There is much more to choosing a personal defense firearm than the way the gun looks. Not all handguns are recommended for concealed carry, and not all guns will be right for you. We recommend taking your thoughts away from price and aesthetics for a moment and checking our tips for choosing a handgun that is comfortable enough for you to carry every day.
Your First Concealed Carry Firearm
No matter your skill level, choosing a gun for personal defense requires the same amount of serious consideration, practice, and level of comfort. Sure – looks and price may make a difference in your final decision, but we want to make sure all the other ducks are in a row first.
Before we go any further, we need to go over the basic gun safety rules. Anyone who is around firearms or plans to own a firearm must know these rules. NO EXCEPTIONS.
- Keep the Gun Pointed in a Safe Direction (NEVER point a gun toward anything you don’t intend to shoot)
- Always Keep Your Finger Off the Trigger Until Ready to Shoot
- Your Gun Should Remain Unloaded Until Ready to Use
Additional Rules for Using or Storing a Gun:
- Wear eye and ear protection when appropriate
- Never use a firearm while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Fully understand the gun you are attempting to operate
- Have the gun cleaned each time you are finished shooting
- Store guns so they are not accessible to unauthorized persons
For more gun safety tips, visit NRA.org.
Tips for Choosing the Right Concealed Carry Handgun
My first tip – practice, practice, practice.
The right gun will be the one with which you have the most practice. You don’t want the first time you shoot to be the first time you NEED it.
Some ranges will let you rent guns and get a feel for them before you buy. Ask around your local gun shops and ranges to see if there is something like that in your area.
After you have a place to practice with different handguns, follow these tips to choose the perfect concealed carry handgun for you:
Know What to Look for in a Good Carry Gun
There are basic attributes you should look for when picking out your first carry gun:
- Relatively Light and Thin (for comfort)
- Won’t Leave an Obvious Print with Your Every-Day Wardrobe
- Manageable Recoil: If you ever feel like you are out of control of the firearm when shooting, the recoils may be too much for you. Try a lower caliber gun.
- A Good Trigger: Not too light (to avoid accidental firing) and not too hard (to avoid injury when firing multiple rounds)
- You’re Able to Shoot it Accurately
- Easy Operation and Fluid Reload
Most Common Calibers
What is a caliber? It’s the approximate diameter of the inside of the gun barrel or the diameter of the ammo it shoots. For example, a .45 caliber firearm has a barrel diameter of about 0.45 inches.
For the most part, the smaller the caliber the smaller the ammunition used. Here is a helpful table of Handgun Caliber Comparisons from Gun News Daily.
- Most Common Calibers – .22LR, .380 ACP, 9mm, .38 Spc, .40 S&W, .45 ACP
- this doesn’t mean you won’t find a good carry gun outside of these calibers. However, these are the most common ammunitions used for concealed carry.
Why You Should Use Hollow-Point Ammunition in Your Carry Gun
Self-defense ammo has to do three things:
- Always work, even under the worst of conditions – wet, dirty, hot, or freezing
- Penetrate the target to cause enough damage to stop an aggressor
- Expand reliably under a variety of target conditions to maximize effectiveness
Hollow-Point bullets do just that.
They are designed to expand on contact. This means the bullets have extra “knock down power” that you want with self-defense handguns. Hornady Critical Defense is a great hollow-point brand that is designed for self-defense.
Find a Good Fit
Comfort is VERY important when choosing any firearm. You will want to make sure the pistol or revolver you use fits well in your hands. Take these things into consideration when considering a gun for concealed carry:
- Can you comfortably reach all controls (safety, trigger, mag. release/cylinder release, etc.)
- When you grip the gun, does the “V” between your index finger and thumb lay flush in the middle of the rear of the gun with no gap between your hand and the rearward curve?
- Can you easily work the slide/drop the cylinder?
- Are you able to hold it straight in front of you as if you’re aiming with only one hand?
- Can you reach the trigger while holding a proper grip?
- Can you hold the handgun in a single hand without losing control?
- Does changing the magazine feel like a natural, fluid motion?
- Can you get a proper grip while holding the gun with both hands?
If you answered no to any of those questions, that firearm isn’t the one for you.
How to Tell if a Handgun is Too Big For You
There is a quick and easy way to tell if a handgun isn’t the right fit. The gun should fit snug in your hand when you hold it properly.
If the gun is WAY too big for you, you should notice yourself rotating the “V” of your hand toward the trigger. Holding the gun this way will cause you to short towards your non-dominant side (for right-handed people, you will shoot towards the left).
When you are shooting with a gun that is only slightly too big for you, you should still be able to reach the trigger, but your finger will be flat against the frame.
Weight: Do the weight test on all handguns you are considering. If you cannot comfortably hold the gun with two hands in a firing position for at least 30 seconds, the gun may be too heavy for you.
Trigger: Perform a dry fire trigger test to tell if the trigger you are using is too heavy or light. Make sure the gun is not loaded when performing this test. The trigger should be able to be smoothly pressed with your trigger finger without losing sight of the target (having the gun dip, shake, etc.).
How Will You Carry Your Concealed Handgun?
You don’t want this to be a gun that you leave in the gun safe all week. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone tell me that they were very excited to finally have their concealed carry license, but they can’t stand sitting or standing a certain way throughout the day with it on.
Part of that will be getting used to packing a bit of extra weight around. However, if you’re not comfortable carrying the gun, it defeats the purpose of the license and your purchase of a gun for consistent personal defense.
For this reason, you should ask yourself these questions before deciding on a carry location for your handgun:
- Can this gun be taken away from me without my permission?
- Could a thief easily take off with my firearm due to its location?
- Would a child be able to take my gun without me knowing?
If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, we recommend holding your concealed handgun in a different location.
The most comfortable concealed carry locations are:
- Appendix (Also known as 1 or 2 o’clock)
- Outside the Waistband (OWB)
Take a look at our Selection of Holsters!
RKGuns Top Concealed Carry Handguns
I want to begin by saying that these are the carry handguns. If you have a different concealed firearm that you prefer, let me and our other readers know in the comment section below.
Some firearms work better for different people, so just because one handgun really works for us does not mean it is going to be perfect for you. Just practice with different guns until you find the one that feels most comfortable for you.
Top Concealed Carry 9mm
Springfield really went all out on this gun. It packs a punch and checks off everything we look for in a carry gun. Here are some of the reasons why we chose it for our top 9mm carry handgun:
Not Too Big, Not Too Small
The Springfield XD-S 9mm fits well in small or large hands. It weighs 23oz, which is perfect for a gun you’ll be carrying on you all day.
You can easily reach the magazine and the trigger while keeping a safe, firm grip on the pistol. And, the grip safety keeps you from fumbling around with a manual thumb safety.
This handgun is a single stack 9mm and holds 7 rounds per magazine. 9mm is a very popular caliber for concealed carry, as it packs a big punch. With this firearm, you don’t have to sacrifice power for size.
Top Concealed Carry .380
The Smith & Wesson is another great carry handgun but with a smaller caliber. There are several other differences that make this gun our top .380 for concealed carry:
Easy…It’s in the Name
This gun was designed to be easy to handle – easy to rack, easy to load, easy to shoot. Maybe that’s why it’s called the M&P 380 EZ.
Some people have issues drawing back the slide or managing the recoil on larger guns because they may not have the hand strength or training. This Smith and Wesson has an easy to rack slide; a crisp, light trigger; easy to load; and it even has an ambidextrous thumb safety to make it easy for all my left-handed readers out there.
Thin and Lightweight
Not only is this handgun easy to rack, but it’s also easy to carry. It’s less than 7″ long and weighs only 18.5 oz, making it easy to conceal in any holster you find comfortable.
Being small also means being discreet. The point of a concealed carry gun is…concealment. You don’t want your pistol leaving a print or visible sign of a hidden weapon.
This handgun holds 8 .380 caliber rounds per magazine. Though .380 is typically more expensive than 9mm, it is perfect for smaller handguns and is a very common self-defense round due to its size. With an average of 9-18″ of penetration within 30′, it is plenty powerful enough to stop an attacker.
What Are Your Thoughts On Concealed Carry?
Do you have a concealed carry license? What has been your experience and what do you carry? Let us know in the comment section below!
Don’t forget to look at our HUGE selection of handguns, rifles, shotguns, and so much more on RKGuns.com. When you find the perfect concealed carry gun for you, shop and save with us!
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