Best Full Size Handguns for Concealed Carry & What Makes Them So Good

By Sam Hoober
Alien Gear Holsters' Sam Hoober lays out what makes for a good full-size gun for CCW and his pick of the best full size handguns for concealed carry.

Best Full Size Handguns Alien Gear 1911 Holster
Best Full Size Handguns ~ Alien Gear 1911 Holster
Sam Hoober
Sam Hoober

USA – -(Ammoland.com)-  While some people do conceal and carry a full-size pistol on a daily basis, it is not the easiest thing to do – which is why full-size handguns have given way to compacts and subcompacts as the dominant CCW pistols in recent years.

However, there are some people who insist on a larger handgun for daily carry for a number of reasons.

After all, the best gun to have on you in case things go south is one that you can shoot well and some people just don't find most small pistols measure up to their satisfaction.

What Makes for the Best Full Size Handguns for Concealed Carry

1911 Holsters By Alien Gear Products
1911 Holsters By Alien Gear Products

You can conceal a lot of gun under a coat with the right holster, so pretty much anything up to, say, a Desert Eagle or the largest of revolvers can be concealed. However, there are some full-size guns that are easier to conceal in a high-riding OWB or even IWB holster than others.

Length is obviously better on the short side, so barrel lengths of 4.5 inches or less and overall length of 7.5 inches or less would be preferred…though depending on whom is carrying it, this might not be uber-necessary.

Width is another crucial factor, as a fat double-stack handgun tends to print more as fewer layers of clothing are covering it. A 1.5-inch-wide Sig may conceal easily under a sport coat, but under a polo may be blatantly obvious. As a result, something a bit on the slimmer side is a good idea – 1.3 inches or less would probably be best. Single-stack magazines would be best, though the odd slim double-stack is out there.

Weight is negotiable; after all, a hefty pistol can be countered with a good holster and – perhaps most importantly – a good gun belt. Obviously, less than 4 pounds is a good idea, and closer to 2 pounds would be best.

Granted, when it comes to full-size guns, finding one that's easy to carry daily compared to the bounty of smaller guns on the market can be difficult…or is it?

However, it's not as if an easier-to-conceal full-size gun is impossible. Here are some good examples of an easier-concealing full-size with the above best attributes in mind:

Here are my pick of the Best Full Size Handguns for Concealed Carry

  • Smith & Wesson SD9VE 4in Full Size Pistol
  • Springfield Armory XD(M) 3.8in Pistol
  • Ruger SR1911 Lightweight Commander Pistol
  • Glock G17 Semi Auto Handgun
  • Sig Sauer P225-A1 Handgun
  • S&W Model 686 Plus Revolver
  • Ruger SR1911 Standard Pistol
  • Ruger SP101 3 inch Revolver

Smith and Wesson SD9 VE

Smith & Wesson SD9VE 4in Full Size Pistol 9mm Stainless 16+1rd
Smith & Wesson SD9VE 4in Full Size Pistol 9mm Stainless 16+1rd

The SD9 VE and SD40 VE are the last vestiges of the Sigma pistol platform, but curiously enough, sufficient numbers of them sell to keep the models going. That likely has to do with the sub-$400 price point (MSRP is $369 or less) and the ease of operation. You get a double-action-only trigger (about 8 pounds) and that's about it. Capacity is 16 of 9mm or 14 of .40 S&W, but the 4-in barrel, 1.3-in width and light weight – under 23 oz unloaded – make them an easy pistol to conceal for being full-size. There's even an accessory rail.

Springfield Armory XD(M) 3.8-Inch Full Size Pistol

Springfield Armory XD(M) 3.8in 9mm Black 19+1rd
Springfield Armory XD(M) 3.8in 9mm Black 19+1rd

The subcompact double-stack variants of Springfield's XD line – and the single-stack XD(S) – are more popular CCW guns, but if you wanted to tote one of the larger pistols, the XD(M) 3.8 is your best bet. It has the full-size grip and capacity (19 rounds of 9mm!) but the XD(M) compact's barrel length. Overall height is fairly tall, at 5.75 inches, but length is less than 7 inches and overall width is 1.18 inches. If you carried in a holster with a cant angle a bit steeper than the FBI cant, you'd probably have an easy time of keeping it concealed and that is why it makes my list of best full size handguns picks.

Any Commander 1911, ie: Ruger SR1911 Lightweight Commander Pistol

Ruger SR1911 Lightweight Commander Pistol
Ruger SR1911 Lightweight Commander Pistol

One of the most popular “big” guns for concealment is the 1911 and for those who don't want to carry a Gov't frame but find the Officer frame too small, there is the Commander. Dozens of companies make them, ranging in price and features from bare-bones on the cheap to fully-loaded and insanely expensive. The Commander models like the Ruger SR1911 Lightweight Commander Pistol have shorter barrels (4.25 inches is common, though there are shorter examples) than the Gov't frame, but has the same overall height (5.5 inches) and carrying capacity – 7 rounds of .45 ACP, as JMB intended. You can also find them chambered in 9mm, the odd one in .40 S&W and even – and at that very rarely – in .38 Super.

Glock 17

Glock G17 Semi Auto Handgun
Glock G17 Semi Auto Handgun

The original poly striker Wonder Nine is also fairly popular with folks who conceal a full-size handgun. The overall length is right at 8 inches, and width is a manageable 1.18 inches. Height is 5.43 inches, which is less than the standard 1911, and the unloaded weight is a manageable 25.06 oz. Carrying capacity is 17 rounds of 9mm. The 17 may not be for everyone, but you'd be hard-pressed to do better in the best full size handguns category.

Sig Sauer P225-A1

SIG SAUER P225 Pistol
SIG SAUER P225 Pistol

The recently-resurrected SIG P225-A1 Pistol is much like the other classic Sig Sauer service pistols. It's big, it's heavy, it's a double/single-action semi-auto, it has the frame-mounted decocker and it's built to take whatever you can throw at it and more. (It's also expensive; MSRP is $1,032.) However, unlike the P220, P226 or P229, it's a single-stack, carrying 8 rounds of 9mm. It's not quite small enough to be compact, but just a hair smaller in terms of length and height than many other service guns, with a 3.9-in barrel and height of 5.2 inches.

However, if you want something big enough to shoot with surgical precision but trimmed for carry…this is one of the best.

S&W Model 686 Plus Revolver

S&W Model 686 Plus Revolver
S&W Model 686 Plus Revolver

Revolver fans – thought we'd forgotten you? Hardly! The Model 686 Plus is a compact L-frame, with a 3-inch barrel but a 7-round cylinder, so you get one more of .357 Magnum/.38 Special. The former Distinguished Combat Magnum is still not the tiniest by any stretch – it's just over 8 inches in overall length, the cylinder is almost 1.6 inches wide (which isn't easy to cope with) and it weighs just under 36 ounces unloaded.

That said, the L-frame is more capable of handling full-house .357 Magnum loads and if you want a Magnum for daily carry that can actually shoot the hot stuff…this would be one to acquire.

Any Government 1911, ie: Ruger SR1911 Standard Pistol

Ruger SR1911 Standard Pistol, best full size handguns
Ruger SR1911 Standard Pistol

Sure – it's big, it's longer than even a good deal of service pistols with a 5-in barrel and 8.5-inch overall length. Sure, it weighs more than 3 pounds loaded. However, it's still arguably the most popular, aka: best full size handguns for concealed carry. The Ruger SR1911 Standard Pistol in our example demonstrates the slim dimensions (1 inch at the slide) that make it easier than almost any other service-grade pistol on the market to put in an IWB holster or carry in a high-ride OWB. Given the number of firms making them, you can easily put one in the safe or on your waist for not a whole lot.

Ruger SP101 Revolver

Ruger SP101 3 inch Revolver
Ruger SP101 3 inch Revolver : https://goo.gl/0y8vAf

The Ruger SP101 isn't a full-size revolver, sure…but it's bigger than a compact and smaller than the GP100, which is an enormous hunk of metal. It also only carries 5 rounds of .357 Magnum or .38 Special, instead of the 6 that many prefer. However, it's lighter (under 30 oz) and small enough for easier concealment. The 3-in barrel version is only 8 inches long, which is certainly surmountable. It's also arguably the best full size handgun in a compact magnum available, so wheel gunners take note.

There are probably a few more “bests” I forgot or could have mentioned, so sound off in the comments if you can think of a good full-size(ish) pistol that's easier to concealed carry than a good number of other full-size pistols.

About Sam Hoober

Sam Hoober is a contributing editor at aliengearholsters.com, as well as for Bigfoot Gun Belts. He also writes weekly columns for Daily Caller and USA Carry.

  • 43 thoughts on “Best Full Size Handguns for Concealed Carry & What Makes Them So Good

      1. That’s what I was going to say. What about Walther p99as? It is full size but not as large as it looks in pictures and the 9mm holds 15 in the mag. Or CZ p07 or p01 yes these are considered compacts yet again, 9mm 14 round mags p01, p07 9mm 15 or 16 rounds at many p07’s come with a two round extension. P07 is funny each case will come with different goodies like some p07 will come with the mag extension some might come with a rail light. Also both Walther p99as and the p01 and p07 or even CZ compact without the rail all hold high capacity and are easily carried iwb, owb I would iwb the Walther p99as or the CZ’s before any full size Sig.

    1. I like the sp101 but only holds five rounds and is a bit lighter under thirty ounces but might reflect
      that in recoil where the s&w686 carries a couple extra rounds and can use plus-p ammo and is a
      wee bit heavier and might absorb some recoil. I guess you could flip a coin but for me I think I
      would lean a little more to the s&w but right now I use Glocks but can see buying one of these
      in the near future. It might be a choice of the one I come across first.

      1. well, Clark, not if you are a small woman….my wife uses .38+P vice .357…..that frame is just too small for her for the .357 load….but .38 for close quarters will do the job.

    2. If you are going to carry a full size better take a defense class on how to keep your gun in your hands and not taken from you. Please if you are a woman and have bought a handcannon please get a class on gun control.. The’s far too many folks getting long barrels taken. If it gets to 3′ or less hang on tight. fight or flight if you have a gun and they don’t. And if they don’t fly then they think they can disarm you. Hang tight to gun lower your waist and spread your feet to shoulder with by lowering your center of gravity will make it harder to flip or charge you. and if they come in empty the damn gun. But before they can do any thing thing Yell You and arm and you are Warning them that You are in fear for your life. CYA !

      1. Man you are crazy you been watching too much History channel and watching too many martial arts videos. Do this then do that, then if he does this do that. She is supposed to do all that after some dude gives her no warning and cold cocked her yeah sure. If someone is determined to get you they are just going to do it the ain’t gonna stand there and say give me your money or whatever they are going to just do it. There is a difference between being taught and learning and the only way to learn is to actually do it I crack up on some of these women’s self defense crap. At least train full contact. Doing all what you said she would be dead before she could say anything.

      2. I split the difference and carry a G-26 w 11 rds aboard…and also 2 loaded spare 17rd mags from G-17, with the feeling and hope that those 45 rds of +P+ JHP 9mm ammo will get me out of most baaad spots, [at least til I can get to my car trunk]. I use either an Uncle Mike’s fanny pak holster OR a std Glock molded beltslider holster. Both seem to work for me, tho I prefer the fanny pak bks it hides the spare mags and my keys too. I wrap the bottom 1/4th of the G-17 mag bodies with a loop of rubber cut from a bicycle inner tube, to make the mags fit my hand better. In a pinch a couple of big rubber bands will do, but they look funnky. 😉

        1. Just my opinion, if Fred762 wants to walk around with 45 rounds of ammo on his body its his business. But, in my view, ANYBODY who does that is somebody LOOKING FOR A GUNFIGHT, not just self defense if attacked. If somebody is close enough to do me harm I should be able to take him out with ONE ROUND from by .357 magnum with hollow points. I’m not looking for, nor do I ever expect to be in, a gunfight. I doubt if Wyatt Earp had that much ammo on him on the way to the OK corral.

          1. Each person is his own boss. I am somewhat handicapped from several mjr operations over the years and cannot “run away”, and live near to a big city. CCW is common, but us handicapped folks just carry what seems reasonable. I know that when trouble is moments away, a cop is minutes away, at best. “LOOKING for a fight?” LOL No way..but I’m not gonna depend on “one round” either. To each his own. I love my SP101, w its Hogue grips…but it only has 5 rds….It’s my favorite revolver otherwise..

      3. If they’re THAT close, he/she better keep the gun in tight to the waist, protected by the left arm thrown up across the body, in a defensive maneuver. In my tactical handgun classes we have been taught this type fire control..(from the waist) in the hope that the gun will not be extended ‘out there’ in the Weaver Stance..as seen in may TV shows. The instructors reminded us that the need to sometimes fire from the waist is exactly why PORTED handguns are verboten. You allow the thug to grab yer weapon, it probably will be rendered inoperable or jammed. 😉

    3. I used to conceal my Browning HP. No, it wasn’t very comfortable. And an inside the pants holster made sure I never forgot I had it. But, for function, and when needed to save my life there was confidence there. A 14 round after market Mag. and one in the pipe were sufficient, at the time. Dressing up to go out, I’d rely on my Makarov. Not the same firepower, but reliable as anything I could buy then. Today, I’d consider Glock 19. And there are other great choices.

    4. Yes the Alien holster is pretty darn good. For the most part it seems that it is the only CC holster that my Bersa Thunder 45 Pro likes. However there is one little flaw and that is the IWB “J” clips move. No matter how much you adjust them, to the point the screws are poking you in the side, they will move. Therefore, over the course of the day you will have to excuse yourself and seek out a quite concealed place to adjust the clips back so the your weapon rides like it should. Other than that this is the best most comfortable and secured holster I own and I would recommend any Alien holster very highly, you will not be disappointed in the Alien brand. Just watch those “J” clips.

      1. I carry a 1911 double-stack 45 concealed. The size pretty much dictates an OWB holster. I carry daily with a Blackhawk Serpa holster and don’t even know it’s there. When wearing lighter clothing than a coat, I buy one size larger than my normal shirt size and have no “printing”. The great advantage with the Serpa is the fact that it is a full retention holster. 1911 45 cal with 14 and 1 in the pipe!

        1. I like a variety of carry weapons. Often it’s my P14 in a Milt Sparks IWB on a Hanks Extreme gun belt. It takes up a lot of real estate on my belt so I have to find somewhere else for my knife. You feel it at the end of a long day, but I shoot better with it than anything else, and yes like you say, lots of knockdown firepower.

    5. My carry pistol is a 4″ XD9 (Service Model). Affordable, 15+1 capacity, reasonable weight, and extremely accurate. In an AlienGear IWB holster, it is quite comfortable and is easily concealable. It’s the best overall compromise I could find, and I trust my life to it…

    6. Man has nobody ever heard of FNH? Love my fns-9 17+1, night sights, ambi everything. Lots of quality guns on your list, own most, but you left the best one off. Stay safe and shoot straight.

      1. @TERRY RECTOR JR,
        I am glad you commented on FNH. I carry FNX-45 Tactical with a Vortex Venom® Red Dot and a Lone Wolf Industries muzzle brake. I carry it daily in a IWB (another holster maker). It is super comfortable! I am retired LEO and my LE friends were shocked how well this cannon can be concealed with an oversized shirt.

    7. I carry my HK VP9 without any problem, even under a polo with shorts in the summer. The holster makes the difference, and I use an Alien Gear Cloak Tuck 3.0 all the time.

    8. I carry a Glock 30s or a M&P .40 full size I am a thin guy and these guns don’t leave a big foot print. But I’ve noticed that most people are so oblivious to their surroundings that you could carry a rocket launcher and they wouldn’t notice

    9. I like carrying my full size Colt Gov. Model 1911, but I also carry the Bersa Thunder 45 Pro and the Bersa Thunder 380 depending upon the occasion. I use a shoulder holster and a IWB holster for my full size Colt Gov 1911. It behaves very well and it is the same pistol that I used to compete with many years ago. The other 2 Bersa’s are easier to carry in the summer time, and I like those 2 as well but I love my Gov Full size colt 45 1911.

    10. Carry what you want, what you have, and what you can shoot Good, Real Good. My comment is holsters. I have settled on something no one seems to make. It is the Small of The Back IWB. I offset it just to the right of the center belt loop. But it is not like the one in the above photo, nope. I carry mine slide to the right and handle to the center. I slide my hand under it in the reverse of the above photo, or palm out. I cant the whole thing a little down on the right side, and it is semi adjustable right or left for comfort. I make mine so the firearm carries higher up. I use a cheap leather with retention and add some plastic formed channel for the sight lenght, and a little channel on the rail / laser-light in. Fairly easy to holster and retain, and most important quick to get out even if your on your back. Pain to make, but after making a few they get easier and better. Good Read, and yes the small of the back allows and normal length DE 357 mag to fit just fine, but keeps your shorts between it and your butt. I have tired them all and this carry is the best by fa, other then of course most Open Carry Holster. Now I have carried for 40 years, and when I was young and dumb, or dumber, I would open carry sometimes, but in SD and Colo way back then it was not a big deal. Thanks Dave

    11. Glock 21 for me. In the same holster as i use for training, and in the same place (hip). Considering the importance of shot placement, he best gun is the one you shoot the best. Changing guns, holsters and/or carry position is perfect way to screw up under stress.

    12. It’s a little like shoes,wear what fits the occasion, my smith e series 45,fall and winter,xds 9 ,or sig 380,warmer months, all fit my alien gear holsters with a good belt.once in awhile,it’s just mood.

    13. Smith & Wesson M&P-45 Is what I carry during winter months, I shoot it well and has never let me down not once in 2,000+ rounds fired!

    14. you can carry anything in the winter with coats and sweatshirts
      What about the spring and summer
      These are not the only full size good gun
      These are your opinions and they are like rear-ends everyone has one

    15. I carry a Steyr C9-A1 in my Alien Gear IWB under untucked polo or buttoned shirts. Very comfortable, I don’t even notice it most of the time. P.O.G.O.!

    16. How come no one mentions the Colt New Agent? It’s great and a great carry gun. Eats all kinds of ammo no failures yet. I carry Government with no issues, but love the New Agent. Trench sights work great for me. I can hit the target pretty good at 25 yards but this was not made for that kind defence shooting, if you know what I mean.
      I enjoy your articles.
      Bill

    17. Carry what you can use and have confidence in, it is yours and those around you lives you are talking about. The holster I like is the cross draw I can get to it sitting or standing. My one encounter occurred sitting in my car, if my 45 in the small of my back, with the seat belt on would have been useless to me as would have been a strong side carry as well. The only problem is a good cross draw seems to have to be custom made, the ones on the marker are OK but who wants Just “OK”.

    18. First choice… My SR1911 .45acp, full size, hogue gripped, carried in a black leather Tagua holster. Completely unnoticeable under a lose shirt or sweatshirt let alone any type of jacket. And extremely accurate !
      Second choice… My XD .40 Subcompact, Trijicon sights in it’s Fobus paddle holster. GREAT “night” gun.
      The Subcompact is actually harder to hide due to double stack thickness than the 1911 !

      1. I read a lot about how to carry concealed and practically NONE of it makes any sense to me. I am a old man living in San Antonio, a fairly warm climate most of the year. Because of this, all I wear most of the time is a T-shirt and jeans. So, just how and just what am I supposed to carry. Note that I don’t bend over well, so a leg holster is out of the question. I have no coat nor jacket most of the time, so really the ONLY place I can find to carry a small pistol is my right side pocket. If anyone can think of another place, please tell me. Furthermore, the ONLY type of pistol suitable for an old person with arthritis is a REVOLVER. Racking a slide is out of the question. And there few revolvers on the market small enough to hide in the right side pocket of jeans. So I carry a Torus 5-round .357 magnum revolver. The only other 5-round .357 revolver is made by Ruger, but it costs $200 more. Anything less than .357 magnum is not hard-hitting enough. Reply comments are welcome.

        1. I posted early about Small of The Back Carry it is listed above under Dave or Dave Brown. In short here is what I do: The small of your back has room or if your over weight it will have soft fat. I use a reversible IWB Holster. I use a Vaga leather holster that you can pick up for under $30.00. You can can the clip for right of left side carry. The photo at the top of this article is setup for right hand carry, and he is wearing it farther back then most, but it is not in the small of his back. If he reversed the clip and put it just right of the center of his back or the center belt loop it becomes a left hand clip, but it is on the right so the grip is to the right. To pull it you slide your hand behind it with the palm out. I cant mine a little to the right, and I actually move mine up a little, but that is another story. I have found that the room inside the waster band in the small of the back is a lot more then near the hip. It takes a little getting use to but it is a fast access even if you flat on your back. Comfort is good once you get use to it. For me it is the Best I have found, but as in any carry you have to get use to it. When you first sit in a car or in an auto you will notice it. Move it around a little and you will find comfort. Good Luck.

    19. Typically, the hardest part of a handgun to conceal is the grip. Shorter is better, as long is it’s long enough one can handle it comfortably.

      Revolvers are far superior to auto loaders in this regard since the only thing restricting grip size is the hammer spring; not to mention their shape, which requires no sharp edges as an auto loader typically does. The only handguns I find easier to conceal than an SP101 or j frame are single stacks. Of course there is the capacity disadvantage, and the reload speed disadvantage (unless you spend a LOT of time working on it).

      Given most compact auto loaders have capacities very near full size, and in my experience are quicker to acquire or change targets. I can see no logical reason to carry a full size auto (unless you expect to accidentally get involved in a bullseye match).

      Any 1911 with a standard safety system is inherently unsafe to carry cocked and locked, and of limited usefulness carried with an empty chamber. In fact, i will not carry a handgun with a safety. Any handgun I carry daily is either DA/SA with decocker, or DA only (which includes revolvers). Anything that slows down first shot capability is a definite disadvantage.

    20. I think that you left out the Best Semiautomatic Pistol made! The FNX-45! I know I own one and Carry it every day!

      1. @Roy F. Wilt,
        I totally agree on the FNX-45 as you can see from my earlier post. What type and brand of holster do you use? I have found very few holsters for my FNX-45.

        1. I use Alien Gear with a Horsehide back! I have had it for a Long time and the only problem i have is that the screws loosen up once-in-a-while! I wear it every second that I am awake! Then I put on the pants I’m wearing the next day! I feel naked if I don’t have the Pistol on me and haven’t noticed when it is in the Holster in years! I bet I spent $200.00 on Bullshit Holsters before this one!

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