Top 10 Concealed Carry Handguns
Concealed Handgun & Concealed Carry Lifestyle
The concealed carry lifestyle is becoming more popular. This lens is an introduction to some of the best concealed carry handguns and is geared towards first time gun owners. In the review of each gun, you will find information about the factors you should consider in purchasing your first concealable firearm. You should be asking yourself how much you are going to pay for a handgun. Which manufacturer (Glock, Smith & Wesson, Springfield Armory, Colt, Ruger, Taurus, etc.) do you want to purchase your handgun from? What bullet caliber should you employ (9mm, .380 acp, .45 acp, .38, .357 Magnum, .22)? How many bullets should your pistol hold (15, 11, 8, 6)? Do you want to carry a pistol or a revolver? Should you consider carrying a primary and a backup gun? What concealed carry holster is right for you? What accessories do you want to purchase after you buy your firearm?
All of these questions should be on your mind when you are thinking of purchasing your first concealed carry handgun. All of these questions will be answered on this lens to allow you to make an informed decision.
Here's my personal story. When I was looking to purchase my first concealed handgun I had so many questions and nobody to answer them. I wanted to purchase a good gun, but I didn't want to buy a $1,000 firearm for my first handgun ever. I didn't even know how to shoot a gun, so it seemed foolish to purchase a $1,000 .45 Automatic as my first gun ever. I'm not (or wasn't at the time) a gun freak, so I didn't run in those circles and there really wasn't anyone for me to ask, "Hey what concealed handgun should I buy?"
I ended up asking some of my close friends which gun they thought I should buy. All of them had a different answer and none of them had any common sense behind those answers. As an engineer, I need stuff to make sense. So I did what any great engineer would do...I became a gun freak. I studied all the magazines, I visited all the blogs and websites. I paid a few thousand dollars to train with some U.S. Army Special Forces types and some U.S. Marine pistol shooting instructors, I developed a callus on my trigger finger. And along the way, I learned what the best concealed handgun was (for me) and I learned a ton about the proper way to shoot a firearm.
Now I'm going to share that information with you (for free) because I don't want you to make the same mistakes I did.
How Much Should Your First Concealed Handgun Cost?
Quality first, price second.
Price: You want to spend a minimum of $400 - $500. If you are going to trust your life to this firearm, then this is the price point you need to start at. There is where life-dependable guns have their price entry point. You should be looking at guns like the Glock 19, Springfield Armory XD, and Smith & Wesson M&P Shield. Each of those weapons are well known for their quality and reliability. And you will not even touch those guns until $400.
Don't trust your life to a $200 or $300 gun you found at the local pawn shop. This is not a time when you want to skimp on price.
You need to take the purchase of this firearm seriously. Ask yourself why you are actually buying it. The answer to that question has to be that you believe you may have to use it to save your life one day. In that case, you are going to have to pay for quality and dependability.
Should Your Concealed Carry Gun be a Pistol or a Revolver?
semi-auto vs. wheel gun
Revolvers have a reputation for being reliable. Ask someone what they think about revolvers and they say, "Revolvers are reliable." It's true, revolvers are reliable. There just isn't a whole lot to go wrong when you pull the trigger. Reliability needs to be your first concern when choosing a firearm. The thing that I don't like about revolvers is bullet capacity. Most revolvers that you can comfortably conceal (and believe me if you are going to wear this gun for any length of time comfort and conceal-ability are huge concerns) only carry about 5 or 6 bullets. Smith & Wesson makes a 7 round .357 Magnum and Taurus makes an 8 round .357 Magnum. These guns are great "home defense" pistols, but I would never conceal carry them. They are just too bulky. You could never hide these guns under anything less than a large bulky winter coat. It's almost never that hot down here in Texas. Maybe after you have experience with a concealed carry gun you will want to eventually move to the large 8 round .357 Magnum, but definitely not for your first concealed carry gun.
Semi-automatic pistols just make better concealed carry handguns. Let's get reliability out of the way. If you are spending a minimum of $400 or $500 on a semi-automatic pistol you're going to be purchasing a semi-automatic that is just as reliable as any revolver on the market. If your buying a Glock, Smith & Wesson, Ruger, Springfield Armory, Colt, Baretta in this price range, then you are getting quality. You are getting a gun that fires when you pull the trigger. That's the kind of reliability you need to be looking for. If you purchase a $300 Taurus as your first concealed handgun...maybe you are sacrificing quality for price. Not a good idea.
I have a Glock 19. I paid $530 for it. It's a semi-automatic pistol and IT JUST WORKS. I have no reliability concerns with it. I pull the trigger and it fires...every time. But, and this is a BIG but, my Glock 19 carries 15 in the magazine and 1 in the chamber. That's 16 rounds of happiness. That's twice as much as the largest revolver you could possibly conceal in a large bulky winter coat. That's where semi-automatic pistols really shine compared to revolvers. Don't forget that I could easily wear a magazine pouch and conceal two 15 round magazines on my person for easy combat magazine change and 30 more rounds should the need arise (can you say active shooter...it happens).
The only place where a revolver can possibly outshine a semi-automatic for concealed carry is reliability, and if you stick to my minimum price point of $400 to $500, you will not have to worry about that.
Concealed Carry Books - Knowledge Is Power
Best Concealed Carry Pistol List
opinions may vary
1) Glock 19
2) Glock 26
3) Smith & Wesson M&P Shield
4) Springfield Armory XDM 9mm
5) Sig Sauer P290
6) Glock 27
7) Glock 30S
8) Smith & Wesson Model 442 .38 Special +p
9) Kahr PM9
10) Ruger LC9
These are all great guns and it's difficult to really rank them. Ultimately it just comes down to personal preference and what you feel comfortable and safe carrying on a daily basis.
El Numero Uno | Glock 19
The only 9mm you will ever need.
The Glock 19 is really the gold standard by which all other concealed carry pistols are judged. It's kind of like the Porshe 911 of concealed handguns. Admittedly, there are some exotic sports cars that perform better than the Porsche 911, but the 911 is the standard by which all others are judged. Likewise, there are some (not many) handguns out there that are better for concealed carry than the Glock 19, but the Glock 19 is the standard by which all others are judged.
The G19 carries 16 rounds. That is about as many rounds as you will find in any concealed carry gun. Any more than that and you are getting out of the world of "comfortable" concealed handguns. Plus, these rounds are 9mm. Sure you could find a similar size gun that carries more bullets, but they will be in a smaller caliber than 9mm, and it's generally thought that 9mm is the smallest caliber you should carry in a defensive pistol. The G19 is not tiny by any means, but it is just small enough to conceal comfortably. Glock is legendary for its reliability and is used in many Army and Marin Corp units on the field of battle.
Zombie Apocalypse Glock 19 - better safe than sorry
Here is a Generation 3 Glock 19 with the Flat Dark Earth color scheme.
Probably the real winner
What could be better than a Glock 19 for concealed carry? I think that the only thing that would make my Glock 19 better is if it were smaller. Well, that's what the Glock 26 is...a smaller Glock 19. I hate to admit it, but I actually like the Glock 26 for concealed carry better than the Glock 19. The 26 has everything you like in a Glock 19 (extreme reliability, accuracy, high round capacity, 9mm ammo, affordability) AND it easier to conceal and much more comfortable to wear.
I own both guns, the 19 and the 26, but I wear the 26 every day and almost never use the 19 anymore. I can only find two things about the Glock that I'm not really in love with. First, the grip is small and it can be awkward to shoot if you have large hands. I have medium size hands and it probably took me about 2 minutes to become accustomed to the smaller grip. You have to remember that the reason this gun is so easy to conceal and so comfortable to wear is that it is just a smaller gun. This gun is truly a subcompact 9mm. And there is no other subcompact 9mm on the market that carries 11 rounds of 9mm ammo. You will not find any other 9mm handgun that is this small, this reliable, this easy to conceal, and carries 11 bullets. That's why this gun is one of the best concealed carry guns on the market, and it is very affordable!
The only other complaint I have about the Glock 26 is that it only carries 11 bullets. For a long time I was used to carrying around 16 bullets with my Glock 19. But...the Glock 19 magazines and the Glock 26 magazines are interchangeable and you can easily load it with a 15 round G19 magazine and have 15 in the magazine a plus one in the chamber.
I still can't believe I ranked this gun number two. It's easily number one.
The "Real" Number One - The Glock 26
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield
If they are out of Glocks, go with S&W
I love the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm almost as much as the Glocks. This gun is just as reliable as the Glock and whether you prefer the Glock or S&W is really just a matter of personal preference. I would feel comfortable with either gun. The thing I don't like about the M&P is that it only carries 8 or 9 rounds (depending on which magazine you use). I'm one of those guys who likes to carry double digit ammo (10 or more).
However, I have to admit that the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield is lighter, smaller, and more comfortable to conceal that either the Glock 26 or Glock 19. And to top it all off it's also more affordable than the Glock by almost $100.
I always tell people that if you are a first time gun owner and you can't really decide what to buy, that you cannot go wrong buying a Glock 19. I still believe that the Glock 19 is the best concealed carry gun for first time gun owners. But, and this is a big but, if you already know guns and are familiar with shooting, then I think the S&W M&P 9mm is just as good as any Glock (except I like to have at least 10 rounds at my disposal when trouble strikes).
Smith & Wesson Pocket Rocket - M&P Shield 9mm
The Best of the Rest
4) Springfield Armory XDM 9mm
I like this gun because it's trigger mechanism is very similar to the Glock trigger. Both have a very crisp trigger that includes a trigger safety to prevent inadvertent firing. This is very important, especially on guns with no manual safety. This gun is very reliable and I like that it is much more affordable than a Glock. It's about the same price as the M&P Shield.
5) Sig Sauer P290
The good thing about this gun is that it is about the same size as the Glock 26 and it is reliable enough for the Navy SEALs to use in combat. However, it only carries 6 rounds of ammo and it relatively heavy compared to other guns of it's size. Additionally, this gun is hammer fired. I don't like hammered fired automatics because I like to carry a round in the chamber when I conceal carry. With hammer fired weapons, the only way to carry with a round in the chamber is to have the hammer cocked back and I just don't feel safe doing this. The Sig scores high for its reliability, but loses points on ammo capacity and on being a hammer fired weapon.
6) Glock 27
My favorite caliber for concealed carry is 9mm. The bullets are smaller, which means you can carry more of them for less weight. Weight is very important with concealed carry. The Glock 27 is chambered in .40 caliber, which is a slightly bigger round than the 9mm. I like having the larger round, but I don't like that you get fewer of them in a heavier gun. If you put the Glock 26 and the Glock 27 side by side, they look like twins and you really can't tell them apart. But I know that the Glock 26, chambered in 9mm is lighter and carries more rounds.
7) Glock 30S
The "S" stands for "slim," and the Glock 30S is a slim gun chambered in .45 ACP, which is probably the largest handgun caliber that you can comfortably carry concealed on your person. The 30S is about the same size as the Glock 26, but it fires the larger .45 ACP round and it holds 11 rounds just like the 26. The only drawback to this gun is that it is much heavier when loaded with 11 rounds of .45 ACP.
8) Smith & Wesson Model 442
This is a J-Frame snub nose that is chambered in .38 +p. The gun is tiny and easily conceals. The .38 special +p rounds are just as powerful as 9mm rounds. This gun has no hammer to get snagged on clothes when drawing from a concealed holster. Because it has no hammer, the gun is double action only, meaning it will have a heavier trigger pull because the trigger pull has to both fire the gun and rotate the chamber. This gun is great, IF you don't mind only having 5 bullets when things go bad. I also want to caution you that this is not a good gun for beginners. This gun bucks when shooting the .38 +p rounds and may intimidate first time shooters. This gun recoils and it's hard to shoot targets at any distance. The gun is designed for up close encounters where you really don't have to aim much.
9) Kahr PM9
The Kahr PM9 is smaller than the Glock 26 and easier to conceal but it carries less rounds. If you can live with that, then this is an excellent gun for you. I like that it shoots 9mm and it fits my hand very well. I love the grips on this gun, but what I love the most is that it is small enough to conceal when I have to tuck my shirt in at the office. One drawback is that it takes a good amount of force to rack the slide back. It's not impossible, just a little harder than racking the slide back on most semi-autos, which is why I score it low for "first time" gun owners. Then gun only carries 7 rounds so aim carefully.
10) The Ruger LC9
This is a great gun for concealed carry. It shoots 9mm and is very light. You could actually conceal this one in a pocket holster and I recommend the Desantis Nemesis pocket holster. You can find this gun for about $400 and it carries 8 rounds of ammo. I feel like it has a long trigger pull and I'm accustomed to the short Glock stroke so I have placed it low on this list. Early production models had some reliability issues but I believe Ruger has fixed all problems and this now makes a great gun.
This is an extremely small gun and is easy to conceal.
Resources and Extra Information - time to dig a little deeper
Here are some of the best resources to learn more about the concealed carry lifestyle.
- best concealed carry gun
The Number One Resources for Your Concealed Carry Needs.