Gun Digest

Self-Defense Tips: Carry Gun Selection

Picking the right carry gun is a tricky proposition, one made simpler if you perhaps put your gun choice last.

I get calls, emails and messages on social media all the time, wanting my advice on which carry gun someone should buy. Sometimes the requests are serious; other times those asking are just looking for me to validate a choice they’ve already made.

In every case, I try my best to offer some helpful advice, but the notion of letting someone else select your carry gun is about as absurd as letting someone else arrange your marriage; selecting a handgun that might save your life is too important of a task to trust to someone who won’t be using it to save their own.

If you’re tired of the magazines in your Browning HiPower rattling when you walk, get a couple Mec-Gar magazines and there’ll be no more jingle-jangle in your life.

The thing is, just because a handgun works well for me and my lifestyle doesn’t mean it’ll do the same for you. Sure, I’ll freely comment on my experiences with handguns, such as if they work or function well. But to tell you what handgun is best for you is something that I nor anyone else has any business doing. What I can do is offer some practical advice to help guide you through the selection process.

However, I’ll bet few really want to hear it. Most want to know if they should get a Glock or an XD, M&P or something else.

Carry Gun Fundamentals

The first thing you should consider with regard to a concealed-carry handgun is how you’re going to carry it. This is often an afterthought for many; most buy the gun and then try to solve the carry puzzle.

Carry Position

If, given your lifestyle and manner of dress, you believe ankle carry is best for you, the last thing you want to do is buy a full-size 1911. On the other hand, if inside the waistband (IWB) carry seems to fit your way of life, you might want to avoid the thicker guns or guns with large grips likely to print.
Are you getting the picture?

Holster Selection

Once you do decide on how you will carry a defensive handgun—and you might find that you’ll carry it in multiple ways depending on the season and occasion—you should then start looking for holsters that allow you to carry in those ways, in the most comfortable fashion.

Ankle carry is a great way to carry concealed, but it might not fit your lifestyle.

Your dress and daily activities might signal that ankle carry is the ideal solution. But, have you ever carried more than 20 ounces on your ankle all day? Get with other gun owners and check with your local gun shop to find sample holsters that’ll allow you to try what you think might work. You might find it doesn’t work worth a damn for you.

Handgun Fit

Once you think you’ve discovered how you can carry comfortably, then you can start looking at handguns that fit your agenda. You might shoot a Glock G34 Gen4 exceptionally well, and you might think it would be a super-cool pistol to carry on a daily basis. However, you might find that it’s just too long to work with the OWB, IWB or appendix carry method you’ve found most comfortable.

One very important thing you need to remember is that it doesn’t matter if your carry gun is a top-of-the-line Wilson Combat 1911 or a super-slick revolver from the Smith & Wesson Custom Shop. If you don’t have it with you when you need it, it’s no better than a bodyguard who failed to come to work.

Pick the carry method and the holster first, then find a carry gun that’ll dovetail into that system and your lifestyle. Otherwise, you might be looking for a new handgun sooner than you think. Or you might be just pointing your finger at the bad guy because you left your uncomfortable-to-carry pistol at home.

Magazine Considerations

My favorite defensive handgun is the Browning Hi Power. Admittedly, I carry my Wilson Combat EDC X9 as much or maybe more often, but there’s just something about the HiPower that makes it my favorite, especially the rare lightweight specimen I have that has been fully worked by Novak’s Inc.

No, the .380 Auto isn’t the ideal cartridge for stopping fights. On the other hand, if you need an ultra-compact and easily concealable handgun, it might be the best option
for you.

However, there’s an issue with the HiPower that’s as irritating as a boil on your backside. Many, if not all, factory HiPower magazines rattle when they’re filled with more than eight rounds. Now, a rattling magazine in a fighting pistol might not seem like a big deal, but when you’re trying to carry concealed and with every step you hear the rounds in the magazine rattling around, it’s annoying. I’ve even had folks ask me, “What’s that rattling noise when you walk?” Maybe they think my pockets are full of money. If that’s the case, they obviously don’t know how much gun writers get paid. The thing is, though, these rattling HiPower magazines function flawlessly!

Well, I’ve finally found a solution. The 13-round blued and stainless Browning HiPower magazines from Mec-Gar (item numbers MGBRP13B and MGBRP13N) don’t rattle at all. And, even more importantly, in all three of my Browning Hi Powers, they function perfectly. They retail for about $30, and I now have several. I’ve regulated all of my factory Browning HiPower magazines to range duty, but when I carry a HiPower it has a Mec-Gar 13-rounder inside it.

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the February 2021 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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