Top Five Handguns I’ve Recommended

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:

Every now and again, someone in my immediate proximity finds out I write about guns. About half a second after that discovery, a question or two surfaces. Sometimes more, some good, some zany. Which gun for this? Which gun for that? What do you think about carrying dual Mac 10s with a 10mm 1911 as a backup?

I’m glad to answer the questions, but I’m also quick to explain that there’s a lot I don’t know, that what works for me might not work for others, be sure to get formal training, etc. Still, I’ve had the privilege to shoot a bit and over the years have discovered some trends in the questions as well as the answers. So, here are the top five handguns I’ve recommended and the questions that usually precede them.

1. What do you think is the best all-around handgun?

By this, the questioner is really asking: What’s the one gun I should buy to handle three key duties: general range/target shooting, self-defense/concealed carry and house/vehicle/backcountry? Truly a tough gun to beat in the versatility category is the Glock 19.

The Glock 19. A great, all-around handgun. (Photo: Discount Tactical Supply/GunsAmerica)

It’s reliable, accurate, durable, endlessly accessorizable, concealable, simple to use, easy to maintain and useful in a myriad of circumstances. It’s a 9mm so the ammo costs won’t break the bank. This is important because with 15 rounds in one magazine and it being a hoot to shoot, you’ll blow through ammo quickly. If you really can only have one gun, then this might be it.

***Buy a Glock 19 on GunsAmerica***

2. What do you think is the best all-around concealed carry handgun?

RugerLC9s

The Ruger LC9s is affordable, easy to carry and reliable. (Photo: Outdoor Sports/GunsAmerica)

Similar to the first question, by this, the questioner is really asking: What’s the one small gun I should buy for concealed carry? This one is far more difficult to answer because there are so many good choices out there. But one I consistently recommend is the Ruger LC9s. It’s reliable, accurate, durable, very accessorizable, exceptionally concealable, relatively simple to use, easy to maintain and, as such, a very good concealed carry gun. This is a gun you can shoot a lot (but probably won’t) and that you’ll carry far more than you would a larger gun.

Usually, the questioner wants a single gun for concealed carry, one gun they can know well and safely use. While all gun use requires observing the basic gun safety rules, the LC9s offers additional safety features such as an external safety and magazine disconnect. We can argue all day long about the efficacy of these features but some people love them. Plus, the Ruger LC9s retails for $479, which is a tremendous value for what you’re getting.

***Buy a Ruger LC9s on GunsAmerica***

3. You carry a revolver? Which one?

Ruger LCR

Ruger LCR is simple to operate and easy to shoot. (Photo: R&R Gun Shop/GunsAmerica)

After I tell people how much I enjoy the LC9s for concealed carry, I’ll sometimes add a comment along the lines of: “Well, sometimes, I carry a snub-nosed revolver…” And that prompts the two questions. Here, the questioner is really thinking, “Phew, revolver. I knew it was a viable option. Let’s find out more,” as if they would have been embarrassed to admit they had actually considered it at all. Here is where I extol the virtues of my two favorites: virtually any S&W J-frame and the Ruger LCR.

I recommend the S&W for its utter reliability and simplicity of operation combined with excellent hide-ability (with the right boot grip, of course) and the Ruger for its utter reliability and simplicity of operation combined with excellent shootability. An LCR is larger than a typical J-frame but comes with an outstanding rubber stock, which makes it a smidge more difficult to hide but totally worth it. While the S&W might be easier to conceal, it is a smidge more difficult to shoot and it tends to hurt a bit more (depending on the ammunition used).

Smith & Wesson Revolvers

Shop for these Model 36-10 and other J-Frame S&W Revolvers on GunsAmerica. (Photo: Elk Castle Shooting Sports/GunsAmerica)

The other thing I like about these guns is that some of them are chambered for the .357 Magnum cartridge. Though shooting .357s from a snubnose is neither required nor for the faint of heart — .38 Special +P is certainly adequate — it is fun. For about 10 to 15 rounds.

***Buy a Ruger LCR on GunsAmerica***

4. What’s the best house or truck gun?

Model 668 Plus Smith Wesson

With a seven round capacity, the Smith & Wesson 686 Plus is a solid truck gun. (Photo: Laughlin’s /GunsAmerica)

Here, the questioner is really asking what potent defensive option that he or she won’t be carrying much at all can be stored safely loaded and ready to go. That means weight isn’t too much of an issue and with increased weight comes an increase in shootability, even with larger calibers.

So, for the gun that’s not going to make many appearances and needs to be utterly reliable and simple to use, I’ve often recommended a Smith & Wesson 686+. Seven rounds of .357 Magnum or .38 Special puts a smile on my face every time at the range. Plus, maintenance is simple and accessories readily available. With the right holster, this could also be the answer to which gun would be best for backcountry duty.

***Shop for a S&W 686 Plus on GunsAmerica***

5. What gun is the most fun to shoot?

Rock Island 1911

The Rock Island Armory 1911 in .22 TCM is a really fun gun to shoot! (Photo: Gun Pro Armory/GunsAmerica)

I love this question. Here, the questioner is really asking, “What’s the most enjoyable gun to shoot — the one that’ll have you laughing as you load it and grinning as you watch your friends shoot it?”

For me, that would be a Rock Island Armory 1911 in .22 TCM. Fired from this platform, the .22 TCM offers an outrageously loud report, a fireball the size of a basketball, soft recoil and the fast cycling of a 1911 with its short, single-action trigger.

There’s fun downrange too, as the rounds pepper whatever target you’re aiming at. If you do your part, you’ll enjoy fantastic accuracy enhanced by the fact that you can also fire quickly and, as mentioned, dynamically.

***Shop for a Rock Island Armory 1911 on GunsAmerica***

Conclusion

These are my opinions and I’d love to hear yours. Later I’ll write up a top five recommendations on guns that are relative newcomers to the market but deserve a mention since … well … they’re so awesome right out of the gate. And maybe someday you’ll see a top five on guns I’d never recommend…

Discover how you can join more than 200,000 responsibly armed Americans who already rely on the USCCA to protect their families, futures and freedoms: USCCA.com/gunsamerica.

{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Robert G December 10, 2017, 10:57 am

    I prefer a Taurus .380 for EDC. I keep a Taurus model 85 .38 revolver in my truck. I have a Judge beside my bed, but the crime stopper in the house is a Mossberg 930 with a pistol grip stock, 18″ door breacher barrel, extended tube magazine (which makes it 7+1) a laser light clamped to the tube and loaded with 9 pellet 00 buck. Heaven help the thugs that come uninvited into my home.

  • bobh December 9, 2017, 12:40 pm

    IMO, that a firearm is “accessorizable” is of no value to someone asking what gun they should. The people asking that question don’t own a gun and are very unlikely to accessorize that first gun they purchase. They may *modify* that gun with different grips or possibly different sights but “accessorize”? Doubtful.

  • Robert Smith December 8, 2017, 10:21 pm

    Best all-round: Any full-size 9mm from a major manufacturer. Could be Glock, Smith & Wesson, Ruger, Beretta, SIG, FN, H&K, Walther, possibly others. All good, choose any that suit your fancy or your budget.

    Best Concealed Carry / Best Revolver / Best Truck & Home Defense. All the same gun, the Ruger LCRx, 3″, 38 Special.

    Most Fun to Shoot: Any .22 LR., the classic plinker round. Once again, choose any that suit your fancy.

    • Brad December 9, 2017, 1:38 am

      Obviously you’ve never shot the .22 TCM, because there’s nothing that even comes remotely close as far as “fun factor.”

      I’ve acquired several guns of all type and configurations over the years (+/- 400) and I still own and love every single one of them. Yet I haven’t even touched another gun I own since I reluctantly purchased my first 1911 .22 TCM pistol over 2-years ago. It really is just that much fun to shoot.

      Plus, as an added and entertaining benefit, it simply bores straight-through any type of steel target (including AR-500) that I’ve put it to. From a 1911 platform nonetheless.
      It (almost) makes everything else I own sorely obsolete.
      Just try one, I guarantee you’ll be amazed.

  • Larry Brickey December 8, 2017, 9:35 pm

    I do enjoy my Kel tec PMR 30 but for the house I use a Taurus Magnum Judge. 410 and 45 LC.

  • Fred Hauseur IV December 8, 2017, 7:58 pm

    I have to say this as an NRA Certified Handgun Instructor. this man’s recommendations are his and his alone. Just like mine are mine alone. I am also a gunshop owner and gunsmith. I deal with what is best for my clients on a daily basis. if it does not fit, you will not practice with it nor will you be good with it in time of need. your body/hand is your best determining factor to what is right for you. I happen to carry a 1911 pattern, I shoot this gun as often as possible and train with it. I also train with a Sig P-226 and a Para P-14. these guns are my guns for anything and everything pistol. just like I train with an AR-15 and a FN FAL along with an M-14, M-1 Grarand, and all of my bolt guns. these guns fit me and they will be with me for the rest of my days I believe. find a gun that makes your body happy and be the best with it as you can. it might be the difference between your living and dying on some dark and stormy night.

  • Dan December 8, 2017, 7:39 pm

    #1 – I would replace the Glock 19 with the Glock 32 because I can easily convert it to a 9mm G 19.
    #2 – I would take a S&W Shield over the LC 9.
    #3 – I agree with the Ruger LCR, and would definitely recommend it in 327 Magnum for the extra round!
    #4 – I would replace this one with the Ruger SP101 Match Champion in 357 Magnum cause it’s sexy.
    #5 – Can’t argue with the .22 TCM despite having never even seen one. Would love to be able to convert my Glock 32 to .22 TCM, but the kit I looked at online was $431! If I’m going to spend that much, may as well just wait for Glock’s own version!

    My favorite “fun” gun that I actually have experience with is the Ruger Super Blackhawk in .44 Magnum.

  • David Emery December 8, 2017, 4:27 pm

    I second that. A CZ75D. Perfect fit. Never fails. More accurate than I am. And make it special, get one from the custom shop (CZ SDP), much better trigger.

  • Doug December 8, 2017, 1:31 pm

    I love them all I have mostly sub compacts

  • Jim Burke December 8, 2017, 11:49 am

    Mine is the S&w Shield in 9mm. The recoil spring’s a little tight for us old grunts but it’s a good strength builder.

  • PF Flyer December 8, 2017, 11:48 am

    I can identify with Mr. Owens. Even the LCP was too strong of a spring for my wife to operate. However, she can pull the trigger of the S&W revolver. My question is, based on my novice experience, with all the innovations in the hand gun industry, are not most revolvers and pistols, from the big names, all quite similar from quality, etc… standpoints? Thanks.

  • Larry December 8, 2017, 11:36 am

    With my prejudices, I would say the Sig Sauer P-229 in 9mm is the best all around gun. Taurus PT-111 is the best carry pistol. I agree with the 357 Mag revolver, but the one I like is no longer made. The love to shoot is the Sig Sauer P-226 in 357 SIG. As you can see, this is a very opinionated piece, and the only winners are the favorites of the people that are doing the talking. Thanks for an honest article.

  • FRANK R. OWENS December 8, 2017, 11:06 am

    I have 9’s, but my wife is a small built lady and revolvers are best for her. Without having yet another caliber bullet in the house, I’m thinking of getting here a 9 mm revolver. Who makes them? I’m looking for one that wont break the bank. Thanks and Merry Christmas.

    • Richard Currey December 8, 2017, 1:27 pm

      The Ruger LCR is offered in 9mm. For a heavier home defense option Ruger also offers the all stainless SP101 in 9mm.

      • Raazorblade December 8, 2017, 6:43 pm

        Charter Arms Pitbull is available in 9mm, 40 S&W, and 45 ACP. The angle of the grip makes it more comfortable to shoot than either the S&W or the Ruger. Also the cost is less.

  • ATGR December 8, 2017, 10:36 am

    I agree with the 22TCM as being “fun to shoot”. They definitely get attention when you pull the trigger. The Kel-Tec PMR 30 is a close second.

    • scott peterson December 8, 2017, 12:11 pm

      Sorry got lost, i would trade a 12Ga Wingmaster in AS NEW Condition +wats left of the box of shells bolth purchased sum 15 years ago together,for a “22-30 MAG”, any takers thanks,Scott.

  • John R Hill December 8, 2017, 7:42 am

    I own a LC9s Pro and I love it! Great for concealed carry. Also a good choice for people with smaller hands. EASY TO SHOOT!

  • JHR December 8, 2017, 7:04 am

    For the most part I switch between a Springfield EMP, .40 cal, and a Kimber CDP. Occasionally I will carry a full sized 1911 or a S&W 627, .357 (8 rounds) less than 3 inch barrel. My trusty back up is usually a East German Makarov or a CZ 82. Yeal the Mak and CZ are old and outdated but they have never failed to go bang when I pull the trigger.
    Being 6′ 4″ I can carry and conceal most anything.

  • Ed December 8, 2017, 7:03 am

    Hand guns to me are like musical instruments. They require a lot of practice to be any good with and there is not a one size fits all. The 1911 is the violin of pistols. My experience in concealed carry lean towards keep it as simple as possible, avoid external thumb safeties unless you are willing to practice beyond thought. Adrenaline dumps can cause loss of finger dexterity, fine motor skills. For concealed carry I think the HK usp compact 45 is my top choice carried decocked, safety off, round in the chamber goes without saying, followed by the Sig P220 carry and P229. The Glock 19 and the Springfield XD are also firearms I recommend. I also have no problems with quality revolvers but again practice is important, especially reloading. I’m no small guy so the size of what I carry is not really an issue for me. I know not everyone can hide a HK. The best gun is the one you practice with. Everything in firearms is a trade-off, my advice is always buy the best you can afford and practice as realistically as possible. That means up close and personal and move and fire drills. Don’t get your training from Hollywood.

  • KENNETH December 8, 2017, 6:53 am

    As fer as fun to shoot The KEL-TEC PMR 30. 30 rounds of .22 mag lightweight and easy to handle.
    It might look like a toy but it is anything but.!!

  • Pat McCarthy December 8, 2017, 4:46 am

    try a CZ 75D! it very accurate, its quite concealable. and fits most peoples hands man or woman. I have over 30,000 dryfires on mine and I really don’t consitter it broken in. I take it out about every 6 months or so and clean it. With a 14 round mag. and one u-p the snout that’s 15rounds on 9mm.(I don'[t carry a spare mag.) I shouldn’t every need one. but a 7 shot 686 with a 2.5 -3inch barrel ain’t bad either.

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