How to pick a carry gun

I get asked all the time what is the perfect concealed carry firearm. I give the same response all the time. Pick the biggest gun that you will carry. Not can carry, will carry. People always want to talk about calibers for stopping power, size of the hand, carry location, etc. While all of this is important, I find that all of those factors are for nothing if it’s at home in the safe. My list of importance in characteristics in a carry gun are as follows:

  1. Carry the biggest gun you will – If you won’t then don’t get it
  2. Carry the biggest gun you can – You still have to be able to conceal it
  3. Reliability – Preferably a modern striker fired polymer pistol
  4. Shootablilty – Usually this means a controllable caliber (The reason why I don’t recommend a .40 S&W which will probably be the subject of another blog post)
  5. Capacity – Carry the most rounds that you will and can

I would love to carry my Springfield XD45. To me it’s the perfect handgun for everything besides concealed carry. It’s perfectly reliable, extremely accurate, holds a good number of rounds in an excellent, proven caliber and I shoot it better than any other pistol I own, but I would never carry it. It’s just too big. I’ve tried, and I dreaded putting the thing on in the morning. I contemplated taking it off halfway through the day because it was just way to uncomfortable and heavy. I also felt like everyone could tell that I was carrying around 3 pounds of metal and plastic.

I had the realization that I would never carry that gun again. So I got a smaller gun. I went too small. I got a Taurus .380ACP. I hated it and promptly sold it. Sure I could conceal it well and I didn’t mind carrying it, but it was horrible to shoot. I never wanted to practice with it and couldn’t really hit anything with it. This more than anything forced me to sit down and really evaluate what was important to me in a carry gun.

First and foremost you shouldn’t hesitate to want to carry it. If it’s too heavy and you leave it at home then get a smaller gun. Like the old saying goes,”A .22 in the pocket is better than a .45 at home.” While I don’t advocate for carrying a .22, if it came down to that and nothing I would take the .22 everyday. I’ll break down a couple of my carry guns and why I chose them.

Glock 19 Gen 4:

To me the Glock 19 is the perfect carry gun. I’m not the only one that thinks so. It’s small enough to conceal but big enough to fight with. It holds 15 rounds of 9mm and is smaller than similar capacity pistols . I can carry it all day. Glock’s are infamous for reliability. I love to shoot it and it’s extremely accurate. I cannot say enough good things about the Glock 19. While this is the perfect carry pistol for me, my wife would never be able to get away with carrying it nor would she want to.

Springfield XDs45:

While the Glock is definitely a gun that I will carry it’s not always a gun I can carry. When those cases arise I turn to my XDs. The XDs is a single stack pistol which makes it extremely thin. It’s comfortable to carry and disappears under my clothes. It has become very popular as a concealed carry gun. I purchased the XDs45 before Springfield came out with the same in 9mm. The 9mm would add two more rounds. I may be switching sometime down the road to the XDs9 when they come down a little in price.

The Springfield does come with a heftier price tag that other firearms in this size range. However, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend pistols like the Smith and Wesson M&P Shield or the Ruger LC9. Both are great guns and are reliable but have features that I do not care for such as external safeties and double action hammers. Merely a preference and in no way am I speaking ill of them. I’ve shot both and the Shield in 9mm is an excellent shooter.

Smith and Wesson Bodyguard .380:

There are times when I am unable to carry even the XDs or I just want a deeper level of concealment. It’s those times I turn to the Bodyguard .380. I have a love/hate relationship with this pistol. It has all of the features that I said I didn’t like about the LC9, like an external safety and a double action hammer. It even has a worthless built in laser that I don’t like. However, for some reason it just shoots right. It doesn’t feel like a toy in my hands like most .380s.

Because it so small I can carry it when I am dressed in more formal attire or performing an activity. I like to take this with me when the family goes on a bike ride or to the park. With the Bodyguard I don’t run the risk of flashing it to all of the other parents at the park while I’m chasing my kid on the equipment. I would like to avoid that as much as possible.

Some of my pistols. Top left is the Springfield XD45. Top right Glock 19 Gen4. Bottom right Springfield XDs45 and on the bottom left is the Bodyguard 380.
Some of my pistols. Top left is the Springfield XD45. Top right Glock 19 Gen4. Bottom right Springfield XDs45 and on the bottom left is the Bodyguard 380.

As always no matter what pistol you chose always carry effective modern defensive ammunition. If you have any questions or would like to discuss my choices please feel free to email me or contact me on twitter.


3 thoughts on “How to pick a carry gun”

  1. “[The Glock 19 is] small enough to conceal but big enough to fight with.”

    I have one. Love it as a gun. Took my concealed carry class with it. However I find it harder to conceal in summer in Texas.

    Got a Glock 26 which I also like and it is easier to conceal, but finally settled on a S&W 642 with the built-in Crimson Trace as my most often concealed carry gun. I find it it much easier to conceal and as I am not a newbie I can shoot it fairly well at “spittin range” which is the only range I consider it likely that I will need it – not being a police officer.

    I am mulling over the idea of the new Glock 42, but not sure it is much superior to the S&W I have already. But may just have to try it just for the hell of it. 🙂

    I enjoyed your article quite a bit. Got some good insights from it.




    1. Thanks for reading! Our summers here in Reno get pretty hot too which is why I have the Xds. I take issue with the Glock 42. It’s barely smaller than an XDs or a shield but it’s only a 380. If I’m going to carry a 380 it better be small and light like my bodyguard. I do however like that it’s a Glock (read no external safety, striker fired). I might have to look at one.

      Since you carry a revolver do you practice reloads and do you carry with speed loaders? That’s the only thing standing between me and a revolver. I can’t get that reload time down.


      1. In all honesty I am not very familiar with the Springfield Armory guns. I have some concern about the 380s which is why I am a little hesitant to go the Glock 42 route, although it sounds appealing. I am conflicted on that. Small, concealable, accurate are appealing. 380 power not so much.

        With the exception of a Colt Woodsman in .22 I had never owned a semi-auto until a couple years ago. Was a S&W revolver sort of guy since the 1970s. Reason I liked the Glock. Like a revolver, no external safety to remember to disengage before shooting. Pull it out, get a sight picture, pull trigger.

        “do you practice reloads and do you carry with speed loaders?”

        Yes, and yes. I have had speedloaders for revolvers since the 1970s. I have practiced with them. Am I totally happy with them? Nope? It is a lot easier to reload a Glock 19 with a magazine no matter how much you practice.

        “I can’t get that reload time down.”

        It is hard and you have to think more about it. I have never had to do it under real pressure and that worries me. But the point you made is the best gun is the one you _will_ carry and I find the J-frame easier to carry most of the time. But again, i am conflicted on it. That was the reason I appreciated reading your spin on it. It sounded well thought out, and I am pretty sure you have more experience with a lot of different models of pistols than I have. My experience is largely dated today. 🙂

        Bottom line is I wanted to thank you for giving me your perspective.




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