This is a question I often hear and there are a ton of articles and opinions on the gun forums from the many keyboard warriors. Opinions are like assholes and internet forums seem to have a lot, every one has an opinion but the best I have found come from those who do the deed, the professional firearms instructors who carry daily. Often when I am asked these questions from my students I want to just blurt out my thoughts but realize they will come to a better conclusion if I ask them the right questions, so we are going to in this direction.
The history of concealed carry laws is sketchy, prior to 1986 there was not a lot of information available and many states had no laws against concealed carry so it was legal prior to the shall-issue statutes. Where I grew up, everyone carried something, usually a hand me down shotgun or small caliber rifle, often in a rack on the back window of your pick up truck. I know it will strike some as odd but I can remember in high school I thought it odd to see a truck in the school parking lot without a rifle rack . . . we had to be 18 to own a handgun but, most LEOs knew your parents or extended family so it was kind of like having a bunch of uncles out there keeping you from doing stupid stuff.
I started carrying regularly in 1985, starting with a S&W 357 Model 60 Combat Magnum and occasionally a S&W Model 3914 in 9mm . . . the revolver in my truck, the 3914 behind my back if I was going some place I felt had a higher degree of risk. Keep in mind this was in Colorado, the only real risk at that time was downtown Denver after dark. I always wore a cover garment and the guns were carried in a OWB leather holster. Honestly, the majority of the time the gun was in the truck.
Today, I live in South Sacramento, there are over 100 different gangs in the city and I live on the edge of some fairly high crime neighborhoods. According to Sacramento County Sheriffs Dept estimates there are over 10,000 gang members, and that number does not include the wanna-be’s and those looking to get into a gang. To get into many of these gangs part of the initiation is to commit a crime of violence witnessed by existing members. So in Sacto we have 10,000 with a certain number joining each year, committing acts of violence on the citizenry . . . . that is the scenario today, in 2006 there were almost 11,000 VIOLENT crimes per 100,000 people in the county. Now since then, those numbers have gone down, but the randomness and level of violence has gone up remarkably.
Now think about that for moment, almost 10% of the people in the county will be the victim of a violent crime . . . so today, I put my gun on when I dress in the morning, and I take it off when I undress at night because . . . I refuse to be one of the 10%.
So questions?? Why do I carry should be pretty obvious at this point but there are the more pertinent ones, the point of this article.
If you were to be attacked in a violent manner do you want the odds in your favor that will help you survive? What will it take to accomplish that?
For me that means I am going to carry a gun I am intimately familiar with. One that I have a lot of rounds down range with in real life scenarios. One that I can operate accurately, clear any possible malfunctions and reload without thinking about it. One that when I do live fire practice I score 100% with because in the real world I am not going to be 100%. I want that first round on target every single time I squeeze the trigger.
For me that means I will carry a gun of a caliber that has been proven to stop a violent encounter in the fastest way possible. Regardless of what the keyboard experts will tell you, I will not go into a possible violent situation with something that begins with less than a .4 . . . while certainly every caliber has a record of having stopped a violent encounter, when the real shooting begins the objective is to incapacitate in a 100% reliable manner the perpetrator . . . .40 S&W and .45 ACP are really the only two calibers that can accomplish that.
For me this means I am going to practice regularly, and I mean at least once a week, getting that gun out of it’s holster and on target fast . . . I mean really FAST. For those who know me, it means lots of bathroom time, trying to see if I can get the gun on that guy in the mirror faster than he can get his gun on me.
The impetus of writing this was the latest issue of Handgun Buyers Guide, while looking at what they offered as concealed carry pistols.
So what works? I want a gun that will function flawlessly every single time I squeeze that trigger. For me that list is pretty small. There are a lot of really good gun makers out there, some really good revolver companies, some really great rifle companies . . . but only a handful of those make 100% fool proof handguns. I refuse to get onto the bleeding edge of manufacturers. I want a gun that has a history in real life gunfights without any failures. When I have student show up with the latest and greatest teeny tiny gun, that cannot function flawlessly through a 60 round CoF, well, that maker is off my list of recommended guns pretty much forever. My short list is; Sig Sauer, Colt 1911’s, Glocks, Berettas and now Kahrs . . . beyond that I am skeptical, not certain I want to bet my life they will work when needed.
I have to have that thing on my body when I need it. This is often the argument used by those who believe they cannot carry a gun of appropriate size, that is better to have a small gun of suspect reliability and caliber than to have no gun at all . . . that if it is uncomfortable, you won’t carry it. I will tell you, when there is a will, there is a way . . . you will not see me carrying a tiny gun of suspect caliber and reliability because they are easier to carry. And the same holds true of women, if they really want to, they will carry a gun that will assuredly get the job done.
So what about comfort? I like thin, single stacks, work best for me, revolvers are not as thin as single stacks . . . SA, SA/DA or DAO . . . well when I jerk that thing out I do not want to have to do anything other than rotate to target and squeeze . . . that’s not to say that I do not love the ease of a single action trigger, I just don’t want to be on the business end of a failed manipulation of a 1911 safety . . . nor do I want to be fumbling for a safety while the bad guy is plunging a knife into my arm. As for the DAO, well why go through that when you can do a DA first shot and then enjoy the speed and accuracy of the SA from the DA/SA . . . so here we are. I have a Sig P229 in .40 of course that I have over 100,000 rounds through . . . I know that gun more intimately than perhaps anything else . . . and guess what, all Sigs work the same . . . my primary EDC is a P239 with a SRT in .40 S&W . . . my sort of backup is a Kahr K40 for when I wear suits or sports coats, it is a bit shorter and thinner than my Sig.
Each person will have to determine their own choices to the best of their ability. If you have several thousand rounds through a five shot revolver and you can get 10 rounds on target at 21 feet in under two seconds, then by all means carry that little beater . . . but if you cannot, you might consider something else . . . if you just bought the latest and greatest little toy from Ruger and on round 45 the trigger quits, you might want to consider something else . . . if you are deadly accurate and fast with that super tricked out full size 1911 yet never have it with you, then by all means consider something else . . . if you have one of those little tiny FAT plastic framed guns that you cannot hit the broadside of the barn with and REFUSE to practice with it because it hurts your hand you might want to consider something else . . . and finally, if you cannot consistently improve, consider not carrying because if you miss and the soccer mom down the street takes your screw up in the head . . . well not only will her family own everything you ever had or ever will have, and you will never sleep well the rest of your life . . . so bottom line,
get a gun and practice, a lot . . .
get a gun in a caliber that will incapacitate the threat ASAP
get a gun that is thin but heavy so it will be comfortable to shoot a lot
and practice . . . you have accepted a new lifestyle, you now carry a gun . . . and with that comes a higher level of responsibility in society.