Advice abounds when it comes to the ‘best' EDC gun. But only you can choose the one you’re going to trust your life to.
One of the most common questions I get is, “What kind of gun do you carry?”
I suppose, without trying to sound conceited, this is because folks want to know what a former cop—who’s trained extensively at Gunsite and tested a wide variety of handguns—might trust his life to. For those reasons, I guess there’s some merit to the question.
However, I firmly believe that if you base your defensive handgun choice on what I or some self-proclaimed expert might carry in their holster, you’re making a mistake. Your defensive handgun needs to fit you, and it needs to be one you can comfortably carry and swiftly and effectively employ.
That’s exactly why I stress the importance of using a drill such as the Forty-Five Drill—a drill I detailed in the January Gun Digest issue—to help you decide which EDC gun you can get along with the best. It doesn’t matter what I like, carry or use; what matters is what works for you.
Best Starter Kit for Concealed Carry:
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Over the last 30 or so years, I’ve gone through a bunch of handguns. Maybe a look at my journey might help you in your search. Like me, you might be surprised where you end up.
The EDC Gun Journey Begins
My first handgun was a 4-inch Smith & Wesson Model 66. I was too young to buy it; I had to get my mom to do the paperwork. It was not intended as an EDC gun and, after handling it for a bit, I realized it never would be. It was too damned heavy … and big.
My next handgun was a 5-inch Colt 1911 in 9mm. It worked okay as a carry gun, but I found it too heavy and too big for all-day, everyday carry. It was replaced in 1991 with a Browning BDM.
The BDM was similar in shape and feel to the Browning HiPower and was created to compete in the service trials as the standard-issue pistol for the FBI. Its claim to fame was that it could provide multi-mode (single- and double-action fire) with the flip of a switch. It was also the only defensive handgun I’ve ever owned that, for lack of a better phrase, shot like shit. Groups were horrendous and nowhere near the point of aim. I traded it for a Walther PPK.
I only carried the PPK was only my EDC gun for a short while. It was heavy for its size, the trigger was bad and, for that time, it was underpowered (modern .380 Auto loads are much better than they were in the early 1990s).
After I won the West Virginia National Guard State Pistol championship with a Beretta 92, I purchased one, but it, too, had a terrible trigger and was too large for comfortable carry. Nevertheless, the 92 inspired me to purchase a Beretta 85. Although it was another .380, it was one of the easiest-carrying and comfortable-to-shoot pistols I’ve ever owned.
When I went to work as a correctional officer, I had to provide my own handgun. I picked up a Ruger P90. It was a big pistol, but it was reliable and very accurate (I killed a groundhog with it at a bit past 100 yards). When I became a police officer, I was issued a 4-inch Smith & Wesson 686. It was way too much gun for EDC, and I was fortunate to find an early-model Colt Lightweight Commander in .45 Auto. After I had some work done on it by Novak’s, I carried that pistol for many years. It became the benchmark for what I considered to be a suitable defensive handgun for me: It fit my hand, I could shoot it well, and it was easy to conceal and carry.
At the time, I was also doing a lot of competition shooting, and our department had transitioned to Glocks. The Glock 22 I carried every day on duty was a very reliable sidearm, and so was the 27 that rode on my ankle. However, I never found a Glock—any Glock—comfortable to shoot, and I always struggled with my weak-hand thumb hitting the slide stop. In fact, I removed the slide stops from both of my duty guns. I continued to carry the Lightweight Commander, or at least some similar variant, for many years.
I won a Browning HiPower in a shooting competition. I had the gun worked on by Robar and got Nighthawk to extend the beavertail to prevent the web-of-the-hand bite that Browning HiPowers are famous for. I carried that pistol until I was introduced to the Wilson Combat EDC X9. Sized like a Glock 19 and with a trigger like a 1911 and the feel and capacity of a HiPower, this seemed like the ultimate EDC gun. I carried—and still carry—the X9 when I needed deep concealment.
Then, something extraordinary happened: A good friend gave me a fully customized lightweight Browning HiPower that had been worked on by Novak’s. Not only is this pistol rare, it’s also the easiest-to-carry high-capacity pistol I’ve every wrapped my hand around. And, more importantly, it’s reliable, and I shoot it very much better than any other handgun.
That’s quite a long journey to finally end up with a pistol that’s well-used and more than 50 years old. However, the brand, custom work, chambering and model are of no real consequence. What matters is that I get along better with that pistol than with any other.
That, my friends, is how you decide on the EDC gun you’re going to trust your life to and carry every day. Don’t let me—or anyone else—try to convince you there is a best carry gun for everyone.
Here’s some “hillbilly advice” for you: Suggestions are welcome, but EDC guns are a bit like underwear—you need to choose your own.
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Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the October 2020 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.