When you’re looking to buy your first concealed carry firearm, don’t get sidetracked by discussions about caliber. Don’t worry about the size of the bullets you’re carrying around. In most defensive gun uses, the bad guy sees the gun aimed in his or her direction and scarpers. In cases where the good guy actually shoots at the bad guy, most perps discontinue their attack once they notice flying lead – regardless of the bullet size headed their way. I recommend that newbies schlep the largest caliber firearm they can comfortably carry, but the most important part of that advice is the word “comfortably.” Because the most important pre-requisite for successful armed self-defense is to have a gun. . .
At the risk of repeating myself, the easier it is to carry a gun, the more likely you are to carry it. Which is the whole point of this exercise, yes? But here’s the thing: carrying a good-sized concealed carry firearm – and by that I mean anything other than a compact or sub-compact gun – can be a real PITA.
If you want to carry a good-sized gun in a discreet inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster, chances are you’ll need to buy pants a size larger than normal, and then ditch ALL of your current trousers. Before that, you’ll need to find a gun and IWB holster combo that doesn’t chafe or thrust your gat into an internal organ. That’s an expensive, time-consuming and not particularly enjoyable process.
If you carry a good-sized (i.e. non-compact gun) in an 0utside-the-waistband holster (OWB), you have to cover your gat with an untucked shirt. Everyday carry makes every day casual dress Friday. For millions of working stiffs, that ain’t happening. Even if you can roll that way, you’ll probably need to buy shirts that are a size larger than normal to avoid printing (the gun showing through the shirt).
Off-body carry in a purse or briefcase? Don’t do it. You must keep control of your firearm – and have immediate unfettered emergency access to it – at all times. You do NOT want an unauthorized person to get ahold of your gun. You DO want to draw as quickly and efficiently as you possibly can, if and when you have to. Good luck with that.
The solution? Carry a compact or sub-compact gun.
Shock! Horror! Gun guys will tell you – in no uncertain terms – that bigger is better when it comes to armed self-defense. Larger handguns have less recoil. That makes them easier to control. Which increases accuracy, enabling effective longer range shots. Larger handguns also carry more and bigger bullets than those “girly” guns. And there are plenty of carry systems that will comfortably accommodate a “proper gun.”
They’re absolutely right. But again, larger guns are not easy to conceal or carry comfortably. And if it ain’t comfortable . . . You can put a small, slim gun like the Ruger LC9 into an IWB holster, wear your normal pants and forget it’s there. You can carry a small, slim gun like the Kahr PM-9 or the new GLOCK 43 in a OWB holster, cover it with any old T-shirt and no one will know. Best of all, you can pocket carry a small gun.
You can buy a cheap pocket holster (e.g., Uncle Mike’s), put a diminutive firearm like the SIG P238 into the front pocket of your jeans, suit pants or casual trousers and carry on as per normal. In fact, small gun pocket carry is the ideal carry system for concealed carry newbies. It’s totally discreet, perfectly comfortable and doesn’t demand a change of wardrobe. As long as you use a holster, don’t carry anything else in your “gun pocket” and practice drawing, extraction isn’t dangerous or difficult.
I’m a strong proponent of home carry. You’re most likely to encounter a lethal threat in your own home, and you have the most to lose if you lose. So ask yourself this: is my gun and holster so comfortable that I don’t even think about removing my firearm when I get home? As they say, the first rule of a gunfight is to have a gun. ANY gun.
Quick aside. Women . . .
Despite the appearance of tactical kilts, women have a lot more wardrobe options than men. Specifically, skirts, dresses, shorts, jeans and pants; and all manner of tops, from long-sleeved dress shirts to crop-top T-shirts. Fortunately, there are a wide-variety of holsters designed for all of these options. But nothing that suits all of them. So any women contemplating concealed carry – please do! – will need a selection of holsters. As Bruce Hornsby will tell you, that’s just the way it is.
There are plenty of downsides to carrying a compact or sub-compact gun, some of which I’ve mentioned above. But this is one of those cases where new gun owners shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Truth be told, there is no perfect self-defense gun or carry system. Your mileage will definitely vary according to your sex, body shape, clothing, lifestyle, job, skill level, training, budget, choice of firearm and more.
But this much is true: small guns offer more carry options. Call it the “big dog big problems small dog small problems” analysis. Besides, there’s no reason a first-time concealed carrier can’t graduate to carrying a bigger gun later. Also recommended.