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.
In This Article:
CCW Handgun Comparison
Below is my list of the best concealed carry pistols for 2021. I list the best choices in terms of value, performance, design, and cost.
Click on the name to head to the product page, read reviews and check prices or skip ahead to the list of pistols.
|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|
Concealed Carry Gun Reviews
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.
If you want a deep dive into the Shield check out our M&P 2.0 review.
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 a 12-round extended 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 in the double stack magazine 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. We’ve put the G3C through its paces and compiled our thoughts on in in our long-term review.
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.
11. Classic Carry Pistol: Walther PPK & PPK/S
What we liked:
- Timeless classic
- Sleek and simple
- Logical controls for a double-action pistol
- Softer shooting than most micro .380 pistols
What we didn't like:
- Tiny trigger guard makes DA trigger press awkward
- Sights are tiny and fixed
- Hard to justify with 9mm subcompacts being available
The Walther PP series was first launched in the 1920s as a police pistol; “PP” stands for Pistole Polizei. The K model (for “Kurz” or “short) came out soon after and has been in production ever since. Today, they are still a viable carry gun for the right person.
The PPK and PPK/S are subcompact single-stack DA/SA hammer-fired pistols with slide-mounted decocking safety. Typically they’re chambered in .380 ACP, but a .22 LR version is also available.
PPK vs. PPK/S
Both pistols have a 3.3-inch barrel, and all specs are the same except for one thing: the PPK/S has an extended grip, making it slightly taller (by 0.5 inches), and has 7+1 capacity instead of the standard PPK’s 6+1.
While that doesn’t seem like much, some people find the longer grip of the PPK/S is just enough to make it more shootable…but the reality is shooters with large hands will never have an easy time using either gun.
James Bond’s Gun
The PPK and PPK/S are part of pop culture, as the PPK will always be known as James Bond’s gun, as these pistols have been in almost every single film in that series to date. Just like Clint Eastwood using a Model 29 in “Dirty Harry,” that’s sold a lot of guns.
Shooting The PPK
The PPK and PPK/S are double-action/single-action pistols. You’re meant to carry them either decocked, with the safety off or decocked and the safety on.
The frame-mounted safety decocks the pistol, so the gun is in double-action mode for the first shot and single-action mode for every subsequent shot. The double-action trigger pull is usually around 8 lbs, and the single-action trigger is typically 4 to 6 lbs, as it varies from gun to gun.
While having a longer sight radius than most tiny pistols would bode well for accuracy, the tiny fixed sights (they’re part of the slide) are not the easiest to pick up, especially if you’re trying to shoot quickly.
The steel frame soaks up recoil, making them fairly soft-shooting for a small .380…but the truth is today’s single-stack subcompact 9mm pistols are easier to operate, easier to shoot well, typically hold an equal or greater number of cartridges, and aren’t much snappier.
It’s A Classic For A Reason…But Know What You’re Getting Into
What’s great about the PPK and PPK/S? They’re well designed, sleek, and stylish. They’re also well made and generally reliable. They make a good choice of deep concealment or backup gun and have done since television was even invented.
That said, they have those limitations to be aware of. It’s a great gun and a classic for a good reason, but you need to know what you’re getting into before committing to one.
12. Best Trigger: Walther PPS M2
What we liked:
- Best trigger of subcompact single-stack 9mm pistols
- Outstanding ergonomics
- Front serrations are a nice touch
What we didn't like:
- Grip texture is a little slick
- Single-stack capacity
- Tiny sights
The Walther PPS M2 is the modern equivalent of the PPK, a slim, subcompact pistol perfect for concealed carry. It has the touches that modern Walther pistols are known for, including a superb trigger and excellent ergonomics in the segment.
Walther pistols are usually sleepers, in that they sometimes don’t get the press they deserve because Walther isn’t Sig Sauer, Glock or Smith & Wesson…but don’t overlook them.
Walther makes some of the best factory pistols you can get.
Slim, Sleek, Simple…But Also Refined
The Walther PPS M2 is arguably the connoisseur’s subcompact single-stack.
It has a crisp, smooth trigger (the best, hands down, of the subcompact single-stack guns) and a shockingly comfortable grip. Walther’s modern handguns rival CZ for ergonomics, and the PPS M2 is no exception.
The overall dimensions (6.3 inches long, 1 inch wide, 4.4 inches tall) are just large enough for most shooters to grasp it well, but also svelte for easy concealment.
Standard capacity is 6+1 of 9mm, but 7- and 8-round magazines also come with the gun. The latter two magazine sizes include magazine sleeves for better purchase on the grip.
The PPS M2 also comes with front cocking serrations, which is rare for the segment. The thing that sets Walther apart is the little touches, the attention to details that other gunmakers typically don’t address in many of their pistols, and this is no exception.
No Better Trigger In Guns Of This Type
You aren’t going to get a better trigger on any gun with the same description and specs. You just won’t.
While the PPS has an advertised trigger pull weight of 6.1 lbs, it doesn’t feel like it. Take-up is glass smooth and short, the trigger ever-so-briefly stacks and then breaks like a glass rod. Reset is short, and defined with an audible, tactile “click.”
Walther’s factory triggers are about as close any striker gun gets to a 1911, and a lot of people appreciate them for this reason.
Living With A PPS M2
The PPS M2 is a very easy gun to live with. If you have larger hands, you can add the extended magazine for more grip purchase, and the trigger guard is just large enough for most people to get on the trigger without difficulty.
If there’s any dings against it, it would be that the grip texturing is a little too smooth, a little too rubbery. It could stand a little more aggressive texturing for traction when shooting.
Another potential downside is that the sights are a little on the small side. That’s going to happen with small guns no matter what; the M&P Shield’s sights are hardly skyscraper-esque, so that comes with the territory.
They are a little snappy, being a small, light gun chambered in 9mm, but – again – that comes with the territory.
Overall, the PPS M2 is probably the best in terms of overall quality among the single-stack subcompact striker-fired pistols.
13. Best Factory Package: H&K VP9SK
What we liked:
- Superb trigger
- Fantastic ergonomics
- Smart features
What we didn't like:
- A little large for a concealed carry gun
- Magazines are pricey
- Paddle release (if you get them) can be a bit to get used to
When the H&K VP9 hit the market, it was hailed as one of the best of the striker-fired pistols. Frankly, it is. There’s no denying it.
There’s virtually nothing needed to improve the gun as it comes from the factory. There aren’t any factory guns done this well among the polymer-frame, striker-fired pistols, except maybe for the Walther PPQ.
But…you’ll pay a bit for the privilege.
Smart Features, Smooth Shooting
The VP9SK has superb attention to little details, with some ingenious features that add up to an excellent gun.
The ergonomics are excellent, and the trigger is second to none. Glass smooth pull, a glass-like break, and an excellent reset. It’s frequently touted – along with the Walther PPQ – as having the best factory trigger in any of the striker-fired handguns, and it’s easy to see why.
The slide has front cocking serrations, and two charging handles at the rear of the slide for easy manipulation. The dust cover has a Picatinny rail for mounting a light or a laser if so desired.
The grip is incredibly comfortable, and the gun comes with swappable backstraps to dial in the fit. The standard model comes with white dot sights, but you can also find them with night sights and an optics-ready model if so desired.
Capacity is excellent at 10+1 of 9mm, and there is a VP40 available if one prefers.
Very Few Weaknesses
The VP9 is incredibly accurate and soft-shooting, so it’s easy to get very good with this pistol with a bit of practice. If you demand serious performance from a concealed carry gun, the VP9 has it in spades.
As a whole, there are no real weaknesses; there’s nothing about the H&K VP9 that you’d immediately think, “well, if X was a little better” at all. It’s about as close to perfect as it gets out of the box.
If there is one quirk, the gun is made with European-style paddles instead of a magazine release button. Granted, H&K has started offering a button release model as well, so you can get around that.
Some people prefer the paddles, some don’t, that much is all up to you.
However, there are a couple of things that could give a person pause.
First is that the standard VP9 is a little on the large side. It’s closer to a Glock 17 in size than a Glock 19, so you have to be okay with a larger pistol, which is why you’ll want to look for the SK version, which offers a shorter 3.38-inch barrel length.
Second is that H&K rakes you over the coals if you want additional magazines, as they’ll run you $50 per from H&K. You might be able to find them a little cheaper elsewhere but not by much. Most models come with two, but some VP9 options (with night sights, etc.) come with three.
The VP9 is also a little pricey; the base edition has an MSRP of just under $800, and it goes up from there.
Probably The Best Of The Breed
Though there are those downsides, it’s still the case that the H&K VP9 is almost certainly the best of the polymer-frame, striker-fired pistols.
You’ll pay a bit more for the privilege, but ask anyone who owns a VP9, and they’ll tell you that you definitely get your money’s worth and then some.
14. Best Capacity: Springfield Hellcat
What we liked:
- Great capacity for size
- Factory sights are excellent
- Easily concealed
- Very decent trigger
What we didn't like:
- A little snappy recoil
- Magazine well gap can bite
The Springfield Hellcat is Springfield Armory’s answer to the Sig Sauer P365, with a half-staggered magazine to get almost compact pistol capacity in a subcompact gun. It holds 11+1 or 13+1 in the extended magazine, and is barely any bigger than an M&P Shield.
It’s arguably the best striker-fired compact that Springfield makes, and has a lot of excellent features. It’s a bonus that there are multiple configurations to suit a lot of different shooters.
The Subcompact Arms Race
When Sig Sauer launched the P365 with its half-staggered magazine and greater carrying capacity than other single-stack compacts, it triggered an arms race of who can get the greatest number of cartridges into a tiny gun.
For now, Springfield Armory is in the lead; the flush-fit magazine holds 11+1 of 9mm, and the extended magazine holds 13+1. It’s one more than the P365 (at 10 and 12, respectively) as well as the S&W Shield Plus and Ruger Max 9.
13+1 in such a tiny gun is nothing to sneeze at, as it’s only two fewer cartridges than a Glock 19, but the Hellcat is less than ¾ the size of a ’19.
It also helps that the Hellcat comes with an impressive features list.
The Hellcat has a number of standard features that are actually great touches on a pint-size pistol.
The texturing is aggressive, for good traction while shooting, which is often a complaint of subcompact and micro pistols. You have your choice of black (with melonite slide) or FDE and FDE Cerakote.
Additional texturing is found above the trigger guard on the grip, where many pistols lack any, and there’s a trigger-finger indexing pad above the trigger guard on the frame.
Serrations (front and back) are grippy, and the rear slide serrations are also on top of the frame, for easier hand-over manipulation. The beavertail of the frame allows a deceptively good grip of the gun, so it’s easier to run than you’d think such a small pistol would be.
The sights are clever, with a U-notch rear and front tritium/fiber optic night sight. Those are standard; there is no white-dot model. There is also a small section of accessory rail, for adding a micro light or laser.
The flat blade trigger is comfortable, but Springfield also tune it for short, smooth take-up and a crisp break. There’s little mush or grit in the trigger press, and it has a positive, tactile feel that’s very, very good.
The optional extras are also quite smart. You can order the Hellcat with frame-mounted thumb safeties if so desired, as well as the Hellcat OSP, an optics-ready model. They also offer the pistol with a Shield SMSc optic.
There’s also the Hellcat RDP (Rapid Defense Package) which adds a compensator (a micro Roland Special? Yes!) and gives you the choice of a Shield SMSc or Hex Wasp red dot.
Living With A Hellcat
The Springfield Hellcat is a sales sensation, and it should be; it has excellent features and is one of the best micro/subcompact 9mm pistols you can get even just at face value.
Is it absolute perfection?
Well…there are a couple of minor niggles.
The Hellcat is snappy. While there’s no getting away from some recoil in a very small 9mm, most shooters who have run both guns tend to agree the Hellcat is snappier than the Sig P365, which is for all intents and purposes the same size.
Some people don’t care for a U-notch rear sight, but this is down to personal preference.
Another thing to watch out for is the gap between the magazine base pad and the magazine well. The gap is a little pronounced at the front strap of the grip housing, and depending on where your fingers sit on the gun…it may pinch. Some have this problem, others don’t.
One Of The Best Subcompacts You Can Buy
The Springfield Hellcat is an excellent choice of concealed carry pistol, full-stop. While there are a couple of minor complaints some people might have, the gun has no real downsides.
Even with the extended magazine, it positively disappears on the body and is not difficult to shoot well in the least, optics or no. You just won’t go wrong with one.
15. Easiest Shooting Micro: Sig P238
What we liked:
- Easier to shoot well than small size suggests
- Sleek, smooth and attractive
- Sig Sauer quality
What we didn't like:
- Manual safety is too small
- 9mm version is only slightly bigger
The Sig P238 is a micro 1911 chambered in .380 ACP. Guns of this type have been around for a while; the Colt Mustang was the first, and the P238 is Sig Sauer’s take…but it’s also arguably the best of them.
The P238 is a solid choice of backup gun or deep concealment pistol.
Micro 1911, Big Time Performance
The P238 is a micro 1911, with a single-action firing system and a smooth single-action trigger with a clean, crisp break.
It can absolutely disappear while wearing the gun, with impossibly small dimensions, but the P238 is ergonomically better than most other micro pistols. If you add an extended magazine with a pinky rest, it’s a lot easier to shoot well than you’d think.
Capacity is 6+1 of .380 ACP. Barrel length is 2.7 inches, for an overall length of 5.5 inches. It’s incredibly small and light, at only 15.2 ounces unloaded. The extended magazine brings capacity to 7+1…the same capacity as a standard 1911 in .45 ACP.
There are a couple of different finishes. Besides Sig Sauer’s blacked-out Nitron finish, there’s also an FDE model and a Rainbow Titanium slide for those wanting some additional color.
Carrying And Shooting A Sig P238
The Sig P238 is very accurate at close distances; longer shots (say past 10 yards) are possible, but the short sight radius doesn’t make them easy with a P238 or any gun for that matter.
The ergonomics are 1911-derived, so they’re excellent. Even though the gun is very small, it’s softer-shooting than you’d think a gun of this size would be. Adding the extended magazine makes it even easier to get a good, firm grasp of the pistol.
While a lot of micro 380s aren’t fun to shoot, the P238 is more than livable.
Some Downsides Exist
That said, there are some downsides that you need to be aware of. The Sig P238 is overall the best example of the type (micro 1911 in .380) but there are some minor hitches to be aware of.
First, the thumb safety is tiny and there is no grip safety. That means either manually lowering the hammer to carry it or carrying it cocked and locked.
On typical 1911 frames (Government, Commander or Officer) the thumb safety sticks out so it’s easily swept on or off with the shooting hand thumb. They’re designed to be carried with the safety engaged.
On the P238, it can be a little hard to get a good purchase on the thumb safety, and – given the small size – it engages and disengages a little too easy for some people’s liking. That is up to you.
It’s also the case that the P938 – same gun, just scaled up a bit for 9mm with 6+1/7+1 capacity – is barely any bigger and chambers 9mm rather than .380, and is just as easily concealed (even deeply) and carried.
Great Choice For You If It’s A Great Choice For You
The manual safety being what it is means you need to pause for a second before committing to the P238. If you get one, you need to train to either thumb the hammer back on the draw or to disengage the safety.
However, if you want a well-made but tiny pistol…it’s one of the best you can buy.
16. Most Unique: CZ 2075 RAMI
What we liked:
- CZ ergonomics
- Double-action gun that’s easy to conceal
- Definitely unique
What we didn't like:
- Grip is thick
- Chunky for a subcompact
- Standard model requires manual decocking for DA mode
- Hard to find
The CZ 2075 RAMI is a rare bird, as it’s a double-stack subcompact double-action/single-action pistol. It’s an excellent concealed carry pistol, but its unique nature can make it a little polarizing for some shooters.
CZ or Not CZ That Is The Question
The CZ 2075 RAMI is available in standard CZ configuration – with a manual safety that only engages when the hammer is cocked – or a BD model with a frame-mounted decocker.
If you don’t want to carry cocked and locked or manually decock the pistol, get the BD model.
Both versions come with a 10+1 flush-fit and 14+1 extended magazine, whichever you prefer to carry with. All other features – the 3-inch barrel, standard night sights, and so on – are the same.
Like other CZ 75 pistols and derivatives, the slide rides inside the frame rails for tight lockup. The ergonomics are outstanding for a tiny gun, with just enough palmswell in the grip and a backstrap that’s just long enough for a high, tight shooting grip.
It has CZ’s excellent trigger. Like most of CZ’s pistols, the RAMI rewards good technique with impressive accuracy.
A Most Excellent Curiosity
The 2075 RAMI has some drawbacks.
It’s a bit chunky for a subcompact, and even with an aluminum alloy frame, it is a bit heavy at just over 22 ounces…only a couple of ounces lighter than a Glock 19. Shooters with large hands and long fingers will find the trigger guard a little claustrophobic.
The 2075 RAMI is a bit of a curiosity given how much it defies the conventions of subcompact pistols (metal frame, a double/single-action trigger system). Still, it’s one of those guns that is awesome if it’s your style.
17. Budget Subcompact: Ruger LC9s
What we liked:
- Price Point
- Simple to use
- Light, compact, concealable
What we didn't like:
- Sights are a little small
- A little snappy
- Controls are tiny
The LC9s is a working man’s subcompact striker pistol, with a very attainable price point, simple controls, and a very streamlined form.
The phrase here is “everything you need, nothing you don’t.” It may seem to lack some refinement compared to other guns, but it’s not a match gun and doesn’t pretend to be. It’s a great pick if you want a backup or deep concealment gun that’s easy to get and to shoot.
The LCP Scales Up
The LC9 is a scaled-up and improved Ruger LCR, made about 25 percent larger overall to chamber 9mm instead of .380 ACP, but with some improvements to arrive at a better gun.
The LC9s is a striker-fired subcompact pistol with a polymer frame and black oxide slide. Overall dimensions are in line with other pistols in the segment, at 6 inches long, about an inch wide, and 4.5 inches tall.
The gun holds 7+1 of 9mm and weighs in at 17 ounces unloaded. It doesn’t come with an extended magazine but does have a pinky rest for a better grip.
The LC9s also adds dovetailed sights to be drift adjusted if needs to be — or upgraded with aftermarket irons.
Simple And Sinister
The Ruger LC9s isn’t the most refined but is rugged, reliable, and decently accurate. It will run if that’s what you brung, so to speak.
If there were any criticisms, it would be that the controls are a little undersized, which can give some people issues. The sights are usable but a bit on the tiny side. The trigger is a little unrefined, but it’s far from inhibiting. The gun is a little snappy, but that’s to be expected.
Overall, it’s a very decent working man’s subcompact striker-fired pistol.
Essential Concealed Carry Gun Features
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.
1. Barrel Lengths
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 for any concealed carry gun.
- 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.
2. Types of Actions
There are hundreds of different concealed carry guns on the market, but all use a small number of mechanical firing systems, often called the “action.” Each works a little differently.
The best action for CCW handguns is hotly debated. Each has pros and cons.
With striker-fired concealed carry guns 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, 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 concealed carry guns have to be cocked for every shot. Single-action revolvers must be manually cocked, but single-action semi-autos only need to be manually cocked for the first shot. The slide does the work or recocking the hammer for every shot after that.
Nobody uses single-action revolvers for daily carry anymore, so they don’t merit further discussion. On the other hand, single-action semi-autos remain in production and are a viable choice — if you can live with them.
The upside of single-action concealed carry guns 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 concealed carry gun designs are out there, but really for all practical purposes, it means 1911s.
The 1911 is an excellent fighting pistol in any respect, but, while a good concealed carry gun, 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 well.
Double-action pistols can cock and fire the gun with the firing mechanism wholly deactivated. The hammer (if hammer-fired) starts all the way forward, goes 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 simply 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 well-established pistol designs known for being rugged, reliable, and proven. Examples include the Sig Sauer P226/P229 family, the Beretta 92/M9 family, CZ-75, its derivatives, and other guns.
There are, however, 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.
Well, the downsides aren’t new. The easiest ones to carry (snubbies) are hard to shoot 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.
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.
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 and make a great concealed carry pistol. 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, but, depending on the brand and makes, can about the same size as sub-compacts. 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 for personal defense.
No gun is perfect, so the question is not only addressing the shortcomings of any particular weapon but picking the shortcomings you prefer to live with. There are no free lunches.
Every Brand Can Improve Somewhere
The Glock 19 is an excellent pistol, but some find it a bit too bulky, and – let’s face it – factory Glock triggers aren’t great.
The M&P9 Shield is shockingly easy to conceal and quite shootable for its size, but the hinged trigger safety isn’t great, and some people find the grip too thin to get a shooting grip they prefer.
Chances are if you try 10 pistol brands there will be something about each that you will want to improve upon. The objective is to identify the best option for you then work around a given brand’s shortcomings.
Every Type of Pistol Has It's Nuances
The 1911 is a proven fighting pistol, but it’s an enthusiasts’ gun and not for the beginner, the fainthearted, or the lazy.
Snubby revolvers are easy to carry but are touted as a master’s weapon; they are challenging to shoot well at distances beyond 5 to 7 yards. So are pocket .380s.
When it comes to the right CCW gun, nothing beats hands-on experience. So a little cash spent on range time with a few rentals will help you better understand the ins and outs of different formats and actions.
Carrying a Pistol is it's Own Challange
Strongside IWB carry is not comfortable enough for some people, and the draw is slower than appendix carry.
Appendix carry is not possible for all people, and some find it very uncomfortable.
OWB concealed carry is very comfortable, but maintaining concealment is hard.
There isn’t a best concealed carry pistol, but there is a best concealed carry pistol for you and your lifestyle. How can you find that out?
Get out there and try some.
Carrying Concealed Takes Work & Experience
Find a rental range, and try out some – or all! – of the concealed carry guns on this list. See if there’s one that you seem to like, it points quickly for you and makes it easy for you to hit the target.
Start with a gun you can hit with then worry about everything else.
If you have to shoot for your life, you need to hit the vital areas of the person attacking you, so make sure you get a gun that you can shoot accurately and efficiently in the context you expect to be in.
Suppose that’s a P238 in a pocket holster, fantastic. A Shield or a P365 in a strongside holster? Great. Maybe that’s a VP9 in an appendix holster. Wonderful. If it’s a 1911 in an Askins holster, that’s awesome too.
Start with a good gun for you, in a good holster, and you won’t go wrong.
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