[ED: In response to reader requests, this is the fourth in a series of posts by TTAG writers revealing their choice of carry guns.]
I’m not sure my rig’s tires had even cooled off from the move back to Washington from California before I was putting fingerprints on digital paper as part of the Washington CPL (concealed pistol license) process. After living in the Bay Area for over a decade with better chances of my wife acting as wingman while I hit on one of RF’s comely daughters than of acquiring a CCW permit, I didn’t own a suitable carry pistol. The approximately 30-day turnaround on the Washington CPL gave me a month to finalize that choice, and the time was spent putting rounds through the few candidates I hadn’t yet played with . . .
My preferences — no manual safety, long-ish and heavy-ish trigger pull, lilliputian height, slim as Kate Moss, 9mm caliber — were plugged into the find-a-gat-a-tron and the leading contender was Beretta’s Nano. Of that list, my biggest specification concern was the height from top of slide to bottom of grip.
I had managed to carry a pistol enough — even in California without a permit it’s legal in certain camping and fishing/hunting scenarios and on private property, etc. — to develop a preference for IWB carry at 3:00, plus or minus ~30 minutes depending on the pistol and the holster. The bottom front corner of the grip (often actually the front of the magazine baseplate) was always the part that noticeably prints.
Canting the firearm forward alleviates this source of printing, but so does a short grip, not that they’re mutually exclusive. With the short grip of the Nano, though, I’m able to dial in my cant angle so it’s right at the natural angle my wrist takes when gripping the holstered pistol in its carry location. Most folks I know are sacrificing draw-from-the-holster ergonomics and alignment to the gods of carry concealment (less printing) and comfort, but my preference was to avoid that.
Of course, a short grip isn’t without its sacrifices; namely purchase/control and round count. I shot the Nano quite a bit with the flush mag as well as the extended mag, which smoothly makes for a full-length grip, and couldn’t discern a difference in my accuracy, speed, or confidence. This is in keeping with my past experience, where if I’m able to get a proper grip from the holster, I don’t seem to be affected by my strong hand pinkie finger wrapping under the bottom of the magazine. Actually, I think it’s quite functional in that location. What entails a sufficient round count and/or sufficient caliber is completely subjective with no right or wrong answer, hence the endless debate, but obviously I’m comfortable with seven rounds of 9×19 on tap in my EDC.
To be clear, I also had no interest in amending my wardrobe. I was looking only at pistols that would conceal as fully as possible under a light t-shirt. Likely a t-shirt purchased many years ago when I was skinnier. I mean, before the shirts shrank. Frankly, I don’t care if I’m printing when out in public. It’s mostly my wife, family, and their acquaintances and those in their social groups where I most want to stay off the radar, if only to avoid conversations that have turned increasingly political in recent years.
Actually, that isn’t entirely true. If I ever find myself in a situation where my Nano has to come into play, I want to be the only person aware of its existence. For me that extends from wardrobe choice (not looking “tactical,” not obviously wearing a size too large, etc.), to not printing, to the people who know me not looking at me expectantly.
Sometimes – but not always – an 8-round extended magazine is carried as a backup to the flush-fitting 6-rounder that’s usually in the Nano. In colder months when I’m wearing a sweater and/or a jacket, the extended mag makes cameos as the in-the-gun magazine, sometimes with another 8-rounder as backup.
Now of all these subjective personal preferences are all well and good, and they’re what led me to the Nano as a finalist. But the pistol would never have seen the dark of concealment if it didn’t perform. For whatever reason, despite the admittedly clunky appearance of a high bore axis, I shoot the little thing like a darn laser beam – rapidly and accurately. Better than most of its peers. It was #1 on stats (shortest, thinnest, sleekest, one of the lightest, and I liked the trigger) and tied for #1 on the range. It was also reliable for me in initial testing, and this hasn’t changed.
In over three years of use it has fed, fired, and ejected absolutely everything I have ever shot through it, which includes 92 grain solid copper novelties to 147 grain hollow points and everything in between, whether cased in brass, aluminum, or plated or lacquered steel, from weak-loaded, cheap reloads to +P+ flame throwers to rounds with hard NATO primers. Without exhibiting so much as a single hitch or hiccup, I trust this pistol.
There’s a lot of “my preference” involved in every last aspect of an EDC choice, so I wouldn’t suggest this is the right pistol for somebody else. I narrowed down every gun on the market to about six contenders that met my general specifications and preferences, then tried them all to find a winner that I shot well with full confidence in its reliability. For me that’s the Nano, carried in a Cook’s IWB holster.
During the summer months, depending on attire and activity, I occasionally pocket carry a Taurus TCP instead. I pocket carried the Nano a couple times, but it’s much nicer with the thinner, significantly lighter TCP. Either way it’s in a Remora holster, which I prefer a bit to the Sticky holster.
During the winter months, when the mood strikes, I occasionally carry an HK P7. As with the Nano, the TCP’s and P7’s shootability and reliability for me have been nonpareil. The manual of arms across the three guns is near enough to identical that I’m comfortable with this very limited carry rotation. I realize there’s spirited debate on that topic, but as all of these pistols will fire when I draw, take a firing grip, and pull the trigger, I’m happy to split the middle between no carry rotation and lots of carry rotation with “same-muscle-memory carry rotation.” The TCP is often a “no gun or this tiny gun” proposition, while the P7 is just for my own enjoyment. Preferences.
Oh, and a Gen3 GLOCK 20SF full of 220 grain hard cast +P is my woods carry gun.