Shorter barrel or shorter grip?

In concealed carry guns, you see two types of changes done to make the guns more concealable.  For example, in the case of the Springfield XD(m) 3.8, you saw that the barrel of the gun was shortened from 4.5 inches to 3.8 inches, but the grip remained the same size.  That’s the same idea as the venerable “Commander sized” 1911, where the barrel gets chopped down from 5 inches to 4.25, but retains the same size grip.

On the other hand, you’ll see other compact guns that have the grip size shortened to make the more concealable; while many of these guns often shorten the barrel as well, there are a lot of 4 inch “compact” guns with shorter grip frames than their full sized counterparts.  The ubiquitous Glock 19 comes to mind – while the barrel is slightly shorter than the 17, the size of the grip definitely makes it easier to conceal.

The question though is “what’s your preference”?  I have messed around a bit with putting a Glock 22 length slide on a Glock 23, giving me the shorter grip frame and the longer sight radius, and while I liked the longer sight radius, the balance felt off.  With the Ruger SR9c that I’ll be using for The Quest for Master Class on Downrange.TV, one of the options for magazines is to use a 17 round magazine with a grip extension on it.  What that does for the compact is give you a gun with a 3.5 inch sight radius but a fullsize grip.  The fullsize grip makes it easier to hold the gun and get rapid follow up shots.

One of the things we’ll test is the difference in effective shooting ability when using the standard flush fit 10 round magazines and the 17 round mags with the grip adapter on them.

But what I’d like to know is what you prefer for concealed carry?  Would you have rather a shorter barrel and a full size grip, or a shorter grip and a full size barrel?  Pretend for the moment that “shorter barrel and grip” isn’t an option (although it is) and that you’re forced to pick which one of those you would prefer.  I’m honestly leaning towards “shorter barrel, full sized grip” because it makes the gun a lot more shootable.  We’ll find out for sure on the Quest for Master Class!


  1. I would go with the longer barrel/shorter grip for a few reasons.

    1) I have small hands-at 5-5 with small hands even for a man that size I just don’t need the real estate to get all of my hand flesh in contact with the grip.

    2) I would think that in terms of energy, every 1/4 inch counts in terms of barrel length. See Ballistics by the Inch for example. You’re already compromising on effectiveness by using a pistol, why make that any less effective than it needs to be.

    3) Extended sight radius

    4) I would imagine that longer barrel adds a little more weight than larger grip helping to tame recoil.

    Of course I live in NY and can’t carry a concealed pistol since I’m not connected so take all this with an appropriately sized pile of salt.

  2. Shorter barrel, for the reason you state. That’s pretty much what I get with my P7M8. This does make the gun butt heavy, which is particularly noticeable with a steel framed compact like the P7. But even with a polymer frame, a big double-stack magazine has some heft above the belt. Fortunately, The Belt Man will make you a nice stiff horsehide belt with an additional internal stiffener. Combined with a holster with broad set loops, everything stays right where it should.

  3. I agree – longer barrel/shorter grip – when my guns print, they print at the grip. I’ve put a Hogue bantam on my 2″ J-frame, and some Spegel boot grips on a 3″ K-frame. From a “printing” perspective I find the difference negligible. Also, my Dan Wesson CBOB conceals much better than my full size Govt. Model, and it’s not because the barrel is shorter, but because of the bobtail. Just my $0.02.

  4. I carried a Glock 26 back when I lived in a state that would let me. You know what I noticed more than length or height of the gun? The width. A thin gun is much much easier to conceal.

  5. Thickness and grip. That’s why I’m current in love with CCO-style 1911s. I briefly considered making a carry 1911 out of an officer’s frame and government-sized slide, but it seemed a little too ridiculous.

  6. I’m a longer barrel / shorter grip guy. I’m tall & skinny, so the grip is what really makes concealing tough.

    That’s part of the reason I like single stacks so much.

  7. If I have to choose, longer barrel shorter grip. A friend of mine carries a Glock 21 he cut down to take G30 mags. When carrying IWB, the grip is what prints. More barrel extending down inside the pants doesn’t really make a difference.

  8. I’ve got an XD-45 Compact and several magazines with a grip adapter/sleeve similar to this. I’ve pretty much trained myself out of this problem, but initially I would pinch the skin on the palm of my strong hand when slamming magazines home. I had some nice blood blisters during this period.

    The short grip is nice for carrying though.

  9. What about width? I know the Walther PPS has some rave reviews, and some not so rave reviews, much of it centered around the grip. Though they combine the shortened grip with a shortened barrel, and narrow width in a package that delivers 40 SW. something that I can’t find from other companies. They also provide the option of using a longer magazine, but that has some negatives as well.

  10. Shorter barrel, longer grip:

    1. Recently in a class, several people shooting Glock 19’s in an El Presidente drill had a difficult time seating their magazines under the stress of time pressure. More real estate on the grip would have made a difference.

    2. Once a gun is concealed, it’s concealed. I dress around the gun, so once the grip is hidden, it’s pretty much hidden no matter what I’m doing. However, a longer barrel poking into my pants can be fine when standing, but a beast when sitting, and a nightmare when trying to drive.

    3. Considering how important the draw/presentation is, the more grip there is the better the draw can be. Out to about 10 yards I’m no less accurate with my G26 than I am with my G17, but my draw becomes a real guessing game when trying to get a grip on the G26 at speed.

  11. The more I think about this, the more I’m starting to agree with Andy. You dress around the gun to conceal the butt, because if I actually have to shoot a fool, I want as much gun to hold on to as possible.

  12. Andy is correct and I will add if you ain’t got a grip you ain’t got a good trigger finger either . 99% of handguns have some sort of rough finish somewhere on the grip for a reason, first rule is its a ‘ hand ‘ gun get a good grip or else all the rest doesn’t really matter .

  13. This has been a helpful discussion: I currently carry a HK USP .45 Tactical (not short in either direction) in a Blade-Tech UCH; it’s the grip and thickness that always give me trouble, not the 5.25″ barrel. I’ve been wondering what I should get to replace it, and hadn’t thought of some of these arguments (e.g. reloads) regarding grip size.

  14. I would definitely look at a THINNER gun. My commander sized 1911, which I’m currently wearing conceals very easily due to it’s relative thinness.

  15. I’m thinking thinner as well, but I have monkey arms and really long fingers. I can comfortably get past the first joint (nearly to the second) on a 92FS in double-action pull. My concern (perhaps unjustified) is that with a thinner grip, even less of the meat of my hand would be wrapping around the gun, and my fingers would stick out farther. (This is coming from someone who’s only ever picked up a 1911 once, briefly, before I had any of these sorts of considerations in mind.)

    I guess I should go find one and try it out. Unfortunately, the closest shop (that I know of) which sells pistols is nearly an hour away.

  16. I typically carry a 5″ XD45 compact.

    The longer barrel is no issue with IWB, but the shorter grip is a must for concealability.

    Not to go all broken record (kids, ask your grandparents) but the thickness is key. My GLOCK 30 was smaller in all aspects than my XD45 except width. It seemed 4X as hard to hide.

    The only time barrel length was an issue was when I daily carried at work with a SmartCarry. Then my 4″ XD45 compact became the preffered gat o’ the day.

    When I tried the 5″ XD, I looked really, really happy to be at work.

  17. It’s harder to conceal a long grip than a long barrel. The grip needs to be usable but a big honking full size XD grip ain’t easier to conceal than a full length barrel gun.

  18. The grip is harder to conceal. The best compromise, I think, is the smallest grip that you can get all your fingers on. I like the officer’s frame for this reason.

  19. I’m a n00b, but doesn’t how and where you carry affect the barrel/grip discussion? I use a shoulder rig, and it’s alot easier for me to hide grip size than barrel length.

  20. Nancy, that’s absolutely true. For example, if you carry appendix style then a shorter barrel is very important because a longer tube can jab you in a uh…unpleasant way when you sit down.

  21. Maybe I said it badly the first time.
    I carry a full size 1911 because I am completely at home with it , it fits my hand and it is comfortable in my hand and from there everything else falls into place and its concealable too.
    I guess what I am trying to say is …if it fits your hand and is comfortable then you are 97% there,if its comfortable the shooting small and quick groups will come and it is amazing how easy it is to conceal many things on your person.I once saw a perfectly normal looking young man walk up to a table and produce 21 handguns on that table and a few other weapons ,I was amazed to say the least and learned that if he could do that anyone can learn to do it.So I guess conceal-ability is a relative term.On the belt ,strong side, I find that for me somewhere between the back of the front pocket and front side of the back pocket works best but thats not so for everyone and it won’t work in a car or a public potty,thats work best done by a shoulder holster.
    I can’t shoot bullseyes with every gun I can conceal but I can conceal every gun I can shoot bullseyes with.

  22. I wear a Commander, becuase a Government Model is too long for me to sit for long periods when IWB.

    If I was going to go smaller with a 1911 style gun, though, I’d put an Officer size frame under a Commander slide, because I’m already at the point where if I can hide an Officer length slide, I can hide teh Commander slide.

    I do need to get a business/summer gun for times and places where an neither an untucked loose shirt nor a loose jacket are appropriate, or where printing is more of an issue for me than in jeans and a barn coat(as it is in a suit).

  23. I would say shorter barrel, but then I have gorilla hands.
    I have an older Firestar .45 and the short grip makes it difficult to control with 1 1/2 fingers hanging in the wind. Of course at 6’2′ ] and 240 I can nearly conceal my .44 Desert Eagle, so it is rather a moot point.

  24. It really depends on how you carry, IWB or OWB. When carrying OWB, it’s important to have a short barrel so it doesn’t peek out when you sit down or reach above you. When carrying IWB, barrel length doesn’t manner and a smaller grip is more concealable. I prefer IWB with a 1911 CCO myself because I don’t have to dress around the gun as much.

  25. The more I think about this, the more I’m starting to agree with Andy. You dress around the gun to conceal the butt, because if I actually have to shoot a fool, I want as much gun to hold on to as possible.

    How come you can dress around the butt of the gun but are totally made of fail when it comes to dressing around the barrel?

    Yeah, that’s what I want: I big, full-size grip and a stubby, fast-cycling, slide with no sight radius and far greater sensitivity to spring rates and ammo types.

    Or, no, wait! I could just dress around the whole damn gun!

    A winner is me!

  26. You know, I think we have finally found an instance where competition shooting has messed with my head. When I think about guns for carry, I tend to think a lot about the draw – the presentation, because stages are often won and lost on the draw, especially in “short form” stages like IDPA and Steel Challenge. A lot of times, “concealment” doesn’t really enter in to the mental equation. Although with the SR9c, it’s going to be pretty easy to conceal since it’s so damn small.

  27. I have two “favorites” for concealed carry. A Colt CCO and a S&W Model 65 with Hogue Bantam Grips. Both are just long enough for me to get a decent grip on and are a perfect balance of sight radius and compact length.

  28. IZinterrogator,

    I’ve done IWB with full size Government models and 4″ K-frames.

    The barrel is too long — the gun hit the chair about a 1/2″ before my butt does, jamming the gun painfully into me.

    I could solve that by using an IWB holster that carries the gun higher, but then the draw stroke is uncomfortably high. The resulting draw is slower, clumsy, prone to poor grip, and uncomfortable. (I don’t even like the “high” presentaion OWB belt rigs for the same reason — I want the top of the grip at or below the top of my belt.)

    Or, I could get the Commander slide (which is really not that much shorter than a Gov’t, but is short enough) or a 3″ K-frame (I suppose a 3.5″ barrel revolver would likely work, but I’ve never owned one).

    I haven’t noticed a SIGNIFICANT difference in my offhand accuracy with a Commander or 3″ Smith versus a Government or 4″ Smith.

    So why would I even consider carrying a larger, less comfortable gun, that is harder to draw and is less likely to be carried? They’re perfectly fine in OWB, and if I’m caryring OWB I have no issue hiding the extra length. Any cover garment I would wear that will cover a 4.25″ Commander will ALSO cover a 5″ Gov’t.

    If I am carrying in a vertical shoulder rig, the extra length is not a significant issue, although the slightly shorter guns are easier for me to comfortably conceal, given the length of my torso. Surprisingly (given the depth of my torso, front-to-back), the shorter guns are reaadily concealed in a horizontal shoulder rig, but the full size guns ALWAYS end up printing when rigged for a comfortable, secure, carry and drawstroke.

    But I prefer IWB where possible — it’s more comfortable, better concealment, and provides me slightly more comfort of mind. Plus, I have never “clunked” when walking past a counter or through a narrow doorway with an IWB — an occurance that always widges me out just a hair when it’s happened.

    Since 0.75″ – 1.0″ makes such a HUGE difference in MY ability to comfortably and readily conceal, carry, and draw, I’ll ot for the slightly shorter top end, and not worry about the nearly insignificant loss in sight radius and theoretical terminal performance.

    On the other hand, I’ve fired (and briefly concealed, for trial purposes) an Officer’s sized 1911, an Officer’s style 1911 with a Commander sized top end, and 2″ K-frames.

    I did NOT see a significant improvement in “carryability”, and I DID see a significant degradation in “shootability” for the “snubbies” (calling an Officer’s Model a “snubbie” 1911 for comparison).

    I DID notice a slight improvement in the “carryability” of the Officer height/Commander length combo, sufficient that it was significantly easier to readily conceal in a business suit IWB, OWB, or vertical shoulder. I didn’t try the standard Officer’s Model in a horizontal shoulder rig; I suppose it might have passed the “business suit” test that way, where a standard Commander wouldn’t.

    But realistically for me:

    1. Full size guns are for open carry.

    2. Mid-size guns (Commander, 3″ K-frame, etc.) are for general concealed carry. If I can wear a jacket, open covering shirt (although Nancy says my untucked unbuttoned chambray shirt over a t-shirt or polo is a dead giveaway like a photog vest or “shoot me first” fanny pack), or even a loose untucked Hawaiian, I can still use these guns perfectly well.

    3. “Summer carry” (anything I couldn’t use my general carry piece for, like a tucked shirt and shorts)/”business carry” is best handled by moving to a smaller all-around frame size, like a 2″ J-frame, or a Kahr in size. There’s simply not enough improvement in the micro versions of full size frames to bother.

    4. Deep cover, where I am most seriously concerned with printing or inadvertant flashing would be a driver for something smaller, like one of the new .380s. I used to use a Baby Browning for this until it’s retirement to a safe queen ten years or so ago.

  29. I did think of something else while re-evaluating all of this in my head.

    I have short arms. Like the rest of my body, but my arms are short for my overall body size. So a 3.5 inch gun in an IWB holster can be carried a lot lower than a 5 inch gun in an IWB holster and clear leather a lot faster.

  30. That one paragraph should read,

    “I did NOT see a significant improvement in “carryability”, and I DID see a significant degradation in “shootability” for the “snubbies” (calling an Officer’s Model a “snubbie” 1911 for comparison). What carryability improvement I saw was more than overcome by the shootability degradation.”

    While the next should begin,

    “I DID notice a slight improvement in the “carryability” of the Officer height/Commander length combo, sufficient that it was significantly easier to readily conceal in a business suit IWB, OWB, or vertical shoulder. Other than recovery time between shots being a skosh longer, I didn’t notice ANY degradation in shootability with the combo Officer/Commander. Didn’t like the feel of the grip as much as full length, but it shot fine.”

  31. Caleb, as Tam said in response to a comment my wife made (in their case, about how hard it is to find clothes for really tall women),

    “Testify, Brother!”

    My generally stubby build and T-Rex arms mean that a draw from a high-presentation holster (ESPECIALLY a full length service pistol) is in my armpit by the time I get the gun out, even if I’m wearing jeans at the hips.

    It’s the same problem (well, one of them) Nancy has with a strong-side belt gun. Only in her case it’s her short torso length that creates the problem (the gun starts out in her armpit.)

    And sometimes that 3/4″ makes all the difference in the world in clearing the muzzle before the arm hits it’s mechanical limit.

    The takeaway?

    YMMV. Pick the gun and rig YOU like, and are comfortable carrying.

    If that means a gold-plated Deagle in a cheap nylon thigh rig, cool. (I reserve the right to point and laught.)

    If that means a Beretta Jetfire in a pocket rig and a BUC (Back Up Coffee), cool. (I reserve the right to kid you about the Taylor Factor of a cafe latte Grande for years to come.)

    If that means a scandium J-frame .357 Magnum with wood boot grips in a belly band under a snapped cowboy shirt (for the Superman draw), cool. ( I reserve the right to buy stock in your orthopedist’s practice.)

    Whatever works for you.

  32. Grip is the leading factor of the two for me when *carrying*. I want it small to reduce printing.

    IWB on the strong side the barrel has zero issues to dress around. I actually wish my PM9 was a bit longer to aid stability in the holster.

    “Best possible tool when the flag goes up” is a factor sure. But we don’t carry rifles either. I carry the damn thing way more than flag wave it so I optimize that. When the world goes pear shaped, I don’t think the dimensions of the grip will decide the winner. To each their own though. Gotta keep the world spinning. 😉

  33. BTW: Yes to all the “run what works for you” regarding body shape. I am thankful for being a 5′ 11″ slim(ish) male every time I go shopping with my wife. She has a carry permit but hasn’t made the leap to carrying regularly. If she ever does, god help us finding a method for her to do so comfortably. Removing the curves is NOT an option. Save the curves!

  34. Look at cross draw possibilities, including shoulder rigs. A weakside belt or horizontal shoulder rig adjusted to hide in the curves may work well. (Yeah, it SEEMS funny at first to rig a shoulder holster so it is almost at belt level, but for some people it works really well.)

    Send her over to the Cornered Cat (I don’t recall the URL offhand) for ideas, but remember that just as not all guys are shaped alike, not all women are, either — what works for one may not work for another.

  35. I’m watching this closely.

    I’m 6′ 3″ 145 lbs., calling me skinny is being generous. The current guns I own are full size grips both of them print horribly.

    I hate to say this, but is there a gun store that has guns AND HOLSTERS I can TRY ON before I buy?? If there is I’d easily go in and drop $750 on a gun, holster, and belt if they can prove that I can carry without printing in my normal clothes.

  36. I’ll jump into the fray, I vote for a shorter slide with a full size frame. Of course thinner would be better.

    before anyone seeks to perform and excorcism let me clarify, I used to carry IWB a Sig P226 in a Galco Summer Comfort. It worked just fine but every so often the bottom of the holster would bump something and the whole gun would tweak. Not bad because it didn’t happen all the time, but it was rather annoying.

    So I switched to a Sig P229 in a Summer Comfort and it works AWESOME! I have switched from the Summer Comfort to an Adams Hybrid Holster and I switch that off with a Comp Tac MTAC. No one knows I’m carrying and I have the large, nearly full size grip (I think the difference in grip is about 1/16″. But the slide is much shorter.

    What I’d love is a .40 S&W Sig P225 with a full size frame with 10+1 capacity. Hey a guy can dream can’t he?

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