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[ED: In response to reader requests, this is the third in a series of posts by TTAG writers revealing their choice of carry guns.]
Being a friendly and caution-minded person, I usually carry two guns. One of them is a custom STI Duty One 4.0 with an aluminum frame in .45ACP with Heine Straight 8 night sights and the other is a Kahr PM9 in 9mm with night sights as my backup. I’ve got a lot of confidence in these guns, and that’s why I carry them. But it wasn’t always this way . . .

In fact, I wasn’t much of a 1911 guy at all. From 1993 to 2008, my daily carry pistols were a Ruger P90 and a Smith and Wesson J Frame in .38 Special. Both are great guns, and I would highly recommend either. I put tens of thousands of rounds through that P90. I competed with it, and carried it on or off body just about every day.
I had just finished running a course at a Texas Department of Public Safety range in Florence, Texas, with my P90 when I got to try my first 1911. I had never shot a 1911 before and had heard that they were unreliable and just not as good as my beloved P90. After a couple of magazines on a still range, I ran the course again.
My score with this new gun – a platform I had never shot before – was pretty much equal to the gun I had at least 30,000 rounds through. And it just felt natural. I stayed and shot with mixed ammunition, ball, and hollow point alike, with zero malfunctions. I was smitten.
So I got my first 1911, a Ruger SR1911, and then experienced what everyone said about the reliability of the 1911. I sent the gun off to Dave Dawson at Dawson Precision, and he sent me back an accurate, reliable gun. I put about 5,000 rounds through it without malfunction before I bought my next 1911, a Les Baer.
I bought many more 1911s after that, at every price range and quality level, but all were 5″ steel guns in .45ACP. Although I do believe the .45ACP’s ballistics to be better for the intended purpose than the 9mm, they are better to such a small degree as to be pretty much academic. I keep using the .45ACP because it does a good amount of damage, I’m used to it, it’s friendly to the reloader (I roll my own), and I shoot well with it. As I get older and my arthritis gets worse, I won’t feel under-gunned one bit when I switch to the 9mm.
Eventually, after a lot of trial and error that resulted in a nice collection of 1911s, I decided on what I wanted for everyday carry. I went to the good folks at STI Guns in Georgetown, Texas, and explained to them what I needed in a gun. They pointed to the aluminum framed Duty One 4.0. I was pretty hesitant as t0 its reliability, still believing so many of the rumors. I explained to their CEO that I would likely be shooting the gun at least 2,000 rounds per month and wanted it to last. He showed me the aluminum framed 3.0 he had 30,000 rounds through. That sold me.
I started with the stock gun and then STI worked it up a bit in their custom shop. So did Dave Dawson. What came back to me was a gun that’s light weight, conceals IWB extremely well, shoots around 2″ groups at 25 yards, and is unfailingly reliable. Unfailingly. I put 2,000 rounds straight though it one day, with mixed ammo, including my LSWC hand loads, with no lube and no cleaning. It didn’t hiccup. I’ve put a bit over $2000 into the gun and it’s been money well spent. It draws fast and points well, and is on me pretty much all the time.
But not really all the time. For deep concealment or boot carry, I have recently switched to the Kahr PM9. I’ve had the gun for a couple of years, and I was always surprised with the accuracy of such a small pistol, but my J Frame was the epitome of concealability and reliability. Wheel guns just give me confidence. But ultimately, I had to concede that the vast difference in the two guns’ manual of arms was slowing me down whenever I transitioned from one to the other.
I started looking at very small 1911-style guns, but then tried the Kahr, which was sitting on the shelf, again. And again, I was surprised at how well this little gun ran. For the last few months, I’ve put in some extra draw and fire time and I’ve been really pleased with it. What’s most important to me with these types of guns, other than concealment, is that I’m able to hit a 10″ target at 10 yards one handed as fast as I can pull the trigger…and that rounds go out every time I pull the trigger.
The PM9 does this well, and in slow fire, 6″ groups at 25 yards are easily doable. New, the gun was about $600. I have one concern with the PM9’s manual of arms. It tends to not go into battery fully on the first round unless you use the slide lock as a slide release. Using the slide lock as a slide release or just tapping the magazine fixes the problem. Still, that one issue may get me to dump it as my backup/deep concealment gun. All in all, I’ve found my backup gun to be much harder to get just right than my primary. It is, however, no less important.
I’ll keep trying other guns, and other platforms, because I’m not committed to the tool, but to the result. So far, these are the tools that get me the results I’m looking for.

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    • +1. Love my PM9 – carrying it now. It’s small, reliable, and accurate. In my opinion there is no better small carry gun – and I’ve tried a bunch. Carried with a Kramer #3 holster, it just disappears – I’ve carried that combo in suits, jeans, and shorts. I’ve made very public speeches, business presentations, and carried in daily life for about 10 years.

      Always ready, never printed, never identified as armed. I absolutely love it.

    • Another +1 (is that a plus 2?) from me. My pm9 is in my pocket right now, and I’ve been carrying it for over 2 years now as my primary ccw. I bought it used and it has been 100% reliable. The company manual of arms states for the slide release to be used when loading the weapon, so I use it. No issues.

      • Another +1 +1 for the Kahr PM9, mine has 1.5K since 2009 and runs fine. Replaced the stock sights with Meprolight Nightsights and carry in a Raven Concealment OWB.

  1. “I competed with it, and carried it on or off body just about every day.”

    OFF-body carry? You inhuman monster! You irresponsible dolt! Don’t you know that off-body carry makes baby Jesus cry? Off-body carry is a crime against humanity!

    Since it was a P90, I’m assuming your off-body carry involved a pallet jack? Those old Rugers are great guns, but dang, they’re beefy.

    • Before age, injury, and excuses got the better of me, I had a very wide back and a very narrow waist. I could conceal a brick under a T-shirt back then. Oh…gone are the days.

  2. Nice.
    I’m wishing I could have gotten over the few hiccups my Les Baer had. It was a really accurate gun. But it ticked me off when it would hiccup for no apparent reason.
    I won’t own a piece that hiccups.

    • I’ve had a couple and now I don’t have any. Mine were amazing, for about 200 rounds. Then they had to be broken down, cleaned and lubed. No time for that.

  3. I love my Springfield 1911 EMP in 9mm. Has thousands for rounds through it without a flaw. There is nothing like a 1911 for concealed carry – thin & easy to conceal, *very* accurate, great trigger and if done up in alloy, very light weight.

    • Check out a CZ PCR. If you get trigger work done on them they are pretty remarkable. Even bone stock they are pretty awesome.

  4. I too, love the 45ACP and the 1911 platform. While I have never owned one (for very long) that had hiccups, concealment was ALWAYS an issue. Likely because I live in the Deep South, Solution? Springfield’s XDs (3.3) in 45. Carried in an IWB holster, it hides under a loose shirt not tucked. Best little big gun ever! My 2 cents, of course.

  5. The arthritis thing is there for me, also. It doesn’t bother me that much now, but its there and will not get better as I age.

    I do grip exercises and weights at the gym just for my grip. I train other portions of my anatomy but I put a real effort into my hands and forearms.

    I love shooting and my independence too much to just give in.

    Getting old ain’t for the weak.

    • Agree 100% Getting old sucks! I just bought a Ruger LCR and after shooting it a little, I screwed up my right wrist on a loading press, so now I can’t shoot right handed for, I don’t know how long.
      I had just bought a cheap holster to get me by until I can find a nice leather one, when I got it home, I realized the gun store guy gave me a left handed holster. I called him up, and he said he had a right handed one, and would gladly exchange it.
      Then the wrist thing happened, so when I went to town yesterday, to the LGS, I told the owner that I would just keep the left hand holster and learn how to use it.
      So now I have two, one for each side. I suppose if I wanted I could wear them both together. EDC one one side, back up on the other! And of course I always have the little 22 mag in my pocket. That should really freak out Mzzzzzzz Shanon.

  6. Thank you for being a 1911-ite who acknowledges the reliability issue (and addresses it intelligently) instead of simply denying it.

    (I’ve seen people deny their guns were unreliable right after I witnessed failures, even better a friend of mine got to hear someone brag about his wonderful 1911, then was shown a video of it being fired…and failing, but it was a perfectly reliable gun, yessiree. He managed through superhuman effort to end the conversation and leave the denier’s vicinity before busting out laughing.)

    • I love autoloaders, but have always been apprehensive about their reliability. Even the goods ones, once in a great while, are prone to miss fire, stove pipe, failure to eject, jam, and of course the deadly “accidental mag release”. While this doesn’t happen very often, a wheel gun has none of these problems!
      Of course, most only hold 5 or 6 rounds, but that’s what speed loaders are for. To each his own

  7. I like this article a lot better than the last. Your process of choosing the 1911 as a carry gun made way more sense. Switching carry guns with different manual of arms should not be take lightly. I also carry Kahrs and have come to the conclusion that the first round slide lock is not much of an issue for two reasons. First the Kahr is “micro” 9 I can put 200 round down range without any discomfort. They are pocket guns that I enjoy shooting. Second, shot them in over 20 matches and never had an issue with using the slide lock. And boy do you get to practice reloads.
    However they do have a really big issue with the magazines spilling rounds in your pockets, and even with mag holders. But then I don’t carry an extra mag, I carry an extra Kahr.

    • No, although I am very familiar with the practice and culture. I got assigned that call sign when I was deployed to the border between the DR and Haiti. It kinda just stuck after that.

      • I have heard the border of the Dominican Republic and Haiti is a rather odd place.

        The horrific poverty of Haiti means their countryside is stripped bare of anything that can be used for fuel but look over to the D.R. and see lush jungle.

        Any truth to that?

        • Completely true. Its called “the scar” for just that reason. Total crime economy. I started a clinic out of the only structure I could find, a chicken coop.

  8. I think full sized and commander-sized 1911’s are great CCW guns – as long as they are reliable with JHPs. My next CCW gun may be a 9mm Shield or a 229 Legion. I’ll own a 1911 one of these days.

  9. “I’ll keep trying other guns, and other platforms, because I’m not committed to the tool, but to the result. So far, these are the tools that get me the results I’m looking for.”

    Great ending comment. Thank you! This point/idea can’t be overstated. I got told today that my defensive pistol sight choice is a step down from some others that cost the same. It doesn’t matter that I have tried them all and chose the ones that gave me personally the best result.

    I hear you on the reloading of .45. As it is for many, it is my favorite pistol cartridge to load. I am not a .45 snob or anything, I appreciate my 9mm pistols every bit as much with one exception. I still think in a less than ideal situation where one is forced to use FMJ where nothing is going to really expand I prefer 230g of .45 ball ammo over the common 9mm weights in FMJ.

    For me I started with 1911s and used them for decades before my first polymer striker pistol. I will always have a place in my heart for the 1911 and believe they are still great weapons to use in any pistol role. I would still be using them but I can’t deny being faster with my other modern pistols in the same size range.

    I shoot my 1911s a lot less now these days but when I do operating it is like riding a bike from all those years of only using a 1911 and revolver. I would also trust my life to every 1911 that I own including ones I built and some low cost versions that only needed a little easy work on my part to make them reliable. I share the opinion with many that it is still one of the most beautiful pistols every made.

  10. To all the Kahr owners: do all Kahr’s have a very long trigger pull? I have a CW9093 and find the pull to be way too long so I am probably going to sell it and maybe get a S&W Shield.



  11. I admit that I didn’t read the whole article, nor did I read all of the comments, so if this has been covered… well, it’s my opinion so I’m going to say it anyway.

    I don’t like Heinie straight-eight sights. I never could get used to them and make them work. So… um, yeah. That’s all I got.

  12. “I have one concern with the PM9’s manual of arms. It tends to not go into battery fully on the first round unless you use the slide lock as a slide release.”

    I too noticed this. I think it actually states in the manual (could be wrong) that this is the way you should load the gun (using the slide lock). Good of you to mention it. I’m not sure this is widely known.

  13. The cheapest I’ve found .45 ammo is $26 for a 100-pack of Federal at Wal-Mart. I reload as well, so assuming a very generous 50% savings over the cheapest factory ammo I’ve ever found, that still comes out to $260 for 2,000 rounds plus the time to reload.

    There really is no point to the previous statement…I’m just jealous of your monthly ammo budget. Carry on, citizen.


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