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Selecting a Handgun for Concealed Carry

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by Kleanbore, Jan 12, 2020.

  1. Kleanbore

    Kleanbore Moderator Staff Member

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    When I first started carrying concealed, I selected a Smith & Wesson 642 with a CT grip.

    People were lined up at store counters to look at them; It handed well in a store; and it slipped easily into a jeans pocket. The conventional wisdom held that "the average gunfight is over in three rounds". What else was there to consider? I bought it, with a pocket holster.

    I had been shooting handguns off and on for just under fifty years, at cans and bulls-eye targets, but I knew absolutely nothing about what might be expected to unfold in the event of an attack in a parking lot, or how to react.

    A couple of scary local incidents, and JohnKSa's excellent post on ammunition capacity, led me to want a pistol with more capacity. S&W had a special offer that included some pricy extra magazines for the M&P Compact; I read about it and drove out to Cabela's. I liked the way it handled, and I bought it.

    At the time, I just had to have the one with the manual safety--a no-brainer, thought I.

    The pistol was reliable, and I could shoot it. I bought an IWB holster. What else could I need?

    Two ugly issues manifested themselves. First, that "safety" switched on and off with no perceptible detent, and it became disengaged rather often when the gun was in the holster. Secondly, there was something about the trigger that caused my finger to sting painfully after firing fifty rounds.

    Lesson: try before you buy.

    Our gun club hosted a good defensive pistol shooting class shortly after that. That was ten years ago this Spring.

    Two days, bring at least 1200 rounds of ammunition. No revolvers. Service size pistols were strongly recommended. I needed to acquire one.

    I had had a lot of experience with 1911 type guns, and I was still laboring under the conventional wisdom about the alleged superior effectiveness of the .45 ACP.

    I zeroed in on a high-end firearm with an Officer's size steel frame. This time, I tried one out at the range before buying. (Actually, I tried a similar Kimber; they did not have an STI Guardian for rent).

    The class was an eye-opener. We spent a lot of time learning to shoot rapidly. Steel plates, modified El Presidente drill, rotating instructors, one for each student all the time.

    During the time I was reloading magazines, and that was considerable, I noted that the students with service size .40 S&W pistols could shoot much more rapidly with controlled fire than those with .45s, and those with 9MM, still more rapidly. HMMM....

    About that time, the old saw about the .45 and the Moros was being thrust into the harsh light of reality as a combination of technology improvements made the 9MM more viable. I learned that here on THR form people who had done more research than I, and from Special Agent Urey Patrick.

    I established for myself a new requirement: a concealable 9mm with a double column magazine, and a safety.

    I divested the M&P, and after a lot of looking, I chose a Ruger SR-9c. It was reliable, shootable, carryable--and it was not painful to shoot for fifty rounds or even much more.

    I have tendonitis. I am responsibly told by medical experts who shoot handguns that recoil heavily long enough will ultimately end up with it, along with some permanent nerve and joint damage. Ask John Taffin.

    The Ruger seemed perfect. The safety was in about the same place as the one on a 1911; I learned to disengage it consistently; and it did have a positive detent. But it was possible to bring the gun into firing position without disengaging the safety.

    That happened to me when I was under the "stress" of drawing and firing under the eye of a trainer whom I had seen many times on television. Once.

    Considering what might have occurred in a real "Tueller scenario", I divested the Ruger.

    Still having little faith in that Glock-type "safety", I chose a single-column Croatian semi-auto with a grip safety.

    It meets my needs, but the trigger could be better. A lot of things have to happen inside the gun when the trigger is pulled to make it fire.

    A neighbor of mine worked for Ruger, and he brought home a new Ruger American pistol. It has a better trigger than the Springfield, and less effort is required to rack the slide.

    By the way, I had open heart surgery a year and a half ago, and that takes a bit out of one for a while.

    My friend's Ruger has been 100% reliable, and it has digested every kind of ammunition he has tried, flawlessly.

    I bought the Compact model, without the safety. I again carry the Springfield, however.

    The four inch model of the Springfield is no longer listed.

    I have recently been looking at the new Smith and Wesson Shield 9 EZ: single column magazine, grip safety, easy slide, and the reviewers like the trigger.

    I looks good to me, and so does the price.

    The trigger, the grip, the bore axis, the safety provisions, the caliber, the size and weight, and the sights are all something that an individual has to choose for him/her self. So is the slide racking effort.

    The choice should be an informed one. Playing with one in the shop won't cut it. Relying on the advice of the guy in the store or the gun guy at the office doesn't qualify. Videos are god but insufficient

    Shoot it yourself, and equip yourself with the best possible appreciation of what it is that constitutes realistic defensive shooting, both, in terms of speed (much higher than most people think) and accuracy (combat accuracy is all you need).

    For me, that involved taking a couple of good training classes.

    Perhaps you will purchase fewer pistols and holster than I have, before landing on the right square.
     
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  2. Corpral_Agarn

    Corpral_Agarn Member

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    My first semi auto was a P226 with the steel frame.

    It's a great shooter. Capacity is good. Recoil is plenty controllable.

    I found that with planning, I could conceal it even on my slight frame.

    After trying to carry that monster (2lbs of gun plus the loaded mag) I decided I needed a lighter option.

    I liked the DA/SA trigger and had been shooting idpa with the 226 regularly.

    I wanted the same manual of arms, but smaller and lighter. I knew I didn't want a safety. Growing up on revolvers a safety was simply of no interest to me.

    The p239 was the obvious choice.

    On paper the 239 is simply obsolete. It's too big for the capacity, there are lighter options that offer more efficiency.

    But the gun fits me well. I find that I shoot it at least as good as the 226.

    I've been pleased with the 239, still carry it, occasionally use it at a match to stay familiar.

    After 9 years, however, I find myself thinking that 18 rounds in the gun would be nice.

    So... Back to the 226 (with alloy frame) when can get away with concealing it.
     
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  3. 460Shooter

    460Shooter Member

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    Good post and good points.

    In the 10 or 11 years I’ve been carrying I’ve been around the mulberry bush a few times.

    Started with a Ruger SP101. Still have it.

    Then a 642 came in to play. Ditched it.

    Tried a Bond arms derringer. Not terribly east to shoot past 7 yards, stupidly low capacity for size.

    Then I got an XDs and all seemed well, until it broke. Got it fixed and still have it, but I realized I wanted a backup.

    I also wanted something with more than 6 rounds, so I got a P30SK. Still have that and carried it yesterday.

    Wanted another small summer carry gun, and the Sig P938 Legion cropped up. It’s a good fit for me and the magwell makes it very shootable and quick to get on target. I practice shooting it at speed at 10, 15, 20, and 25 yards. Pretty quick shooting gun and surprisingly easy on the hand. I plan to buy a second.

    I also carry a VP9 concealed at times I’ll be in the city at night.

    It’s good to have options, and I may consolidate on function, eliminating variations between safety and no safety, striker and nonstriker guns.

    Shoot first if you can, but that isn’t always an option. Just be prepared to spend some money if it isn’t an option. It takes a few go arounds to figure out what works for you.
     
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  4. jar

    jar Member

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    Selecting (fill in the blanks) is either an evolving endeavor or just plain luck. While the latter is certainly possible the former has proved to be the case for me. I found the "Spock Principle" has been most effective for me... "Live long and accumulate". The biggest consideration for me has been to try to make small improvements rather than large ones and if possible to maintain a line of succession; not Out with the Old until I am quite sure that the new is not simply infatuation.

    Second, a spectrum of tools has always appealed to me over having one tool for all tasks. This has led to The Box of Shame when it comes to holsters, but they don't eat and I don't have to send them to college and as I change over time I have found several from the Box of Shame seem to now be totally reformed and perfect for the new older me.

    Also, there's more to life than CCW and so many of the handguns I found appropriate at the time now serve other equally valuable tasks. No longer do they have to go to work each day rather they get to rest up and then go play at the range or out in ranch country. Some just seem to enjoy a regular SPA day and so may have been cleaned and pampered even without first getting dirty.
     
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  5. 460Shooter

    460Shooter Member

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    The box of holsters is almost a given for people who make the decision to daily carry. At least if renting first isn’t an option.

    So many things can change the need over time also. Weight gain or loss. Arthritis development or back problems make weight a real issue. Getting in and out of a vehicle. Weather and associated clothing choice. Etc.
     
  6. Kleanbore

    Kleanbore Moderator Staff Member

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    Certainly.
     
  7. jimbo555

    jimbo555 Member

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    What works for one won't for another. The mouse gun discussions proves that.
     
  8. Armored farmer

    Armored farmer Member

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    The right holster makes so much difference in comfortable carry.
    With a new holster choice, I'm carrying my very first ccw again.
    Sp101.
     
  9. AK103K

    AK103K Member

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    The only way you will know whats going to work for you, is to put the time and effort in with as many things as you you can, and see how it goes. Best place to start, is with the gun you shoot the most and shoot the best with and go from there.

    You really need to have an open mind, and be willing to experiment. These days, we have so many choices, both with guns and accessories, its hard to believe people have so much trouble figuring this out. And you dont have to limit yourself to a pocket gun either, unless of course, thats what you want.

    I started out back in the 70's, with really not a whole lot of choices gun wise, and gear to carry things, was pretty bland and spartan.

    The first handgun I carried was a Colt GM, followed later, by a Commander. For the next 25 some odd years or so, other than a stint here or there trying other things out and not finding anything better, one or the other of the Colts was the gun I had on me every day, mostly a Commander. Cooper had most who were into things pretty well indoctrinated back then. Took a while to wear off. :)

    "Smaller" guns were things like a PPK, or a K or J frame Smith. Real small, were things like a Baby Browning, Colt Vest Pocket, etc.

    Holsters for any of them were pretty basic, and pretty much sucked. I figured it out early on, an IWB type holster was the best bet, and, except for a couple of special use type holsters, I have never swayed from that. Today, I still carry a full sized handgun on a daily basis, AIWB.

    Over the years, my progression went from 1911's, to a SIG P220's and P245's, to P226's, P228's, 229's, 239's, P230's, to Glocks, 17's, 19's, and 26's. Lots of other different things in there too over the years, but they are/were all either learning or special use type things.

    My main criteria has pretty much always been to choose what I shoot best with over whats easier to conceal. Whats the point in carrying a gun, if you cant shoot it well? Once you learn that size really isnt an issue, and how you dress and carry yourself is more important, things become a lot easier.

    Up until Glocks came along, the two best things to happen to carrying a gun was, hard chrome and kydex holsters. Prior to that, rust bucket city, especially in the summers. Things are a lot better these days. :)

    If you got a box of holsters that didnt work out, eBay is a great place to recoup some of that money. Its also a great place to pick up good, used and new holsters for a good price that you might want to try out. I recently got a new Blade Tech Nano, still in the original wrap from there. $80 holster for $15. :thumbup:
     
  10. Browning

    Browning Member

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    Started out with 1911's. First a government model because that’s what I grew up with and what my father and I attended Gunsite with and then the commander because it was slightly smaller and weighed less

    Then I went to a Beretta 92 FS. About the same size, twice as many shots.

    I was willing to carry large pistols for awhile because initially it was somewhat of a novelty.
    Then it went to a Sig 226. Didn’t like it. Felt different for reasons I’ve never been able to explain.

    Then a CZ-75 full size. As many rds in the mag as the Beretta, but ergo’s were better.

    Then I tried a really small Browning BDA in .380 for a millisecond. Not enough faith in the .380.

    Then an H&K P7. Grip safety was too weird.

    Then a S&W 66 .357 Mag. Too big and not enough rds.

    Then a Browning High Power. Stuck with that for a long time. Pretty much the longest. Then the one I had started getting holster wear and I got a second one. Then a third.

    Then I tried a second gen Glock 19. Stuck with that the second longest. Held as many rds as the Beretta but weighed less and was smaller.

    Then tried a Glock 30 .45 ACP. Didn’t like it. Too chunky and I couldn’t shoot it as well.

    Went back to the G19.

    Then a CZ-75 Compact.

    Then went to a Glock 26 3rd gen.

    Then a Walther PPS 1st gen as a backup gun and generally more concealable pistol than the above when I couldn’t get away with belt carry.

    Tried a Glock 42 for a backup gun. Couldn’t get enough of a grip on it.

    Back to the Walther PPS 1st gen for backup and deeper concealment. Third longest.

    Then a Walther PPS M2. Had issues.

    Then a Glock 23 .40 simply because I got a good deal on one.

    Then I tried a CZ P10c with a TLR7 light out of an appendix holster and I’ve been carrying that exclusively for 7-8 months.

    Sometimes I switched to something else because I just wanted to change things up, but the trend has generally been towards something small and easy to conceal, that has a 50+ rd capacity of lightning strike Atomics ammunition with a light, laser, taser, optics with active ID facial recognition capability and video camera, a tenth of a second reload time and is color coordinated to match my wardrobe and that looks good on Instagram.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2020
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  11. Armored farmer

    Armored farmer Member

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    My favorite pic of my ccw lineup 20170815_180549.jpg
     
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  12. bannockburn

    bannockburn Member

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    Started my conceal carry journey with of all things an Astra Model 600 with a G.I. M7 shoulder holster, under an M65 Field Jacket. From there I graduated to a much easier to conceal Charter Arms Undercover .38 Special with a Bianchi IWB suede holster or else in a Bianchi R9 Upside Down Shoulder Holster. Had a bunch of S&W Model 36s over the years, both snubnose and 3" barrel versions (had a beautiful nickel plated S&W Model 38 that I should have held onto), all still carried around in one of those Bianchi suede holsters.

    Eventually I drifted away from revolvers, quickly transitioning to semi-autos; just about everything from tiny Beretta Jetfires to a Beretta Model 90 Roma, to a Walther PPK/s, to a Beretta Model 84 (very briefly), to a Browning Hi-Power, to a number of Colt Combat Commanders (mostly .45 ACP). On this path I was always looking for the smallest .380 I could find (like the AMT Back-Up .380), a Colt Government .380, a Colt Mustang (this one's a keeper), a SIG P238, and finally a KelTec P3AT.

    Moving up from there I pretty much settled into a starting CCW rotation of a S&W Model 649, a S&W Model 638, and a Kahr CM9.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2020
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  13. Garandimal

    Garandimal Member

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    Fine lookin' pistol that should serve you well.

    Think you are done.




    GR
     
  14. Hartkopf

    Hartkopf Member

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    I’m the green newbie compared to almost everybody here but it took me about 2 months of shooting to completely pick a direction for what I wanted to carry.

    Shot a 5 round snub nose once and knew that wouldn’t work for me.

    Shot a Ruger P97 for a few weeks and definitely did not want a DA/SA trigger with a decocker. I wanted consistency in stressful situations.

    Shot a Ruger EC9s for a month and was ok with it but it was finicky and would malfunction. Passed my LTC test with it but I wanted better quality.

    I hated Glock because so many people were fanatical about them. And I thought I needed a safety.

    Then I held a Glock 43x. I loved the feel and bought it on a whim. It was the best gun related purchase I ever made. I carried it for several months and realized I could carry bigger. Bought a G19 and carried it for a couple months and realized I could carry bigger. Then a G21 but realized my draw time was slower so I ended up with a G22. I’m hooked on Glock quality so I’m set on the type of gun I like. Simple and no safety.

    I thought I needed to ankle carry because of my job but the normal 3 to 4 o’clock was no problem. Lucked into finding good hybrid kydex/leather holsters right away and I never looked back.

    I got lucky in many ways but I also knew how stressful situations work from my years of drag racing. You better think and prepare for all possibilities before the race starts.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2020
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  15. Trunk Monkey

    Trunk Monkey Member

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    Now all you have to realize is that there's no appreciable difference between the three main service calibers
     
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  16. Hartkopf

    Hartkopf Member

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    That’s true but because of the recent Texas church shooting I have a 357Sig barrel on the way for my G22. Now I’ll be carrying next level stuff! ;)
















    Not really, just joking :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2020
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  17. Trunk Monkey

    Trunk Monkey Member

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    I had to read the OP a couple of times to get the main idea and I agree. I wish there was a way people could take a class before they bought a gun. I think people would have a much better idea of what works for them if they got to try several in a class before going shopping.

    I've seen this happen multiple times. A friend asked me to recommend a gun, I told him what I carried (at the time an M&PFS9) and very specifically why. He took one look at the gun and said "That's too big." He ended up buying a Glock 42 and he never carries it (that I know of).

    How many times does someone start a thread here asking what kind of gun they should buy and have 95 people who tell them to buy a Glockand they buy a Taurus?

    If I was asked now I would tell them to get a first generation Shield to start. It's a good choice (if maybe not optimal) and a good quality gun for a low price, that's small enough for noncommittal people to actually carry. So they won't be too butthurt when they move on
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2020
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  18. RetiredUSNChief

    RetiredUSNChief Member

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    I think the best option involves one's circle of friends who have their own guns which you can try.

    Not every gun "feels right" to every person, not every person's needs are the same, not every person's capabilities are the same, etc. One must at least handle the firearm to check it's fit/feel in the hand, how the sight picture forms up, etc. Range time would be nice...but unfortunately we're at the mercy of friends or ranges who might have what we're interested in.

    My son (now 21) is looking at getting his first handgun. He has his heart set on a revolver for his first handgun...specifically a S&W Model 29, which he ain't gonna get for lack of funds as a college student. But he's looking around at other options. He'll be using my Beretta 92FS for his concealed carry class...which he loves and has not been able to talk me out of. (And he ain't going to, either!)

    The key, I think, is patience, research, and shopping around handling prospective candidates. We all have to do that at some point.

    Fortunately, as I explained to my son, we aren't limited to ONE handgun...we can buy others as we see fit!
     
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  19. AK103K

    AK103K Member

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    Hartkopf's progression shows the true path. You have to put in the time and effort to figure out what is going to work the best for you, and if youre the least bit serious, its likely going to be a never-ending quest.

    The Chief's and TM's point about having friends, family, taking classes, etc, that will give you the opportunity to try a lot of varied things, is a very good one. Its one of the best ways to get to try different things and narrow the search without wasting a lot of time and money.

    Im still a firm believer in starting with what you shoot best with, and use that as a starting point and guide.

    Another thing I think you need to decide is, whether this is going to be a lifestyle or an occasional fling.

    Ive always seen it as a lifestyle, and worked hard at that. It hasnt always been easy, but its actually pretty easily done, once you decide you "want" to do it, and figure it out. "Cant" is such a negative word, and there seems to be a lot of people using it these days.

    Most of my friends and family see it more as a fling and only carry when they think they "might" need a gun, and more often than not, dont have a gun on them on a regular basis. A couple carry all the time, but they are in the minority and can be counted on one hand. The "gun guys" tend to have the better guns and gear too, and a little more serious about things, but I guess thats to be expected.

    With the lifestyle approach, once you get past the initial, mild PITA of it all, you dont even think about it anymore. Its like putting your wallet, pocket knife, cell phone, and other daily accessories in your pocket as you get dressed and go about your day. You just add a gun and its accessories too. You become boringly natural with it. You act naturally, carry yourself naturally, and no one has a clue.

    From a carry standpoint, your attitude, confidence, and how you carry yourself is actually one of the biggest parts of all this. Doesnt matter what you choose to carry, or what gear you use, this is actually one of the most important parts. Look the least bit guilty about anything, and people will pay attention to you. Act like you belong, anywhere, and you will.

    Shooting wise, that all comes from regular practice with what you carry, and from how you carry it. Thats daily dryfire and presentations (5-10 minutes a day, and everyone who pops up next on TV is the bad guy :)), and as much live fire as you can pull off.
     
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  20. mljdeckard

    mljdeckard Member

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    One thing I try to emphasize when training new guys, is that you are allowed to change your mind. You can buy your first gun and be madly in lust with it. You start to carry it and love everything about it. Then you go shooting with a friend, and try THEIR gun, and suddenly the romance is over. Better grip, feel trigger, you shoot it more accurately.

    It's ok. You are allowed to change. Get another gun. Keep the first one or sell it. You won't have to pay it alimony. This industry changes so fast, I barely try to keep up. There is a vast selection of guns out there.

    I like to think that I have shot and carried a wide enough variety of guns, that if I picked up a strange one, I could adapt to the manual of arms pretty quickly. There is a lot of back and forth on which setup is ideal for a fighting handgun. I carried a Glock for years, but I just kept wishing it was a 1911. That's what I carry now, all either full-size or double-stack. I currently carry an RIA 9mm.
     
  21. GEM

    GEM Moderator Staff Member

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  22. Thibaut

    Thibaut Member

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    For me, standing at a counter in a gun store holding a gun has never been a really comfortable situation. Holding a gun and firing a gun are not on the same action planet. I always had the option to rent a gun but did not. I took the trial and error route and spent a whole lot of money. If I did one of those notes to younger self things, I would say to me to find a really good teacher before taking a single step toward the sport.
     
  23. Mr. Mosin

    Mr. Mosin Member

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    Me personally, I don't carry (yet); but I am lucky enough to have generous friends. Roll out a case of guns, and a truckload of ammo "Here. Shoot to your hearts content. Find something you like, stick with it a bit.". Luckily discovered that I can't shoot a full size double stack *anything* to save my life. Beretta 92, G19, CZ-75, etc. Fingers are too short I guess. Drove tacks with several 1911's, both Gov't and Cmmdr. Fell in love with a J frame .38 when I shot it. Loved the service Magnums (GP100, 686), and dislike the full house .44 Magnums. Narrowed down immensely what to buy (when I buy). Saved me some money.
     
  24. jstert

    jstert Member

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    i started out needing a simple and reliable ccw quickly in the mid 1980s. got a barely used steel taurus 85, 2”, 38sp. i avoided a semiauto pistol then, and for a long time thereafter, because of a lousy experience with a clapped ww2 era 1911 during army training in the early 70s. i replaced the taurus’ wooden grips with pachmayrs, got a couple of speedloaders and was gtg for many years. its display with intent during a street riot saved me once. i’ve since tried some semiauto pistols but always return to a revolver, often a highly concealed naa bugout 22lr as an always carried bare minimum.

    my thoughts on selecting a ccw is to first learn to shoot comfortably and well with any firearm, preferably a handgun, and with instruction. nobody sane self teaches driving in a hot rod. if a newbie, on a budget, even try starting with a new $120 4.5” 22lr heritage roughrider. regular range trips with a brick of ammo will be useful. if you don’t like it you won’t be out much money anyway, and a 22 plinker is a forever gun anyway.

    whatever you choose as a ccw should be comfortable and affordable enough for you to shoot...a lot, and reliable. it needs to be easy enough to fieldstrip and clean so that you get to know its guts well. the more important factors in your ccw choice are your: interest in handguns, age, physical ability, finances, place to practice, situational awareness, most likely threats. i’m likely in the minority here but i view caliber as much less important: any practiced ccw in your hands is better than no gun, consistent hits with even a humble 22 beats misses with anything bigger all day. practice with what makes your wrist and wallet happy. a civilian ccw holder going around isn’t a cop or soldier or security guard, ultimately a civilian ccw is a tool used to break contact (a bad guy running away or down wailing in pain are equal wins for the good guy). what you are proficient with at age 35 likely won’t be the same at age 65. ymmv, cheers.
     
  25. Al-jim19

    Al-jim19 Member

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    Ive never really done the rotation thing, but have tried a few pistols.

    My first gun was a SW shield 9. Good gun, reliable, and its small enough so i can always carry it as long as im wearing a belt and untucked shirt. Still carry it occasionally when i want maximum comfort (owb or iwb at 330) and minimum weight in a “real” gun.

    I decided i wanted more capacity so i went to the local shop looking for a G19. They didnt have any glocks that day but they did have a Ruger SR45. The price was right and i liked the idea of a full size .45. While it was pleasant to shoot it was too cumbersome to carry on my 5’7” 150lb frame. Ditched it after about 2-3 months to finance the G19 i really wanted.

    Not long after that i got the G19 i was looking for. Its been my go to for about 3 years and i dont see that changing. Its about the same footprint as the shield, so its only a little harder to conceal but offers twice the capacity. I started carrying (whenever feasible) AIWB with it and it pretty much disappears.

    The only thing i have changed since i started carrying the G19 is to add a really small gun: a Smith & Wesson 642. Its literally 3 weeks old but really seems to do the job in the rare instance i have to picket carry or when im working out. That may change but for now i like it.
     
    jstert and RetiredUSNChief like this.
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