Looking to go armed, but are stuck in the weeds as to what to arm yourself with? Here are 11 excellent concealed carry handgun options that will keep you on the defensive.
11 of the best concealed carry handguns to depend on:
- Smith & Wesson M&P Shield Performance Center Ported
- Glock 43
- Springfield Armory XDe
- Kahr CM9
- Ruger LCP II
- Smith and Wesson 340 PD
- Bond BullPup9
- Walther PPK
- Remington RM380 Executive Pistol
- Kimber EVO SP
- Glock G19X
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
Read More: Smith & Wesson M&P Shield Full Review
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’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
Read More: Springfield Armory XDe Full Review
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
Read More: Kahr CM9 Full Review
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
Read More: Ruger LCP II Full Review
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
2019 Concealed Carry Handgun Updates
You want niche? Here’s niche. Texas-based Bond Arms is long known for its Derringer-style and other micro pistols, taking pride in their commitment to total USA-made production of small, powerful personal protection weapons. Officially introduced in late 2018, the Bond BullPup9 looks to hit its stride in 2019.
Chambered (obviously) in 9mm, the BullPup9 is an eye-catcher with its ultra-short barrel and muzzle that sits flush with the front of the trigger guard and Bond’s signature rosewood grips adding a bit of style to the overall look. At just over 5 inches total length, the 3.35-inch barrel posed a unique challenge to the designers: how to feed the ammunition when the chamber sat directly above the magazine.
In most semi-autos, of course, the ammunition is pushed forward into the chamber as the slide cycles. Not so with the BullPup9: Instead, due to its unique design, rounds are pulled from the magazine from behind, lifted even with the chamber and then shoved into the barrel.
While most ammunition will work with the BullPup9, Bond Arms acknowledges that uncrimped ammo, such as rounds made by Blazer, risk being pulled apart in the magazine, as the pull force in the chambering mechanism can yank the casing and bullet apart, spilling gun powder into the magazine and causing a malfunction. So far in testing, Bond has found no other ammunition that causes this problem consistently. If you’re a Blazer ammo fan, this isn’t the gun for you. For everyone else, you’ll be just fine.
The 7+1 capacity, double-action-only BullPup9 comes with two magazines and is made in very limited production – only 150 per month. MSRP: $1,099
You already thought it, but I’ll say it: Bond, James Bond. Yes, it’s that gun — the legend of the silver screen. Now, before you go off all half-cocked (look that one up for an interesting history of a cliché), we know this isn’t a brand new gun. In fact, it’s a rather old design, first introduced in 1930. But it has been redone for 2019 while hanging on to the heritage that made it famous.
While the gun has a bit of a checkered past (Hitler offed himself in his underground bunker with a .32 caliber version), it’s most recognizable for its stainless-steel frame flashing in the limelight in the hands of one 007. The reborn version, absent from Walther’s arsenal since 1992, is chambered in .380 ACP to hold a bit more ammo than the 9mm version. With a gun this small, that extra round can make a difference. Plus, today’s .380 cartridges are more powerful than in years gone by, so you’re not really sacrificing much with the slightly smaller round.
All the controls are right-handed, as is tradition in older models, both original and redone. The magazine is a scant 6+1. However, for one extra round, pick up the sport (PPK/S) version that features a slightly longer grip with a 7+1 magazine and single color black finish.
Production of this venerable weapon has moved from Germany to Walther’s US headquarters in Fort Smith, Arkansas, making this a truly American-made gem. MSRP: $749
The .380 has a special place in the hearts of pocket carriers, with its slightly smaller diameter, often allowing one more round in the magazine than its 9mm cousin. And with today’s better bullets, there isn’t a big power difference anymore between the rounds. Remington has taken advantage of the love with their new RM380 Executive Pistol. It’s still a pocket pistol, so it only holds 6+1, but the convenient size fits easily into dress pants or khaki pockets — with a holster, of course, for safety.
Similar in size and shape to the popular Smith & Wesson .380 Bodyguard, the RM380 takes pocket pistol styling up a notch with an all-aluminum frame, stainless slide and wood-tone accents on the grip, giving it a polished look often lacking in lower-priced firearms. While the abundance of metal makes this gun a tad heavier than most of its competition, it makes up for the excess weight with its runway model looks.
The biggest drawback to the RM380 is a common problem with pocket pistols: trigger weight. At 10 pounds, you’ll need a determined index finger and practice to pull the trigger and keep it on target at the same time. MSRP: $405
Long known for their hammer fired semi-autos, Kimber is bringing out their first ever striker offering in the new EVO SP, chambered in 9mm. Available in four different finishes — from two-tone to custom — the EVO SP offers a ton of features in a lightweight, compact package. The frame is aluminum with a stainless slide finished in FNC black. Each variation offers a different grip texturing that feels and looks unique to the chosen style. Speaking of style — where it meets function — all four variations include changeable backstraps.
Target acquisition is made easier through tritium night sites, standard on all four variations, and putting rounds down the 3.16-in barrel onto that easily-acquired target comes through a 6-7 pound trigger with integrated safety.
One of the smaller magazines on the market, the EVO SP holds 6+1, a surprisingly low number of rounds in today’s industry race to stuff as many bullets as possible into compact and subcompact semi-autos. MSRP: $856 to 1,047
What’s a new gun review without something from Glock? The G19X officially entered the market in early 2018 but has yet to hit its stride, so you’ll no doubt see a lot of publicity push at SHOT 2019 and throughout the year.
Glock’s entry into the US Army’s tough-fought and potentially lucrative HMS contract program (ultimately won by the modular Sig P320 – with the drop safety issue apparently solved), the G19X is a hybrid design of new features, old features and features from two different existing Glock models, all wrapped in a new coyote color scheme — a drastic departure from the traditional Glock black.
Based mainly on the Gen 5 updates, the G19X is basically a combination of the G17 grip coupled with a G19 slide and Marksman 9mm barrel. The muzzle has been rounded off to enhance draws and reholstering, but not dramatically, so the gun still fits into standard G19 holsters.
The idea of a shorter barrel coupled with a longer grip, while uncommon, is not new in the gun world, ever since the commander-style 1911s first hit the market almost 70 years ago, so this hybrid pairing isn’t so outlandish.
The Army had very detailed requirements when selecting their new handgun to replace the aging Beretta 92/M9, including a manual safety, ambidextrous slide stop, and lanyard loop at the base of the grip, features never before seen on Glocks. For the civilian version, the manual safeties are gone, but the lanyard loop remains.
One important feature that didn’t make it over to the G19X is the magazines. Thanks in part to the lanyard at the bottom of the grip, the G19X only accepts Gen 4 mags, a first for the normally backward-compatible functionality found in other Glock models. Fortunately, Gen 4 mags are very popular and not hard to get.
The G19X comes with two flush-fit 17-round magazines and two 17-round +2 extension magazines. MSRP: $749
The 2019 update was contributed by David Workman and appeared in the January 2019 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.
Armed With Facts!
Find answers to your essential ammunition questions and a multitude of others in Choosing Handgun Ammo: The Facts that Matter Most for Self-Defense. The masterfully written reference cuts through the chatter of endless caliber and cartridge debates to deliver the stone cold facts on ammunition with the results of actual testing to back it up. Get Your Copy