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The 5 Absolute Best Concealed Carry Guns

The 5 Absolute Best Concealed Carry Guns

Image source: Guns.com

The Internet is littered with hundreds of best-of gun articles, and I started this article with the idea of compiling a traditional Top 5 list. But when I saw the sheer amount of these articles, I chose to do something a little different.

I decided to list the top guns in five broad categories, but not base it only on my opinion. I’ve searched the Internet high and low, paying attention to forum reviews rather than gun magazines, who tend to love every trigger they’ve ever pulled.

So let’s get started.

The Best Not-So-Compact, Compact Pistol

Gun companies have this term “compact,” and they throw it around a lot. The problem is they keep saying that word, but I don’t think they know what it means. Weapons like the Glock 19 and Sig P229 are called compact but seem rather large. They definitely aren’t for everyone, but they are my favorite carry gun. Mind you, I’m 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, so hiding a large gun isn’t hard for me. They offer more capacity, easier recoil management, and tend to be more accurate. And the winner is……

H&K USP Compact

It’s one of the original guns built to handle the 40 S&W in a time when most guns were based on the 9mm and built up to the 40 S&W. Of course, these days you can have a USP Compact in 9mm, 40 S&W, 357 SIG, etc. Heckler and Koch have a long history of producing dynamic pistols designed to be used in combat, and are a favorite of Special Forces around the world.

The low bore axis helps control the traditionally snappy 40 S&W. The bobbed hammer keeps the weapon snag-free, but the half-cock position allows you to still thumb back the hammer. The multiple variants allow someone to carry in any which way they want.

Ultimate Tactical Self-Defense And Hunting Weapon That Doesn’t Require A Firearms License!

The H&K USP Compact is dead-on accurate. It is superbly lightweight, and very comfortable to carry if you have the ability to hide it. The downsides are that the rail is proprietary, and some of the controls are large. These larger controls keep the weapon from being as slim as it could be, but are easier to use.

The Best Carry Revolver

Wheel guns are an American classic that are not going away anytime soon. Modern automatics are remarkably reliable, but revolvers will never be replaced as the kings of reliability. Revolvers also have a bit more options to choose from. A person can load an ultra-hot magnum or +P round, or load a lighter recoiling target round of something like the Hornady Critical Defense light loads for those who are recoil sensitive. These lighter loads won’t interrupt or cause any stoppages like lighter loaded auto rounds can. So who is the king of cowboys?

Ruger LCRx

Image source: StatePress.com

Image source: StatePress.com

The first thing I think when I hear of revolvers is Smith and Wesson, and some may say this is heresy to nominate a Ruger revolver — much less a plastic one. The Ruger LCR series has taken the carry revolver to a new level. First off, the lightweight polymers keep the weapon lightweight, but much more affordable than scandium or titanium. The revolver started life as the double action only LCR, but the LCRx changed all that and became the first model to feature an exposed hammer to offer double- or single-action methods of fire.

Like I said, the revolver is remarkably lightweight, just a hair heavier than the lightest air weight revolvers. The LCRx is your simple five shot snub nose revolver that is rated for +P 38 specials, but a .357 version is on the way if you’re one of those people who really wants early arthritis. Now if you are like me and live in a hot and humid environment, you tend to sweat a whole lot. Guess what? The polymer frame doesn’t rust.

The recoil is a little snappy due to it being lightweight. The weapon is round in all the right angles, and very comfortable to carry. The exposed hammer is exposed, but just barely enough for a thumb grip.

The Best Concealed Carry Gun For Your Dollar

Let’s face it: A lot of us have had to crack down on our budgets and make a cut of two here and there. Now when it comes to a weapon that is designed to save your life, it’s hard to say I need the cheapest gun available. Trusting a .25 auto Raven to defend your life is not exactly the wisest decision. But just because you are on a budget doesn’t mean you have to risk your life with a piece of pot metal. So what is the best carry gun when you need to save some dollars?

SCCY CPX-1 and CPX-2

The SCCY series of pistols is a polymer frame made in America, and in my home state of Florida. These small 9mm automatics are quite high quality and very attractive. New models are coming equipped with a laser. These pistols come with two high quality steel magazines and a trigger lock.

They are double action only, hammer-fired weapons with a second strike capability. They feature large and luminous 3 dot sights. The SCCY series of pistols are quite attractive and don’t feel like cheap plastic. My only complaint is the grip feel is a bit wide in the hand for a 9mm. The trigger is a bit heavy. The weapon is accurate, reliable and attractive and retails for about $240, and I picked up a used one for $190. The weapon has been utterly reliable for the first 500 rounds. For fewer than $300 you’re getting an excellent weapon.

The Best Sub-Compact Automatic

This doesn’t seem very fair since I just named a semi-auto sub-compact as the best budget gun, but since I already named a revolver I kind of have to do it. Automatics are simply the cutting edge of technology and offer a longer barrel for their size and a higher capacity than their revolver counterparts. My top baby automatic is…

The Baby Glocks

I’m pretty sure Glock is the only company that brings out a different model for every size and caliber they choose. Most companies simply have a model and then various sizes and calibers for them. For example, the Sig P250 comes in three sizes and every major caliber outside of .22LR, but is still called the Sig P250. So that’s why the Glock 26, 27, and every other sub-compact Glock are winners in this category.

How to hide your guns, and other off grid caches…

Glock is a brand that is Spartan in nature and extremely reliable, robust and dynamic to use. Glocks are hardly imaginative and not quite the sexiest weapon, but they work well. The Glock is a superb weapon and available in 9mm, 40 S&W, 45 ACP, .357 SIG and even .380 ACP (Sigh, the Glock no one wanted).

The Best Pocket Rocket

The pocket rocket is the tiniest gun you can carry when you are limited to a deep concealment gun or you are simply not willing to carry a larger, more uncomfortable weapon. The pocket rocket is the weapon you cannot make an excuse not to carry. These tiny guns are limited in firepower, but just a delight to carry. There are simply just a ton of them out there these days and they have become the latest in the concealed carry fad. The winner is the…

Diamond Back 9mm

The Diamond Back 9mm is positively the smallest 9mm handgun on the market. The 9mm is a step above the .380 for concealed carry, and is also much cheaper and easier to find these days, so that’s why the DB9 beats out the DB380. The Diamond back 9mm is just so utterly tiny. Of course, you get a few drawbacks, like the snappy recoil, low magazine capacity, tiny grip and non-existent sights.

Now, if you are fine giving up the advantages of a larger gun, you get 6 + 1 rounds of 9mm in a very plain and simple package. Similar to a Glock in its Spartan appearance, it features round corners for an easy draw. At seven yards the DB9 is surprisingly accurate; I could score easy target headshots, and using the Marine Corps standard combat marksmanship targets I could hit the torso and T-box targets.

There is a seven round magazine and a Crimson trace laser grip available for the weapon, as well. I enjoyed shooting the weapon, but for only about 50 rounds and it becomes a little painful. The DB9 is so small there is no excuse not to carry it.

Conclusion

So this is my version of a Top 5 list. I hope you folks in the comments section have something to add, especially if you’ve had a negative experience with one of the weapons I have listed. I have had trigger time here and there with each weapon on the list, but the amount has varied between weapons. So let me know what you think, and safe shooting everyone!

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: 

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52 comments

  1. How do I sign up for newsletter. There is no place on website to sign up?

  2. Very informative post. Protection is now a top reason to carry a conceal weapon. The sad truth is that our world is not getting any safer.

  3. I carry the Ruger LCR and love it. I don’t worry about accidentally discharging in my purse and find it conceals well. It’s easy to use and I’m confident would be a quick responding weapon if needed. I went to the gun store looking for a smaller gun and was advised by experts that this is the best conceal carry weapon out there; smaller guns will not have the firepower to stop an aggressor which is the main purpose of carrying. I won’t be looking further. It has a kick but not so much that it keeps me from practicing and firing as needed. Love my Ruger LCR!

    • I bought my wife a Ruger LC9, because she liked the weight and it fit her hand well. She chose it over my Glock26, that she took her CHL test with. That is she liked it better, before she actually fired it. The trigger pull is excessively long on the LC9.

      Accuracy, is not too much of a concern when you are up close and under attack, however purse carry is really a terrible idea… (A) because it is the first thing a thief will go for and (B) A distance of 7 yards (21 feet) is only 2 & 1/2 steps for the attacker and he or they won’t give you any warning! You will have less than two seconds to prepare.

      A gun in a purse is definitely, “Advantage to Attacker!” I never carry my handgun with the safety engaged, and there is always a round chambered, for the same reason. I never put my finger inside the trigger housing, until willing to fire. That is the only safety a handgun in your custody needs! Know what you are shooting at and what is beyond it.

      Target shooting is vastly different than “Defensive Shooting”! Be aware & be vigilant!

      • 21 feet is 2.5 steps? Your attackers must have LOOOOOONG legs!

        Many carry their 1911’s cocked and locked. With a Glock, you don’t have a safety, so they can be a little unsafe, unless in a very good holster, just ask Palexico “Limpy” Burris

  4. Hey I have a Clock 42 in .380 and I love it!!!

  5. S$W .38SPCL Bodyguard.(removed the lazer)
    Ruger LCP.

  6. Smith and Wesson .357 snub nose for close range knock down and stay down power. Has the power to penetrate car doors and depending on the load penetrate through 8-10 inches of wood. Cannot beat it! Stay prepared my friends!

    • The smith and wesson .357 snub nose that can go through 8-10 inches of wood could go through how many wall and kill how many neighbors in how many houses. You had better get a good lawyer to stand by. To BIG D

    • Something to think about: a .357 with a 2″ barrel isn’t really much of an advantage over .38. If you want to start seeing the difference between .38 and .357 you really need to be using a longer barrel. From belly gun ranges you’re probably better off with heavier grain .38 loads than you would be with super hot .357 loads. Read the box, then go to some ballistics sites and check out the side by side. It’ll probably a) save you some money and b) maybe give you a better understanding of ballistics, and defensive shooting. It really doesn’t matter if you can make a tennis ball sized hole in someone’s back. You’re better off making a pencil sized hole in their head. Additionally, I’d be very surprised to see a .357 from a 2″ barrel go through 10″ of anything other than balsa at more than 10m.

    • No such damn thing as knockdown power. Period. Get some training.

  7. S&W M&P .40 compact and S&W bodyguard.380 both are accurate and utterly reliable.

  8. Re: DB9. There is a break in period. It will not tolerate a limp wrist. The recoil is stiff, the trigger is about 6 lbs, it’s not for plinking. It sends Horandy Critical Defence to point of aim @ 21 feet all day long. There’s one in my pocket right now.

    • When you say break in period, are you referring to time spent firing the weapon? I’m an amateur, but studying up on which firearms to invest in. Mostly for target shooting, but protection , if needed….I don’t mind some kick-back, but have to keep in mind my frame- 5’5″, 135lb. And female. Shud I consider this gun?

      • Skip the DB9. Google “Diamondback problems” and then read the ammunition restrictions on their website. No bullet weights over 124 grains, no +p ammo, etc. Use of this ammo is dangerous. This comes from their website. There are too many good pistols to waste time and money on a DB. Ruger, S&W, Beretta, Sig, etc are far superior.

        • Ditto. Not that I own one. Mind you I’m not speaking of experience now, but with ALL the problems I’ve heard AND read about the ‘DB9’, there has GOT to be truth involved in some fashion. Since this article is about “smallest” carry pistols, I guess I can’t mention negatives from a reliability standpoint. But I wouldn’t begin to carry anything I had the slightest doubt about. Heck, I carry a G22 so small isn’t even in my vocabulary YET, but I do have a Sig 938 “in waiting”!

        • Seconded. The .380 ain’t bad; super tiny but not terrible. The 9mm is just to much cartridge for that frame though. If you need a tiny 9, go for the beretta nano.

      • I am considering the five seven and the .22 TCM. LOW RECOIL AND AROUND 2000 FPS OUT THE BARREL EACH. 17+1 AND SPITS FIRE. LOUD. NOT SURE OF TERMINAL VELOCITY OR ENERGY, BUT 17+1….

        • The TCM .22 is one bad a$$ round. My TCM has the 9mm conversion kit (easy to convert) and functions beautifully as a 9mm. Of course this is not a first choice for concealed carry being it’s a full sized 1911 frame but works wonderful as an open carry pistol or a nightstand self-defense because of its 17+1 capacity. Everyone ought to have one of these in their arsenal.

      • If it still looking then check out the Taurus PT111 G2. A 9mm DA with a 3.2in barrel, reasonable recoil, excellent adjustable sights, comes with 2-12 Rd. magazines, and is accurate.

        • I open carry a Taurus PT 111PRO 9mm ACP in my FOBUS SP11B holster when on patrol, and my Ruger Blackhawk 357 Mag SA in a ‘quick draw’ western holster with cartridge belt when around home in the forest.
          Having been trained in SpecOps I’ve found these two to be the best in all scenarios, backed up with my ‘cheap’ HP 9mm semi-auto carbine with 18 round mags.

          • “Having been trained in SpecOps”…….You DO know that most operators carry a Sig?

          • Dude, seriously? You don’t train IN “SpecOps”; you train for special operations, or more likely you just train for what you’re expecting. I’m not gonna tell you I’m in DevGru or any of that nonsense. I’m not Gecko45. What I will say is that having owned both of those weapons I can think of at least half a dozen better weapons to carry. Don’t get me wrong, I love Rugers. If I had to pick a Ruger though, a GP with a trigger job would be better than a Blackhawk for almost any situation, unless it’s handgun deer season. Also, even though I’m not a SEAL and am admittedly not familiar with every cartridge ever made I’m pretty familiar with all 9mm stuff out there. That includes .380, .357, .38, Makarov, etc… I’ve never even heard of “9mm ACP”. I’ll give anyone who wants to take it 3:1 that the dude who wrote about his “SpecOps” training is a mall ninja AT BEST.

        • I second that choice. IMHO, the best value on a 9mm pistol on the market today. Don’t believe me? Everybody is sold out of them.

      • Break-in refers to the amount of rounds needed to allow the firearms to function properly. Sticky slides or tight springs springs can cause Fail to eject, (FTE) or fails to feed (FTF) in a handgun. My carry guns are the S&W Airweight 38 SP 1 7/8 inch barrel and the S&W Shield 9mm. Neither weapon required a break-in period of the recommended 300 rounds. There are many cartridges that are excellent in those calibers. I also have a Glock 26 9mm that worked perfectly out of the box.
        Speer Gold Dot makes personal defense rounds for both 38 and 9mm guns. Hornady also makes highly efficient rounds. I carry the Hornady Critical Defense round in my Shield and Glock.
        The best advice is to practice, practice and practice more.
        Good luck,
        KP

  9. Well Ruger hit another homerun with the LC9s. It is the perfect size for concealed carry, light, fits my hand like is was made for it and nobody will ever know you have it on you. Right our of the box it did exactly what I wanted it to do and the rounds hit what ever I am at. Like always Ruger does not disappoint. My favorite carry!

  10. I recently purchased a Ruger LCR 38 & have found it to be spot on especially with +P ammo. I am looking for a larger bore defensive weapon that’s light & concealable. Your blog sheds a lot of light on the subject. Thinking of the Glock 26…

    Thanks y’all,
    Merry Christmas

  11. Gotta tell you… My Sig p938 is a fantastic 9mm ccw. Once you learn how to shoot it, you will have surgical precision. The more power and weight on ammo, the better it reacts. Same control layout of a 1911. This just became legal in MA. I bought it asap. It has quickly earned itself my first choice to conceal amongst many others I own.

  12. Great recommendations! Out of all the lists I’ve come across on this topic, yours has some lesser-mentioned options on here. Which I love to see – there’s SO many options out there. One of our instructors comes down more on the side of the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield, but really stresses deciding what component is most important for you on our blog: http://nationalcarryacademy.com/handguns-for-concealed-carry/. Do you think any of his recommendations are off the mark?

    Natalie

  13. Thanks for the article. We took a ccw class this past weekend & we were starting to look outside of the ones at class. I did like the Glock 19.

  14. I like the ruger RCF. I think it is crucial that people take into consideration their lifestyle when picking their concealed carry. We actually wrote about this recently here: http://nationalcarryacademy.com/handguns-for-concealed-carry/ Maybe someone will find it useful.
    – Robert M.

  15. Glock 17. I know it’s considered “full size” but I have no trouble hiding it in my standard casual clothing (I’m 5-feet-11 and 210 pounds). I trimmed the grip with a Dremel so it’ll take magazines from the G19 and not print through my tighter shirts.
    My 5-feet-8, 175-pound friend carries a full-size 1911 with no problems, so before you settle on a “carry” gun that compromises power, capacity, handling, or whatever you value, make a serious effort to find a holster that’ll let you carry your top choice — it’s easier than you think.

  16. Ditto on the Sig P938. I had some reliability issues with Springfield XDs9 that caused me to lose confidence in it as CCW. I changed to carrying the Sig P938. I like being able to carry “cocked & locked” as it has 1911 type safety. Great size and good feel for CCW handgun for me anyway.

  17. I carried a wheel of gun first 20 years of LEO , then carried glocks or m&p 40s. After a fall breaking my spine, I lost lots of use in my spine. I still qualify now with wheel gun. I keep a 2 inch and 4 inch smith and 2 charter arms 357/ 38. I bought two rifles in the same caliber. Other than a couple .22 pistols. This keeps me from buying so many different calibers of ammo. I been a firearm instructor for years. The best CCW pistol is the one you can handle and use well.

  18. Ditto on the Sig P938, it has to be the most accurate “pocket size” gun out there & by far the highest quality.
    But of you aren’t used to 1911s or aren’t ready to put in the training time, then better stick to the sytlelless Glock type weapons, the double action only guns.

  19. I opted for th GLOCK 26. It is still in the break in phase because I only put 300 rounds through it. I love it and use it as my personal carry.I also own a 19 for the home.

  20. My pocket rocket choice is the Ruger LCP .380 loaded with Buffalo Bore hard cast flat points. It reminds me of that teeny tiny blaster Will Smith accidently discharged with amazing destructive effect in the first “Men in Black” movie. It isn’t for gun battles, but can sure save you from a mugging.

  21. Recently acquired the Ruger LC9s. With the extended magazine so that my pinky does not hang off the grip, it is comfortable to hold, and a pleasure to shoot. 9mm round will rapidly discourage most threats, and it is reliable. It’s either that, or my NEF .32H&Rmag for personal carry

  22. Billy Two Knives

    I’ll continue carrying my S&W M&P Shield chambered in 9mm. Factory sights replaced with High Viz sights. Carried in a Blackhawk Serpa holster.

  23. The DB9 is NOT the smallest 9mm pistol. The Kimber Solo is smaller:

    Solo: 5.5×3.9×0.995
    DB9: 5.6×4.0x0.8

  24. Great stuff, Travis! We here at Barnes 1st Step Firearms Training are teaching Concealed Carry Fundamentals in Washington, D.C., and you have given us valuable information to pass to our students. We love our Ruger 38S LCR, and we train with Fabrique Nationale Herstals, which we love (we’re both lefties.) The DB9 seems like a good backup, though the hope, always, is that our students, well ALL OF US are situationally aware, defensive minded, and well enough trained, not to need even the first concealed pistol!

  25. Most shallow, linear thought pattern gun review sight, I have seen yet.

  26. This article is silly.
    Most of these guns are way to big and the pocket gun (diamondback) is a P.O.S I know I owned one.
    Best pocket guns…NAA Pug, Kahr CW380 Best Small 9MM….Glock 43, Kahr CM9,,,best small revolver S$W 642/422. there I just saved you folks a lot of time, effort, money & grief.

  27. Mahatma Muhjesbude

    Back in the day when I started out in this nefarious gunslinging business there weren’t many good choices for concealed pocket carry. Reliability was a paramount factor for professional ‘work[. So S&W and Colts snubs ruled for the most part. But they were pretty useless in running gun fights. Especially at midnight soirees when the first flash blinded you sufficiently to miss the next five shots and there was no way you were going to reload fast enough to continue with any shoot out success. The punks knew this and counted your shots before making the break over a fence or down a gangway. So we started carrying two, or even three pocket pistols, LOL, henceforth known as the New York reload.

    Most serious players went with the Walther ppk and carried a few extra mags in their pockets. For regular missions I carried a browning 15 shot capacity 9mm. You could always tell the guys who’d been in heavy combat in Nam. They all carried the higher capacity Brownings, or at least a 1911 .45 with a lot of back up mags.

    When Beretta came out with the higher capacity .22LR automatics a lot of us started carrying these as back ups. and even primary off duty carry. They were comfortable, high capactity, reliable, smaller flash signature and lets face it they accounted for more deaths in the big cities than all other calibers put together. Can’t go wrong when you go with the flow. heavy power caliber fanatics notwithstanding.

    When the Stainless Steel .380 AMT back up came out i always carried that as my off duty compact. I liked the simplicity of its DA only and its quick magazine reload over revolvers, and especially the compact smoothness of carry with no hammer. Fit in any pocket. It was easy to ‘palm’ unnoticed and made a good expedient first strike palm slap ‘up the side of the head’ Sap if you were good at hand to hand street fighting, thus ending the excitement quickly without having to spend the rest of week in paperwork for shooting the sucker.

    Despite the myriad of ‘best’ concealed carry weapons out there now I still don’t think they developed the best compact pistol for it yet. I know they could do it. I knew someone not too long ago who designed it and showed it to me and i agreed that this would be almost impossible to argue with. He passed on too soon afterward and that was that. But somehow gun manufacturers just keep missing this boat and simply just try to copy and improve slightly, on what’s already out there. That’s probably because they don’t want to go through all the time and expense of field foolproofing the prototype?

    I like the composite lightweight .380’s now because it’s not even a moot point anymore as to power potential with the new rounds out there. But when taking your wife or gal to check out any compact automatic you might be interested in for them to carry, make sure they can rack the slide adequately enough. Just because they are small pistols doesn’t mean they are easier to charge. Believe it or not, that’s the main reason why woman default to revolvers.

  28. IMHO, anything by SCCY or Diamondback is not reliable enough to trust your life to.

    The Kahr P9 Black Diamond with night sights is outstanding, as is the Kimber CDP Ultra Series I. Budget winner is the Taurus TC .380

  29. I recently bought baby Glocks and I love it.

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