February 01, 2008

Looking for Advice On a Carry Gun

This Sunday, while the vast majority of my fellow Americans will be preparing to watch the New York Giants get obliterated by the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl (and for the record, I'm pulling for the Giants...sorry Eli, it's going to be a long day), I'll be taking the concealed carry class required to obtain my concealed carry permit here in North Carolina.

I'll most likely be shooting either my own M1911-A1 .45ACP clone to qualify during the shooting qualification portion of the class, or perhaps my brother's Springfield Armory XD Compact 9mm. My other brother will be shooting his Glock 23 .40S&W, and my Dad will be qualifying with his Ruger, also in .40S&W.

Once the class is over (anticipating I pass... and I expect to), the next step it to apply for the permit. Between 30-90 days after that, if all goes well, I should have my North Carolina-issued concealed carry permit, which is good in 30 other states (PDF) thanks to reciprocity agreements.

But what to carry?

My steel-framed, 5"-barreled 1911 is a great gun, but at over 40 ounces loaded, I don't want to try to lug it around all day, and the fact it is a full-size service pistol makes it a tiny bit difficult to conceal on my rather thin frame (I'm 6'3" 165 lbs). I am, in short, looking for a dedicated carry gun.

I've immediately ruled out pocket pistols, both ultra-tiny semi-autos and revolvers chambered in .17, .22, .25, .32 and .380. While small handguns such as a Beretta Bobcat or the entire line-up from North American Arms are very easily concealed, they are difficult to shoot well due to small grips and tiny sights. Combine that with questionable stopping power, and I'm just not interested.

After doing some online research, shooting a bit, and talking with both some owners and gun shop folks, I've decided on the following criteria:

  • either 9mm or .40 S&W caliber in a pistol, or .357 Magnum or .44 Special in a revolver.
  • less than 30oz in weight, but more than "airweight."
  • decent grip size—I hate "pinky dangle."
  • good sight picture.
  • under $500.

I'll also betray a preference for semi-auto pistols over revolvers, predominately because that is what I'm used to shooting, but also because they are typically easier/faster to reload.

That said, here are the contenders I have so far.

Springfield Armory XD Subcompact Pistol

My middle brother bought one of these several months ago in 9mm, and I like the way it shot. There was a bit of pink dangle due to the short grip on the 10-round magazine, but with the extension on the 16-round magazine, it fit my hand very well. I also like the cost of the 9mm FMJ practice ammo, which is much cheaper than my current .45.

Taurus 617 .357 Magnum Revolver

I like the fact that with a .357 Magnum, you can practice with .38 Special ammunition, but still have the stopping power of a Magnum. The only downsides are that it is thicker through the cylinder than most semi-autos, and it is going to slower to reload. Oh... and it's a seven-shot.

Taurus Millennium Pro Pistol

Compact and light, it has a lot of the favorable features I'm looking for, but I've heard mixed results about reliability.

Charter Arms .44 Special Bulldog

Less powerful than the .357 Magnum, it still makes a .44 caliber hole. Other than that, I don't know much about it.

CZ 2075 Rami Pistol

The only alloy-framed semi-auto on my list, it's big brother, the CZ-75, has a sterling reputation. My local dealer carries one, and he's quite high on his.

Kahr CW Series Pistol

The "Pontiac" of the Kahr Arms family, and as such, their entry into the less-pricey end of the CCW market. The downside? Only a 6,000 round frame.

So that's what I'm looking at right now. For those of you gun nuts out there, based upon my criteria, which would you choose... or would you suggest something else entirely?

Posted by Confederate Yankee at February 1, 2008 09:05 AM

"I'll most likely be shooting either my own M1911-A1 .45ACP clone to qualify during the shooting qualification portion of the class"

I've been told by a few folks that got their CC her in Michigan that it's wise to use a small caliber weapon as part of the qualification requires a rapid shoot. Accurate rapid shooting with a larger bore may be more difficult.

Your call.

Posted by: markm at February 1, 2008 10:34 AM

I'm a handgun permit instructor in TN. Welcome to team. I believe how well a pistol hides is more a function of the holster than the pistol itself. In inside the waistband holster like the Sparks Summer Special will allow you to conceal the 1911 as easily as the other weapons. Belt holsters such as the Sparks model 55BN also to a good job of concealment under outer garments.

IMHO there are some things to keep in mind:
1 - No gun is invisible, hide it as best you can.
2 - Guns are not supposed to be comfortable they are supposed to be comforting (as Clint Smith of Thunder Ranch says). It is my personal belief that the bigger the gun you have, the less likely you are to have to use it; and the fewer shots it will take if you do. Carry the pistol you shoot best. If that is the 1911, you'll get used to the weight in time. No one feels comfortable wearing a pistol at first. The comfort factor comes in time.
3 - The smaller the package, the harder the recoil.
4 - No matter what pistol you select, carry extra ammo/magazines.
5 - Be alert and aware. If trouble happens, you'll be better able to respond if its not a total suprise.

Posted by: Mike at February 1, 2008 10:55 AM

Couple of points:

1.) Qualify with your 1911, carry something else.

2.) The Taurus is all you'll need for a carry piece. I myself carry a S&W 617 Airweight about 80% of the time (loaded with .38+P Hydra-Shoks), and it only has five rounds. I also carry a speedloader, just in case of zombie attacks.

3.) The Bulldog weighs as much as a 1911. I carried one for years. And .44 Spec ammo is WAY spendy.

4.) My experience with small carry pieces is that the accentuated recoil makes accuracy problematic -- yeah even unto the 9mm Europellet. On the other hand, recoil isn't a problem when you're close enough to set the sumbitch's clothes on fire with the muzzle blast.

5.) That said, if you absolutely have to have a semi-auto carry piece (and why not?), I'd get the CZ Rami ahead of any of 'em. I'm a HUGE fan of CZs, especially the 75B, and the Rami is an acceptable "downsize".

Posted by: Kim du Toit at February 1, 2008 11:08 AM

...I was a cop for 32 years and a range master in 3 of the offices I worked. This is what I recommend:
...Minimum 40 cal. Pistol bullets can't be depended upon to expand in a human target, so buy one that is already expanded. As long as it starts with a '4'.
...Use the same ammo in practise that you carry. Don't use .38, then carry .357. It does matter.
...Lighter is better. The gun will get heavier the longer you carry it. You will quit carrying a heavy gun. I carry a glock .45, and you hardly know you have it on.
...Try an ankle holster, a GOOD ONE. After a week you'll forget it's there.
...Whatever you choose, practise drawing it and practise shooting during darkness. Most crimes occur during the dark. You'll be amazed at how much the muzzle flash lets you correct and get on target for the next shot. Forget aiming, learn to point, double tap and then move, fast.
...Wheel guns always go bang. When we carried revolvers, officers in my Dept. averaged 2.3 shoots fired per gunfight. Now that they have automatics, that's gone way up, but hits haven't.
...Don't practise your draw or dry fire with a 'wet' gun. Your walls with thank you for not doing that.

Posted by: David Dudley at February 1, 2008 11:09 AM

I have been a concealed carry permit holder in VA and NC

I carry in the Summer either a S&W Model 60 with Crimson Trace in .38 Spcl or a Tuff gunned Bulgarian Makarov in 9x18mm in a belly band or a Fobus holster. Mainly because the NC summers were too stinking hot to conceal anything else. 1 speed loader or extra magazine also carried, usually in a pocket.

In the Winter I preferred my SIG P229 in .40S&W in a Fobus or my 9-11 coat, or my newly acquired Glock 30 in .45 ACP with Crimson Trace also in a Fobus. 1 spare magazine available as well.

You will find that you only have to demonstrate proficiency in NC, and that is up to the instructor. So it shouldn't be too hard.

Welcome to the club of responsible individuals taking responsibility for their own lives and the others around them.

Posted by: redleg at February 1, 2008 11:26 AM

I've been pretty happy with my Glock 33 - .357 subcompact which has been very useful for concealed carry with very reasonable power.

Some comments available here on the handgun:

Posted by: redherkey at February 1, 2008 11:26 AM

Auto: Glock in .45 caliber. Model 21 if you don't mind the larger size, Model 30 if you do. It's a bit over your budget at around $600, but the reliability and durability of the Glock makes it worth the additional dollars.

Revolver: Smith & Wesson stainless Bodyguard, Model 649, since you prohibited Airweight. This comes in .38 Special only. 5-shot. If you basically live in a safe neighborhood and work in same, 5 shots is enough for most situations, and a small Smith is easily concealable in either an inside waistband holster, small-of-back holster, or even a pocket holster. As for the grip, it's currently sized to allow the pinky to grip the pistol, but you can easily replace it if it doesn't suit, there are many choices of grips available.

Posted by: Bob at February 1, 2008 11:37 AM

I've never found a pistol of any value at all against zombies - you need to be able to knock off body parts (like the whole head) and that just takes too many shots.

I never liked the .357 - it bucks a LOT. And I've never been able to hold a revolver on the target dependably.

My preference is semi-auto and I like the 1911 - but then again, I qualified on it in the early 1980's when in the USMC and have never really tried to learn to like anything else.

Posted by: DaveW at February 1, 2008 11:53 AM

I notice that of all the firearms on your list, only one (the CZ) has a manual (thumb) safety. As a CCL holder, I refuse to carry a firearm w/o a manual safety. Maybe this is just personal preference, maybe I am old-fassioned, but that's how I am. Might I suggest 2 firearms I both own and carry. First, the Ruger SR9. The SR9 is double-action-only but has a thumb safety. The SR9 has a full-size frame (no pinky dangle) but is extremely slim and has a 17 round capacity in 9mm. It is also cheap, I picked mine up for $400. Disadvantages are you cannot get it with tritium sights (also a personal preference of mine) and b/c it is so new you may have a harder time finding holster options. My second suggestion is the H&K USP Compact. It's an H&K so you know it is reliable (I have several thousand rounds through mine w/o a single jam), but it's and H&K so you know it aint cheap (around $700 for a model with tritium sights). Still, I own one of these in .45 and it is my favorite carry pistol. It has a decock/thumb safety and is single-action and double-action with an external hammer. The .45 version has an 8 round capacity, and they all have extended magazines so you dont have pinky dangle. Hope you find this useful!

Posted by: Eric at February 1, 2008 12:07 PM

Also, you can get the USP Compact in 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 APC (and I believe .357 Sig). The SR9 only comes in 9mm.

Posted by: Eric at February 1, 2008 12:12 PM

It all comes down to What you want it for??
Most all of my guns are of the long type,I do
have a S&W 38 and a Browning 22 target match.
The Mossad favor a Beretta Jaguar model 71 .22
if you load it with CCI Stingers, HP. it could do
some serious damage. if it's good enough for the
Mossad it should do the job for anyone...

Posted by: Gator at February 1, 2008 12:29 PM

I have a CZ 2075 RAMI 9mm and like it a lot.
The SW 40 cal version is more problematic. As with a lot of the small 40's it can have feed issues. Mine is very picky about the magazine it is using.

Two comments:
-CZ now has a polymer-frame version of the RAMI out.
-There is an extended (14-round) magazine available from CZ that will keep your "pinky" from flopping around.

Posted by: Sigurdrifta at February 1, 2008 12:51 PM

I have been CCW'ing in NC literally as long as there has been a law... my permit number was 126 originally.
1- Don't buy a Taurus. I know that a lot of people buy them and are very happy and I'm not engaging in bashing here; but I've seen too many come back to various gun stores in nonworking condition. Spend the extra money; get a Smith revolver or a 'big league' brand name auto. You don't have to believe me here; just whip out a little Google-Fu and see what results you get.

2- I'm not too big on Charter Arms either. Their QC and customer satisfaction have been spotty over the years and the (admittedly few) examples I've seen did not feel well-built or capable of handling more than "carry a lot-shoot a little" duty.

3- With all due respect to Clint Smith and co: if your carry gun isn't comfortable, you're more likely to leave it at home. I went from a full-size Kimber 1911 to a Glock 36 simply because the Glock was a LOT easier and more comfortable to carry around all day long. THE DEFINING ELEMENT IS THE SHOOTER, NOT THE TOOL. Get something you can shoot accurately and comfortably, practice your chuggas off with it, and leave the rest for the gunstore commandos.

4- Cost depends on market. Try CDNN Investments or Guns America and see what the prices look like there (one example: CDNN has a bunch of refurbished Glock 19's and 23's for less than $400... ). It might expand your possibilities.

5- Get a decent holster. After years of screwing around with one cheapskate holster after another, I finally broke down and spent enough for quality. My Milt Sparks Summer Special (Brownell's, $77.00 plus S&H) is expensive by itself but far cheaper then the slew of uncomfortable, inadequate "cheaper" holsters I had before.

6- For my personal preference: I've been CCW'ing off and on for close to fifteen years now and have carried full-size 1911's, 4" and 2" .357's, Smith Chief's Specials, SIG's in .380 and 9mm...
...what I've found that works best for me is the midframe Glocks. Models 19, 23, et cetera strike the balance between 'small enough to pack easily' and 'big enough to shoot comfortably and accurately under stress', with added doses of 'reliable as a stone axe' and 'enough rounds of a potent ammo to do the job'. You'll need to be careful with them, but that's no less true for any other handgun. Tens of thousands of police officers and armed civilians- and another few tens of thousands of uniformed servicemen, of various militaries- carry Glocks every day with no problem whatsoever. Since they're awful common there's never a problem with getting quality holsters in your style of choice, spare magazines, sights, or any other accessory you can choose.
Your mileage, of course, may vary... but in your shoes, I'd be phoning my local dealers to see who'd accept a delivery from CDNN for me, and I'd have either GunsAmerica or CDNN bookmarked on my computer and ready for a little comparison shopping for a Model -19 or -23.

Best of luck, and welcome to the fraternity!

Posted by: DaveP. at February 1, 2008 12:59 PM

The pinkie dangle thing is something you need to get over. On ANY decent sized carry gun, the grip is always the part that shows or shows a bulge (prints).

DON"T get the Barretta. It is not designed for much shooting, it will die if you practice with it much.

1)For tiny, the NAA is great. I like the 2" Black Widow, but would put the small grips on it. I did have a .22lr normal one, 1.125 barrel, it was super small, but not really a one shot stopper. But if I had to shoot someone in the face at 5 feet, well, he would have a hard time chasing me.
But if I lived where there may be a bunch of criminally-minded brothers to deal with, I would skip up to #3 or #4.

2)For sane sized, I would do a NAA in .380, Colt Mustang (if you can find one) in .380.

3)Getting into the combat-worthy size, a Colt Defender or Officers model in .45, or clone (springfield makes one for about $550)

4)Witness makes some decent guns, with very reliable actions, medium-small and less than $450.

I wouldn't do a revolver, because the cylinder would gouge the hip (slipping your pistol into your waistband is handy when you pop into a store from your car). Also, it, like a Glock, can lead to firing from reaching into your pants or pocket and grabbing it and pulling it with your finger accidently on the trigger. Having a safety on the trigger itself seems nuts, but the Glock boys will deny it.

Posted by: Smarty at February 1, 2008 01:19 PM

Mine's an XD9-SC.

Reliable, and small enough to carry well-concealed anywhere.

I have a SIG226 in 40 that I bought first to carry, but just too uncomfortable and heavy - more likely to be left at home.

You won't be thinking about the pinky when it really counts, just glad you have SOMETHING that works.

Posted by: Dave thA at February 1, 2008 01:22 PM

Let me share a link with you and the other commenters here. You'll probably find a lot of good information in the archives but also the old timers there are very responsive and helpful.

The High Road Forum

Posted by: Texas Gal at February 1, 2008 01:32 PM

1. Carry what you shoot. Confuscious says, "Beware the man with only one gun", and "You won't rise to the occasion, you'll default to your level of training."
2. Start with a large caliber. Penetration and wound channel size are the only guarantors of incapacitation. Point repeated from above, bullets cannot be counted upon to expand. The .22 may work for the Mossad (in some purposes) but, somehow I can't believe theirs and yours will be the same.
3. Figure out how you're going to carry. If you're new to this, be expecting this to change as you gain experience (or weight). It won't be long before you've a drawer full of holsters that "don't fit quite right". Some of them will be spendy.
4. Utilize your spousal unit to help you with #3 above (a "borrowed one" may suffice if none are locally available). A mirror will simply not prove satisfactory. Not only will your fashion sense improve but she/he/it'll tell you when your favorite Mickey Mouse t-shirt is "printing".
5. Practice, practice, practice. There are LOTS of holes in the floorboards of police cruisers. Get the muscle memory right. First comes "right", then comes fast. On the note of fast, you can't miss fast enough to stay alive.
6. Think Strategically. Plan to be surprised. You will be the last one informed that services for a gunfight are about to be held. It will always be a "reaction drill". The bad guys already know what they're going to do, they think they know what you're going to do. You having a gun probably doesn't figure large in their mental rehearsal.

Posted by: Barney at February 1, 2008 01:37 PM

A commander size 1911 is not to bad to carry, but my favorite carry is a Browning Hi Power.
It's slender easy to carry, really pretty easy to hide.
I carry at least one everyday
& I'm 5'3" 130 lbs

I find XD's a bit thick, But with your size it shouldn't be a problem, but consider a std size. A lot of the Kahrs are built to carry & not to shoot.
I want more firepower than a wheelgun
The CZ is a good gun, but a bit odd, so mags are going to cost, holsters harder to find etc.

Posted by: The Duck at February 1, 2008 01:53 PM

I carry a diminutive .32 Walther PP. I figure three fast hits with a .32 are better than three in the weeds, and the .32 PP is the fastest thing I've ever shot to get back on target with. Even vastly heavier 9mm's like a 92F don't get back on track as fast as the PP.

And its not heavy -- which minimizes excuses for not taking it along.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at February 1, 2008 02:04 PM

A Glock in Kydex holster will carry ok. CTAC IWB holster works for me.

Posted by: Mike at February 1, 2008 02:34 PM

get something safer than a Glock but just as reliable. $400 is not enough to spend, try more like $800- 1000,for something with a non trigger safety. A single malfunction could end your life, so put lots of different types of ammo through whatever pistol you get,then shoot the one that fails the least , period. If the gun has persistant malfunctions, get rid of it even if you lose money.Only by practice will you find that hidden, fault in performance, either of your own or the gun's, so that it might be promptly corrected. Practice has to be more than an after thought, or you could be. Good luck

Posted by: mytralman at February 1, 2008 03:58 PM

CCW holder in Arizona and rabid CZ freak, so of course I recommend the Rami. You may also want to consider an even smaller gun for times when your primary is too big, even if it's a .32 or a .380: The first rule of a gunfight is always "Have a gun". I carry a .380 Kel-Tec P3AT in my front pocket when I can't carry a larger gun: It's small, light, and doesn't show at all in the front pocket of my khakis. ( is a great resource for looking at your options for pocket pistols.

Posted by: ExUrbanKevin at February 1, 2008 03:58 PM

I was in a gun shop and a local police officer came in with a Kahr that had misfired. Kahr wanted it back and promised to repair it within 2 days. I think bullet setback caused the problem because its the type of gun that get unloaded and loaded more than it is fired. He put the Kahr in my hand, the gun was smaller. He swore by that gun and was eager to get it fixed.

Posted by: NortonPete at February 1, 2008 04:18 PM

CCW in FL have carried Taurus PT145 for several years never had a problem. Over 1500 rounds.

Shoots a little low/left but easy to compensate gets decent groups for such a short barrel.

Just my .02

Posted by: Jack Sheet at February 1, 2008 04:38 PM

My buddy who carries in MA has a Sig.

Posted by: DirtCrashr at February 1, 2008 04:45 PM

First I really enjoy your blog, thanks.

I've carried a Taurus Millenium in 9mm for more than 5 years. I've put about 1000 rounds through it and, despite reading many criticisms of it, I've had no problems and been very happy with it. There had been a problem with the early versions in the way of cracked frames, but they seem to have resolved that long ago.

Mine is double action only resulting in a long trigger pull, so it can take some getting used to. However with practice I can keep all my shots in the black at 25'. I'm sure others can probably do better than that with them. It's certainly not a target pistol, but these small firearms are not meant to be. The long trigger pull may be a bit of extra insurance against accidental discharges but it also has a manual safety as well. Simple to field strip and clean also.

The newer Milleniums feature a double action/single action trigger now with the capability to pull the trigger a second time on a cartridge that fails to fire. I've thought about trading mine up to the newer version. I've seen prices anywhere from $300 to about $380 for them so it would be well within your budget. Pretty easy to carry in either a Fobus holster or a belly band. Use good quality ammo like Hydrashocks or similar and you should be in pretty good shape for self protection.

Hope this is of some help.

Posted by: fulano at February 1, 2008 04:54 PM

might wanna wait and see what happens on saturday... i hear that both sig and ruger have big announcements to make at the SHOT show

Posted by: chris at February 1, 2008 05:15 PM

Another NRA instructor here, and I have at least one tip that doesn't seem to have been covered.

If you're gripping the firearm properly, you really should only be squeezing the grip with the middle and ring fingers. If you're squeezing the pinky as well, you'll probably end up shooting low. If you just find it comforting to have that extra bit of grip length to hold on to, just get the compact. Grip length and gun width have much more impact on concealability than barrel length. All it takes to hide the barrel is an inside the waistband holster.

As much as people freak out about guns that don't have external safeties, you really don't have much to worry about. A quality holster for any of those guns will keep the trigger guard covered when the firearm is holstered. When it isn't holstered, you're supposed to keep your booger hook off the bang switch until you're ready to shoot anyway.

Also, if you want to get a .357 revolver, I would suggest you look at the TAURUS 651 or S&W 649 instead. Yes, they do have 2 fewer rounds. But the hammer on the 649 won't snag on anything if you draw from a pocket holster. Besides, if you need more than 5 rounds of .357 while you're out strolling around, you made a lot of bad judgment calls before the situation happened.

Finally, remember one thing. If you aren't willing to carry a semi-auto with a round in the chamber, you should probably just stick with a revolver. Most encounters happen close enough, and fast enough, that you are not likely to have the time to chamber a round when it starts.

Posted by: Laughingdog at February 1, 2008 05:16 PM

My primary/daily carry 'Roscoe' is a Browning Hi-Power SA.

For 'social occasions' on convoys I like my H&K MP-5K with Navy Lower, (single, three round, five round and FA) and for those up close and intimate moments, (like the time I was running low on ammo) a Berretta Cougar in .32 ACP.

The 'nightstand piece' for those unexpected and/or uninvited guests, I keep a US Government Issued 1911A1 as the .45 is one hell of a 'waker upper.'

Otherwise "The Mean Streets" of Baghdad have everything to offer, and any number of folks will give you their opinions. Best of Luck and congrats on the new toys.

Posted by: Big Country at February 1, 2008 05:20 PM

The best advice I can give is what I always say to people asking for "best carry gun" or "best nightstand gun" or "best target gun" or "best hunting gun," etc.

The best gun is the one you will practice with. That means the one that fits your hand, lines up with your eyes, and feels right when you shoot it.

Go to a range that has a lot of different guns for rent. Ask the rangemaster to let you handle as many as you like - see how they feel in your hand, see how naturally they point, see how the sights line up for you when you quickly raise into a shooting position. Select several that feel good and suit your specific need (in this case, compact carry). Then rent and shoot them all.

Buy the one you feel best shooting. That's what matters more than anything else. You want a gun that feels like an extension of your hand, and you want to practice with it often. If it feels unnatural in your hands, if it is uncomfortable to shoot, you won't practice - and when you need to use it, it's not going to flow smoothly from draw to aim to fire.

If the one you choose has more than one caliber, get the biggest one you are comfortable shooting. You don't need a super magnum. But if you test fire a 9mm and a .40 S&W and find you can handle the .40 just fine, get the .40. If you find that the bigger bullet is too much recoil to control when firing rapid shots, or the recoil is uncomfortable for a long practice session, don't buy it. A double tap to the chest and shot to the forehead will do the job whether you have a 9mm or a .44 magnum. If the gun that works for you is a .38 special, or a .380 ACP, that's still going to work just fine IF you practice and are able to function with it under duress. So get the biggest bang that functions well in your hands - but nothing more powerful than that.

Don't get hung up on semi-auto v revolver, or magazine capacity, or anything like that. There are pros and cons to every style. In the end, what will matter is: can you quickly and reliability get your handgun into action and - if necessary - fire three rounds that hit the target? If you need 17 rounds and spare magazines, you have already lost. You aren't walking into cartel headquarters with the SWAT team. If the gun that works for you happens to have high cap magazines, that's nice and all. But a 5 shot snub nose revolver is better IF you are far more likely to actually be able to engage your assailant with it. You aren't going to know until you go to the range and test fire a few models.

The best handgun for natural shooting I ever used was a full frame S&W 27 6" .357 magnum revolver. Six shots. No high cap magazines. But it just happened to fit me well, and the sights on it lined up for me quickly. I could draw, aim, and fire all 6 shots into a small group about as fast as you can empty the mag in a typical 15 shot 9mm. Guess what my favorite bedstand gun is? But that's me. My friend Brian has a 10mm Glock that, for him, is a natural. He could shoot skeet with that thing - but I tried it once and couldn't hit squat. Too fat for my hands. I felt clumsy and out of control. It may be incredibly accurate, may have 15 rounds and easy-change mags, and a big, powerful round. But no way would I ever want to use it for defense.

So just go shoot some different guns and buy what works for you. If you try a bunch and none feel right, try some more. Forget about what anyone else tries to tell about a certain model being the "right" model. The right model is the one you will shoot.

Posted by: Gullyborg at February 1, 2008 05:56 PM

I say go with the XD 9mm. I own and carry (when not at work) a full sized XD9. It's accurate, has good safety features, is extremely reliable and fits my hand perfectly.

Posted by: Mark at February 1, 2008 06:39 PM

I owned the Springfield and loved it. I do recommend the extended mag for someone with large hands (and because it, uh, holds more rounds), but it's actually not that hard to adjust to with the standard mag.

Posted by: pgepps at February 1, 2008 06:57 PM

The preceding comments make good points about specific handguns and types of handguns.

As a forensic anthropologist, I have worked with both the quick and the dead for over 40 years. Let me add some rules of thumb that many quick shooters use to narrow their search for an excellent carry weapon.

1. Choose a handgun that goes from safe to fire mode with just the pull of the trigger. Examples include the Glock and revolvers. Avoid an external safety.

2. Choose a handgun without an external hammer. Examples include Glocks and S&W "Centennial" frames with fully enclosed hammer.

3. Choose a caliber that allows you to have best control for a second shot. For example, when comparing the .45ACP to the .40S&W, the .45 recoils with a “shove,” while the .40 recoils with a “slap.” Most can get back on target much faster with the .45. In similar fashion, the .38 Special allows one a more accurate second shot than the .357 Mangum for the same reason.

4. Invest in a trigger job to bring the firearm to factory specification with a smooth, repeatable action.

5. Get either stainless steel or a modern coated finish. Bodies are humid environments that destroy traditional blued finishes.

6. Get a high quality holster and belt that holds the handgun in the same position day to day. Practice a smooth and repeatable draw from many positions.

7. Enroll in a weeklong course, or several weekend courses, that train you to evaluate threat and quickly respond. The training can remove several seconds of the analysis paralysis that comes from knowing “how,” but not knowing “when.”

8. Buy your ammo in lots of 1,000 rounds and practice a lot.

Posted by: Martin at February 1, 2008 09:12 PM

I've been privileged to have the CC permit in Tennessee for 6 years. Personally, I use the Springfield Compact in .45 ACP. A lot of times, I get by with 'mexican carry', stuck in my belt sans holster. Especially in cool weather. In the summer, I carry a smaller Beretta.

But don't spend a lot of cash on a nice, pretty new gun for your carry piece. If you have to use it, you will probably lose it for a period of time, and if you are challenged in court, then you won't see if come home for a very long time, if ever. Here's a way to get a good carry piece, cheap, with a little work... »«

You'll find out in class that every round you fire during 'circumstances' comes with a lawyer attached; you'll find that your homeowner's insurance policy won't cover your liability when you are sued afterwards; and you will learn that spraying bullets never works out well for you. Use a fat, slow bullet that won't tend to ricochet around and cause unwanted damage, a hollow-point or even the Accutec frangible bullets.

Keep those opposing lawyers out of work.

Posted by: serr8d at February 1, 2008 09:13 PM

Gunblast has some good articles on ccw and reviews on guns in general. I just read this article on the 38 for concealed carry last night:

Another good article

I have two guns for carry that I switch between.

S&W 6904 9MM Compact 12rd clip (Bought when I turned 21 right before the ban began).

S&W 642-2 .38+P Airweight with Crimson Trace Grips.

Posted by: gummy at February 1, 2008 09:57 PM

I carry a Colt model 90 defender 45 ACP it has a three inch barrel and is fairly accurate out to 15 yards, I use Federal Hydra shock 180 grain hollow points. I have a Pager Pal holster I use and it is the most comfortable one I own. I bought it at a gun show for $300 oh and it brushed stainless steel, as one commenter said I would not go with anything smaller than a .40 cal, 9mm really don't have the knock down power ask any soldier who has had to use one in Iraq 9mil frankly sucks.

Posted by: Oldcrow at February 1, 2008 10:51 PM

There are a great many worthwhile handguns on the market, however, I'll recommend what I've carried, happily, for many years: The Glock 26 in 9mm. Your concern about "pinky dangle" can be easily addressed with about $10.00 for a Pearce Grip magazine extention. This provides purchase for the little finger, and only slightly increases the overall size of the grip. You merely remove the floorplate of a magazine and replace it with the extention, which is a 30 second job. I've recently equipped the gun with a Crimson Trace Laser sight which takes minutes to install and is very neat indeed.

Why Glock? They are utterly reliable right out of the box and need no alteration whatever. As several other correspondants have noted, they are ubiquitous, so holsters and accessories are cheap and plentiful. They're not pretty, but they work every time and are virtually impervious to damage.

When one is discussing ammunition choice, keep in mind that if "knockdown power" (there is no such thing absent cannon rounds) was our primary concern, we surely would't be carrying handguns. But practical concerns dictate handguns, and once you've reached a given minimum power level--9mm--you're just discussing slightly more or less powerful underpowered ammunition. No rational person should knowingly go into a gunfight armed with only a handgun.

Shot placement and skill count a great deal more than power in virtually every case in which we might need a handgun. And while I've carried and fired weapons in every common handgun caliber, I'm comfortable with my 26 and two spare magazines which, with the round in the chamber, provide 31 rounds. It's much cheaper to shoot 9mm than most .40 or .45 rounds as well.

Good luck and welcome to the ranks of those who assume the responsibility for their own welfare that has always been their right and duty.

Posted by: Mike at February 2, 2008 01:31 AM

Don't bother with a .357 snubbie.

Out of a 2-1/4 barrel no cartridge I tried would exceed a velocity of 1100 fps no matter how light the bullet was. Therefore maximum energy was delivered by the heavier bulleted loads, topping out at about 400 fpe with a 158 grain bullet. But considering the heavy recoil and enormous muzzle blast from my 24 ounch small frame Taurus, it wasn't worth it.

If you decide to go with a short barreled revolver choose a .44 special instead of a .357 magnum.

Posted by: Brad at February 2, 2008 03:01 AM

I'm a great believer in the admonition that any personal defense cartridge should start with a "4," an NC CCW permit holder, and a fan of John Browning and the M1911.

If you like the 1911 there are any number of compact models by Springfield, Para, Kimber, etc. They're worth looking into but there have been some reliability problems. I have a stainless Para Carry DAO, which is compact but a bit heavy.

After a lot of experimentation I've settled on a Glock 36 "Slimline." Unlike other Glocks it's a single stack 6+1, but you can add a mag extension for another round and pinkie rest. It's light, dead reliable, and shoots straight.

Posted by: Fred Ray at February 2, 2008 11:49 AM

I've really come to appreciate a very small and light S&W 638. I like the shrouded hammer. If 5 +P .38s with five more on a Bianchi speed strip isn't enough firepower for you, you really need to be packing a duty sized weapon.

The larger pistols I own have a tendancy to stay in the car or the nightstand.

Posted by: Reno_Sepulveda at February 2, 2008 11:51 AM

Check out the Stoeger Cougar 8000 9mm semi-auto, this is my carry.

Posted by: bludvl at February 2, 2008 12:09 PM

The Kahr PM9 is a great little carry weapon, it is the one I carry most of the time because there are holsters for it that you can easily conceal in your blue jeans.

If you want something a little bigger, my backup is a Sig Sauer P239. I LOVE MY SIG. Let me say that again: I LOVE MY SIG. It is the weapon I qualified with and I can't say enough good things about it. But the Kahr is more practical for concealment in most cases.

You can carry EITHER anywhere, any time if you use the Smart Carry Holster from Largo Florida. Charlie (the owner) can hook you up. If you use Smart Carry you can even carry your .45. The great thing about Smart Carry is you can even wear under gym clothes when working out.

Good luck on your licensing process.

Posted by: DiscerningTexan at February 2, 2008 12:33 PM

Kahr P45 in a Galco D719H. Deep concealment, reasonably quick access from "appendix carry" position, surprisingly accurate and very manageable. A hundred rounds of 230gr FMJ is a comfortable shooting session.

Posted by: Jimmy don\'t play that at February 2, 2008 03:36 PM

I'd look hard at the new Walther PPS in 9mm; the Kahr's are a little tiny and do wear out, the XD's a little bulky for true CCW. If you don't mind bulk and like the 1911 form factor, the S & W Scandium-framed 1911's are a treat.

Just my $0.02


Posted by: Armed Liberal at February 2, 2008 06:15 PM

Have you considered the Ruger P345?

It should fit your size, caliber, and price criteria.

Since you are fond of the 1911, another possibility is to find a used Colt Commander.

The Colt Commander has an aluminum frame and a slighter shorter barrel and slide than a standard 1911, weight is 27 ounces.

Posted by: Brad at February 2, 2008 10:16 PM

If you like the Kahr CW series, but want a more durable pistol, consider the Kahr K-40. It's an all-stainless-steel pistol, only slightly bigger than a Walther PPK/S, and it chambers the .40 S&W. Firing it feels like firing a double-action revolver double action, but the trigger pull is much lighter. It has a tritium front sight, and it feels good in my average-size hand. All three fingers are accounted for. Most important, it's easy to hit with. There are several good holsters that are made for it. Mine came with a weak recoil spring. The empties hit me in the forehead, and sometimes the slide wouldn't go back into battery. Those problems went away when I installed a Wolff spring. I've never heard of that happening to anyone else, and it's an easy fix.

Posted by: David at February 2, 2008 10:23 PM

I have an xd sub in .40. it is a VERY peppy gun, I generally will only shoot a box or less of ammo in a single session. as for the pinky, you get used to it. it is a bit heavy and thick so I have considered a Kahr, but waiting on finances to improve first. But I never feel under armed while carrying it.

Posted by: Martini at February 3, 2008 02:40 AM

I would go with the Charter Arms Bulldog.

.44 Special is a great cartridge. Faster into action than nearly anything else, without the risk of "Glocking" your leg.

Only thing that could be better is the .45ACP revolver sold by Smith and Wesson, but dragging around the moon clips is less convenient than a flat pack of .44 Special.

Posted by: Don Meaker at February 3, 2008 07:12 PM

The light trigger and lack of a manual safety makes me very very nervous about carrying a loaded Glock concealed. Accidental discharges happen too often even with police Glocks from open carry on belt-holsters.

One option though is carry with an empty chamber making an AD impossible. At least the Glock design makes it one of the easiest pistols to chamber a cartridge because of the low spring forces and uncluttered slide.

One other advantage of the Glock is very effective factory barrel porting. My .40 caliber 23C has remarkably lower felt recoil and reduced muzzle flip compared to a standard Model 23. A friend of mine whose favorite pistol is the P-35 Browning Hi-Power in 9mm even claims the 23C is more controllable than his pet pistol. Not bad for a 19 ounce, 13 shot pistol of .40 caliber.

Posted by: Brad at February 4, 2008 04:40 AM

I have many handguns, autos and revolvers - some for fun, some for competition, and some for carry.

I recently bought the XD subcompact 9mm and like it, especially for the grip safety feature (versus the Glock w/o). It conceals well for me, especially during these colder months. I'm not sure I gained a lot by going with the sub-compact, however, as I bought the XD Compact in .45acp - and didn't find much difference between the two for CCW.

The Sig P-239 (.357 sig is what I have) and is another favorite of mine. I also have the Colt Commander LW that has had extensive/expensive gunsmithing. Great to shoot but don't carry it anymore.

Summer time, I often carry a Colt Cobra revolver in .38spl. It is the alloy version of the Detective Special and conceals well with an inside the pocket holster.

As others have said, don't skimp on the holster.

Posted by: Jim at February 4, 2008 11:58 AM

As a plebe at the Naval Academy, USMC instructors taught me to shoot a handgun, an issue Model 1911. That skill didn't come easy for me. Shooting is a combination of good technique and lots of practice.

For concealed carry noise is good. The .45 ACP is loud and the muzzle blast, impressive. If you miss your target, he may reconsider his aggressive behavior after the round is fired. The situation violent criminals fear most is the armed victim. Often, just the sound of chambering a round is enough to send your attacker running. I had two Browning Hi-Powers in 9 mm and found knockdown power lacking. To compensate, use a combination of ball and hollow points. Load hollow points as 1, 3 & 5 rounds alternating with ball. As an above commenter advised, fire 2 rounds, move then 2 more, move and so on. By the time you get to round 7, your target will be down, gone or behind something, hence the ball rounds. Frankly, I'm back to the Model 1911.

As your CCP instructors will undoubtedly tell you, if you are stopped by police and have a weapon, keep your hands in view and let the officer know that you have a permit and you are armed. He'll ask you to use your left hand and put the pistol on the vehicle roof before showing him your permit. Police are justifiably nervous in these situations, so avoid sudden motions such as leaning over to open a glove box without being told to do so.

High quality machines properly maintained, last a long time and may even appreciate in value. Think of your weapon as an investment. Evaluate its cost over 40 years. Over four decades, $1,500 is only $37.50 per year. In 1964, my Browning Hi-Power cost me $88 new. A replacement today costs ten times that amount. (The .45 belonged to my wife's grandfather, who had it issued to him in the First World War.) Don't let a few hundred dollars keep you from getting the best machine for you.

Posted by: arch at February 4, 2008 12:02 PM

I had a Glock 27 in .40 and then a Walther P99 in .40 that I used for CCW. I have since switched over to a Glock 30 in .45 caliber. I am much happier.

Limited to the selection you posted, I would recommend the XD, preferably in .45 (mainly because I own an XD and I like the trigger). Otherwise, I would try and pick up a used Glock 30 or 36, depending on which feels the most comfortable to you.

Posted by: Darkmage at February 4, 2008 04:00 PM

If you missed the Super Bowl, you missed a heckuva game. The only thing that got destroyed was Belichick's mantle of invincibility. Props to the NY Giants for proving you and all the prognosticators wrong.

Posted by: Doc99 at February 5, 2008 09:30 AM

I just got back from the SHOT show, so pardon the late response.

Martin the forensic anthropologist is just about exactly right. If you remember my background from the Steyr M threads, I've been using guns professionally for long enough, and seen enough people shot to back up his analysis.

From your choices the XD and the RAMI are both excellent. I saw polymer framed RAMI's in Las Vegas this weekend with magazines extended enough for full grip if that is still really important to you. With modern defensive ammo, the target can't tell the difference between 9, 40 or 45, so I recommend sticking with 9mm. You can carry more in the same sized envelope and practice more with cheaper ammo.

Since I am local to you, and belong to a great shooting club, feel free to email me if you would like to get some hints how these things are actually used. It may help you decide what would work well for you before you buy the wrong one.

Posted by: karlj at February 5, 2008 07:39 PM