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Big Gun. Little Gun. Pros and Cons…

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    Big Gun. Little Gun. Pros and Cons…

    Big Gun. Little Gun. Pros and Cons…

    At a basic handgun class last week, I got the usual questions about which gun I thought was best for carry. I advised my students that choosing a firearm is inevitably an exercise in compromise among various competing factors. There is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to a carry gun.

    I tell them to ask themselves some fundamental questions: Do they want the most powerful handgun they can handle? Or do they want the one that they shoot the most accurately? A lighter gun may have harsher recoil, but it might also be easier to carry all day long. What about concealment? Even how we must dress (i.e. for work) can have an impact on our ultimate choice.

    Fifty years ago, the term “carry gun” likely referred to a Smith & Wesson revolver or a Colt 1911 pistol. Back then, truly compact firearms were referred to as “pocket pistols” and were generally available only in relatively smaller calibers, .380 Auto, .32 ACP, and the really tiny .25 Auto. There were also various revolvers, usually in .32-caliber.

    But today, the big trend is toward smaller and lighter guns, aimed directly at the rapidly growing number of people carrying for personal protection, including many women. As a result, just about every major manufacturer now offers sub-compact guns, not just in .380 Auto, but also in 9mm, .40 Smith & Wesson, and in some cases even .45 ACP.

    So, what are the pros and cons of smaller guns versus their “standard”-sized siblings? The more obvious advantages of compact and micro-compact handguns (i.e. Ruger LCP and S&W Bodyguard) are that they are lighter and easier to carry and are smaller and easier to conceal, especially in pocket holsters.

    But, as mentioned, the disadvantages are often a less powerful cartridge (e.g. .380 Auto) or, if you choose to get it in one of the larger calibers, some pretty hefty recoil. Even in a full-size “duty gun,” the .40 S&W has recoil best described as snappy; in a lightweight mini-gun, it can be quite nasty. So if a student is considering a Glock 26 or 27, I usually suggest the 26 (9mm). Ditto the Kahr PM9 versus the PM40. In either case, the “9” will do the job, and they have the additional advantage of extra rounds.

    On the other hand, more standard-sized guns, like the HK P30 and the Springfield Armory XD, are generally easier for most people to shoot well, partly because they have less recoil. And while arguably heavier than the micro-compacts, the extensive use of polymers in such guns means they are still lighter than say, an all-steel Colt Commander of similar size.

    Tip: Spend the extra money for a good (i.e. stiff and sturdy) belt and quality holster; they go a long way in making even full-size, larger-caliber guns downright comfortable for all-day carry.

    As for concealment, unless you’re talking about a true “pocket pistol,” you can hide an HK P30 just about as easily as a Glock 26, with proper clothing. As Concealed Carry Magazine Executive Editor Kevin Michalowski has demonstrated, a “Hawaiian” shirt can hide an arsenal!

    Finally, before buying, borrow or rent the same model (and in the same caliber) you are considering, and shoot it. I’ve had more than a few students reconsider their original decision once they learned first-hand the “personality” of the gun (and caliber) they had initially chosen.

    It’s your call. Be smart. Be safe.

    Pat ------> NRA Lifetime Endowment Member #FAAFO

    I would agree. I've got a Ruger LCP that I rarely shoot, and have never carried. IIRC, it's only 3/4 of an inch wide, and even in .380, it's tough to grip. Between that, the nearly non-existant sights, and the ridiculously long trigger pull, it's just not fun. As a last resort, it's better than nothing.

    My first gun was my Gen3 G19. Still have it, will never sell it, but also rarely shoot it. It shoots just fine, and I like Glock triggers just fine. For me, the biggest issue is pinching the meaty part of my palm doing mag changes. In a SD/HD situation, it will probably be over one way or the other, before you need to change mags, so I guess it wouldn't be an issue, so I would not hesitate to carry it, and it's my "night stand" gun.

    When I travel to Florida, I bring and carry my Gen3 G21, mostly because it's what my 5' 3" LEO DI buddy was issued, and I get to use his full cap mags. It's also one of my favorite guns, period. People either love it or hate it because the grip is kinda fat. Until the G40 and G41 came along, it was the physically largest gun Glock made. A loose tee shirt, and an Alien Gear IWB holster, and it's concealed well enough that I've never had any issues.


      I never shoot my small ones. Just not fun not hitting the target like I do with others I can get a better grip on.


        Time of year also changes what I'll carry. A lot easier to conceal a bigger gun if your wearing a sweatshirt or coat vs. a tee shirt.


          I carry a gun based on reliability and how well I shoot it. Then find the best way to conceal it. I normally carry a G19, but will switch to a Shield for warmer weather. Both are worn IWB with various holsters.


            carrying a gun is a lifestyle , you adapt your self to it. holsters , guns , training are important but mindset is where you have to be


              whatever you choose, practice with it