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How to Choose the Best Concealed Carry Gun

What’s the best handgun for concealed carry? That depends.

By Corey Graff, Online Editor

Glock Model 19: Best Concealed Carry Gun?

I am a big proponent of Glocks for concealed carry. The Glock Model 19 is a mid-sized semi-automatic handgun that holds 15 rounds and is accurate and simple to shoot and maintain.

In the blink of an eye your concealed carry gun could be the one thing standing between you and a threat. Therefore you need to be sure you’re carrying the absolute best handgun for concealed carry that you possibly can.

But that doesn’t mean you need the most expensive handgun. Or the most fancy. You don’t necessarily need a hand-fitted custom pistol, but you do need one that is reliable.


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Concealed Guns to Fit Your Lifestyle

As a general rule, choose a carry gun that will fit with your lifestyle most of the time. If you live in a warm part of the United States, you might gravitate toward thinner designs with shorter barrels, such as the mid-sized 1911, or the single-stack polymer handguns on the market like the Springfield XDs, Smith & Wesson M&P Shield, Ruger SR9, Sig Sauer P239, Kahr CW9 or Glock Model 36. (Expert tip: For a full run-down on top handguns, check out Massad Ayoob’s Greatest Handguns of the World Vol. I and Vol. II).

In those warmer parts of the country, you’ll normally wear t-shirts and the like, thus you don’t want your gun to buldge or “print” through your shirt. A slimmer, more mid-sized handgun will make it easier to conceal. However, if you’re a woman, there are specialty purses on the market for concealing a full-size handgun. In fact, some men use fanny packs for concealed carry for just this very reason.

On the other hand, if you live in the north where cold weather dictates wearing jackets and heavy shirts for most of the year, consider the full-sized handgun. There are advantages in doing so. A full-size gun carries more rounds and that’s a good thing. They also have longer barrels (wider sight radius) making them easier to shoot accurately. And a bigger gun will tend to tame recoil more effectively (thanks to its mass) than will a smaller, lighter pistol.

Good choices for full-sized carry guns include the Glock 17 or Glock 22, full-sized 1911 like the Kimber Super Carry Custom HD or Rock Island Armory Standard 1911, Springfield XDm, Browning Hi-Power, CZ P-07 or Heckler & Koch P2000.

While it may seem counterintuitive, one of the mistakes that well-meaning boyfriends and husbands routinely make when buying their ladies a concealed carry handgun is choosing a small, lightweight revolver, usually in .38 special. Don’t do it. The truth is, these cute little guns are among the hardest to shoot — even for large-fisted men — with intense recoil that will discourage new shooters. If you’re buying a handgun for a lady, a full-sized (or possibly mid-sized) semi-automatic is a much better choice. It’ll be much easier to shoot. And for that she’ll thank you.

Recommended Books for Finding the Best Concealed Carry Gun


Follow Jerry Ahern as he discusses the types of concealed carry handguns available to today's gun owner in depth, and explains why certain firearms would be the best concealed carry gun for particular people and situations. Also learn about suitable ammunition, holsters and other accessories for concealed carry guns. The Gun Digest Guide to Concealed Carry Handguns is simply an indispensable buyer's guide.

Follow along with Massad Ayoob as he delivers insider concealed carry tips that gun owners need to know for responsible gun and concealed carry permit ownership.

Learn how to properly carry a concealed firearm, details about concealed carry laws, tips on concealed carry clothing and related gear.


Like What You See? Save 10% Off Select Concealed Gun Products!
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Best Concealed Carry Revolver? (Taurus Model 605PLYB2)

The revolver still enjoys a loyal following as a concealed carry gun. They are simple and reliable. This Taurus Model 605PLYB2 is chambered in the hot .357 magnum cartridge.


Revolver vs. Semi-Automatic: Which is Best for Concealed Carry?

With advances in semi-automatic handgun design, you might wonder why anyone would still want to carry a revolver for concealed carry. Afterall, this isn’t the Wild West. But the double-action revolver is simple in design. And simple promotes reliability. There are less parts to clean and maintain on a revolver, and as such less can go wrong should the need to draw the gun ever arise.

Small “snubnose” revolvers, while more difficult to shoot, make excellent backup guns. Police experience proves that a second backup gun can make all the difference between winning or losing in a gunfight. Think about a revolver in an ankle holster or pocket holster on a jacket. You won’t notice it’s there, but it’s extra insurance should your main weapon jam or be inaccessible for some reason.

A few excellent choices of revolvers for concealed carry include the Smith & Wesson Bodyguard or Night Guard, Ruger LCR or Taurus Model 605PLYB2.

Semi-automatics are faster to reload — you simply dump the spent magazine and insert a new one and you’re back in the game. Revolvers are a bit more tricky in this area. Not only that, semi-autos tend to be nicer to shoot. Whereas all of the recoil energy in a revolver comes back into your hand, in a semi-automatic some of that energy is dissipated by the slide action, which uses some of the energy to chamber another round.

Two good resources I recommend to learn more about semi-automatic handguns are Glock Deconstructed by Patrick Sweeney, and the Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to the 1911 by Bob Campbell. An invaluable book on revolvers is the Gun Digest Book of the Revolver by sixgun expert Grant Cunningham.


Best Caliber for a Concealed Carry Gun

The best caliber for a concealed carry handgun is the one that allows you to shoot well and often and carries enough punch to do the job. For me it’s the 9mm (otherwise known as 9X19 or 9mm Parabellum).

While the .40 S&W is a bit bigger, and the .45 ACP even more so, 9mm ammo is simply more affordable. Which means you’ll shoot more. And the key to choosing a concealed carry handgun is to pick one you’ll be able to shoot often enough to become proficient.

Much debate has been made about “stopping power” but the fact remains that the 9mm is still one of the most popular calibers in use by police agencies and armed citizens. However, should other factors compel you to settle on a small revolver, the .38 special is probably the most manageable to learn how to shoot, provided you get good instruction and spend lots of range time to tame that hot little cartridge.

No matter what caliber you choose, be sure your gun and ammo combination is comfortable and affordable to shoot. When you enjoy shooting your concealed carry gun — and can afford to do so with today’s skyrocketing ammo prices — you’ll shoot more often. And that’s key to being sure you’re ready when faced with the unthinkable.


Save 10% Off Select Concealed Gun Products!
Use Promo Code: SAVELP

Final discounts will be displayed within the cart for qualifying items. Discount not valid on pre-orders, value packs,
subscriptions, and 3rd party products. 1 use per customer. Other exclusions apply.


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Corey Graff is the Online Editor for His personal interest in firearms includes handguns for hunting and self-defense as well as guns from the World War II era.