IWB holster concealed carry
Dan Z. for TTAG
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Over the last decade, as state after state has restored residents’ right to bear arms, the gun-buying public’s appetite for portable, packable pistols moved from merely peckish to downright insatiable. The free-market system being what it is, firearms manufacturers have moved to sate that hunger with a smorgasbord of well-designed, eminently effective options. Here are the five best on the market now . . .

Ruger LCR

Even though revolvers have been around for a couple of centuries, they’re still a viable some-say-preferable option for personal defense. Ruger’s take on the modern snubbie totes five rounds of powerful GTFA in a pocketable package. Bonus! Rugger’s ugly little gun’s got the best stock trigger of any wheel gun on the market. If you want to go full bore, load her up with .357’s — making the LCR the most powerful compact carry option.


GLOCK showed up late to the 9mm mouse gun party with a handgun boasting all the air-quotes style we’ve come to expect from Gaston’s gats. That didn’t stop America’s gun-buyers from snapping-up 43’s by the tens of thousands. Why? It’s kinda like the ancient adage “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM” (ask your Dad). Once you figure out what the G43 likes to eat, the 9mm pistol is an utterly reliable choice for pocket carry or deep concealment.

Smith & Wesson M&P Shield

The Smith & Wesson Shield was one of the first of the tiny nines in the current generation of single stacks. The Shield quickly developed a devoted following due to its reliability, affordability and slim lines. Not to mention the optional frame-mounted safety. While its trigger may not win any awards (Smith M&P pistols have almost single-handedly kept Apex Tactical in business), the handgun’s 7+1 capacity makes it a highly creditable carry choice, right out of the box. While you don’t have to be clairvoyant to see a M2.0 version with an improved bangswitch somewhere in our future, the Shield as is does the job.

Springfield XD-S 3.3″

Springfield first rolled out their single-stack XD-S in a big-boy .45 chambering. It was an instant hit. Now available in .40 and 9mm, the Croatian sensation gives toters the added peace of mind of a grip safety along with 7+1 rounds of parabellum — all in a profile that’s less than an inch wide. Add in the fiber optic site, a good trigger and a price around four bills and you’ve got yourself a solid EDC performer at a value price.


Walther P99C AS

There are less expensive compact double-stack concealed carry pistols. There are certainly better known models. But none feel better in the hand or perform better than Walther’s vastly under-publicized double stack P99C AS. Comfortable in the hand, sporting one of the best stock triggers on any striker-fired gun, the P99 AS is a sleeper hit. If you’re looking for more capacity than a single-stack carry gun affords, put the P99c AS on your short list.

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    • Most folks can’t conceal a Government or Commander. The Officer models are the point where the 1911 starts to reach functional limits.

      • There’s plenty of full government size 1911s tucked under shirts out there. Personally, I carry a GP 100 though. Handguns are weak and puny, so hit ’em hard (relatively speaking) I say.

        • Gov., I like you more and more. The 1911 (full size) with any good overshirt or jacket is gone. This is with a poor OWB holster. If I found a IWB holster to be happy with well….
          The GP is tougher. I find it easier to hide length than height and/or width.
          I’m average sized at about 5-10 170.

        • AD, I think for most people it’s the butt of the grip that prints. Revolver grips tend to be more rounded and with a little forward cant are easy to conceal on your hip. You’ll need a loose shirt to cover that 1.6″ cylinder though. Biggest problem with a long pist ol IWB is that they need to be completely repositioned when you sit down. The other nice thing about carrying a revolver is that since the grip sticks out behind the hammer so much it never jabs me in the side.

      • Sadly true, because most folks are overweight. I’ve IWB carried a Government 1911 for a few years until I switched to a full sized frame with a 4″ slide. Been carrying that one for about 6 years now.

        • How very true.

          When people are, uh, “well rounded,” something with long, straight lines tends to stick out on them.

      • Winter in Wisconsin is coming to an end and I have gone back to my RIA TAC II 4.25″ barrel in 10mm. I was out for almost 3 hours wit the dogs this afternoon and nobody saw,a thing.

        • Sorry to pick on you, Hank, but winter here is indeed nearing a disappointing all-too-soon end. For those that enjoy the colder weather, particularly in south-central Wisconsin, the forecast fort the upcoming weekend is truly disheartening. Mid- to upper 50s. Time to pack up the skis, snowshoes and snowmobiles. Sad.

          But on the positive side of things, the outdoor ranges will be opening, and that means I get to break out the black powder stuff!

        • I bought snow shoes when I moved here in 2015. There hasn’t been enough snow to use them. It seems I have brought Virginia winters with me. On the plus side my outdoor range is open all year long. I went shooting on the last really cold day and discovered that it is really hard to shoot a pistol accurately with heavy gloves on — no trigger feel.

      • There was a gun oriented youtuber called limalife who was quite a petite woman. she carried a full sized 1911 concealed. But I wouldn’t want to.

        • Well, he he surprised me when he changed his mind last minute. Luckily I got it ordered in time to arrive on his actual birthday.
          This kid told my wife not to buy him a present this year out of concern that after my car accident, we needed money to buy another vehicle.
          After hearing that, I doubled the budget for his gift.

  1. Since this particular article has been done to death on every gun related site in existence, may I suggest a slightly different one? How about top 5 open carry guns?

  2. I love my S&W Shield in 9mm. I use a galco IWB. Absolutely love the gun. Trigger tho is a bit on the heavy side but thats ok. Accurate and cycles everything, have about 300 rounfs through this one with no FTF OR FTE. Great gun. Highly recommend.

    • You are aware that the full functioning of the semi auto requires feeding,firing,extracting and ejecting so did it FTF or FTF and did it FTE or FTE? I have had several FTF until I switched ammo then I only occasionally had FTF. My FTE were fine since I just did the regular FTE stoppage drill and carried on until I ran into the dreaded FTE stoppage. Now that was a pain.

        • No worries I’m just busting your chops since it seems to be so common for people to post abbreviations and acronyms without putting the definition of what they mean. Some times it can be determined by context sometimes not. It’s just good practice. Carguys do it often with FI which can be forced induction or fuel injection and similar.

        • I don’t think there’s been a car produced in over 10 years that was not fuel injected, maybe 20 years, we could drop that from consideration! Nobody would recognize a carburetor if it bit them on the ankle, any more.

  3. Just “broke-in” my Shield this weekend. Saturday, over 200 rounds, Sunday, 400 rounds. It’s been well fed, thoroughly cleaned, and ready for carry.

  4. what? no sig p938 sas (sig anti snag)?
    a single stack, 7+1 with extended mag, palm sized 9mm true pocket pistol and a beauty to boot! the fit and finish is simply impeccable.
    early production kinks having been worked out; my recently purchased version eats whatever i feed it, from 115 grain white box and aluminum cased ammo from walmart to hornady +p hollow points.

  5. Makarov PM. All metal makes it a touch heavier than I’d like, but the reliability can’t be beat. And no worries regarding recoil. Easy to conceal…it’s essentially a pocket gun.

  6. I was apprehensive about my Bodyguard .380. With some good range time and coaching, it is very good shooting gun and I make holes where I intend. Was actually surprised at the range that can be squeezed from one. Best feature, it fits in my pocket.

  7. What? Whoever made up this list obviously has no idea what they are talking about since the list fails to include a .44 Magnum revolver with a 6 inch barrel!

    • I’ve packed around a G36 for awhile. It must not be that easy to obtain, because people offer me money for it whereever I go.

      Dunno whether I should take someone up on their offer some day. I rarely sell anything, but when the offers have climbed to $650, it takes some willpower to say ‘no, thanks.’

  8. My EDC is a Glock 23, a .40 cal I typically carry with 13 rounds of Federal HST jacketed hollow-points. After a few recent encounters with criminals, I sometimes carry my Taurus PT111 G2 for backup with 12 rounds of 9mm Luger Federal HSTs. I carry a Cold Steel Kabun Tanto fixed blade knife too. I opt for OWB every chance I get, IWB when away from the home in summer. My little Wisconsin town is chock full of meth users and sex offenders… this is a different society now and not for the better.

  9. No doubt this post will do its job and generate lots of clicks for TTAG.

    It’s actually a pretty good list, and better than similar ones I’ve seen. The wonderful thing is, there are so many good conceal carry guns out there that coming up with a top 5 is pretty much impossible. God bless America!

  10. Nearly all the self-defensive shootings here in Florida seem to be:

    Kel-tec 380 and 9
    Taurus 380
    Ruger .380
    Sometimes a Springfield XDS or a PPK clone

    Floridians are cheap.

    • It’s not so much that all Floridians are cheap… More it’s that if you’re willing to work longer (more money) for a nicer pistol, you’re probably also willing to work longer at avoiding stupid people doing stupid things in stupid places.

      That’s not 100% of folk cheaping out on guns are going to get in trouble… or 100% of people dropping high dollar are going to avoid it. Just a general observation about taking extra time to get nice things being tied with extra time trying to avoid bad things

      • Our that crime is more prevalent among lower income folks, both as perpetrators and victims. Someone who could only afford the cheap guns is more likely to enend up needing to use it.

        • Exactly. Smart guns will only be affordable to people who live in gated communities who need a gun less than poor people.

    • Perhaps what you’re willing to carry is what you’re willing to lose. Or what you’re willing to carry is what you’re willing to carry.

    • Like Alabama, it’s dam hot. Only so much concealing you can do. Shorts,fishing shirt and flip flops is about all you can stand to wear. Did I mention it’s dam hot? My summer carry gun is the PA3T. Winter it’s the Deagle……..:-)

    • “Floridians are cheap.”

      More like: “Floridians live in a swamp. Hence don’t tend to wear much in the way of reliable cower garments….”

      It’s easy to CC an X frame in Fairbanks in the winter…..

  11. Glock 27 with +2 extended G-23 mags. 15 +1 of .40 . I won’t carry less and don’t need more. A fist full of whoop ass !

  12. Top 5 based on sales? Criteria for categorizing them as Concealed Carry? I would like to see top for men and top for women. Top USA made. Top 9mm, 380, 45, etc. Most reliable. Could be a fun full time job.

  13. I just bought a Lionheart LH9C. It’s a little big to make this list, but I got a nice Urban Carry holster for it and the thing looks like I put my wallet in my front pocket.

  14. Bummed my Glock 21 didn’t make the list….and no, I am not being sarcastic. Carried one for 10 years in the People’s Republic of California (mostly with a coat and the for cover clothing), rarely got a second look.

  15. And all I got is this darned old Bersa Thunder .380………Well pleased with it tho. May save some pennies for that Ruger LCR revolver. (I know revolvers, according to some experts, are antiquated, but I have not listened to experts since I found out I didn’t go blind, I just needed glasses).

    • The Thunder, along with the Rami and P239 (and those old HK squeezers I suppose), are the CC semis of choice, for those too elegant and sophisticated to settle for plastic…………….

  16. I highly recommend the ruger SP-101 .357 with 3.1 inch barrel. Unbelievably comfortable for it’s size. It’s a great balance of ballistics and concealability.

    • I like the SP. Wouldn’t mind a .327 for 6 shots, not looking for another caliber right now. 357 is a bit much around the home or vehicles. Also, the lady of the house is more comfortable with .38+p. LCR or SP are both high on the list.

    • johnathan campbell:
      I just got one of those in the Wiley Clapp edition. It’s going to be my “alligator” carry piece when I visit my brother in Florida.

  17. I pickup up a Kahr CW9 and am always surprised at how easy it is to shoot well. A few hundred rounds through it by now and completely reliable.

    • Mine has been flawless from the git go, and it is light enough sometimes I have to check to make sure it’s still there, especially when I wear a pancake holster. Kahrs don’t get a lot of love, but I’d turn down the Glock 43 or the Ruger in .357 in favor of my Kahr any day. In fact, I can’t imagine how painful it must be to shoot that little snubbie in .357. An SP101 would be another story, with a longer barrel, but then it’d be heavy.

      I’d like to shoot the XDS, but they are not allowed across the border into California (unless you happen to be a LEO).

  18. Another vote for the Sig 938
    In an uncle Mike’s number three holster it’s fits your pocket and inside the waistband
    It is a fun gun to shoot so it makes a good range gun as well as a self-defense weapon

  19. “If you want to go full bore, load her up with .357’s — making the LCR the most powerful compact carry option.”
    Hogwash. An LCR with .357 is no more powerful than a “baby Glock”, and carries half the ammo. .357 needs some barrel on it to be powerful; from a 2″ barrel it’s just wasting all its power on muzzle flash and the velocity you get is no better than what the G26 or G43 would give you.

    • And what makes you think muzzle flash is “wasted” in an up close encounter? I’ve been “shot” with muzzle flash, and let me tell you, I dropped like a sack of potatoes…. (some yahoo decided to use my shoulder as a rest for his .308 rifle…..)

      • One shot only and then you and your attacker will be blinded. Average exchange of gun fire takes place at 20 feet with a total of 3 shots fired. The person that gets off the second shot usually wins.

        • Average, schmaverage…

          We’re talking a mighty Magnum here! Everything downrange will disintegrate by the sheer force of righteous boom!

          More seriously, outside, .357 from a 3.1 inch barrel isn’t some sort of solar flare. Cops got by, effectively, with .9 more inches. Including nighttime, inside, no sensory protection for decades.

          In an outside setting, the upside of loud guns, is that the blast cone is fairly directional. Away from you, towards your foe. And, at least anecdotally, magnums seem to be just about crossing the threshold of sensory intensity that causes lots of larger species to get a wee bit startled, to say the least.

          OTOH, inside, particularly in the proverbial hardwood floor hard walls and ceiling, dark hallway outside your bedroom at night, the blast is largely omnidirectional. Hence, get a full size .45. Or .44 spc, if you’re a wheelgunner.

      • Paul Harrell has a good vid on youtube about 38 vs 357 Magnum in Snub Nose Revolvers. Check it out, I think you’ll find it interesting.

  20. Probably an unpopular opinion but I think the S&W 642 is better than the Ruger LCR. Personally I find the LCR does not live up to the hype in the trigger, the trigger on my 642 is just as good. But my main complaint with the LCR is the factory grips overly aggressive finger grooves. I get a better grip with the 642. Also the standard grip on the LCR forces the gun to be held very high in my hand which feels incredibly awkward but it also amplifies the recoil for me. The list also goes on with the fact that the fat rubbery (sticky?) grips on the LCR either prevent the use or hinders the use of some speed loaders.

    • I, too, find the LCRs trigger to be overrated. Is it better than my GP 100? Yes. Is it better than my Model 10-4 or Model 60 PC? No, it is about on par with the standard Smith, and vastly inferior to the Performance Center. It is good for the price, and I am debating getting one in .327 Federal.

      • Compared to other Ruger triggers such as those on the sp101 or gp100 the LCR is incredible. But those other triggers out of the box are trash. Also the 642 in my area is about $50-80 cheaper than the LCR.

  21. I would suggest swapping out the P99 for an HK P30SK. Its one of my two carry guns in rotation right now (The other an M&P 45c) and I cant recommend it more. I have carried about 15 different different handguns and I have to say, for a 9mm it shines. It’s accuracy is more than acceptable. It could not get better ergonomically considering its size. It conceals well. Most importantly though, it’s as reliable and durable as any handgun out there. You can get the consistent LEM trigger, but I find mine in double single to be just fine….. You can say all of this about many handguns. One thing I have learned is to try as many as possible. When you find the right one, stick with it, no matter what anyone tells you.

    • I’m an HK guy (USP 45/45c HK 45). And the p30sk is great, but the price. So much for a super sub 9. It is a great gun though.

  22. I would have read through the article but! As has been stated this topic is old hat and road to death by every “gun wrag writer/want to be expert on what is best for you” . Shares just enough to support his position/point of view. I knew without having to look the pick would be plastic pistols. “Have at e’m” ! I sold my XDM as fast as I bought that plastic piece of crap. I carry my SR 1911 daily and often have my M1911 A2-TACT 2011 MM. I always have the 22TCM tube in it but I can put the 9MM tube and still run the same double stack mags. The biggest plus is in close quarter hand to hand I can still bust a brain bucket or a jaw with my all steel guns. Do that with your plastic pice of crap. As for body size, you never know where a person will stick something.

  23. Send this back to re-write, the author failed to add enough Glocks. There must be several G’s on every GOAT lists.

    Add a 19, drop the Walther that doesn’t sell enough, hit “publish” and see your hit count rise as Fanbois get all riled up when the rest of the Commetariate doesn’t bow down to Gaston’s fragrant manly bits.

    The Editorial staff is pleased that you added a .45 so that the big slow soul reapers and euro maxi loaders will join in the feces flinging. We agree with your choice of not including the HiPointers, they can’t read anyway, so why waste electronInk on their mass slide mass.

  24. P7M8 should be in the list…
    I was looking to get a Glock 43, as I would hate to lose the expensive P7, but after comparing P7 to the 43 for size at my local store, I was surprised to see how they were the same size. Still carrying the P7.

  25. LCR, check.
    But you neglected the:

    1. HK P2000sk with the finger rest lip ground off the floor plates. As a bonus, carry P30/VP9 mags for reloads. P30 for winter or OC.
    2. Kahr PM9/CM9
    3. HK P7 (PSP or M8)

  26. I am seeking some honest answers from those in the know; The tiny Ruger LCPII and it’s .380 or the slightly larger LCS in the 9mm; which would you recommend for an older couple, (Grandparents)

    Gramps says it’ll be a Ruger, so that’s decided, but those who have shot both, your thoughts please Apologies for thread de-rail….

    • Ruger would be my choice. A .380 with 90 gr hollow points, or the Jacket soft points. Any ‘tiny’ pistol will be hard to handle. Any large framed pistol might be too much to manipulate. A 9mm is a sweet spot with hollow points or soft nosed ammo. A compact Ruger 9mm would be a good bet. I would try and find out which the grandparents can handle best. Maybe a range that allowed rent to try? I’m assuming they are not new to firearms. Be safe, good to be concerned for grand parents.

      • Are you married to a semi auto? Small guns can be tough to operate, just running the slide on my pm9 is too much for my wife. The LCR is a great little revolver. Can be had in .38spl as an aluminum frame, or in 9mm & .357 with a steel frame. The LCRx can be had in .327 federal and it’s a six shot.

        I’d advise renting before buying, if possible. Make sure all intended users can run the gun.

        • Thanks to all the responses just maybe the revolver for gramps and granny is the best choice. I appreciate all the great suggestions, will try to get them some range time to do a shake-down cruse for what they like best. I just didn’t want to stand by the counter\goods dealer guy giving me the evil eye as the elderly decide. Thanks much !

    • I agree with adverse4, of the two the LC9S is the more controllable gun. Another option is the LC380, which is basically the LC9 chambered in .380, which would likely kick less than either of the other two. I do not know if they make that with th LC9S trigger, though. Good luck.

    • I recently rented both the LCP2 and the LC9S plus the Browning 1911-380, the Bersa Thunder .380, and the Sig 238. I own a Ruger SR9C and a Taurus TCP. If you are interested in maximum concealment, the LCP2 was not a bad shooter. I am used to the TCP so for me, not a lot of recoil. With practice LCP2 could be pretty accurate at shorter distances. Bersa and LC9S did not do as well for me as I had hoped. LC9S was pretty snappy and I know why I bought the SR9C, even though not as easy to conceal. I was not used to the Bersa but I could have gotten used to it. Then there were the expensive guns. The 1911-380 was slick but it didn’t fit my hand well. The winner for me was the Sig 238. Almost no recoil, fit my hand perfectly, very accurate, felt like the high quality, mostly metal gun that it is. But the most expensive. If money were no object, I liked the Sig. If you are looking for two guns, have smaller hands, and you can tolerate more recoil, the LCP2 is not bad at all with the dealers in my area selling them for $280.

    • I’d suspect an LC380 would be the hot ticket, particularly if it is not going to be carried on the body. Load with Lehigh and you’re good to go.

    • The P239 is the real 42. Gaston’s plastic reasonably fantastic, is still just an imposter, nice as it is.

      I’d take a Thunder over a P230 (or ppk), though.

  27. Cz Rammi or P07? Serious men carry CZ. Children buy Glocks because their freind’s cousin’s exgirlfriend’s brother’s boyfriend was a cop and had a Glock. They never break or malfunction. You can shoot rocks out of Glocks! We know this due to the vast firearms expertise of the law enforcement community and their nearly free Glocks. I swear there are no best of lists that ommit a Glock or AR. Bunch of fad following hipsters the whole lot of ’em.

    • Glock 26 is perfection in California, since only the LCR and Shield 9/.40 are on roster from that list.
      Maximum capacity (10+1) in a reasonable package and there is no ‘once you find the right ammo’ with this Glock, the ‘right ammo’ is marked outside every box: 9×19. Feeds anything the right caliber.

  28. I have a Sig P938, great gun, accurate and so far hasn’t missed a beat. But, it’s kinda pricey and I would be sad if I scratched it/dropped it/it got taken & put in an evidence locker if the unthinkable happened. So, I picked up a S&W Bodyguard .380 for a very concealable pocket pistol that I wouldn’t get too attached to.

    The problem is, the d*mn thing failed after the first 6 shots. Some sort of fault with the mag release meant that you couldn’t insert a magazine (it would hang up) without having to depress the mag release first. So, now it’s back at S&W and I haven’t had the chance to get used to the long DA trigger and hard to see blacked out sights…….

  29. The P99c surprised me, it’s a nice gun and I like shooting it but I would have expected the Walther PPS before the P99c.

    I do like my CZ Remi as well too.

  30. G30S with 10 rd mag and 15 rd extended G21 mag for backup in the winter filled with Underwood Extreme Defender/Penetrators, G43 with +2 mag and +2 backup mag of same ammo spring and fall, NAA Guardian .32 ACP with Extreme Cavitators hot summer days, and an EDC blade or two.

  31. My summertime carry weapon here in Oklahoma is an H&K P2000sk chambered 40 Smith. Amazing little gun, carries 9+1 single stack and pretty much disappears IWB beneath a t-shirt. Expensive, I admit, but I`ve never regretted a penny spent. (Or a range round fired)

  32. If you’re comfortable with the heavier antiquated 1911 being carried concealed, why would anybody who knows better and had at least a modicum of tactical experience or understanding not then opt for the Glock 20 and have some REAL firepower for extra inconvenient bulk and weight?

  33. I must add my opinion concerning the article. All listed pistols are fine guns, but I have carried for more years then I will admit and have carried the Sig p238 and a Sig 938 for the past three years. The ease of protocol is my deciding factor. IWB Crossbreed Minituck for both. Winthrop OWB for both. Sneekypete for the Sig 238. This works for all requirements for our Wisconsin weather. Carried a Springfield XDM 3.8 double stack, great gun but to big for daily carry ( my opinion) Thankfully our state is onboard with the second amendment .


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