Choosing Your Carry Gun

In almost every Carry Permit class, I constantly get asked “What gun should I buy?”

At first glance, it seems like such a simple concept.  I’m the expert, and I should just be able to say “go buy a Glock”, or “I like the Smith and Wesson M&P Shield”.

While I do like Glocks and personally carry an M&P Shield during the warmer months, it doesn’t mean they’re right for you.  My hands are different than yours.  My waistline is different than yours.  My jeans fit me different than yours.  Your firearm is as personal to you as the car or truck you own.  I personally drive a Ram 1500 pickup, but that doesn’t mean you should.   It’s not that I wouldn’t recommend that truck, but it’s more that I don’t know if that truck is right for you.

So, instead, let’s look at some criteria that will really help you determine what’s right for you.  I’ll go over some do’s and don’ts.  I suggest you heed the advice of BOTH because there are some major mistakes you can make in this process.  I’m a great example.  I’m on my 4th carry gun because I did NOT know these things when I started carrying.

First off, let’s start out with the DON’Ts.

  1. Don’t take the advice of your buddy’s son-in-law, solely because he’s in Law Enforcement.
  2. Don’t buy any make/model because someone else you know carries one.
  3. Don’t take ANYBODY’s advice so seriously that it closes your mind to what YOU need.
  4. Don’t be in a hurry to get a gun. It’s a sure-fire recipe for buying another gun in 3 months.
  5. You do NOT have to spend a lot of money to get a reliable carry gun.
  6. Don’t buy a cheap gun.

Let’s get on with the DO’s.

Your carry gun MUST follow these four criteria.  If you apply all of these criteria to your choice of handgun, you will likely find a gun you are very happy with.

  1. It must be reliable.
  2. It must be portable.
  3. It must be concealable.
  4. It must be user-friendly.


Ruger, Glock, Smith & Wesson M&P Line, Colt, Springfield (XD, XDm, XDs line), CZ, FN, HK, Sig Sauer, and Kahr all make handguns I would consider reliable.  Yes, there are others, and yes, there are some guns made from these manufacturers that I would NOT consider reliable.  But for the most part, these are all manufacturers that I would stand behind if you bought one of their products.

What’s reliable?  Reliable is “this gun WILL work, no matter what, if I’m involved in a fight for my life”.  Period.  That’s it.  Are you willing to bet your LIFE on your gun’s operational reliability?


I think this is pretty self-explanatory.  The gun must be portable to YOU.  It can’t be so heavy, large or bulky that you aren’t comfortable carrying it.  Regardless of whether you conceal or open carry, you must have a gun that you can take with you while doing normal daily activity.


Just about any handgun can be concealed.  But can it be concealed comfortably is the real question.  My first carry gun was a full-sized, polymer-framed Springfield 9mm.  There are a lot of benefits to a larger handgun, but concealability (as I soon found out) wasn’t one of them.  I realized quickly that you can’t base your gun on its functionality solely.  You must be able to conceal it, and for me personally, it must also be comfortable to carry.  If the gun you carry is horribly uncomfortable, you will stop carrying as often as you should, or in some cases, not at all.


While all guns may be user-friendly to someone, not all guns are user-friendly to you.  Simplicity, ease of operation and general functionality all will come into play not only when you practice (you DO practice, right?!), but also will mean everything if you’re ever required to use it in a defensive situation.  The more time you spend with your handgun at home, or the range, the more it will become an extension of your person.  Your body will ‘remember’ where the slide release lever is and where the magazine release button is.  You will find yourself not having to look at it as often, and that ultimately means it is becoming more user-friendly to you.  The simpler the functionality of your firearm, the easier it will be to reach that level.  Guns with Double-Action/Single Action systems with decockers are great for carrying; IF you know how to use them.  It requires significantly more work to become proficient with them than it would if you were to carry a striker-fired Glock or M&P with no safety.  Consider your time commitment and competency with different handguns and styles when choosing your carry gun.

Another aspect I’ll slightly delve into here is fitment and size.  Make sure the gun fits your hand.
Go to a local gun store (one that has a range as well is preferred), and hold a bunch of different guns.  Then RENT and SHOOT a bunch of different guns.

Can you touch the controls comfortably?  Can you reach the magazine release reliably?  Can you reach and have enough force to lock the slide to the rear without adjusting your grip?  These things are constants; your hands won’t get bigger, and the gun won’t get smaller.  Make sure it fits YOU.

Remember, user-friendly also means that YOU can actually shoot it reliably as well.

Other notables:

Beware buying  the very small or “pocket” guns.  While many do follow the criteria of being reliable, portable and are definitely concealable, they usually don’t fall under user-friendly.  They are terribly difficult to shoot accurately and quickly, have much higher recoil (or are chambered in an under-powered caliber), are much more dangerous to the operator, and very difficult to manage recoil due to the small frames.  They are attractive because of their extreme concealability and portability, and yes, they can be reliable.  I do not advocate anybody who seriously wants to carry a firearm for protection to carry a pocket gun (at least not as a primary firearm).

My personal carry gun is a Glock 19.  But only during months where I can conceal it by simply covering it in an OWB (outside the waist band) holster.  During the warmer months, I carry a single stack, M&P Shield 9mm because it’s much more concealable and lighter, but it’s not so small that I cannot shoot it reliably.

Once you have your carry gun chosen.  Then spend some time price shopping.  Online prices are ALWAYS better than box store prices.  Trust me on this one.

As always, if you have questions, or need more information, please call us and we’d be happy to help you out any way we can.