My perfect carry gun

Everyone who carries has a preference in their carry gun; some people are fans of 1911s, some people love Glocks, etc. What makes a good carry gun for me may not make a good carry gun for you, people are different sizes/have different size hands, modes of carry, etc.

I did get an email from a reader asking me why I carry revolvers and DA autos pretty much exclusively.  Instead of replying back, I’ll explain what criteria I use to select a good carry gun, in the order that they matter to me.

  1. Reliability: That’s factor number one.  A gun I’m going to carry has to absolutely go bang every time I press the trigger, I don’t want to sit there wondering in the back of my head “if I need this, will it shoot?”
  2. Ease of function: I don’t like manual safeties.  They annoy me.  I really hate grip safeties.  If I’m drawing from concealment against a threat, the fewer manual steps I have to take with my firearm to get into the fight, the happier I am.  That’s actually my biggest dis qualifier for  1911 style guns, the grip safety combined with the manual safety are two big strikes against the platform for me.
  3. Ease of carry: Clint Smith says that guns should be comforting, not comfortable.  I agree in that the purpose of carrying a defensive firearm isn’t to look fashionable, but at the same time if a gun isn’t comfortable to carry for long periods of time, I’m going to leave it at home.  It’s got to carry well in a variety of methods for me to use it.
  4. Shootability: I love made-up words, and shootability is one of my favorites.  It’s referring to the traits of a gun that make it easier to place accurate hits on target.  The trigger pull, sight radius, grip angle, felt recoil, etc.  Shootability is my last criteria in selecting a defensive handgun.  A gun with a high shootability score is a Ruger 22/45, which isn’t a great carry gun.  My Taurus .45 ACP Tracker has a much lower shootability score, but it’s one of 3 guns I carry on a regular basis.

A lot goes into picking a carry gun; when people ask me for advice the first thing I say is “carry the most powerful gun you can use with accuracy and consistency”.  If the biggest cartridge you can handle is a .32 ACP, then get a great .32 ACP and carry that.  It still beats a pointy stick in the eye.

In case you’re wondering, my regular carry guns are a Beretta 92D Centurion DAO 9mm, a Taurus Tracker w/2 inch barrel in .45 ACP, and then for those rare days when I can’t conceal either of those guns, a Walther P22 in .22LR loaded with 60 grain Aguila SniperSubSonic rounds.  Prior to getting the Beretta 92D, I carried a Taurus PT92, which is now my full time nightstand gun.  The PT92 and the Walther are both DA/SA autos, which I carry safety off with the hammer down on a live round.


  1. Check out the new single stack 9mm from Kel-Tec (PF-9 I think). Unlike the P11 it has a nice trigger and is pretty slim. I’d give you a link but access is limited at the j-o-b.

  2. It is tiny. I’m waiting with baited breath for the XR-9 though, if/when it goes into production that might make my “micro-9mm” list.

  3. I showed the Mrs the XR-9 last night, she’s interested in them too. It would be great to see it on the market but I’m not going to hold my breath!

  4. I’ve carried a Glock 30, .45 ACP, for the last 8 years. Works well under a jacket or in a fanny pack, but it’s a bit heavy. In Texas, I was relegated to the “fanny pack” carry for 9 months out of the year, and it was getting old. Plus, it screams “I’m armed” to all but the most oblivious sheep. I just got myself a Kahr PM9. Haven’t fired it yet, but it has a good feel in the hand and drops in a front pocket holster. 9mm ain’t a .45, but it’s still a serious self defense round. At less than a pound empty it’s going to be sporty, but I didn’t get it to plink cans on the weekend. I’m a firm believer in the old addage, “The little gun you have with you beats the hand-cannon you left at home every time.”

  5. Why would grip safeties be a problem? You say “the fewer manual steps I have to take with my firearm to get into the fight, the happier I am.” Well, the grip safety adds exactly zero steps and zero time to your draw.

  6. I hate to say this, since you’ve probably heard it… the Walther P22 is a severe violation of your carry rule #1. Yours may be working fine, but I’ve seen several with SBS syndrome (suddenly broken slide) and my own unit had a trigger bar failure and refused to shoot double action any more.

  7. Yeah, the P22 rarely gets carried, but since it’s had about a zillion rounds through it with no malfunctions, I’m pretty confident in the “bang” aspect of it.

    From what I understand, the P22s that broke a lot were from the early run of the guns, mine is later production. For whatever reason, I appear to have gotten the gem of the P22 line, although when I do get it up around the 10-15k round count, I’ll probably retire it and pick up a new uber-compact carry gun.

  8. You have been very lucky, because the broken slide issue has occurred with two newer guns, one about a year old and the other within 2000 rounds of new, last month.

    The P22 is wonderful in concept, but the execution leaves much to be desired. I would LOVE to see someone make an aftermarket steel slide…

  9. A steel slide would be pretty pimp, but would then sort of ruin the whole “economical fun blaster” concept by jacking the price up a bit.

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