The Search for the Perfect Concealed Carry Pistol; Smaller isn’t Always Better

Aug 10th, 2010No Comments

Ruger LCP

I call them “cute” guns.  You’ve seen them and probably own a couple.  They are the guns that new shooters always seem to be drawn to (or pushed to by ill informed gun counter clerks).  Pocket guns, snubbies, and ultra-lights.  There are some great weapons in this category and they serve a very valid purpose, but they are invariably the wrong choice for new shooters!

The thought process goes something like this.

“I’m a new shooter and I’m not confident I can really control a “big” gun.  I should start with something smaller and easier to handle.  Besides those big Glocks and 1911’s are going to be a pain to carry all the time.  Oh, that looks cool!  A titanium, snub nose .357.  That’s perfect!”


North American 22LR

The truth is that bigger guns are easier to handle precisely because they are bigger and heavier.  That extra weight absorbs more of the recoil, prevents hand abuse, and provides for better follow up shots.  Small guns, even in the relatively gentle .380, .38, and 9mm calibers, can be wild little beasts that really punish your hands.  The most unpleasant gun to shoot that I have owned was a little .22LR North American revolver.  It was so small, I could never get a good grip and each round was painful.

New shooters need to learn and practice the fundamentals of marksmanship.  If each shot causes discomfort it reinforces the natural recoil aversion we all experienced in the beginning.  This in turn causes flinching, anticipation, and other technique issues, making it virtually impossible for the shooter to reach their full potential.  This, of course, frustrates the student, causing worse performance, and in the end shooting is just not fun.  On the other hand, a medium or full sized pistol is generally easier on the hands and permits the shooter to quickly adapt to the recoil forces and focus on improving their technique.

Keltec PF-9

So does this mean there is no place for the small guns?  Absolutely not!  Experienced shooters have mastered their craft to the point of instinct.  The gun and the recoil have less impact on them because their body and mind compensate for it automatically.  These shooters buy small guns for concealment and short range self defense, not to fine tune their marksmanship.  I’ve had several small guns and swear by my Keltec PF-9, but I shoot them for proficiency not for precision training.

S&W AirLite 357

Here are a couple of tips for selecting that first pistol.

  • Take your time.
  • Shoot as many guns as possible before you buy.  Borrow guns from your friends or find a range that rents guns.  Believe me, this is a lot cheaper than buying a gun that sits in your safe because you hate shooting it.
  • Choose the largest pistol that you can comfortably hold, aim, and manipulate.  If you have a hard time racking the slide on semi-automatic pistols, don’t be afraid to try a revolver.
  • Choose the largest caliber that you can comfortably fire.  .38, 9mm, .357, .40, and .45 caliber are generally considered the “best” self defense calibers, but if you aren’t comfortable shooting anything bigger than a .32, then by all means get a .32!  You can always go larger as your skill and comfort level improves.
  • Don’t be fooled by what you read in gun magazines!  Remember they make their money by advertising, so they aren’t going to write a crappy review for the very manufacturers that are paying their bills!
  • Practice, practice, practice.  OK, this is for after you buy the gun, but it is the only way to master the art of shooting.

Feel free to share your experience with “cute” guns in the comments below.

© 2010 – 2015, mjshozda. All rights reserved.

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