Attempting to define the “best” of anything is an exercise fraught with peril, fear and loathing. The fallout from these kinds of disagreements occasionally causes the end of friendships. Opinions are, as my old boot camp CC said, like a certain body part, everyone has one. Another problem with this kind of question is, who gets to define “best”? Usually, when people disagree on what is best, they are coming from different yet unstated ideas about what each thinks of as “best”.
“Best” is both a relative and subjective notion. It is relative to something, a standard or perhaps a purpose. Which billiard ball, for example, is best in meeting the criteria of being a perfect sphere? Maybe the criteria is defined as the ball having the best elasticity and rebound when struck by another billiard ball. As my project management mentor told me, “It depends.”
”Best” can also be subjective as in which cabernet has the best taste? Well, depends on who is doing the tasting. Which hand gun shoots the best? It depends. Does accuracy trump reliability? Long range or short range accuracy? Is a softer recoil better than a sharp one? The way it fits and feels in the hand? Whose hand? Is it a better gun when I shoot it or when you do?
The search for absolutes is a fool’s errand. So, let’s set some parameters.
The concealed carry gun has to be a handgun. It must be capable of being concealed for many hours by the average person without creating comfort or safety issues. From these modest beginnings we should be able to state what the best guns for concealed carry may be. We can certainly state which ones are not the best.
While it is true fundamentally to say that any gun is better than no gun when you need one, it should be pretty obvious that some guns will perform better than other if called upon to get their work done. The nature of that work is what will guide a definition of the best concealed carry gun.
It should be small enough and shaped for concealment, but not too small to be difficult to handle or to deliver an insufficient or marginally powerful projectile into the target. It should be big enough to carry a reasonable number of rounds. What is reasonable? Most modern semiautomatic pistols designed for concealed carry have a six or seven round magazine. This means one can carry seven or eight rounds in the gun, ready to go. Is this enough? Again, it depends.
Study real world statistics on gunfights and you will probably say, no. Not enough. Most people who think about using their concealed carry gun in a self defense situation envision themselves in a confrontation against another assailant. But, isn’t it true that bad guys often run in pairs or even small groups? Yes. Isn’t it also true that people are notoriously bad shots with a pistol, especially when the crap has hit the fan? Yes, even trained law enforcement officers miss more than they hit the intended target in gun fights, even shockingly close encounter fire fights. So, your seven or eight round advantage shrinks rapidly to four or even two rounds, or less, per assailant. This can’t be really all that good.
It would seem that without going John Wick and packing fifteen or eighteen rounds per gun, and two or three guns, that ten to eleven rounds is a reasonable capacity for a gun that is also small and light enough to be carried concealed all day.
You can, and should, carry a reload. This is a bit outside the scope of considering the best concealed carry gun except to say that if a gun cannot be easily and quickly reloaded it shouldn’t be considered as a carry gun. Adios five shot wheel guns, as cool as they are. Yeah, speed loaders. They are not speedy except in the hands of the occasional show off who has spent the better part of a year perfecting the speed-loader technique.
A concealed carry gun must be reliable. Period.
So, what does that leave as the best concealed carry gun?
1. Not too small, and not too big
2. Designed to be concealed
3. Medium capacity
5. A track record of reliability
And, finally, a gun you like, one that feels good in the hand and is easier for you to shoot accurately.
What about caliber? Stopping power, you may ask?
First, the idea of handgun stopping power relative to caliber is an absolute mess. A myth. The only hand operated guns with actual stopping power are rifles in African big game calibers, .50 cal sniper weapons or fully automatic military grade weapons. There are too many incidents in which a person is shot multiple times with “heavy”caliber handguns, yes, even Magnum loads, yet they keep on fighting until blood loss finally brings them down. Some survive. The size, mass and speed of any handgun bullet is insufficient to stop a human in his or her tracks. Except in Hollywood. So, my view is that any of the semiautomatic pistols that meet our criteria will be fine with modern self defense ammunition if they are at least 9 mm in caliber. This includes the American .380, which the Europeans call the 9 mm “short”.
The make and model is a matter of personal preference if it meets those requirements. I know this may not be to the liking of many Model 1911 fans but for the average citizen, young, old, male, female, weak and strong, the best concealed carry gun will be one that does.
It is relative and subjective, remember.