Like every year, the annual SHOT Show 2017 in Vegas has endless aisles of new guns and accessories to look at, but only a select few worth any serious attention, particularly if your primary goal as an armed citizen is concealed carry and personal protection. This year, I’m going to skip going into any detail on the flashy new guns that are not actually in production yet (unless they’re very close to it). There were some interesting new concepts on display that are still in the prototype or pre-production phase like the unusual Hudson H9 and the Avidity Arms PD10 pistols. But I’m reluctant to say much about either until they’re closer to being a reality and we can see the final product that’s actually going to ship.
I’m also intentionally ignoring some of the budget gun makers who consistently release broken products that no person should have to rely on for personal protection. With plenty of “affordable-but-decent” offerings from Ruger, reliable S&W Shield 9mm pistols priced at $300 or less, and a used market flush with quality brands at low prices, I can think of few reasons to even consider an unreliable bargain brand defensive handgun in 2017.
So with that in mind, here are a few of the concealable handguns on display at SHOT Show 2017 from reputable manufacturers that are actually on store shelves, or headed that way soon.
Ruger LCP II
This updated version of Ruger’s most popular handgun was released late last year. The original LCP was a hammer-fired double-action only design, but Ruger has re-worked the action so that the LCP II is now a single-action only pistol with a safety “paddle” on the trigger. The feel is very similar to a light striker fired action.
The new LCP II also has improved grip texture, improved ergonomics that help mitigate recoil, and slightly larger sights. Based on my first impressions, it does appear to be a big improvement over the original LCP, but I believe the best version of this pistol was the LCP Custom introduced a couple of years ago. That was the LCP with the bright red trigger and nearly full-size sights. A Ruger rep told me the LCP Custom will remain in production but only small runs offered at sporadic intervals.
Unlike the original, the LCP II slide does lock open after the final round in the magazine is fired, assuming the newly designed LCP II magazines are used. The original LCP mags are supposed to work, minus the hold-open feature, but that doesn’t quite seem to be the case.
|Ruger LCP II|
|barrel length||2.75 inches|
Beretta PX4 Compact Carry
I covered this limited production Beretta variant at SHOT Show last year and mentioned it again in my review of the standard PX4 Compact. A year ago, the idea of the PX4 Compact Carry had barely been given the green light but now they are finally shipping. Beretta has sent the first batch of 1500 guns from Italy and thanks to an enthusiastic response from the market, I’m told more are coming soon.
The PX4 Compact Carry incorporates a few important but subtle modifications that were initially suggested by Ernest Langdon. It has low profile safety levers, low profile slide release levers, and the action has been converted to the de-cock only found in Beretta’s “G” model variants. To improve grip texture, Talon grip tape has been added, and CAP sights from Ameriglo help tremendously with rapid sight picture acquisition. The PX4 compact also includes Beretta’s drop-in competition trigger kit, and a grey Cerakote finish on the slide.
Full disclosure: I’m an unapologetic Langdon fan and generally in agreement with Ernest on the optimal way to set up and run a defensive pistol. So it should come as no surprise that I’m enthusiastic about this one. In fact, with the exception of the slide finish, I have applied all of the same mods to my personal PX4 Compact. In my opinion, the PX4 Compact Carry is the absolute best factory DA/SA carry gun you can buy right now. Hopefully, the popularity of this model will continue and we’ll get to see it become a regular part of Beretta’s catalog.
|Beretta PX4 Compact Carry Technical Specs|
|barrel length||3.2 inches|
|sights||Ameriglo CAP sights; bright orange front sight w/ tritium insert and plain black rear sight|
|action||double action/single action|
Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0
This one has been rumored for a while, and the first photos were leaked a few days ahead of Smith & Wesson’s planned announcement, so you may already be familiar with the second generation of Smith & Wesson’s flagship handgun, the M&P. The new version is called the M&P 2.0, and while it’s not a radical departure from the original design, a few key features have been tweaked based on customer feedback over the years since the release of the original M&P.
The main changes most people will notice are the new aggressive grip texture and the modified trigger. The slippery grip was one of the common complaints of the original M&P, but I kind of wonder if the 2.0 texture has gone too far in the other direction. The texture is not at all subtle. Personally, I can see how it would be advantageous for controlling recoil, but I wonder if novice shooters handling the pistol in a gun shop will find it to be overkill. I’m told the accuracy issues that plagued the original 9mm models have also been rectified.
I think the new trigger is probably an improvement over the original, but to be honest, no two M&P triggers I’ve fired or handled have felt the same to begin with. Between minor design tweaks and manufacturing inconsistencies, buying a new M&P has always been a game of trigger roulette. In line with the trend I mentioned above, the M&P 2.0 trigger seems to have a slightly longer takeup and a lighter break, but I would need to compare it side by side with an original M&P to offer a real assessment.
The new M&P is being offered in full size 9mm and .40 S&W with a 4.25-inch barrel and .45 ACP with a 4.6-inch barrel. All models are available with or without the manual thumb safety. An extended-slide 5-inch barrel version is also available in 9mm and .40 S&W. Unfortunately, there is no compact M&P 2.0 yet, and the Smith & Wesson rep I talked to at SHOT was unable to offer any speculation as to when they might be available.
|S&W M&P 2.0 Full Size Technical Specs|
|weight||24.7 oz/25.9 oz/27 oz|
|sights||Drift adjustable 3-dot|
CZ P10 C
CZ is the latest major gun company to join the Glockification of the US handgun market. Their new P10 C pistol is… well, it’s another black, polymer, compact, striker-fired 9mm. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Ruger rolled out their American pistol last year, and though I didn’t find anything objectionable about it, I was thoroughly unimpressed. I feel much the same way about the CZ P10 C. I’m sure it’s a fine firearm, but with excellent striker-fired options already available from Glock, S&W, Sig and H&K, what can another new black plastic pistol offer that’s not already available and proven?
From what I’ve seen so far, it sounds like CZ is attempting to compete on price. It’s a strategy that’s worked well for their hammer-fired pistols — they have have traditionally been considered a bit “less refined” and therefore priced slightly below the A-list competition, but offered with quality and customer service superior to the true budget-grade brands. Still, CZ isn’t the only company playing the “just like Glock but cheaper!” card, so they’ve got their work cut out for them.
|CZ P10 C Technical Specs|
|barrel length||4.02 inches|
Ruger American Compact
Speaking of the Ruger American, back in September, Ruger announced a new compact version of their striker-fired polymer pistol. Despite being pretty lukewarm about the Ruger American, I was curious to see what direction they would go with the compact model. The industry’s definition of a “compact pistol” is anything but standard and one company’s compact can sometimes be closer to another company’s full size model. The Ruger American Compact falls on the smaller end of the compact scale, occupying that size gap between a Glock 19 and Glock 26. That makes it similar in size to the S&W M&P Compact as well as the compact versions of Ruger’s own SR series.
The 9mm American compact has a capacity of 10+1 but also accepts the 17-round magazines of the full size. There’s also a .45 version with a 7-round capacity, or 10 if the larger mags are used. Oddly, the 9mm version is a tenth of an ounce heavier than the .45 version despite having a slightly shorter barrel. Ruger doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to release a .40 S&W version, which may be indicative of another coming trend in the handgun world.
|Ruger American Compact Technical Specs|
|weight||28.7 oz/28.6 oz|
|sights||Novak windage-adjustable 3-dot|
Sig Sauer P320 X-Carry
Since first introducing their striker-fired P320 pistols in 2014, Sig has been rapidly expanding the line to include additional sizes and calibers. The new X-series P320 pistols are the first of what could be considered “factory custom” variants of the P320. The P320 X-Carry is a concealed carry version of the P320 X-Five competition-oriented model, also new this year.
The flat trigger found on the X-Carry is a style that has long been popular in competition shooting and precision rifles, but we’re beginning to see them work their way into self-defense oriented firearms. Many shooters find that the flat trigger offers a more consistent trigger press during strings of rapid fire. The adjustable rear sight sits on a base that can be removed to reveal a slide that is machined to accept a micro red dot optic. Unfortunately, there is no provision for retaining a rear sight when an optic is installed, so co-witnessing is not possible, barring some future solution from Sig or a third party. To help reduce weight, there’s also a large cutout in the forward portion of the top of the slide.
Minor tweaks to the frame reflect attributes that high performance shooters often look for in handgun ergonomics such as an undercut trigger guard and aggressive grip texture. The bull barrel and flared mag well found on the X-Five are not present on the X-Carry, but interestingly, Sig decided to retain the extended beaver tail on the carry model. The X-Carry ships with three 17-round magazines.
It’s really interesting to see these competition features in a gun designed for concealed carry, and it will no doubt be a big seller for Sig. I have yet to jump on the micro RDS pistol bandwagon, and I think most shooters are reluctant to add accessories that cost as much as the gun itself. That said, their popularity is rapidly growing and I’m going to have to see what all the fuss is about sooner or later.
The new P320 X-Carry will begin shipping in March 2017.
|Sig Sauer P320 X-Carry Technical Specs|
|weight||not yet announced|
|barrel length||3.9 inches|
|sights||Sig X-Ray3 sights (3-dot tritium sights with day-glow green ring front sight)|
Besides looking at new products on an individual basis, it’s often telling to take a broader perspective and try to spot trends in the industry. The new semi-autos on display at SHOT 2017 follow a trend that’s been going for several years now. With the exception of the DA/SA Beretta, every semi-auto I listed above has followed (or at least shown an attempt to follow) the trend toward lighter trigger pulls. The idea seems to be to simulate the feel of a light single action trigger with a long but light takeup (or “pre-travel”). If that’s the kind of trigger you prefer, you can pick from just about any striker-fired pistol design released in the last three years (Except Glock. They’re still going with the “enhanced staple gun” trigger). My personal preference on a striker-fired pistol is for a consistent “rolling” trigger break of moderate weight that feels like a short double action, or perhaps a lighter rolling break if a manual thumb safety is present. But as usual, it seems the market is headed in a direction opposite my preferences.
I can hardly blame the manufacturers for this. The trend is a direct response to consumer demand for lighter triggers, but lighter is not always better. I believe the lighter triggers are ultimately going to contribute to more negligent discharges without a significant improvement of the “low and left” accuracy problems that often plague budding handgun shooters. It’s possible I’m underestimating the trigger discipline of the average handgun owner, but I doubt it.
There were plenty of new revolvers to check out this year at SHOT, and I did a pretty thorough rundown in my last post, SHOT Show 2017: Revolvers Everywhere! Of the eight new revolvers I profiled in that post, I’d narrow the field down to three models that are specifically well-suited for concealed carry.
For an ultra compact pocket revolver, there’s an excellent new Smith & Wesson Performance Center variant of their trusted Model 642. The lightweight 5-shot .38 spl +P snubby has been a favorite of the S&W catalog for years, and this new version has a fantastic tuned action and a set of low-profile ergonomic grips.
Stepping up in size just a hair, there’s the new Colt Cobra. This will give you six shots instead of five, but it’s got a heavier steel frame and a larger grip — by far easier to shoot than a lightweight snubby, but slightly more challenging to conceal. With the exposed hammer spur, I wouldn’t call it a pocket gun by any stretch. This is the first double action Colt made in over two decades, so we’re all still holding our breath to find out if the new Cobra is worthy of the name.
For a truly medium size carry revolver, Smith & Wesson introduced a 2.75-inch version of their Model 66 Combat Magnum. I am very reluctant to recommend new S&W revolvers that include the problematic internal safety lock, but I have a hard time not being at least a little bit excited about this offering. I really like the shorter barrel K-frames, and this is the first one S&W has produced in several years.
Be sure to check out the other post for details on these and other new revolvers featured at SHOT 2017.