When two people mention something that makes you stop and think about the same topic, it’s coincidence. When three people do it, it’s a trend. Four people? Call it “karma,” call it “kismet,” call it “I’m looking for a story idea” – call it anything you like but it seems like a topic waiting for a post. So here it is. Several people have waxed rhapsodic on these very TTAG pages recently on the subject of getting the “right” gun for the job. Point well taken. You wouldn’t use a bazooka (or a 1911, for that matter) to swat at flies. You wouldn’t want to bring a BB gun to a shootout. And you probably have no idea WHAT to use – or buy – if you’re a newbie. Like I was. And I have a confession to make. I bought the wrong gun.

While it pains me (about a Franklin and nine of his closest pals pain, if you must know) to admit this, I bought the wrong gun for the job I had in mind – namely, concealed carry. But I think what’s more important for the sake of this discussion is the why as to my selection of firearms, and how you might be able to avoid the same mistake.

When I first considered going for my concealed carry license, I had one gun in mind – a 1911. In fairness, I had a lot of people tell me that the 1911 is the ne plus ultra of semi-automatics, the perfect gun, as it were.

Wouldn’t of mattered. I was already smitten with the 1911, way before that. To me, there is a romance about the 1911 to which Glocks and other so-called “plastic guns” need not apply. A Glock (or XD, or other plastic-framed weapon) is utilitarian, practical and efficient, but butt-ugly. And I don’t mean “gun butt” either.

A Glock is not the kind of gun you put in a glass case. It’s almost freakishly suited to task. And did I mention “butt-ugly”? By comparison, a 1911 – really ANY 1911, is a shining example of the pistolmakers’ art. Elegant. Balanced. Beautiful. Not to mention deadly. Then there’s the connection with WWII, and the 1911’s history as the go-to sidearm for a couple of generations’-worth of servicemen.

When I first started shooting, I wanted to wait to buy a gun until after I knew what I was doing at the range. Good idea. But I already knew I’d be buying a 1911. So most of what the instructor said about gun choices went in one ear and out the other.

I started shooting with a .22LR target pistol, because the instructor said its reduced recoil would allow me to concentrate on placing my shots better. (“Fine…this guy must think I’m a complete idiot. I can handle a .45 ACP round! Bring on the big guns! I’m ready!”)

Not long after I became comfortable with the .22, I leapt past lesser cartridges and started shooting a borrowed 1911 in .45 ACP. No big. I could handle the gun just fine, thank you very much. It wasn’t long before I could get down to 5″ centers at 25 feet. Not too shabby for a rookie, huh?

Came the time for our concealed carry course, and I got a whole new bunch of suggestions from our instructor, a county sherriff. Too late. I was intent on buying my “ideal gun” before we took the test, and I wasn’t much interested in advice from a more experienced shooter.

I developed what’s called “selective hearing” – the ability to listen only to the advice that I agreed with, ignoring the rest. The instructor said “Buy the gun that feels right in your hand.” Okay…good. “Buy a caliber you can handle.” Check. “Buy the lightest gun you can find, if you plan to conceal carry, for they get heavy by the end of the day, and if your gun is too heavy, you won’t carry it.”

What? Hey – I’m a big guy. I can handle carrying a 5″ barrel, full-size 1911 with a steel frame! You just don’t understand!

But he did. I ignored his years of experience to follow my idealized dream of what to carry, instead of listening and analyzing. For not much more than I paid for my full-size 1911, I could have bought one with a 4″ barrel and an aluminum frame, cutting about 1/3 of the weight, and an inch off the length of the gun.

Seemed like an insignificant thing when I bought my gun. Now? Not so insignificant. I rarely carry, because the gun is too long (and pokes into my love handles) and too heavy.

Should I have bought a 1911? You bet – it still has the best feel to me, and I’ve shot everything from Glocks and XDs to Kimbers, Colts and Springfield Armory’s best. As much as I admire the Springfield XD, I like the feel of the 1911 better – and they weigh just about the same thing.

In fact, let’s take a closer look at the difference between what I now see as the perfect carry gun, my full-size 1911, and the Springfield XD:

Springfield XD 4″ Compact Springfield Loaded 5″ Full-sized Kimber Crimson Carry II Pro
weight 29 oz. (31 oz. w/extended mag) 40 oz. 28 oz.
length 7.3″ 8.5″ 7.7
height 5″ (5/75″ w/extended mag) 5.5 5.25″
capacity 10 rounds (13 w/extended mag) 8 rounds 8 rounds
street price Around $650.00 Around $1,000.00 Around $1,100.00

While the Kimber is less than a 1/2″ longer and taller than the XD, it’s actually one ounce lighter than the XD. The XD’s big advantage is that the short stack mag holds 10 rounds, with the full-length grip stacking an impressive 13 rounds.

Some people have asked me, “why not go with a 3” barrel? Two reasons. The longer the barrel, the more accuracy you’ll get. And the shorter 1911s have a shorter grip – and therefore carry one less round in their shorter magazines. Plus, the shorter grip doesn’t fit my big meathook hands.

So I can keep my comfortable grip and lose an ounce of carry weight, or I can opt for greater capacity with about a 1/2″ shorter package both directions. Comfort or capacity? I’m going to make it easy on myself. I’m gonna get both. That way, I’ll have the perfect gun for conceal carry no matter what.

Oh, one more thing. The 1911 is a bitch to strip and clean, especially (but not only) when compared to the XD. But cleaning a handgun can be a time for reflection, meditation, and the like. So I don’t mind it, but it is something to consider, nonetheless.

When people ask me “what do you carry,” or “what should I buy,” I try to give the same sage advice I was given – and ignored. “Buy what feels right.” “Buy the lightest gun you can find.” “If you’re gonna carry, get a gun you can wear comfortably all day long.” I expect that some people will listen. Others won’t. Your results may vary,

7 Responses to Forget Romance – Buy the Gun You Need.

    • You are (as usual), right. The Kimber, since it’s an “authentic” 1911 (as opposed to the double-stack kind), has a relatively thin grip, as does the Springfield Loaded. By comparison, the Springfield XD feels like a baseball bat in my hand – not bad, but not thin, either.

  1. Um, looking at the numbers in your chart I think you may have transposed the data between the XD Compact and the Springfield Loaded 5″.

    Good article, though. Very true.

  2. Good Article. I think “what feels right” is good in this case. I carry the Kimber all day long and I don’t mind because I love the gun so much. Since then I got a Wilson which I love even more, but I don’t use it for CCW. When I first started carrying concealed I carried the Sig P239. Then again, once in a while I carry the S&W 2″ revolver. It’s nice to have options, depending on what’s up for the day (being female what I’m wearing has a lot to do with it and I have a shoulder bag with a special compartment as an option). The Sig and the S&W are by far the easiest to clean. Nothing feels as good to shoot to me as a 1911.

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