Having carried a concealed handgun daily since the early 1980s it is anything but “convenient.”

On the contrary, it’s a never-ending compromise with an ever-growing set of conditions.

You must constantly choose between availability, convenience, comfort, usability, practicality, and effectiveness — and in many cases affordability. Early on that was easy, for the most part there was no convenience, nothing was comfortable or affordable, and anything effective was impractical with limited availability.

Well, times have changed! At no time in my three plus decades carrying a pistol have there been more choices.

It may be the industry’s crowning achievement in providing users what they need. In a sea of mostly useless range toys, these days the firearms industry provides a huge selection of practical, useful, effective and affordable concealed carry options meeting just about anyone’s needs.

Availability

Every major manufacturer offers a complete line of pistols designed specifically for concealed carry.

Here are some of the key factors critical to every day carry.

· Size

· Capacity

· Comfort of carry

· Practicality

· Usability

· Proven calibers

Everything from slim-line pistols with 8-10 rounds, to usable compacts carrying 12-15 rounds.

Glock’s slimline G43X and G48 offer an easily concealable 10+1 handgun with proven reliability and capability.

Sig Sauer’s P365 has shaken this industry offering one of the smallest 10 round sub-compacts available. Small, light, yet capable of hard use, it is a sub-compact that shoots like a compact.

Mossberg just introduced its MC1SC — a slim 9mm holding 7+1 rounds.

Springfield Armory’s XD-E provides comfortable carry and reliable operation in both 9mm and 45ACP.

Smith and Wesson’s M&P series offers several choices along with their tried and true revolvers.

The Smith & Wesson M&P is a serious contender for a full-size concealed carry handgun. (Photo by David Bahde)
The Smith & Wesson M&P is a serious contender for a full-size concealed carry handgun. (Photo by David Bahde)

Kimber not only offers 1911s but an excellent revolver in their K6 and their latest Micro-9.

SCCY offers simple 9mm and .380 ACP pistols built to the highest standards for an incredibly affordable price.

Heckler and Koch, Walther, Ruger, Kahr, and several others offer easily concealed, reliable, effective, and usable compact and sub-compact handguns that meet any need.

Affordability

Concealed carry pistols have never been as affordable. Some of the very best sub-compacts retail in the $500.00 price range, in some cases less. Many have night sights, even machining for an MRDS (Micro Red Dost Sight).

Most contain two magazines, perfect for concealed carry. You can spend more for sure, but you really don’t have to, just not the case even ten years ago. Ruger LC and EC line offers some of the most popular and affordable models from $250.00 to $350.00.

SCCY’s CPX series offer unparalleled CNC machining and quality of construction for under $300.00. Affordable used to mean cheap, unreliable, or practically unusable, not so today and it just seems to get better each and every year.

It takes some time to work through the myriad of choices, but the market is littered with high quality affordable handguns for concealed carry.

So, how do I choose?

What’s “best” for you may not be the same for others. The most critical part in the decision making process is honesty about what you will carry, why you need it, and what you need it to do.

Bottom line, keep it real.

Are you looking for simple self-defense, or will you be intervening in outside events.

Most pure self-defense encounters have low round counts making capacity less critical. But if you’re off duty or are inclined to “fight” that aggressor, things change.

Are you protecting yourself, or you and a large family? How vulnerable are you to the need for protection?

No one is ever truly “safe,” violence can reach anyone. But your lifestyle can provide some indication of likelihood. Can you carry at work, if so are you in a 3 piece suit, jeans, or even more casual?

Maybe a 10-round single stack is fine, or a five or six shot revolver. On the other hand, having a higher capacity and a couple spare mags may be necessary. If so can you conceal them, are you willing to make the compromises necessary to do so?

Will you actually practice, or are ranges hard to come by? Shooting tiny pistols is not easy, takes practice, and doing so when saving your life is even harder.

Buying a small gun, never shooting it and sticking it in a holster may not work out like it does in the movies. Be honest about your capabilities, willingness to practice, range availability, and concealment considerations.

Then, just as importantly, seek out quality training to use what you have chosen.

Usability

Can you hit what you are aiming at with the pistol you carry? Does it even have sights you can use? Can you even get your hand on it or reach the trigger?

Maybe the trigger pressure seems to be measured in tons? Unfortunately, most people carry handguns for comfort hoping they never use it — a very risky business.

Those set on killing you or others are seldom “scared” away by brandishing your pistol, they don’t care how comfortable you are.

Expect to use it, and if not, all the better.

But if you can’t hit anything or it stops working after two rounds, it’s useless. We frequently see students at Gunsite abandon their “chosen carry pistol” in the first hour of our 250 pistol class.

Why?

They picked something comfortable they can’t use or is unreliable. Recoil is harsh and small guns, sights are all but useless, they’re hard to get a grip on and they barely make it through a complete magazine.

Battered and bruised after 100 rounds they all but give up. While each person’s circumstances are different they all must include the ability to use what you carry in the conditions you may be called upon to do so.

It’s one thing to feel good carrying a pistol to save your life, it’s another to save your life with the pistol you carry, DO NOT get them confused.

Practicality

What you carry must be practical for you, not someone else. I can carry large pistols and have done so for decades. At my “skinniest” I weighed just over 200 pounds (a distant memory), it’s not hard for me to conceal a G19, Sig P229 or similar sized pistol.

If that’s not true for you, pick something else.

Sometimes small isn't better. (Photo by David Bahde)
Sometimes small isn't better. (Photo by David Bahde)

No longer a working officer, my needs have changed. Carrying large pistols for 30 years makes it harder on my back. That’s why the Sig Sauer P365 and Glock G48 are solid choices.

Several of my large 1911s are the most usable but least practical. When a carry pistol isn’t practical you won’t carry it, just as importantly you probably won’t use it or practice with it.

If your most likely encounter will occur at 10 yards having a 5-inch barrel may not be the most practical choice. On the other hand, if you are looking to get solid hits at 25-50 yards it may be. Same with the new micro red dot sights.

The Sig Sauer P365 is a popular option for a high-capacity, concealed carry handgun. (Photo by David Bahde)
The Sig Sauer P365 is a popular option for a high-capacity, concealed carry handgun. (Photo by David Bahde)

Not really any faster to speak of at 10 yards, but getting hits at 25 yards-plus is exponentially easier.

They are also great as we age and cannot see our front sights. Again, practical for some, just added weight and inconvenience for others, it’s all about you.

Accessories, not just a “thing” but “everything!”

Simple, get the best holster you can find based on how you carry and use a belt that will hold it in place.

Inside the waist band remains popular, cheap holsters make it uncomfortable even dangerous, good holsters with lousy belts do the same thing.

Appendix carry may be the most critical carry position for the highest quality holster and belt.

Even the most practical pistol is useless if you can’t get at it when you need it or it falls down your pants when you stand up.

Picking the right holster is just as important as picking the right handgun. (Photo by David Bahde)
Picking the right holster is just as important as picking the right handgun. (Photo by David Bahde)

Use a belt designed to carry a pistol and a secure attachment. Drawing your pistol under stress only to have the holster still attached is funny on social media, deadly in real life.

It must be secure, comfortable, accessible, and practical.

Yet another advantage is that today holster selection is all but unlimited. Quality can vary considerably, but you can get just about anything — and if it’s not out there, someone will make it.

Kydex, leather, or a combination, it does not matter so long as it’s the highest quality you can find and it’s securely attached using a real belt.

Final Thoughts

It may be a cliché, buts it’s a good one: Concealed carry is a lifestyle.

You have to think things out, choose a practical pistol you will carry and use properly and effectively. Holsters and belts are critical along with proper clothing.

Don’t be the person who bends over in the grocery store only to see your pistol at your feet. Embarrassing for sure, potentially dangerous, and in some states it could cost you your concealed carry privileges.

The good news is that is easy to do these days. High quality pistols, holsters and expert training are available everywhere. By all means carry concealed, it may save your life.

Just make sure you do so thoughtfully, seriously, and carefully. It takes some effort for sure, but if and when it comes time to go to work, it will make all the difference in the world.