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The Best Guns for Concealed Carry

A personal review to help you narrow down the search

My name is Kevin and I am a military veteran. I am an avid hunter who has traveled around the US and Canada to hunt big game. I have been a concealed carry permit holder since 2002 with permits to conceal carry in multiple states. Suffice it to say I am no stranger to guns, and that I know a thing or two about concealed carry and the best guns for carry.

I am the owner of Pew Pew Guru.  I started Pew Pew Guru to educate, train and be a resource for others considering firearm purchase and concealed carry for personal protection. Pew Pew Guru was profiled in Patch in the December 2018 issue, The largest local newspaper in the country. It goes in depth on our mission, why we do this and what we are passionate about. 

I did not want the process to be overwhelming or threatening- kind of like the Planet Fitness of the Concealed Carry world; you know, not the gym rat’s gym—so think of Pew Pew Guru as the non-gun person’s gun resource center.

Over the years, I have carried several brands, calibers, levels of quality, and price point of firearms.  I currently carry a Smith & Wesson Shield .45 Caliber single stack pistol. I wanted a more powerful gun with stopping power. But that admittedly comes with a tradeoff. I am not as accurate shooting the larger caliber—because of recoil and I sacrifice some magazine capacity going to the slimmer Shield model, that only houses 6 rounds, and one in the chamber. I do get more comfortable with it with each passing day and trips to the range.

My all-time favorite concealed carry gun was the Springfield Armory XD Subcompact .40SW. It has a palm safety, is ergonomically designed, feels amazing in the hand, is very concealable because of its  3” long barrel- 6.25” overall length, its light weight, the recoil was manageable, and it came with an extended 12 round magazine with 1 in the chamber.

I have also had the opening price point gun with questionable quality and reliability, in the beginning when I was new to concealed carry and did not want to spend a lot of money. I also will say, I did not give enough credence to brand, reputation, reliability and accuracy. I am kind of embarrassed to admit it now, but I have owned and carried the really low end Hi-Point 9mm, .380 and .40 caliber handguns. I would caution away from this brand. It is not that I am a gun brand snob, but if you are carrying, you want this to be a fail-safe. You want to know and trust that if you need this gun, it will do what it’s supposed to do. I experienced lots of jams at the range and I never felt it was the most accurate gun. With all of this stacked against it, I am not willing to risk using it when my life or my family’s life is on the line.

According to the NRA Basic Personal Protection Course there are five factors to consider when selecting a gun for personal protection: fit, power, functional reliability, deciding between a revolver versus a semi-automatic and size.

  1. Fit: The gun should fit your hand. It will improve your accuracy
  2. Power: You should select the most powerful gun you can consistently shoot well with
  3. Functional reliability: The firearm should be virtually 100% reliable
  4. Revolver vs. Semi-automatic: Revolvers are simple to operate. Semi’s hold more ammo, and if it jams, its easier to clear than a revolver.
  5. Size: Grip size, weight and barrel length determine if a gun is concealable

With this wide spectrum of brands and calibers under my belt, and being a NRA Basic Personal Protection certified trainer, I feel confident in making recommendations for the new concealed carry permit holder. So, without further ado, here is my list of the top 8 handguns for concealed carry that I recommend.

Top 8 Guns I recommend for Concealed Carry

#1. The Springfield Armory XD Subcompact .40SW. For all the reasons stated above and more, this is the absolute best bang for the buck. It is affordable, compact, powerful, and Springfield Armory is a great brand with a great reputation and is reliable and accurate. This gun fits in a purse, is not very heavy, has manageable recoil and fits great in the hand. MSRP $500.

#2. The Colt Mustang XSP This little fire ball is designed for those who like the classic styling of the 1911- style firearm, but also want the concealment. It weighs under a pound fully loaded with 6 in the magazine and one in the chamber and is thin- making it very concealable. MSRP $ 649.

#3. The Glock 26/27. Both bear the Glock name, which lends credibility to reliability, quality and accuracy. They are identical except for their calibers. The Glock 26 is a 10 round 9 mm. The Glock 27 is a 10 round .40 caliber. MSRP $599.

#4. Kahr PM9. Known for its light weight and short stature, and options for sight upgrades, it screams perfect for concealed carry. It is a fan favorite. It has its limitations with only a 6 round magazine and is a little pricey. MSRP $786.

#5. Smith and Wesson Shield. Known mostly for the 9mm and .40 calibers, I would also add the .45 to this list. As stated above the .45 is harder to shoot but once mastered, you have the all stopping power you could ever ask for. But for the purposes of a recommendation, I’ll stick to the 9mm and the .40 caliber. The Shield is a quality firearm and as accurate as you will find. A great buy for the money, MSRP $469 (9mm).

#6. Ruger LC9. Not heavy on bells and whistles, but a really great carry option because of its size. At less than an inch wide, its slim profile makes carry options almost endless. Even with its small size, they still managed to squeeze 7 in the magazine and one in the chamber. And Ruger is a known and respected name in the industry. MSRP $449.

#7. Beretta Nano. This is my most recent purchase and I must say I am extremely happy with this little pistol. It was designed so that nothing protrudes to get caught in a holster or clothing- one could say it was born to be a concealed carry gun. I purchased this gun for my concealed carry classes and market primarily to women as I wanted to have them train on a gun that had limited recoil, was easily concealed and felt great in the hand. This gun really fit the bill and I have been extremely pleased with its performance and the reviews of the women who have fired it. MSRP $445.

#8. Smith and Wesson M&P .380 EZ. The critics call it Grandma’s gun, but I bought two of these for my concealed carry classes as well. As I stated above, I market primarily to women who are new to shooting and concealed carry, and many of my clients are advanced in age, so I wanted smaller framed guns that were easy to shoot. These guns more than deliver. They may have been designed for “grandma”, but they will appeal to other classifications of shooters. If a well built, reliable, balanced, light recoil, easy to clean, gun in a smaller caliber with stopping power is what you seek, search no more—this gun is right for you! It’s a smaller caliber but on a larger frame. It is the size of the most common smaller 9mm- which helps it absorb recoil. MSRP $399.

The Guns I personally recommend for Concealed Carry

This review is personal, several of the guns on the list are from my personal collection, so that intimate knowledge should help you narrow down the search.

I could go on and on, and this list could easily become overwhelming. I purposely left off a lot of popular and honestly, some great guns. I tried to keep the list to guns priced south of $800, with most in the $400-500 range. I also tried to keep the list confined to easy to operate, reliable brands that are easy to clean, shoot and conceal. I think this is a good starting point, but you need to head over to your local gun shop and check fit, feel and actually shoot the gun before any decisions are made. In my blog post, “Why Are Gun Shops So Intimidating?” I touch on this more in depth. Each person will find that what is perfect for me, would not be as perfect for them, and that it is a totally subjective choice. This is just a guide based on some parameters I set in the beginning. There is no substitute for that trip to the gun store. My hope is that this this list makes that trip as painless and easy as possible.

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