This article in a direct response to a really good student who is struggling with her first concealed carry purchase. She’s sharp enough to just not copy what I or others do.. and instead to think this out for herself while still asking really good questions. Feel free to offer “Sarah” your opinion in the comments section, ESPECIALLY if different from my own. I hope you find this useful. Steve
I ran across this test today while going through my normal reading.. It’s a Guns and Ammo test comparing 10 of the most popular single stack 9mm pistols. Keep in mind, this article is a teaser so you’ll go out and buy their actual magazine, but there’s still a lot there. The most valuable part of this test is the video. Watch it through to the end.
In my mind, which is based on my experience, I prioritize a sub-compact carry gun in this order:
a) The cartridge must absolutely be on the FBI’s list of top handgun rounds. The 9mm qualifies. Every student gets a handout titled “FBI 9mm Justification” which is mandatory reading for any serious concealed carry student. A copy is attached since this was one of my many refinements in the course curriculum. And while we’re on the subject, is your choice of handguns rated for and will it function perfectly with your preferred (based on the FBI list) round How about your practice rounds?
b) The handgun must fit three things. 1. Your hand. 2. Your body. 3. Your budget. To shoot it well your hand must grip it well, it shouldn’t be too big for your method of carry (IWB, OWB, off-body, etc), and if you can’t afford it you certainly won’ t be buying one to carry.
c) Reliability. The weapon must go bang each and every time I pull the trigger without exception. Really, no exceptions. If I already own the weapon and it doesn’t go bang for any reason then it goes to a gunsmith to find out why and it’s not carried again until I put at least 250 practice and 100 carry rounds through it without ANY error. Personally I go for 500 rounds with 200 of them carry rounds.
d) Trigger Pull/Accuracy. I put these together because they’re so closely related on this class of firearms. The trigger and how well you control it is paramount to your overall control of the gun.
e) “Carry-a-bility” (not a word ) On this class of firearms it must be a combination of small, flat, no sharp edges, and hold a minimum of 5 rounds. Why 5? Because we’ve carried snub nose revolvers for generations and they typically hold 5. If it’s good enough for a revolver for centuries I’m not going to invent some new arbitrary number for semi-autos which is exactly how every single one of these “minimum number of rounds” come about.
f) Compatible with your carry philosophy and training style. If you must have an external safety then your choice of carry guns should have a solid, logical, and well designed and placed external safety AND you must absolutely train with it. Sights are crucial. Eyes of different ages result in different eye problems, different styles and philosophies. Your new handgun should either come with a compatible set of sights or have compatible sights available on the after-market. This is the second category I’ve added sights to. They’re that important.
g) Durability. This is different from reliability because most reliability tests are conducted in a single day not giving the weapon an opportunity to rust or otherwise age naturally. Finish wear from multiple presentations and other uses. Handguns absolutely get more wear and tear when carried. So, if this is your gun and it stays in your car, next to your bed (in a locked box of course if kids are EVER in your home) and you rarely shoot it, are the springs strong enough to cycle the gun reliably, will it shoot fine with whatever corrosion has appeared and don’t forget the well intentioned dried up grease now causing issues.
h) After-Market Support. Are those necessary sights available? Holsters? Can a weapon otherwise perfect but for the gawdawful trigger be improved with a reliable, safe, and desirable trigger pull? Most manufacturers recommend changing the springs every 2000-2500 rounds. Are these OEM (never buy aftermarket springs for a carry gun) springs available? If you prefer a light or (come to our classes, we hope we can save you) laser is one that mounts security AND in your holster? Extra OEM mags available? (never carry your weapon with anything but factory OEM mags) If you absolutely must have that one more round to feel safe, are after-market base plates available?
There are thousands of instructors and if you google them and learn what they consider important in a “sub-compact” carry gun you’ll find some things everyone mentions (but unfortunately while they picked the topic the same they don’t agree as to the specifics), and some things usually mentioned, and the oddball thing rarely if ever mentioned somewhere else. I like the oddball things, most are good for a laugh but occasionally there’s a real gem out there written by someone who truly understands why we carry guns.
You’ve noticed in my heading I put “sub-compact” and several times more throughout. Why? For me a sub-compact is what I carry either in addition to a real gun, or when I absolutely can’t conceal the bigger more useful easier to fire and control weapon. This is something you should absolutely think about.
Sarah - In the course of writing this I realized the questions are much what others ask. So I decided to turn it into an article and post it on the website and facebook and I’m letting you know so when you see it..
I hope this helps a bit. There really is a lot to this material.