The Smith & Wesson M&P9 was the very first handgun I ever purchased. I had just received my permit to carry here in Minnesota and the M&P was one of the few guns I had shot prior to obtaining my permit and I’d liked it, so it seemed like a good idea. I saved up for several months and then came the glorious moment of buying my first handgun. It was euphoria at it’s utmost. After I came down off the mountain of bliss, I actually had to figure out how to carry the thing . . .
I orginally opted to go for a BLACKHAWK! Serpa Rention Holster OWB. It’s a great holster that I still own, but after having to constantly throw on an outer garment to cover it up (my wonderful wife hates when I print, and will often remark with great concern, “Your gun is showing!”), I got sick of lugging a full-size pistol and started the search for something smaller.
I longed for a more concealable gun. That started my year-long phase of being obsessed with slim, single stack pistols. I went out and bought a Bodygaurd .380 for pocket carry. It’s a phenomenal little gun that successfully rode in my pocket every day for quite a while. It gives me 6 + 1 and no one ever knows it’s in my pocket. I considered it my “gentlemen’s pistol,” one that I could carry regardless of what I was wearing, and it served as an excellent EDC gun.
After a while I wanted the slimmest, most comfortable gun I could get my hands on, but I still wanted more boom boom than a .380 provides. So I did some research, and after meticulously watching hours of YouTube reviews I settled on the Kel-Tec PF9 and bought one along with a used Ruger LCR. The LCR was simply a good deal at the time and an impulse buy.
I took the Kel-Tec to the range a couple times and immediately hated it (this was before I learned to try before you buy). I couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn with it, even when I was taking my time, let alone any kind of rapid fire (which would be required under stressful self defense scenarios). Every time I pulled the trigger, the the recoil was so bad it almost lept out of my hand. I immediately hated all the YouTube reviewers who told me what a wonderful gun it was and I wondered how much they’d been bribed to proclaim it’s greatness.
Every time I went out to the range to shoot it, I thought, “Maybe I’ll get the hang of it now. Maybe I can work with it this time.” I really wanted to like it, but I just couldn’t. I had my friends try it and they too struggled to shoot it with any kind of accuracy, let alone speed. I sold it several months later.
The LCR initially was also a huge struggle for me. Again, try as I might, I couldn’t hit what I aimed at. I couldn’t read the sights correctly for the life of me. My friend Daniel had no such problems, though, and I decided the problem was with me rather than the gun. Eventually some friends bought me some Big Dot sights for it, and my accuracy immediately improved.
But eventually I tired of the slim pistols with their smaller capacity and my limited ability with them. Usually when I went to the range I pulled my M&P out of the bag because it was such a joy to shoot.
I would shoot my M&P with confidence and was able to hit what I wanted to, even at distances of more than 10 yards vastly exceeded anything I could do with the LCR. It’s not rocket science that smaller guns just don’t have same capability as larger full framed guns.
As I considered switching my primary carry gun back to a full size gun, I tried to convince myself with data. Most defensive gun uses didn’t even require pulling the trigger. Most DGUs that did require pulling the trigger, usually happened inside a distance of three yards, with three rounds or less being fired and all being over in three seconds.
But try as I might, I just kept thinking, “What if…?” What if I had to make that shot 15 yards? Or 20 yards? Or longer than that? What if I needed more than three rounds? What if there were multiple assailants? What if I faced a determined attacker who required substainal force (read: a lots of bullets) to stop?
An acquaintance of mine was robbed by three young misanthropes at gun point. Could I really count on only five or seven rounds against three armed assailants? Every time I went to church I would look across to the other side of the room, about 30-40 yards away and think, “What if a mass shooter opened fire from way over there? What could I do about it?” With only my Bodyguard or my LCR, not much With my M&P I knew I’d at least have a chance.
And so, I came full circle, now carrying the M&P9 again as much as possible in an Alien Gear IWB holster which made all the difference in the world in terms of comfort.
At the end of the day the confidence of carrying a full size gun and knowing exactly what my abilities are bring me more comfort than the limited abilities of the smaller framed guns. I like knowing I have the best tool for the job. There is nothing wrong with the smaller framed guns, I just prefer the confidence and my ability on a full frame nine. On top of that the M&P9 carries a very generous 17+1 rounds.
My rule these days for a carry gun is “Carry the gun with the most rounds you can comfortably carry and conceal.” For now, for me, that’s the M&P9.
(See the rest of the posts in this series here. Send your What I Carry and Why submissions with a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org with WICAW in the subject line.)