I want to preface this post by saying that I hate the pistol caliber debate. I refuse to get sucked into it because it never ends well, or with a definitive winner. You shoot with what you shoot best. Period. Don’t ever let someone’s opinion influence your choice of caliber, unless they are an unequivocally qualified expert in the matter. That said, I am by no means the unequivocal expert, but I can offer some very common sense advice, and am comfortable doing so.
The only caveats I would add is I don’t think you should carry a firearm for defense in anything smaller than 9mm Luger. Now some folks will swear by the .380, especially for the ladies, but I don’t. If you can shoot a .380, you can probably shoot a 9mm. I’m also going to recommend not carrying revolvers. I personally don’t like them, only due to the limitations on ammunition capacity. Other than that, they’re just fine.
For me, there are only three pistol calibers worth carrying for defense. That’d be 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP. Anything smaller is questionable in stopping power, and anything bigger is just overkill, literally. Over-penetration is a real thing. You want to stop the threat cold in its tracks, but you don’t want to take out the people potentially standing behind the threat as well.
Ammunition theory is fine and dandy, but the delivery method can be equally important. What the hell do you carry then? Fortunately, in 2008, Americans elected the greatest gun salesman in the history of our country. This has driven innovation, demand, and competition to the point where you can find full size, compact, and subcompact pistols from just about every major manufacturer in the three ideal carry calibers. Hell, even Glock is making a single-stack, subcompact 9mm now.
Your choice of pistol is important, and for the sake of this post, we’re going to stay with concealed carry, because even though we all live in the same country, the laws vary state to state in regards to open vs. concealed carry. As of the writing of this post, all 50 states allow concealed carry, either via Constitutional carry (meaning no permit is needed), or through a permit system. Now, your ability to actually acquire a concealed permit in a handful of states is shaky, at best. The Hawaiis, New Yorks, and New Jerseys come to mind immediately.
So, some folks are brand loyalists. Meaning they’ll only buy Glocks, or Springfields, or Walthers, etc. However this can be pretty limiting in your choice of pistol, so I would urge you to explore the full range of pistols available. When choosing a pistol for concealing, I think it is very important to strike a balance between ammunition capacity and ease of concealment. Does your pistol stick out, or pattern under your shirt? That’s no good. Does your pistol only hold six rounds? That’s no good (might as well carry a revolver). These are very important factors to consider before purchase. I think you can’t go wrong with the current crop of ultra-concealable, subcompact semiautomatic pistols.
Now, if the subcompact is not your thing, and you’ve got a bigger frame, you can’t go wrong with pistols sized like the Glock 19, which are just considered compact rather than subcompact. I can do a whole other post on those type of pistols, so we’ll stay on subcompact pistols for the sake of brevity.
For my money, I think it is hard to beat the Glock 26 (9mm, 10 rounds), the Glock 27 (.40, 9 rounds), or the Glock 30 (.45 10 rounds). In my opinion, these are the pinnacle of proper concealed carry pistols. They’re subcompact, they offer very decent (and adjustable) ammunition capacity, and they come in the three desirable calibers. You don’t have to hassle with flipping a safety, they’re easy to field strip and clean, and there are more aftermarket customization and accessory options than I can even begin to list.
There are also other great choices out there for defensive carrying, but if you’re looking for a basic setup, a nearly flawless design, and a pistol that just flat out works, you can never go wrong with Glock. Other options I do like would include the S&W MP Shield, which comes in both 9mm, and .40 S&W, and the Walther PPS, which also comes in 9mm and .40 S&W. However you’re looking at a more limited ammunition capacity with the stock magazines, and that’s not a good thing. They would make excellent backup options though.
In conclusion, its important to point out the three pistols listed will not work for everyone. I’ve left out a ton of other pistols so it is imperative that you do your due diligence and homework on the subject. Get out to the range. Find a friend that carries. This is potentially a life and death topic, and the proper selection and preparation can save you a lot of grief down the road.
Tell us what you carry! I left out a LOT of pistols on purpose. What is your preferred carry position? What holsters work best for you? Let us know and let’s start a discussion in the comment section! Happy Shooting!