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Concealed Gun Selection: Advice From the Pros

By: Chris Hill

Picking a gun to carry can be easy, hard, or somewhere in between. The selection process for many people is often made overly complex or oversimplified depending on the attitude of the shooter and their lifestyle. It also is difficult to get good advice on the matter as most people will allow their personal biases to drive their opinion. For example, a dude that works at a gun store might simply throw a button-down shirt over his outside waistband, a full-size gun, and call it good with no further consideration. This person might then go on to suggest others do the same thing as it works for him. He might then suggest that people universally carry full-size guns regardless of the situation. This is oversimplified.

The overly complex part tends to rear its head when someone is given too much information from sources that are diametrically opposed to one another with no regard for the individual’s needs. Take for example a cop who carries a large gun and duty belt 12+ hours a day, trains regularly, and is a good shooter, telling someone a single stack backup gun is good, right after the gun store guy says carry a full-size gun all the time. The cop carries a small gun off duty because he’s just not interested in continuing to carry all the stuff when he’s off work and he trains regularly so he’s plenty capable with the small gun. I understand his pain, it’s why you’ll rarely catch me in a plate carrier in a class, I’ve had enough of that thank you and if it’s not mandatory I’m leaving it at home. The gun store guy suggests the larger gun because you’ll shoot better which is certainly important and for him, it’s not all that hard to do a bigger gun. So who is correct? Well, if we’re being serious we can’t answer the question because we don’t know anything about who they are recommending the gun to.

So, what’s the solution? Well, we need all or most of the variables. So here are some things to consider: Is the gun easy for you to shoot and operate or can we get there through a bit of time and effort? Is the gun reliable? Is the gun in your budget after you consider support equipment like belts, holsters, spare mags, and training? Also, are the necessary items for this gun readily available? Does the size of the gun fit your dress, lifestyle, and job? Perhaps this problem is best solved by 2 or 3 different options or maybe one size does fit all for you.

Easy to shoot and operate including the gun fitting your hand, you can easily load magazines and the gun as well as shoot it accurately without inducing malfunctions. Oddly enough there are several guns on the market that are just fine but when I shoot them two-handed, I will cause malfunctions given my hand size and desired placement. 

Reliability is just that and it is mostly a track record thing. Ask vetted instructors and range employees where they rent guns and what lasts on the rental wall. Or you can just send me an email or DM me on social media. This can be slightly more esoteric but a clue as to what’s reliable and what does not lies in professional selection. Typically, people that carry a gun for a living can’t select objectively unreliable guns for work. This gets a bit tougher of a metric to use as the guns get smaller as they typically aren’t used as frequently overtly by professional users.

When it comes to budgeting that’s straightforward. Just make sure you’ve got enough left over for necessary accessories to make carrying safe and feasible. Also, make sure you can get spare mags and good-quality holsters for your gun.

Size and concealment might be harder to figure out without the ability to try the guns on you before you buy. Often people’s first experience wearing a gun is at home a few weeks, months, or years after they bought it. It’s much better to find a shop or instructor that will let you try them on and teach you how to do it. Be sure to wear typical clothes if you’re going to do this. Trying the guns on in something you rarely wear isn’t very helpful. It’s likely you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you can get away with if you have good supporting equipment and a good teacher. Obviously, a great battle belt and clothes that fit are a big part of the equation.

As I stated earlier some people, myself included, are best served by having a few different choices depending on the environment, dress style, and consequences for getting made. Luckily, unlike 10 years ago, there are a ton of guns of any size that can fit your needs.

Hopefully, this article will give you a good starting point for selecting a concealed carry gun or if you’ve been carrying a while, it will give you some things to ponder. Remember the key component of all this is to get into good training classes that train relevant, current best practices for shooting, carrying, and safely handling handguns for the purposes of self-defense. Feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions or you would like to take a class. Thunderbolt Defense offers live training and remote consulting nationwide.

About The Author

My name is Christopher Hill and I’m the owner of Thunderbolt Defense. I started my shooting career when I joined the United States Marine Corps in 2008 where I deployed twice, to Afghanistan in 2009 and to Jordan in 2011 to train the Jordanian army. During my time in the Marines I paid especially close attention to the shooting and small unit tactics parts of my job. After my enlistment I became a civilian instructor and worked at one of the largest commercial ranges in the southeast United States. I eventually became the director of training, lead sales person and armorer. I have trained well over ten thousand students of various levels in various disciplines from beginners all the way to professional users with high operational tempo and skill level but the focus has always been the armed citizen and local LE officer. My primary focus is defensive and performance shooting so my students can excel in any environment where a handgun, rifle, or shotgun is needed.

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