Handguns: Today’s Top Carry Options

Ruger LC-380.
Ruger LC-380.

For all the hype over AR-style rifles in recent years, ask any gun shop owner and it’s handguns—ones made for carrying concealed specifically—that continue to drive the hyper-powered firearms market.

Fun and easy to shoot and even easier to keep hidden from prying eyes or tipping your hand to would-be thugs, these six new and recent models on the scene are worth a serious look next time you’re in the market for a defensive sidearm.

Ruger LC380

Ruger LC-380.
Ruger LC-380.

Running with the interest in a soft-shooting carry gun, Ruger’s LC380 morphs the company’s popular LC9 design into a .380-caliber package. This 6-inch long, 17-ounce lightweight is only 4 inches tall and less than an inch wide. It holds 7+1 rounds that cycle through an alloy steel slide and barrel and one-piece glass-filled nylon grip frame. Features include a high-visibility three-dot sight, checkered grips, a finger grip extension floorplate for a lengthened hold and a number of safety features including an internal lock, manual safety, a magazine safety and loaded chamber indicator. The finish is blued. ($449; ruger.com)

Kahr CM9

Kahr CM9.
Kahr CM9.

Compact in size, yet still full of Kahr’s top line features, the CM9 is a compact 9mm semi-auto made with a black polymer frame and matte stainless steel slide. The frame boasts 4140 steel inserts molded inside to aid in its durability for many rounds of shooting. The 3-inch barrel and .9-inch width aids in the gun’s compactness as does its 4-inch barrel and 14-ounce unloaded weight. It holds six rounds in the mag plus one in the pipe. Kahr’s smooth-double action only trigger aids rapid firing. The hammerless design allows for a higher grip for less felt recoil. Drift adjustable, white bar-dot combat sights round out the package of this well-designed semi-auto. ($517; kahr.com)

Taurus Millennium G2

Taurus Millenium G2.
Taurus Millenium G2.

Designed for carry, Taurus melted both the slide and poly-overmolded steel frame to produce nonsnagging contours to the semi-auto. The polymer pistol is available in 9mm or .40 caliber with a progressive single-action/double-action trigger, 3-dot low-profile sights, ambidextrous thumb rests, finger indexing memory pads on the grips for a quick, consistent hold that will aid rapid aiming and target acquisition and a Picatinny rail beneath the front of the barrel for lights or lasers. The G2 is a cool looking piece that holds 12 rounds in the 9mm configuration and 10 rounds in the .40. Overall length is 6.2 inches, height is 5.1 inches and the width is 1.2 inches. It comes at an unbeatable price, too. ($349; taurususa.com)

Walther PPQ M2

Walther PPQ M2.
Walther PPQ M2.

Sleek lines and ergonomic contours define the M2’s appearance as a tapered slide and textured grip dresses out this striker-fired semi-auto available in 9mm or .40 S&W. The gun is light at 21 ounces and fits nicely in the hand with an overall length of 7.1 inches. Performance is enhanced with the Quick Defense Trigger that is precocked and set to deliver a constant pull at 5.6 pounds. The 9mm version holds 15 rounds, the .40 caliber model, 11. Additional features include three grip back straps for a custom-like fit, three safeties, an ambidextrous-friendly mag release and 3-dot metal sights. ($599-$699; waltherusa.com)

Bersa BP9

Bersa BP9CC.
Bersa BP9CC.

This year, Bersa rolled out their first polymer frame handgun in the form of the BP9 and packed it with features to appeal to the concealed-carry shooter. The 9mm BP9 is striker fired and features an ambidextrous magazine release, Picatinny rail, polygonal rifling, loaded chamber indicator, micro-polished bore, integral locking system and 3-dot low-profile sighting system for rapid aiming. The magazine holds eight rounds. The BP9 tips the scales at 21.5 ounces and is 6.35 inches long and just short of 5 inches tall. It comes in three color schemes including an all-matte finish, a duo-tone model with a matte frame and nickel slide and another duo-tone model with an olive drab frame and matte slide (pictured). ($444-$455; bersa.com)

Colt .380 Mustang Pocketlite

Colt .380 Mustang.
Colt .380 Mustang.

While some debate the effectiveness of the .380 in delivering adequate knockdown power, the compact size and manageable recoil make it a popular carry option. The recent releases of .380 models such as the Colt .380 Mustang Pocketlite underscores that. The Mustang boasts a nickeled aluminum alloy receiver, brushed stainless steel slide and barrel, all machined from solid bar stock. Even with a loaded mag of six rounds, the gun tips the scales at less than a pound. Empty, it weighs a mere 12.5 ounces.  Overall length of the Mustang is 5.5 inches making this the perfect pocket pistol. Additional features include high-profile sights, a commander-style hammer, standard safety lock, lowered ejection port and aluminum trigger. ($599; coltsmfg.com)

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from the June 30, 2013 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

What's your favorite small carry pistol? Log in below and leave a comment!

Recommended resources for concealed carry:

Gun Digest Book of Concealed Carry - 2nd EditionThe Gun Digest Book of Concealed Carry 2nd Edition

The Gun Digest Book of Combat Handgunnery

Gun Digest Shooter's Guide to Handguns

Find more resources at



  1. Living in California, we are increasingly limited in the handguns available for non law enforcement to purchase. I have a Springfield xd 9mm subcompact.

  2. I prefer a gun with a bit more power so I carry a Springfield EMP .40. There are some bad guys out there, hopped up on PCP or some such drug who’s first response upon being shot with a 380 or 38 would be, more often than not, to get pissed off at the shooter rather than go down. I’d rather be certain that I get the perp’s attention and the EMP is an ideal size for concealed carry and packs a punch at the same time.

  3. Of the group of guns listed here, I would have to pick the Colt Mustang 380 or the Kahr CM9, but if I want a hi-capacity ccw weapon, then I’d probably carry my Browning BDA380 13+1 capacity, over the Taurus, Bersa or Walther listed here. As quite a few have said, the Ruger LCP is a great little pocket CCW piece. I love mine, had it 3+ years now, accurate and reliable with most any ammo out there. Get a Hogue rubber sleeve for it and it greatly increases your grip and eases the recoil of this tiny lightweight 380.

  4. Ruger 380 is the gun I carry. I love the weight of it, the grip fits nicely in my hands, and I believe it has enough velocity to protect myself. I once carried a .45 Sig and after years of an ankle holster and other methods of trying to conceal it, I gave up and decided it probably was more gun than I needed for off duty (I am retired cop), plus I couldn’t carry it well wearing a dress or skirt. I have a conceal carry purse, it’s awful! My husband bought it, and it’s difficult to even get the small 380 inside of it, much less a larger gun!

  5. Since I am a small framed woman I chose the North American Arms .380 as a CC weapon. It is compact so I can carry it just about anywhere. I have absolutely never purchased a handgun that is as accurate as the NAA right out of the case. I also carry for my everyday use (not concealed) a Sig .40 and I love it! I have owned and shot it for nearly ten years now and for a woman….in my opinion…there is no other choice. It fits my hand well, it doesn’t have an immense recoil and a Sig will never let you down.

  6. I have the Colt Mustang and I absolutely love it. I carry it several ways ( inside the waist band, flash bang and my handbag) and it works perfect for all of them. It is easy to shoot and doesn’t hurt my hands to shoot!

  7. I own the LCP and I’m very happy with it. Like Steve said, “can’t beat it”. Nice and small, comfortable to shoot. In my pocket or on my belt, don’t know it’s there.

  8. Just curious why the Taurus and Walther are mentioned as being available in 9 & 40, the Ruger LC380 is mentioned as being available in 9 but there is no mention of the Kahr CM or Bersa BP being available in 40?

  9. I’m a diehard Ruger LCP fan. I have Hybrid Hogue grips with a crimson trace laser and nightsiters front and rear sites. Seven shot clip +1 weighs 13oz. can’t beat it.Sometimes I forget I’m carrying it..And at 7 yards very accurate. It’s either in my pocket holster or on my waist…


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