Concealed carry can provide a sense of security and potentially save your life and the lives of others. But there are a lot of questions and considerations that go into concealed carry that someone new to it might not know about.
We’re going to go over what you should know about concealed carry so you can get the best option for you and your lifestyle.
What is a Concealed Carry Gun?
A concealed carry gun is a gun that you carry for self-defense. The primary reason to carry a concealed handgun is to protect yourself and your family and friends from violent criminals or even wild animals.
Carrying a handgun is a big responsibility. And using it should only be resorted to in the most dangerous scenarios. This means you have to select a firearm that works when you need it to and not “some of the time.” Practicing and training with your selected handgun will help reveal reliability issues or potential problems with that particular gun.
Types of Concealed Carry Guns
There are many different options for concealed carry guns, but they usually fall into the following categories: compact pistols, subcompact pistols, revolvers, and pocket pistols. These are the most common options, but depending on your holster style, training, and lifestyle, other larger pistols might be used.
Compact pistols are the go-to option for concealed carry guns using semi-automatics. They are not as large as full-sized pistols but still have enough mass to help mitigate recoil while still having greater magazine capacity than some other pistols, depending on the design.
Compact pistols usually have similar features to full-sized guns, allowing them to use a lot of similar accessories. This can be everything from holsters, red-dot sights, and weapon lights, depending on the pistol.
The drawback to using compact pistols is that they can be relatively large and heavy when compared to other options. They also require a better understanding of the pistol itself to use safely. Another drawback is that they need to be regularly checked to see if they still function after being left for long periods of time.
Subcompacts are the smallest semi-automatic option available. These are usually stand-alone designs or are adapted from larger handguns.
The benefits of a subcompact are easier reloads (because of the magazine), quicker fire rates, and ammunition availability. This allows you to use readily available ammunition instead of rare or extremely specific ammunition types that some revolvers use.
The drawbacks to a subcompact pistol are barrel length and greater perceived recoil. The shorter barrel on subcompacts can impact bullet performance, resulting in modern hollow point ammunition behaving like non-expanding ammunition.
The smaller overall components are harder to rely on since there is a size restriction for the gun. There is also a higher potential for the user to induce a malfunction because there is less gun to hold onto.
Because of how lightweight many subcompacts are, there is more recoil that can be felt. Even relatively light-recoiling ammunition can feel unpleasant because the low mass of the gun doesn’t help to mitigate recoil, and pushes that recoil directly into the hands
Revolvers (Small Frame)
Small-frame revolvers have been the go-to option for concealed carry using revolvers. For most of the United States’ history, people have gravitated to small and easily concealable revolvers for self-defense.
You can also customize the grip to fit your hand naturally, providing better control and comfort.
The major drawback to small-frame revolvers is that they are often ammunition-specific. Since the smaller revolver usually does not have an adjustable sight (although this is changing on newer models), the ammunition used with that pistol has to be carefully selected. The ammunition that shoots to the sights might not be the best defensive ammunition.
Being able to aim and make hits with the revolver is more important than using the latest and greatest bullet design.
Pocket pistols are very small semi-automatics or revolvers that can easily fit in your pocket. These types of guns became popular around the beginning of the 1900s when direct blowback designs were starting to be developed.
These types of pistols are easy to carry, can be comfortable to shoot, and are more likely to be selected by new shooters for self-defense. All these are benefits in the long run.
However, these pistols still need to have a holster used with them in order to safely carry them in a pocket. Because this is often ignored by new gun owners, pocket pistols have a higher risk of accidents. This is because other things in the pocket get caught in the trigger guard and push the trigger back until it fires the gun.
What to Look For When Choosing a Concealed Carry Gun?
There are so many good options available for concealed carry making it very hard to decide which pistol to get. Here are some things to consider when selecting your concealed carry pistol:
Size and Weight
What people will normally focus on first is the size and weight of the pistol. These factors need to be carefully balanced to allow you to be able to control the pistol while firing as well as carry it around every day.
Smaller handguns are easier to carry around but can be harder to shoot due to the inverse relationship handguns have regarding accuracy. Larger handguns are easier to control and are easier to be accurate with. This is because you have more contact (resulting in more control) with a larger gun.
If a gun is too small it can be harder to get a strong, reliable grip on the pistol. If a gun is heavier, it can mitigate the recoil force by requiring more energy to move. But this impacts how comfortable it is to carry.
Since you will be carrying your concealed pistol more often than you are shooting it, weight is an important factor. Smaller, lighter handguns are more likely to be carried. This cuts down on fatigue and lessens the chance of someone just choosing not to carry the gun.
Capacity and Reload Speed
Capacity and reload speed are less important than people make them out to be. Most gunfights are over by the time a reload needs to be done. But that doesn’t mean that being able to reload quickly needs to be ignored.
Semi-automatics have larger capacities and quicker reloads than revolvers. This can be beneficial if you need more bullets in a fight. Some fights will be over quicker than others. But it still doesn’t change the fact that most semi-automatics can have double or triple the capacity of a revolver.
If you run the risk of encountering more assailants, a higher capacity should be considered. But if you are only likely to experience two assailants, capacity and reload speed become more nuanced.
This does not change the fact that more ammunition adds to the weight of the pistol. If you want to be able to carry for longer, a lower capacity might save enough weight for you to be more comfortable.
Caliber and Stopping Power
Choosing the right caliber with enough stopping power (better referred to as effectiveness) is a large topic of debate in the concealed carry world. The fact of the matter is that bullets will only stop fights if those bullets can reach important portions of the assailant’s body.
The FBI recommends bullets be able to reach a depth of 12-18 inches in ballistic gelatin in order to have the best chance of stopping an assailant. Additionally most defensive ammunition today uses hollow-point projectiles that help lessen the margin of error when trying to end a gunfight.
These factors only matter if those shots hit. So your ammunition choice needs to have effective penetration and expansion but be controllable enough for you to make multiple accurate shots. For semi-automatics, this makes 9mm hollow points some of the best options to use since they balance out all these factors.
For revolvers, the options are .38/.357 Magnum and newer .22 LR options. There are other options, but these are the most common. Very often wadcutter projectiles are some of the best bullet types to use because many small frame revolvers have shorter barrels which don’t allow for as much expansion for hollow points.
Reliability and Durability
Since concealed carry guns are supposed to be used in situations where there is significant danger, the gun has to be reliable. There are many guns available today that are reliable at a low cost, but in the long run, they are not as durable as more expensive guns.
Training and becoming proficient with your pistol and the way you carry it are important. Training hard will increase the wear and tear on your pistol. If you’re training a lot and are not experiencing malfunctions, you can rely on that pistol. If you are experiencing malfunctions even with low round counts, that pistol is not reliable.
There is also no guarantee that you won’t accidentally drop your pistol. If the pistol stops working after being dropped, it is not very durable. Since self-defense scenarios are very dynamic, your pistol can experience all sorts of impacts. It needs to be able to work after hitting something hard.
Having a pistol that is shock resistant and that can go a long time between cleanings with high round counts can be indicators of your pistol being reliable.
Concealability and Ease of Carrying
Having a firearm for concealed carry does not matter if you cannot carry or conceal it. This means you will have to combine your preferred pistol with an appropriate holster, and potentially a concealment system.
The best option for many is to use an Inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster. This will normally be either on your strong side (the hand you use the most) or in the appendix position. The appendix position is the area in front of the belt line between hips. This location is naturally easier to conceal due to how the body moves.
The appendix position can be more comfortable for some individuals but due to body type and other contributing factors, strong side carry can be the only viable option. Not everyone can carry in the same way, however, there is one option that should be strongly avoided.
Small-of-the-back carry places the holster in line with the spin on one’s back. This position is the most dangerous because if you fall or something is rammed into your lower back, the holster and gun will transfer that force directly into your spine.
This will cause significant pain at best and potentially sever your spine at worst. Both of these will make a self-defense scenario worse.
Safety Features and User-Friendliness
There are many features that firearms have that make them safer and more convenient for you to use them. The most recommended options today do not have any external safeties to simplify the shooting process.
This doesn’t make them unsafe. In fact, modern options like Glock and the Smith & Wesson M&P line have multiple internal safeties to prevent accidental discharges. They just require more trigger discipline to avoid firing the gun.
External manual safeties are recommended if you do not have a lot of training or haven’t yet achieved a certain level of comfort with your handgun. These types of safeties can reassure new shooters. However, they may be harder for an inexperienced user to turn off quickly in an emergency.
Additional considerations for your concealed carry pistol is how easy it is to change sights on the pistol. This can make it easier for you to aim and make the sights easier to see in a variety of lighting conditions.
If you want to layer even more safety with your pistol, you can use the GoSafe Mobile Mag, which allows you to lock down your semi-automatic pistol. This means you can safely store your pistol anywhere, especially if you have to temporarily be separated from it.
Price and Budget Considerations
Concealed carry options can range from a few hundred dollars a piece to several thousand, depending on the model, style, and craftsmanship of the pistol. Usually, the middle point of this range is $500 to $800.
These options offer the most durability and reliability combined with a semi-reasonable price. There are good options at or below $500, especially with some brands increasing their quality control (e.g. Taurus). However, the quality below $500 can be hit or miss most of the time.
This does not prevent higher-priced pistols from having issues, they just have a lower chance due to quality control. If you plan to do a lot of training, you would benefit from a moderate-priced pistol with several magazines and a lot of ammunition. Using a more quality option will allow you to use the gun longer without it breaking.
Best Concealed Carry Guns
Here are some recommended options for your concealed carry gun:
The Glock 19 is a gold standard of the concealed carry world. This means it is the gun other guns are measured by. It is a simple but effective design without external safety and can use the same magazines designed for the G17 as well as its own magazine variations.
- Large aftermarket support
- Affordable magazines
- 9mm chambering
- Highly customizable
- Mid to high price depending on accessories
- Grip angle may be uncomfortable for some
- Average trigger
This offering from Taurus is going to be the best option for those who are on a budget. Chambered in .38 Special, this pistol is great for new and old shooters. Simple to understand and available in a number of barrel lengths, this double-action/single-action revolver has swappable sights in addition to being one of the first optics-ready revolvers.
- Effective caliber
- More upgradeable than other revolvers
- Not as versatile as .357 Magnum revolvers
- Lower capacity than most semi-automatics
Ruger’s LCR series are great options for hammerless revolvers. They are very compact and come in a variety of calibers ranging from .22 LR to 9mm to .357 Magnum. If you need the smallest option that is still effective, the LCR is the way to go.
- Easily concealed
- .22 LR has an 8-round capacity
- Common caliber options
- More expensive depending on where you purchase it
- Not a lot of aftermarket support
- Fixed sights
PSA Dagger Compact
The PSA Dagger Compact is a Glock 19 clone and comes in a variety of formats. Some come with threaded barrels and a mounted optic, others just come with iron sights and no threaded barrel. These pistols are more affordable than a Glock 19 and come with more features to start with.
- Great for getting started in self-defense
- Affordable and functional
- Pre-upgraded options
- Pistol has a several hundred-round break-in period
- Quality control is not always present
The Glock 43 was designed for the concealed carry market. It has a similar or slightly better capacity than a revolver. It uses its own single-stack magazines for quicker reloading, and it is very narrow. This makes it very easy to conceal and carry for long periods of time.
- Compliant in almost every state
- Slim, single-stack option for easy concealment
- Reliable and durable
- Great for all-day carry
- Magazine is not compatible with other Glock models
- Less support options
Understanding Concealed Carry Laws
While concealed carry is becoming more popular throughout the United States, there are still locations that heavily restrict what can and can not be carried within their jurisdictions. Most US states will either be constitutional carry states or will require a permit for concealed carry.
Constitutional carry requires no licenses to conceal carry a pistol, while other locations will require a permit to be obtained to carry concealed. Knowing which state adheres to which policy is important because what is legal in one state can have a legal punishment attached to it in another.
On top of this, some locations will limit which guns you can carry concealed. This usually deals with the capacity or features of the handgun. Some locations require semi-automatic handguns to only use magazines with 10 rounds or less while others may allow more.
All of this can impact where you travel while carrying concealed. There are enough variations concerning concealed carry laws, so you should research which states recognize your concealed carry permit (if you need one) and which states do not before going through them.
Choose the Safest Concealed Carry Option for You
Choosing a concealed carry pistol can be intimidating, but most people will benefit from using a basic Glock 19. It is one of the best, most versatile options out there and allows you to grow with the gun. Add another security layer to your pistol with a GoSafe Mobile Mag and secure it whenever you need to.
What is the safest concealed carry?
The safest concealed carry is any pistol that is carried in a holster and prevents the trigger from being pulled while retaining the pistol during aggressive movement. Most accidents occur when the trigger is accidentally pulled or the gun falls out of the holster.
What is the easiest handgun to conceal carry?
Some of the easiest handguns to carry are J-frame revolvers (or similar-sized revolvers) and sub-compact semi-automatics. They take up the least amount of space and do not weigh a lot, allowing for long-term carry with less fatigue.
What concealed carry gun is right for me?
The gun you are willing to carry is the right concealed carry gun. This is because everyone has different considerations to balance when selecting a concealed carry handgun. Choosing a gun you will carry all the time is better than choosing the most recommended pistol.
What is the most comfortable concealed carry pistol?
This will vary from person to person, but most smaller frame revolvers and compact/subcompact semi-automatics are very comfortable to wear. What makes the most difference is the quality of the holster you use to carry them. A good holster and carry system can even make a larger gun comfortable to carry.
What are some of the best concealed carry handguns for under $500?
While most preferred concealed carry options start at $500, the Taurus 856 revolver, the Palmetto State Armory Dagger semi-automatic, and the Glock G43 are some of the best options for a sub-$500 concealed carry handgun.
What is the best concealed carry for seniors?
Senior citizens have somewhat unique restrictions when dealing with firearms. This makes double-action revolvers a better option for seniors because they are simple to understand and do not need a lot of care to maintain.
What is the best gun to carry while running?
The Ruger LCR or a similar small-frame revolver in an appropriate holster is the best gun to carry while running. This is due to its small size and low weight.