After writing a beginner’s guide to purchasing a firearm, I realized it may worth while to explore considerations for selecting the right firearm for the intended purpose. After all, I did point out that different firearms are typically designed for different purposes (or missions). In my opinion, first time firearm owners most likely buy a firearm for self defense purposes. So this post will dive into the intricacies of selecting a reliable firearm for concealed carry purposes.
In my opinion, here are all the things to consider ordered by importance:
- Program compliance
- Ability to shoot it well
- Caliber & capacity
Let’s dive into each of those considerations.
It may seem obvious that one should probably refrain from buying more gun than one can afford. However, as discussed in the beginner’s guide, it’s easy to overlook the other costs that come along with gun ownership.
In terms of concealed carry, one should consider the costs of:
- Storage (refer to the beginner’s guide for a discussion on storage)
- Accessories such as:
- Additional magazines (or speed loaders for revolvers)
- Magazine (or speed loader) pouches or holsters
- Cleaning supplies
- License, training, and range fees
Once the budget has been settled, we can look at the other considerations.
For concealed carry, program compliance means carrying a firearm as often as possible. It’s really that simple. Will you carry the firearm you select? If the answer isn’t a resounding yes, then you should probably look at the next gun on your list.
That said, there is a bit of nuance to this that will be different for you than for everyone else. Consider your lifestyle and situation to determine what the most typical carry method will be. How do you typically dress? Where do you work? Where do you spend most of your time? What’s your body type? Using that context, select the best concealed carry method for you. It maybe pocket carry, inside the waistband, ankle carry, or even shoulder holster carry. For most, it will usually be inside the waistband.
With your preferred carry method in mind, take a look at the handguns you are selecting and reduce the options to those you are most likely to carry regularly. Consider the weight and size of the firearm? Remember, you will likely have the gun you select on your person for most of the day.
I recommend you try it on. Most of the gun shops I frequent will let you try on a holster with the firearm so you can get a general feel for it – like trying on shoes at the shoe store.
At this point, your list of possible firearms should be down to a few. But before you buy anything, I recommend heading out to a range and renting them in order to determine your ability to shoot these options well.
Ability to Shoot it Well
From everything that I have read and learned, your ability to adequately defend yourself (or loved ones) in a situation justifying the use of lethal force comes down to shot placement. Or your ability to shoot a firearm well.
While ability to shoot well comes down to training and practice and is accomplished over time, renting a few of the candidate firearms at your local range and shooting a few groups with them at common defensive distances.
Here is the process I suggest (repeat this process with each firearm):
- Set up a target a three (3) yards.
- With a proper stance, slowly fire five (5) shots at the target while aiming at the bullseye. Aim at the exact same spot each time without trying to adjust for where the bullets are landing.
- Repeat this with the target at seven (7) and fifteen (15) yards.
We are looking for tight group of the five shots fired at each of those distances. If the holes are all over the target, you may want to consider using a smaller caliber with less recoil or even a lighter weight bullet in the same caliber.
Use this information to refine your selection of candidate firearms again. There is a good chance you have already found the right firearm for you. If you still have to decide between a few firearms, then consider caliber and capacity.
Caliber and Capacity
Caliber is not nearly as important as program compliance and shot placement when selecting a firearm for concealed carry. However, it’s not a bad idea to opt for the more capable caliber that you can shoot equally well. However, there are some trade offs.
Larger calibers typically result in lower capacity. Different calibers vary in price, ammo selection, and availability.
I suggest sticking to a common caliber to minimize cost and maximize availability and selection – like .380 ACP (sometimes called .380 Auto), 9mm Luger (sometimes called 9×19 or 9mm Parabellum), or .45 ACP (sometimes called .45 Auto).
What does Uncle Zo Carry?
Inevitably, people ask me what I carry. Most of the time, I opt for my Sig Sauer P365 chambered for 9mm using an inside the waist band holster. For me it’s a gun that is easy to carry due to it’s light weight and small form factor. I can shoot it well. Ammo is inexpensive, easily available, and offers a wide variety of selection.
From time to time, my attire forces me to pocket carry. In these cases, I opt for my Smith & Wesson Bodyguard in .380 ACP. I don’t shoot it nearly as well as I do the P365 and ammo tends to be more expensive with less availability and selection. But at allows me maintain program compliance.
If I didn’t have multiple guns and carry methods to pick from, I would probably opt for the Smith & Wesson Bodyguard using a pocket carry method as it would allow me to maintain program compliance more often than the P365 would. While I could potentially pocket carry the P365, I found that it just a tad bit too big for some pockets. So again, the Smith & Wesson Bodyguard trumps the P365 in the program compliance consideration.
What do you carry?