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Foghorn’s choices for the the three best concealed carry firearms — the Ruger LCR, Wilson Combat Bill Wilson Carry and GLOCK 43 — are beyond reproach, IMHO. But that doesn’t make them my choices. Here are my three selections . . .

1. Kahr MK9

As much as I love the Ruger LCR and Smith & Wesson 642, as much as Jerry Miculek can use either (any?) gun to shoot the eye of a newt at 100 yards, I consider lightweight snubbies bad breath distance, limited capacity firearms. That’s OK if you understand their limitations. But why not a better option?

The Kahr MK9 is a 5.3″ X 4″ stainless steel semi that weighs-in at a not-inconsiderable 22 ounces. While it’s too heavy for suit pants pocket carry, it’s perfect for blue jean carry. Or a small holster. And the benefits of that “extra” weight are undeniable.

First and foremost, that heft tames recoil. You can shoot the Kahr MK9 more accurately over longer distances than a snubbie or polymer “mouse gun.” Second, there is no second. What more do you want from a carry gun?

Other than the fact that the Kahr’s weight makes practicing pleasant. And practice is a big deal when it comes to effective armed self-defense.

The MK9’s flush-fit mag holds six rounds. The extended grip spare mag (please carry a spare mag) holds seven, putting 14 rounds at your ballistic beck and call. Bonus! You can rack the rear sight on a shoe. And as long as it is, the trigger pull is smooth and predictable. Great gun.

2. Smith & Wesson 686 4″ Revolver

More weight with less bullets? Yup. Smith’s venerable six-shooter tips the scales at an astounding 42 ounces. Carrying a 686 4″ requires an industrial grade gun belt and a big-ass holster. Trust me: you can conceal this L-framed beast. But it begs for open carry, and reloading it in a gun fight would be . . . problematic. So why the love?


There’s no scientific data on the subject, but it’s commonly believed that the vast majority of defensive gun uses end without a shot fired. The bad guy(s) see the good guy’s gun and thinks better of their attack. While there may be more intimidating handguns than a 686 4″, it’s no shrinking violet. It isn’t something black and gun-like. IT’S A GUN!

I know this is a crazy choice, given the popularity of just about everything else in the concealable category. In my defense I’ll point out that the 686 is majorly accurate over great distances and fires the .357 cartridge with entirely manageable recoil (see: weight advantages, above). That’s a hell of a defensive round, Harry.

The Smith & Wesson 686 trigger is perfectly suited to the task of armed self-defense: gliding like a bobsled in double-action, as light and crisp as fresh lettuce in single action. Hey, if you want a smaller semi — as tens of millions of gun owners do — buy the Kahr. If you want a “real” gun buy a . . .

3. FNS-9C

Like buyers of spaghetti sauce, gun owners are spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting a compact (i.e. concealable) polymer-framed striker-fired pistol. They’re all reliable, accurate, comfortable and robust. The one thing that separates them? The trigger.

A great handgun trigger increases control, which increases accuracy, and makes a gun a joy to shoot. When it comes to out-of-the-box striker-fired pistols triggers, two guns stand apart: the Walther PPQ M2 and the FNS-9C.

I give the FNS the nod because I find the ergonomically superior Walther’s trigger a bit too light; I end-up shooting double taps when I don’t mean to. Sure, I could train myself out of it. But under stress . . .

The FNS’ trigger is a delight. It offers unblemished, unimpeded take-up to a brick wall. And then bam! As far as I know, it’s as close as you can get to a 1911-like trigger break in the polymer genre. And the reset is short, sharp and serious. As in seriously good.

The bigger, thicker FNS-9C weighs [just] a bit more than the Kahr, but it holds 12+1 rounds of 9mm ammo. Or 16+1 with the extended mag, for a total or 30 rounds. With its long-enough-for-rock-and-roll sight radius and brutally good looks, that’ll do, pig. That’ll do.

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  1. If you’re looking for intimidation you should jump up to a 6″ .357 revo lver. If you’re looking for CCW I’d recommend a 3″. With the full bore stuff a 3″ will crank out more horsepower than you’re probably thinking a 4″ makes, and my GP 100 Wiley Clapp weighs a scant 36oz.

    • While I’m a big fan of the 3″ genre, my only critique for Robert is not putting a pair of boot grips on the 686. Especially if the wheelgun is going inside the belt, you have no reason to go below 4″, the famous State Patrol standard. Some nice slim grips that stay at the butt disappear like magic!

      I’ve got an old lug-less GP100 courtesy of the RCMP. With wood grips, I think she’s close to 35oz. A review may be in order…

      • I have those or a similar set of grips on one of my 66es. Like em but they seem grabby to me. Good to see a 686 get the nod.

      • Today I picked up my first ever 1911 at my kitchen table FFL (scratch that one off my bucket list). Sooooo…. the 1911 with 8 rou nds of HST +p 230gr. (condition 3 – it’s a safe g un, not a carry g un) weights 5 ounces more than my EDC loaded with 6 ro unds of 158gr (Double Taps) and 3 ounces less than the 6″ (full lug) loaded with the same.

      • True, unless the guy on the other end pulls the trigger. The 3″ will leave 30% of your brains inside your skull, the 6″ will only leave 15%. But assuming the bad guy gets a glimpse during your draw…

  2. Love the picks and your wheelgun pride. If only Kahr would just make a K9 covert… Or maybe a T9 covert…

  3. How about tried and true H&K USP Compact in 9mm and .40 S&W? Simple, reliable, and rugged design, ultra smooth trigger (with the LEM variant), hammer fired. Not much bigger than the Glock 19, although it’s twice the price (the only drawback IMHO).

    • HK makes a “dehorned” version that is less abrasive and is competitively priced to Glock. Takes the same magazines as the USP Compact as well. I’ve carried a P2000 LEM for over 6 years and have never had a bobble. Even with neglecting one past 2000 rounds. I couldn’t say the same for the revolvers that I loved before finding the P2000.

  4. I typically carry a Glock 17 or Smith Wesson Shield. But I LOVE me a good wheelgun. I had an LCR I thought was the bees knees but ended up selling it because it had a false reset that caused me to skip cylinders. I work PD and carry a Glock 22 on duty so I was not about to redo my muscle memory to accommodate the lcr.

    I ended up getting a Smith and Wesson 649 in .357. Love that gun and carry it on my ankle at work. Will carry it concealed in my personal time when I want to feel old school badass.

  5. Hoplopfheil’s Top 3 Hipster Carry Guns

    3: AMT BackUp II
    Sure, micro .380s are a dime a dozen now, but they weren’t always. The AMT BackUp is a classy, stainless pocket pistol with an old school 1911-style manual of arms. Reliable? No, but then again the odds you’ll need it to be are pretty long.

    2: Star Firestar M43
    A single stack compact 9mm from a half century before that was a thing, the Firestar is a nickel plated beauty with all the single action panache of a compact 1911, but none of the finicky bullshit courtesy of the swinging link action. The trigger sucks, but so do you, and at least this way you have an excuse when you miss.

    1: Beretta 9000s
    It looks like a running shoe and is about as wide. And when I say “wide” I’m talking 3E, not D(M). The rubberized grip inserts will disintegrate over time, but that gives it a lived-in patina that your friends will think is cool. You can even carry it cocked and locked, which is convenient if you’re too old to understand a decocker.

  6. Hey, look… 3 reasonably priced choices! See? That wasn’t so hard was it? You even got to put an expensive revolver on there.

    • Yeah, I can get on board with these. Wouldn’t be my first three, but a decent list. My Kahr cm380 and FNX are two very nice pistols and I’d be hard pressed to give either up.

  7. Take the M out of MK9 and I’ll agree. The longer barrel help with velocity and the longer grip helps to control recoil. If I need a gun too small to accommodate my little finger, I’ll carry a .380 in my pocket.

    I have a 6 inch S&W model 19. It’s a single action revolver if I expect to hit anything beyond a few yards. I have thought about replacing it with a larger framed model from the Performance Center but I would shoot it single action, too.

    The FNS-9 was a top candidate until I held one in my hand. No regrets about buying a Performance Center M&P in the same caliber.

    • To this day I love the Kahr K9, even though I don’t own one. The spare magazine always seems to drop loose rounds or pop the top round vertical to me.

      But the K9 is a perfect size, weight, and ergonomics. Really a fantastic gun. Full grip for me (piano fingers), heavy enough to tame recoil, light enough to carry well, Justin Moon didn’t cut the barrel down to 3″ for some velocity loss and no real concealment gain… good factory sights.

      I’d like to try a T9 myself.

      • Honestly, the K9 is too heavy for carry. Had one a long time ago. When I got my Illinois CCL I ended up with a CW9 and then later got a new K9 (Christmas special for $485 with night sights). I almost never carry the K9 due to the weight. OK, it is really not too heavy, but the polymer Kahrs are just so much easier to carry. And the recoil on them is not bad at all.

  8. Can people just try and carry a gun that doesn’t fit in a pocket? I understand that the pocket rockets have their place, and I do run a small, pocketable 9mm when I can’t carry a bigger gun, but these pocket guns are no where near top 3 listing. I just don’t understand.

    • Jonno,
      I carry a small pistol, because I know I’ll carry it all the time. Even though theoretically, we can open carry here in CO, it is really not realistic, for me, most of the time. If it were, I would be carrying a larger revolver.

      • I get what you’re saying to a point, but everyone says they get the smaller ones because it’s a greater likelihood of them carrying it. It sounds like people need to just motivate themselves a little bit.

        • +1

          The difference in weight between a subcompact and compact is 8-10oz. If you can’t handle that self defense is the least of your worries. Even a full sized 1911 adds another pound but unless your job involves walking many miles with a pack even that extra pound really doesn’t matter.

        • Why begrudge people their pick. I carry for safety but the chances of needing a gun are very slim. So I carry a gun I think is appropriate to the most likely situations without having to live my life around a gun.

        • Who said anything about begrudging someone’s choice? There are a lot of people who carry mouse guns because they believe carrying a lared gun is a hassle without ever giving it a fair chance. I have carried everything from a Beretta Nano to a 1911. The only place I found carrying a larger gun inconvenient is the golf course. A larger gun interferes with my already deficient swing.

    • How about some people just practice enough with their “mouse” 9mm that they shoot them better thank most people who shoot full size pistols. I do admit, when I shoot my full size CZ, its like, where is the recoil? And I have carried N-Framed revolvers, 1911s, full size and compact CZs. Still, prefer my CW9. And my CW380, that is one I will forget I have it on me.

  9. It’s kinda funny. After revolvers disappeared from movies and TV for a while,they are starting to show up again. I think the people that make the shows think they are more intimidating.
    I just got my 629 last year. It’s the standard 6″ barrel(not underlugged). I had never fired a .44 mag before that was not an S&W N with a long full underlugged barrel, or a Super Redhawk. I never liked them. I just thought they were two big and unwieldy, unbalanced. This 629 is very well balanced and FEELS much smaller. Shooting 100 or so 240 grains in a session is a joy. I would carry it outside my house, if I could. I carry around my house occasionally in an El Paso 1890, and I can’t tell it’s even there.

  10. “I consider lightweight snubbies bad breath distance, limited capacity firearms.”

    So you decry the limited capacity of a 5-shot revolver, and instead recommend a 6-shot revolver and a 7-shot pistol. Got it.

    • What you’re overlooking is the fact that one ro und of .357 is worth 3 rou nds of .38 special.

        • If you get a whiff of a foul odor and see the bad guy running away with his knees together, you know you missed.

        • Actually, statistically it is pretty much true. A .38 special (non +p) will get you ~200-225ft/lbs out of a 4″ vented ba rrel and while the neutered factory am mo gets you to 584 (125gr.), the full bore stuff gets around 700. Add to that, comparing a 2″ snubby .38 to a 4″ .357 boosts the difference up to at least 4 times the power for .357.

      • I mean… pretty much anything qualifies as ‘doable’ though.

        Don’t get me wrong, I carried a model 65 concealed (along with vest and other equipment) without everyone knowing (except some annoying girl- maybe 14 years old- who made me) but it’s definitely not what I would put in a category involving concealment!

  11. Hmm, I most often hear the walther PPQ and HK VP9 compared as top stock trigger for striker-fired pistols. I’ve tried both and I prefer the VP9 by a small margin. I’ll have to give that FNS trigger a try sometime.

    • I have a FNS-L which is the .40 Longslide with no manual safety. It is my messenger bag gun for college. I bought it because of minimal controls, among other things. I like the trigger. For a semi auto it works very nicely.
      BTW, with Underwood 165’s, which are pretty hot, it shoots very softly.

    • The FNS9’s trigger is a tiny bit heavier but it is much more crisp and feels better than the VP9 to me because the VP9 has the glock tab trigger safety, however I love the VP9’s ergos and the cocking ears are extremely useful.

  12. 686/4″ is a great concealed carry gUn — if you are Shaq-sized, otherwise it is going to be really hard to conceal. A Chiappa RINO with a 4″barrel with its 8.1″ length is a far better choice.

    • After having an M4-22 upper from Chiappa I’m leery of most anything they make. I know the Rhino seems to have a pretty good rep but still.

      That said, I’d be looking more towards a 3″ 66 if I was doing it concealed. These are just “carry handgun” picks so it could be an OC gun. At that point though I’d be looking at a 327 or 627. May as well get the 8 rounds of .357, the 327 with a scandium frame is probably actually lighter.

  13. Why not make a poll for TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia to vote for their top 3 picks? Or even top 3 guns of all time? Like what you guys did a couple months ago for new products before SHOT Show. That’d be so awesome IMHO.

    (“Intelligentsia” as defined by people who can spell “Intelligentsia” first try (JK). Which leaves me out of the fun . . .)

    • Ummm… OK, I’ll bite…

      Intelajenshia… errr… intelajecia…

      oh, poop! I’m gonna play anyway…

      Top three picks for CCW: Ruger Police Service Six/4″; Ruger GP100/4″; Dan Wesson 15-2 /6″

      Now I’ll make like a tree and leaf out…

  14. Kahr K9 Stainless, Glock 36, and S&W Model 60 3″ .357… I’ve shot everything everyone else has proposed.

    • After reviewing the list again at my wife’s request I have never fired a Star Firestar M43… She’s sharp.

  15. A S&W 686? Really? Lets compare it to a 1911. It is longer, taller, wider, heavier and lower capacity. It also takes longer to reload, and is harder to find holsters. .357 is a bit bigger cartridge and the 686 has revolver reliability but man, there are about a thousand better choices for something to conceal. If this was a list of best range guns, I would agree. 686s are sweet to shoot but they are way to big for most people to reasonably conceal.

  16. +1 on the FNS 9C

    I have Glock, S&W, and SA too, but I think the FNS 9C is the best in its size category. The ergos work great for me even with the shortest mag, the trigger is very good, and it’s very accurate. The FN is truly one of those “best kept secret” deals.

  17. One vote for the Ruger LCR in .327 Federal with CT laser grips. Six shots of a pretty hot round, light and concealable, and the recoil is doable even with my arthritic hands.

  18. Depending on the situation:
    S&W 640
    S&W 3913
    3″ M65 HB (or GP 100 if you can live w/ the cylinder release.)
    Compact/Officers model 1911 .45ACP
    Kahr if proven reliable.
    OK. Glocks. But not for me. (Maybe an XD.)

    Premium ammunition, tested for feeding in the semiautos. Maybe a spare mag or two. A couple of speed strips for the revolvers.
    Decent holster or other carry method.
    Don’t advertise.
    Be careful out there.

    That should about cover it…

  19. Good picks. That kahr looks slick.

    I do love FN guns. I think it’s the association the John Moses Browning. A total boss.


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