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Small Handguns for Concealed Carry

Over the years and more so in recent ones, manufacturers have made handguns smaller and lighter to accommodate the demand for concealed use.  As more and more states in our country implement "shall carry" (or better yet, constitutional carry such as Arizona did a few years ago) legislation, more and more people are accepting the responsibility of protecting themselves and also their loved ones.  What do you do when seconds in a car jacking or armed robbery count and the police are 10 minutes away?  Figuring out the answer isn't difficult.  You are responsible. 

But what may not be so easy is determining just what kind of handgun you want for concealed carry (CCW).  This article deals with several of the small handguns I've had personal experience with and still carry.  Some see more use than others but that's typically the result of personal preference and less so the circumstances under which I am carrying (weather, clothes, social occasion, location, etc.)  This article is by no means exhaustive and I do not pretend to cover the multitude of models and calibers available in today's market.  It is safe to say that those included in this article are popular and if you should decide to try one for yourself, you'll find plenty of online forums and manufacturer support for them.  Regardless, I hope you gain some information on what is available and so can make a better informed decision when the time comes.

One other thing I wanted to mention before getting into the specifics of each handgun is about shooting a small handgun.  Just because a handgun is small, that does not make it easy to shoot....typically it is the opposite.  The smaller the handgun, the more pronounced the recoil will be compared to shooting the same cartridge in a larger and heavier model.  It also takes more training and practice to shoot a small handgun well.  Please understand that I'm not trying to steer you away from obtaining a small handgun for CCW....quite the contrary.  You just need to be aware that in order to be effective with it, you will most likely need to put more into your practice regimen than those shooting a larger model.  Of course, if you enjoy shooting, this shouldn't be much of an issue. <grin>


CCW handguns #1

The three handguns in the above photo are among many that are often considered for CCW use.  The Kahr PM9 is one of the smallest handguns available using the 9mm Luger cartridge. The Springfield XD-S is chambered for the 45ACP which has been used for self defense for over 100 years....a proven self defense cartridge at the very least.  This particular Ruger LCR revolver is chambered in .38 Special (other calibers available).  This style of short barreled revolver is commonly called a "snub nose" or "snubby".  

Let's take a closer look at some of the particulars of these handguns to see what makes them good candidates for concealed carry use.  Most of the information in the following chart is manufacturer specifications although some of it was measured/weighed by me when specs could not be readily obtained. 

  Kahr PM9
Springfield XD-S
Ruger LCR
Caliber: 9 mm .45 ACP .38 Special
Barrel length: 3.1" 3.3" 1.9"
Height: 4.0" 4.4" 4.5"
Length: 5.4" 6.3" 6.5"
Weight- empty: 14.0 oz. 19.3 oz. 13.0 oz.
Magazine weight: 1.6 oz. * 2.2 oz. * n/a
Slide width: 0.9" 0.9" cylinder = 1.4"
Grip width: 0.9" 0.9" 1.1"
Sights: white bar-dot style
drift adjustable
fiber optic front
drift adjustable
fixed front/rear and
Crimson Trace Lasergrips
Finish: black polymer frame
matte stainless steel slide
black polymer frame
melonite steel slide
anodized aluminum frame
stainless steel cylinder
Cartridge capacity: 6+1 or 7+1 5+1 or 7+1 5
Note:  Dimensions are rounded to nearest .1"    *Using the smallest magazine


Kahr PM9 9mm

Kahr PM9 #1

The Kahr PM9 was my first serious shot (pun intended) at obtaining a very small and lightweight handgun for CCW use.  I had carried a Springfield .45ACP compact for a while, among others, but they were all far from the "small and lightweight" offered by the PM9.   It wasn't until just recently that I swapped out my PM9 as every day carry and rolled over to the XD-S.

For such a small handgun, I find the PM9 pretty nice to shoot.  If your plan is to burn several hundred rounds of +P ammo through it during each range visit, that may be pushing it a bit.  (I personally couldn't afford that much +P ammo.)  I've shot a hundred standard rounds through it during a session and could have gone for more without issue.  I've read forum comments where some say 50 rounds at one time was enough for them.  All I can say is welcome to the world of owning a small and lightweight handgun. 

The PM9 is a DAO (double action only) handgun.  When shooting the PM9, a pull the trigger results in your fully cocking the striker assembly (think of it as the hammer on a revolver).  In doing so, this means the trigger is going to have to move further and it will take more "effort" than shooting a single action (SA) handgun.  That being said, the PM9 has a very smooth trigger pull and arguably has one of the best factory DAO triggers in a production handgun.  The trigger pull weight on my PM9 is 5 pounds, 8.5 oz.  I have other SA firearms that require more weight on the trigger to fire a cartridge.  In comparison, the trigger pull for three of my other SA pistols runs in the 4.5 to 5 pound range....having been  reduced from the factory's 6 to 7 pound range.  I've read where some DAO pistols have nearly a 10 pound trigger. 

The PM9 uses a dual recoil spring assembly in the slide.  While I have no problems cycling the slide, some folks complain that it is difficult to do so.  Did I mention welcome to the world of owning a small and lightweight handgun yet?  There is a technique that I've taught to others that swore up and down they couldn't cycle the slide on their handgun without extreme anguish.  My point....it can be cycled and it isn't hard to do so, in my opinion.

The factory sights on the PM9 provide a sight picture of what I call "dot the i".  The front sight displays a white dot.  The center of the rear sight notch has a white vertical bar on it.  When you have a proper sight alignment, the white dot sits directly on top of the white bar....hence, you "dot the i".  While a different sight picture than others, it is not difficult to use and it produces a solid sight picture when acquiring the target.

The PM9 is also available with a blackened stainless steel slide if you find the regular stainless steel to be too flashy.  If the standard sights are not up to the task, Kahr offers night sights and Crimson Trace has a laser sight available that attaches beneath the dust shield just forward of the trigger guard. 

My PM9 arrived with two magazines, one a 6 shot and the other an extended 7 shot.  I personally prefer the 6 shot version as maintains the small footprint, which is why I bought the PM9 in the first place.  If you want a Kahr with more grip area, consider the CW9.  I've provided a CW9 vs. PM9 comparison if you care to browse it.


Kahr PM9 in a High Noon Slide Guard holster

The PM9 slide locks back (open) on an empty magazine.  This means you immediately know when you have just ran out of ammo and need to insert a fresh magazine.  There are no external thumb or grip safeties on the PM9.  The longer DAO trigger pull provides a safety feature and when carried in an appropriate holster, the PM9 is as safe as any other holstered handgun.  The holster in the above photo is my PM9's holster from High Noon Holsters and is the best holster investment I've ever made.  A quality holster like this one will properly retain the PM9 in virtually any circumstance and with the trigger completely covered, it prevents it from snagging on something and firing a round when it shouldn't. 

I also use a DeSantis pocket holster to carry my PM9 in my front pocket.  I usually wear loose fitting jeans or cargo pants and so the PM9 in a pocket holster works fairly well.  It is not my preferred method of carry, but it does provide another option when I want the PM9 with me and an outside the waistband (OWB) holster, like the High Noon, isn't appropriate. 

More Concealed Carry




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