Editor’s Note: The following is a post by Mark Kakkuri, a nationally published freelance writer who covers guns and gear, 2nd Amendment issues and the outdoors. His writing and photography have appeared in many firearms-related publications, including the USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @markkakkuri.
Read Mark’s previous articles in this “Top Five” series:
- Shooting in the Dark? The Top Five Low Light Fixes
- Top Five Pocket Carry Holsters
- Top Five Fixed-Blade Knives
- Top Five Modern Ways to Protect Hearing
- Top Five Reasons to Carry a 1911
We are currently enjoying an era of firearms manufacturing like no other. The firearms industry is a mature market, brimming with innovation, and manufacturers large and small are producing very good concealed carry guns. So what are the top concealed carry handguns? In past days, this list would be no longer than two or maybe three guns. These days the list could be 10 guns or more. Today, I’m going to keep it to five — my top five. If you disagree with any of them, let us know why. Either way, enjoy!
Warning: This topic tends to polarize people. I don’t mean to make any enemies with my opinion, but if we become friends because of what you read here, then that’s great!
1. J-frame revolver
Sometimes “five to stay alive” is all I need for concealed carry. Smith & Wesson’s J-frame revolver — a five-shot snubbie — has been around a very long time. The reason it has lasted this long is because it is one of the most reliable and easily concealable guns ever. Many of them are chambered for .38 Special, which is an adequate self-defense caliber, but some are chambered in .357 Magnum, which is very powerful. And if you have one in .357 Magnum, you can shoot .38 Special rounds through it. Anyway, in addition to being able to shoot two different cartridges, J-frame revolvers have many accessories available, including sights, grips, ammo carriers, holsters and more. If the J-frame poses any challenge, it’s that it can be difficult to shoot well. It’s not that it is inaccurate; it’s that shooting a snub-nosed revolver usually requires a long, heavy trigger press that requires practice to master. But the advantages of excellent reliability and carry-ability — along with the fact that it can be pressed up against a target and still function — make it a top choice for concealed carry, especially for up-close confrontations. Favorite J-frame? S&W 642.
Shop for an S&W 642 on GunsAmerica. Many S&W 642s are listed under $500.
2. Glock 19
One of Glock’s best-selling models, the 19 is a medium-sized pistol that carries 15 rounds in the magazine and is reliable, durable and fairly simple to operate. So, while it shares some attributes of a J-frame, the capacity is obviously quite different, and its shorter, lighter trigger press makes it very easy to be very accurate at longer distances. Also in its favor is a wide range of accessories and holsters— many of which sport unique innovations for concealed carry. One possible drawback of the Glock 19 is its relatively greater weight and size, but really it is quite compact compared to other guns. Two of its key strengths are 1. Glocks are carried by the majority of police departments in the U.S. 2. It has a mid-range price point ($500 to $600).
Shop for a Glock 19 on GunsAmerica. Gen 4s are selling for around $500.
3. Ruger LC9s
You’ve heard of single-stack 9s … This genre of gun is marked by small-framed, shorter-barreled guns that are chambered in 9mm with magazines that stack the rounds directly on top of one another, instead of offset or “double-stacked.” Ruger’s LC9s is typical of this genre and a fine example of how to do it right. The LC9s is reliable, accurate and packed with unique features, including an external safety and a magazine disconnect (meaning it won’t fire if the magazine is removed). I’m not too keen about the tiny, 3-dot sights, but after you get them on a target and press the trigger, you’re rewarded with direct hits. You can choose between a flush magazine or one sporting an extension to accommodate your pinky finger — either way they carry seven rounds each. Best features? Small, lightweight and easy to shoot.
Shop for a Ruger LC9 on GunsAmerica. Some are priced below $300!
4. K/L frame revolver
Another revolver? Yes, indeed. While Smith & Wesson has generally used letters to denote the size of the gun (specifically the size of the frame), I’m not necessarily saying that these need to be Smith & Wesson revolvers. But S&W’s K/L frame revolvers were the most popular choice for police department sidearms from the 1890s through the 1980s. And these medium-framed revolvers equipped with shorter barrels make excellent concealed carry guns. Right off the bat, I’ll admit the difficulties with carrying these guns are their size and weight, but these are not insurmountable. With the right holster — an outside-the-waistband belt slide with a retention strap — it can work very well. My favorite K/L frame is S&W’s 686 Plus — a stainless-steel, 7-shot .357 Magnum. With the 3-inch barrel, you have a very good concealed carry gun for those short stints where you want maximum firepower in a reliable and simple package.
Shop for an S&W 686 Plus on GunsAmerica. Expect to see them priced around $650 and up.
5. 1911 (Commander or Officer)
The 1911’s flat frame and narrow slide — a design now well past 100 years old — make it very easy to conceal and, while I prefer my 1911 Commander- or Officer-sized, I can appreciate that many carry a Government-sized 1911 (meaning one with a 5-inch barrel) very well. With a 1911 from a reputable manufacturer, you can carry (depending on the manufacturer, size of gun and make of the magazines) six, seven or eight rounds of .45 ACP on board, ready to fire with two steps: a sweep of a thumb safety and a short, single-action trigger stroke. That said, it’s only “simple” when you’ve thoroughly trained on those two actions, which is a good example of how the 1911’s more complex operating features are both a pro and a con. Plenty of holster and accessory options exist for the 1911, and its 100-plus-year heritage and continued popularity speak to the genius of its design when virtually all other guns are lighter, have a higher capacity and cost less. If you make me choose a specific 1911 for concealed carry, it would be a Kimber Stainless Ultra Carry II.
Shop for a Kimber Ultra Carry II on GunsAmerica. These sell for around $700-$800.
Conclusion… If I Could Only Have One
Now, the inevitable question: If I could have only one of these, which would it be? It would be a toss-up between the S&W 642 and the Glock 19. They each have their strengths and weaknesses and one is often superior to the other depending on my particular needs for the day. But if could really truly have only one, which would it be? Hmm…
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