Things to Consider
You can’t just strap any gun under your coat and call it a concealed carry. The stealth requirement demands that only certain guns with the right characteristics are viable. These characteristics are:
This is quite obvious. The size of your firearm plays a huge role in determining whether it is viable for concealed carry. Choosing guns with a large caliber or those that come with double-stacked magazines means that they will be larger. Larger guns are harder to hide if you wear tight clothes or if you are thin. The gun will poke through your clothes, and it will look very obvious to others that you are carrying.
Clothing also plays a big role in choosing a gun. In cold places where jackets and sweatshirts are the norms, you have the option to go for bigger guns since your jacket can hide your gun pretty well. Also, a bigger gun is actually needed as a potential attacker will wear more and thicker layers of clothes too that must be penetrated first if a round is to do some damage. So, consider what clothes you typically wear and consider how they can hide your gun. In an ideal situation, you want to have two firearms: one for hot and one for cold months.
There are many to choose from. Ask around, and people often gravitate toward two: 9mm or .45 ACP. These are the most popular options, but you can also look at what the law enforcement, military, and government agencies use. The fact that they use a specific caliber means that it works for their purpose, so it should be fine for you as well. More often than not, all of the research will point you back to 9mm.
Suppose you want to use a .22LR. Sure, it might deter an attacker, but I don’t recommend it for concealed carry. For one, it has poor penetration. It does not punch through many layers of clothing well. This means, if you live in a colder area where people tend to wear thick clothing, your .22LR will not do much damage. In case of an attack, the bullet might pierce the jacket, but will not do enough damage to stop the attacker. If this is your only option, then use it since having something is better than nothing. Otherwise, you want something a little bigger.
That said, let’s look at some of the best concealed carry guns. For your convenience, I will group them based on their caliber.
As mentioned before, 9mm is the most popular caliber. There are many amazing firearms to choose from.
One problem with concealed carry guns is the size. Some of them are so small that you cannot get a good grip on it, which will affect your aim. But the $400 Smith & Wesson M&P Shield is an exception. It maintains a small form factor but still allows you to have a firm grip on it.
Speaking of form factor, it is a bit smaller than compact guns but still larger than a subcompact. Moreover, the gun is only about an inch thick, making it very easy to conceal under light clothing.
The $500 Sig Sauer P365 is a micro-compact gun, for its tiny size. But do not let its size fool you because it can hold more ammo than you think. The closest comparison I could make is to the Glock 26, although it holds a 10+1 and has a double-stacked magazine. Still, the gun remains an inch thick still. Moreover, the Sig Sauer P365 has rails for lights or other attachments.
The P365 did not have a smooth start as there were some production issues and recalls, but it looks like Sig Sauer fixed all of those issues now.
The Glock is known for its reliability, and the Glock 43 is no exception. It comes with a single-stacked magazine. Although the capacity is a meager 6+1, it vanishes once you slip it in a holster. While being a small gun, it has a good grip as well. This one comes at about $450.
But maybe all of the above is outside your budget. If it is a problem, then look no further than the Taurus G2C. It goes for about $200. Now, you might think that, at such a price, there must be some compromises. There really isn’t. It is as large as the P365, comes with a double-stack 12+1, and is reliable as well. You are getting a lot out of a mere $200 with the G2C.
Guns with this caliber are also easy to conceal. Compared to the 9mm guns, .380 variants are often thinner and smaller. This comes at the cost of power and penetration, but not much so that it becomes useless in a self-defense situation. Another thing I want to mention is that .380 guns tend to have a long pull, making it hard to shoot in a stressful situation. If you are buying a .380 gun, get a new trigger. That said, what .380 guns are viable as a conceal carry?
Similar to guns its size, the Ruger LCP II has a 6+1 magazine. The LCP II is known as one of the best pocket guns for its size. Some even carry it around as a backup weapon. Its predecessors did not perform as well, which prompted Ruger to create this improved variant. Moreover, there is a bit of customization in terms of colors, as there are many to choose from.
As always, the Glock made it into our list once again. Similar to the Glock 43, the Glock 42 comes at $400. It has a single stack .380 magazine. It is just as reliable as the 43, making it the perfect choice if you like Glocks or want something a little smaller than the 43.
The EZ .380 is very tiny but still packs enough punch. Out of all the guns in this list, the EZ .380 is the easiest to rack and the softest gun. This is an ideal choice for those without arm strength or don’t like the kick of other guns. The only downside I can think of is that this will set you back by $500.
.38 Specials or the .38 Special +P are typically used for revolvers. Many people think that revolvers are bulky, making them a bad choice for concealed carry. But there are a few that fit the bill. For this, I recommend finding ones that are light and hammerless. With these two characteristics in mind, here are my recommendations for .38 Special concealed carry guns.
This is yet another offering from Smith & Wesson. They are one of the largest manufacturers of revolvers, and their offerings vary greatly in terms of shape, size, and finish. The Crimson Trace is very light because its frame is constructed from a single piece of aluminum. It achieved its small frame size due to the lack of an external hammer and short barrel. Moreover, it is very easy to use and rated for +P, making it the perfect candidate for a .38 Special concealed carry gun at $470.
The Ruger LCRx has an aluminum frame and polymer part, making it lightweight. It can also fire +P if you want more power behind your shots. Unfortunately, the LCRx has a hammer, so I recommend practicing with it until you are certain you can draw without snagging it on your clothes.
The LCR Revolver is a lot like the LCRx, except that it has an internal hammer for a smoother draw. The downside is that this variant is limited to double-action, which may hamper accuracy. Both the LCR and the LCRx cost about $500.
Concealed carry is not only about the gun, though. As mentioned at the start, it is also about how you bring it with you. In addition to clothing, you need the right holster and belt for your gun. You do not need any other accessory. This is because most engagements are at very close range, and slapping any more bells and whistles on the gun only makes it bulkier, which defeats the purpose of concealed carry.
The first is a concealment holster. There are countless holsters out there, but only a few are good enough for concealed carry. A good concealed carry holster should be made from a sturdy material and provide total trigger coverage with good retention and concealability. Moreover, it should isolate the gun from the body, meaning that your skin should not touch the gun, and it should have a positive grip. Let’s discuss some of these characteristics.
Material-wise, you want something that is sturdy and light. That could be Kydex or leather. Another important thing is to make sure that it does not irritate your skin. The holster will stay on your skin for a long period of time, so you want it to be as comfortable as possible.
Good retention simply means that it holds the gun firmly in place without it rattling about in the holster. You want your firearm to be held tight in its holster. The best way to test this is to slip the gun into the holster and hold it upside down. If your gun falls out, the holster has bad retention and needs to be adjusted. It should hold the gun in place until you need to pull it out. Positive grip simply means that you would have a full combat grip the moment you pull the gun out. That means you can pull the gun out with one hand, disengage the safety, and shoot. Ditch the holster if you need to do any more than this. In addition, the holster should allow you to draw and fire from any position, even with your weak hand. That way, you can still fire even when the attacker is right on top of you.
Belts are probably the last thing you think you need for concealed carry, but they have their importance. You want to have one that is sturdy enough to hold a loaded handgun and its magazine, but without being built in such a way that people know immediately that you are carrying.