What is the best concealed carry gun?
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 options out there – compacts, sub-compact, minis – you’ll likely encounter more information than is useful – making for a real challenge in finding the right concealed carry handgun for you.
We have additional guides on the best handguns for beginners as well as a variety of brand-specific reviews, But this list covers all the best options for someone in the market for a concealed carry handgun—whether you’re a 9MM enthusiast, Glock Guy, or are thinking about a revolver, we’ve got a little something for everyone.
1. Best Overall:
First up, and our choice for the best overall concealed carry pistol is the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield M2.0 Compact. This pistol is designed for concealed carry use with an aggressively textured polymer frame and an Armornite finish on the stainless steel.
Following in the footsteps of the full-sized M&P 2.0 but with a very CCW-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?
What we liked:
What we didn't:
Single stack slimness
The pistol utilizes a single-stack magazine and a slim design with rounded edges that makes it not only easy to conceal but easy to draw quickly when you need to. Chambered in the popular 9mm round and with a capacity of eight rounds, this pistol marries ease of use, concealability, and stopping power in a discrete package.
Smooth trigger pull & solid sights
Our testers found this pistol to have a short, yet consistent trigger pull that wasn’t too hard. They also found the three-dot steel sight easy to use and the pistol to be accurate and reliable for hundreds of rounds.
Surprisingly little recoil for a compact pistol
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 pistol
The M&P 20 Compact in hand
2. Runner-up 9mm:
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 is widely popular for daily carry, and it doesn’t take much to see why.
What we liked:
What we didn't:
Impressive capacity & quality
The pistol is incredibly compact, a little smaller than the Glock 43, but amazingly manages a 10+1 capacity – 2-3 more than many on this list. There’s even a 12-round extended magazine available.
This combination of small size and somewhat higher capacity makes it a top-quality pistol that a lot of people have noticed.
It 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 you’d expect from SIG
Our testers found the P365 to be extremely accurate on the range, with a superior grip on the pistol that made managing the recoil a breeze.
With the extended magazine, most shooters will be able to get their entire hand on the grip, enhancing what is an already easy-to-control firearm even more. Our testers reported the trigger pull gives 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.
It’s also more expensive than any other handgun on this list, so if cost is a consideration there are probably better options for you.
3. Best .45 ACP CCW pistol:
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.
Springfield took this well-known package and simply shrunk it down.
What we liked:
What we didn't:
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.
The pistol 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 .45 ACP found the trigger pull of this pistol to be much better than other guns from Springfield. 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
4. Best .380 for CCW:
For those shooters who don’t want to go with either a 9mm or a .45, there’s another common choice among concealed carry pistols, and that’s the .380 ACP. This round is smaller, but it’s still effective for personal protection.
The gun that often gets held up as a go-to option for this ammo is the Glock 42.
What we liked:
What we didn't:
Exceptionally easy to carry
The Glock 42 is a small pistol that is exceptionally easy to conceal carry. You don’t have too much to hide.
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 safety that you’ll find on other Glock pistols.
A trigger any hand will love
Our testers found that this gun has an excellent trigger pull. It’s easy for even smaller, weaker hands with a clear break-over. Accuracy for a small pistol like this is often tough, but the Glock 42 performed admirably in our testing.
Some of our testers found that the Glock 42 had to be more firmly held when firing to ensure accuracy, but that didn’t seem to be too big of an issue for most shooters. Other than that one gripe, there were not real issues.
An incredibly thin handgun
Comparing a 6-round Glock 42 magazine to a 10-round Glock 26 magazine
5. Best CCW Revolver:
Double-action revolvers are another great choice for concealed carry. 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.
The Ruger LCR is the best snub nose wheel gun for daily carry.
What we liked:
What we didn't:
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 revolver that packs a big punch thanks to the .357 Mag round.
Kicks like a .357 revolver
Our testers found that the LCR does pack a pretty big kickback, but that can be expected with this round when paired with such a small revolver format. The additional weight of the all-steel frame helps 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 revolvers 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 a revolver is something you’re interested in, then the LCR is a good choice.
The .357 LCR is the best balance of stopping power and control in the LCR range
What to Look for in a Concealed Carry Gun
Every year more concealed carry guns come onto the market. That means there are hundreds of popular choices, and that can make choosing the right weapon a seriously tough decision.
Before we get into our choices for the best concealed carry guns you can buy, we want to take a moment to discuss the important aspects of concealed carry weapons, and what you need to think about.
If you ask a hundred different shooters what the best caliber is for concealed carry, you’re likely going to get a few different answers from everyone. This is one of the aspects of carrying firearms that is often debated among shooters.
You can defend yourself with any caliber, really, but most shooters prefer one of five or so rounds. These range from .380 ACP on the low end to .357 Mag on the higher end. The choice is up to you. We suggest shooting multiple calibers and then deciding what is right for you. Our choices below focus on the three most popular options: .380 ACP, 9mm, and .45 ACP.
You have a wide variety of options in terms of guns that shoot these three calibers. You’ll notice there is one other option in our list below, but that belongs to a double-action revolver, which is a little different than a semi-automatic pistol.
Size of the Gun
You also need to think about the actual size of the gun and if it will be easy to conceal. We know that some shooters prefer to carry their full-frame pistols as their CCW piece, but for most shooters, a full-frame pistol is too difficult to conceal.
It’s as the smaller the handgun, the easier it will be to conceal – which is why you find a lot of compact handguns in our list of recommendations. These smaller guns are easy to carry with you pretty much no matter where you go. This is important for a concealed carry pistol.
Does it Fit You?
Last, but certainly not least, you need to find a gun that fits you. This means it’s easy for you to conceal, easy for you to access, and easy for you to shoot. If the concealed carry pistol doesn’t fit you, then it will be more difficult for you to use it when the time comes.
Think about your body size, the size of your hands, and the other firearms you’ve shot before. What size and weight of gun fit you well? Chances are the concealed carry pistol that will feel right for you will be similar to that.
Semi-Auto vs Revolver
While revolvers were first to the market, semi-autos soon followed and have been around since the 1900s. They offer faster reloads over wheel guns, as well as larger capacity, while in general having a lighter felt recoil when comparing 9mm handguns to .38s of the same weight. Revolvers, on the other hand are more tolerant of sloppy grip techniques and take much less training to use and maintain.
The Smith & Wesson is the gun that stands out the most to us, but the others are not far behind it. Any of the options here should serve you well as a concealed carry option.
However, Smith & Wesson’s M&P M2.0 Compact has the best blend of reliability, accuracy, concealment, and weight. It’s simply a good option for almost every shooter out there.
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