Ask Roger…How do you select a handgun for concealed carry?

Working in the largest gun shop in the United States I am asked a hundred opinion questions a day.  One question that is most frequently asked to each of the staff members at our shop is “What do you recommend for a good Concealed Carry handgun?”  This may seem like a fairly simple question.  We all have our favorite gun, one that we are the most comfortable with, that we carry.  It is akin to a pair of comfortable shoes, we may love those old shoes, but our neighbor may not.  So, after giving considerable thought to the question, I have developed a few easy factors to use to determine what gun to recommend to a new Concealed Carry Handgun holder.

How much experience does the person have?”  You do not want to give a novice shooter a heavy complicated gun for their first handgun.  Simple is better.  Do not discount a small frame revolver like a Smith & Wesson “J” frame.  While it is not as sexy as some of the new autos, the “J” frame has for decades been used by plain clothes officers and detectives.  I like to call it “The Original ‘Point and Click’ interface” or a “PHD (Press Here Dummy) Gun.”  As much as I love my 1911, it may not be the first choice for a new shooter to carry Locked and Cocked.

“Make sure you have enough gun.”  Just about anyone will tell you, a .25ACP, while being very Pocket Friendly, has only slightly more stopping power than a BB Gun.  (This is a bit subjective, and there may be many .25 caliber fans reading this, but that is where opinion comes in.) What is enough gun?  I honestly recommend a .380 and above in an automatic and a .38 Special in a revolver.  This is not meant to downplay calibers like the .32, 7.62x25mm and numerous others.  Even the ubiquitous .22 LR can serve in this capacity.  Remember, in a gunfight, the best gun to have is the one you have with you.

“How much does the gun cost?”  A Concealed Carry handgun does not need to cost a king’s ransom, but cost should NOT be the only deciding factor that you use in your selection process.  This concept seems foreign to some people, but remember:  “This item is going to be something I trust my life with.”  Would you really trust your life to a pistol with a spotty track record that you selected simply because it was cheap?  Remember, Cheap is not always good nor is it always bad.  Smith & Wesson has a line of handguns that runs under $400 bucks which is every bit as dependable as Glock, while being a fraction of the cost.  Dependablity NOT cost should be your major concern.

The next points have to do with points of law and the legal ramifications of using deadly force.  Remember the key phrase; “It’s not IF you go to court, it’s WHEN you go to court” if you have had to use deadly force.  Juries are an interesting dynamic.  They will award damages to a guy with a felony record longer than from the Earth to the Moon, yet if you wound your assailant, and he ends up in a wheelchair, the jury may likely find in his favor.  Following these simple suggestions can give your lawyer some ammo to help you with.

Use a handgun that is approved for on or off-duty carry by the Police in your area.”  If the community has approved the firearm for a Police Officer to defend himself and us with, it is good for us to use for self-defense.  Along with this goes “Do not ‘Trick-Out’ your CC handgun”  Carry the gun in as close to factory spec as you can, this is not to say that you cannot have an action job or have your trigger smoothed out, but refrain from installing the barrel that says “Smile, wait for flash” or anything like that.  You want to avoid the impression that you are “Spoiling for a fight.”  This goes along with not sounding off with “The SOB got what he deserved!” when talking to the police.

“Use ammunition that is Factory New and approved for the police in your area” NEVER use reloads.  Also you should avoid rounds like the new Ripper round.  Any round that is designed to cause massive tissue damage can appear to be excessive and make you look like the bad guy to a District Attorney or a jury.  Using a good, factory spec hollow point round is fine.  I try to find out what the police or Sherriff’s Department in my county of residence is carrying.

“Make sure that you stay abreast of changes to the law.”   EVERY STATE is different. The Office of the Attorney General in your state is a far, far better source of information than your Uncle Fester or your buddy that took a class once.  With the internet, you can pull down the actual legislation that is both proposed AND passed for your state and/local areas.  Knowledge is power.

Along with your gun, holster, and ammunition, you might want to look into firearms liability insurance and a good lawyer, but those are topics for another day.  Finally,Practice, practice, practice!  No simulator, no video game system, no…anything can replace trigger time.  Hopefully you never have to use deadly force, but if you do, it is critical that you know what to do, and are prepared to do it.