Several people liked and agreed (at least to some extent) with my top 5 guns for concealed carry in the market today list. Some other people didn’t, but that’s the nature of top whatever for something or best thing for that type lists. Interestingly enough one of the recurring themes in the feedback I received was either the agreement or disagreement with duty pistols were better than micro-compacts for concealed carry. From my list, it’s pretty easy to tell that I favor duty sized pistols for myself. But what works for me and what I prefer may not be what works for you and what you prefer, and that’s okay.
My preference for duty pistols over micro-compacts begs the question: why do I favor them? Also, are micro-compact pistols ever a better choice over a duty sized pistol? I’ll share my opinion to those questions shortly. But first, I want to establish a baseline of what a duty sized pistol and micro-compact pistol is.
Duty pistols are, at least as far as I understand and as the words imply, pistols with a form factor that is optimized for carrying on a duty belt. They are what one would typically see a member of law enforcement carrying on their duty belt along with all the other gear. I may be wrong in doing this but I tend to lump the pistols that are marketed as compact and full-sized into this “duty pistol” bucket mainly because I find the difference in size to be negligible. Generally, speaking these duty pistols will have a barrel length of four inches (compact length) to five inches (full-size length). Both compact and full-size pistols will accept double stacked magazines. In many cases, the compact version of a full-sized pistol will accept the same magazine.
For example, compare Glock’s G17 (full size) to the G19 (compact). Both of these guns are chambered for 9mm. The G17 has a 4.5″ barrel where the G19 has a 4″ barrel. The G17 standard magazine has a capacity of 17 rounds where the G19 standard magazine has a capacity of 15 rounds. The G19 will also accept the G17 standard magazine. The G17 has an overall length of about 8 inches where the G19 is about 7.25″ inches long. The G17 has an height of about 5.5″ compared to the 5″ height of the G19. The G17 and the G19 have identical widths and virtually identical weights. While the G19 is smaller and slightly lighter, it’s not drastically smaller than the G17. These full size and compact comparison results are fairly consistent across most manufacturers. Further more, the form factor of full-size and compact size service pistols is pretty consistent across the market which is likely the result of these guns competing for law enforcement and military contracts.
On the other hand, micro-compact pistols are a little bit harder to define. In my opinion, this is because guns marketed as micro-compact pistols are generally targeted at consumers, specifically armed citizens who will carry a concealed pistol. As such, marketing teams and design teams try to figure out the optimal combination form factors and features to capture the largest share of this market. The end result is a lot of choices. Generally speaking, guns marketed as micro-compacts will have barrel lengths of less than four inches. Some thiner form factor guns will accept single stack magazines, while other wider ones will accept not-quite but almost double stacked magazines. Some of these guns will easily fit in a pocket, some won’t. Some of these guns are ridiculously light weight. All of these guns are smaller and lighter than duty pistols.
To help paint a better picture of how diverse the micro-compact pistols are, at the risk of muddying the waters ever more, here are a few pistols I have experience with that are marketed in this space:
- M&P Bodyguard 380 – 380 Auto, 6+1 capacity, 2.75″ barrel, 12oz
- Kimber Micro – 380 Auto, 7+1 capacity, 2.75″ barrel, 13.4oz
- Springfield Armory XD-S – .45 ACP, 5+1 capacity, 3.3″ barrel, 21.5oz
- Glock 43 – 9mm, 6+1 capacity, 3.41″ barrel, 17.99oz
- Sig Sauer P365 – 9mm, 10+1 capacity, 3.1″ barrel, 17.8oz
Before I explain why I favor duty pistols, I’m going to explain when the micro-compact pistols are a better option.
When selecting a firearm for concealed carry, I believe that a gun one is more likely to carry is more important than one’s ability to shoot it well, caliber selection, or capacity. Frankly, a micro-compact is easier to conceal and generally more comfortable to conceal carry than a duty pistol. There are also times when a person’s preferred fashion choices or mandatory dress code can make it near impossible to conceal a duty pistol. In these cases, a micro-compact maybe the only option which makes it the better option. This is also why I carry a micro compact from time to time. In the event that one finds themselves in a self defense scenario, the micro-compact on the person is better than the duty pistol that was left at home.
So, why then do I favor duty pistols for concealed carry?
Since my dress style most of the time allows me to conceal a duty pistol and I can conceal it well and comfortably, duty pistols are a viable option for me. Furthermore, my ability to shoot duty pistols far exceeds my ability to shoot micro-compacts (even when shooting larger or more powerful cartridges). Duty pistols also have larger capacities.
My experience with micro-compact pistols has taught me that the smaller a pistol is the more difficult it is establish a good grip. A good grip on a micro-compact is inferior to a good grip on a duty pistol. The lighter a gun is the more work one has to put in to manage recoil. Due to shorter lengths, micro-compacts have a smaller sight radius than duty pistols which translates into making them more difficult to shoot accurately (especially at longer distances). All of this means that micro-pistols require more practice than duty pistols to become proficient with them and that proficiency will likely never be as good as the proficiency that can be achieved with a duty pistol. Moreover, with very few exceptions, micro-pistols aren’t very fun to shoot which makes the practice required to achieve acceptable proficiency seem like a chore.
There you have it. Yes, micro-compacts are more comfortable and are easier to conceal. Carrying a concealed micro-compact is always a better choice than leaving a duty pistol at home and not carrying at all. Given the choice between carrying a concealed micro-compact or a concealed duty pistol, I will sacrifice a smidge of comfort in exchange for the duty pistol that I can shoot better, faster, and more accurately. Every time.