Looking to go armed, but are stuck in the weeds as to what to arm yourself with? Here are six excellent concealed carry handgun options that will keep you on the defensive.

Six concealed carry handguns to depend on:

Smith & Wesson M&P Shield Performance Center Ported

SW-MPShield-9-2-Perf - concealed carry handguns
Whether I say it’s the best carry gun or not, America has chosen, and 20 percent of concealed carry guns sold in the U.S. are Smith and Wesson Shields. That’s a huge segment of a very large market, and it reflects the faith of a lot of people that the Shield is a good choice. With a weight of 19 ounces, a capacity of seven or eight plus one, striker-fired action and an MSRP of $479, the Shield represents a good compromise on everything. Simply put: It works.

Of course, even the most popular concealed carry gun in America can be improved, and with the introduction of the Performance Center Ported Shield, Smith and Wesson has done just that. I recently tested the Performance Center Shield equipped with a Crimson Trace Laserguard Pro, and the addition of both light and laser improve the overall performance of an already great gun for personal defense. With an MSRP of $519 for the gun and $279 for the Laserguard Pro, it’s versatile, effective and affordable. MSRP: $519

Glock 43

Glock 43
With an unloaded weight of less than 18 ounces and a small profile, the Glock 43 is slim, light and allows comfortable daily concealed carry — 365 days a year. It has good sights and is simple to operate. The 9mm caliber is a reasonable stopper, and even those who don’t like Glocks won’t argue with the reliability of a Glock. The Glock 43 is easy to learn to shoot and carries enough ammunition in the supplied magazine, and larger magazines are available. MSRP: $529

Springfield Armory XDe

Springfield - XDE9 339B_Flush_L_2- concealed carry -handguns
Springfield Armory’s XD series of pistols has been a huge success, and the standard XDs sports the added security of a grip safety and is a great gun in its own right. The newer XDe is the gun for a guy who just doesn’t trust a striker-fired trigger, and no one can argue against the advantage of second-strike capability. At 25 ounces, it’s a bit heavy for my criteria, but it’s certainly the best choice for a double/single-action gun, and heavier guns are easier to shoot well. It’s both affordable and reliable. MSRP: $519

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Kahr CM9

Kahr CM9
Lighter guns are more pleasant to carry, and the Kahr CM9 is both reliable and easy to concealed carry at just 14 ounces. It’s smaller than the above 9mms and packs a lot of punch with a six-plus-one capacity. It uses a long-stroke trigger system that feels like a light double action, but it lacks second-strike capability. The trigger is different than other striker-fired pistols, but it works really well for some people. Recoil is greater than heavier guns and not for the meek of heart, but it’s manageable with some practice. For those who just have to have more horsepower, it’s available in .40 S&W and .45 ACP with a bit more weight. MSRP: $460

Ruger LCP II

Ruger LCP II
Sometimes you just have to go small, and of the little guns, the Ruger LCP II is a winner. The LCP II corrected all the shortcomings of the very successful LCP by improving the sights, converting to a striker-fired-type trigger and providing slide lock on the last round. The beauty of the LCP II is its diminutive size and weight. If you can’t hide this gun, you can’t hide a gun. Yes, it’s just a .380, but modern, defensive .380 ammunition is better than the 158-grain round-nosed .38 Special loads that were once the standard for law enforcement. Another advantage is how easy it is to cycle the slide, which can be a big issue for older people and women with low hand strength. The LCP II is also quite affordable. MSRP: $349

Smith and Wesson 340 PD

Smith and Wesson 340 PD
The Smith and Wesson 340 PD wasn’t on the website for a few years, but now it’s back and it’s the ultimate Noisy Cricket. Like the explosively powered gun Will Smith fired in Men in Black, the 340 PD packs a serious punch at both ends. True, the 2-inch barrel degrades the performance of the .357 Magnum caliber, but even from a short barrel, it’s on par with a 9mm with a 5-inch barrel. At less than 12 ounces, it’s almost as light as the diminutive LCP II, though it does have a thicker profile. Lighter weight and power come at a price — $1,019 to be exact — and it’s not an easy gun to shoot because of brutal recoil. If you think it’s a bit much, there’s always the S&W 442 in .38 Special at just less than 15 ounces and an MSRP of $469. MSRP: $1,019

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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  1. I know this is an opinion-based article, and therefore is completely unscientific, etc. …But to not see a single Sig Sauer on the list, like the P238 or P938 listed. Yes, they’re expensive, but as hardware goes, they are second to none. Both are ultra-concealable, the 1911-style SAO means that no trigger pull is gonna take so much effort that it screws up your aim (can’t say that about the M&P, for sure…). Plus most come with tritium night sights that are perfectly serviceable in both daylight and darkness.

  2. I simply do NOT understand why people have this idea that a concealed carry handgun NEEDS to be an underpowered, and tiny handgun that is harder to handle than a mid or full size handgun.
    I would rather carry a round that I KNOW will put a two- or four- legged varmint down with a minimum of effort, and rounds expended.
    I am 5’5″ tall, and I have been carrying a full size Gov’t Model 1911 .45 ACP concealed for the better part of 40 yearsm with no difficulty whatsoever.
    And on the off days when I do not feel like carrying a pistol that I can also beat someone to death with, I carry a S&W J-Frame STEEL revolver, which has less recoil, and also packs a whallop if I do not feel like actually pulling the trigger…