September 5, 2015

Best Concealed Carry Handguns for Beginners


I teach concealed carry permit classes for the state of Utah, and invariably, I am asked by my students, “What is the best concealed carry handgun?” My answer is always the same: Carry whichever gun you feel most comfortable with, and the one with which you can hit your target. While this answer is true, it is not terribly helpful. So, I have decided to make a beginners’ guide, if you will, that will point people in the right direction. My list will not be exhaustive; that would be impossible, but I will try to make it as complete as I can.

The most important consideration when selecting a handgun for concealed carry is your ability to hit the target with it. It does not do you any good to have a .357 magnum if you cannot hit you target. One would be better off with a .22 magnum, if that is the handgun that can be shot most accurately in their hands. Cost is also a consideration.  Not just the initial cost, but the cost to shoot the handgun on a regular basis. You must practice regularly with your chosen weapon if you want to become proficient.


9mm’s are the mainstay of concealed carry. There are so many choices that I could write an entire book about them. The round has become popular again after being over shadowed by the .40 caliber. There are now many choices in self-defense ammo—so many that that will be a topic for another day. My personal feeling is that the 9mm is a great starting caliber for new shooters and new concealed carry permit holders. As you gain experience, you may want to try out other calibers, or you may be like me and stay with the 9mm.

Springfield XD Sub-Compact 9mm. Springfield has really made a name for themselves in the polymer pistol arena. This pistol features a 13+1 capacity if you use the compact magazine and it can increase to 16+1 with a grip extension. I’ve shot this little gun and loved it. It felt really good in my hand and had a natural point to it. Springfield makes this in a few different sizes, but my favorite is the sub-compact.

Taurus PT111G. People bad-mouth Taurus all the time, but I have to admit that I have owned 5 different Taurus handguns, and I’ve never had a single problem with any of them. The PT111G is the latest version of their Millennium series and is a real beauty. It is a 12+1 9mm with a 3.2” barrel. Basically, this a sub-compact pistol with a great price tag. Taurus is always going to be cheaper than Springfield or Glock. My personal feeling is that Taurus is a great gun for beginners that may be on a tight budget. These guns also come with a lifetime warranty.

Glock 19. Of all the Glocks, the 19 is by far my favorite. This is a compact pistol that has a capacity of 15+1 and is easy to conceal. Glock is known as a high quality, reliable pistol that requires little maintenance. The reason I like the 19 is that it has a perfect blend of conceal-ability and capacity. I always use my 19 to teach beginners, and all of them love it. I also have a model 26, which is the sub-compact version, and it seems just a little too small for someone just starting out.

Smith & Wesson M&Pc. The M&P series has really taken the pistol world by storm. I was reluctant to even shoot one when they first came out because I felt like Springfield and Glock had perfected the polymer pistol. I was pleasantly surprised when a fellow shooter at the range allowed me to shoot his M&Pc 9mm. I was surprised at how easy follow-through was after each shot. It has a 12+1 capacity and a four-inch barrel. The gun also has an adjustable back-strap to accommodate many different hand sizes. These guns have become popular with law enforcement as well. Recently, my local sheriff’s office adopted the M&P as their duty weapon.

.40 S&W

The .40 S&W has been a mainstay for the law enforcement community for the past twenty years. Every gun maker has a .40. All the guns listed in the 9mm section also come in .40 S&W. It needs to be mentioned that the .40 S&W will recoil significantly more that the 9mm. The recoil will be felt in muzzle flip. The flip can be quire sharp depending on the ammunition that you are using. Your capacity will also be lower when using a .40 S&W. The advantage is that the .40 has great stopping power and the .40 frames will be the same size as the 9mm. Practice is super important if you choose to go with a .40 S&W.

.45 ACP

I strongly advise against a new shooter or concealed carry permit holder getting a .45 ACP. The only exception to this would be if the person has a shooting back ground but has just gotten their permit. When it comes to .45′s, there are lots of choices, but I recommend staying with either Glock or Springfield XDs. The 1911 is a great gun, but is not suitable for a beginner.

.38 Special

Revolvers are a little tricky in this area of shooting. They are by far the most dependable of the handguns for personal defense. Pull the trigger, and the gun goes boom. There is no safety to worry about, no slide to rack, and no magazine to fall out if the wrong button is pushed. The problem is that revolvers take a lot more practice to master than pistols do. Most people who carry a revolver for personal defense carry a two to three-inch barrel. This barrel length does not provide mush in the way of weight to counteract the recoil of the gun.

The other issue is capacity. Most revolvers that are used in concealed carry are five or six-shot, at most. Compare this to the 9mms mentioned above that hold anywhere from 13-16 rounds. That is a big difference. But I still believe that revolvers have their place with beginners. I would absolutely discourage any new shooter from getting a .357 magnum. This caliber is a monster in four-inch and six-inch barrels, and in a two-inch barrel, it is a real wrist breaker. There is one positive for buying a .357 magnum: They are heavier, so when you shoot your .38 specials, the recoil is less than out of a standard .38.

Smith & Wesson J Frame. This revolver has been proven to be a real winner and a dependable handgun to have. It comes in 30+ models to choose from. Most are two-inch barrels, but some come with three-inch ones. You will also have lots of finishes and grips to choose from as well. The J frames also come in .22 magnum and .357 magnum, as well as .38 special.

Taurus Model 85. I list this one because I have owned one for about six years now, and I have loved it. Mine is a .38 special, and I carry it in the summertime. It has handled everything that I have thrown at it, and all for a fraction of the cost of a Smith & Wesson. Now, the Smith is much higher quality than the Taurus–no question about it. The most notable deficiency is the trigger. The Smith trigger is smooth, while the Taurus is quite rough. However, I only paid $260 for my Taurus brand new.  You’ll have to do the comparison and make your own decision.

Some may notice that I did not list the .380 auto. I’m not a fan of this caliber, simply because the 9mm does a much better job, and you’ll have a bigger selection of handguns to pick from by going with a 9mm. I also left off other calibers that I feel are more appropriate for advanced shooters, like the .357 Sig.

I’m sure some of you will have differing opinions, which I always am excited about! I want to hear from you.  What is your best concealed carry handgun for beginners? Let’s help those new to shooting make great investments. People are more likely to carry a gun that they feel comfortable shooting and they will feel comfortable when they can hit their target consistently.

17 Responses to “Best Concealed Carry Handguns for Beginners”
  1. I was wondering if you ever thought of changing the structure of your website?
    Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better.
    Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or 2 images.
    Maybe you could space it out better?

  2. Thank you for every other informative blog. The place
    else could I get that kind of information written in such a perfect means?
    I have a venture that I’m simply now running on, and I
    have been on the look out for such info.

  3. Have you ever thought about including a little bit more than just your articles?
    I mean, what you say is important and all. However think about if
    you added some great pictures or video clips to give your posts more, “pop”!
    Your content is excellent but with pics and clips, this website could
    definitely be one of the greatest in its field. Great blog!

  4. I was suggested this web site by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post is written by him as
    nobody else know such detailed about my trouble.
    You are amazing! Thanks!

  5. Fantastic goods from you, man. I have understand your stuff previous to and you’re just extremely wonderful.
    I really like what you’ve acquired here, really like what you’re stating
    and the way in which you say it. You make it entertaining and
    you still care for to keep it smart. I cant wait to read much more from
    you. This is actually a tremendous web site.

  6. We are a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community.
    Your site offered us with helpful information to work on. You have done a formidable task
    and our whole community will likely be grateful to you.

  7. Frank says:

    In my opinion the first requirement for a concealed handgun is that it be concealable. A waistband or belt carried gun in a holster is not fully concealed and can be uncomfortable. My choice is for so-called ‘pocket pistols’. I have three, my main carry is a Ruger LCP. It fits in a hip pocket no more uncomfortable than a wallet. And it can be carried in summer clothes well concealed.

  8. marty says:

    when my dad passed away he willed me his colt detective 38 special. It is probably one of the finest gun ever made.

  9. Larry Trotter says:

    The best CC gun is one you will have on you every second you are not in bed. I carry a NAA 22 short, and it is much better than the Colt 45 ACP that I have to leave in the car or at home some times. Larry

  10. Jason says:

    In the 9mm category, I would say the Springfield Armory XDS and S&W M&P Shield are superior to the Springfield Armory XD compact and M&P compact. These guns are smaller than the ones mentioned, which makes them better for concealed carry, but they are still large enough to shoot easily.

  11. Brent Harney says:

    I agree except when it comes to Taurus. As an instructor, I have seen way to many Taurus handguns with way to many problems. In my last class a Taurus out of the box would not even fire two shots in a row. Definitely an issue with quality control.
    I advise my students to stick with reputable manufacturing brand name firearms, like S&W, Ruger, Glock, Colt, Beretta and Springfield Armory.

    • Jim Walker says:

      I was wondering if you were using a concealed spell checker on this article?

      • Joe Hathaway says:

        I have a Taurus 738 TCP .380 which has been back to the factory twice, and I dug it out to show a novice what he could expect from that particular “gun.” In an afternoon of shooting, I managed to fire TWO rounds consecutively on TWO occasions! Every other round fired resulted in a jam of several types, making the “weapon” virtually useless as a self-defense device, given the unlikelihood of a single mouse-round stopping a bad boy, should the first and only shot accidentally hit him. It could be thrown at him, I suppose…

  12. Tom Hewett says:

    An earlier reply stated my primary consideration as being that of feeling safe with the handgun chosen regardless of the caliber and type of handgun, which should be paramount for a beginning shooter. If one is uncomfortable with a particular firearm one has chosen because of safe carry concerns then another option should be explored…Otherwise a very good opinion.

  13. jame says:

    I have to agree with you on the springfield xd but strongly disagree with you on the Taurus pt111 I have had two different ones and they are a nice compact gun but the trigger on both of the ones I had is ugly at best! it is way to long and stiff to give an inexperienced shooter, to handle with any kind of accuracy!

  14. Citizen John says:

    There is a lot of truth in your first paragraph, “Carry whichever gun you feel most comfortable with, and the one with which you can hit your target”. That statement covers a lot of ground, gender, size, experience, personality, concealment, gun weight, etc. other personal issues. I bought a .22 magnum S&W stainless revolver for my mother-in-law when she was in her eighties, I disposed of the .25 and .22 autos that my father-in-law had left her and taught her how to shoot the S&W in one afternoon. The primary reason for getting rid of the semi-autos was safety, These little guns are too dangerous for anyone but a very experienced shooter to carry or leave around.
    I like the simplicity of a revolver and the reasons you mention for a new shooter. A waste of money on a .22 mag, you say, naw.,,,, Hey, everyone needs several guns and the inexperienced shooter can graduate to semi-auto’s and larger calibers as they go along and gain experience and confidence. A .22 mag for carry is a good start for many. Let’s help them learn how to shoot first with fairly cheap.22 long rifle and then think about stopping power. One needs quite a bit of training to be cool under fire or duress by the bad guy and I would hate to hear that the mag fell out of grandma or grandpa’s gun in that split second of terror .
    Nines and .38 specials work very well and as you say, they are concealable. Beretta, Walther, and S&W are available and good quality. I never did buy that “nines were mouse guns”, not when governments have killed 100 million people with nines in the last century.

Leave A Comment

!!! Comments that do not adhere to our guidelines will not be published. !!!

 characters available