Picking the best concealed carry gun is a very personal choice. What I pick personally may not be a good fit for anyone else. There is no perfect concealed carry gun that will meet the needs of everyone who wants to carry concealed. What is more important is that you find the gun that meets your needs, fits you properly, and that you can shoot well.
There are some things you should know and understand when you start to make decisions about what will become your everyday carry concealed gun. Using these basic concepts and an understanding of your own needs will help you find the best concealed carry gun that will perform for you when the critical time comes.
What You Need to Know about the Best Concealed Carry Gun
When I start shopping for a new concealed carry handgun or if I am advising someone about what they should purchase, I always start with the basics. These basic criteria give me some insight into the specifications that a handgun must meet to fulfill the expectations I have or those of the other person with whom I am working. In short, I need to know:
- How will the handgun be used? – I ask a lot of questions about myself or any other person that is looking for advice about choosing a handgun. Is this a concealed carry gun? If not, how will the fun be used? Range time only? Competition shooting? Hunting?
- The level of experience and training – This is an important consideration, especially for those new to concealed carry and maybe even new to handguns. The answer to this question also gives me clues about the caliber, type, and style of a handgun to recommend.
- What is the budget? – Budget isn’t a part of the technical side of the decision, but it is an important issue for many people. Keeping the financial side in mind is critical to finding the right handgun for many of us.
As you can see, selecting the best concealed carry gun is a personal choice, but there are some factors that can help you decide what is right for you.
Choosing the Best Concealed Carry Gun
Once I establish that we are considering a handgun for concealed carry, other factors enter the mix. There are five essential points that I always consider when choosing the best concealed carry gun. These factors are:
For a more in-depth look at these factors and how they play a critical role in the process, check out our article about choosing the best concealed carry revolver.
Revolver or Semi-Auto?
Choosing between carrying a revolver or a semi-automatic pistol is, for me, purely a matter of personal preference. I carry both at times and am comfortable with either one as an everyday carry choice. Depending on the situation, either could be the best concealed carry gun. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
Advantages of Revolvers and Semi-Automatics
- Revolvers get the advantage by a small margin in reliability because of fewer moving parts.
- Semi-Automatics quickly gain an advantage in capacity.
- Revolvers are simple to operate. Draw, aim, squeeze. No safeties to worry with means fewer things to deal with under what can be a stressful situation
- Semi-Automatics are easier and quicker to reload than most revolvers. Drop the empty magazine and insert a fresh magazine and you are back in the fight.
The Disadvantages of Revolvers and Semi-Automatics
- Semi-Automatics can be finicky about feeding some ammunition and may be prone to malfunctions.
- Revolvers require special devices to enable faster reloads.
- Semi-Automatics equipped with manual safeties can be harder to operate
- Revolvers require special loaders to enable shooters to reload faster. These can be bulky and require training and practice to use effectively.
Once you have decided which style of concealed carry handgun fits your tastes, it should be easy to find the right model that meets your needs and fits your budget as you select the best concealed carry gun for you.
The Best Concealed Carry Gun – Our Top Picks
Of course, I have my preferences when it comes to the best concealed carry gun. I have found that these makes and models fit the criteria I have outlined. The caveat here is, although these handguns fit me and my needs, they may not fit you and your needs. We highly recommend trying out a variety of handguns to determine the best concealed carry gun for you. However, we have five recommendations that we think are particularly awesome.
The Glock 43 is still at the top of my list of everyday carry compact semi-automatic pistols. The chances of me carrying my Glock 43 on any given day is probably about 80%. I will readily admit that I am a Glock fan and think that Glock makes some of the best concealed carry guns on the market.
Glocks, and the Glock 43, tick off on every one of my criteria for selecting the best concealed carry gun. The reputation and reliability of Glocks, in general, is unquestioned. The Glock 43 is small, lightweight, and rides well in an inside-the-waistband holster. I can manage the Glock 43 with a pair of shorts and a t-shirt quite easily.
From a shooting standpoint, the Glock grip angle fits my shooting style almost perfectly. Even the smallish grip on the Glock 43 fits into my hand well and provides a solid grip, which makes the pistol come to point naturally.
These all work together to give me confidence in carrying and shooting the Glock 43 that I feel is one of the most critical considerations in which gun you should carry as your concealed choice.
S&W M&P Shield
If you can’t figure out the grip angle on the Glock, the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield may be a better choice for you. The S&W M&P Shield is already one of the most popular choices individuals make for the best concealed carry gun. The rake on the grip of the M&P Shield is less aggressive than the Glock and, for some people, is a better fit. I always urge anyone shopping for a pistol to take any pistol you are considering to the range. You really can’t get a feel for the best concealed carry gun and how it works with your body structure unless you shoot it.
On all the other criteria, the M&P Shield stacks up with the Glock 43, almost on a one for one footing. Both are single stack magazines making them thin and lightweight to carry. Smith & Wesson builds reliable and accurate handguns of all types.
Like the Glock, the M&P shield is a comfortable gun to carry, and its popularity ensures that there are enough aftermarket options in holsters and accessories that anyone can outfit themselves to fit their style and needs.
Both pistols are generally under $500, with the M&P often coming in a bit cheaper than the Glock. Both offer an extremely reasonable price for a quality handgun that delivers performance, reliability, and accuracy.
For those who may be on a budget, my recommendation for the best concealed carry gun is the Ruger LCP in either .380 or 9mm. The Ruger LCP enjoys a high reputation as an easily concealable and dependable concealed carry handgun that won’t break the budget of most people.
The lightweight and easy handling of the .380 cartridge is a plus for people with small frames or small hands. The diminutive size makes these little pistols easy to conceal and are great pocket carry guns when paired with a good pocket holster.
The .380 round is the smallest caliber that I would consider or recommend for a self-defense pistol. When loaded with a high-quality self-defense bullet, the .380 can deliver when the time comes. Shooting the Ruger LCP does take some practice, and those with large hands may have a problem finding a grip.
However, with prices in the range of $250 – $300, the Ruger LCP is affordable without worrying about reliability, quality, or performance. I carry a Ruger LCP at times when the situation demands that I carry in a pocket instead of inside-the-waistband.
If a revolver is your choice, the Ruger LCR is, in my opinion, the best concealed carry gun for most people. One of the main reasons I recommend the Ruger LCR is the option to purchase one of these revolvers chambered for .357 magnum. This gives you so many options that it is almost too good of a deal to pass up.
Having a revolver that will chamber the .357 magnum leaves you with the options to carry loaded with .38 special or 38 special +P ammunition. For some people, a small frame revolver chambered in the .357 cartridge is just a bit too much to handle. However, with the lighter loads in the .38 special cartridge, these guns are manageable for almost anyone. The ability to use .357 magnum cartridges if needed is a bonus.
From the standpoint of shooting, the LCR is comfortable and, when filled with .38 special, is easy to control and aim. The felt recoil is not uncomfortable and muzzle flip with the short barrel is easy to control. Shooting the >357 magnum does change things a bit. The muzzle blast, felt recoil, and muzzle flip is all much more intense.
I do recommend anyone considering carrying the LCR loaded with .357 cartridges to invest in the slightly more expensive model with the 3-inch barrel. The extra barrel length will help with the muzzle flip and the felt recoil to a small degree. The added length doesn’t cause that many problems with concealed carry, especially with the right holster.
The retail price for a Ruger LCR chambered for .357 will come in at slightly over $500. Better prices may be had by shopping around a bit, but it is still a reasonable price to pay for this level of quality in a revolver.
Rock Island M206
Budget revolvers that offer at least a reasonable level of quality and reliability are hard to find. The exception, in my opinion, is the Rock Island M206. These may not be the prettiest revolvers in your gun safe, but they will undoubtedly be one of the most economical buys you have ever made, which earns them a spot on our list of the best concealed carry guns.
I like Rock Island Armory guns. Their line of 1911’s is a favorite of mine. I have had very favorable outcomes in both selling and shooting the Rock Island Armory firearms. This company, which got its start in the Philippines, now has manufacturing installations in the US. My experience with them has always been excellent and their customer service is beyond reproach.
The Rock Island M206 is not a glamor pistol. Examining it will reveal remaining tool marks and an unremarkable parkerized finish where the finish is not a question of reliability or operation. A look inside the workings parts shows attention to detail and precision work that will outpace any other gun manufacturer on the market.
This little pistol is unique in that it offers a six-round cylinder in such a small frame and is available in .357 magnum. The most outstanding thing about the Rock Island M206 is the price. You can get a well-manufactured handgun for less than $250. It won’t win any beauty contests, but it will serve you reliably and dependably.
Making the Choice
As you can see, the choice of picking the best concealed carry gun is up to you. What I like and what you like are maybe two different beasts and that is to be expected. I hope that the insights and advice I have provided help you make those decisions a little easier and with a bit more understanding and confidence. Remember, there is no universal answer to what is the best concealed carry gun. You must consider your needs and expectations when making those choices. Good luck and good shooting.