Probably the hottest segment of the handgun market is in guns that fit the concealed carry mode. As a trainer who teaches concealed carry certification in my state of North Carolina, I regularly meet a whole new class of gun owner who may have never owned or even fired a handgun until recently. Certainly, almost any handgun can be carried and used in a defensive situation, but there are certain parameters that truly match the concealed carry citizen’s need. The guns listed aren’t chosen for their level of usefulness for highly trained operators, but rather because they’re easy to learn to shoot well and are powerful and reliable enough to serve as excellent defensive tools.
The number one rule of a gunfight is to bring a gun. As a trainer, I’m aware that many who have a concealed carry permit simply don’t practice daily carry because they chose a handgun that was too heavy and bulky to make everyday carry comfortable. By description, a concealed carry handgun must be concealable. This indicates a thin profile and small size. It also requires light weight because concealed carry methods don’t allow engineered load-bearing designs.
Obviously, the magazine capacity of double-stack guns is an asset, but compact double-stack concealed carry guns are really only chopped-down service pistols. Most weigh over 20 ounces and are difficult to comfortably hide wearing summer clothes because of their thickness. I remind my students that the average number of shots fired in a defensive confrontation is 2.3. Try to think of an armed citizen account that involved a high round count. It happens, but mostly it happens in the movies. Why not carry a thin gun with a spare magazine?
Of course caliber selection is also critical, and considering that most concealed carry citizens aren’t normally highly trained shooters, competitors or operators, I selected guns in 9mm or .38 Special. No one will argue that larger and more powerful calibers are more effective, but the performance of the shooter is also a factor and most relatively new shooters are intimidated enough by the recoil of 9mm and .38 caliber handguns (much less anything bigger).
Semi-autos constitute the largest share of the concealed carry market, and for good reason. Compact, single-stack, concealed carry guns can carry very flat, making them easy to conceal, and the triggers of modern striker-fired guns are easy for even novice shooters to manipulate. They also offer greater capacity than revolvers of similar size and are much faster to reload.
The Kahr CM9 pistol is a true striker-fired pistol with a unique trigger system. Instead of the normal two-stage, striker-fired trigger so common these days, the CM9 has a long-stroke, double-action-style pull. The CM9’s trigger pull is a long smooth pull, feeling like a double action revolver but lighter, making it very easy to shoot. The result is a pistol that is easy and simple to use, and one that would be right at home in the hands of either a novice or advanced shooter. The dovetailed rear sight has a vertical bar aligning with a pinned-in dot at the front. At just .90 inches wide in 9mm, it’s certainly slim enough and it weighs less than 16 ounces empty. MSRP is $460.00.
To buy a Kahr CM9 on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=Kahr%20CM9
The Glock 43 is the newest member of the Glock family. Introduced at the 2015 SHOT Show, it was the long-awaited single stack compact 9mm from the company. No one knows exactly why Glock waited so long to introduce the G43, but it’s certainly a viable choice. Only slightly larger than the Glock 42, the width is just a bit over one inch and weight is just under 18 ounces, placing the G43 in the middle of the pack among the auto-loaders in this story for weight and thin profile. As with other things in life, if you’ve seen one Glock, you’ve seen them all, and this, I suppose, is the main reason for those who dislike Gaston Glock’s brainchildren. Single stack or double stack, large caliber or small, long or short, Glocks are boringly similar. They are also remarkably reliable and simple to use. Certainly not a visually exciting or even pleasing gun, the 6+1 G43 does everything it’s intended to do and nothing it wasn’t. Solid, easy to shoot, reliable, easy to hide, powerful enough, like the other guns on the list, the G43 fills the bill. MSRP is $529.00.
To buy a Glock 43 on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=glock%2043
The original LC9 was a hammer fired semi-auto 9mm with a polymer frame and alloy steel slide. We now live in a striker-fired world (which means it is a hammerless design in which a spring-loaded striker is retracted and released to fire the chambered round) and in 2014 Ruger upgraded the LC9 to incorporate this system. It was dubbed the LC9s. At 17.2 ounces and a width of .90”, the LC9s isn’t a super lightweight, but it’s slim and light enough for easy concealment. The sights are three dot and drift adjustable and the trigger is the bladed type. The LC9s doesn’t have second strike capability. There’s a thumb safety, magazine disconnect safety and a visual chamber indicator port. Magazine capacity is 7+1 rounds and the gun comes with a fingergrip extension for the magazine floor plate for more comfort. In 2015, Ruger introduced a Pro model with neither the thumb safety nor the magazine safety that many experienced shooters dislike. With one magazine and a soft case, both models have an MSRP of $479.00.
To buy a Ruger LC9s on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=Ruger%20LC9S
Smith & Wesson Shield
There’s nothing unconventional about the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield, which is available in 9mm and .40 S&W (and has recently been expanded to include the .45 ACP). There’s a polymer frame, steel slide and barrel, the trigger is hinged instead of bladed, but the effect is the same. The trigger pull is the standard two-stage with the first stage for safety and a reasonable, but not remarkable break at the second stage. Weight is 19 ounces with a one-inch thick profile. Sights are three dots with the rear drift adjustable for windage. It’s available with or without a thumb safety. The M&P Shield is a no-nonsense, practical gun that works. Like the other guns in this group it’s affordable, easy to operate and effective. MSRP of the basic model is $449.00.
To buy a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=Smith%20Wesson%20Shield
Springfield Armory XDs
In 2012, Springfield Armory introduced the XDs, a slim single-stack, striker-fired pistol for concealed carry with characteristics from the popular XD line. Offered in 9mm and .45 ACP and later .40 S&W, it drew instant attention as a small powerhouse (particularly in the .45 ACP chambering). The XDs is a no-nonsense pistol, polymer framed with a bladed trigger and standard striker-fired system of operation.
The XDs weighs in at 21.5 ounces in .45 ACP and up to 23 ounces in 9mm, making it heavier than other contenders in this class, but I included it because it has a feature none of the other guns in this group offer. A passive grip safety is a feature I feel is a viable addition to a concealed carry semi-auto because concealment offers safety challenges that are less an issue with exposed duty-style holsters. Most striker-fired triggers can be quite light and if they tangle with clothing during the holstering process, this can be an issue. Manual safeties can be disengaged in fastening seatbelts and by clothing. In 9mm, it’s easier to shoot than the lighter guns in this class. MSRP is $499.00 with two magazines, a holster, magazine pouch, and a hard case.
To buy a Springfield Armory XDs on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=Springfield%20Armory%20XDs
There are some who believe revolvers to be outdated relics, but the wheelgun is enjoying a rising level of popularity. It’s true that revolvers suffer in capacity and loading speed, but their extreme simplicity and well-earned reputation for reliability make them a favorite of novices for concealed carry. Just this year at SHOT Show, Kimber got into the growing revolver market with their first revolver, the K6s. The .38 Special chambering of the two revolvers in this list is similar to 9mm Luger in its +P defensive loadings. Capacity and reload speed are a relative disadvantage, but simplicity and light weight might offset this for some users.
Ruger is certainly no stranger to revolvers, having a tradition of successful versions of older designs, but the .38 Special LCR is both successful and innovative. It uses a polymer grip and trigger guard frame combined with a steel inner frame to generate a weight of less than 14 ounces. The standard version is double action only, a reasonable operating system for a concealed carry gun, because exposed hammers create an opportunity for snagging on clothing. For those who want an exposed hammer version, there is the LCRx. The sights are a grooved top strap and a pinned front ramp. There are also .22 LR, 9mm, .327 Fed Mag. and .357 Mag variants available.
While revolvers are simple to operate, the challenge to new shooters is learning to manage the long trigger pull required to rotate the cylinder and cock the hammer. With proper technique, good trigger management is attainable and the LCR’s exceptionally smooth and light trigger is an asset. Weight is 13.5 ounces; caliber is .38 Special +P. MSRP is $579.00.
To buy a Ruger LCR on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=Ruger%20LCR
Smith & Wesson 642
Based on a design with a lineage that’s more than a century old, the 642 line of J-Frame Smith & Wessons has certainly stood the test of time. The frame is aluminum; the majority of the rest of the parts are stainless steel. There’s a machined-in serrated front sight and a machined-in groove rear. With a weight of 15 ounces for the S&W and 13.5 for the Ruger, both of these revolvers are certainly some of the lightest of the seven guns in this group. They do give up some slimness because of the width of the cylinder, but they’re still easily concealable. The 642 is double-action-only with a concealed hammer. MSRP is $469.00.
To buy a Smith & Wesson Model 642 on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.htm?T=Smith+%26+Wesson+642&pagenum=1
We’re fortunate today because there are now so many really good guns available. It’s harder to find a bad gun than it is to find a good one, but some guns are easier for the novice to master. The semi-autos are slimmer in profile and the revolvers are a bit lighter. By choosing one of the seven guns listed above, the novice concealed carry citizen simply can’t make a bad choice.