Firearm Options for Concealed Carry
So, you’ve gone out and obtained your brand new Texas CHL and have come to the realization that your idea of carrying a full size stainless steel 1911 pistol that has a 5-inch barrel and weighs in at 40 ounces isn’t as practical as you had originally envisioned. You conclude that it’s time to get a new handgun but aren’t quite sure what to get. When you ask ten of your buddies and no surprise, each of them recommend the make and model that they own. But remember, just because it works for them doesn’t mean that it is right for you. So, what factors should you consider in making your choice?
Size is an obvious consideration. Your body size and shape have a lot to do with the size of an object you can conceal from view on your person. Your manner of dress also affects that ability. If you have to wear a suit and tie, your options are more limited than if you can wear an untucked shirt. If you live in a cold climate and can wear a jacket, you’ll have an easier time than if you live in a climate where shorts and t-shirts are the norm. While a longer barrel results in a longer site radius to improved accuracy, it may make carrying uncomfortable depending on your holster and carry location. The width of a gun is perhaps the most important dimension when it comes to concealment. A thick pistol with a fat double stack magazine is going to be much tougher to hide than a slim single stack magazine. You will get fewer rounds in magazine capacity as a trade-off for reduced width.
Weight is a very important factor. While it is true that a lighter gun will result in greater felt recoil, and a heavy gun results in less felt recoil, it is important to remember that a light gun results in greater recoil only when firing. A heavy gun is heavy the entire time that you’re carrying it. On the other hand, if you are very recoil sensitive and the recoil causes you to practice less often with your carry firearm, the extra weight may be worth carrying. Decide if you are willing to tolerate more recoil in exchange for less weight. If a gun is too heavy and it causes you to leave it at home, you defeat the purpose of having a CHL.
Caliber selection is always a topic of great philosophical debate. Larger calibers reduce magazine capacity and increase both cost and weight. Some one always counters that smaller calibers don’t result in “one shot stops.” The truth is, in handgun calibers, the only way to get a “one shot stop” is with correct shot placement. If you miss, it doesn’t matter how big the hole would have been if you hadn’t. In fact, even a hit in the wrong place isn’t going to incapacitate a determined assailant. Only a hit to the central nervous system results in a “one shot stop.” Caliber selection affects ammunition cost and that is directly proportional to how much people will typically practice. For example, 9mm ammo costs roughly half of .45ACP costs. So, you are far more likely to practice more with the 9mm and increase your ability to put a shot where you intended. You can offset this difference in ammo price if you reload or find the deal of the century on ammo, but generally speaking, consider ammo prices when selecting a caliber.
A gun with rounded edges and no sharp corners is easier to conceal than an bulky object with hard edges. The “melted” corners and smooth curves help ensure you don’t print (expose an outline of the object you are carrying) and also helps ensure your carry firearm doesn’t snag on your clothing during a draw.
If you are thinking about getting a revolver, consider one that doesn’t have an exposed hammer. You will only be able to fire it in double action and while the heavier trigger pull may affect your accuracy, you will have a much safer configuration. Without an exposed hammer, you reduce the risk of the hammer snagging on your clothing or other items that you carry in a pocket, purse or backpack.
Pistols are like cars. You have your entry level models, your mid-size sedans, and your luxury models. My advice is to forget about the entry level models. They are generally cheap for a reason. If a car is a lemon, it can leave you stranded on the side of the road. The consequences for a pistol that doesn’t work can be much higher. If you are going to stake your life on something, ensure you can depend on it. If cost is a critical factor for you, consider getting a reliable used gun. Just like with cars, you can often find a used one with good care and low mileage at a bargain price.
While target match shooters want a pistol with a very light trigger pull for supreme accuracy, that is not the best choice for self defense. A very light trigger pull makes it far too easy to unintentionally press that trigger when you are under high levels of stress. When your heart rate rises and you lose dexterity and fine motor skills, that hair trigger can result in tragically firing at the wrong moment. Seek out a firearm with a moderate trigger pull. Something in the 4.5 to 6.5 pound range perhaps.
The list of criteria to consider go on and on. We could talk about night sites and accessory rails and grip materials and on and on and on. The truth is that all of these things start to get into personal preferences and your choices and opinions are likely to evolve over time based on your individual experience. If one size did fit all, there wouldn’t be the endless number of choices we see on the market. I could regale you with a laundry list of my all time favorites, but the truth is – decide the criteria that are most important to you and let that narrow your search.