Times change and we change, and we may perceive our needs differently as our lives progress. Selecting a concealed carry pistol is an ongoing process. When I was a young man in my twenties I suffered from a combination of ‘kid in a candy store’ and champagne taste on a tap-water budget.
I swapped and traded and spent the rent on this or that. I changed guns almost as often as I changed my underwear (which was very often.) These days I tend to think of that decade as ‘The Stupid Years’ for reasons that go far beyond guns. But as a consequence I developed a wide appreciation for a variety of handguns, even if I never really achieved the sort of expertise I might have sticking to a single gun.
At the end of my twenties I took on my career, and for a decade or more I lived, ate, slept and breathed my job. Whatever gun was on-hand would do, and while I changed guns now and again it was not central to my existence. Then I entered what I call, with blinding optimism, the ‘Adult Years’ of my gun life. I’ve still changed carry guns, but it’s been more situational than dictated by meager finances or whim. Our evolving knowledge about handgun effectiveness, civilian self-defense shootings and advances in gun technology has frequently informed my choices.
I was gun/caliber agnostic (within rational limits) for many years. Most civilian self-defense incidents (CSD) end if not when the gun is presented then almost always when shots are fired. The baddies are looking for a score, not a gunfight. Committed Attackers (people who are willing to die as long as they can take you with them) are rare in CSD shootings but they happen. Not often, but it’s a thing to think about.
The Modern Threat Environment
The crimes likely to affect the average civilian are attempted robberies or sexual assault. In both cases the odds are the bad guy will run when shot. We call this the FIBS (Fuck! I’ve Been Shot) syndrome. If you count on the odds pretty much any gun in any caliber and any level of skill will be sufficient. ‘But what about multiple attackers?’ I hear you cry. Most of the time multiple attackers just means more people running away.
But here’s the rub; the odds that you will ever need a gun for self defense are very, very low. If you’ve already beat steep odds against needing to shoot can you really afford to take a chance you’ll beat the odds against a Committed Attacker?
There is also, sadly, an increased incidence of mass-casualty shooters and ideologically motivated violence. These perpetrators are, for the most part Committed Attackers. If you find yourself facing one of these individuals you need to be able to get a ‘Hard Stop.’ That means removing their capacity to act as quickly as possible. The only reliable ‘instant stop’ is a solid hit to the central nervous system, meaning the brain or upper spine. But that’s a hard target in the middle of a gunfight; your best bet to stop them quickly is with multiple hits center-mass, preferably with a potent caliber using effective modern defensive ammunition.
We need to consider these factors, our tolerance for risk and the likelihood of encountering such an attack. That is to say the least a tricky proposition. It may well be worth erring on the side of caution.
Address Your Needs Realistically
There are a lot of these. Is your work-environment non-permissive? Your friends and family? Do you need to compromise on your carry gun to accommodate this? What’s the climate like and what sort of clothes can you wear without standing out and/or being uncomfortable? What sort of guns fit your wardrobe profile?
Realistically what is your threat profile? Let’s stick to reasonable threats, if you don’t mind. You can what-if yourself to insanity here, and the simple fact is you cannot be prepared for every possible threat. Model your assessment of threats based on reality and hope for the best; it’s all any of us can really do.
It’s easy to say ‘dress around the gun,’ but it’s not always easy to do in real life. I mean, if you have a life. You’re going to casual outdoor wedding on a 90 degree summer day. Because of family relations you cannot skip it. Let’s see you dress around your CZ75 Shadow then, hmmm…?
Considering Your Gun Options
In a perfect world a compact service-caliber semi-automatic with a high capacity is a perfect compromise. But we don’t live in that world, and perfect compromises are rare on the ground. People are short, tall, skinny, fat and everything in-between. People’s strength, physical ability and coordination vary. So do the amount they are able or willing to train. There is no single solution or one-size-fits-all answer.
Paradoxically for a person who does not/cannot train one of the better choices is the oldest: the revolver. It’s extremely simple to use, unlikely to jam or to be impeded by neglect. They almost never jam, but if it does the gun is effectively out of the fight. They come in practically every modern caliber and don’t care about power levels (appropriate to the cartridge,) bullet-weight etc. ‘If it seats it yeets.’
I really don’t recommend someone that doesn’t want to train carry concealed, but in real life there are a thousand things that can limit or otherwise interfere with extensive training. Revolvers are excellent for dry-firing, simple to operate with a limited manual of arms. This can make them a good choice for some people. hell, some people just find them easier and more comfortable to use.
As a caveat I do not think any single-action revolver is a good option in the modern world. For any but the most expert they are slower to fire accurately than double-action revolvers of semi-automatic pistols. As far as reloading in the fight? Forget about it.
..the advice to carry the most potent weapon you can reasonably carry is a good start. It’s also axiomatic that no one has ever come out of a shooting saying, ‘Man, I wish I’d had less ammo!” High capacity is unlikely to be decisive; potency of the cartridge is unlikely to be decisive…
…unless you face a Committed Attacker. Then they could be the difference between living and dying. So, best to sacrifice those as little as possible if you can manage it. With the plethora of very compact 9mms with ten-round magazines it’s likely you can find something to suit you unless climate or life make even these options hard to carry discreetly. If even those are too much there are a near-equal variety of ten-shot .380s, and there’s some very decent defensive loads for these.
When you get to calibers smaller than .380 ACP options get limited, and in some cases availability can be an issue. You also run into the problem that in the smaller calibers you usually need to choose between expansion and penetration. OK, .327 Magnum breaks this rule but guns that fire it and ammunition can be hard to find locally.
As the cartridges get less effective your skill needs to increase proportionately. A half dozen .32 ACP, .25 ACPs or .22s to the face or center-mass are probably going to do the job just fine, but in the face of a Committed Attacker you need to be absolutely certain you can put them there under the extreme circumstances of mortal combat. That’s a pretty high bar.
It’s true that any gun gives you better odds than no gun, and that the gun you actually have with you when the fight starts is better than a more capable weapon you had to leave home. But guns like the Beretta Pico in .380 are genuinely not much harder to carry than most .22, .25 or .32 autos and deliver significantly better real-world results. They tend to have better sights and better ammo availability than .25 or .32 ACP too.
Ammunition cost and availability is definitely a factor; you can’t practice if can’t find/afford cartridges. 9mm, .380 ACP and other service calibers are pretty easy to find and reasonably affordable. Others not so much. It needs to be considered.
It’s not likely that you can find one gun that will fit every situation and circumstance; it’s best to have options if possible. I have a main carry gun and several options to fit different circumstances. They all represent compromises, but that’s how real-life is.
Whatever you choose in the end it absolutely must be reliable, and if at all possible it should be a gun you can afford and are willing to practice with.
Stay safe and take care,
Michael Tinker Pearce, 20 November 2022