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If you're looking for a concealed carry gun, it can get overwhelming since choosing the best conceal carry gun is subjective. Therefore, I decided to include a variety of small pistols and revolvers to ensure you find the right one on my list of the seven best concealed carry guns.
What to Look for in a Top-Rated Concealed Carry Gun
The main selling feature of a carry gun is its stealthy profile. You don't want your weapon to stand out. The idea of having a reliable daily driver is that it's always sitting there comfortably, and you forget about it until you occasionally need it. Size wise, Mag 44 and single action revolvers do not fit as "small" while most of the 9mm and 10mm will be stealthy enough to be your first handgun for concealed carry.
That said, it's obvious that your clothing style and physical build can heavily influence the pool of carrying guns that suits you. I'd recommend trying the gun out in a comfortable holster and seeing how it fares while you're sitting and standing.
Furthermore, the caliber is another key feature that guides your choice. Most concealed guns rock the 9mm caliber, which is fine enough in most situations. Yet, if you plan to go for a heavy caliber gun with a large magazine capacity, it'll be larger than the average carry gun.
Moving forward, I'll go more in-depth into other factors to consider before you finalize your sidearm purchase decision.
2. Ruger LCP II
CCW Revolvers vs. Pistols
Before jumping into the reviews, we have to answer the question: how do revolvers and pistols fair when put toe to toe? I already covered the reliability part and how revolvers take the upper hand thanks to their more straightforward mechanical design.
When it comes to size, revolvers are wider. A revolver's cylinder is thicker compared to a pistol's magazine. Though the cylinder occupies more of the gun's real estate, it can't hold as many cartridges. It goes without saying that the extra thickness might make revolvers trickier to conceal at times.
Since pistols incorporate a bigger circuit of moving parts, engineers have more room to do their magic and try to reduce the gun's felt recoil on so many levels. On the other hand, revolvers can only play around with the grip's materials. So, if you're looking for the least recoil possible, go for a pistol.
Finally, revolvers are the more user-friendly option of the two. You can literally explain how to shoot a revolver to someone who has never held a gun in only a couple of minutes.
On the other hand, seasoned shooters have already developed the firm grip needed to operate a pistol. You need strong hands to work the different sliders while keeping a steady grip.
Now that you're all caught up on the critical differences between the two, let's head straight into my list.
Best Concealed Carry Handgun Reviews
- One of the best compact 9mm pistols which strike the right balance between recoil and power
- The trigger uses a single action system for more responsiveness and accessibility to beginners
- A durable form factor thanks to the coated anodized alloy frame
- Rounded design with no sharp edges for the utmost comfort
- Serrated side slide for quick and seamless reloading
The Sig Sauer P938 finds itself in a unique spot between Sig's signature full-sized pistols and their niche micro options. The gun's overall footprint feels exceptional in my hand, and I totally dig this balanced design approach, which brings the best of both worlds.
When it comes to ammunition, the Sig Sauer P938 adopts the widely popular 9mm caliber. Such cartridges are cheap, encouraging you to hit the practice shooting range more often. It also comes with manageable recoil, which helps boost your accuracy.
I've always liked Sig Sauer's trigger responsiveness, and the P938 is no different. The trigger comes with just the right resistance to make each shot feel substantial. The single-action system also makes the pistol beginner-friendly. Here, a trigger pull translates into releasing the firing pin and priming your round.
I found myself walking around with my Sig Sauer P938 cocked with the safety pins engaged, of course. The integrated manual thumb safety ensures I never end up with any accidental rounds flying around while providing enough simplicity to engage my pistol when I need to seamlessly.
Sig Sauer P938 Specifications
3-Dot SIGLITE Tritium rear night sight
16 ounces (unloaded)
A small nod that made a massive difference to my Sig Sauer P938 experience is the inclusion of serrations to enhance the grip of the side slide. I found it easier to fully pull the slide for loading and clearing the gun's action, making everything feel more snappy and responsive.
This same attention to detail is displayed at its finest when it comes to the pistol's build. An anodized alloy frame makes the gun's backbone. Such material choice contributes to Sig Sauer P938's balanced weight distribution. The 16-ounce pistol manages to stray away from the too light territory, making it much easier to land a shot.
Speaking of durability, the pistol's frame comes with Sig Sauer's trademark Nitron hard coat. This protective layer helps reduce the natural wear and tear that all firearms face on the field. It's also useful in creating a corrosion-resistant seal, adding to the gun's longevity.
Finally, the pistol comes with a SIGLITE sight included in the box. During my testing, I noticed that the red dot sight helps a lot with regaining aim to my target even at night.
- A 2.75 inches barrel for a stealthy profile and low recoil
- Well-designed ergonomics for a comfortable grip and easily accessible controls
- Reliable trigger with tactile feedback for a better shooting experience
- Textured backstraps for a more secure grip
- A redesigned single-action system for excellent accuracy at close and mid-range
The Ruger LCP II is easily among the most popular concealed carry guns on the market, and for all the good reasons. It's shockingly compact! I remember the first time I held the pistol to be surprised by how its overall footprint is about the size of my palm.
Ruger also nails another part of the formula to have a best seller on its hands: price. It comes at almost half the price of its Sig Sauer P938 counterpart. Such a killer combination makes me easily recommend the Ruger LCP II for anyone looking for a decent carry gun.
When it comes to ballistics, it's unfair to expect too much from the Ruger LCP II. Given the limited internal space that the engineers had to work with, you can expect some compromise to the gun's power. The pistol utilizes 380 ACP ammo and is a great .380 pistol, which is not by any means a powerhouse; however, it came a long way from when it was first introduced.
Ruger LCP II Specifications
380 Auto (ACP)
The main purpose of a carry gun is self-defense. On that front, the 380 ACP comes with a decent stopping force that won't always stop your attacker based on power alone. In other words, targeting vital areas is vital to make your 380 ACP round as effective as possible.
In the course of my testing, I was always pleased to know that it's the Ruger LCP II's turn to hit the road with me. Though it can be underpowered compared to other CCW 9mm caliber guns on the list, I believe its pocketability makes the decision of carrying the gun a no-brainer.
The icing on top is the low recoil and smooth trigger. The relatively short 2.75 inches barrel keeps the recoil from getting out of hand. Furthermore, the trigger system on the Ruger LCP II is a joy to use. It has a distinct click to it with an easily identifiable reset point, which comes in handy to make your shots more consistent, as you receive tactile feedback each time a round is successfully shot.
My only complaint is that it comes with one magazine out-of-the-box. At a capacity of 6 cartridges, it leaves much to be desired. I'd recommend investing in extra magazines while you're at it, as you'll definitely need them.
- A sizeable magazine capacity, allowing you to have more rounds at your disposal
- Slim grip perfect for shooters with small hands
- Excellent sights for an accurate shooting experience
- A premium, well-engineered gun, which makes replacing magazines and regaining aim at target feel snappy and responsive
- Comes with a built-in accessory rail to easily mount sights
Sig Sauer lands another well-deserved entry on my list, and this time around, the P365 speaks to my key complaint about the Ruger LCP II. When the P365 was first introduced, it took the world by storm, as it managed to challenge the norms of magazine capacities in concealed carry guns.
The pistol comes with a 10+1 magazine, which is impressive considering that its form factor is comparable to its predecessor, the P938. It also managed to squeeze two extra rounds in its extended magazines to make the total cartridges count sit at 12+1.
To pull off such a challenge, Sig Sauer's engineering team completely redesigned the gun's magazine with thinner walls to make more room for the actual cartridges.
Sig Sauer P365 Specifications
Furthermore, you can expect the same comfortable grip that Sig Sauer guns are known for. The textured grip is on the slim side, so people with small hands will feel right at home while holding the P365.
Unlike the previous entries on my list, the P365 is a striker-fired pistol. This means that it doesn't rely on the hammer movement to prime and shoot a round. To put things in perspective, the gun operates more or less like the double-action options. On pulling the trigger, the cartridge gets cocked first and in line with the shooting chamber before it's ready to go.
During my shooting experience with the Sig Sauer P365, I found the trigger to be lacking in terms of resistance. The light trigger took me some time to get used to, as how gentle I had to pull the trigger to land a shot was unnerving at first. Anyways, this is just me, as I was coming from guns with a more heavy trigger pull, and my muscle memory didn't take the sudden change nicely.
When it comes to reliability, I had zero issues while testing the P365. Of course, my relatively limited test time is not a good enough indicator of how the gun fares in the long term. However, given that Sig Sauer has an impressive reliability track record, there is nothing to worry about here.
- Comes in a single stack design to retain a compact, concealable design
- Reasonable overall weight for optimal portability
- The external controls are well-placed to be easily accessible without having to change your grip
- Offers option for an extended magazine to have 8+1 rounds at a time
- The gun’s moddable nature opens the doors to a deep level of customization
Smith and Wesson took everything we loved about the original Shield and capitalized on that with its updated M2.0 model. The first model was built from the grounds up to be a concealed carry gun first and foremost.
Instead of taking the half-baked "jack of all trades, master of none" approach that many gun manufacturers find themselves victims to, the original Shield aimed only to master the concealed gun formula.
S&W M&P Shield M2.0 Specifications
7+1 or 8+1 magazines
9mm, 40 S&W, and 45 ACP
I'm pleased to report that the Shield M2.0 lives up to its predecessor's legacy while bringing some meaningful changes to the table. First of all, the grip here is a great leap forward. The stippled grip felt secure enough in my hands, even during my rapid shooting practice sprees.
Furthermore, the base version of the gun comes with the standard 3-dot sight. Nevertheless, you can upgrade down the line to the reflex red dot sights if you need the extra accuracy at night time.
The ease of swapping parts is not just limited to the sights, as Smith and Wesson strongly believes in moddable and modular designs. You don't need special gunsmithing tools to personalize the trigger or grip to suit your style. I'm a sucker for any product that feeds my urge of experimentation, and the Shield M2.0 delivers on this front.
- Fixed gun sight for extra accuracy
- Compact size delivering a stealthy look
- Support for P+ cartridges makes it a worthwhile self-defense revolver
- Customizable with different grips and laser pointers
- The trigger’s break is smooth and crisp to boost the accuracy of your follow-up shots
Revolvers are here to crash the party! At first glance, the S&W 642 Airweight is tiny in comparison to its revolver counterparts. The barrel sits at 1.8 inches, and the revolver's overall length is just 6.3 inches long. The compact dimensions, coupled with a lightweight aluminum frame, deliver a true contender for your everyday holster.
It's worth mentioning that depending on your preference, the aluminum alloy frame might feel floaty at times, especially that the 642 Airweight makes use of the overpressure ammo. A P+ designates such cartridges, and they are calibrated at a higher internal pressure, as their name implies.
S&W 642 Airweight Specifications
38 SPL +P
Bullets at this caliber are capable of traveling for longer distances and achieving more penetration. This translates into considerable stopping power, boosting the revolver's effectiveness as a self-defense sidearm.
When it comes to accuracy, the 642 Airweight does an excellent job for a small carry gun. The barrel has a built-in sight, which makes it easier to pinpoint your targets. However, the one you get out-of-the-box is the one you'll have to live with. Unlike other alternatives I've reviewed, the S&W 642 Airweight doesn't support third-party mounted accessories.
People coming from pistols might need some time to digest the fact that revolvers don't come with a trigger safety system. This is how revolvers operate, so the only way to avoid any stray shots simply is not pulling the trigger.
Don't let the absence of a dedicated safety system give you anxiety, as the 642 Airweight's trigger is engineered to shoot only when it's deliberately pulled to the end. Even if you drop your revolver, you don't have anything to worry about.
- A long barrel length for better accuracy at long ranges
- Comes with an accessory rail to easily mount sights
- Comfortable grip for easily accessible controls
- Substantial weight to reduce recoil
- Smooth trigger design to ensure the consistency of all shots
Springfield Armory has its dedicated, loyal community who keep coming back for its unique firearms. I understand the hype surrounding the company, but I couldn't help myself from expecting that I won't enjoy my experience with the 1911 EMP4 based on the specs alone.
The pistol is definitely less stealthy than other options I've tested. The barrel length comes at 4 inches, which is about double the S&W 642 Airweight's barrel length. Furthermore, the weight makes the pistol feel substantial in its holster. Unlike other entries on my list, a little bit of drag will always remind me that I have my firearm on me.
Springfield Armory 1911 EMP4 Specifications
So, I came to this review asking myself what killer feature can sway me to look past such inconveniences and choose the 1911 EMP4 over its competition. The answer is quite simple! The Springfield Armory 1911 EMP4 does a lot of things right, and when such small features are combined, they make a compelling package.
First of all, the long barrel allows the bullet to gain more momentum and travel further. This translates to excellent accuracy at long ranges. Furthermore, I was blown away by how satisfying the trigger feels. With a relatively short travel distance, it allows me to fire my follow-up shot in no time.
The trigger is also smooth throughout with an easily identifiable clicky reset point. This makes every shot feel consistent and reduces any inconveniences you might face when moving from one shot to the next.
Finally, the pistol's heavyweight comes with a reward for those who don't mind the extra weight. It enables the gun to be more stable and reduces the recoil you get after shooting a 9mm caliber round. I'd happily switch to the Springfield Armory 1911 EMP4 as my daily driver for this advantage alone.
- The double-action trigger automatically cocks the bullet
- The 38 SPL +P ammunition offers considerable stopping power
- Comes with a short barrel for a more stealthy profile
- Stainless steel frame for better durability
- The lightweight form factor adds to the revolver’s portability
I'll wrap up my list with another one I’d call the best concealed carry revolver. This snub nose revolver shares a lot of the same beats with its AirWeight counterpart. Both come with short barrels for a more concealed look. They also use the same type of 38 S&W +P ammunition with better penetration and greater stopping power.
Furthermore, they both share the same magazine capacity and overall weight. So, the obvious question will be how to choose one of them over the other. You'd be surprised that my answer is you can't. The two 38 snub nose revolvers are essentially two sides of the same coin, yet they have a couple of critical distinctions.
S&W 642 LadySmith Specifications
38 S&W Special +P
The LadySmith revolver operates on a double-action mechanism. This means that a full trigger pull will cock the bullet into the shooting chamber and then fire your round.
If you decide to change your mind mid-way as you're holding the trigger and the bullet is already cocked, there is no way to go back. In this situation, you have to actually shoot the cartridge before you can move on to the next one.
On the other hand, the AirWeight is a single-action revolver in which the bullet is manually cocked. Here, pulling the trigger directly shoots the bullet, so you can abstain from firing the cartridge if you change your mind.
Finally, the LadySmith comes in a stainless steel frame as opposed to the aluminum one. Such a change in the frame material doesn't impact the weight, so you can expect the same recoil between the two. However, the stainless steel revolver can be more durable in the long run.
Concealed Carry Pistols & Revolvers Buying Guide -Features To Look For
Guns with many moving mechanical parts are more likely to have issues than their sample counterparts. That's why revolvers are always more reliable than semi-automatic pistols.
If you end up with an unfired round, you can simply pull the trigger one more time, and the revolver's cylinder will rotate to bring the next round in line with the firing chamber. You can then release the revolver's wheel to eject the empty shells and the unshot round.
The only way that wheel guns can theoretically fail is if the bullet gets stuck mid-way inside the barrel. This is highly unlikely as long as you use reliable ammo.
On the other hand, pistols are more tricky to fix if they malfunction. That's why periodic maintenance is always a good idea. Your trusty copper solvent and bore cleaners can make your life easier and ensure your semi-auto pistol's longevity.
You might be surprised by how much the gun grip can affect your accuracy and overall comfort while shooting a gun. The grip thickness impacts your shooting finger placement on the trigger.
Imagine holding a gun with a thick grip, and you try to outstretch your finger as much as possible just to reach the trigger. If you're pulling the trigger with your right hand, the recoil will shift the gun slightly to the left as your right grip is not strong enough in such circumstances.
It can be confusing, but you now understand how a simple feat, such as the grip thickness, can transform your shooting experience. That's why many gun manufacturers provide options for interchangeable backstraps to customize the grip to your liking.
Another factor to consider is accessibility. By that, I mean how your fingers can easily reach different parts of the gun while retaining a comfortable grip. You need to ensure that the safety and magazine release buttons are always within reach.
Many intertwining factors influence whether your shot hits its target.
For starters, recoil is a key player that you should keep an eye on before buying a new carry gun. It's basically the backward force by which the firearm is displaced with every shot fired.
Recoil primarily affects how efficiently you can regain aim on your target to land a precise follow-up shot. Ammunition with the heavy caliber and tons of gunpowder will undoubtedly produce more recoil. Choosing the optimal gun specs is like a game of chess, as moving around one of the many intricate factors can completely change your outcome.
Furthermore, applying a gun sight can help boost your accuracy. There are many options, and according to the situation, some can be better than others. For example, red dot sights are perfect for pinpoint shooting at night, while iron sights are only viable for daytime shooting.
It's worth noting that some pistols come with a Modular Optical System (MOS,) which offers universal adaptors for mounting all brands of sights. This system saves you the time of searching for third-party mounts that can be bulky and unreliable at times.
By the end of my best concealed carry guns list, I hope you now have a solid idea about which options suit you best. If you're looking for the best concealed pistol, go for the Sig Sauer P938 for its excellent reliability and power.
On the other hand, if the revolver form factor is your preferred choice, you'll be happy with the S&W 642 Airweight. It's an exceptionally small gun to the point of being easily pocketable.