The Best Handgun for concealed carry?
Are you looking for the best handgun you can buy for a newly obtained concealed carry permit?
Information: This question was asked by a reader who is new to guns, worried about the concealability of a firearm; looking for the combination of the best firepower and the smallest form factor so they could carry in public places while out with their family.
Question: I recently obtained a (very hard to get) CCW permit in California. I am concerned by all of the conflicting information available about concealed carry firearms, you seem to be an expert, and your articles are very comprehensive about handguns. Could you recommend some pointers for finding the best mix of firepower and capacity and help me figure out what handgun is the best handgun for my situation? I want to carry when I’m out with my family, but I don’t want my kids to know that I am carrying, nor do I want to draw unnecessary attention to me from others around me. I’m a relatively small guy, but I need some help, or maybe even an outright specific recommendation, but I want to understand WHY you recommend it. Thanks in advance.
Answer: Firstly, thanks for the kind words, I’ve been in the game most of my life, it’s nice to hear someone considers me an expert in the arena. Now to your questions:
Most importantly to me has always been bulk. Partially because I enjoy a good steak on occasion (and my midsection shows it), and partially because I have always had this idea in my head that thinner is better when it comes to pockets, holsters or items I’ll have with me often. As such I will rule out revolvers as a matter of course; though you might check on the Ruger LCR, an amazing carry firearm if you want the nicest trigger, inherent safety of a revolver and simplicity, with good firepower. Now, because you also mentioned you are looking for a mix between capacity and firepower, I will go ahead and move into semi-auto handguns, and try to stick to those which offer the best combination. In the end we should be able to find the best handgun to solve your dilemma.
Let’s talk a bit about what that concept (“Best mix of capacity and firepower”) means.
It’s highly unlikely you will ever need to fend off more than 2 attackers in any given concealed carry situation, especially with a family to protect. No one, including the best trained operators would choose to stay and fight in the event that they could gain safety in a multi-aggressor scenario. So let’s rule out the crazy movie plots that give us all the worry that we will be single-handedly fighting mobs of people at the movie theater.
Now, out of respect for the lives lost in the tragic and disturbing recent movie theater shootings in Colorado, I would also offer my thoughts, prayers and condolences to those involved in this disgusting display.
This scenario is not typical, but things like this are more frequently occurring than they have been in the past.
In that instance, a large volume of firepower could have assured a defensive shooter a place as the sole target in the theater, once the shooter knew where the return fire was coming from. (many places like that theater are no gun zones and are enforced by security screenings, which is another topic altogether). Whereas a larger caliber could possibly have interrupted the shooting, or caused the shooter to flee. Hindsight is 20/20, and all the facts aren’t out yet, so no one knows for sure yet.
Best handgun attributes
Back to the topic at hand: more firepower isn’t always necessary, but sufficient stopping power is ALWAYS necessary. I prefer to carry the 10mm, though I often carry the 9mm and the 45ACP, depending on the situation. I ALWAYS carry the slimmest gun I feel comfortable shooting, and I always carry a second magazine to ensure I have enough extra firepower.
My 10mm carries 10+1 rounds; my .45 carries 7+1, and my 9mm carries 8+1 (a USP 40 modified for 10mm; a 1911 custom .45 and an HK P7 respectively). I have NEVER felt uncomfortable carrying those quantities of ammunition, and thankfully have never had to use the firearms I carry, though there have been several instances of close calls.
I believe the 9mm to be barely fitting the description of stopping power. Against a heavily armed, heavily armored assailant, this round may lack the necessary stopping power to stop the threat. 10mm is my preferred choice, with 45 right behind it. But until now there haven’t been adequately sized firearms with those chamberings to make me feel confident in carrying them.
- Small size, yet still concealable
- Lightweight with a small form factor
- Easy to use without extraneous safeties
- Hard hitting caliber
- Enough rounds to give you confidence
- Good sights if possible
The Best Handgun for carry:
Enter the newest claimant to the throne, the Springfield XDS, ultracompact .45.
For years I have carried an “Officer’s” sized 1911 that I custom made for carry, and it felt sufficient. Now that I have another option, I will be using it instead to determine the best handgun for my unique situation.
All of my best handgun picks are small and have “limited capacity”, relying on my excellent skills as a defensive handgunner, and my comfort level with my choices.
*NOTE: I recommend getting good training, and putting an extensive amount of time towards learning your gun and shooting it.
I also carry the HK P7 M8 often, and feel confident in it with only 8 rounds of 9mm.
The benefit to the guns I use are they are proven designs, quick to action, safe and give me the confidence I need should I come into a defensive scenario.
I believe that the mindset of defensive shooting is the most important help in getting over the hurdle of the capacity questions. If you cannot hit what you are aiming at, it doesn’t matter how many rounds you can shoot.
As for knockdown power: I have many Law Enforcement and military friends who claim that in the heat of battle, with ballistic protection, they have been hit many times with 9mm rounds and not been disturbed (perhaps a combination of good advances in bulletproofing and adrenaline). However, everyone I have ever spoken to (some 20+ people who are credible) that have been hit with .45 and 10mm in a ballistic vest claim that their shooting was interrupted and they often were not able to continue the firefight at nearly the same capacity as they were before getting hit. Of those 20+ I have spoken to, almost all of them are a single hit recipient, which says a lot about the stopping power of the rounds.
The Best Handgun for the job
Now, back to the best handgun for your specific situation: (Which I believe to be) the Springfield XDS, with honorable mention to the 1911, in an officer’s size. I would also consider the Bond Arms line of two shot derringers in larger calibers like 10mm, .410, .357, etc. if you can handle the cut to the capacity (I do carry one of these at times where I must be formally dressed). If you can handle the extra girth of a gun chambered in 10mm, the Glock 29 and the Colt Delta Elite are fine choices, but both provide substantially more pistol to attempt to conceal.
The best handgun this year, for Concealed carry, the XDS
The Springfield XDS is a DAO (double action only pistol), is made for carry and offers 7 shots plus another in the chamber of the venerable .45ACP round (if you add the “extended” magazines), or 5+1 shots in its smallest configuration. It is ambidextrous in operation, and it is less than an inch thick, with less than 5” in any direction, making it able to be fit into a pocket (though I would recommend a proper holster). It’s polymer and it offers reduced recoil, which comes on par with the officer’s model 1911 generally speaking. You’re looking at about $525-$575 MSRP on the Best handgun for your specific scenario.
Honorable mention for the Best Handgun
The 1911, is a proven contender in this space, though it can get pricey to customize the gun. At nearly 3K cost for my personal 1911, I would venture a guess that a suitable 1911 for carry would cost upwards of $850 to feel comfortable with in a carry situation. That’s on the minimum side of the scale in my opinion. It is thin, reliable, comfortable and an excellent contender for the Best handgun title in this scenario.
Whatever you choose, the Best handgun will be the one that inspires confidence in any situation and affords you the stealth and wearing comfort you desire. Be sure to handle the guns before you make your choice for best handgun for concealed carry so you don’t get railroaded into owning a gun you don’t love.