Many of our students come to us for Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) training. Unfortunately, for some reason, people think that this is the only type of training that they need or is available. For many people this is their one and only formal firearms training experience. Since they have limited experience with a handgun, many of these students show up with guns that are not a good match for what they intend to use them for or some that they find completely unusable.
To try to avoid these pitfalls in the future, I submit for your consideration “Five things to look for in a Carry Weapon”.
1. Manipulation. What does the gun feel like in your hand and can you manipulate it? In other words, can you hold it comfortably and can you work the slide, trigger, and other controls without undue strain. We find that some of our students who suffer from arthritis or other disabilities cannot manipulate the slide on some semi-autos or press a double action (DA) trigger. This is not only a problem for the older generation as I have seen young Marines who were unable to consistently press the DA trigger on the Beretta M9 service pistol they were attempting to qualify with. Problems with a particular gun may be eased with after-market replacement parts such as grips, lighter springs, or extended control levers; or general gunsmithing such as polishing the internals. However these options are completely dependent on the type of gun and whether or not these parts are replaceable and if there is commercial after-market support for them.
2. Sights. Some gun sights are great out of the box, and then there are some that are notoriously useless (think pre-70’s service 1911’s). Again, this is an issue of whether the sights are replaceable and what after-market support is out there for them. Some guns have the front or the rear sights, or sometimes both, either formed to the frame and barrel or pinned and welded to them.
This makes it very difficult to replace the sights. Then there is the whole slog of aftermarket sights to consider: Dawson, Novak, and Wilson are well known and make great sights; TRUGLO, Meprolight, and Trijicon make great night sights; Red Dot Sights are becoming very popular and mainstream with Vortex, Leupold, and Holosun following the standard bearer in this category – Trijicon. There are some non-typical sights to consider as well such as XS Sights and See-All Sights. But none of that matters if you can’t replace the sights.
3. Weight. Weight can be good or bad… depending on what you are comfortable with. A heavy gun will give less felt recoil than a similar lighter gun, but you will have to carry that extra weight. This is very much personal preference, and what you are willing to live with. For example; I have a friend who carries a titanium framed snub nosed .357 magnum revolver. It is very light and feels good in the hand… until you fire it. When I fire it I don’t like to shoot more than 2 rounds out of it much less consistently practice with it because it punches your hand so hard it makes it uncomfortable. My friend does shoot it regularly and is quite proficient with it, but he also has bear paws for hands so the recoil is something he is comfortable with. He is happy with his light gun, I will stick to my 1911’s and CZ’s.
4. Caliber. There are a lot of choices in this area. The key again is what you are comfortable with versus what is effective. I’ve had students that were convinced that they needed to carry a .357, after the first shot down range they put it down and said, “What else do you have that doesn’t hurt?” The three main calibers we recommend are .380 ACP, 9mm Luger, and .45 ACP. Yes you can use any caliber from .22 short to 10mm, but based on availability, price per round, and projectile capability the three we recommend are the best all-around with the 9mm being the top choice overall. Though again, it depends on what you need. Some may prefer a .40 S&W while others may want a 22LR.
5. Aftermarket Accessories and Price. There are a lot of good quality guns out there at various price points. You don’t have to spend a lot to get a good reliable gun. However, accessories are a different story. Many of the larger manufactures only make products for the most popular guns. You may find that only small specialist shops make the accessories you might need, for a premium price. Or you may find that nobody makes the firearm accessory you are looking for, for your particular model. It is always a good idea to do some research and see what the cost of holsters, magazines, and other accessories will be. There is such a robust aftermarket for Glocks and 1911s that you could literally make one from parts (including 80% frame). Good luck trying that with a Smith & Wesson 4576.
So you see, many of the factors that go into finding a firearm for concealed carry are personal decisions. We can make recommendations based on what we have seen work for others in the past, but the ultimate decision is on you and what you are willing to live. There are no hard and fast rules on what you should get, we are all unique special snowflake-unicorn-blossoms with our own special needs, but if you carry a Hi-Point I will look at you the way Iron Eyes Cody looks at litter on the roadside.