It seems that on every shift I work there is at least one lady who comes to the counter looking to buy her first CCW (concealed carry weapon). For most, this will be their first handgun; others will be looking to upgrade a handgun that was found to be not powerful enough when they needed it. So, what to buy? There currently exists a bewildering array of choices, ranging from the miniscule shirt-pocket-sized .380s to the more sizeable, but still big-enough-to-grip semi-autos in .40 S&W and .45 ACP. Let’s look at some of the choices out there and maybe we can help.
First, let’s look at the old stand-by: the “snub-nose” .38 Spl., commonly called the “38 Special”. This is generally a 5-shot revolver with about a 2” barrel. Older models are offered in steel frame, but newer, more updated ones, are made in stainless steel, lightweight alloys such as scandium and even titanium. Steel frames are still offered by Taurus in the Model 85 http://www.basspro.com/Taurus-85--38-SpecialP-Small-Frame-Stainless-Steel-Revolver/product/10218678/80487 and by S&W in their Model 60 http://www.basspro.com/Smith-&-Wesson-Model-60--357-Mag-Revolver-21/8-Barrel/product/10218526/130530 a lightweight .357 Magnum but is more sized as a slightly large .38. These are heavier than the “ultralight” ones, which will discuss in a minute. The extra weight allows you to shoot +P (hotter, more powerful & effective .38 loads) with less discomfort than when shooting them in the ultralight models. In a combat situation (and if you have to draw your weapon it IS a combat situation) the harder hitting ammunition is the most effective ammunition, so +P loads are the best in a .38 Spl. Like the .380 and the 9mm, the .38 Spl. is not an especially powerful self-defense cartridge, so very careful ammo selection is a must.
As far as ultralight revolver choices, several manufacturers offer .38s in scandium, titanium, and even polymer frames.
These are extremely lightweight, and seem to weigh almost nothing when you pick them up. Taurus offers their Model 85UL frames in forged aluminum alloy, lightweight magnesium, and even the Protector series in a polymer frame and in .357 Magnum, in which you can also shoot .38 +P or .38 Spl loads. Ruger offers lightweight choices in .38 and .357 Mag in their polymer-framed LCR, an extremely lightweight revolver with a larger rubber grip that is easy to hold on to http://www.basspro.com/Ruger-LCR--38-Special-Revolver/product/10218583/37413 . S&W offers the Bodyguard http://www.smith-wesson.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product4_750001_750051_766382_-1_757893_757767_757751_ProductDisplayErrorView_Y , in a polymer frame about the same size as the Ruger, but with an integral laser mounted just under the barrel. The laser aids in aiming when you cannot see your sights (yes, you must still aim the gun) and adds no real weight to an intentionally lightweight handgun. You will have to be careful when shopping for a holster for a handgun with a laser. The holster will need to be cut to accommodate the extra bulk of the laser on the frame. The Bodyguard is also offered in a .380 semi-auto format and also has an integral laser; it is even more compact than the revolver.
Revolvers are easy to use, have no external safeties to push off or to deactivate, and are pretty much “point & click” interface. They suffer from two major weaknesses, however: they are bulkier than semi-autos and they are very limited on ammunition. The ones we just mentioned generally hold no more than five rounds of ammo, a specific liability when used against someone heavily clothed (heavy coat, etc.) or of heavy enough weight that the first rounds or rounds might not penetrate deeply enough to reach a vital organ, or if there is more than one attacker. You’ll need to carry speed loaders and practice at using them very quickly and reflexively. I find that most people are not willing to do this and are better served with a semi-auto, whose extra magazines generally carry more ammo, take up less space in your pocket or on your belt, and are more easily handled when your inevitable adrenaline dump causes you to lose your fine motor skills and leaves you with only your gross motor skills. (We’ll talk more about this in another article.)
Semi-autos, when compared to revolvers, are flatter, easier to conceal, faster to reload, and are relatively easy to manipulate (I can hear the groans in the background)... Yes, they are! If you don’t believe me, then I dare you to come to the gun counter and I will teach you just how easy it really is. Choices for lightweight semi-autos seem almost endless: everyone seems to build a small-frame lightweight semi-auto these days. Probably the most popular of late has been the diminutive Ruger LCP .380 ACP http://www.basspro.com/Ruger-LCP--380-ACP-Compact-Pistol/product/10218498/40958. For those with a sense of humor or are just getting ready for the coming “Zombie Apocalypse”, Ruger offers the LCP in the “Zombie Slayer” model. Both LCPs weigh a scant 9.4 ounces; add a couple more for the version with the integral laser. If you already have an LCP without a laser, then fear not, we have a Crimson Trace laser for the LCP and it is easily installed. Taurus makes the TCP http://www.basspro.com/Taurus-738-TCP--380-ACP-Compact-Pistol-w/Stainless-Steel-Slide/product/10218666/73028, same size as the Ruger LCP, and the Taurus comes in stainless steel finish as well as black. Taurus also offers the Model 709 Slim http://www.basspro.com/Taurus-709-Slim-9mm-Compact-Pistol-w/Stainless-Steel-Slide/product/10218712/387097 chambered in 9mm, which is a more effective stopper than .380 and the 709 is only slightly larger than the TCP.
Ruger also offers the LC9 and the BSR9C, both chambered in 9mm and both also only slightly larger than the LCP.
Glock offers subcompact models of their wildly popular polymer frame semi-auto in the Model 26 http://www.basspro.com/GLOCK-G26-9mm-Subcompact-Pistol/product/10217980/116208chambered in 9mm, their Model 27 chambered in .40 S&W, and their Model 30 chambered in .45 ACP. These are accurate, reliable, and easy to hold on to, and I don’t believe that a 5-year-old could tear one up (no, kids should not have guns; Glocks are just that tough). Along that same line, Springfield Armory offers the excellent XD in subcompact versions in polymer frames in 9mm and .40 S&W. Kahr offers stainless small-frame semi-autos in 9mm, .40, and .45.
On a slightly larger frame, Beretta offers their excellently accurate PX4 Storm http://www.basspro.com/Beretta-PX4-Storm-9mm-Full-Size-High-Capacity-Pistol/product/10218250/93582 in both compact and subcompact sizes in 9mm and .40 S&W. The PX4s are smooth, accurate, and feel good in the hand. Beretta also offers the very compact Nano in 9mm; it is about the same size as the Ruger LC9.
On the higher end of the price scale are the H&K SK subcompact and the SIG P238. The H&K comes in 9mm and .40 and the SIG P238 comes only in .380 ACP. If you want to feel what a shrunk-down 1911 feels like, come in and hold the SIG P238. If you liked the old Colt Mustang, then you will love the P238!
These are just some of the choices now available to ladies for a concealed carry weapon. We will help you find one that fits you, not just one that seems like a good idea or that everybody else thinks you should buy. Our staff is knowledgeable and experienced and will be glad to help you choose the one that is best for YOU.
By: Paul Alburl, Hunting Associate