Choosing a carry gun


July 27, 2009, 01:30 PM
This is probably a subject that gets brought up over and over, but I'm gonna ask anyways.

I keep reading posts which include something along the lines of " If your life is going to depend on it, then carry this, or don't carry that."

With that in mind, my question is what do you base your decision on, as far as trusting a particular weapon with your life. I have only owned a few models of handgun, but after putting a number of rounds through each one reliably, and becoming confident with the sights and workings of the gun, I have never had the feeling that I could not trust my gun if my life were on the line.

I have been in the military for 12 years and have fired many different weapons. I do not claim to be an expert by any means, but I'm no newbie either (except maybe compared to old timers who have been shooting 40-50 yrs). I'm just curious what the typical thought process is, when people say trust this or don't trust that.

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July 27, 2009, 01:40 PM
The only guy who can figure out what gun is right for you and what gun to carry is you; everyone else's opinions, though offered in good spirit, no doubt, are merely that: opinions.

For me, the process was a lengthy one. I tried a number of different handguns that I was comfortable with at the outset and then narrowed the process through a great deal of training and practice and range work. I ultimately narrowed the search to three different Walther PPK/S guns I owned and worked with them, one at a time, then in sequence, until I finally found the gun that felt the best and worked the best for my eye and my hand. I put upwards of 1,500 rounds of ammo through each of the three guns I had considered; one of them had a FTE at somewhere near the 1,000-round mark and was eliminated. The other two were close, but the one I ultimately selected just felt the best and gave me a bit of a tighter grouping.

I shoot a handful of potential self-defense/carry guns routinely, always looking for a flaw, always looking one that produces better results than the next. I've switched a couple of times through the years. I'm currently breaking in a Walther PPS that I like a great deal. But as good as it is, and it's good, I'm still more comfortable at this point with a PPK/S and continue to use it as my daily carry gun. But I'm never satisfied, and I think that's a good thing.

Hope that helps a bit.

July 27, 2009, 01:51 PM
Carry what you trust and feel confident with. A hit with a 22 is better than a miss with a 44 mag. My self I am not comfortable with a 38 snub revolver . I have never really mastered the DA trigger and can't shoot one very accurate . I shoot better with a Colt Mustang or a KelTec. So I will carry one of those as a pocket pistol. Because I am old and I carried a 1911 in military for most of my career I like the 1911 for a belt pistol either a LTW Commander or my Defender.
Again carry what YOU are comfortable with no matter caliber or type.

July 27, 2009, 02:02 PM
devildave31, first off, welcome!

As others have noted, it is a personal thing. Some people have extremely strict criteria in terms of hundreds of rounds of a particular ammo through a particular gun, needing to be a certain caliber or design, et cetera. More power to them.

Personally, I'm like you (and I do qualify as one of those 'old timers', though I am not entirely pleased with that fact :eek: ) - if a gun has given me reliable service and I can shoot it well, then I don't worry much beyond that. Yeah, I test any given ammo, but if a gun feeds ammo reliably as a general rule, I don't worry about running hundreds of rounds through a gun.

For the most part I figure that I am better off being something of a generalist and trusting my knowledge and experience with guns to keep me safe and deal with the unexpected, rather than going for the final 0.01% perfection from a specific gun. So I have four or five guns I feel completely confident in carrying, depending on my particular mood or dress needs.

But that's me. YMMV.

Jim D.

July 27, 2009, 02:43 PM
I am with shadan7. I suspect he is a little older than I but no matter. I have been shooting 22's for about 64 years, SAA Colts for about 56 years and 1911's almost as long. I still have my SAA's but gravitate to my Smiths. I also have several 1911 45 acp's and CZ's in 9MM and 40s&w. But as much as I like all those, I am most comfortable with and carry a Smith. Yes, only 6 rounds but if you practice and become profecient, then 1 is all you need and the other 15 in the mag is wasted or saved for the next time,

Bottom line, if your comfortable with and profecient with a semi, then go with it but if your comfortable and profecient with a revolver, then fine.

The final decision is yours and yours alone.

Good luck.

Ala Dan
July 27, 2009, 06:07 PM
My suggestion in shopping "for the right handgun for YOU", is to visit a
range that rents handguns; and shoot as many as your wallet allows.
In other words, see what works "BEST" for YOU~! Then base your final
decision on that. ;) :D

July 27, 2009, 06:50 PM
Well, I'll throw my 2 cents into the ring:

o It has to be a gun you'll carry consistently: if it's not there when you need it then it's useless for protecting your life.

o It has to be a gun that you can "run" reliably (loading, drawing, shooting, reloading, clearing malfunctions, etc.) under pressure and with your attention elsewhere.

o It has to be reliable with your chosen self defense ammo. A given gun might run reliably with some kinds of ammo but not with others: So it's OK if there's some ammo that IT doesn't like, but it's not OK if it doesn't like the ammo YOU want to carry. I seem to recall Massad Ayoob recommending that it be able to shoot 200 rounds of your chosen ammo with no malfunctions.

o It has to be one that you can shoot accurately under pressure, in low light, with your attention elsewhere, etc.

o It has to be mechanically sound, well designed and manufactured, so that parts don't fall off, break, jam, etc.

o It ought to be of a modern design with the internal safeties needed to keep it from firing if you drop it, or if it's out of battery, etc.

I'd say that compared to the above, its caliber, trigger, action, etc. are all less important.

And none of the above means anything unless you do your part: maintain it well, practice, wear a good belt and holster, know the law, maintain good situational awareness, have good tactical sense, etc.


July 27, 2009, 07:48 PM
most important thing is reliability. the other stuff practically pales by comparison.

Deus Machina
July 28, 2009, 08:38 AM
Reliability and 'pointability' tie for first and foremost, for me. It has to be a gun that you know will work, one hundred percent of the time, and that you can point where you need to, when you need to, and be able to do it again a quarter-second after.

After that, safety--can you carry it without it going off? Can you carry it with the hammer down, if it's a DA/SA or DAO? Is the safety, if you use it, naturally turned off when it comes into your hand?

For me, my guns must be able to be carried hammer down, and be DA/SA. I may find a DAO I can use, but I haven't yet, and I'm not a fan of Glock-style systems. The safety is disengaged 90% of the time, and even when it's on (in the car, around friends) the way I grab the gun brushes it off with my thumb.

Caliber is the last major consideration I have with a carry gun, but I do own a couple so I don't have to carry my .22's. Notice I said 'last major consideration'--I'd limit myself to .380 in an auto or .32H&R Magnum or .327 Federal in a revolver, as the smallest I'd go, and I'd much prefer 9mm or .38 Special as the smallest.

Then again, I might respect .40, but I'm also too small to hide anything big enough that I'm comfortable shooting, so far. That brings us back to points 1 and 2--controlling it.

Ammo choice comes after the choice of a gun, and you have to balance out what you can shoot from it. You might want semi-jacketed hollowpoint out of a snub-nosed .38, to balance penetration and expansion, or cast lead from a .32 ACP for the same reason; .32's seem to expand or penetrate. A .45 might not like the truncated cone shape of Hornady, like a friend of mine's, so you may go with the near-roundnose shape of Golden Saber or Winchester White Box HP's. Maybe your trusty old 9mm has a washboard feed ramp like, and won't feed any hollowpoints--Federal makes an expanding FMJ that hits like a brick.

Point being, there are plenty of good choices--choose the gun before the ammo.

So, the TL;DR version: Shoot everything you can. Find what's comfortable for you, what you can hit your target with, and then think of a caliber. Eight .32's out of a Walther are better than a 10mm out of a Glock that makes you roll your shoulder back for the second shot.

July 28, 2009, 09:12 AM
Welcome to the High Road.

Rule 1 of a gunfight is BRING A GUN

concealability is a big thing for me. If I can't hide it I can't carry it. A lot of guys claim that they can hide an 8 inch model 29 wearing a thong and feathered boa while doing Ty Bo on the hood of a moving car.

The Kahr PM9 hides well and is nice and flat. Dependable and I shoot it pretty well.

I shoot my Colt Detective Special better but it does not hide as easily.

In the winter, of which we get several days of in Texas, I sometimes carry something full size like an XD45.

The bottom line is that you are probably not going to have just one carry gun.

Things to note. A good belt is critical to carrying comfortably. I use a 5:11 reinforced instructors belt. Changed my life. Keeps a gun nice and tight to the body and no sag. A wonderful thing.

A gun you can't shoot well might be better than nothing...but not by much. I do not shoot ultra light snubbies well. SHOOT BEFORE YOU BUY!!

One more thing...have fun. Go to ranges and borrow guns. Go to your local shops and talk to them. Chat at the range. Finding the gun that fits you and your shooting proclivities is a fun process.

Once again welcome.

July 28, 2009, 09:26 AM
Portability, reliability & enough power to change a bad guy's mind. I carry a P3AT because I'm big on the portability issue, because it's never jammed on me and because .380 should be enough to make someone less inclined to do bad.

July 28, 2009, 02:32 PM
Great ideas guys, Thank you!

July 28, 2009, 02:37 PM
Keep it under 3 pounds loaded or you won't carry it.

Two pounds is better, and one+ pound is way better


July 28, 2009, 03:13 PM
Find a gun you can comfortable operate. Commit the time, money and energy to become proficient it its use, concealment, deployment, maintenance. That will be the best gun for you. There is no magic in any one gun. The gun is a very small part of the solution. People say that this gun or that gun just "fits" them better than any other. Nonsense. Some may feel better than some others. I have yet to meet the person who has tried them all, or even a statistically relevant percentage of them all. This applies to any product you buy. I mean, do you really think you tried out every car or every washing machine before you made a purchasing decision? Just find something you are comfortable with, then put in the necessary investment to master it. You will become familiar with it and accustomed to it over time and through use and understanding of it. That will be the best gun for you. It is the work you put in that makes it the best, nothing else.

July 28, 2009, 05:31 PM
"concealability is a big thing for me. If I can't hide it I can't carry it. A lot of guys claim that they can hide an 8 inch model 29 wearing a thong and feathered boa while doing Ty Bo on the hood of a moving car."

Wow! Just... wow. What a visual! :eek::what:


July 28, 2009, 09:29 PM
Concealability, shootability, and stopability

You have to be able to conceal it
You have to be able to shoot it
It has to be chambered for a round that will stop bad guys

Everything after that is just a matter of opinion.

July 28, 2009, 10:03 PM
I trust all my guns except the gsg-5 .. why? b/c I jammed it twice in 100 rounds. Is it the gun's fault? not really.. but it's def the last gun I'd grab in an emergency...

*I grabbed the mag while shooting those two rounds.. big no-no for gsg-5's apparently

July 29, 2009, 12:07 AM
Wow! Just... wow. What a visual!

sadly I have seen it...not a pretty sight...

July 29, 2009, 09:03 AM
Guillermo, or anyone else in the know, what is a 5:11 reinforced instructors belt?

July 29, 2009, 11:21 AM
My self I am not comfortable with a 38 snub revolver . I have never really mastered the DA trigger and can't shoot one very accurate . I shoot better with a Colt Mustang or a KelTec.

Whaaa??? Kel-Tecs are notorious for having some of the longest, hardest and crappiest DAO triggers of any production gun on the market! I currently own two P3ATs a P11 and a PF9 and had a P32. I love them for what they are (cheap and reliable), but the triggers definitely are some of the hardest to master that I've ever encountered.

July 29, 2009, 03:27 PM
I carry a p345
weight empty is 26.8 ounces
weight empty with a mag is 29.4
and with 8+1 in it 35.7.
converted that is 2.2 pounds
Probably get it less if I used a lighter bullet. 1 ounce less if i use 185g instead of 230. meh not worth it.
whatever you carry you better make sure its the best gun you know you can shoot, and its more reliable than taxes and death

July 30, 2009, 12:15 AM
A snubby because:
Its light, yes even the steel ones.
It will shoot a variety of ammo. (especially 357s)
You can limp wrist it and it will still cycle (not that you want to but you get the idea)
You can shoot it multiple times from a coat pocket reliably.
Short barrel keeps you in control of the gun better in ECQ.
Mashing the barrel up to your advesary and firing multiple shots can be done reliably.
Can be effectively pocket carried but has enough grip to shoot well and get a good grip from an outside the waistband holster too.
The list goes on.......

July 30, 2009, 08:00 AM
I have a lot of high quality guns usable for carry, but the two attributes that I keep coming back to are concealability and reliability; assuming you are carrying a suitable caliber for SD -- my minimum is 9mm/.38 Special.

I like to carry my commander in 45 ACP, but it is heavy; I generally end up with a Kahr K9 IWB or a snubbie in the pocket. There are literaly dozens of manufactures that can meet my requirements but these are the handguns I settled on.

July 30, 2009, 09:52 AM
"If your life is going to depend on it, then carry this, or don't carry that."when people say trust this or don't trust that.

I think statements like these are made by internet commandos who have little to no training. Mindset first. Skillset second. After you get those two right, it doesn't matter much what comes third.

Since you are asking about that third, toolset, I'll give you my personal thought on why I carry what I carry. My reasons shouldn't amount to a hill of beans to anyone else because others need to reason for themselves.

Form follows function. Reliability comes before anything else. I decided on the 9mm as the minimum cartridge for my primary weapon for too many reasons to state. I prefer an auto loader with a good double digit magazine capacity, a polymer frame for weight, and striker fired w/ no safeties for simplicity and a lengthy and stiff trigger pull. Those features, in the smallest package available, brought me to carry a P11 that has operated flawlessly from day one. If it hadn't, I wouldn't carry it, and if it ever starts to act up, I'll send it to be fixed or I'll get something else. I'd like to move up to .45, but there is not currently a handgun that has the sum total of preferred features that I like.

July 30, 2009, 11:11 AM
Choose the biggest, baddest thing you can handle and will actually -carry-.

This will vary based on the individual, experience, ability, climate, etc, etc.

I own a Glock 26, I like it a lot and I do carry it, but not all of the time as my normal dress (working from home in Tshirt and Shorts land South Carolina) doesn't make it practical. I do, however, always carry my NAA BlackWidow in 22mag. I can slip that (in a holster, of course) into any pants or shorts pocket and hardly know it's there.

July 30, 2009, 11:21 AM
The bottom line is that you are probably not going to have just one carry gun.

Good advice there.

My top three criteria for a carry pistol...
1. Reliability
2. Accuracy
3. Concealability

A good holster and a sturdy gun belt are also paramount for concealability and importantly, comfort.

Caliber isn't of great importance to me, on any given day I may be carrying a .380, .38 Special, 9mm or .45acp depending on which pistol got the nod that day based on how I'm dressed or convenience. I use a good defensive ammo, like Hornady TAP or Critical Defense in all my carry pistols.

July 30, 2009, 12:41 PM
The bottom line is that you are probably not going to have just one carry gun.
far from the truth.

July 30, 2009, 12:48 PM
Thanks CoRoMo, I think your comments have pretty well mirrored what I was thinking.

July 31, 2009, 12:13 AM
This was my response to a question regarding a Taurus revolver someone had recently acquired. He liked it, but wanted "approval" from the minds here. The point was that spending a huge amount of money isn't always necessary.

>>>Ask yourself "what's your life worth".. you'll hear this comment over and over again from the webwarriors, yet they're not buying new $40K+ cars every year to have the latest in safety when out and about. This is despite the fact that any one of us who operates a motor vehicle is much more likely to encounter a threat to our safety in doing so than one coming in the form of an aggressor (unless they're engaging in a risky lifestyle.)
For HD/SD, a Taurus that you know to function and do so well in your hands will do fine. Those same people who believe they should be armed at all times are, in fact, telling you to wait to be armed, aren't they? Remember the first rule of gunfighting, right? Have a gun!
More justifiable defensive shootings not involving LE or military personnel involve these so-called "lesser" arms than the Kahrs, Kimbers, Sigs, etc, because that's what people who live in the parts of the country more likely to contain these threats have. Most of the cases I've read up on that identified the defender's weapon type include Rossi .38s, Lorcin/Davis-type .25 and .380 pistols, no-name single-barrel or double-barrel shotguns, and various .22 and .32 caliber revolvers. These are the "beer-budget" arms people living "beer-budget" lives have when firearms isn't a pastime for them. I don't own a single firearm valued today at more than $400, but I trust any of the ones I keep for defensive purposes to do me as intended. They include a Taurus 4" 66 revolver, a Charter Arms Undercover .38, and a Bersa Thunder .380 pistol. The first is primarily a HD gun; one of the other two is on me at all (dressed) times.<<<

Commander Crusty
August 5, 2009, 08:59 AM
I used to have my pick of the finest handguns in the world. Now, since the robbery, I only carry the gun I actually had with me when all the others were stolen--a Ruger LCP .380 with one spare magazine. Ammo? FMJ ball. Do I know how to use it? Yes.

August 5, 2009, 09:34 AM
It must be reliable.
you must be confortable if it does not fire, you know instict wise what to do.
you must be willing to actually CARRY it.

for some, a flat gun like a BHP or a 1911 will work, some will find a compact little Kel-tec, others will want a big revolver, some will like a small snubby.

A key thing is to have a reliable gun you will carry, thus, I picked a snubby as it light, reliable, and easy to hide gun when I get the CCW.

August 5, 2009, 09:55 AM
I'm not sure if I've hit on absolutely the right answer to your question, but I've got a few thoughts. First, recognize that you have to take many of things you read on the web with a grain of salt. You'll see folks who boldly proclaim that they would never ever carry a [fill in name of gun] because [fill in list of perceived shortcomings].

In a sense, these opinions are helpful in formulating what questions are most important to you, but they are also often filled with incorrect information, bias, and limited knowledge.

My personal thoughts:

-The pistol must be reasonably compact. If it's too bulky or heavy, you'll find yourself trying to guess if today might be the day you'll need it, and you might guess wrong.

-Beauty, while not something you have to ignore, should not be high on your list of qualifications.

-It should be of a caliber that you feel is sufficient for self-defense. My personal bias is toward 9mm or larger, but plenty of intelligent folks are perfectly comfortable with a .32 or a .380.

-As for the ultimate question of reliability, Most guns from reputable manufacturers are highly reliable. Nonetheless, all are susceptible to the occasional failure. One of the things you should focus on is knowing how to deal with a jam or misfire, regardless of how reliable you feel your gun is.

-Finally, you should be 100% comfortable with your ability to effectively and safely operate the gun. If--and this is just an example--you're freaked out by a 1911, either shy away from those pistols or invest in some good training.

August 5, 2009, 10:36 AM
First an foremost the gun must be "carry friendly" and concealable.
Heavy guns are a pain in the butt to carry all day long, and large bulky guns are harder to conceal.
I have learned that a heavy or bulky gun will not be carried for long.
This is why I prefer to carry a smaller lighter-weight handgun.

2nd, the gun must be as reliable as possible.
IMO, this eliminates all auto-loaders.
Don't bother flaming me or arguing, my mind is settled on this matter.
If you prefer to trust your life to an autoloader, that's fine.
I don't.
I've experienced way too many failure-to-feed, failure-to-eject, and failure-to-cycle problems with autoloaders.
As much as I love shooting autoloaders, they're just not as reliable as revolvers.

3rd, the gun must be of a sufficient caliber as to have a reasonable chance of quickly stopping a human aggressor with only several shots.
IMO, this means .38 Special or 9mm as the minimum.

I'm not very concerned with capacity.
I'm not an Army Ranger or a Navy SEAL in a war-zone, and I don't live in a gang infested barrio, and I don't live in a post-apocalyptic wasteland overrun with zombies and savage marauders.

My preferred carry gun is a S&W Airweight 637 .38 Special+P revolver, or my Taurus 905 9mm revolver.

August 5, 2009, 03:02 PM
I think the Number One characteristic a carry gun must have is reliability. If it doesn't go bang when you pull the trigger... or if it goes bang when you don't, you should never carry it.

After that, the other considerations vary widely between people based on their individual needs. Size, weight, concealability, the availability of ammo, perceived effectiveness of the cartridge, ergonomics, accessories available, cost, are all major factors.

August 10, 2009, 04:37 PM
I'm new to 1911's, so correct me if I am wrong, but, the firing pin does not go forward of the bolt face(?) unless it recieves a full blow, with that in mind, you could load a round and then carefully decock. Then it would just be a matter of cocking and firing, and if you practiced, I bet you could cock and draw at the same time.

Anyone, am I wrong on this?

August 10, 2009, 05:21 PM
Have any of you 1911 owners ever had an accidental discharge with the 1911 "in battery" with the safety on and finger off the trigger? I don't carry a round in the chamber and realize that the delay to load one could cost me my life.

No I've never had an nd with a round in the chamber, safety on and finger off the trigger near impossible to have one under those conditions. I won't say completely impossible(someone could purposely rig up a way to make it happen I suppose), with a series 80 gun it would be as close to impossible as anything can get though.

I'm new to 1911's, so correct me if I am wrong, but, the firing pin does not go forward of the bolt face(?) unless it recieves a full blow, with that in mind, you could load a round and then carefully decock. Then it would just be a matter of cocking and firing, and if you practiced, I bet you could cock and draw at the same time.

Anyone, am I wrong on this?

Yep you are about right. Some do carry with this method. It is slower bringing the gun into action than C&L carry though and some have argued that it is less safe.


August 10, 2009, 07:14 PM
ammo availability

August 10, 2009, 11:35 PM
I'm new to 1911's, so correct me if I am wrong, but, the firing pin does not go forward of the bolt face(?) unless it recieves a full blow, with that in mind, you could load a round and then carefully decock. Then it would just be a matter of cocking and firing, and if you practiced, I bet you could cock and draw at the same time.

Anyone, am I wrong on this?
It's an acceptable carry method, but it's paranoid and more prone to failure, in my book. I'll be the guy that argues it's less safe, as tipoc pointed out. :)

There's three reasons Condition 2 (The carry condition you're describing) is, in my view, a bad idea. First and foremost, it's slower. Yes, you can get pretty damn good at it. As good as just disabling the safety? For most people, no.

Secondly, to get a gun into Condition 2, you have to bring the gun to Condition 0 (No safety, fully cocked, round in the chamber) and then pull the trigger while lowering the hammer with your thumb/finger/whatever. This is not some horrific earth shattering experience, but it does increase the change of a negligent discharge. In my eyes, the ultimate safety is keeping your damn sausages off the trigger. Condition 2 carry necessitates that this rule be violated every time you want to alter the state of the weapon.

Finally, and I've got no real world evidence to back this up, but it seems to me that it's less safe in the event of a drop. In Condition 2 there is nothing mechanically preventing the hammer from imparting enough force on the firing pin to move it forward hard enough to strike a primer. In a modern, Series 80 1911, there is an internal safety acting directly on the firing pin, that physically prevents it from moving unless both the trigger and grip safeties are actuated. I.e, in a dropped condition, it would have to fall in some magical set of circumstances (I'm sure you can find amateur physicists who have rigged up such a scenario, but real world conditions would be near zero) that at minimum, two out of three of the safeties would have to be actuated or fail at the same time.

These are considering normal impact scenarios, anyways, it's entirely possible to drop them from great heights and impact the hammer hard enough to break the sear and the safety, or onto the muzzle hard enough that the inertia could slam the firing pin into the primer hard enough to ignite it.

Given that most people are not 30 to 80 feet tall or intending to toss their weapons off bridges on a regular basis, this is in the category of "safe enough" for me.

Course, I carry a Glock 26, Glock 36 or a Kahr PM9, none of which have any safety at all aside from the aforementioned sausages-off-the-damn-stick principal, and I also view that as "safe enough," so take my opinion for what you will.

Commander Crusty
August 12, 2009, 09:09 AM
You COULD carry a 1911 with the hammer down on an empty chamber, some people do, but then you run the risk of an accidental discharge (AD) every time you load or draw your pistol. Most people who carry a 1911 carry cocked and locked and LIKE it that way. Some carry chamber empty because it makes routine handling so much easier. Hey, the gun CAN'T fire if there isn't a round in the chamber--right? As long as you have two hands and an extra second of warning, chamber empty carry is IMHO a better option than hammer down on an loaded chamber.

Commander Crusty
August 12, 2009, 09:17 AM
Forget about the gun! Think about home security first: lights, locks, alarm, gun safe, body armor, cell phone, no limit burglary rider on your insurance, home shotgun or carbine in that order. THEN think about personal security, starting with a compact flashlight (you NEED one of those if you are going to carry a handgun), pocket knife, GPS, AAA membership, Mace, stun gun, THEN a concealable, reliable, fight stopping handgun. Keep your priorities straight.

August 13, 2009, 04:52 AM
1911GI Fan, you've asked the same question four times in four threads. If you're that uncomfortable or unfamiliar with the internal workings of your 1911, can you really call yourself a "fan"?

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