When the weather heats up, many shooters ditch their usual carry pieces for lighter, more concealable guns. Here’s a list of 13 top summer carry guns.
What are some of the best lightweight summer carry guns?
- 1. Ruger LCP II
- 2. Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard 380
- 3. SIG Sauer P938
- 4. Glock 43
- 5. Colt Mustang
- 6. Ruger LCR/LCRx
- 7. Kahr CM9
- 8. Kimber Micro/Micro 9
- 9. Smith & Wesson Model 642
- 10. Kel-Tec P3AT
- 11. Springfield XD-S
- 12. Bersa Thunder 380 CC
- 13. Walther PPS M2
As temperatures climb in the late spring and reach a peak in the dog days of summer, many dress down to meet the occasion. T-shirts and shorts start to replace long pants and jackets as the predominant articles of clothing. And those who carry concealed might opt for summer carry guns that are lighter, smaller and less likely to print with their new warm-weather wardrobe.
There are a number of great pistols and revolvers that are well suited, or can be adapted, to fill this role. But the best are those that are dependable, small enough in size and weight to be easily and comfortably concealed in light clothing, and shootable enough to get the job done if called upon in a fight.
The options presented below don’t represent a comprehensive list of all the great summertime carry guns available. However, most of them are tried-and-true designs that will serve the shooter admirably. The majority weigh less than 20 ounces — with some coming in quite a bit less — and most are about 6 inches in length or less. And, all of these come in at under $800 for their base model.
Without further ado, here are 13 of the top summer carry guns available to shooters right now.
1. Ruger LCP II
Ruger’s original LCP has proved itself highly capable as a pocket, or micro .380 ACP pistol for carry. In its nearly decade-long existence, it’s become one of the most popular pistols in that category due to its reliability, compact design and affordability, with its incredible $259 MSRP.
These days, while the original LCP still certainly remains a serviceable option, Ruger has upgraded the platform with some beneficial changes in the form of the new LCP II. Probably the two most critical upgrades are the improvements made to the trigger and the addition of a last-round-hold-open function on the LCP II’s slide.
Obviously, the triggers on double-action pocket .380s designed for carry are not known for being overly impressive, but Ruger was able to improve upon the LCP’s trigger quite markedly in this new version. The trigger pull is substantially smoother, being fairly light and crisp, as well as quicker on the reset — and it incorporates a bladed trigger safety.
The last-round hold-open feature is of course important to many shooters, as it is a visual indicator of an empty mag; plus, it aids in slide manipulation. Other features, such as the grip, ergonomics and sights, are also upgraded, and the end price is still a highly affordable $349. And with dimensions of 5.17 inches in length, .75 inch in width and 3.71 inches in height, and a weight of just 10.6 ounces, you could hardly do better than the LCP II in terms of a micro .380.
2. Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard 380
A fairly compelling argument could be made for including the M&P Shield on this list. On basic configurations, the Shield's weight hovers right around 20 ounces; the gun is a touch over 6 inches in overall length, has a standard capacity of 7+1, can be found at some pretty affordable prices and has established itself as a dependable carry piece.
That said, if you want something a little more compact for summer wear, the M&P Bodyguard 380 is an excellent option. Like the Shield, the Bodyguard is priced affordably, with an MSRP of $379. Street prices can be even less.
You go from 9mm down to .380 ACP, which means it’s less potent, but you do shave off almost 8 ounces of weight and about an inch in length. The double-action-only trigger isn’t as good as the Shield’s striker-fired trigger, and the sights are probably a slight step down as well, from white dot to stainless steel adjustable. However, the trade off for increased concealability and comfort might be worth it to some.
3. SIG Sauer P938
The P938 has been around for several years now, and its predecessor, the P238, has been around a couple years longer. The original P238 is a scaled down version of the 1911 chambered in .380 ACP.
The P938 is, of course, a slightly beefed up version of the P238 in 9mm. As such, it's a touch longer and heavier (.4 inch and .8 ounce, respectively), but certainly nothing too dramatic.
Like the earlier P238, it has a fairly crisp 7.5-pound single-action trigger pull and similar 1911-style controls and safety. Both are available with SIGLITE night sights, a major plus for those who carry, as most defensive shootings occur in low light. And both fall into SIG’s micro-compact frame size category, meaning either is suitable in a pocket pistol role.
However, when the dimensional differences are so small, and since we live in a world where bigger is better and more is always better than less, it’s hard not to argue for the 9mm P938. One of the downsides to both these guns is that the price for either is something many will struggle with: The P238 starts at $679, while the P938 begins at $760. This is more than many pay for their compact or subcompact daily carry gun, and it’s a higher starting point than any of the other models on this list, so they might be hard to justify for some as summer carry guns.
A less expensive option from SIG is the subcompact P290RS ($492); though, it does have a slightly longer, and heavier, double-action trigger pull at about 9 pounds, and it weighs just a touch more. As a side note on the P238 and P938, SIG recently introduced “We The People” versions of both guns, which feature a beautiful distressed finish and commemorative patriotic engravings.
4. Glock 43
A lot of people who know a good deal about concealed carry handguns have referred to the Glock 19 as a perfect, or nearly perfect, gun for carry. It’s big enough to shoot well pretty easily, yet small enough to conceal with the right holster and clothing choice. It’s got Glock’s standard and fairly decent 5.5-pound trigger, and is loaded with 15 rounds of 9mm boom. And, it’s a Glock, which means it’s pretty much guaranteed to be reliable. This is, of course, why the G19 has been and continues to be one of the most popular handguns on the market.
But in truth, for some, and especially during warm, summer weather, it’s just not quite as light and concealable as you’d like it to be. The Glock 43 is, without question, both of those things.
Fully loaded, the G43 weighs a bit more than 22 ounces. It’s 6.26 inches in length, 4.25 inches in height and just a touch over 1 inch in width. Now, to get these figures, you do sacrifice quite a lot in terms of round count — 15 down to six — but if it’s a decision between carrying a smaller, lower-capacity gun and not carrying anything, it’s really no decision at all.
When the G43 officially launched in 2015, there was a ton of hype surrounding the new 9mm single-stack pistol. It, of course, followed on the heels of Glock’s even lighter G42 in .380 ACP, which, although nice, wasn’t what shooters had wanted for years (incidentally, the G42 is also a great option for a summertime carry gun).
The G43 hasn’t had the same amount of time to establish itself as the G19 has had, but I think many would say that the hype given the 43, while immense, probably isn’t undeserved. It’s a very shootable gun, conceals easily and offers Glock’s proven reliability. And if you’re one of those people who thinks six rounds isn’t enough to get the job done, there’s always Glock’s 26 (AKA the “Baby Glock”), which weighs about 4 ounces more but does offer a 10-round standard capacity.
5. Colt Mustang
One of the older handgun designs to make this list so far, the Colt Mustang (essentially a scaled down 1911 in .380 ACP), in various forms, has been around since 1983. Throughout the ‘80s several improvements and additional models were introduced, and in the early- to mid-90s, two other models were added.
Then, in the late ‘90s, the Mustang was discontinued. This was done, according to some sources, in order for Colt to shift more focus to military sales.
Regardless, given the boom in the civilian concealed carry market within the past decade or so, Colt decided to reintroduce the Mustang back in 2011. When it was first introduced in 1983, the .380 ACP Mustang weighed 21.75 ounces and lacked a safety. The two Mustangs Colt currently lists in its catalog today range in weight from 11.5 to 12.5 ounces, and both feature a thumb safety, with the Mustang Lite’s being ambidextrous.
Today’s Mustangs offer a 6+1 capacity and are designed to be a bit more durable than their predecessors. Both models have an overall length of 5.5 inches, a height of 3.9 inches and a width of 1.06 inches. Given these dimensions and their scant weight, these two modern-day Mustangs are highly concealable and easy to carry comfortably.
The front sight on the Pocketlite model is a fixed blade, whereas it is dovetailed on the Lite. Rear sights are dovetailed on both models.
Despite its relatively miniscule size, the Mustang remains fairly shootable. Much of this can be attributed to the frame design, as well as a relatively crisp, single-action trigger pull between 4.5 and 6 pounds.
6. Ruger LCR/LCRx
The LCR, or Lightweight Compact Revolver, line has been pretty successful for Ruger ever since its introduction in 2009. At the time, it was something of a groundbreaking new release.
It was billed as the first-ever production revolver to feature a polymer grip frame. The little wheelgun also featured some of the most aggressive cylinder fluting on any revolver of the time, which, like the polymer grip frame, helped to reduce weight. The LCR weighed in at a scant 13.5 ounces, making it one of the lightest production revolvers at the time.
Initially introduced in just two models, today it is available in a host of different models and calibers, including versions with external hammers (designated the LCRx). Chamberings today include the original .38 Special +P as well as the .22 LR, .22 WMR, 9mm, .357 Magnum and the relatively new .327 Federal Magnum.
With the exception, perhaps, of the .22 LR and .22 WMR, all of these calibers are adequate for personal defense. Felt recoil might become an issue at the higher end of this gun’s caliber range (.327 Federal and .357 Magnum) given its light weight, but with adrenaline pumping through your body during a close-range defensive encounter, that might be less noticeable. Luckily, both those chamberings offer lighter-recoiling options for training purposes (.32 S&W, .32 S&W Long and .32 H&R Magnum for the .327 Federal and .38 Special for the .357 Magnum) if you desire.
With an overall length on most models of 6.50 inches and a weight of just 13.5 ounces on the lightest models — add about 4 ounces for .357 Magnum or .327 Federal — Ruger LCRs are perfect summer carry guns, particularly if you prefer revolvers.
7. Kahr CM9
Kahr Arms might not have the brand name recognition of, say, SIG Sauer or Glock, and it might not produce flashy, sexy-looking designs, but the company has quietly been producing solid, reliable handguns ever since its founding in 1995. One of these perfectly suited for carry is the CM9.
Falling within Kahr’s “Value” series, the CM9 is a Browning-style locked-breech pistol that features a 3-inch, conventionally rifled barrel (as opposed to the match-grade polygonal-rifled barrel of the “Premium” PM9), a textured polymer grip, a black polymer frame, a matte stainless slide and drift-adjustable white dot sights. It utilizes a six-round, flush-floorplate magazine and comes equipped with a pretty solid double-action-only (DAO) trigger.
The CM9 weighs just 14 ounces unloaded. It is 5.42 inches in overall length, 4 inches in height and less than an inch in width. All of that adds up to one very concealable 9mm pistol, even in the dog days of summer. And with an MSRP of just $460, you won’t have to break the bank for this concealed carry piece, which comes with a lot of features and quality for the price. If you’re looking for something even more concealable and are willing to step down to a .380, Kahr’s CW380 is another option.
8. Kimber Micro/Micro 9
Founded as Kimber of Oregon in 1979, the manufacturer was initially known for its rifle production. However, after some troubles and eventual ownership changes, the company — now headquartered in Yonkers, New York — came to be well known as a producer of fine, high-quality 1911-style pistols.
While much of Kimber’s catalog is devoted to full-size 1911s, the manufacturer does offer two lines of highly concealable Micro pistols chambered in either .380 ACP or 9mm. Like the previously discussed Colt Mustang and SIG P938 and P238, these guns are scaled down versions of the 1911.
Both Micro and Micro 9 pistols feature a crisp, single-action trigger with a factory setting of around 7 pounds and share a similar 1911-style thumb safety, slide release and magazine release. Other standard features across both lines include a lowered and flared ejection port, a beveled magazine well and steel sights mounted in machined dovetails. Both the Micro (.380 ACP) and Micro 9 (9mm) pistols sport six-round magazine capacities.
The Micro weighs 13.4 ounces empty, has an overall length of 5.6 inches, a height of 4 inches and a width of 1.08 inches. The slightly larger Micro 9 weighs 15.6 ounces empty, is 6.1 inches in overall length, is 4.07 inches in height and is 1.66 inches in width. The Micro starts at $527, while the Micro 9 starts at $654.
Both are a little more than some are willing to pay for a summer carry gun, but they offer some pretty good features and come from a respected maker of 1911s. And their dimensions make them well adapted for carry in all conditions.
9. Smith & Wesson Model 642
This little J-Frame revolver has been a big seller for Smith & Wesson for years. Its lineage traces back to the “Centennial” family of S&W revolvers, which came out in 1952.
These days, there are several currently produced Model 642 revolvers available to buyers in S&W’s catalog. All are prized for their relatively light weight, concealability, ease of use, reliability and .38 Special + P chambering.
In these times of widespread semi-auto pistols of all shapes, sizes and colors, it might seem hard to believe that small wheelguns like this J-Frame have hung around, but they remain one of S&W’s most popular items. And this is so for good reason.
Revolvers are almost foolproof in their operation, and with their generally long, double-action trigger pulls, they’re typically quite safe. For those lacking grip strength, they’re incredibly easy to load and unload, which is not always the case for semi-autos. And because many — like the 642 — feature an enclosed hammer, they won’t snag on clothing.
The basic Model 642 has an overall length of 6.3 inches and a weight of 14.4 ounces, making it well suited for carry. It’s also palatable, price-wise, starting at just $469. Although I’ve selected the Model 642 specifically, many of S&W’s other J-Frame revolvers are similarly worthy choices.
10. Kel-Tec P3AT
This little pocket pistol gem dropped on the scene in 2003, and it made a pretty decent splash on arrival. With an astonishing weight of just 8.3 ounces unloaded, at the time of its release, this gun was (and might remain) the lightest production .380 ACP pistol in the world. Its impact can be seen in the number of micro .380s produced in its wake, including Ruger’s own LCP, which does, at least in external appearance, share many characteristics.
Designed based off Kel-Tec’s earlier P-32 — another micro, but chambered in .32 ACP — the P3AT is a locked-breech pistol, unlike many other similarly sized pistols, which are straight blowback. This allowed the engineers at Kel-Tec to use a lighter slide, permitting even more weight reduction.
The gun is 5.2 inches in overall length, 3.5 inches in height and .77 inch in width. And despite these diminutive dimensions, it still manages to pack in six rounds of .380 ACP. That’s quite a bit of bang in a teeny, tiny package.
The little P3AT might not be much to look at, but it does offer pretty unprecedented firepower for the weight. A number of features had to be omitted to achieve this, which is why the gun doesn’t include a slide stop or a safety (aside from its long, double-action-only trigger pull) and has no slide-hold-open feature after the last shot. The magazine release is also very small; on the plus side, that means it’s a little more difficult to accidentally activate in the course of carry.
The sights on the P3AT could be better. They’re basically a simple fixed notch rear and fixed front blade. However, on a gun with a 2.7-inch barrel, you’re probably not expecting competition-grade accuracy.
The gun’s MSRP is listed at $338.18; however, you can likely pick one of these up for markedly less. Over the past decade plus, the P3AT has garnered a pretty decent reputation for what it is and its capabilities in that role. It’s generally been fairly reliable, shootable enough to get the job done at close range and utterly concealable.
11. Springfield XD-S
This might be one of the more controversial additions to this list just on the point of weight alone. Up until now, every other inclusion has had an empty weight below 20 ounces. Across all models in this Springfield line, weight with an empty magazine is above 20 ounces.
Despite this, the XD-S remains a good choice for summer because it is still fairly easy to conceal. With a length of 6.3 inches, a height of 4.4 inches and a width of .9 inch, it actually compares pretty favorably with several of the previous inclusions. And you get an easy-to-shoot CCW that’s available in some beefier defensive calibers such as .40 S&W or .45 ACP.
Sights on the XD-S are quite good. The front is a fiber optic, and the dovetail rear sight is steel. The fiber optic up front is a great focal point that naturally draws the eye, and the clean, striker-fired trigger of the XD-S makes it easier to put rounds on target than many of the double-action guns on this list. And with MSRPs starting right at $500, your wallet can rest easy.
12. Bersa Thunder 380 CC
First produced by the Argentina-based Bersa, S.A. back in 1995, the Thunder 380 has been a capable .380 ACP pistol for carry and personal defense for the past two decades and change. Eagle Imports, Inc. is the exclusive importer of Bersa handguns in the U.S., and today’s crop of Bersa Thunder 380s offer even more versatility than the original design.
One of the newer models perfectly suited as a summer concealed carry gun is the Thunder 380 CC (Concealed Carry), which is itself available in several different models. The nice thing about any of the CC models is that they are lighter than the standard Thunder 380, coming in at 16.4 ounces instead of the usual 20 ounces or so.
Most people, even just by looking at it, can see the visual similarities between the Thunder 380 and Walther’s classic PPK pistol. The nice thing about Bersa’s gun is that it generally sells for much less than the Walther PPK, something you’re sure to appreciate if you’re on a budget. This is especially true if you’re just looking for summer carry guns.
The Thunder 380 CC has a capacity of 8+1, and the gun has an overall length of 6 inches, a height of 4.6 inches and a width of 1 inch on the dot. The sights, which consist of a simple fixed notch rear and fixed front blade, could be better, but all in all, the Thunder 380 CC is a great choice for its relatively easy concealment, decent shootability and proven reliability.
13. Walther Arms PPS M2
Released in 2016, the PPS M2 is an upgrade to Walther’s earlier PPS, which debuted publicly in 2007. A few changes were made on the PPS M2, but probably the two most notable were the addition of a new, ergonomic grip similar to that found on the Walther PPQ line of pistols and the use of a more traditional thumb-activated magazine release instead of the European-styled ambidextrous paddle release on the PPS.
Dimensionally, however, the guns remain almost identical. Both have an overall length of 6.3 inches, a height of 4.4 inches and a width of 1 inch. The new M2 version is about 4/10ths of an ounce lighter, but that’s pretty negligible.
The PPS M2 uses three-dot metal sights and has a 6.1-pound trigger pull with a minimal amount of travel and a short, distinctive reset. Chambered in 9mm, the PPS M2 offers a capacity of six or seven rounds.
At 21.1 ounces empty, like the XD-S, it’s one of the heavier guns on this list, but it too remains highly concealable. If you’re looking for something a bit lighter and are willing to slide down to .380 ACP, Walther’s PK380 at 18 ounces empty is another quality German option. With a difference of about 3 ounces, though, I’d be hard pressed not to go the 9mm route with the PPS M2.
The PPK is another option, and I feel obligated to mention it here because it’s a model that has influenced handgun design a great deal, particularly as it relates to .380 ACP and other small, micro-style pistols. I didn’t include it on this list because it is a little heavy in comparison to some of the other .380s mentioned at 22.1 ounces empty. It’s also a bit more expensive than some of the other .380 models. It appears in some respects with the inclusion of the Bersa Thunder 380, and again here as a sort of honorable mention.
So, that's it. Those are 13 of the best summer carry guns currently available to shooters, along with a few alternatives thrown in for good measure.
This is by no means THE comprehensive list of the absolute best summer carry guns. Many other options exist out there that are still plenty serviceable. If you think there's been an important omission or if your favorite is missing, feel free to sound off in the comments.
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i would add the Taurus 709 slim-9mm recoil not more than some 380s. and my personal fav-charter arms bulldog in 44spl- doesn’t leave evidence all over the place
Thanks for the comments. The Taurus 709 Slim is another suitable choice. In length and weight, it’s right there with S&W’s M&P Shield in 9mm. And with a 1-inch width, it’s certainly every bit as concealable. You’re not wrong about the felt difference between 9mm and 380 ACP pistols either, though it seems like a lot of that has to do with the size and shape of the gun. Some of those micro .380s, compared to slightly larger 9s, can be a little unpleasant to shoot, particularly if you’re doing a lot of shooting. That said, they are usually quite a bit more concealable. The Charter Arms Bulldog .44 Special was another one I was considering for this list, as well as its slightly smaller counterpart, the Undercover in .38 Special. Both have been in the Charter Arms catalog for some time and are popular with a lot of shooters. The .44 Special Bulldog offers a slight step up in power over the other .38 Special revolvers on this list, and does so with only a moderate increase in weight (about 14 ounces for the LCR and Model 642 versus about 20 ounces for the Bulldog). Definitely a viable option for those looking for a little more oomph from their carry revolver without adding a ton of weight.
Nice article, Drew! The only suggestions I would make are that you mentioned in passing the Kahr CW 9mm, but they also make the CW – which is lower priced than the CM versions, even – in .380, 9mm, .40 and .45. I have one of each, and they’re terrific! Also, when you mentioned Kimber, don’t forget that they just came out with their first revolver, and also the new Colt Cobra has just come out. Both are .38 Special +P rated, which I’m sure would fall in with other revolvers as good carry guns. Thanks again -interesting article.
Thanks for taking the time to comment on this. You’re absolutely right about Kahr’s CW series. I think I mentioned one in there, the CW380 at the bottom of the Kahr CM9 entry, but it’s true that all of those in that CW line are pretty lightweight, concealable options, with none over 20 ounces empty. And they’re quite affordable, too. Kimber’s new K6s and Colt’s new Cobra were both options that I also considered including, and either would certainly be a good carry gun. The Kimber is billed as the lightest production six-shot .357 Magnum revolver, and at 23 ounces empty, it’s hard to argue against it. Some people might make the argument that super light and .357 Magnum don’t always go together, but it really moves into shooter preference and tolerance at that point. Plus, you can always load it with .38 Special if the .357 Magnum recoil is too prohibitive. The Cobra is a little heavier and chambered in .38 Special +P. I had the opportunity to shoot one quite a bit at a Colt media event last fall, and it’s a good shooter, and with the weight and shape of the gun, the recoil is such that you could shoot it pretty much all day. Glad you liked the article, and thanks again for commenting.