OK, Seriously?

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I was watching a Youtube video comparing some polymer-framed gun to a Glock 19. The reviewer liked features of the other gun better, but had to give the nod to the Glock 19 because if was 3 ounces lighter. “That can make a big difference when you are carrying a gun all day!” he proclaimed. This guy was not tiny, wasted away from disease or a death-camp survivor- and he’s worried about 3 ounces? Are you kidding me?

I’ve recently seen other healthy specimens of humanity proclaim that an all-steel J-Frame was too heavy for all-day concealed carry. Never mind that tens of thousands of cops and others managed to do so for decades at a time. Suddenly it’s too heavy. Another said a steel-framed gun he was reviewing was a fine range or house gun, but of course it was too heavy for daily carry. This obsession with lightness seems more and more pervasive in gun culture- or at least among the talking heads of said culture.

It’s been ages since the halcyon days of my youth when I carried a full-size government model (or other comparably-sized handgun) on a daily basis. Typically I just drop a small revolver in a pocket- or in a pocket holster- and call it good. I don’t have any alloy-frame revolvers, and I wasn’t hip enough to modern thought to realize the weight of these guns should be causing me discomfort.

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The Helwan in an IWB holster. This is not enough belt…

The other morning on a whim I decided to carry the Helwan Brigadier. This is a full-sized steel-frame service gun. I selected a stout, broad leather belt and a good IWB holster and strapped up. At lunch I went to use the restroom and was surprised- I had forgotten that I was carrying- despite the fact that I am unused to the weight of the gun and this holster. Neither my house-guest nor my wife noticed that I was carrying.  OK, admittedly I am a brute. 6’4″ and 300 pounds. But even at a svelte 210pounds the weight never bothered me or was uncomfortable. By the end of the day, despite the stupendous weight of the steel dinosaur strapped to my hip, I was not uncomfortable in the least.

OK, I don’t hate light-weight guns. You can get eight rounds of 9mm in a lot smaller and lighter package than a Helwan. So why wouldn’t you? Well, in my case because I don’t have one. Another reason might be some of the tiny 9mm guns have some pretty snappy recoil, which might bother some folks. Even if it doesn’t bother you it makes for slower follow-up shots, and the short sight-radius isn’t conducive to great accuracy. Not to mention that if a gun is unpleasant to practice with people tend to not practice. Yes, one can always go with a smaller caliber- .380 or .32 ACP- and have an even smaller gun… not that some of the smaller .380s aren’t pretty snappy in their own right.

Lightweight guns do have advantages, especially for police and soldiers that carry a lot of stuff along with their service handgun. Let’s face it, the Glock became ‘the new 1911’ because it was a better mousetrap. More firepower, much lighter yet still not so light that it’s unpleasant to shoot. Simple and intuitive to operate, and with the expanding variety of sizes and calibers, not to mention the ever-expanding after-market support, it’s a hammer for every nail. But when it comes to a tiny gun in a service-caliber if you get any smaller than the CC Glocks recoil and handling become genuine issues for a lot of people. It’s easier to CC a lighter gun; you can take liberties that you can’t with say, a 1911 or a steel-framed revolver. But practicing with them can be a whole other problem.

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Rossi M68 2-1/2″ barrel, pocket holster made for the back pocket of my jeans

An example would be the S&W 442. Short-barreled, ultra-light .38 Special. Dead easy to carry… but not what you would call pleasant to practice with. Most folks I know that carry one will admit that it’s a handful, especially with full-powered loads. And if you are recoil sensitive? Forget it; even target loads will feel abusive.  This gun weighs in at 14.7 ounces- 1.3 ounces under a pound. A steel frame gun like the model 36 weighs 19.3 ounces- not an awful lot heavier, really. But those extra 4-5 ounces translates into a gun that is much easier and more pleasant to shoot and no larger; you just can’t be as casual about carrying it. Size-wise it’s just as easy to conceal, but comfort-wise? If you do it right, yes. The problem is that people seem to have forgotten how to do it right. Just in case we haven’t turned into a bunch of wusses and people simply don’t know here are a few tips that will help wether you carry a plastic-wonder-gun or something heavier:

*Wear enough belt. I can’t tell you how much difference a really good belt makes; it’s the anchor of your entire system. Forget flimsy military style web-belts and normal dress belts. Thick, honest leather, ideally at least 1-1/2 inches wide. Something stiff enough to keep everything in place and not be distorted by the weight of the gun. A purpose-built  gun-belt from a company like Bianchi will be life-changing, and will make nearly any holster work better.

*Wear enough holster. Something that holds the gun securely in place, and protects you from the gun as much as it protects the gun from you. Fabric and thin, flexible leather holsters may be cheap and easy to hide, but you pay for that after a day of having an edge or control digging into your tender flesh. Heavier Leather or even Kydex will serve you better. Thicker leather might be slightly harder to conceal, but will be more comfortable and easier to draw from or to re-holster the weapon.

*Wear the right holster. People come in all shapes and sizes and at least two sexes (last time I checked.) Not every holster or every method of carry will work for everyone. Experiment, find out what works for you and your wardrobe. Practice deploying the gun and replacing it, move, jump up and down. Don’t be afraid to adjust your wardrobe- all-day comfort should be more important than fashion. And don’t buy a holster just because it is ‘the hot set-up;’ what works for one person may not work for someone else.

*Choose the right gun.  Find something that fits most situations for your physical size, needs and climate that you enjoy practicing with. The ability to reliably put rounds on target is more important than materials, weight or even caliber– which means you need to practice. If you don’t enjoy shooting the gun you probably won’t. This is really important for ‘summer-carry’ guns; you still need to practice. Arguably more, since smaller guns are harder to shoot accurately. If you can’t find a service-caliber gun that meets your concealment needs that you will actually practice with, drop to a smaller caliber. Fast, accurate, repeated hits with a .32 ACP will do more for you than slow, bad hits with a 9mm.

Remember that the way you carry is a system, and all of the parts- including your own body- need to work together

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