Choosing a pistol for concealed carry is a bit more complicated than choosing a pistol for home defense.
You have an added factor to consider – the size and weight of the pistol (in addition to if you choose a revolver or semi-auto, and what caliber it will be).
This is where you have to start compromising. On the one hand, you want something that is reasonably concealable, so you don’t want anything too large, or too heavy. But on the other hand, you want something that is also acceptably powerful, so you do want something that has a reasonable caliber, and a reasonable magazine or cylinder capacity.
So where and how do you compromise between size/weight and concealability and power and capacity?
There are several things to consider. How will you carry the pistol? Are you a large or small framed person? How long will you carry it for at a time? Are you planning on being in high risk/multi-threat areas, or low risk/single threat areas?
Carry Condition – Loaded or Not?
A very important consideration is whether you’ll carry the pistol loaded with a round in the chamber or not. Ideally you should be able to access your firearm, present it, and fire it, all with a single hand (and also ideally, you should be able to do this with either hand).
This is because you might have one hand in use to fend off an attacker, or maybe your other hand has already been injured in the confrontation. While there are ways that some pistols can have the slide racked (to load a round) without using both hands, they require more training and more time, and don’t work well with typical concealable smaller sized pistols.
The “Israeli Method of Presenting a Pistol”
We are endlessly surprised and saddened at the number of students we meet who fail to appreciate that. Some even boast that they’ve learned the “Israeli Method” of drawing their pistol and working the slide to chamber a round and readying the pistol to fire at the same time. Perhaps these people believe that anything that comes from Israel is automatically the last word in best firearms practice, or perhaps they’re just proud at being able to do a complicated thing well. But Murphy’s Law is always present, and remembering that most encounters happen suddenly without warning, we feel that the reliance/need to have both arms fully available for this technique makes it a poor choice.
Also, even if you do have both arms available, you’re going to be so adrenalin charged that you’re going to lose much of your micro-motor skills, and so you’re more likely to fumble and get this technique wrong while in an ultimately stressful situation.
So, please don’t plan to do this, even if it looks really ‘cool’ when practicing it. Which brings up one more objection to this technique. Your hands are doing lots of things, in a panicked situation; and there’s a measurable chance that you’re going to end up accidentally shooting your support hand while going through this drill!
Carrying Your Pistol With a Round Chambered
As long as you have the trigger area of your carry pistol fully protected so that it is impossible for the trigger to be bumped/pulled while the pistol is being carried in its carry-holster, there is usually no reason not to carry the pistol with a round loaded.
Single-action pistols like the 1911 style should be ‘cocked and locked’ – ie, with the hammer cocked back, and the safety on, and in such a case, we’d recommend not only ensuring the trigger can’t be accidentally pulled, but that the safety won’t be bumped off accidentally, either.
Double Action Only (DAO) pistols may or may not have a safety, but their main safety is the long heavy trigger pull. As long as the trigger is protected, the pistol should be safe while carrying.
Some SA/DA pistols (like most SIG pistols or Berettas) have a decocking lever. In such cases, you should chamber a round and then decock the pistol. If it also has a safety, engage that too.
Most modern striker fired pistols (ie Glocks, Springfield XD, and many others) have neither decocking levers nor safeties. It is fine to carry them with a round chambered, but because the trigger pull is shorter and lighter than a DAO pistol, you must guarantee that the trigger area is fully protected and can’t be accidentally interfered with.
This is only really a concern if you have a semi-auto, of course. Revolvers these days are typically carried with rounds in every cylinder chamber.
Now for another thing to appreciate. It is better to always have a small-caliber pistol with you, and ideally wish you had a bigger one when things get challenging, than it is to have a full-sized pistol – but at home rather than with you – when things get challenging. Some is better than none.
A small gun you always carry is better than a big gun you only occasionally carry, because you just know that Murphy’s Law demands that the only one time you’ll ever need your concealed pistol will be one of the times you didn’t have it with you.
The good news is that with new metallurgy and plastics, and the massive growth in demand for concealable pistols as a result of the explosion in US states that now allow concealed carry, there have been massive advances in small lightweight pistol designs.
A decade or two ago, you’d have been stuck with truly small pistols only available in truly small calibers – .32 ACP, .25 ACP, and even .22LR.
Now there are .380 ACP pistols that are wonderfully small and lightweight, and even 9mm pistols that are only a bit bigger. You have many more choices than you formerly did.
Revolver or Semi-Auto?
Probably the first part of your decision-making is choosing between a revolver or a semi-auto style pistol for concealed carry. Please click the link to continue on to this next step in the decision-making process.
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