Every gun owner has their preferred weapons that satisfy their specific needs. Some hunt and use rifles designed for that. Some target shoot. Some buy for personal protection. That most likely means carrying a handgun. Carrying a loaded concealed handgun in public can be intimidating and even dangerous if not performed properly. Then why do it? Simply because it can literally save your life or the lives of other innocent victims. That’s my reason for carrying and the only valid reason I know of.
The Concealed Carry Scenario
Not that long ago, three men entered a gas station/convenience store at an exit off a highway. They quickly held the cashier at gunpoint, grabbed the cash from the register, and proceeded to shoot and kill everyone else in the store. That included the cashier and two other shoppers. That’s why I carry. If that was me shopping in that store and I had a weapon, I would have a fighting chance against those criminals.
Concealed Carry Pistol Responsibility
Just because you have a concealed carry permit does not necessarily mean you are qualified to carry a concealed pistol. Carrying concealed means you have a responsibility to know how to use that lethal weapon. Not just know the laws, rules, and conventions, but practice with the gun to be safe and effective when it is needed. You need to continue training and learning everything about your weapon. This will keep you from accidentally hurting yourself or other innocent people. Check your state laws every so often because they change. If going to another state, check to make sure there is a reciprocal agreement with your state and learn the details of the laws in that state. That will keep you out of legal trouble.
Training? What do I mean by training for concealed carry? Go to your local range and take a class on it! Not just the class to get the permit, but a home defense or tactical situation class. They will teach you really how to use your weapon. If not a formal class, find an experienced shooter to help train you. The most important aspects of use are not to accidentally shoot yourself or innocents and to be able to draw and fire the pistol as intended.
Simple conventions like only pointing it where you intend to shoot and keeping your finger off the trigger until just before shooting will become second nature. Draw training is essential. Many ranges won’t let you draw and shoot unless you are in a class that includes that. I practice draw training at home with an unloaded pistol, but there is no replacement for the real thing.
The USCCA is a great resource for finding out more about obtaining your CCA, good CCA practices, and information about local ranges.
OK, on to the best pistol!
Criteria for the Best Concealed Carry Pistol
It is crucial to me that the weapon I carry can’t easily be seen, but can be easy to draw and effectively stop a bad guy. Let’s break that down. To be hidden, it must be small. No big fat .45. Tiny, light, easy to carry and easy to hide. “Easy to draw” means not buried in a holster in your pocket. It means using a paddle holster. To stop a bad guy, you need more than a .22 caliber. It must be reliable so it will shoot in an emergency. What weapon does all that?
The Pistol that Meets All Those Criteria
I’ve carried many sizes of pistols both concealed and not concealed. While I like to shoot multiple different guns and calibers, there is only one concealed carry pistol that works for me. The one pistol that meets all my criteria is the Ruger LCP 380. It is an amazing little weapon just for that purpose!
The Best isn’t Always the Best
The Ruger LCP 380 is my carry pistol, but is not anywhere close to my favorite overall pistol. It is too small to shoot comfortably as a target pistol, is not very accurate, and is literally no fun to shoot. But those weren’t the criteria listed above. My Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm serves as my favorite duty-carry accurate and fun pistol. The Ruger LCP 380 is not like that! Some
I’ve trained on it dubbed it the “Noisy Cricket” (and that nickname stuck) because it is like the tiny gun in the movie “Men in Black”. It kicks too hard for such a small grip. After extended shooting, the pistol ends up hurting my hand between my thumb and forefinger. The trigger has an extremely long pull which may be difficult for a new shooter. That’s required because there is no safety switch. I don’t believe in safeties anyway, but that’s another story.
So Why Carry Such a Bum of a Gun?
Even though it is no fun to shoot, it serves its purpose perfectly. As you can see in the picture of me carrying it, it is hard to spot. But the Fobus Evolution paddle holster makes it easy to get to. It is reliable and has never misfired (I keep it cleaned and oiled). You should add the optional extended magazine floor plate so that you get two fingers fully on the grip. That makes it much more shootable and accurate. It holds 6 rounds in the magazine which should be plenty for a single event. With an expected max range of 7 yards, I won’t miss with it. Finally, load it with a good hollow point round. I use the 380ACP Federal Hydra-Shok 90gr Personal Defense round. When I practice, I use a target round with an extended magazine.
What Else do You Need?
That’s it. A simple gun with one purpose. I carry it with confidence, force myself to practice with it, and train and prepare for potential emergencies. If you are worried about someone coming up to you and grabbing your gun off your side, I recommend a “soft-side carry” knife. I use the Ka-Bar TDI (See our full Ka-Bar TDI Review) which is specifically made for this purpose. I wear it on my back left. If someone lunges for my back right, I could use my left handle to quickly extract and employ the TDI.
Qualifications and other pistols considered
I’ve shot many pistols before deciding on which to carry. Here is a list of them and why they were not the best for concealed carry.
- Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm with paddle holster: My favorite pistol! Too big and heavy for concealed.
- Smith & Wesson M&P 22 with paddle holster: Too big and heavy, under-powered.
- Ruger SR-22: Too big and heavy, under-powered.
- Kel-Tec P-3AT with paddle holster: Less expensive, but I question the quality/reliability.
- Ruger LCP 380 (same gun as I picked) with pocket holster: too hard to draw.
- Taurus Judge 45/410: Too big and heavy, front-heavy, small grip. And a canon.
- Springfield XD(M) 45: Way too big and heavy.
The Final Word
While carrying a concealed firearm involves a lot of planning, training, and commitment, the last thing you want to worry about is the weapon itself. The Ruger LCP 380, while not the easiest or most fun gun to shoot, serves as the perfect carry pistol for me. Add the Fobus paddle holster, magazine footplate, and hollow-points to make it perform at its best. Note that the Ruger LCP 380 II is now available. It has improvements like including the extended floor plate and an integrated trigger safety. If I was buying new, I would get that.
If you know of a better top choice of concealed carry pistol, please comment and give your criteria and qualities that fit!
Be safe by being smart,
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