Choosing a Concealed Carry Pistol
Choosing a gun to carry around with you as part of your daily life is a non-trivial task.
Like many other choices that we have to make, there are compromises and trade-offs to make.
Some basic factors to think about include:
- Reliability. When the chips are down, you are going to be trusting your life, and
maybe your family's lives to this piece of equipment. It needs to be reliable. It needs to go bang
when you need it to, and never when you don't.
As in most other things in life, you mostly get what you pay for.
But as with other things, there is good quality, and then there is much too expensive, where
the extra money only buys very minor improvement, but lots of prestige. You are looking for
a tool, not a status symbol.
- Practicality. If you choose something that is too big and heavy you will soon tire of
carrying it around. It will be left at home or in the car more and more often, and the day you need it
it won't be with you.
- Concealability. Although in Oregon open carry is theoretically legal anywhere that you can
carry concealed (with a CHL), you probably want you gun concealed most of the time. The trade-off
you make is very small, easy to conceal guns with a limited number of rounds vs larger
guns with larger capacity, but somewhat more difficult to conceal. Your lifestyle and style of
dress will likely determine the best compromise for you.
- Comfort. People new to shooting are often surprised to hear that the comfort of a gun
is important. After all, its just a tool, and one that you rarely, if ever, use, right? The
truth is that shooting a pistol of any description is a lot more difficult than it appears.
Especially if you want to hit your target, and not something (or someone) else.
Practice is important, partly to develop shooting skills and good accuracy, but also because
when if and when you ever need to use that gun in a life and death situation you need to
be able to do so automatically. There is no time to think about where the safety is, which
way it needs to be moved, how to remove an empty magazine and insert another etc.
If the gun is uncomfortable in your hand, or if the recoil is uncomfortable, you won't
practice, and practice is essential.
- Effectiveness. There have been books written on this topic. The truth is that any
gun is better than no gun. Many people have been killed by .22LR bullets, and if that is what you
have to use, then do so, but be aware that although it can kill, killing isn't really what we
are looking for. You shoot an attacker to stop them. You need to stop them quickly.
There is little consolation in inflicting a fatal wound if it is going to take 30 minutes
before it does its work, and during that 30 minutes the attacker has succeeded in killing you.
Much better to inflict a wound which may be fatal or not (you don't care) but which incapacitates
the attacker within seconds. In general you want a larger caliber bullet to deliver
a lot of energy into the attacker to achieve that. Any caliber above .380ACP will generally
be sufficient, with larger calibers being a little more effective. However, when we get to
the other extreme, say a .50 caliber Desert Eagle or .44 magnum, the practicality,
concealability and comfort considerations start to outweigh the marginal increase in
effectiveness. If there is an optimum
caliber, its probably 9mm (or just maybe .40). My personal opinion is that if 9mm is sufficient
for the US Army, its probably just fine for me.
Making the final choice
The above points all need to be borne in mind, but there will still remain a huge number
of guns matching the basic specifications you have decided upon. How to make the final choice?
Probably the worst thing you can do is let someone else make the decision for you.
However well meaning, however experienced, they are not you. Advice on what to look at
is fine, but you should make the final decision. If at all possible, you want to
shoot all of the guns you are considering. Not just one or two rounds, but a whole
box of ammo through each gun you are considering. Trying out different guns is not as
hard as you might think. Friends may well have a variety of different guns, and be willing
to take a trip to the range with you and let you try them out. If you don't have friends with
guns, there are public ranges that rent guns. In the Portland area there is The Place To Shoot
at Delta Park, and the Clackamas Public Safety range.