The End is Nigh

Since the beginning of Spring, the focus here on the Lounge has been on the topic of concealable firearms.

We’ve gone down a couple of rabbit trails here and there, but in general, we’ve mostly talked about carry guns, handgun self-defense tips, and even some stuff about concealable rifles. Today is the last official post of that series. Topics related to concealed carry guns will definitely still be a big part of the Lounge, but we’ll also be spending some more time with long guns and some shooting topics not directly related to carry and self-defense.

The Rejects: Concealed Carry Pistols I Gave Up Carrying

As a wrap-up for the series, I thought I’d let you guys in on a little background about my personal carry gun history, so maybe you can learn a thing or two from some of the mistakes I made in the last decade or so.

S&W Model 36
The S&W Model 36: When you absolutely, positively, don’t want any rear sights.

The very first gun I carried after I got my permit was a nickel plated Smith & Wesson Model 36. This is the old school all steel frame .38 special snub nose. I couldn’t shoot it very well, and it was a heavy thing to carry around for only having five shots. Also, it wasn’t even mine, it was my dad’s. So I gave that back and I went looking for something of my own with a little more firepower.

Beretta PX4
There’s more airbrushing in this Beretta product photo than on all of the magazine covers at the grocery store checkout line combined.

And that ended up being a Beretta PX4 Storm 9mm. This was right when they first came around 2005. It’s a good gun, and I liked a lot of things about it, but compared to the revolver, it was really big and bulky and I just couldn’t find a good way to conceal it, which probably had a lot to do with the cheap holster that I had for it.

East German Makarov PM
East German Makarov sitting on a beautiful bed of surplus .30-06 ammo because… that’s all I had sitting around when I took this in 2006.

I kept the Beretta for a while longer, but quit carrying it and picked up a pristine surplus East German Makarov PM. My thinking was that it’s a double action/single action just like my Beretta, it’s just a little smaller. What I found out later is that unlike the Beretta, the sights were small and hard to see and the double action trigger was really stiff.

I thought I had a really nice picture of the actual 442 that I owned. Turns out I had a really nice thumbnail of a picture that I took with the best resolution a camera phone from 2006 had to offer. We’re all better off with this stock image from S&W.

So at the time, I guess I figured if I was going to carry a gun with sights I couldn’t see and a heavy trigger, then it might as well be light and easier to carry. So I went back to a snub nose, but this time I got the S&W 442, which is just like the Model 36 but there’s no hammer, and it has a light aluminum frame. It was really easy to carry and very comfortable, but a bear to shoot. The recoil on those things is just not fun, so I didn’t practice with it and never got very good at shooting it.

Kahr CW9
If you click this image for the high-res version, you can see one of the key features of every used CW9 I’ve ever seen: the ability to collect toe-jam-like crud in between the slide serrations.

So then I moved on to what I would say was my first carry gun that actually made sense, and that was a Kahr CW9. I say it made sense because by that time, I actually knew what factors to really consider when I was picking it out. I knew I needed something I could carry comfortably, conceal easily, and actually shoot well. And the Kahr worked fairly well for me for all three of those things.

I did eventually get rid of it because I could never really get used to the weird light double action on the Kahr pistols. I also found that the double stack M&P9 compact was not any longer in the grip or the barrel on the Kahr, and the extra width didn’t make it much harder to carry. With higher ammo capacity and a better trigger, the M&P has been my main carry gun for the last several years.

Smith & Wesson M&P9c
My current carry and frequent model here on the Lounge: the Smith & Wesson M&P9c with Crimson Trace Lasergrips carried in a Custom Carry Concepts “Looper” holster.

I’ve tried carrying a few other guns on and off since then (most notably, the Walther PPS and M&P Shield, both functionally similar to the M&P9c), but I keep coming back to the M&P compact. I have a lot of trigger time with it by now, and with that has come a lot of confidence in the gun and in my ability with it.

The Takeaway

Here’s the kicker: All of those “rejects” were actually pretty good concealed carry guns. They were reliable, well-made, and chambered in decent self-defense cartridges. The problem wasn’t that they were bad guns, it was that they weren’t quite right for me, but I was too inexperienced to know that without a lot of annoying (and expensive) trial and error.

If I could give one piece of advice for picking out a carry gun after all of that, it would be to learn as much as you can about actually carrying and using a gun for self-defense before you start trying to find the mythological “perfect” carry gun. In the beginning, I was all wrapped up in learning everything I could about just the guns themselves. That’s a lot of fun, but I had a hard time putting that knowledge in context and knowing what it would be like to carry them. I wasn’t spending nearly enough time practicing, nor was I going out of my way to read up on things like what a good holster or gun belt can do for you, or why it’s helpful to have a carry gun with a good trigger and sights.

So if you’re still trying to find the right carry gun, stop shopping for guns and start trying to learn how to shoot better, and you’ll have a much easier time figuring out what is going to work best for you.


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