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Alan writes:

I just came across your web site, and I am very impressed. What would be your top choice for 9mm concealed carry? I’ve only seen your review of the Sig P290, Kel-Tec pf9, and the Kahr CM9. There’s got to be something that you really like better.

Why, yes. Yes there is.

No, I’m not about to recommend a full size MK25 with 30 round magazine. That’s slightly impractical. But my point in putting that up there was to illustrate the “ideal” firearm you want for self defense. You want something small and compact (relatively), with a lot of firepower. And when I’m not trying to be all stealthy that gun is exactly what I carry (with an 18 round mag though, as the 30 round jams too much for my likes). I did carry a full size P226 for the first year I had my permit though, not an experience I want to repeat.

But when I am being stealthy these days, firepower takes a backseat to size. For me personally I carry my Wilson Combat Bill Wilson Carry 1911 in 45ACP with a 7 round magazine, but even I am coming to the conclusion that in the Texas heat that still might be too much gun to conceal under just a t-shirt. With an outer layer like a collared shirt or zippered sweater that gun is absolutely ideal, but with some of the lighter shirts I’ve been wearing as the weather got hotter I’ve noticed that it has indeed started to print a little bit.

That’s where the “tiny niney” (as Dan likes to refer to it as) comes in. There’s been an avalanche of these guns coming out recently, as more companies are jumping into the concealed carry market and want something that the consumers can shoot in a widely available caliber. And while the Kahr CM9 and even the Beretta Nano are fine guns, there is one in this category that really stands out: the S&W M&P Shield.

With the other guns in the category, there’s always something uncomfortable about the gun. With the CM9, I hated the grip and the magazines seemed to fall apart. With the Nano, it just didn’t fit my hand right and recoil felt way too stiff. But with the Shield, while it definitely felt smaller and with stronger recoil than the Sig it wasn’t uncomfortable on either count. That, and there was just something about it that made me feel like it was of a little better quality than either guns.

Plus, thanks to its small size and slim nature the gun disappears into your chosen holster or carry method much easier than full size guns. Its also lighter, which makes carrying it a snap. But while it is lighter than its big brother, it still weighs almost as much as my diminutive 1911.

The other gun I would recommend in this category is a Glock 26. The reason this gets the nod over the others in the field is that it uses the same magazines as the other Glocks, and the lack of an external safety makes it quick to draw and use in a gunfight.

Then again, you did just ask the guy who bought a brand new snubby .38 special for this purpose…

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  1. “…“tiny niney” (as Dan likes to refer to it as)…”

    I think I heard Dan grinding his teeth from my house just now.

    “…while it is lighter than its bi brother…”

    Insert your own comment here. It’ll probably be just as good as the 2-3 I came up with.

  2. My first gun was a Sig P229 9mm (13+1). Since then I’ve added a Kimber Pro Carry (.45ACP) and a Sig P6 9mm (8+1) into the rotation along with a Ruger LCP that I’ve abandoned. On my hip in a tuck able holster right now is still my original P229.

    • +1 On the p229. I love it. It’s honestly heavier than some others, but I’m accurate and I have great feel with it. It’s my range and personal defense. I have the Enhanced Elite (15+1) and it might not be as light as a glock, but it leaves me with perfect peace of mind, which is #1 beyond caliber and round count. You won’t carry a gun for too long if you aren’t completely comfortable with it.

    • +1 On the p229. I love it. It’s honestly heavier than some others, but I’m accurate and I have great feel with it. It’s my range and personal defense. I have the Enhanced Elite (15+1) and it might not be as light as a glock, but it leaves me with perfect peace of mind, which is #1 to me. You won’t carry a gun for too long if you aren’t completely comfortable with it.

    • +1 on the P229. I have hands like dinner plates, my first CCW pistol was the Kahr PM9 but it was just too small. The P229 was my next CCW pistol, and my current car gun.

      I carry the G26 with Pearce +2 extension on the mag and a spare 17-rounder in the offside pocket, but the P229 is a superb firearm. The only hiccup I have ever had with it was some apparently out-of-spec Seiller & Bellot .40 S&W ammo from about 1999 that it just will not feed reliably. Otherwise it eats whatever you feed it and puts rounds where you ask it to. Not much more to be had from a firearm. I find its weight reassuring.

  3. You conceal carry a 1911 .45 ACP often, yet you like the Glock 26 in 9mm because “the lack of an external safety makes it quick to draw and use…”

    Is there a contradiction here?

    Also, aren’t you worried about muscle memory during SHTF situations if you transition from one set of controls (1911) to another (Glock)? To stay consistent (and for true concealment), did you consider any 9mm single stack 1911s’? They do exist, although they’re pricey.

    • Where’s the contradiction? Just because he likes carrying 1911s, that doesn’t mean that that external safety is the reason why. In fact, it may be a drawback that is just outweighed by other factors.

      • Perhaps I should have asked, “There is inconsistency here. Please clarify.”
        Changing the style and controls with one’s carry firearm concerns me. Of course, I don’t shoot handguns that much. I prefer rifles. I like the KISS principle for changing carry guns.

  4. I’ve not had any problems concealing a Glock 19 in a crossbreed supertuck IWB holster wearing just a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. I am 5’7″, ~ 165 lbs.

    • Me neither (same setup), though I’m 6’1″ and 250. However, I will definitely be buying the Shield and a Supertuck the moment the former is available behind the Iron Curtain (MA).

  5. My EDC is a SA XD .45 ACP 4″ Service Model. For 9mm I carry the SA 9mm 4″ Service Model. In CA I am limited to 10 round magazines, so I carry and extra. The smaller semi-autos are too small for my hands.

  6. CZ 75 compact PDR is a fine pistol. I have not had a failure to fire with it. My complaint with Kahr is that they have put out a magazine that is marginal at best. Drop one in your pocket and you end up with a pocket full of loose cartridges. For what ever reason the mag fails to hold the cartridge, and allows them to eject. NOT a good idea.
    AS an NRA instructor I have told students NOT to depend on these mags. I have no problem with the firearm itself, but the mags leave much to be desired. Yes I have contacted Kahr, and 4 weeks later I am still waiting for a reply. Lousy customer service!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. In my personal search for the ideal pocket 9mm, I found that every model out there something that required a compromise in terms of weight, size, price or quality control. Since I was looking for something with pocket carry potential, I concentrated my search on the smaller 5.5 inch models: Kimber Solo, Kahr MK9/PM9/CM9, Beretta Nano, Sig P290/P290RS and Kel-Tec P11 and PF-9. The larger 6 inch like the S&W Shield, Taurus 709, Ruger LC9 and Walther PPS were considered, but would be less likely to find a comfortable home in a pocket holster. There were a few other models that were within the size range I was interested in but they had internet reputations for being picky with ammo or following the Italian sports-car model of maintenance.

    After looking at reviews here on TTAG and elsewhere, I had my short list of short-barrel 9mm’s with me at the most recent gun show where I hoped to be able to see and paw most of them in person. That trip made a world of difference in making the choice. Very few of the pocket 9’s felt good in my hand. The winner of the contest did not come home with me that day, however since I had already decided that I would get a particular package which was not available at the fun show. I placed my order with my local gun shop for a stainless Sig P290RS that next week.

    Sig’s restrike (RS) version of the P290 has a few features that I like for concealed carry over many of the other models: Restrike ability, night sights as standard, enough weight to handle recoil well, no prohibition against +P ammunition, an extended magazine which has a full grip extension and the total lack of safeties built-in. The main change in the P290RS over the P290 is the restrike trigger. No longer does the slide have to be partially racked before dropping the hammer a second time on a recalcitrant round. I have never had a need for night sights, but in a concealed carry firearm I can see their value. The P290RS, unlike several other models in the 5.5 inch class of 9mm’s, had no restrictions on using +P ammunition nor a certified ammo list. With the 8 round extended magazine, the P290RS has a full grip which I think will be quite useful in an IWB holster. I really like the idea of having one firearm for both pocket and IWB use. The safety situation in the pocket 9’s run the gamut from none (Sig, Kahr and Kel-Tec) to too many with thumb, trigger and internal lock (Taurus 709). I like a good thumb safety, but all of the pocket 9’s with them make the control lever so small that reliably disengaging the safety would be too problematic. I hate internal locks with a white-hot passion.

    Thanks to Ralph for his most excellent review of the mark one P290. That review was the most useful one I found for the P290. Ralph, if you can, you should try the P290RS with it’s much lighter trigger. I don’t have a gauge to check, but it has to be under seven pounds.

  8. I’ve been getting interested in a Sig P290. Looks pretty small, is 9mm and I’m really starting to appreciate what Sig makes.

    • The Sig P290RS is small for a 9mm with the 6 round magazine at 5.5 long x 4.25 tall (including sight) x 1 wide (including slide lock), but it is heavy. At 20.5 ounces unloaded it is heavier than all the other firearms in it’s class save the Kahr MK9 at around 24 ounces. The extra weight is your friend when it comes time to manage recoil though. In cargo pockets it carries well in a DeSantis Super-Fly. I am still looking for the right IWB holster for it for times when cargo pockets are not an option. I would use the 8 round magazine in IWB carry for the full length grip. The RS version also has a revised magazine release button which protrudes less from the grip and is less likely to be activated by a tight holster.

      I see the P290RS as the firearm equivalent of the ragtop/hardtop convertible car which can handle summer or winter with only a few compromises in either season.

  9. i’m an old fart. nothing,imho, is better for pocket carry than a s&w airweight 442. it gets top marks for simplicity, reliability and at the ranges a civilian can justify self defense it has shootability. i’m a large guy,6foot 1, and my next favorite cc is a makarov. very accurate with the reliability of an ak. i put it’s power level at about +p 380. there are newer guns on the market but it passes my absolute reliability requirement.

    • Just bought a P-64 –though not a true Makarov it shoots the Mak ammo. Very small and easy to conceal. Very inexpensive too. Mine was less than two bills with a nice Duracote job. The horrendous DA trigger can be corrected with a Wolff spring kit for a few bucks. Another economical choice is the Firestar in 9mm. They can be had in pristine condition for 3 bills or less. Heavy, but easy to conceal. Two, easy-to-conceal, reliable guns for the price of one.

      • I also carry a P-64 and swapped out the mainspring with something lighter from Wolf loaded with Hornady Critical Defense. Managed to buy an extra 2 magazines cheap just to have some extra piece of mind

        Along with the above mentioned a NAA-PUG in .22 mag is with me at all times as well concealed yet quickly available.

      • i’ve never shot the p64. but this mak is insanely accurate for a compact pistol. at 5 yards i shoot happy faces on 3 inch orange dots. and i wear bifocals.

      • I wouldn’t know from experience, but some folks have said their Firestars have had slides crack – and the manufacturer is out of business. Good thing there’s this, though:

        Very interesting to think how much the market in concealable automatics (including all of the very light, polymer pistols) has developed since the mid ’90s.

        • been a great upsurge in shall issue states. we’re winning the fight against the gun grabbers, slowly but surely. this creates a demand for pocket pistols.

  10. My new favorite non-ITP carry gun is the SIG P239 in 9mm… it fits great in any and every IWB holster I’ve tried (they all seem comfy with this pistol) and barely noticeable in a Galco Concealable OWB holster (which is easily covered by a t-shirt)…

    It may end up being my winter carry too!

      • It is the single-stack 8-round 9mm… you could even ITP it if you want, but it hides so easily with any IWB holster that I don’t bother. I had a hard time finding one as well. I ended up getting a nice used gun and am just getting ready to get it Cerakoted in Patriot Brown with Houge G-10 grips.

        • I just recently abandoned my P239 as a CCW weapon. I have P239 in 9mm to practice with (and until my state dropped shooting accuracy as a qualification for CCW, I used it to qualify biannually) and another P239 in 357Sig which I have carried every day for more than ten years. I purchased an XDs 45 and have been carrying it in place of the P239.

          It is so much lighter, but I can not shoot it nearly as well as the P239 in 9mm. The P239s both have the SA/DA triggers and I loved that about them.

  11. I’m pretty close to the author on this one – a Smith 340 PD .357 in the hot weather, and a Glock 27 in the cold. Sometime a Glock 35 if I’m wearing 5.11 or Woolworth Tactical shirts. I’ve got nothing against the 9 mm, and a full size Sig Mk 25 is definitely on my wish list. But I already own 3 AR’s, and I’m buying a house, so additional gun purchases will have to wait a bit.

    My only advice would be to visit a range that rents multiple guns and see what you like for yourself, bearing in mind that the full size guns will almost always be more comfortable to shoot.

  12. I carry the Beretta PX4 ‘compact.’ Not the subcompact, but the compact model which still has the rotating barrel which reduces the recoil of my .40 S&W. In the 9mm version, I’m sure the recoil is even lighter. Dependibility, accuracy, Ease of cleaning and upkeep, keep me a Beretta man. Also, it has an external safety/decocker which I want and need more than the ability to draw and fire instantly. To each his own on the safety issue. But, since I haven’t been carrying for a long time, I like the safety giving me a backup against anything stupid I might do until I become a long time veteran of concealed carry.

  13. After shooting for several years I decided it was time to apply form my carry permit here in Minnesota. So while I’m waiting for the mailman I’ve been looking for a good carry 9mm.

    My shopping choices are somewhat narrowed because I don’t like 1911’s or Glocks or Springfields or Taurus’s. That and I prefer a DA/SA for carry and something that is fun to shoot so that it’s not a pain to practice with.

    My search finally lead me to a CZ 2075 RAMI BD, after having considered a Beretta Px4 Storm Sub-Compact, a Stoeger Cougar, a Sig P239 and a Bersa Thunder UC Pro. And actually a CZ 75 Compact in one of its many forms may fit the bill also.

    Wish S&W was still making the CS9 Chief’s Special 9mm.

  14. I love 1911’s, but I’ve gone to the Glock side because you only have to point and shoot. No fooling around with silly safeties, like I had to do with the 1911’s. My favorite Glock is the 36 if you like 45’s and the 26 is also a great carry gun.

  15. Argh…

    How come when these “Ideal Carry Gun” conversations come up, the Kahr CW9 never gets any props?

    IMO it is the perfect CCW.
    Thin: Thinner than the Shield. .01 thicker than the PF9.
    Capacity: 7 +1 Same as the shield (shorter mag, which is what most people would carry.
    Weight: 15.8 ounces is lighter than the shield @ 19.0 ounces
    Longer Barrel: 3.6 inches vs 3.1 inches on the shield.
    Shorter Overall Length: Kahr – 5.9″ / Shield 6.1″
    Price: Can be found for $325 – $350 both new and used. Shield is $425 – $450
    Availability: Can be found much easier than the Shield.
    Kahr – No Safety / Shield only comes with a safety.

    • +1

      I totally agree Brother Bear. The CW9/P9 is an excellent choice. Nothing else came close to the comfort of the Kahr for me. Plus it has a fantastic trigger. Many of the mini 9s were either too short (I wanted to get my pinkie finger on the grip)…or too square (if that makes any sense) of a grip…like handling a 1×3 piece of wood.

      I haven’t had the chance to shoot or handle a Shield. It wasn’t out yet when I was shopping for a small 9mm. I’m sure I’d love it as I love my full size
      M&P9. But I have no regrets buying the Kahr.

      • I have a first generation P9. It’s outstanding. Reliable, accurate, great trigger. If I was buying one today, I think I would choose the P series over the CW series, if only because I prefer night sights. I’m sure one could replace the sights on the CW, but it’s more complicated than on the P series.

  16. I typically carry either an S&W model 340 PD or a model 642. When I carry a 9MM semiauto, it is the Glock model 26. My second choice would be a Glock model 26 and my third choice would be a Glock model 26. Enough said? Fantasic pistols.

  17. None of the pocket rockets or smaller guns ever worked for me…my hands are big and could never get a good grip. I carried the Walther PPQ for some time, then recently switched to the CZ P07 Duty in an OWB holster. Maybe a little larger than what many carry (but still very comparable to a G19 in size) but it gets the job done fine and I have no trouble concealing here in Arizona under a t-shirt.

  18. Kind of funny that Green, er Leghorn wrote that he prefers to rely on a 1911 because of its 100 year history and known replacement schedule of parts but then recommends a Shield that’s been out for like 5 minutes. Not really trying to be mean but the inconsistency kind of jumped out at me.

    • Just because I prefer cold hard steel doesn’t mean that I won’t recommend a plastic fantastic as well. Not that I’d carry one, but I would still recommend one to those who are so inclined.

      Like I said, I went with the steel snubby .38 Spl. myself.

  19. My carry solutions:

    1. 1911 inside the waistband at 9:30 or 10:00 position.

    2. Sig Sauer P250 at 2:30 to 3:00 position. This one’s a recent acquisition, since I’m getting over an injury to my left wrist.

    3. Radom P-64 in a pocket holster.

    4. S&W .38 snubby in same.

    5. Kel-Tec P-11 in same.

    For pocket rockets, I love the Kel-Tec. It is 10 + 1, and it takes a S&W M59 magazine for fifteen extra rounds. Mine has given me no problems.

    Alan, the best advice is to go to read about lots of guns, find someone who will let you shoot a variety of guns, and go to gun stores and pawn shops to see how the models on offer feel in your hand and pocket. Get a pocket holster (or make one, if you’re crafty).

  20. I got rid of my Shield after I had some failures to extract. Glock 19s are the best modern 9mm pistols. As for pocket carry, I’m going with a Ruger LCR .357

    • The Ruger LCR 357 is on my list to buy. My thoughts are to load it with .38 special +P JHP with @110 grain rounds.

      • That load is a poor penetrator, if it’s what’s known as the “Treasury Load.” Please don’t use it.

        • Thanks for your thoughts on it. I thought it was ok. What about 125 grain loads? The classic is 158 grains. I want to avoid the risk of over-penetration and hitting an innocent person. I do plan on using +P HP ammo.
          Do you have a recommendation for use in either a LCR 357 and a SP101 357?

        • aharon, the load i use in my j and k frame smiths is the old “fbi” load. +p 158 grain lead semi wadcutter hollow point. on my fixed sighted weapons it shoots spot on. the federal version is the 1 i find most often.

        • jwm,

          The fbi a good load and I believe the same one used by Grant Cunningham a respected revolver-smith and the author of the GunDigest Book of the Revolver. I’ve been thinking about a load that is somewhat less in grains being somewhat concerned about possible over-penetration and hurting an innocent person.

      • I have the LCR .357. As long as you’re not a neophyte to snubbies, firing .357 hot loads such as the 125 grain Gold Dot are controllable. The recoil is not as bad as you would think. The plastic frame and Hogue grips must soak up some of the sting.

  21. Alan:

    There is no such thing as a “top” pistol for concealed carry. The only thing that matters is how comfortable it is for you. I am comfortable carrying a full size 1911, an XDm compact or my wife’s M-9. You might not feel the same way. Your opinion is the only one that matters for you.

  22. I am 100% convinced that my first choice for conceal carry was the correct choice – Boberg XR9-S. Someone please show me a similar sized gun that EXCEEDS the Boberg’s quality, accuracy, low recoil, awesome trigger, and fantastic feel in my hand. PLEASE PLEASE show me something better!

  23. the Glock and S&W listed in the article are good for HOLSTER CARRY ONLY!! Carrying without a holster (purse or pocket) is not safe as it takes little pressure to activate the triggers on these, causing discharge. Why wasn’t this covered in the article???? The CZ RAMI is a far better choice, and costs no more..

    • The S&W has a manual safety that takes deliberate force to manipulate and turn off or on. It was just fine for pocket carry. Problem is that even the slightest bit of lint will gum up the works and cause it to malfunction.

      • I hope that you know there are now these things called “pocket holsters” that protect the trigger, cut down on lint contamination and even mask the print of the firearm somewhat… nifty little invention!

        • I’m well aware. The problem was that with the pocket holster it was too big to carry in a normal pocket. I could’ve carried it in an IWB, but if I’m gonna do that I might as well just continue carrying my G19.

  24. Why no mention of the Ruger SR9c? I bought it based on a TTAG review, and have never regretted it. 10+1 capacity, +p rated, never had a jam or malfunction not related to ammo, accurate and concealable. Not to mention affordable.

    Is it just because it’s a Ruger, not a Springfield or Glock? Perfect trigger, I might add…

    • Ha! I just read your comment about the Ruger SR9C after posting my own below. The same thoughts occurred to me. My first handgun was a Glock .40 cal full size that a police officer friend persuaded me to buy. It was a mistake. I’m so damn glad that I got rid of that thing. Later, I bought the Ruger SR9C. Great gun.

  25. In places that don’t recognize the right to bear arms I conceal my usual open carry gun, a full size XD-9. No matter what handgun I’m going to conceal, for deep concealment I use the galco stow-n-go, for less than deep concealment use an outside the waist band safari land. I’m not sure what more a person could ask for in the simplicity of that particular galco.

  26. I must agree with some of the other folks here that as much as possible, ones carry gun should be the same as your range gun just because you are more likely to be familiar and accurate with that.

  27. “Then again, you did just ask the guy who bought a brand new snubby .38 special for this purpose…”

    After looking over the various 9mm options this year, I also came to the same conclusion. No worries about safeties, magazines, etc. Just have to practice and make my shots count.

  28. The Ruger SR9C is a fine compact 9mm. It comes with a 10 and a 17 round magazine for those who need such high capacity backup. Is Alan’s background with guns and pistols known? IMO, a Glock is an extremely dangerous pistol to own especially for a new pistol shooter.

    • My first hand gun was a Glock, and I never considered it any more or less dangerous than any of the hand guns I’ve acquired since then.

  29. How about a “Tiny Forty” my EDC is a Walther PPS in .40 It’s been reliable with factory defensive loads, disappears in a pocket holster and a cargo pocket or under a T-shirt in a Remora holster and is as accurate as I can make it.

  30. I’m starting to begin to carry concealed & have a Glock 30 45acp. Any opinions on this gun as a CCW? I’m a big guy 350 lbs T-shirt/shorts kinda guy. Looking at either the IWB Supertuck or Fox hybrid. any ideas?



    • You don’t need a gun, you need a diet! A damn heart attack is more likely to kill you then a bad guy. Try the Paleo diet. Also, skip the ,45 and get a nine – more rounds and same lethality.

  31. My favorites are my Glock 27 with Trijicon HD night sights and my Beretta Nano. However, I’d like to get my hands on the new Glock 30S, if I could find one.

  32. This issue about the external safety between the 1911 and the Glock 26…my teaching on carrying the 1911 says don’t even use the external thumb safety…it already has two other safeties incorporated into the weapon anyway. WRT Sig Saur systems: The only one I’ve ever owned was a P230. VERY NICE little piece. I ended up giving it to my daughter when she got her permit. My carry…S&W 642-2. It’s light, reliable, and hides well.

  33. Recently I got my CWP. I have put much effort and time into finding the right carry gun. I read all the reviews and specs on the numerous 9mm compacts. I am spoiled to Sig’s and HK’s smooth triggers. I narrowed the field down to two. A Kahr cm9 and a S&W 642. I chose the J frame. The trigger was a little rough for my taste. I polished all the internals with my Dremel and installed a Wilson Combat spring kit. Made all the difference. Now the trigger is smooth, crisp and meets my expectations. It carry it IWB over my appendix very comfortably.
    Well, now I’m having second thoughts. Should I have gotten the 9mm? I’m carrying the 642 loaded with Buffalo Bore 125gr. J.h.p. In +p. It’s a freakin hand full to shoot. And with the beautiful wood combat grips i added it’s downright painful. And it’s only 5 rds. Now I’m considering a Sig p290, a XDS 9mm, Kimber Solo or Kahr pm9. It’s making my head hurt. With the little “nines” I get one to two more rds. Faster reload. Probably a little thinner. A longer barrel. And the 9mm is a better round than the .38special. Even in +p. In my opinion. Maybe there is too many choices in this category.
    However I would value anyone’s opinion on this matter if you care to weigh in. I probably will keep the J frame. Hopefully I can make the right choice on one of the 9mm’s.

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