Concealed carry is a topic of hot debate no matter how you approach it. Laws around concealed carry are different in each state and before you consider carrying you need to become familiar with them and ensure you’re clear on how to comply. Beyond the legal aspect, you should absolutely seek out the proper training to ensure you’re ready to select your daily carry weapon.
With so many self defense weapons out there – compacts, sub-compact, minis – you’ll likely encounter more information than is useful – making for a real challenge in finding the best concealed carry gun for you.
Comparison of the Best Concealed Carry Guns
|Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0|
|Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0 EZ|
|Sig Sauer P365|
|Ruger Security 9|
|Springfield XD-S MOD.2|
|Ruger LCP II|
|Smith & Wesson Airweight|
What to look for in a Quality Concealed Carry Gun
Pistols can be classified in a few different ways, including action type and size. We’ll go over each, and what their pros and cons are.
Types Of CCW Pistols
Everyone has their own opinion on the best concealed carry pistol, but you have to pick the best gun for you. Make sure to try before you buy, and start with a gun you can run.
With that said, let’s go over different types of CCW pistols, starting with size.
Exactly what you think, a full-size handgun made without concealment or a compact form factor a priority. Think of the typical duty or service gun for a police officer or a soldier; Glock 17 or Beretta 92 semi-autos or an S&W Model 19 revolver.
Full-size guns are easier to shoot well but can be difficult to conceal, and some find them uncomfortable to carry. Others have no issue at all.
Compact pistols or revolvers are a middle ground, just big enough to be easy to shoot but just compact enough to be easier to conceal.
While far from the first or only example, the archetype of the compact pistol is the Glock 19. Just small enough to be easily concealed, just big enough to be easy to shoot.
Subcompacts are smaller again than compacts. These revolvers and pistols are small but just large enough to chamber the popular defensive calibers.
The idea is to make the smallest gun that can still chamber 9mm.
Micro pistols are small enough to carry in a pocket. The design philosophy is to create a gun that disappears when carrying it.
Classically they’re carried in a pocket or an ankle holster and chambered in smaller calibers from .22 LR or .380 ACP. Some people carry them as a deep concealment gun when a larger pistol might be too easily discovered or as a backup to a primary gun.
Each of these size classes roughly corresponds to a range of barrel lengths. While there’s some argument about how accurate the size classes are, think of these as ballpark ranges.
- Full-Size: 4 inches+. The standard service revolver for most of the 20th century had a 4-inch barrel, so that’s roughly the starting point for a service gun and/or full-size handgun.
- Revolvers can be either on medium frames (.38 Special/.357 Magnum) or large frames in (usually) .44 or.45 caliber.
- Compact: 3.5 inches to 4.25 inches for semi-autos, 3 inches to 3.5 inches for revolvers. Typical compacts are a full-size gun that’s had at least half an inch of barrel and slide and half an inch of grip chopped off for easier concealment.
- For revolvers, the classic “compact” uses the same frame size as a service revolver, such as Smith and Wesson’s K and L frames, Colt’s I-frame, but with a shorter barrel and rounded grip.
- Subcompact: 3 inches to 3.5 inches for semi-autos, 2 inches to 3.5 inches for revolvers. Semi-autos of this class typically have a barrel length of no less than 3 inches, but rarely more than 3.5 inches.
- Subcompact revolvers are the snubbies, the J-frame Smiths, Ruger LCRs, and Colt Cobras.
- Micro: 1 to 3 inches. Micro pistols typically have a short barrel – more than 2.5 inches is uncommon – and are chambered in less powerful calibers such as .22 LR or .380 ACP. .25 ACP and .32 ACP used to be more common but fell out of favor. These guns can range in size from the NAA mini pistols to pocket .380 pistols such as the S&W Bodyguard and the micro 1911s like the Colt Mustang, Sig P238, or Springfield Armory 911.
Firing Systems AKA Actions
There are hundreds of different concealed carry guns on the market, but all of them use one of a small number of mechanical firing systems, often called the “action.” Each works a little differently.
Which is best…is hotly debated. Each has pros and cons.
Striker-fired: the firing pin is cocked by pulling the slide but held in place by the sear. Pulling the trigger pushes a bar (the trigger bar) to the rear, and trips the sear, and lets the firing pin go forward, striking the cartridge and discharging the gun.
Striker-fired pistols are mechanically simple – load gun, aim, pull the trigger, repeat – so they’re easy to learn and use. However, the downside is that they also require more care in their handling to avoid accidental discharge.
The term “Glock ND” and “Glock leg” exist for a reason.
Another downside is striker-fired pistols need to be constantly re-cocked for dry fire practice. However, the polymer-frame, striker-fired pistol is the dominant design on the market for good reason.
Single-action: single-action pistols have to be cocked for every shot. Single-action revolvers have to be manually cocked, but single-action semi-autos only need to be manually cocked for the first shot. The slide does the work for every shot after that.
Nobody uses single-action revolvers for daily carry anymore, so they don’t merit further discussion. Single-action semi-autos, on the other hand, remain in production and are a viable choice…if you can live with them.
The upside of single-action pistols is a short, light trigger pull…but the downside is that they have to be carried with a manual safety, so you have to put in a lot of practice to use them effectively.
Single-action semi-autos are almost exclusively 1911s and 1911 derivatives. Other designs are out there, but really for all practical purposes, it means 1911s.
The 1911 is an excellent fighting pistol in many respects…but it’s not for casuals. Good ones aren’t cheap, they need more maintenance to keep running, capacity is limited, and they tend to be big and heavy — but no other gun is as easy to shoot really, really well.
Double-action: double-action pistols can cock and fire the pistol with the firing mechanism completely deactivated. The hammer (if hammer-fired) starts all the way forward, goes all the way back, then drops on the firing pin, which hits the primer and detonates the cartridge.
However, double-action guns come in several sub-categories.
The double-action/single-action semi-auto has a double-action first shot, but the slide cocks the hammer, so every subsequent shot is single-action. The first trigger pull has more resistance, and the trigger has a longer overall travel, but the single-action pull is shorter and easier.
double-action-only pistols have only the double-action trigger pull.
Light double-action pistols, such as the H&K P30 and Sig Sauer DAK pistols, have a reduced-power hammer spring system that allows for a lighter double-action trigger pull but with longer travel than a DA/SA pistol’s single-action mode.
Double-action revolvers with an exposed hammer can be fired by either fully pulling the trigger or cocking the pistol and firing it in single-action mode. Still, the combat method for operating a revolver is only to fire it in double-action to keep things simple.
Double-action pistols have several advantages.
The double-action trigger pull provides a certain level of safety in that the firing mechanism has no spring tension. This makes the gun a little more drop safe and much harder to negligently discharge.
Highly skilled shooters often find double-action guns also provide more tactile feedback in the first trigger press.
Many double-action pistols are also well-established pistol designs, known for being rugged, reliable, and proven fighting pistols. Examples include the Sig Sauer P226/P229 family, the Beretta 92/M9 family, CZ-75, its derivatives, and other guns.
However…there are downsides. First is the double-action trigger pull, which requires a good amount of practice time to master completely. Second, many of the best double/single-action pistols are a bit large and a bit heavy, which not everyone prefers.
Then you have the different control layouts. Sig Sauers only have a decocker, Berettas have a decocking safety (though decocker only models are available), and CZs either have a manual safety (defeating the purpose of double-action capability) or a decocker.
In other words, a more complicated manual of arms, which you have to put in the time to master to run the gun well. In a self-defense shooting, you can’t have an “oh well” first shot.
Revolvers…well, the downsides aren’t new. The easiest ones to carry (snubbies) are hard to shoot really well; the ones that are easy to shoot well are big, heavy, and don’t hold many bullets.
Also, don’t go believing the lore about how reliable revolvers are. The typical revolver has more moving parts than a 1911 pistol.
Again, each has its positives and negatives. It’s up to you to figure out what downsides you want to live with.
The Best Concealed Carry Guns Reviewed
1. Best Overall: Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0
What we liked:
- Builds on original Shield’s strengths
- Softer grip texture designed for CWW avoids skin irritation
- Near perfect size for many shooters
- Easy to shoot quickly
What we didn't like:
- Single stack magazine limits capacity
- Not as many specialized holsters
- Articulating trigger is still clumsy
First up, and our choice for the best overall concealed carry gun – the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield M2.0 Compact.
The original Shield changed the concealed carry game — it blended elements of affordability, lightweight, and reliability in a package that made it one of (if not the most popular) concealed carry guns of the last generation. It’s success even spawned a number of copycats – from the Walther PPK to the Glock 43x. It’s still a fantastic gun and simply engineered to excel at concealed carry use.
Even more CCW-friendly
The 2.0 builds on the original Shield’s strengths but makes a few tweaks to improve its concealed carry usability; the aggressively textured polymer grip is toned down to avoid irritating your skin when holstered. This change doesn’t impact shootability though — as the M&P is still easy to control even when shooting quickly.
The 3.1-inch barrel length and Armornite finish on the stainless steel give it a fantastic balance of control and durability.
Following in the footsteps of the full-sized Shield 2.0 but with a very concealed carry-friendly beat to it, the M&P 2.0 Compact is almost the same specs as the incredibly popular Glock 19 but uses S&W’s own M&P system as a base, offering fans of that platform the best of both worlds. What else can we say?
Single stack slimness
The gun utilizes a single-stack magazine and a slim design with rounded edges that make it easy to draw quickly when you need to. Chambered in the popular 9mm round and with a capacity of eight rounds, this gun marries ease of use, concealability, and stopping power in a discrete package.
More than just a carry piece
Is the Shield 2.0 deisgned for carry? Yes indeed. The standard 7+1 magazine slips right into the grip for maximum concealability.
That said, the option 8 round magazine gives you another 3/4″ to the front of the grip, and another 1/2″ to the rear, giving you more grip real estate, and in turn, control.
The larger mag will impact concealability, but for some, it may be the preferred stick.
Better trigger pull & solid sights
Our testers found this gun to have a short, yet consistent trigger pull that wasn’t too hard. On consistent grips is the numb — or mushy — feel of the trigger due to the pivoting safety, which can be resolved with an aftermarket trigger kit. t’s improved on the 2.0 — it’s lighter and crisper than the original — but still uses the pivoting safety design, possibly to avoid patent lawsuits from the Glocks of the world.
The new trigger has a much more audible & tactile reset, which some folks thought was missing from the original Shield.
We also found the three-dot steel sight easy to use and the gun to be accurate and reliable for hundreds of rounds.
Surprisingly little recoil for a compact handgun
Smaller handguns can increase the felt recoil due to their lack of mass, but with the M&P compact, it was minimal and easy to handle, making this great for a wider variety of shooters.
It’s no surprise that this gun has sold well since its introduction in 2017. Despite the glut of competitors out there in the compact 9MM space, the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield M2.0 truly stands out from the rest as an easy first choice for concealed carry.
A super comfortable compact handgun
The M&P 20 Compact in hand
2. Easiest to Rack: Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ
What we liked:
- Same great M&P 2.0
- Much easier to rack
What we didn't like:
- Teething issues with initial release
Smith & Wesson took their ever-popular Shield and made it even easier to rack, load, and shoot with the new Shield EZ.
The .380 EZ still packs plenty of stopping power, but with less felt recoil than that 9mm version of the Shield. The grip is also surprisingly slim, which is great for folks with smaller hands.
Add in the under-barrel Picatinny rail and grip safety, and the EZ gives you a lot to love in a package that’s easy to rack.
3. Best Capacity (Micro): Sig Sauer P365
What we liked:
- Great trigger
- Good mag capacity
- Comfortable grip & ergos
- Optic plates included
- Lots of variation within the P365 range
- Toolless disassembly
What we didn't like:
- Small magazine release
- Mag insert is awkward
- Lack of a tang requires careful hand placement
- No grip or trigger safety
If the Smith & Wesson isn’t going to cut it for you, then there’s another clear 9MM option – the Sig Sauer P365 compact pistol. The gun has been on the market for years and is still widely popular for daily carry. Heck, Sig called it the “365” because it’s designed to be carried every day of the year.
Impressive capacity, quality, and variety
The handgun is incredibly compact, a little smaller than the Glock 43, but amazingly manages 10+1 rounds of 9MM – 2-3 more than many on this list. There’s even an extended 12-round magazine available. There are also 5 variations of the P365, so if you want something more substantial there’s the XL version, or if you’re looking to package the Sig with an optic, there’s a P365 which includes their RomeoZero red dot. A little something for everyone.
This combination of small size and stainless steel frame offer a stable platform, and the short 3.1-inch barrel length paired with higher capacity makes it one of the best concealed carry handguns around, which is evidenced in the popularity of Sig’s carry gun.
The Sig Sauer P365 has what’s called an X-Ray3 day/night sights. This is a variation of the three-dot sight where the front sight is colored green and the rear sights lack any color, which creates high-visibility contrast and aids in target acquisition.
There’s also a manual safety, striker action, a polymer grip, and a stainless steel frame.
Accuracy & control
The P365 is reliably accurate at the range, and its ergonomics make it easy to get a high grip on the pistol, lowering the bore axis and reducing the recoil. This is helpful considering the P365 weighs in at around 18 ounces, and lighter pistols generally translate into more felt recoil for the same cartridge. The higher purchase available on the P365 will help mitigate its lighter weight.
With the extended magazine and decently-sized palm swell, most shooters will be able to get their entire hand on the grip, enhancing what is an already easy-to-control firearm even more. I found the trigger offers a clean break with crisp movement.
The 9MM round offers a good mix of power and control
Shooting the SIG P365 Compact
Flaws worth noting
The only major gripe our testers had was with the magazine release. It’s small and can be hard to hit. The magazine also can get caught on your hand when inserting it.
The frame is so small that at times, it can be a little tough to use especially if you have big hands. There’s also no tang to speak of on the compact versions of the pistol, so you’ll need to be careful to avoid slide bite.
A slightly larger option if you want to keep in the Sig Sauer line of carry guns would be the P320 XCOMPACT. The P320 offers a 3.5-inch barrel and weighs in at just under 26 ounces while packing 15 round capacity.
As with a number of Sig Sauer products, the P365 tends to be more expensive than other handguns on this list, so if price point is a consideration there are probably better options for you.
4. Best Capacity (Overall): Ruger Security 9
What we liked:
- Unbeatable capacity
- Trigger and manual thumb safety
- Fully adjustable, dovetailed sights
- Radiused slide makes holstering easy
What we didn't like:
- Larger than other options
- No loaded chamber indicator
- Disassemby requires takedown pin removal
The Security 9 is slightly larger than some of the other options — more of a medium-sized option — but still compact enough to make an effective concealed carry handgun. Plus 15+1 rounds of 9MM ammunition is enough for anything you’ll encounter.
If you are a bigger guy (or simply have big hands) and want something that’s still easy to shoot, this option from Ruger should work well.
5. Best .45 ACP: Springfield XD-S MOD.2
What we liked:
- Small & easy to grip
- Slim & concealable
- Improved grip texture with passive safety
- Excellent trigger feel
- Easy to shoot
What we didn't like:
- More kick than other options
- Limited capacity
A single-stack striker-fired pistol that shoots .45 ACP isn’t a new concept. It’s been done many times before, but the XD-S from Springfield Armory manages to make one that’s special, especially for concealed carry purposes.
A better, simpler grip
Springfield took this well-known package and both shrunk it down and made iterative improvements over the first XD-S pistol (hence Mod.2).
The most noticeable change made with the Mod.2 is the grip. Springfield went away from the chunky “grenade” grip of the former pistol towards the more grippy sandpaper-like grip with subtle finger grooves.
They also simplified the grip — doing away with the removable back piece and standardizing on a single format. You no longer have that level of adjustability, but the simpler approach is better, in our humble opinion — and that feature didn’t offer much additional adjustability.
Sleek-looking, compact, and powerful
What you get is a sleek-looking, compact pistol that packs a serious punch. You can buy this gun chambered for other rounds, but in .45 ACP it’s a special weapon.
While not as compact as a pocket pistol, the XD-S features a slim and small frame, a single-stack magazine (with a capacity of 5+1, or 6+1 with the extended magazine), a textured grip with a passive grip safety, and Pro-Glo Tritium/luminescent front sight and tactical serrated rear sight. The frame is a black polymer and the slide is forged steel.
An improved Springfield trigger
Our testers found the XD-S MOD.2 found the trigger pull of this pistol to be much better than other guns from Springfield Armory.
It’s firm and with minimal take-up and short with a crisp break-over. Our testers also found that the extended magazine made the pistol much more comfortable when shooting. Still, you’ll feel these shots no matter what. It’s a small pistol and does come with some kick.
The .45 ACP is snappy and powerful
At the range with the Springfield XD-S Mod.2
6. Also Great: Glock 43
What we liked:
- Easily concealable slim size
- Little kickback
- Light trigger pull
What we didn't like:
- Requires a firm hand to shoot consistently
- Limited capacity
For those shooters who aren’t fans of the .45 and prefer the Austrian wundergun there’s another common choice among concealed carry fans, and that’s the Glock 43.
This polymer pistol is small, with its single-stack orientation but it’s still one of the best options for personal protection.
Easy to carry
The Glock 43 is a small sub-compact carry pistol that is easy to use and carry.
It’s slim and small overall, and can easily be holstered inside the waistband. The pistol comes with a standard six-round magazine capacity and a Safe Action on other popular Glock pistols like the Glock 19 and Glock 26.
The same great trigger
Our testers found that this gun has an excellent trigger pull. It’s easy for even smaller, weaker hands with a clear break-over and if you’re up for an ever smoother pull there are a number of upgraded trigger options for the Glock. Accuracy for a small pistol like this is often tough, but the Glock 43 performed admirably in our testing.
I find that the G43 requires a more firm grip when firing to keep the little pistol on target, but that’s a common issue with these smaller single stacks — and certainly not unique to the Glock.
An incredibly thin handgun
Comparing a 6-round Glock 43 magazine to a 10-round Glock 26 magazine
7. .380 Runner-up: Ruger LCP II
The Ruger LCP II gives you lots to like – it’s incredibly comfortable to carry at less than 4″ tall, comes in a variety of colors, and with .380 ACP gives you enough stopping power while still enabling you to control the little pistol. Plus this “II” version is an improvement over the original, so you know it’s proven.
The diminutive Ruger LCP will work both for pocket carry and as a backup for something like ankle carry. You only get 6+1 capacity, but for something this small that’s more than enough.
8. Best CCW Revolver: Ruger LCR
What we liked:
- Powerful .357 round
- Small frames makes it ideal for CCW
- Smooth hammerless design
- Excellent Hogue Tamer grip
What we didn't like:
- Small format + polymer frame delivers more felt recoil
- Not as slim or lightweight as semi-auto options
Double-action revolvers are another great choice for concealed carry, and it has been that way for over half a century. The weapon type simply works well and is easy to conceal, which is why people like it for self defense.
The Ruger LCR is the best snub nose wheel gun for daily carry.
Lightweight Compact Revolver (LCR)
The name LCR stands for Lightweight Compact Revolver. Ruger knew what it was doing with this gun. It’s a simple hammerless, five-shot wheelgun that packs a big punch thanks to the .357 Mag round. The polymer housing holds all the components internally (no external hammer) so you get the reliability of a hammer-fired handgun with next-generation concealability.
Kicks like a .357 revolver
Our testers found that the Ruger LCR does pack a pretty big kick, but that can be expected with this round when paired with such a small format. The additional weight of the all-steel frame does help with control.
Easy to hang onto
They also liked the Hogue Tamer grip, which is easy to hang on to. There’s still plenty of noise and concussive energy, but that’s the nature of snub-nose guns – and not a bad thing when it comes to personal protection. Our testers found the gun accurate at the range up to about 15 yards, which is plenty for concealed carry.
There are other small revolvers out there, but few that pack such a strong punch and are as lightweight and as concealable as the LCR. If you’re not in the market for a semi-auto, then the LCR is a good choice.
The .357 LCR is the best balance of stopping power and control in the LCR line
9. Also Great: Smith & Wesson Airweight
While not as compact or lightweight as the LCR, Smith & Wesson has been making the Airweight since 1952, and they know their way around a handgun. In fact, Jim Supica — author of The Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson — was quoted as saying the Airweight was possibly the finest pocket revolver ever made.
This package gives you the time-tested reliability of a snub-nosed J-frame S&W revolver in your holster – and Crimson Trace lasergrips. A value that’s hard to beat!
10. Budget Option: Taurus G3C
If you’re interested in a polymer-framed 9mm but aren’t interested in shelling out $400-$500, the Taurus G3C is certainly worth your consideration. Roughly the size of a Sig P365, you get 12+1 capacity, albeit in a double-stack configuration so it’s not as slim as other weapons. You don’t get a decocker, so it’s not the most new shooter-friendly pistol out there, but it’s hard to beat the value.
For the price, Taurus’s G3C gives you a reliable pistol that features impressive capacity and pocketable size. There’s a reason the G3C has caught so much attention with the community – it’s an impressive little gun that doesn’t break the bank.
Concealed carry is not new
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