I’ve concealed carried most every day for about 25 years. The only exception: when I was in uniform. 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 concealed carry guns and consider them ideal for just about anyone who wants to pack a CCW-worthy piece.
1. Any quality 1911 pistol with a commander length slide and a government size frame
The 1911’s thin, single stack lines and excellent ergonomics 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 shorter barrel length keeps the slide from pushing on my butt when I sit down.
Commonly chambered in 9mm, .45 ACP, 10mm and .38 Super, you’re sure the find a self-defense caliber with stopping power 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 — both a thumb safety and a grip safety — and excellent single action only trigger pull, the 1911 is also one of the safest carry pistols to carry; you have to both grip the gun and flip the manual 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 9mm Pistol
The GLOCK 19 is the Toyota Camry of the firearms world. The polymer frame pistol is inexpensive, fairly light, does the job well and you can find repair and aftermarket parts for it just about everywhere.
While full-size pistols are great, the GLOCK 19 compact 9mm pistol is also the largest size GLOCK many people (this author included) can carry IWB comfortably. (I prefer the angle on Lone Wolf’s frames.) There are roughly 40 million holsters made for the G19. 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 aren’t an operator. And you can carry plenty of self-defense ammo in the standard double stack 15-round magazine. Chambered in 9mm, the semiauto GLOCK 19 is inexpensive to purchase and inexpensive to shoot.
[Note: Some people don’t shoot GLOCK brand GLOCKs as accurately as they shoot non-GLOCK 9mm pistols like the Smith & Wesson M&P, Beretta APX, Walther PPQ M2, SIG SAUER P320, Springfield Armory XD, etc. Try before you buy.]
3. Smith & Wesson 642 J-Frame Revolver
The Smith & Wesson 642 J-frame .38 revolver isn’t for everyone. But for those willing to spend the time to master its double-action trigger and relatively stout recoil, there is, in my rarely humble opinion, no better firearm for deep concealment.
Ultra concealable J-Frames have been a backup weapon for law enforcement officers for over five decades. The stainless steel 642‘s snag-resistant enclosed hammer and alloy frame make a good thing even better, improving both portability and concealability. Tucked away in a boot, as a pocket pistol, or at the waistband, the 5-round short barrel revolver 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 popular Smith & Wesson 642 is plentiful. It’s easy to find a holster that allows you to carry the gun comfortably — on your hip or in your pocket — 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 (or night sights if you prefer). Thus modified, the little .38 revolver goes from a good little gun to an exceptional one.
Do some people prefer to carry a semi-automatic subcompact? Of course. Great guns such as the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield (versions 1 or 2), GLOCK 43 or 26 are very worthy. But in my experience, with training, these three pistols will serve virtually anyone who carries a concealed handgun well.
This article was originally published in 2017.