0331 – Selecting the Best Concealed Carry Handgun

Concealed Carry Handgun for Women

Concealed Carry Woman

In the past few episodes we have been discussing how it is that we can choose the Best Defensive Firearms.  We know that handguns have some advantages over other firearms because of their size, their portability, their capacity, and the ability of the shooter to manage recoil.  These advantages apply to handguns as home defense tools as we discussed in episode 0330 but the advantages of the handgun can be even more important when we discuss Concealed Carry Handguns.  At the same time, many people can take the advantageous aspects of the handgun too far.  So far in fact that it can be very difficult to use the handgun efficiently.  We must work to balance the attributes of the handgun so that we can be successful when we need to win in a high stakes encounter.

Today we are going to take a look at selecting the best concealed carry handgun.


Selecting the Best Concealed Carry Handgun

First of all remember that when we’re talking about the defensive use of firearms we are talking about a high-stakes, life or death situation. It is because of this we cannot afford to make compromises. That is why we are discussing the attributes of the BEST handgun for Concealed Carry today. We can’t afford to settle for average.  Many people look at the price of today’s quality handguns and start to wonder if they are “worth it.”   Obviously money is a limited resource and for some of us, at times, it can be very limited.  The question you need to ask yourself when you are reflecting on the value of the handgun isn’t, “How much is this gun worth?”  Instead, the question should be, “How much is my life worth?”  Are you willing to pay extra for safety features in your car?  Will you spend a few extra dollars for organic produce?  Do you pay for a monthly gym membership to stay fit?  All of these concepts illustrate the same principle.  Although money is a limited resource, so is our life.  We need to be willing to invest in our well being and if you have decided to make a handgun part of your personal protection plan, you need to be ready to invest in a quality handgun.

This doesn’t mean that the most expensive handgun is the best defensive handgun.  In fact, that is far from the truth.  The best handguns for self-defense and concealed carry sit solidly in the middle of the pack when it comes to price and that is a positive.  As consumers we are often focused on the price of an item and what I want to be clear is that price should not be one of the major factors when it comes to selecting your CCW handgun.

Many aspects of violence are out of our control. We don’t have a choice in who it is that attacks us, or when, or how.  However, we do get to make choices about how we can respond to violence ahead of time.  Just the fact that you are thinking about carrying a handgun is a step in the right direction.  We need to continue this thinking into our handgun selection.  If we need to use our handgun to save our life or the lives of our loved ones we should have the best handgun for the job.  There is no reason not to prepare ourselves ahead of time by having the best tools available to us.

To put it simply, don’t skimp on your Defensive handgun.

How do we select the best handgun for CCW?

Whenever we’re talking about home defense handguns or concealed carry handguns we need to make our selection based on reliability and efficiency. When it comes to reliability, defensive firearms need to work and they need to work every time we press the trigger.  Guns are mechanical devices and so ALL of them will fail at one point in time or another.  We need to select the guns that statistically work the most often under the harshest conditions.

In addition to being reliable, defensive guns need to be efficient.  This really means that  they need to work well in the way that our body operates naturally.  Handguns that operate simply, without extra unneeded buttons and levers will serve us better in a time of need than guns with extra “features.”

When we talked about the best home defense handgun our discussion focused on the balance between power and recoil management.  We need to have a gun that allows us to mange recoil because statistically it is likely to take more than one shot to stop an attacker.  Being able to fire two – five rounds quickly with relative precision is a vital attribute of the defensive handgun.  In home defense we can comfortably select a large handgun because the larger the handgun, the more mass it has and the less recoil we will feel with every shot.  This  typically means we will be able to shoot the gun faster.

When we are looking to balance the traits of the best concealed carry handgun the two traits we need to consider are the ability to conceal the handgun and our ability to mange recoil.  We need to balance these two factors.  Of course a big handgun is going to be easy to shoot but how are you going to hide a hand cannon on your body?  And even if you can hide it, the heavier it is, the less comfortable it will be to carry.  You can see the challenges that we face when selecting a gun for concealed carry.

Lets start out by talking about concealment:

Many people tip the scale toward handguns that are easy to conceal. It is easy to understand why:

Handguns can be inconvenient to carry

1. heavy
2. large
3. uncomfortable
4. difficult to conceal

So people naturally select handguns that make concealment easier. These handguns tend to be light weight, small, more comfortable to deal with when it comes to concealed carry and ultimately easier to conceal.

Manufacturers have done a great job in introducing firearms to the market that people want to carry. The Ruger LCP, the Beretta Nano and now Pico are great examples of small firearms that people might choose for concealed carry.  These guns are smaller, they are lighter, they are easier to conceal and in many ways they are more comfortable, however, when we are dealing with trying to find the best concealed carry handgun. We have to remember that it’s a balance. Yes, you actually need to be able to shoot your concealed carry pistol.

Let’s take a look at the other side, recoil management.

Just like with the best home defense handgun, recoil management is all about physics with your concealed carry gun. There are several factors that can affect our ability to manage recoil and we’re can take a look at three in particular:

1. The size of the gun.
2. The mass of the handgun.
3. The power of the cartridge.

The size of the concealed carry handgun.

When it comes to the size of a pistol it is important to understand that the larger the surface area of the back strap of the gun is the better job it will do distributing recoil to the hand. If a handgun is relatively small in size and makes very little contact with the hand in the back strap area, it will tend to have a greater felt recoil. On the other hand, if the guns back strap is relatively large, it will spread the same amount of energy over a larger surface area in the shooter will perceive the recoil to be less.

In general, when all other things are kept the same a larger handgun will feel like it recoils less.  Of course a large handgun has its disadvantages for concealed carry.

The mass of the concealed carry handgun.

When we talk about the mass of the gun we’re getting back to the same physics problem we discussed in episode 330 when we talked about the power of the cartridge related to the size of the gun. Simply put, the more mass or the ‘heavier’ a gun is, the less recoil will be perceived by the shooter. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Part of the reaction is operating the slide on the gun. The heavier the slide, the more energy is absorbed by that action and the less the shooter tends to feel recoil. Another opposite action is moving the gun to the rear into the shooter’s hand. The heavier the gun the more energy is absorbed by forcing the gun to the rear in recoil and again, the less recoil is felt by the shooter.

In general when all of the things are kept the same a heavier gun will feel like it recoils less.

The power of the cartridge.

Because smaller and lighter guns are easier to carry the power of the cartridge is where most people work to regain the balance between conceal ability and recoil management when they look for the best concealed carry handgun.

We can’t ignore the idea of power when it comes to a concealed carry handgun. We have to have a firearm in a caliber that has terminal performance that is likely to behave terminally the way we need it to function. This means reliable penetration and expansion in a variety of conditions. Yet many people are willing to accept an underpowered cartridge because it comes in a package that is comfortable and easy to carry.

Because people want to conceal and carry a smaller, lighter, more comfortable handgun, and they don’t want to have a marked increase in recoil they choose a lower powered cartridge. In an effort to have manageable recoil we risk trying to defend ourselves with an anemic cartridge.  Of course this may not be the best choice when it comes to concealed carry.

Striking the balance to between power and the ability to conceal your handgun.

From a conceptual stand point, we want to carry the largest handgun we can comfortably carry and conceal. When it comes to the recoil management of the handgun, we find that compact handguns chambered in 9mm loaded with 147 grain modern bonded hollow point bullets do a nice job of striking the balance.

The size of the compact concealed carry handguns is such that it has enough mass to lessen the felt recoil, allow for most shooters to achieve a full two hand grip, and still makes the firearm fairly easy to conceal.

The 9mm gives the consistent performance we are looking for. Additionally, a 9mm, since it’s a smaller cartridge, gives us the advantage of higher capacity. Most importantly, however, the recoil of the 9mm is very reasonable and allows for outstanding recoil management even in compact handguns.

For those that need to move the balance slightly toward the ability to conceal we can move to subcompact or single stack 9mm handguns. Of course the reduction in size of these handguns means a reduction in mass which equals more difficulty in managing recoil.

Oftentimes issues with the ability to conceal can be traced back to equipment mismatches. Making sure that you have the proper concealed carry platform that works together as a system is vital to increase your ability to conceal your weapon. Some questions to ask yourself might be:

  1. Does your handgun and holster match the position you would like to conceal and carry in?
  2. Are you wearing a sturdy belt support your concealed carry handgun?
  3. Does your choice in clothing assist in concealment of your handgun?

These questions are important to ask and consider thoroughly before we make any concessions when it comes to the recoil management of our concealed carry handgun. If we can make subtle changes to our concealed carry system that allows us to find a better balance of conceal ability to recoil management, then we should make those changes.

Take some time to think about your concealed carry handgun. Is the best? Is there a way that you could more efficiently balance the ability to conceal your hand gun with better recoil management?

After you examine your concealed carry system and make any necessary changes, make sure you get on out there and get yourself some training. When you do please keep it simple. Stay safe and as always have a great day!

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