Everywhere is a potential danger zone – so prepare accordingly

After the recent mass shootings in Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton, one thing should have become clear to every American:  there are no “safe spaces” in which shootings will not occur.  Anywhere can be chosen by some deranged maniac or warped, twisted deviant to express his feelings by shooting a few (or a few dozen) people.

That being the case, the question arises of personal preparedness for such events.  I’ve addressed personal safety concerns in a previous blog post.  This morning I’d like to address the need to be armed and ready to defend ourselves and our loved ones.  This article is directed primarily at those readers who haven’t previously considered this, or who haven’t had enough exposure to handguns to be familiar with the field.

During the heat of summer, it’s not likely that many of us will be dressed in such a way that we can conceal a full-size handgun easily.  The concealment aspect is very important, as noted previously, because if there’s a “man with a gun” call, and you’re visibly armed, you may find yourself targeted without a second thought.  You need to carry your gun in such a way that it’s not visible unless and until it has to be, to defend yourself.  That means carrying something smaller and more concealable than a full-size handgun.  It may mean carrying, not just a compact, but a sub-compact firearm.  What’s the difference?

A polymer (plastic) framed, sub-compact firearm may be so small and so light that it’s very difficult to aim and fire it accurately and effectively.  If you train often and long enough, you can overcome that problem, of course:  but it takes hard work.  I see a great many people carrying tiny firearms like the Ruger LCP or LCP II, or the Kel-Tec P32 or P3AT, who have never fired their guns.  They find their mere possession comforting.  Little do they know!  I’ve owned all those models, and still own and carry the LCP, so I speak from experience when I say that even as a trained, experienced shooter, I find them very hard to use compared to larger, more ergonomic guns.  The recoil is magnified, control is hard due to a minuscule grip surface, and the trigger pull isn’t easily mastered if you have big hands.  In particular, given my older eyes, I find their tiny sights almost impossible to use accurately.  In fact, I won’t carry any of those four models unless it’s equipped with a laser sight, and I’ve confirmed on the range that it’s sighted in for accuracy with the ammunition in the gun.  To my mind, such tiny firearms should be regarded as backup guns rather than primary weapons.  YMMV, of course.

The same applies, to a lesser extent, to small snubnose revolvers.  They’re larger than the ultra-miniature pistols listed above, but still small and light compared to their larger brethren.  They can fire any type of bullet available in their cartridge and caliber range, offering greater flexibility, and they’re combat-proven in performance.  I sometimes carry a .38 Special snubnose revolver, usually loaded with Buffalo Bore’s full wadcutter rounds, and I’m confident it’ll do the job if necessary.  However, their sights are still rudimentary compared to those on larger firearms, and their recoil is harder to control given their small size and light weight.  Regular practice is necessary if one’s to make the most of them.  A laser sight is a valuable accessory.

It’s increasingly common to encounter sub-compact single-stack semi-auto pistols specially designed for concealed carry.  Examples include the Glock 424343X and 48, the Springfield Armory XD-S, Ruger’s LC9S and (very affordable) EC9S, Smith & Wesson’s Shield, and others.  I’d consider these the minimum serious concealed carry weapons out there.  Even though I’m no longer actively involved in training disabled shooters, I have examples of most of the above models, and I train often enough to be able to use them effectively.  They offer better sights than smaller weapons, plus in most cases the opportunity to fit better aftermarket sights if so desired.  (Trijicon’s HD XR range are a good example of the latter, and I like them very much.  I find them clear and sharp, even if my eyes aren’t!)  Extended magazines are sometimes available if required, although the quality of some aftermarket offerings isn’t always good enough to rely on for serious work.

I respectfully suggest that a firearm similar to those mentioned in the preceding paragraph should be the minimum we carry nowadays.  If it’s possible to conceal a larger firearm, with more rounds in the magazine, so much the better;  but that’s not always the case.  I highly recommend trying as many of the above models as possible, choosing the one that best fits your hand, and training with it until you’re satisfied you can put your rounds where they’ll do the most good at ranges out to 15-20 yards, rapidly and effectively.  (Most defensive encounters will be at much shorter ranges than that, but one can’t rule out the need for a longer-range shot.)  Remember, you’ll be held legally accountable for every shot you fire.  If you use your defensive firearm and hit an innocent bystander, it may go hard for you if it turns out you were never trained, or not trained adequately, in its use, and never practiced with it.

There’s also the question of how and where to carry your gun.  This is a vast subject in its own right, and I can’t possibly do it justice in a short article like this.  I strongly recommend on-body carry rather than off-body (e.g. in a purse or handbag), because it’s too easy for a thief to rip a bag out of your hands and run off with it.  A good holster is also essential, for your own protection as much as anything else.  Greg Ellifritz had a good article about that recently;  I strongly suggest you read it in full, and take note.

What’s my personal choice?  Until recently, when it came to pocket or deep-concealment carry, I used Springfield’s XD-S.  However, having been introduced to Glock’s Model 48 and 43X pistols (the latter using the former’s frame, but the half-inch-shorter slide and barrel of the Model 43), I’m beginning to make the switch to the 43X.  Based on the firearms I’ve personally handled and used, I think it’s the best compromise between concealment, controllability and magazine capacity currently on the market.  However, others may hold different opinions, and that’s OK.  I’d certainly trust any of the other sub-compact models mentioned above to protect my life if need be.

Whatever you carry, practice with it, and make sure you know how to use it effectively if the need arises.  Nowadays, there are no safe spaces – so be prepared, every time you enter the unsafe world out there.


(EDITED TO ADD: As a result of some comments and e-mails concerning this article, I’ve added a second dealing with ammunition selection. You’ll find it here.)


  1. Excellent article!
    A tropical weight Scottevest makes an excellent article for carry. The front side pockets are wallet-sized so a Sigarms 365 or equivalent with a 12 round magazine is perfect and works whether you are right or left-handed. Weight distribution is good and the firearm does not print even in high heat or humidity. A variety of pockets allows personal options for carrying other gear, keys, extra magazine, binoculars, med kit, etc.

  2. Your post made me think…maybe for a subcompact .22LR would be the ticket. Easier to control for sure. I never really thought about it before….22 was always for plinking. I know you covered .22 before and its abilities.

  3. I had a P3AT. I also own a 12 ga and an old Russky bolt-gun. The Keltec was the most punishing of the three to fire.

  4. Good article. Right now, it being summer and I often run around in shorts and t-shirt, a Shield goes with me. In cooler months it's my CZ. I work with both.

  5. The Ruger EC9S is very affordable although it is very basic (only comes with one mag for example). I usually wear lightweight shorts and t-shirts for half of the year so it is a challenge to carry but there are some cross-body bags like this one (https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B00X3N7OLE/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o08_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 ) that I happen to know are a great fit for an EC9S in a holster and on a guy, while it kind of looks dorky, is not as apt to get snatched as a purse.

  6. I carry a G43 upgraded with Tru-Glo TFO sights with me when I'm around town.
    When I head out of the valley, I usually up-gun to my G23 with same sights and a trigger job.

  7. I live in Alaska which is a constitutional carry state both conceled and open carry. I carry a .357 S&W model 60 in a pocket holster. Not fast draw but well conceled in jeans or cords. It's there if I need it, loaded with hard cast at home or in winter (penetration in heavy clothes) and hollow points in town. A friend of mine carrys open in town (Anchorage) and was actually thanked by the manager of a big buffet restaurant for quieting things down by being there! Certainly your comment about being a target is valid as well.

  8. Here in Texas (as I'm you know by now) the need to have 2 guns is a good idea.
    Winter Summer options. After appox. 20 years of carry I have finally settled on
    a CZ 75 compact for cool weather under a jacket and a Sig 938 in a sneaky pete holster for summer.
    We also need to keep in mind that sacrificing a minimal amount of comfort for the added security of having the ability to protect yourself and loved ones is a worthwhile trade off.
    Paul in Texas

  9. For the past thirty years my carry piece is a Charter Arms Bulldog in .44 Special. To compensate for some minor macular degeneration a gunsmith added a peep sight to the rear. The front sight is painted white.

    At the range I can still put five out of five center mass at 25 feet.

  10. My carry options are M and P shields. my primary carry is a 9mm shield with a laser sight. I have a second shield with a fiber optic front sight, I havent put enough rounds through it yet to carry it. A nice choice for those on a budget wouls be a taurus 2nd gen 111. I had one, held 12 rounds and shot well. gave it ti one of the kids.

  11. You should try the Sig P365, standard is 10 rounds or an extended 12 rounder. Very nice pistol, small and shoots well. I've carried Sig's every day since '84 and I've never been let down by one, on duty or off.

    1. I second the P365 for summer carry in Texas, but will trade up for the P365XL in a year or two. The XL has an enhanced grip with 12-round capacity (and 15-rd magazines available, which might be a good reload), longer barrel, and straight trigger. Since I carry the P365 with the extended 12-rd magazine, anyway, it would be just as concealable. I do notice my groups are at least 50% larger (and some days 100% larger) than what I can do with my full-sized Walther PPQ 5", but they're still all in the black at 50' (even if some are barely there — that short sight radius hurts).

  12. Great post! I 100% agree: life is on a YOYO basis (You're On Your Own).

    My choice has been a Glock 26, carried in a Glock 17 holster for greater stability IWB, but when I really need to hide the gun, the slimmer, lighter Kel-Tec P-11 works for me. It's about as small and light as I'm willing to go with a 9mm. It has a LOOOOONG trigger pull, but recoil is not bad at all, and it uses a 10-round magazine.

    I've considered going back to a laser-gripped .357 revolver for greater accuracy, given that the threat seems greater. I've even considered carrying the P-11 as a backup and the revolver as a primary. I can shoot palm-sized double action groups out to about 20 yards with it.

  13. Various posted ammo tests have shown that firing 357mag from a 2" snubbie is not a good choice. Muzzle blast, recoil, and increased time between shots, did not equal better velocity and stopping performance over .38spl ammo.

    I found that grip size made a significant difference in accuracy with the small frame snubbies. A grip that wrapped around the backstrap and was slightly thicker, but still just the same two finger length , was good for a grouping half as large as the typical "boot grip" style gave me.

    It appears that the gun is moving in my hand from the trigger pull, along with recoil. Having to re-grip a couple times during a five shot string made this point. Head shots at useful distances becomes possible. Plus, with increased hand comfort, practice at the tin can range becomes practical and fun!

    The downside is the slight increase in gun overall length can make concealment more of an issue. Some holsters and bags are sized for those traditional little bitty frame size grips, and even boot grips often don't fit without mods to the holster. Holster makers are very hide bound, it seems.

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