The Great Carry Gun Dilemma – Capacity vs Firepower

By Tom McHale

Both fine guns, the Springfield Armory 1911 TRP has big bullets and modest capacity, while the 9mm Sig Sauer P229 legion has double the capacity.
Both fine guns, the Springfield Armory 1911 TRP has big bullets and modest capacity, while the 9mm Sig Sauer P229 legion has double the capacity.
Tom McHale headshot low-res square
Tom McHale

USA –-( I’m not sure whether I’m decisive or not. Can I get back to you on that later?

When it comes to important decisions like whether I should break off hunks from a giant Hershey bar and dip them in peanut butter during my afternoon writing breaks, I’m pretty sure of my decision process. The answer to that question is always an immediate and resounding yes. Because chocolate and peanut butter. Duh.

When it comes to choosing which gun to carry when I leave the house, things get much harder. The worst part is that there is hardly ever a Hollywood actor around to provide advice and guidance on the matter, so I have to rely on my own limited knowledge.

Here’s the problem. When I can carry a proper full-sized gun, which is almost always given my lifestyle and normal dress code, I frequently get stuck between two of my favorite handguns, a really sweet Springfield Armory 1911 TRP and a really sweet Sig Sauer P229 Legion.

Yes, they’re equally sweet, just in different ways, kind of like a one-pound Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and a Bugatti Veyron (the RC version).

Springfield Armory 1911 TRP

The Springfield Armory 1911 TRP is a top quality handgun. Yeah, I know, it’s a 1911 – a design that roamed the earth with dinosaurs 65 million years ago, but it doesn’t ever seem to show its age. Modeled after the custom shop FBI 1911 Contract gun, it’s a high-end production model that has many of the same design characteristics, but at a more affordable price point. I’ve geared it up a bit with Crimson Trace 20th Anniversary Master Series Lasergrips and have a slew of nice holsters for it including a Galco King Tuk, Clinger No Print Wonder, and a Galco Miami Classic II Shoulder Holster System (for black tie occasions) just to name a few.

The features and gear are nice, but the real reason this one gun enters the daily carry decision competition is that it shoots like a dream. Yeah, it’s nice that it’s pleasurable to shoot, but what I really mean is that I shoot it with a lot of confidence, meaning if I aim at something, I’m pretty sure I’m going to hit it.

Here’s the thing. It has a magazine capacity of seven rounds. Yeah, I know, I can order eight rounders, but I already have a stack of factory mags that have proven to be monotonously reliable, so I’m not going to go through all the trouble and expense to validate new magazines just to get one more cartridge in there. I’ve got a nifty and quite comfortable dual magazine carrier from Blue Force Gear that does a great job of toting two extra magazines on the belt, so that brings my total maximum ammo capacity to 22 rounds including the one in the chamber. That’s if I don’t carry a spare mag in my pocket protector.

Sig Sauer P229 Legion

Also screaming for attention in the carry gun drawer is a Sig Sauer P229 Legion chambered in 9mm. This is another really sweet pistol. It’s a 9mm, but also has a completely different action, using the classic double-action / single-action. While lots of folks hate DA/SA guns because of the transition of trigger feel after the first shot, I like them and have grown to love that revolver-like trigger on the first shot from a draw. I’ve never had any trouble managing the trigger, but admittedly that’s a personal preference thing, and I can certainly understand why some people don’t go for the whole DA/SA deal.

Anyway, this gun shoots like a dream too, and with noticeably less recoil than the TRP, so it helps keep that pesky temporary PTSD to a manageable minimum. With its Grayguns trigger and X-Ray fiber optic / Tritium sights, it’s really, really easy to shoot fast and accurately. I’ve got this one geared up fairly well too with Crimson Trace Lasergrips and a variety of good holsters including another Galco King Tuk, an N82 Tactical, another Galco Miami Classic II Shoulder Holster System for different black tie events, and a new No Print Wonder from Clinger Holsters. Try that last one; you’ll love it. Oh, and it has 15 rounds in each of the three included mags, so when I fill up that same Blue Force Gear mag carrier, I’ve got a total of 46 rounds of 9mm. The grand total is over double that of the 1911 setup.

So there’s the dilemma : Capacity vs Firepower.

The TRP has limited capacity, but since it’s a .45, each of those rounds can wipe out a city block, or at a minimum, Justin Bieber’s Lamborghini. On the other hand, the Legion packs about double the round count, but they’re tiny little 9mm cartridges, hardly adequate for insect control if you listen to the internet commandos.

In all probability, it won’t matter a hill of beans which gun I carry. Yes, we live in a dangerous world, but the odds are pretty darn good that I won’t have to draw either of these guns in a self-defense situation. If it’s a “standard” (for lack of a better word) crime situation, the odds are that the lower capacity 1911 would be adequate. In the very unlikely scenario that I happen to get caught up in one of these terrorist attacks that the news media can’t seem to call terrorist attacks, every extra round will be very welcome indeed.

And keep in mind we’re still waiting on that first gunfight survivor to lament the fact that they had too much ammunition available.

There's always the option of choosing both big caliber AND capacity with something like this FN FNX 45 Tactical with Trijicon RMR optic...
There’s always the option of choosing both big caliber AND capacity with something like this FN FNX 45 Tactical with Trijicon RMR optic…

I guess there’s always the option of carrying both big caliber and capacity. That would be the FNX 45 Tactical, outfitted with a Trijicon RMR red dot sight. It packs 15+1 rounds of .45 ACP and surprisingly, it’s not all that bad to carry. I’ve been using with it an Alien Gear Cloak Tuck inside the waistband holster, and while it’s not as svelte as a Smith & Wesson Shield, it’s perfectly carryable. Yeah, it’s a little bigger and a little heavier, but if you carry a standard full-size gun like a Glock 17/22 or a Smith& Wesson M&P, then it’s not as different as you might expect.

So there’s the problem, and I have no Hollywood elites hanging around to give me advice on the topic. What say you?


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.

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I have been a combat soldier, a police officer, a prosecutor and a person who is committed to carrying a firearm every day. I have survived two LE shootings , and have spent years teaching new police officers and CCW applicants. The short answer is I don’t care what caliber you carry, find a firearm that is reliable and fits your life style (i.e. One that you will actually carry EVERYDAY) and spend your extra money on training. I don’t mean buy a hundred rounds and go out to the desert and shoot at tin cans. I mean locate a… Read more »


I’ve shot plenty of rounds downrange in my day, many in pistol competitions around the country and a few as a big city LEO so I (obviously) have an opinion of this subject, and my go-to carry gun for leaving the house is a 2-inch 5-shot .38 revolver loaded with +P ammo. My gun is dependable (no stovepipes or failure to feed), it’s easily concealed and it delivers enough energy to make my point. Sure, five shots may not be enough in a military firefight, but I don’y usually go to places where I will need to maintain sustained fire.… Read more »


No shortage of responses I see. So I’ll keep mins short. I have always aid and stand behind “Capacity trumps caliber”. There, I’ve said it so it must be true. Good luck with your daily decision.


Humorous article! Even more humorous are the myriad of complementary and opposing viewpoints on this wonderful thread. While the opinions expressed are interesting and worthy of consideration, they are still just opinions. I’d like to change tack, and focus on the definition of Firepower in the context of individual small-arms combatives. Firepower is comprised of a number of factors or variables, namely Accuracy, Lethality, Volume, Sustainment and Control. A .50 Barrett is extremely accurate and lethal, but the volume of fire and the basic load required to sustain it in a prolonged engagement may be problematic. “Control” is not about… Read more »


I find that the smaller lighter caliber pistols are carried more so than the larger. I carry a .380 and many friends of mine carry the same. A well placed .380 round WILL STOP any threat. The size of your gun does not directly relate to how big a man you are. Accuracy impresses me much more.

Joel Widman

‘ll go for capacity on the theory that in a close quarters self-defense situation you are not going to be able to reload no matter how fast you are on the range so it’s what’s in the mag that counts, not what’s on your belt.

John Dunlap

this, I think, is a non-issue. CQB is dynamic. You and your attacker aren’t going to stand there shooting at each other from three feet away. If an attack starts at in your face range, or an attacker manages to close with you, you have two choices. You can retreat to available cover rapidly and preferably at an angle that makes it difficult to get an accurate shot off at you, while drawing and returning fire. Otherwise, you’ll have to close and grapple, binding his weapon while striking with your own. In the latter case, I probably won’t be reaching… Read more »

Carter Leffen

I’m a small man, and used .44 mag and .45acp for years. Only after having a stroke, two heart attacks, and a few other challenges, did I make the permanent switch to 9mm… The P226 TACOPS is as large as a full sized 1911. However, my strength isn’t what it once was, and recoil does, indeed, adversely affect me nowadays… Yes, a .380/9mm Kurz can, and does, stop adversaries, when bullet placement is key… I’d never underestimate anyone’s handgun, regardless of size… In the Olde West, there was a saying, “Beware the man with one gun- he knows how to… Read more »


Correction to my above OldARcher post. My word processing program did err… I intended to say, “One must never forget, that regardless of caliber, a hit trumps a miss- like a hit by .22LR vs. a miss by a .50 BMG.” I frequently have this problem when using my iPad… Somehow, it uses what it thinks “IT” should say… My apologies to all and sundry…



I’m 67, a small man, with multiple health challenges. I’ve gone from .44 mag down to 9mm, in carry guns. They’re all fun, when you’re young and healthy. Now, I go with what I can handle, and do it well… I’ve always believed that accuracy is “king.” To that end, all of my guns over the last half century were tack drivers. Life is too precious to pay good money for something that may not be up to the task of self defense- for self and/or others. If you’re smart, you get what you pay for- with no regrets. Time,… Read more »


For some years I carried a .45 Para-Ord P-13 (13+1) and 2 spare mags, but when I reached 68-9 years old, my arthritic thumbs made it hard to field strip and clean. So for the last couple of years I’ve been carrying a .45 XD(m) with the 5.25 inch bbl and 2 spare mags (also a 13+1 set up). I live in south TX, where it’s almost always hot (except for our 4 days of winter in January!) and found that both pistols conceal well enough under a large size (I’m a medium) T-shirt, or even better yet, a Hawaiian… Read more »

Country Boy

My EDC is a Glock 27, either ankle holster and 2 extra mags ( on the other leg ) or OWB. It just depends on the venue. Yeah it’s a peppy round and I have everything between a .22 and .45, but over the years, it just seems I’ve gravitated to the .40. My 27 comes up on target quickly after each shot, though my S&W revolvers ( .357 and .45 ) are real tack drivers, but a little to unwieldy and heavy to carry comfortably for an extended period of time. Great article.


Looking for a reliable, high caliber, accurate, high capacity, easy to carry handgun. Well look no further. The Springfield XD M 3.8 compact in a 45 caliber is an excellent Choice. Lightweight, 13+1, Match grade barrel, and no safety lever to slow you down. Get one, you’ll love it. I do!!!


Some say, 45 or nothing. Most can not hit squat with a 45 small enough to be an EDC! Where I work, a husband shot his wife in the parking lot. He shot her, she went down and he stood over her and emptied a 357 magnum into her. She was back to work in 4 weeks! People shoot what you can make good shot placement and a 22 will be enough! End of story! It has been proven over and over that most people can shoot a 9mm in an EDC much better than larger calibers, and with the… Read more »


Ditto !!!!!!!


I love the 1911. I first shot one when I was 12 years old in 1955. Back then they were only .45 ACP. Today the design comes in 9MM, .38 Super, and 10MM as well. But they’re bulky, and unless one always wears a sport coat, they print. With modern loads, 9MM is more than adequate for personal security. The questions for me are concealability and controlability. It is easier to keep a 9MM on target quickly than it is a .45 ACP. The 9MM, particularly in the smaller carry guns being marketed today, is more controllable. I don’t mean… Read more »


I have a cwp in CT, so choices are limited for capacity. So I carry the Springfield .45 ultra-compact in an inside the waistline holster with 1 extra clip. Really, a fantastic gun, super reliable and will stop anything with hollow points. Don’t see any votes here for the Springfield, Kimber yes, but having tested both extensively, I decided Springfield Ultra checked all the boxes, and recoil was fine. Recently read about importance of holstering off center of spine, in case of a fall, I won’t break my back. Never thought of that, but have made the change and practice… Read more »

Michael Cantor

I love XD’s and XDMs. I didn’t mean to Omit them. I have a competition 5″. I cannot get a XDS in Fng California. The double stacks are a little wide for the way I carry, though I plan to get an XD sub-compact as my second Hi Cap gun if I get my CCW renewed. I really like the grip safety. I don’t want to worry about remembering to drop my safety or missing my safety with a single stroke if time is supper critical. The XD platform is a no brainer. As a matter of fact, I told… Read more »

Paul Franklin

Who carries just one weapon ? I carry a backup everyday because we don’t live in a perfect world !!!


Ha! Now that’s a fun future article idea 🙂

Michael Cantor

Another point which I omitted my original article is that if you are in a gunfight you are likely to have your firearm confiscated. This may make a difference to you if you survive. Do you want them taking a $3,000 Les Baer away temporarily or permanently? Even if you get it back it’s likely to get banged around dropped thrown on a Shelf or anything else. It would not hurt so bad if it were a $450 Shield.

Michael Cantor

The EXACT RIGHT ANSWER TO WHICH CARRY GUN IS BEST for a CCW by Mike Cantor There has been so much debate over what is the best carry gun for a CCW since well, the beginning of the carry gun. Well, I just read another seemingly endless blog of arguments with dozens of different opinions. I decided to write about it and give a definitive answer, once and for all (maybe). You will never need your Carry Gun 99.99999% of the time but you have to carry it 100% of the time. After carrying a Glock 26 for 3 or… Read more »


Just heard statistics this weekend…the FBI hits between 20-30 percent of their shots fired when weapons are used in a firefight. These are people that (supposedly) train a LOT with their weapons. And what would the average ccw citizen probably do in a similar situation? Probably far worse. My advice ? Carry a round that is both effective mamageable and plentiful in the size frame you choose to carry. I am a new ccw license holder and my everyday carry choice is a compact 9mm 10+1 capacity with holster that can carry 2 spare mags. The holster also adjusts to… Read more »

John Dunlap

Interesting discussion. Being left handed, I never even looked at auto pistols until very recently, being content with a .38 revolver, and since I live in California, my choices are very limited for the time being anyway. For the most part, you should carry what you can shoot best under stress. If you happen to reside, permanently or temporarily, in a state with idiotic magazine capacity restrictions, then you have to go for power. Otherwise, compromising on stopping power for more ammo might be sensible. I think technology will make this discussion moot soon, at least for those of us… Read more »


Love the review I have all 3 – the sig is the best, nice beaver tail on kidneys /it’s fast in a gunfight situation with more than 1 assailant – & you can fire bursts from hip so accurately they wont know your shooting till their shot with 3 in each bellie – also its a 3 gun winner with minimal to 0 trick out ; ) FNH great but large and the 1911 is always good but not ass fast or accurate as the sig – larger felt recoil But all great guns if your size permits and waistline… Read more »


My solution to this dilemma was to acquire a Sig P228 in 9mm and when it became available, a sig P220 compact (the older one with beaver tail) in .45 cal. Both are DA/SA so I don’t have the transition problems others speak about. I have had both weapons for quite along time and practice regularly with both. Day to day I usually carry the P220.


Great article. I carry a 9mm in several different guns; this way, I have a minimum of 30 rounds on me at all times. Around the house, I carry a little 380 because I’m 2 steps away from a larger caliper gun lol.

Clark Kent

And does you larger ‘caliper’ gun provide precise measurements?

Danilushka Ozera

I think you are posting in the wrong forum for a Grammar Nazi: the Huffington Post is at another domain and those snarky PC SJWs will love your derisive and puerile sense of humor.


“So there’s the problem, and I have no Hollywood elites hanging around to give me advice on the topic. What say you?” You may not have “Hollywood elites” to help you out – but here in NY, WE ARE truly lucky! WE have progressive socialist/communist politicians to give US advice! Our governor told US that – “NO ONE NEEDS 10 BULLETS TO KILL A DEER”! He probably is concerned that we’ll “shoot our eye out” if we have too many bullets. He told us 7 was all we would ever need – (but some judge said we may need 10… Read more »


Your thinking on 1911 magazines is flawed. The 1911 magazine is more susceptible to wear than better designed magazines like that of the SIG P229. Read Hilton Yam’s articles on 1911 magazines. They are good for approximately six months of duty use. Obviously, if the tubes are good, you can rebuild the magazine. But it is something you need to keep up with and is not a reason to stay with seven round Springfield magazines. Take this seriously and buy quality eight round Wilson Combat ETM or similar magazines with spare parts.



Wilson Combat makes good 1911 magazines, but as with other brands they won’t reliably work in all 1911s.

I don’t blame the author for not wanting to go through more exhaustive magazine testing just to get one extra round. Besides – nobody chooses a 1911 for its magazine capacity in the first place.

Clark Kent

‘Better designed magazines’. You are aware that 1911 magazines have been running fine since 1911? And who told you they were only good for six months of duty use, Yilton Ham? Don’t believe everything you read.

Peter p wehrmeyer

Tom, I live in Cali. So, it’s .40SW and hope. 10 is king, and max capacity.


Oh, that makes sense. Go big if you cannot have the capacity!


Over the years, I’ve fired both .45 and 9mm, and both will indeed “get the job done” (assuming adequate operator training and experience).

However, I’m now pushing 70 years of age… and a little arthritis [aging ain’t for sissies!] is dictating that felt recoil now has to be a significant factor in my choice of gun. For both the range (practice remains very necessary) and for defensive carry, the 9mm is becoming much more attractive.

JJ Swiontek

I faced that same decision process 10 years ago and while I still teach with my .45, my daily carry is a .380 with 2 spare mags.

Johnny Mac

Great, well written article. I like your sense of humor. Go with the single action 1911.

Clark Kent

Carrying the 1911 as a daily carry piece shows the author has a sense of humor.

Tom R.

I’ve carried a several 1911’s over the last 50 years. I trust my life to the .45 in 1911 form. Matter of fact a 1911 has saved my bacon on more than a couple of occasions.
So I say choose which ever you want. Me, I’ll stick with my 1911 Commander.


So I love my para warthog 10shot 45acp amd small and inconspicuous


I like the 1911 platform…A LOT! That said, none of my carry guns have a thumb safety. I use a few different 1911’s in competition, but not for carry. I have an FNX 45 Tacticle, but haven’t carried it yet. I’ve had it just a few weeks so far. I carry any of the following; S&W model 60 (Two actually. One on either side. I can shoot that revolver with my “off/weak” hand better than any other handgun I own.), G19, G21 SF, G22, Sig P220, P239, P229 or my XD. Really, the XD sees very little carry duty. The… Read more »

Josh Johnson

Respectfully, the average CHL holder isn’t packing either one of the guns pictured and profiled. There are $2500 worth of P229 Legion and TRP featured in this article. 99.99999% of lawful carriers are not lugging around a 42 ounce all steel 1911 or a $1200 Legion. Folks are arming themselves with affordable Glock 43s, Shields, LC9s, or the occasional .45 XDs. Comparing calibers and capacities of handguns that are actually carried seems more logical, though the premise of the article itself is outstanding. I truly mean no disrespect, but when I see a 2 1/2 pound, 5-inch 1911 with 9… Read more »


It is not actually so thin. People say that because of the slide. The actual width is that of the thumb safety at the top of the holster and about as wide as a G19 with standard thickness stocks. The height is more than a Glock 21 with many magazines. This requires more forward cant in the holster.

Clark Kent

But it is heavy; way, way too heavy for practical carry every day. Unless you are Conan the Janitor.

RM Molon Labe

I carry a PARA 1911 Expert Commander. 4″ barrel. 8+1 with 2 spare mags. I got a real nice OWB leather holster at 4 o’clock and don’t even know it’s there. I usually wear a lightweight vest to keep it out of sight. Did I mention I paid $479.00 for it at CDNN…Carry what is best for you. Don’t nay say others choices. That’s why there are hundreds of guns to choose from. Ain’t America grand?

RM Molon Labe

In that vest…Is my Sig P238…with 3 spare mags. ALWAYS bring enough gun…

Dr. Strangelove

I carry a Kimber TLE/RL 10mm in a Crosbreed IWB and find it quite comfortable, although in the warmer months I switch to an XD-S in .45 ACP.

RM Molon Labe

Hey Doc!. We’ve discussed this many times. I also have the M&P45c. Another more reasonably priced CC pistol. Good to see ya on the thread. Peace my friend…RM


I carry it all the time here in South Carolina with jeans or shorts and a t-shirt. It’s not hard to conceal.

Danny Willard

Very good remarks about the article. Thanks.


Common sense says stick with the one type firarm do that you don’t have to think about. DA/SA! Wise man always avoids dangerous situations if at all possible if not shot first ask questions later…. or why did you keep shooting him… we’ll Judge he kept moving,


My choice: Sig P227, SAS. 2 Spare mags. Find the specs yourself; it’s surprising what you find when you look a couple lines further along then the more ‘popular’ choices.


Agreed 100%, always carry the most firepower, and can be done with a compact. Gun and operator, matched like Conan the barbarian and his sword!


The gun that is comfortable enough and concealable enough to carry all the time in any circumstance is the one you should carry and become and stay familiar with. With proper ammo there isn’t enough difference between a 9mm and a 45 acp to worry about. What do I know. I’ve been shot at while armed but have never found it necessary to return fire so I’m an arm-chair commando too.

Jim Macklin

Back in 1985 I bought a “new” Colt Officers ACP 45 ACP 3-1/2″, 6 shooter because I knew that Kansas was going to pass concealed carry. I wasn’t planning on it taking 21 years. I really like the 1911. The compact 1911 is easy to carry and I have no problem packing four to six spare magazines. I just don’t like the grip circumference on a double stack 9mm. I haven’t carried my P85 in more than a decade. It might be a car gun IF I ever left a gun in the car, maybe on a long trip. My… Read more »


To use a ridiculous analogy, you wouldn’t carry a 500 Whetherby Magnum to go walking in the Ozark mountains. COULD there be some use for it? Maybe if a rhino had escaped from a local zoo. It makes better sense to arm up for the most likely scenario. COULD I get into a protracted gun fight in a 7-11? Possible, but not likely. And I make every effort to keep FAR AWAY from any scenario where one might occur. I can drive tacks with my customized Sig 938 and, with 7 shots in the mag, one in the stack and… Read more »


When newbies ask me my suggestions on carry weapons, I just tell them to get one that is reliable, at least semi-comfortable, one you can control and one you can hit the target with and practice, practice and practice some more. Personally I carry a 45. As a Healthcare person I have seen many 9mm wounds. One to the back of the neck where he was still walking talking. Most of the wounds were to arms and legs or their ass , I have more faith in the 45. Now these were all bangers shooting so accuracy isn’t their forte,… Read more »

Clark Kent

Or Buttbook page……

Mike Murray

Choose a gun of sufficient caliber, that is dependable, and the gun you shoot the best under pressure. Capacity and caliber don’t mean squat if you can’t get shot placement. Changing from a SA to DA/SA, or a striker fired gun from day to day ensures you have zero muscle memory under pressure. I’ve seen that mistake played out over and over again.

Nate Larue

You already answered your question. I too have never heard anyone come through a shooting wishing they had fewer bullets. A cartridge in the magazine is worth 3 on your belt.

Mike Murray

Choose a gun of sufficient caliber, that is dependable, and the gun you shoot the best under pressure. Caliber and capacity don’t mean dick if you can’t get shot placement.

clarence Main

How funny, you will probably get a million different opinions. Myself I have the same problem.The Kimber Tactical or Glock 19 or what. So I just go by eneny meme mo.
Have a great day.



In my opinion, the answer is an easy one — both. You have two right answers. The trick is muscle memory. These two guns operate differently. If stressed, will you automatically push the safety down on the 1911, or will you flub up the trigger reset on the Sig Sauer. Sometimes the right answer has more to do with the shooter then the gun.