Ask Foghorn: Best 9mm for Concealed Carry?

Alan writes:

I just came across your web site, and I am very impressed. What would be your top choice for 9mm concealed carry? I’ve only seen your review of the Sig P290, Kel-Tec pf9, and the Kahr CM9. There’s got to be something that you really like better.

Why, yes. Yes there is.

No, I’m not about to recommend a full size MK25 with 30 round magazine. That’s slightly impractical. But my point in putting that up there was to illustrate the “ideal” firearm you want for self defense. You want something small and compact (relatively), with a lot of firepower. And when I’m not trying to be all stealthy that gun is exactly what I carry (with an 18 round mag though, as the 30 round jams too much for my likes). I did carry a full size P226 for the first year I had my permit though, not an experience I want to repeat.

But when I am being stealthy these days, firepower takes a backseat to size. For me personally I carry my Wilson Combat Bill Wilson Carry 1911 in 45ACP with a 7 round magazine, but even I am coming to the conclusion that in the Texas heat that still might be too much gun to conceal under just a t-shirt. With an outer layer like a collared shirt or zippered sweater that gun is absolutely ideal, but with some of the lighter shirts I’ve been wearing as the weather got hotter I’ve noticed that it has indeed started to print a little bit.

That’s where the “tiny niney” (as Dan likes to refer to it as) comes in. There’s been an avalanche of these guns coming out recently, as more companies are jumping into the concealed carry market and want something that the consumers can shoot in a widely available caliber. And while the Kahr CM9 and even the Beretta Nano are fine guns, there is one in this category that really stands out: the S&W M&P Shield.

With the other guns in the category, there’s always something uncomfortable about the gun. With the CM9, I hated the grip and the magazines seemed to fall apart. With the Nano, it just didn’t fit my hand right and recoil felt way too stiff. But with the Shield, while it definitely felt smaller and with stronger recoil than the Sig it wasn’t uncomfortable on either count. That, and there was just something about it that made me feel like it was of a little better quality than either guns.

Plus, thanks to its small size and slim nature the gun disappears into your chosen holster or carry method much easier than full size guns. Its also lighter, which makes carrying it a snap. But while it is lighter than its big brother, it still weighs almost as much as my diminutive 1911.

The other gun I would recommend in this category is a Glock 26. The reason this gets the nod over the others in the field is that it uses the same magazines as the other Glocks, and the lack of an external safety makes it quick to draw and use in a gunfight.

Then again, you did just ask the guy who bought a brand new snubby .38 special for this purpose…

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