[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.