Training at The Range at Austin, I see many first-time gun owners bringing small handguns to class. Guns like the Smith & Wesson hammerless snub-nosed 642 revolver (above) and Ruger’s LCP semi-automatic pistol. These students believe their pocket pistols are great firearms for concealed carry. I agree. They are great guns. They’re just not appropriate for new shooters.
These small handguns are lightweight and easy to conceal. You can carry one just about anywhere, including the front pocket of your favorite jeans. Unfortunately, the small gun’s inherent benefits come at a high price.
For one thing, a handgun’s size influences its handling under recoil. All else being equal, smaller, lighter handgun generates a more pronounced recoil impulse than their full-figured firearms friends.
Controlling a handgun’s recoil impulse is more challenging when shooting a smaller gun. Simply put, small guns offer less surface area to enable friction (i.e. grip). While a proper grip isn’t the only key to managing recoil, trading purchase for concealability is like trading accuracy for comfort. Exactly like that.
Don’t get me wrong: managing a small gun’s recoil isn’t an insurmountable issue. But proficiency with smaller guns requires hours of practice firing hundreds of rounds downrange. Using a gun that can be cactus comfortable to hold; that may not stand up to the kind of training needed to gain sufficient mastery.
The other difficulty presented by small firearms: establishing a consistent grip. Small guns make it more difficult to maintain the same grip for multiple rounds. Constant “re-gripping” leads to accuracy problems, as accuracy demands consistency.
A small gun is an excellent addition to your everyday carry inventory — once you have skills needed to deploy it effectively and efficiently. But a new shooter is better advised to first develop the confidence and competency of marksmanship using a larger, more user-friendly firearm. Then branch out to try other makes and models to see if they offer improved performance and/or concealed carry benefits.
If you are new to shooting or carrying concealed, consider waiting on carrying a small handgun. Your life may depend on it.
Jeff Gonzales is a former US. Navy SEAL and preeminent weapons and tactics instructor. He brings his Naval Special Warfare mindset, operational success and lessons learned unapologetically to the world at large. Currently he is the Director of Training at The Range at Austin. earn more about his passion and what he does at therangeuastin.com.