have an effect.

      I also have a light mounted PPX and a light mounted Saiga 12 next to the bed at night. But so far, at least, I haven’t mounted a light to my EDC G21. Something to think about, for sure. Like the article says, the real issue is the holster. Carrying a Glock, I want a solid holster with a firm trigger guard to prevent unwanted . . adventures.

    15. What kicks-ass? Knowing how to shoot your gun accurately in a defensive situation, having the correct ammo as in a bonded JHP and knowing the law.

    16. I do not like this notion that everyone thinks they need to beg for police permission to protect themselves. They have absolutely No right to tell us whether we can or can not carry a firearm concealed or not.

      1. I do not like it when my hot chocolate is served cold. There, I just made a post as non-germane to the article as yours.

    Comments are closed.