10 Steps to Finding Your Carry Gun

I get asked all the time, what the best carry gun is.  I guess the simplest answer is the one you have with you when you need it!   Finding that right firearm can be a bit confusing at times.  You start asking your friends, and of course everyone has their favorite and just knows it would be the best gun for you!    


I have been in the firearms industry for over 40 years and to this day I can’t tell you what the correct gun is for you.  What I can do, however, is help you figure it out for yourself.  I do that by providing you with the information you need.   

Picking the wrong firearm can be a big problem just in the cost.  A wellmade and reliable firearm can cost from $350.00 to thousands of dollars.  If it does not fit you well, it can be painful to shoot!  If it’s painful to shoot, you won’t shoot it.  If you won’t shoot it, you will never get proficient with it.  

Let’s start here:  

1) What is your budget?

Having a budget will narrow the search parameters.  Don’t forget to include the costs for accessories; a holster, cleaning supplies, safety equipment such as eye and hearing protection, and of course don’t forget ammo.  You’ll need hollow points for your defense and practice ammo so you can get comfortable with your new firearm.  

2) How will your firearm be used?

The selection of a firearm for concealed carry has different criteria than one that will live in the house or never leave the car.  Size, weight and style come into play.  Yes it’s ok to have a pink or purple gun.  It does not have to be black. It is ok to put a little personal style in the selection of your firearm! Keep in mind that if one is too heavy, it can be hard to carry all day.  Alternatively, one that is too light may be hard to master, or painful to shoot for some people.  

3) Which size is right?

One size definitely does not fit all!  A person with small hands has fewer options, and this consideration is often overlooked.  If a firearm does not fit comfortably, it is difficult to maintain a proper grip.  Some guns are not suitable for people with small hands and short fingers because they can’t reach the trigger.  This may be hard to remedy, but with some persistence you can find one that will fit you, or one that can be modified.  

If you select an ill-fitting gun, recoil control becomes harder to manage and accuracy will likely suffer. And this in turn discourages practice and saps confidence.    
Grips can be changed and some hand guns can be fitted with a shorter trigger to fit smaller hands but making modifications can be expensive so if you can find the right one out of the counter it will save you time and money!  

4) Do you have practical experience?

A person who has some experience with different types of pistols and a variety of calibers has a big head start. Likes and dislikes may already been formed, and when explored can lead the search in the right direction. Even if you don’t have experience don’t be afraid to ask questions.  There is no such thing as a bad question! The more questions you ask, the better the answer you’ll get.  As someone who is standing behind the gun counter, I like questions!  Questions tell me that you really are thinking about this purchase and are interested in finding the correct firearm for yourself.  

5) What about recoil tolerance?

Practice makes perfect, so it is important that the pistol be comfortable and even better yet, fun to shoot. One of the best ways to find this out is to visit a range that will rent several types and calibers to try out.  This can be impossible in some locations, so if you have a friends with lots of guns tell them what you are trying to do, and ask if you can try a few.  Start with smaller calibers and work your way up.  Keep in mind there can be significant variance in recoil between different types of ammunition in the same caliber, as well as when the same ammunition is fired in different pistols.  Fight the urge to listen to all your friends that tell you what caliber is best.  Everyone is different and recoil tolerance is a personal thing.  There is no such thing as a perfect caliber.  Again, the best caliber is the one you have with you when you need it!  

6) What type of pistol is best?

It’s a decision between a revolver and a semi-automatic.  And these days there are even differences in the way some semi-automatic operate.  Those who prefer revolvers often speak of their simplicity of operation.  Those favoring semi-auto platforms like their thin profile for concealment and prefer the convenience and speed of loading and unloading with a magazine, as well as the possibility of greater ammo capacity.  It is critical to ensure that someone considering a semi-auto has enough strength to properly cycle the slide and to maintain the grip required for the pistol to properly function.  Additionally, you need to be able to pull the heavy triggers, and on most revolvers that can be as much as 16 lbs of pull with just one finger and a small grip on some of the small revolvers.  

7) What caliber is best?

Possibly the best recommendation is to choose the most powerful caliber that is both accurate and comfortable to shoot. This encourages practice, which in turn increases accuracy and confidence. Against popular belief, there is very little difference between calibers in most modern defense hand guns.  What I believe to be more important is picking a good defensive hollow point round.  I would rather you carry a .22 LR than nothing at all!  

Are there important features to consider? 

Night sights provide a defined aiming point in low-light.  Many pistols offer night sights as a standard feature.  If not, you can have them installed.  Laser sights project a colored dot that is visible at practical distances under most lighting conditions.  They are a good training tool and can assist with developing a proper grip and improving trigger control.  But, they can be misused as seen on TV when someone walks in to a room with a laser moving all around and giving away the location to the enemy.  Flash lights can be a great tool as well, but as with a laser you must learn to use it correctly.  Finding a good training class to help you use these tools correctly is very important.  

9) Are caliber conversions important?

Some types and models of pistols offer the advantage of shooting more than one caliber.  Examples include shooting .38 special ammunition in a revolver chambered for the more powerful .357 Mag, or installing a .22 LR conversion kit on a semi-automatic 1911 pistol chambered for the proven .45 ACP.  In both cases, the lighter recoil and lower cost of ammunition in the secondary caliber encourages practice.  Keep in mind that some of the conversions can be very expensive, and the quality of the conversion has a lot to do with how well it performs for you.  

10) What about training?

No matter which pistol is selected, proper training from a qualified instructor is highly recommended.  Classes from Elko Tactical are generally quite affordable and will make almost anyone a better shooter.    A Concealed Carry Class is a very good idea.  The CCW class will cover safe handling, operation and storage, as well as an overview of the laws in your state.  

Once the pistol comes home with you, you should read the owner’s manual from cover to cover.  It is important to develop a comprehensive understanding of all the mechanical and safety features, proper loading and unloading, and general care before firing.  Regardless of whether the owner’s manual states a specific number of rounds are to be fired before the pistol is broken in, break yourself in to the pistol through constant practice.  Don’t be afraid to use economical range ammunition for practice sessions.  

Finally: Trust yourself to make the right decision. Choose a pistol that feels good in your hand and is comfortable to shoot.  Ask questions and do some homework. There is nothing you can’t look up on-line these days, and most gun shops are happy to answer any question you may have.  But, if they won’t or can’t answer your question to your satisfaction, find a better place to purchase you firearms.  

Remember this could be a life or death decision you’re about to make!  Get all the information you can and practice!