Military and Police

A Cop’s Perspective on The Top Ten Concealed Carry Firearms

By Chris Wagoner:

When asked what I thought were the top ten concealed carry firearms, I thought about it and realized that you really couldn’t pick ten guns to be “the” guns. Each person is different, and has current styles and needs based on life factors that will help decide what gun is best for them. There are a few things people need to consider before they go out and buy a firearm for a concealed carry weapon. You have to consider your size (not the firearm, but your physical size), your experience with firearms, your lifestyle, and your clothing choices.

If you are really considering carrying a firearm for self defense, or one for your home or vehicle, you need to do a few things first. You need to learn your state’s laws on self defense, home defense, and defense in your vehicle. You need to learn to shoot and become proficient in the use of your firearm. You have to know you can use it while under stress, and once you can do that, you should not stop learning and training with it; your life may depend on it. Find a local firearms trainer and a local gun shop. Try out a few different firearms and different calibers. Find one you like, that you can shoot well, and that you will actually carry.

After you do all of this, what happens? You will follow your state’s laws on carrying or getting a permit to carry. When you carry for the first time, what will you think or feel? For starters, you will have a sense of security and a feeling of safety. Being able to defend yourself and your family against violent criminals is something that strikes at the core of most of us. Don’t be that person that has to watch as one of your family members is hurt or — God forbid — killed because you were to afraid to learn and try.

Before picking a firearm, learn the basics, starting with the safety rules. As I mentioned in one of my recent pieces, these are easy to remember:

  1. Treat all firearms as if they are loaded, regardless of whether they are or not!
  2. Never point a firearm at anything unless you are willing to kill or destroy it!
  3. Always identify your target and what is beyond it!
  4. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are on target and ready to shoot!

If you learn those first and follow them every time, when you handle a firearm you will never have an unintentional discharge or risk harming the wrong person. Once the safety rules are ingrained, you should attend a class to help you become competent in the handling of a firearm. This needs to be much more than a one hour class at a gun show. Those classes scare me; all they do is turn out people who know just enough to be dangerous with their firearms, but that is a separate story.

Once you have learned safety, the basics of shooting, and how firearms function, it is time to move on to owning and carrying firearms. One of the first decisions you will face as a new firearm owner is which caliber you need to stop an attacker. The answers to that question vary, unfortunately, as much as the number of calibers out there. I could write several articles on what bullets do to the human body when they strike different areas, or what they are supposed to do. But with just a bit of research, you will find that caliber is not as important as some of the other factors that come into play when choosing a gun for concealed carry.

So, which caliber should you look at when shopping? The short answer: one that you are comfortable handling and that can shoot well. The recoil of the larger calibers is something you should consider. Also, realize that shooting a larger caliber handgun takes practice. This is something that we tend not to do enough, so that .357 magnum revolver or that 1911 .45 may or may not be a good choice for you.

Remember what the entire reason is for carrying a concealed firearm– to protect yourself and your family from attack. This means you need to be able to hit and stop an attacker. If you can’t hit what you are shooting at, it doesn’t matter what caliber you have. Good calibers to start out with and try out for recoil control and quick follow-up shots are .38, .380, 9mm, and .40 caliber. If you go smaller than that, you tend to have a less effective (although this is where shot placement comes in) round, and you sacrifice control if you go bigger, unless you are a very well-trained and seasoned shooter.

The secret to picking a great concealed carry firearm is one you train with, one you know how to handle, shoot, and clean. You must train with your carry firearm to be able to use it in a stressful life and death situation. You do not need to have the same firearm for concealed carry, however, as for home defense and car carry. I have several firearms: one specifically for home defense, one for concealed carry, and one for my vehicle. They all serve a purpose, and I have trained with and am comfortable working with each one.

It is also important to consider a person‘s size, because it has a lot to do with what they can and cannot carry comfortably. For example, a big person can conceal better than a thinner person, for obvious reasons. You need to think about your ability to actually conceal the gun in order to conceal carry.

So, what type of firearm should you buy? There are so many out there to look at, and they all have their advantages and disadvantages. Do you go revolver, or semi-automatic? Do you go high capacity, or sacrifice capacity for concealability?

Revolvers have been around a very long time. They have evolved very little, but are fantastic firearms and great for defensive carry. Revolvers are some of the very best and easiest-to-shoot firearms in the world. They are also less likely to have malfunctions caused by shooter error or ammunition issues.

The differences between a revolver and a semi automatic is, of course, capacity (number of rounds you have) and trigger style. A revolver’s trigger is generally a much heavier and longer pull. This means it takes a better control of the firearm itself. Being able to hold it steady and on target during that long, drawn-out trigger pull is somewhat hard for some shooters. Remember that we are talking about a gun for defensive carry to be used in situations that will be stressful and life threatening at best. At worst, you will be injured and forced to defend yourself from further injury.

The mechanics of a revolver should be taken into consideration also– hammer or hammerless? 5 or 6 shot? Revolvers also come in a wide range of sizes, from the diminutive American Arms 22 caliber revolver (which some people carry) to huge hand cannons used for big game.

Semi-automatics also come is a number of types and sizes. From a tiny .25 auto to the full sized .45 and even  .50 cal AE Desert Eagle. Of course, you want something that you are comfortable carrying (or you will not carry it when you need it) and you have to be able to accurately shoot it and handle it.

I personally grew up shooting .45 semi-automatics as a recruit in the police academy until today. I carry a Glock Model 30 .45 semi-automatic myself as my concealed carry firearm. I love the .45 round, and I like having 13 of them if needed. Add an extra magazine and you have 27 rounds, which should be plenty in most situations. If you are not comfortable shooting a .45, there is nothing wrong with .40, 10mm, 9mm, .380 and other calibers that will, when shot correctly and accurately, do the job of stopping a threat. What you shoot is up to you. There are too many factors involved that are based on personal preference to really narrow it down to the ten “top” firearms.

For those that need some guidance, I will give you some help. Look at these firearms as a starting place, since they are tried and true concealed carry firearms.

Glock Model 43

Rock Island Armory “Baby Rock”

Walther PPS M2

Glock Model 19

Ruger LCP

Ruger LC9s

SIG Sauer 320C

Smith & Wesson M&P

Springfiled XD’s

Glock Model 30

That’s just a few, and by no means the only ones you should look at. Ask your friends that you know carry, ask your gun shop staff, ask your instructor, and then decide. Do not let others tell you what is right for you. You will know it when you shoot it and carry it. The most important thing you should get out of all of this is that no one make or model handgun is the only one to carry, but regardless of what you decide, you cannot defend yourself against an armed or violent attacker without one, so just PICK ONE!

Chris Wagoner is a Senior OpsLens Contributor and U.S. Army Veteran. He has been in law enforcement the last 35+ years. He specializes in LE Firearms Instruction, and is in charge of a large Police Academy in North Florida. In his spare time Chris is a freelance Military Reporter and owner/founder of the Largest Military Videos Channel on YouTube “3rdID8487”.

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Chris Wagoner

Chris Wagoner is a U.S. Army Veteran and has been in law enforcement the last 35+ years. He specializes in LE Firearms Instruction, and is in charge of a large Police Academy in North Florida. In his spare time Chris is a freelance writer and posts his articles on "Down Range with Chris Wagoner".

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