Once one decides to become a concealed carry permit holder, the next question is what gun to carry? At the time of writing this, that’s the question I’m asking myself. What gun do I want to carry every day?
The Right Gun Finds You
What gun shall I carry? It’s a big question, and there’s a lot that goes into answering it. Let me start with a philosophical underpinning that I can’t help but to ignore, which is that I think your carry gun should choose you as much as you choose it.
If you think about it, that’s the case with a lot of the material decisions we make, particularly if you tend to see things — like I do — from a utilitarian standpoint as opposed to one concerned with vanity, e.g. If I carry this, will I look cool? Will it make my friends jealous?
To give you a non-gun-related parallel, I buy jeans from American Eagle. It’s not because I am fond of the brand (frankly, at age 32, I’m probably too old to be shopping at American Eagle), nor is it because I have a particular affinity for the style. I buy AE jeans because the quality is above average and they fit better, feel better and look better on me than most other jeans in the $40 price range.
I discovered this the only way one can, by process of elimination. Levis were too tight in the crotch (“nut-huggers” as I’ve heard them described). Gap jeans had shallow pockets with openings that were really tight and narrow, so that whenever I wanted to retrieve my keys or my cell phone, I’d have to wedge my hand down in there and invariably scrape the back of my hand on the ridge of the pocket. It’s not very convenient to get a brush burn on your knuckle every time your phone rings. Lucky jeans were too long, the 32” length turned out to closer to 34,” which made them appear baggy, especially when wearing boots… In any event, I can keep going on with this goldilocks testimony, but you get the idea. AE jeans fit just right, the others did not.
The larger point I’m making is that the specific construction of AE straight-leg jeans fits my specific body type better than any other $40 jean I’ve tried on. The decision to purchase them over the others was based solely on intuition and comfort. It had nothing to do with the brand, style trends, the company’s corporate ethos, what Brett Favre wears, what jeans my friends think are cool, etc. In short, AE jeans and my lower extremities are a perfect match. Were I to decide on a different pair, I’d only be going against what felt natural.
I think the same holds true for concealed carry handguns. Your carry gun should choose you as much as you choose it. Put another way, you need to let go of any particular loyalties you may have toward one manufacturer or another when beginning the process of elimination. You may be a Glock devotee, for example, but if the Springfield fits better, feels better, shoots better go with the XDs.
You know, I often wonder how many concealed carriers out there are toting firearms that are not the ideal gun for them, not a natural fit. How many are carrying the gun that their favorite tactical guru likes? How many are carrying a gun for nostalgic purposes (1911 fanboys)? How many are carrying a fancy, expensive gun because they want to look cool or keep up appearances with their range buddies?
I don’t have the answers to those questions, but I’m sure it’s more than a few. The correct approach to this process I believe is to shoot as many handguns as you can get your hands on. Shoot em some more. Practice drawing them from a holster. If possible, carry them on your person for awhile. Then let the right gun find you. You’ll know, because it’s the one that feels right, that shoots right, the one your inner-voice is telling you to carry. My boss puts it this way, which is also a way of saying the same thing, it’s the one you’ll actually carry every day. It’s really that simple.
Ep. 1: Introduction Why Carry — Introspection on why I want to join the 12 million Americans who have taken the plunge and obtained a license to carry concealed.
Ep. 2: What Gun to Carry — A look at various options for concealed carry. What handguns I’m leaning toward, pricing, cost/benefit of each platform.
Ep. 3: Buying the Gun on GunsAmerica — Sure, a shameless plug for the GA retail site. But I’m going to go step-by-step to show how easy it is to purchase a gun on GunsAmerica.
Ep. 4: Accessorizing — Options for holsters, belts, magazines, etc., and a discussion of what type of carry works for me, e.g. appendix, behind the hip, shoulder harness.
Ep. 5: Kentucky State Law — What are the gun laws here in Kentucky. What are my rights as a concealed carry permit holder. What are the self-defense laws in the state, e.g. Stand Your Ground.
Ep. 6: Application Process — The paperwork, the background check, the fee, etc., all the stuff you need to get together in order to get the permit.
Ep. 7: Training Class — What does a concealed carry class in Kentucky entail? What are the shooting requirements? How many hours of training. How much does it cost. My experiences going through the class.
Ep. 8: Final Thoughts — After filling out the paperwork, completing the training and submitting the application, what are my final thoughts about the process. How does it compare with other states?
Debate: Pistol vs. Revolver
Is there anything more reductive than the age-old pistol versus revolver debate? I mean, at the end of the day, you shoot well what you shoot well and I shoot well what I shoot well. Period. End of story.
But the firearms community, being comprised of many well-informed and opinionated individuals, is one of a know-best mentality. Everyone is an expert — at least they think they are — or has a strong position on the matter and they are 100 percent certain that revolvers are vastly superior to pistols because revolvers are infinitely more reliable or that pistols are vastly superior to revolvers because of capacity (I’m being somewhat facetious with my characterization of gun owners as know-it-alls, buy you know what I’m talking about).
I mean, more or less, that’s what the debate boils down to in most circles. Capacity versus reliability. I’m not going to pay too much homage to this tired debate. I’m a wheel gun guy. I always have been. It’s not that I don’t like pistols, I do. But I’ve always felt more comfortable and confident shooting revolvers. I think it has to do with the universality of the platform. More or less, they’re pretty much the same in terms of basic operation. Point. Aim. Shoot. That’s not to say that pistols are incomprehensibly complicated. But there are more nuances from pistol platform to pistol platform and issues with magazines and malfunctions that don’t occur with revolvers (e.g. stovepipes). I guess I just like the simplicity of the revolver.
That said, to address the capacity issue for a moment, a Colt Python, one of the most iconic revolvers ever made (check out our awesome review), holds six rounds of .357 magnum or .38 special. A Glock 17 holds 17+1 of 9mm. Comparing a full-sized pistol against a full-sized revolver there is no argument, the pistol has the clear advantage in terms of capacity.
The debate, however, becomes more interesting when you compare revolvers to compact or subcompact pistols, which are more aptly suited for concealed carry. To take a popular example, the Glock 43 — which is classified as a subcompact or single stack — has a capacity of 6+1, only one more than many popular six-shooters designed for concealed carry. Yes, there are five-shot revolvers that are popular concealed carry guns. So, in that case, two more rounds.
I suppose one can argue that one or two more rounds could make the difference between walking away from a gunfight or being carried away from one. That’s true though regardless of the number of rounds were discussing, more rounds are always better. Yet, from my experience in covering defensive gun use stories I will say that, anecdotally speaking, capacity is almost never comes into play in a gunfight. In other words, very rarely do I watch a DGU video or report on a DGU story where I see the good guy run out of ammo during a gunfight and have to stop, reload and re-engage the threat. In the vast majority of situations, after the first shot is fired the perpetrator(s) is already fleeing the scene. And this is true whether or not the perpetrator is armed. Gunfire sends over 90 percent of criminals running, I’d wager to guess.
Beyond that, it really comes down to personal preference, as I mentioned. What are you confident shooting? What can you handle well under the stressful conditions of a gunfight? What is comfortable to wear and conceal on your person? All of which leads to an obvious conclusion: carry the handgun, be it a pistol or a revolver, that is right for you!
Some of the revolvers listed below I’ve shot and others I have yet to fire. Over the next couple of weeks I plan to hit the range with all of the guns I’ve listed below — well, most of them anyhow, as at least one of them on the list will be hard to find.
I’m hoping if I left any revolvers off the list that you think I should test out that you’ll suggest them in the comment section below. If you carry them, please explain why you like it and how you carry it. I certainly have my early favorites but I want to keep an open mind. I don’t want to leave any stone unturned as the gun I go with will hopefully be the gun I carry for the next 40-plus years.
The Ruger Lightweight Compact Revolver is a quality platform at an affordable price with a lot of customization options. You can get an LCR in a number of different calibers: .38 Spl +P, .357 Mag., .22 WMR and .22 LR, you can get one with an exposed hammer(LCRx), or one with a laser-sighting system from Crimson Trace.
The LCR is comprised of three main component parts: a polymer fire control housing, an aerospace grade aluminum monolithic frame, and an extensively fluted stainless steel cylinder. The DOA trigger is incredibly smooth and surprisingly light. Capacity varies depending on the model you pick, (five rounds for .357)
Overall, the LCR is a really solid option. It’s not only great for concealed carry, but for backpacking, home defense and even plinking (though, if you get one chambered in .357, not sure how much plinking you’ll want to do).
The LCR line of revolvers are available on GunsAmerica for $400-$500, depending on the options, model one chooses.
Chiappa Rhino 200
At first glance the Chiappa Rhino 200 appears to be a novelty gun. It’s unconventional design is sure to turn some heads. Personally, I think it’s rather ugly. But as I mentioned above, I don’t really care about a tool’s aesthetic shortcomings. The real question is can I shoot it well? Is it reliable?
As it turns out the fact that the barrel is aligned with the lower chamber makes it a really balanced and accurate shooter. Compared to other revolvers chambered in .357, the Rhino has reduced recoil and muzzle flip. Consequently, it’s easier to stay on target after firing and there is less hand-punishment if you’re putting a lot of lead down range.
With a six-round capacity, the 2” Rhino can be purchased in both double and single action, and double action only. I’ve seen it priced in the $800 range on GunsAmerica.
Charter Arms Undercover Lite
The Charter Arms Undercover Lite is a budget revolver. But by “budget” I don’t want you to infer the negative associations that sometimes follow, i.e. that it is poor quality or cheaply made.
While the UL is comparatively inexpensive, you can pick one up on GunsAmerica between $300-$400, it’s just as reliable as any of the other revolvers on the list.
The UL is made from aircraft-grade aluminum and steel. The UL is lightweight (12 oz.) and comes with a 2” barrel. It has a five-round capacity and is chambered in .38 Special +P. With spurred hammer or without, the option is yours.
Colt Magnum Carry
I had to put a Colt on the list. They’re a tried and true option for anyone thinking of buying a revolver. The problem is, all the one’s I’d like to own and potentially carry are outside of my price range.
The Colt Magnum Carry, for example, is one of those elusive and cost prohibitive revolvers that I’d love to get my hands on. No i haven’t shot one yet, but eventually I’ll get to give one a whirl.
The CMC came with a 2” or 3” barrel and a six-round cylinder chambered in .357. It was launched in 1999 and was discontinued the same year after Colt ran into financial hardship. From what I’ve read and heard, it’s a dream to shoot (I mean, relatively speaking, shooting .357 from any 2” small-framed revolver is going to be an “experience” for lack of a better word).
For those with a larger pocketbook than myself, I’ve seen the Colt Magnum Carry available on GunsAmerica for around $2,500. It’s more than a solid carry gun, it’s an investment.
Taurus CIA 650
The Taurus CIA 650 shouldn’t get overlooked. It’s a legit .357 revolver that comes in at a nice price, in that $400-$500 range.
A hammerless, five-shot snubby that weighs around 24 ounces the Taurus CIA 650 is great for a coat or jacket pocket.
The trigger isn’t as smooth as some of the other revolvers listed, but overall it’s a solid gun.
But to be honest, Taurus has a bunch of other revolvers that I’d be interested to try out at the range. The one thing they have in common is that they’re all affordable and well-built.
Smith & Wesson Model 60
Rounding out the list is Smith & Wesson. Arguably the king of small frame revolves, I picked out the Model 60 because it’s a classic and really needs no introduction.
It was first introduced in 1965 as the world’s first stainless steel revolver. It was enthusiastically adopted by law enforcement and praised by sportsmen and collectors. Derivations of the J-Frame line are chambered in .22 LR, .22 Magnum®, .38 S&W Special and the more powerful .357 Magnum, and M&P, Pro Series, and Classics lines in three diverse hammer designs; internal, exposed and shrouded.
The Model 60 and other J-Frames can be found on GunsAmerica north of $550.
I’m also hoping to look at the Model 642, which GunsAmerica editor-in-chief David Higginbotham just reviewed.
So, that’s what I’m starting with. I think it’s a good selection of what’s out there, what’s affordable, what’s popular, and what’s reliable. As I said, I’m open to other options. By all means, please throw out some suggestions and I’ll try to get them and spend some time with them at the range.
Also, if you have experience carrying a revolver or have any thoughts on the ones I listed, please share as I want this series to be a solid reference point and resource for anyone thinking about taking the plunge to become a CCW holder. The more people that weigh in and share their opinions and insight, the better a resource this series will be. Thanks in advance! And I look forward to reading your comments.