I’ve concealed carried most every day for about 25 years. The exception: when I was in uniform. And most of that time I openly carried a firearm or two. In the civilian world, I carry a gun in a leather inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster or in my boot (if I’m suited and booted). I’ve carried the following three guns and consider them ideal for for concealed carry.
1. Any quality 1911 with a Commander length slide and a Government frame
The 1911’s thin lines make it comfortable to carry at the 4:00 position inside the waistband. The platform gives the owner a large grip surface that helps to ensure a smooth, sure draw, and manages recoil well.
I carried a Government 1911 for a couple of years until I found that a Commander length slide was more comfortable. The slightly shorter barrel length keeps the slide from pushing on my butt when I sat down.
Commonly chambered in 9mm, 45ACP, 10mm and .38 Super, you’re sure the find a self-defense caliber for your 1911 that you can shoot well. There are plenty of excellent holsters to choose from, as well as competent gunsmiths ready to modify or repair your firearm.
With its dual safeties, the 1911 is also one of the safest pistols to carry; you have to both grip the gun and take the thumb safety off prior to depressing the trigger to fire a round. My only caveat to carrying a 1911: good ones aren’t cheap. I’ve yet to find a 1911 that I’d bet my life on that costs less than $1,000.
2. GLOCK 19
The GLOCK 19 is the Toyota Camry of the firearms world. It’s inexpensive, fairly light, does the job well and you can find repair and aftermarket parts for it everywhere.
It’s also the largest size GLOCK handgun many people (this author included) can carry IWB comfortably. (I prefer the angle on Lone Wolf’s frames.) There are roughly 400 billion holsters made for the GLOCK 19. If you can’t find one that fits the gun to your body and carry style, you’re not trying hard enough.
GLOCKs are stupid-simple to operate, even if you don’t operate. And you can fit 15 rounds of self-defense ammo in the standard magazine. Chambered in 9mm, the GLOCK 19 is inexpensive to purchase and inexpensive to shoot, especially now that Magpul makes mags for it.
[Note: Some people don’t shoot GLOCK brand GLOCKs as accurately as they shoot non-GLOCK GLOCKs like the Springfield XD, Smith & Wesson M&P, Walther PPQ M2, etc. Try before you buy.]
3. Smith and Wesson 642
The enclosed hammer J-Frame Smith & Wesson 642 isn’t for everyone. But for those willing to spend time mastering its trigger and stout recoil, there is, in my rarely humble opinion, no better firearm for deep concealment.
The J-Frame has been a backup weapon for law enforcement officers over five decades. The 642’s enclosed hammer and alloy frame made a good thing better; improving both portability and concealability. Tucked away in a boot, a pocket, or waistband, the gun hides well almost anywhere without discomfort.
The J-Frame’s reliability is legendary. And while I’m not a particularly skilled shooter, I can consistently draw and fire on a standard silhouette at 25 yards in 1.5 seconds.
Like the guns above, aftermarket support for the Smith & Wesson 642 is enormous. It’s easy to find a holster that allows you to carry the gun comfortably and deploy it quickly.
Given the snubbie’s limited capacity, short sight radius and recoil, the 642 isn’t my first choice for a gunfight. But it’s the gun I’m likely to have on me in a gunfight. And that makes all the difference.
As a side note, pay a quality gunsmith to give your 642 a trigger job and fix a bright bead front sight. Thus modified, the little .38 revolver goes from a good gun to an exceptional one.