Oh, the hours I spent behind the gun counter, guiding people through this decision. We keep looking for that (literal) magic bullet, the One Gun To Rule Them All, the gun that will turn us into Wyatt Earp every time we pull the trigger.
That gun doesn’t exist. If it did, I’d be using it.
What does exist is you, your life, and a gun that will fit into your life with a minimum of fuss and bother. The saying within the gun community is that carrying a a gun should be comforting, not comfortable.
I say, is it too much to ask for both?
First, the good news. We are in a golden age of guns right now. It is really, really hard to buy a bad gun these days. The vast majority of pistols out there are reliable, accurate and will serve you well for years and years on end.
Now, the bad news: There are a LOT of pistols to choose from right now, and because they’re all really, really good, finding one that stands out from the others can be really, really tough. Greg Ellifritz is a cop and trainer and one of the most-respected voices out there in the firearms community, and his breakdown of what to look for in a defensive firearm is a good starting point for most people.
What do I carry, and what do I recommend?
I carry a 9mm Smith and Wesson Shield on my strong side hip in a Blade-Tech Nano IWB holster. The magazine inside the gun has a +1 capacity follower from MagGuts giving me 9+1 in my gun, and I also carry a reload on my support side hip.
I’ve shot this gun in training, practice and competition, and I know I that can pass the FBI Pistol Qualification Test with it at the instructor level as well as make 50-yard shots with it when needed. Ammo-wise, I use Federal HST 147 Grain HST hollow points, because they’re proven to be outstanding performers in gelatin and also on the streets.
What do I recommend? Jeremy Clarkson, arguably the most well-known automotive journalist on the planet, recently said “What do I say when people ask me what car they should buy? ‘Get a Volkswagen Golf,’ I say. Want something sporty? Buy a GTI. Got a family? Get the wagon. Want economy? Get the diesel.” The same thing applies to guns. Popular guns are popular for a reason. For someone just starting out in the concealed carry world, I recommend something larger than the Shield I carry. I usually recommend something like a Glock 19, M&P 9c or a similar, compact 9mm striker-fired pistol. The slightly larger size of those guns means you have more to hang onto (which increases your accuracy), but yet they are still very easy to conceal and light enough to carry every day.
Your choice in a defensive gun is yours alone. Go to a range that rents guns, and try out a few for yourself. Remember that you’re not looking for a solution that works right now, rather, you’re looking to create a pathway to an armed, secure lifestyle.