Best Concealed Carry Pistol – 7 guns reviewed

Which Concealed Carry pistol is right for you? With so many different brands pimping pistols that they say are perfect for concealed carry, how is one supposed to figure out […]
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm .40 S&W

Smith & Wesson M&P Shield

Which Concealed Carry pistol is right for you?

With so many different brands pimping pistols that they say are perfect for concealed carry, how is one supposed to figure out which one is right for them? Or even which one(s) might be wrong for them. I suppose you could go to your local gun store and hope that the dude / dudette behind the counter actually knows what they are talking about. From my experience, taking advice from gun store employees is like rolling the dice. Some are fantastic and will steer you in the right direction. Others are clueless, but insist on making recommendations anyway. Heck, even sorting out which ammunition caliber to carry can be a challenge, with widely differing opinions a common occurrence. Since we aren’t much for gambling when it comes to firearms, we prefer a more studied approach.

If you are looking for a place to order a concealed carry pistol, we recommend that you check out:

How this test came about:

Ever wonder what happens when a the Editor goes “off the grid” for a week, but leaves one of the writers the keys to the test lab?
In this case, Bob, one of our NRA instructors here at Gear Report took SEVEN (yes, 7!) of the compact pistols to the range to shoot and share with people of a variety of skill levels in order to get their feedback on each of them.

*Many of the listings are links that take you to respected retailer who provide product details and a safe, legal way to purchase firearms online.

concealed carry pistol test to find the best concealed carry pistol Ruger, Taurus, Smith and Wesson, SpringfieldHere are the guns that Bob tested:

Taurus PT 738 TCP .380 ACP
Ruger LC9 9mm
Ruger LC9S Pro 9mm
SCCY CPX-2 9mm
S&W M&P Shield 9 9mm
S&W M&P Shield 40 .40S&W
Springfield Armory XD-S .45 ACP

Yeah. We have a pretty wide spread here in terms of types of concealed carry guns. From the tiny Taurus and it’s under-rated .380 ACP round, to the Slim model of Springfield‘s XD line (the XDs), which lobs .45 ACP rounds down range. Bob is on a quest to find the right compact pistol for him, and maybe even one for his sweet thang.
To be honest, I kind of wish I had been there. This test sounds like it was a lot of fun.

Test protocol:

Bob shot and measured groups himself, while getting feedback on all of the concealed carry pistols from a range of shooters.
All of the measured groups were shot with commercial “range ammo”. Bob also liberated some of the 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP ammo that PolyCase sent for testing… but we will talk about that later.
For the measured groups, Bob shot each pocket pistol from a typical personal defense range of about 7 yards.

Here are the results:

concealed carry pistol test to find the best concealed carry pistol

As you can see, the cost of the pistol did not play a role in the group size, with the budget SCCY CPX-2 and low-mid priced Ruger LC9S Pro tying for the smallest group at 1.5″ for the best 4 rounds. Bob chose measure best 4 and all 5 separately since he had limited experience with each pistol and assumed that he would have a flier in each grouping, just due to being new to these guns. When considering overall accuracy for all 5 rounds, the diminutive and dirt cheap Taurus PT 738 TCP took home top honors. However, the little Taurus PT 738 TCP finished dead last in the subjective ranking.

Um… what in the world was Bob thinking?

Yeah, Bob was prepared for this question and provided the following list of comments about each of the guns in this test:

concealed carry pistol test to find the best concealed carry pistol - comments

Well. There are a lot of variables to consider when ranking a list of concealed carry pistols. We talked about some of them in Best Pocket Pistols for concealed carry. Bob clearly weighed a variety of hard and soft options before choosing the right pistol for his shooting style and anticipated carry modes. I’ll note that many of the comments, mostly on the striker fired pistols, mention accidental discharges. While most of us would likely just say that the trigger was lighter than expected, and the round was released a bit earlier in the trigger pull than we thought it would. Bob, being the consumate instructor that he is, notes each of those as an AD. At no point did any of these reported ADs  put anyone in danger. Muzzle disciple was observed and the ADs only resulted in the target being hit slightly sooner than anticipated.

However, I think this brings up a very interesting point of consideration for anyone looking for a concealed carry pistol: you absolutely need to learn and master the trigger in your chosen concealed carry gun. If you are like me and favor very light, crisp triggers in rifles, then you may prefer your pistols have somewhat similar trigger feel. Personally, I struggled with the long, heavy SCCY trigger the first time I shot it, as I have been shooting a lot of AR-15 and AR-10s equipped with competition triggers. Much to my surprise, the more I shot the SCCY, and even just dry fired the SCCY, the more I like the trigger. It is still not my favorite, but I am adjusting to it. And the odds of an AD with a long, heavy trigger are a lot lower than with a light, crisp trigger with little/no creep. Maybe a longer, heavier trigger is preferable for an up close and personal defense gun, like a small concealed carry pistol. Only you can weight the options and determine what is best for you.

Jeff shot LC9S Pro at 15 yards

Jeff shot LC9S Pro at 15 yards

The best concealed carry pistol: Ruger LC9S Pro

Reading Bob’s test notes it is clear that the Ruger LC9S Pro won this shoot-off by being the judged the best total package of the group. The combination of small, thin and light construction to aid concealability, reasonable capacity, easy operation, and nice trigger went a long way towards securing the top spot. The fact that the Ruger LC9S Pro is a good bit less expensive than some of the other “big name” options put it over the top. On a personal note, the LC9 was my pocket carry gun for about a year, although I strongly dislike the trigger. The LC9S Pro has since replaced the Ruger LC9 on backup/pocket carry duty. So, I concur with Bob’s choice. You can see my first 10 rounds with the LC9S Pro in the picture to the right (from a different testing session). Not that my opinion really matters, as this is about the results of Bob’s testing. 🙂

The worst concealed carry pistol: Taurus PT 738 TCP .380 ACP

Taurus 738 .380 pocket gun

Taurus 738 .380 pocket gun

So, ranked #7 on the list… the worst pistol of the bunch… it also happened to be the most accurate. This goes to show how other factors influence personal preference in pocket pistol choice. The ultra small Taurus PT 738 TCP is just too little for some people to get a good grip on, and so light that even the little .380 rounds deliver rather spirited recoil. The biggest downfall in this test, however, was the frequent feed jams that Bob experienced. I wonder if this might be associated with the Taurus PT 738 TCP not fitting Bob’s hand well and moving around too much in his hand during firing, as this was my pocket pistol for deep concealed duty for about a year before being replaced by the LC9. Over that time I put a good number of rounds through it with no feed issues with round nosed ammo of the sort that Bob shot. I won’t hesitate to carry the Taurus PT 738 TCP, if I really need a small pocket pistol. I have had feed issues with feed jams using flat nosed copper plated rounds.

Which concealed carry pistol should you buy?
According to Bob, “All guns performed well enough for daily carry.  Many groups had tight four shots and one flyer; likely due to testers unfamiliarity.” So, get the one that fits your carry style and needs the best. For example. I really expected the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9 to do well in this test. We are still early in the testing of this gun, but so far, really like it. In fact, we think the S&W M&P Shield 9 may be a better choice than the Glock 43 (read about them here).
Hey… wait a second. I thought Bob said the Taurus 738 had feed jam issues. How can he say they were all good enough for daily carry? Basically, knowing that I had shot the Taurus PT 738 TCP quite a bit and had no such issues, there is likely something with the ammo or Bob’s grip style. Obviously, if Bob were to decide to purchase a Taurus PT 738 TCP for concealed carry, then he would first sort out what ammo and/or grip style works best for him and remedies the FTF issues. Switching to a duty ammo might remedy the problem by itself.

PolyCase?

Bob shot all of the Concealed Carry pistols with brass cased range ammo… name brand, lead core, copper jacket… yada yada. The results in the charts reflect the range ammo. However, things got really interesting when Bob switched to the Polymer and Copper blend, injection molded bullets of the brass cased PolyCase brand ammo. The PolyCase ammo fed fine in all of the guns… well, except for the Taurus 738. We don’t have any .380 ACP PolyCase ammo for testing.
While he did not record group sizes for the PolyCase ammo, Bob reported that the group size generally shrank, with most of the bullet holes in each group touching each other. This is consistent with what I have found, along with all of our other testers who have shot the PolyCase ammo. With a lighter bullet traveling at higher speeds, the PolyCase ARX ammo delivers a more gentle recoil impulse, allowing quicker target reacquisition. The effect is more pronounced when shooting bigger calibers like the .40 S&W and .45 ACP. In particular, the sharp crack of the .40 S&W is really smoothed out by the PolyCase ammo. We have a bit more testing to do with the PolyCase ammo before we post that review. However, so far, the results have been far better than we have expected.

 

About Jeff

Jeff is the Editor in Chief of Gear Report and a National Shooting Sports Foundation Media member. He reports on the outdoor industry, reviews gear for camping, hiking, shooting, hunting, paddling, backpacking and other active pursuits. A USAF veteran, Jeff earned a MBA in Marketing and Health Services. He specializes in consultative selling and internet marketing. As the VP of BD & Marketing, Jeff provides sales and marketing leadership to MGECOM, Inc. and helps http://MGECOM.com acquire new clients in need of solutions for online merchants in need of Affiliate Marketing program management. Jeff founded and manages Cress Sales & Marketing LLC, offering online sales and marketing consulting and services to online merchants and service providers.