So you’re interested in concealed carry? You’ve done your research and you’ve figured out your local laws. It’s time to head to the gun shop and pick up your first pistol. Easy enough, right? It can be easy if you’ve got the right knowledge walking into that shop. That’s a bit hard to do given that you’re just starting out however we can maybe point you in the right direction.
Here’s a tough reality
There are a lot of really helpful gun shops out there that will do their absolute best to make sure you get what you’re looking for. A good shop will do their diligence to gauge your skill level and your intended use. A bad shop will prey on your lack of knowledge and sell you whatever has been sitting in the cabinet the longest. So, it’s best to either find a shop that people talk highly of or head in with a friend or family member that has some experience.
We see new concealed carriers fall into a few traps. The first is having no understanding of how different calibers shoot. It’s okay to not have that experience, however it can easily lead you to picking a handgun that is too difficult to use while starting out. A 40 S&W is going to be a lot more difficult to shoot for someone new than a 9mm. That’s not to say 40 S&W is a bad round, it just takes a more refined grip to control well. We highly recommend that you stick to 9mm for your first handgun. It’s more than adequate as a defensive round, the ammo is cheap, and you won’t be discouraged by the difficulty.
The second mistake we see people making is buying the smallest handgun possible. These small “pocket pistols” have their uses however for a new shooter they are difficult to shoot. I’m talking guns as small as the Ruger LCR II, Smith and Wesson Jframes, and other firearms around this size. They are not bad guns however they take a lot more skill to shoot effectively. Poor grip and technique are really emphasized when shooting this size gun.
Lastly, don’t get too caught up in the gear. In 2020 there are so many good handguns out there. Your major brands like Sig Sauer, Glock, Smith and Wesson, CZ, Beretta, and H&K are good to go. We’ve shot pretty much every popular handgun out there by the brands listed, and they’ve all held up well. We’ve also found that after years of experience, it kind of becomes a wash. Most of us can shoot a Glock 19 just as fast as we can shoot a Sig P320. As long as you put the effort into shooting it, there won’t be too much of a difference in the end.
What to buy?
Alright, so we got some basics out of the way. Here’s the thing about handguns in 2020. They’ve gotten so good that you can afford to be somewhat brand agnostic, and you can bask in the freedom of choice. Think of this as a list of suggestions or a list of things you should try out. Remember that there isn’t a blanket solution to what you should carry. A Glock 19 may be right for person A, but it may be wrong for person B. Ultimately training good fundamentals will give you the ability to run any handgun however starting out it’s important to get something that feels right in the hand.
We are going to divide this list into two categories. Double Stack and Single Stack. This is mostly for simplicity and gives you a good frame of reference for size. Manufacturers are all over the place when it comes to giving the size of the handgun a name.
Firearms that have a double stack magazine (the rounds sit staggered for higher capacity) are usually a bit thicker. The trade-off here is having a gun that gives you a full grip to control recoil and a significant amount of rounds. If it’s your first handgun, it isn’t a bad idea to go with a larger capacity double stack. You’ll have a firearm that is well suited for home defense as well as concealed carry.
With only the trigger pack being considered a firearm, the rest of the parts including the grip can be shipped right to your door.
The Sig P320 is an easy one to recommend to new shooters and that’s largely due to its modular design. Unlike most pistols, the Sig P320’s trigger group actually contains the serial number, which makes it the only part that is “legally” a firearm. This is fantastic for a number of reasons but most specifically you can have the polymer grips shipped right to your door instead of having to go to an FFL (Gun shop) to pick them up.
Being able to swap out the entire lower of the firearm with ease is a great feature for a new shooter. Find out that the grip you have is too wide? No problem, order the XCarry grip and have it sent right to your door. Want a shorter grip? Same thing. This really enables new shooters to tailor the gun to taste. Third party companies like Wilson Combat have taken advantage and have come out with their own line of grips.
Personally, we recommend starting out with the P320 Nitron Compact or the XCompact. This will get you a great base to start with, and you can upgrade it easily along the way.
This is the usual go to and the gun you’ll find under the glass at pretty much every gun shop across America. That’s for good reason too as the Glock 19 design has withstood the test of time as it’s been around since 1988. Despite how long it’s been around, the design has aged incredibly well. You’d be hard pressed to find a more reliable and simple handgun. The aftermarket is plentiful and you can find parts and mags inexpensively.
The Glock 19 is one of the most iconic carry guns, and one of the first of its kind.
Smith and Wesson M&P 2.0
Smith and Wesson’s M&P line up has come a long way over the years and we think their M&P9 2.0 is one of the best handguns they’ve ever made. Ergonomically it hits all those sweet spots. The grip texture is perfectly aggressive and the angle of the grip is right where it should be at 18 degrees. Additionally they make models with and without a safety lever which is great if you’d like the extra security. One of the best parts about the Smith and Wesson is the price. They are affordable and can be found on sale regularly.
Blade-Tech S&W M&P 2.0 Holsters: Total Eclipse
An aggressive grip texture makes the M&P 2.0 easy to hang on to.
Firearms that have a single stack magazine (the rounds sit right on top of eachother) are typically slimmer and can be found in all sorts of grip lengths. For new shooters, we recommend starting out with something that has a full grip. It’s a lot easier to establish the fundamentals this way. The smaller the gun, the snappier it will shoot.
The Glock 48 has become one of our favorite single stack firearms today. It has a long barrel that facilitates good contact with the body for concealed carry as well as a full grip for superior recoil management. The slimness really makes this a comfortable firearm to carry yet it still has a great grip. You’ve also got that inherent Glock reliability and simplicity. It comes with 10 rounds magazines however people have reported a lot of success with the 15 round Shield Arms magazines.
Glock 48 (Silver) compared to the Glock 19 (Black)
Alternatively you can go with the Glock 43x which features a bit of a shorter barrel. While it is a tad snappier, it is a pretty easy shooter all things considered. It is also compatible with the 15 round Shield Arms magazines, which is a huge plus.
Blade-Tech Glock 48 Holster: Klipt
Sig really did something special when they released the Sig P365. They managed to fit 10 rounds into the magazine which brings you to 10+1 rounds. Add on the pinky extension and you’ve nearly got a full grip. It’s a bit of an engineering marvel and is a great option for concealed carry, It’s on the snappier side of things given its small size and could prove to be an issue if you don’t really hone in on those fundamentals. Good grip will be very important for this one.
Blade-Tech P365 Holster: Klipt
Sig's P365 holds 10+1 rounds and comes standard with night sights.
We really try and refrain from telling new shooters which firearm is perfect for them. Preference is built with experience and use. Find out what works best for you. Head to a range that lets you rent guns and get a good feel. If your first pick doesn't end up being the right one, you can always sell it. Firearms hold their value pretty well as long as you don't abuse them.
Remember, save some money in your budget for a holster, ammo, and range time. In fact, overestimate how much you need for those things. It’s crucial that you spend time at the range getting familiar with safety and the firearm. Shooting doesn’t have to be a complicated task if you do your part and put rounds down range.
Check out our other blogs on getting started with Concealed Carry: