The size of a concealed carry gun should be as small as possible, right? Over the past several years, my opinion on this topic has changed quite a bit.
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My First Concealed Carry Gun:
Around 14 years ago, the police department issued me a .40 Glock 22. At the time, there weren't hundreds of holster options for concealed carry.
Or, maybe there were, and I never saw them.
For the most part, my concealed carry holster was made of leather and had a basic belt clip on it.
Holster design and engineering have come a long way, and now holsters come in different materials like Kydex and Bolteron. In addition, modern holsters have accessories like wings, claws, and wedges that help with comfort and concealment.
When I graduated from the Police academy, my wife surprised me by taking me to a local gun store. We purchased a third-generation .40 Glock 27 (still the best generation of Glock, in my opinion).
The Glock 27 was the sub-compact version of my issued G22. This small G27 would be my off-duty, concealed carry gun.
For the longest time, I resolved to the idea that a sub-compact size gun would be all I could conceal.
Especially that I was thin and small in stature, I never challenged this belief, and no one pointed me in any other direction. So for nearly a decade, I carried the G27 with eight rounds of .40 in a Safariland inside the waistband (IWB) holster.
Challenging My Pre-conceived View:
This is the part of the story where I look back and realize that I became dogmatic in my approach to the size of my concealed carry gun. I convinced myself that I “knew best.”
Thinking about it, I wish I would have tried different holsters, carry methods, and guns instead of saying, “it works for me. I haven't had any problems with this setup.” But the thing is, I did have issues. I just didn't know it. And I should have at least challenged my view.
I am directing this post to myself at that time and anyone who can relate.
Perhaps you purchased the micro or sub-compact gun the store clerk recommended to you right before your concealed carry class. Maybe it actually isn't the best gun for you, or your needs and skills have changed since then.
Maybe you're small framed and think you can't conceal a gun larger than some tiny micro-compact Ruger LCP.
I hope to challenge your view on the idea of carrying a larger compact semi-auto handgun, or even full-size gun for concealed carry. I think most (not all) people can carry a larger gun than they think, and they can do it comfortably and without printing.
Why Consider a Larger Gun for Concealed Carry?
I wouldn't argue for the idea of carrying a larger size gun if there was no benefit. Here are some reasons to consider that larger gun for EDC.
Larger guns inherently have higher capacity. And while you may think you don't need more than “one good shot,” reality doesn't bear that to be factual. How much capacity? Well, my personal opinion would be not to carry anything with less than a 10 round capacity.
And yes, you can get extended magazines to increase the capacity of your existing handgun. The issue with that is if you add an extended magazine, you're making the part of the gun that is hard to conceal longer. So you're actually better off getting a larger gun from the get-go.
Let's use my Glock 27 as an example, whose standard capacity is 9 rounds. A Glock 23 (the same size as the well-known Glock 19) has a 14 round capacity. I could add a magazine extension that gives me 3 more rounds in my Glock 27. However, the added magazine length brought me to nearly the same size as the Glock 23.
So I still had less capacity and don't get the other benefits of a larger gun.
I also understand that you have spare magazines, holsters, and accessories that you may have to replace if you change guns. The economics of it sucks, and there isn't a simple answer to that problem.
This is one reason why I really recommend that if you're looking for a concealed carry gun, you get with someone knowledgeable who can help you try different size guns.
Sight Radius and Barrel Length:
I don't want to put a massive weight on either of these factors, but it is worth mentioning. The greater the distance between the rear and front sights, the more forgiveness you have when they are misaligned. How much this factors into a typical self-defense shooting is probably negligible. However, when shooting at long distances, significant differences in sight radius are noticeable.
Barrel length comes along with a longer slide and greater sight radius. The impact of an EDC gun's barrel length is primarily in projectile velocity. Velocity is more significant in long barrels compared to short. And velocity affects how self-defense, hollow point ammunition performs. We want consistent bullet penetration and expansion in our self-defense ammo.
Barrel length can also affect the accuracy but is not a significant factor for a concealed carry gun.
Grip Size and Ergonomics:
Your grip is an essential component of good shooting. The more contact our hand(s) make with the grip, the better control of the gun. This issue becomes evident for people with big hands when their fingers hang off the grip and provide no grip help.
But it is not just large-handed people who benefit from a larger grip. To a certain extent, even those with smaller hands can benefit from a larger grip surface area. Moreover, provided they can still adequately reach the magazine release, slide stop, and trigger, they feel more in control of a gun with a larger grip.
Sure you can add aftermarket “pinky extensions” to the magazine to help mitigate this issue. However, it is a fix that isn't necessary with a bigger size gun.
Larger guns have some benefits in how they “feel” when you shoot them. For example, larger, heavier guns tend to produce less felt recoil. On the other hand, recoil in tiny size guns can be described as “poppy” or “snappy” because there isn't much mass to counteract the forces of the gun's cycle of operations.
Bigger semi-auto handguns tend to be easier to rack. The slide has more surface area to grab ahold of and the recoil springs are also not as stiff as small guns. You could add a product like this slide spider to your slide, for extra grip.
Now, this is going to seem counter-intuitive but hang in there for a second. I have found that guns with longer slides conceal better than a handgun with a shorter slide. This fact is especially true when carrying in the appendix position but is applicable in traditional IWB (3 -4 o'clock).
The reason for this is that it places more of the gun's length below the beltline. Think of the gun as a lever, and the belt as a fulcrum. Our belly naturally presses the back of the gun away and over top of the belt. If there is not counter leverage applied to the muzzle end of the gun, the gun leans out over the belt and prints. A longer slide (and holster) counteracts this force and pressed the gun's grip back into the body, which provides greater concealment.
The slide length of a sub-compact Glock 27 is 6.26,” and a Glock 23's slide length is 7.32″. The difference between a sub-compact and a full-size Glock is barely over an inch. The extra slide length isn't significant enough to cause any comfort issue for most people. But the extra inch does allow better leveraging of the gun.
You may not yet have a red-dot optic on your EDC, but their benefits are becoming harder and harder to ignore. Even people like myself who were hesitant to adopt the technology several years ago have changed their minds and now have optics on their handguns.
Slides on small guns like the Sig P365 and the Springfield Hellcat are wide enough to mount the newer micro red-dots. But some of the older micro-compact firearms don't have the option. And no company will do a slide cut on some of these guns because there just isn't enough material there to cut.
Some Drawbacks of a Large Size Gun
Carrying a large gun is not without its drawbacks. Here are some challenges you will have to overcome.
Bigger guns weigh more. There isn't any getting around that reality. Also, with increased capacity comes added weight. So a good gun belt like this one from EDC Belt Company becomes even more critical considering the added weight. A sturdy, structured belt can help distribute the added weight and keep the gun in place.
Often, it isn't the increased weight or longer slide that is the biggest issue for concealment. Rather it is the length of the grip. Grip length increases with a larger gun and higher capacity. You may feel your torso is so narrow the grip length is nearly impossible to overcome, but don't give up hope.
Selecting the right holster makes a massive difference.
If you carry a large handgun for your EDC, you need to select a good holster. These holsters are often more expensive but so worth it. Components like wedges distribute pressure and eliminate hot spots while providing increased counter leverage to the gun. In addition, wedges make carrying a big gun more comfortable and concealable. A couple of my favorite companies are Phlster and Tier One Concealed.
Claws or wings provide a twisting force to the gun's grip by pushing on the backside of the belt. The pressure forces the grip of the gun into the body and makes the grip disappear.
Along with the holster, consider where on your body you carry the gun. I find appendix carry balances access, comfort, and concealment best.
Carrying a larger gun may not be of interest to you. And you may not want to change because of the money invested in your existing EDC.
However, if you're on the path of choosing a new or your first concealed carry handgun, don't box yourself into sub-compacts only. Nearly anyone can successfully conceal a Glock19-sized, compact handgun with the right holster.
I currently carry an Archon Type B, which is slightly larger than a Glock 19. Before switching to the Type B, my primary EDC carry was a Glock 19. I still occasionally carry my Sig P365, which balances capacity and size in the best way imaginable.
Have you transitioned to a larger handgun for EDC? Feel free to share your comments below.
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