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The Smith & Wesson M&P9 was the very first handgun I ever purchased. I had just received my permit to carry here in Minnesota and the M&P was one of the few guns I had shot prior to obtaining my permit and I’d liked it, so it seemed like a good idea. I saved up for several months and then came the glorious moment of buying my first handgun. It was euphoria at it’s utmost. After I came down off the mountain of bliss, I actually had to figure out how to carry the thing . . .

I orginally opted to go for a BLACKHAWK! Serpa Rention Holster OWB. It’s a great holster that I still own, but after having to constantly throw on an outer garment to cover it up (my wonderful wife hates when I print, and will often remark with great concern, “Your gun is showing!”), I got sick of lugging a full-size pistol and started the search for something smaller.

I longed for a more concealable gun. That started my year-long phase of being obsessed with slim, single stack pistols. I went out and bought a Bodygaurd .380 for pocket carry. It’s a phenomenal little gun that successfully rode in my pocket every day for quite a while. It gives me 6 + 1 and no one ever knows it’s in my pocket. I considered it my “gentlemen’s pistol,” one that I could carry regardless of what I was wearing, and it served as an excellent EDC gun.

After a while I wanted the slimmest, most comfortable gun I could get my hands on, but I still wanted more boom boom than a .380 provides. So I did some research, and after meticulously watching hours of YouTube reviews I settled on the Kel-Tec PF9 and bought one along with a used Ruger LCR. The LCR was simply a good deal at the time and an impulse buy.

I took the Kel-Tec to the range a couple times and immediately hated it (this was before I learned to try before you buy). I couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn with it, even when I was taking my time, let alone any kind of rapid fire (which would be required under stressful self defense scenarios). Every time I pulled the trigger, the the recoil was so bad it almost lept out of my hand. I immediately hated all the YouTube reviewers who told me what a wonderful gun it was and I wondered how much they’d been bribed to proclaim it’s greatness.

Every time I went out to the range to shoot it, I thought, “Maybe I’ll get the hang of it now. Maybe I can work with it this time.”  I really wanted to like it, but I just couldn’t. I had my friends try it and they too struggled to shoot it with any kind of accuracy, let alone speed. I sold it several months later.

The LCR initially was also a huge struggle for me. Again, try as I might, I couldn’t hit what I aimed at. I couldn’t read the sights correctly for the life of me. My friend Daniel had no such problems, though, and I decided the problem was with me rather than the gun. Eventually some friends bought me some Big Dot sights for it, and my accuracy immediately improved.

But eventually I tired of the slim pistols with their smaller capacity and my limited ability with them. Usually when I went to the range I pulled my M&P out of the bag because it was such a joy to shoot.

I would shoot my M&P with confidence and was able to hit what I wanted to, even at distances of more than 10 yards vastly exceeded anything I could do with the LCR. It’s not rocket science that smaller guns just don’t have same capability as larger full framed guns.

As I considered switching my primary carry gun back to a full size gun, I tried to convince myself with data. Most defensive gun uses didn’t even require pulling the trigger. Most DGUs that did require pulling the trigger, usually happened inside a distance of three yards, with three rounds or less being fired and all being over in three seconds.

But try as I might, I just kept thinking, “What if…?” What if I had to make that shot 15 yards? Or 20 yards? Or longer than that? What if I needed more than three rounds?  What if there were multiple assailants? What if I faced a determined attacker who required substainal force (read: a lots of bullets) to stop?

An acquaintance of mine was robbed by three young misanthropes at gun point. Could I really count on only five or seven rounds against three armed assailants? Every time I went to church I would look across to the other side of the room, about 30-40 yards away and think, “What if a mass shooter opened fire from way over there?  What could I do about it?” With only my Bodyguard or my LCR, not much  With my M&P I knew I’d at least have a chance.

And so, I came full circle, now carrying the M&P9 again as much as possible in an Alien Gear IWB holster which made all the difference in the world in terms of comfort.

At the end of the day the confidence of carrying a full size gun and knowing exactly what my abilities are bring me more comfort than the limited abilities of the smaller framed guns. I like knowing I have the best tool for the job. There is nothing wrong with the smaller framed guns, I just prefer the confidence and my ability on a full frame nine. On top of that the M&P9 carries a very generous 17+1 rounds.

My rule these days for a carry gun is “Carry the gun with the most rounds you can comfortably carry and conceal.” For now, for me, that’s the M&P9.

(See the rest of the posts in this series here. Send your What I Carry and Why submissions with a photo to [email protected] with WICAW in the subject line.)


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  1. I admire your consideration for thinking of the “across the (large) room” scenario. Many times folks think only of inside their home distances only. GOOD FOR YOU, as we are not always at home. Further, I agree, practice with what you carry so you are sure you can hit your intended target at 25 yards. If you can manage “minute of a bad guy” accuracy at 25, even slow-fire, 5 yards should be easier, with practice, of course. FOR SURE, never carry a weapon that you are not POSITIVE you can shoot with effective accuracy. AND never carry one you are not ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN is reliable with your ammo of choice. My 2 cents worth. PLUS, make mine an XDs,3.3 in 45ACP.

  2. You know, Minnesota allows open carry. That would have solved most of your problems. I can understand only wanting to CC in church, though.

  3. I almost had to do a double take–the photo looks like the exact same setup as my nightstand piece. Mine is .40 S&W with a NEBO iProtec 190 weapon light, but I do have the barrel and mags for a drop-in 9mm conversion.

      • I also recommend the Nebo flashlights. I carry a little single AA powered Nebo flashlight always. And use it almost as much as my knife. (Multiple times a day).

        Their weapon lights are nice too, but I’m into practical. 🙂

        • Totally agree–never leave the house without my little single AA NEBO for the last 3 years and it is one dependable little light. Dollar for dollar, it is on par with many more expensive lights. I did have to remove the defensive strike bezel as it would cut holes in my pants pockets over time. That thing is super sharp!!

  4. You might have a better opinion of small-frame guns had you tried something of better quality than the Keltec. A few examples are M&P 9c, Shield, Ruger SR9c, Kahr K9 or CM9, Glock 26.

    • Absolutely. I’ve got both, the AlienGear rides in the drawer and my SHTF rides in my waistband. The SHTF is much better made and better designed. “how can it be that much better?”

      – More compact backing
      – Better formed Kydex that grips the gun well
      – More robust backing that won’t collapse into the shell (fixed on the AG 3.0 model I hear)
      – Holster body and backing are relieved to allow establishing a firing grip. All AG holsters I’ve seen ( up to 3 now) require relieving the shell/backing so your middle knuckle won’t rub.

      That said, AG’s do come with awesome hardware kits.

  5. I want to personally and sincerely commend you for carrying your weapon to church. Yeah I said it and I’ll back it up with this anecdotal story. As a Christian cop (now retired) I never used to carry my weapon with me to church until…the Sunday after MLK’s mom was shot to death in a Sunday morning church service. The following Sunday I was laying out my suit along with my Beretta and shoulder rig when my wife gave me a quizzical a look. “Martin Luther King’s mama was assassinated in CHURCH last Sunday,” I quietly but resolutely stated to her. She gave me a somber affirmative nod in response and I went back to getting ready. Churches are no longer the sacrosanct places they once were. With the advent of domestic and foreign terrorism, which the president and our elected officials are now importing into 180 cities across our country WITHOUT any of us having a say in the decision, it’s incumbent upon every able bodied and TRAINED individual to prepare themselves for not just their defense but for those they hold near and dear sitting in the pews around them or at any public venue for that matter. And one more thing, remind the fools who let the packs of wild feral dogs into our country who like to hunt and kill lambs who it was who elected them and who it is that can vote them out of office. Can I get an amen?

    • AMEN!!!, MY FRIEND! Sorry, but somehow I missed the story on MRS. King. My most sincere condolences to her family. Several times, my wife has questioned why I would take my Taurus 738 (then) or my Springfiels XDs (now) along with us to church. The S. C. church shooting, this incident and a YouTube blip showing an elderly female being mugged in a church are support enough plus a bunch. Each time such a thing happens, I make sure she is aware of it. She actually was a patron at the Luby’s in Texas where there was a big shooting some years ago. I am quite thankful she was not present for the event. When she becomes forgetful & asks “why are you bringing that along?”, I simply remind her of one or more of these incidents. Then she remembers clearly.
      There are no “weapons prohibited” signs at the church I attend. Many of the congregation are elderly and quite conservative. One day, after services, I asked the Minister what the “official” policy was. His response was, no one has approached the subject, I am in favor of those who can legally carry, please do so. He related that he felt uncomfortable announcing so “publicly” because of one or two of the prominent members. However, he was all in favor of having an armed congregation.

  6. Dylan,

    You wrote down every single point of my philosophy for carrying a full size pistol. My only difference: I carry the M&P40.

    Bravo sir for your odyssey and decision process for choosing your everyday carry firearm … and for carrying a firearm every day.

  7. I’ve also wondered about carrying a full size pistol to make a longer range shot. My aim is pretty good, but an xdm with 5.25″ of barrel and night sites would make things a lot easier.

  8. And while I’m “preaching” (yeah I was a pastor before I felt called to be in law enforcement), I commend you for practicing as much as it seems that you do and would exhort everyone to do the same along with passing on these two small pieces of advice. Never leave the range without practicing head shots. Yeah a vest might stop a body mass round but nothing says welcome to paradise (or the stench and wails of hell) and your fat, ugly, hairy seventy virgins like a round between the eyes. Also practice a few rounds without hearing protection in order to acclimate yourself to what live fire sounds like. I used to do that because I’d heard of some officers flinching when they heard or fired their first rounds in a live fire shooting incident. The one officer involved shooting I was in it was like another day at the range. Okay one more piece of advice…carry a small powerful flashlight with you as well. If you’re involved in a situation and there’s a power outage you’re going to need someway to illuminate your target(s). Okay let the naysayers and audiologists begin.

    • I have/had Grand-Parents, more Aunts, Uncles, cousins and extending family who were/are Pastors, Preachers, Evangelsts, and missionaries, etc. My siblings(myself and 3 other brothers) were/are still 1st generation LEO’s. I would tell people that I just ministered in a different way. Yeah, I still got to “lay hands” on people when the needed arose.

  9. I’m an M&P fan.

    If I didn’t already have a bunch of Glock guns, mags, and gear, I would be carrying this gun.

  10. Hoo boy carrying is (unofficially) encouraged in my large Indiana church. You will NEVER see so many tooled up. Good choice of gun too. I too hated the PF9. Made my hand bleed even with a Handall Jr. And thumb bite too. It worked ok(used $185 from Cabelas). Never a failure either…

  11. I had a similar experience with my carry gun. “What good does comfortable carry do me if I can’t skillfully use whatever it is I’m carrying?” and that’s how I wound up carrying my CZ compact, and previously a G19 full time. Smaller guns are fine for the 3 x 3 x 3 rule, but I know I’m not alone that the fear of being mugged is not the reason I carry.

  12. Nice write-up. Man those alien gears are cheap compared to the prices I’m used to seeing. May have to pick one up. Really need to get licensed one of these days. :p

    • You get what you pay for. Some people are OK with the quality/design of the AG. If you don’t want to practice with it then you might fall in that camp. The rubbing on the knuckle of my draw hand was enough that the extra $25 to a quality holster was worth it.

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