Saturday, July 15, 2006

Concealed Carry Guns

I've had my permit since 1987. I've tried all the following:

  • S&W M36 .38 Special
  • Colt Junior .25 Auto
  • Colt Combat Commander .45 ACP
  • S&W M629 .44 Mag
  • S&W M13 .357 Mag
  • Ruger Speed-Six .357 Mag
  • Pistolette Makarov 9mm Makarov (9x18)
  • Colt 1991A1 .45 ACP
The S&W M36 with 3" barrel and square butt was the first gun I got for concealed carry. It cost me $231. I always have carried the Federal "FBI" load or handloaded equivalent. This gun now wears a Pachmayr Compac grip. Works well for me! The holster has been a bit of a sticking point though.

For a while I carried it in an Uncle Mikes IWB which was basically just a pocket of nylon fabric with a metal belt clip. It worked ok for me as I wasn't doing any running. However, one day, I did have to run a bit and felt it start to slip out. It was a bit awkward to reseat the revolver in that thing without being noticed. I imagine that the 2" barrel (actually shorter than that) would be worse for that.

The Colt Junior was purchased from a friend when he needed money and returned to him for the purchase price after his father died. I carried it for a while when I first got my Concealed Handgun Permit. An ankle holster from Uncle Mike sufficed for carry but it was sometimes just dumped in a pocket. I had little faith in that system. Please note that these little pistols really do need to be carried hammer down on an empty chamber.

The little .25 Auto was clearly only suited for backup duties. I got a .45 ACP Combat Commander and relegated the .25 Auto to "back-up" duties and for carry when anything bigger was impossible. The one pictured here is not the one I owned but I preferred this photo because it showed the original box.

The Combat Commander and, now, the full-sized Government model are excellent carry guns. One certainly doesn't feel under-gunned! However, they aren't ideal for those with a bit more around the middle and inside the pants carry. It can be uncomfortable.

One simply can't argue with the .45 ACP cartridge. Even the FMJ stuff works and inspires confidence. That can be extremely important in states such as New Jersey that prohibit hollow-points (provided you can have the pistol in the first place).

Sometimes, perhaps always, confidence in your tool is what gets you through a difficult time. The guns also inspire a LACK of confidence on the behalf of your opposition, particularly if they know what they are facing. I had one incident in which my competence with the big, old, military pistol and the sight of it on my desk completely changed the attitude of one young man who had been determined to tell me what to do.

The Smith and Wesson M629, stainless N frame in .44 S&W Magnum, has been tried as well. Let's just say that it was a stop gap and that the revolver has just never really suited me. Even in the woods, I couldn't get completely comfortable with the gun. It will shoot well but the grips and their size relative to my hand(s) have made this revolver somewhat problematic. It is a well made gun with no mechanical worries and the .44 Mag cartridge in factory or handloaded to be much more tame is still effective as any .4something should be. I think that a physically larger fellow could handle this gun just as well as I do the Smith and Wesson M13.

The Smith and Wesson M13, blued steel 3" barrel .357 Magnum, was carried extensively. Loaded as the FBI did with the 158 gr. .38 Special FBI load or the Federal 125 gr. all-out .357 Mag load, I carried this gun pretty much all year except during winter (when the Combat Commander got the nod) for about 12 years. Well read folks won't need a description of the effectiveness of the ammunition used.

The gun itself was carried in a Bianchi Pistol Pocket, an IWB holster, and backed up with a couple of HK speed-loaders and Bianchi Speed Strips. It was a constant companion thus carried and during the summer rode undetected beneath dark colored T-shirts. Despite our hot summers and the blued steel of the gun, sweat and/or rust were not a problem.

I did go through a couple of grip options. The first was the factory grips with a Tyler T-grip adapter which worked very well but was darn uncomfortable to shoot when it was stoked with the 125 gr. screamers. For that reason I eventually switched to a set of Pachmayr Compacs as shown. This is a great gun and has always shot to POA at reasonable self-defense ranges.

Likewise I installed the same Pachmayr Compacs on Dad's Ruger Speed-Six, 4", .357 Magnum. Using the same loads in this gun, I have tried several holsters but now leave the deep concealed carry to the M13 and carry the Speed-Six in an Uncle Mike's nylon paddle holster. If you ask me, this is THE gun to leave bedside for the wife when out of town. As Kim du Toit says, "it is like a fork, pick it up and it works." It fits the wife's hand and I think it would fit most peoples' hand just fine.

Sometimes, we just can't leave well enough alone. All of the above guns had shown me what worked but curiosity got the better of me and I purchased a Bulgarian made Pistolette Makarov in the chambering for which it was designed, the 9mm Makarov aka 9x18mm.

Large for the cartridge for which it is chambered, at least by modern standards, the Pistolette Makarov is dependable, well made (if not refined), and easy to manage. One might not like the heel type magazine release or have a problem with the trigger but both work and work well enough. The magazine holds 8 rounds and one can load one up the spout and a full mag for 9 rounds total of moderate .38 Special level power in a gun not that much different in size when compared to the 3" M36 I once carried.

I carried this gun in a heavier duty version of the IWB nylon pouch or in a Fobus paddle holster. It has yet to defend me from any two-legged vermin but has made itself available for the removal of a woodchuck. The ammo used is Barnaul's excellent steel-cased 95 gr. hollow point.

I got mine from Dan's Ammo for $60 per 500 and the good prices and excellent quality as well as reported performance keep it marked "sold out". However, if you can find it this is the best ammo to use. The FMJ stuff from Barnaul is good shooting ammo as well but I think it should be relegated to the practice role. As cheap as this stuff is, it doesn't pay to reload for this round but of course I do.

My gun is set up with a set of Pearce grips. Once you have used the issue and then the Pearce you'll never go back? These are great grips.

All this said the most important things to remember are that you must be trained, have a plan (i.e. understand under what conditions you can and will use the gun), and be responsible to the point of self-sacrifice in order to carry. Morality allows nothing less and the legal system will pursue you if you allow yourself to act in anyway less responsibly than you should.

So what do I carry now? Usually one of the 1911 based guns. If it works, don't fix it.

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