Selecting a Concealed Carry Handgun

When it comes to choosing the best concealed carry handgun, every person is different in terms of capabilities and skills, along with defensive needs and financial status, so clearly one size or one answer will not fit all.

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One of the driving forces behind the opening of the Vance Outdoors-Obetz shooting facility and retail store was and is the large number of law-abiding citizens interested in obtaining and maintaining their Ohio Concealed Carry Permit for the protection of themselves and their loved ones.

The 24-lane range and classroom area was designed to meet the needs of the "Permit" shooters, as well as the recreational shooter. The Vance Outdoor-Obetz facility is a one-stop shop for the Permit shooter.

With the huge selection of handguns to choose from in the Vance retail area (and all Vance stores for that matter) the problem is "which one?" Every person is different in terms of capabilities and skills, along with defensive needs and financial status, so clearly one size or one answer will not fit all.

I have carried a concealed, off-duty handgun of many makes, models, styles and calibers nearly every day for 35 years. I have carried those handguns in a wide variety of holster styles and carry modes. So I feel I have enough background and experience to make, what I hope, are some solid recommendations. And because rental firearms are available at Vance Outdoors, you can test the gun you are interested in (or at least one very close to it) before purchasing it. This reduces the chances of being dissatisfied purchaser. But before you even put down rental money on a test gun, please consider some of the following suggestions:

  1. Don't blow your entire budget on just the handgun. Carrying a concealed firearm involves a supporting system, which means you have at LEAST one holster carrying mode. A common mistake that first time buyers make is to drop $1000 on a handgun and $20 on an inexpensive holster. The carrying system is critical, and most quality holsters are going to run an average of $50.00 or more, so budget for it.
  2. Don't purchase a handgun just because a friend tells you it's the greatest defensive tool ever. While your friend may be right, that particular gun may not be right for you. Research it and rent one, or try your friend's gun first.
  3. Don't over-extend yourself on caliber. Don't buy a handgun in a caliber that you find you can't control when firing, or that you don't LIKE to fire because it kicks too much, or has too much blast and concussion. Ongoing practice with your permit handgun is essential. It should be fun to take to the range. While larger calibers do enhance effectiveness on threatening targets, there are no guarantees. There are plenty of documented failures-to-stop even with a caliber like the popular .40 Smith and Wesson. If you can control large calibers, fine. But you can also do so, as or more effectively, with mid-range calibers whose bullets you can accurately place on target. For example, my police duty pistol (by choice) is a 9mm - a Beretta 92. The gun I carry most off-duty is a .38 Special revolver - the Smith & Wesson Model 642. My home defense gun is also a .38 - a four-inch barreled stainless steel Smith & Wesson Model 67. If you can't handle a 9mm or .38, try a .380 or .32 or even a .22. Many lives have been saved by folks carrying small caliber handguns.
  4. The vast majority of potentially deadly force encounters are resolved with no shots, or just a few shots fired - about three rounds is the average. Don't feel that you absolutely need to carry a pistol with a huge ammo capacity. You can if you want to, but I think you will find it tiring after awhile. Semi-automatic pistols are also not mandatory for self defense. You can defend yourself very well with a revolver (see #3 above). The revolver is the most foolproof of all the handguns that are available, and should be given consideration, especially for the new shooter.
  5. Finally, pick a permit pistol that won't wear you out with around-the-clock carry. While big guys can comfortably carry pistols like the 1911 .45 Auto all day long, us average sized guys find it more difficult. Eventually we start leaving the gun at home because it just isn't comfortable, which eliminates the value of having a permit for self defense. Look for a gun you can carry 24/7. Of course, one gun may not be enough. There is nothing wrong with owning more than one.

While this is a short overview of the topic, much more information is available. The U.S. Concealed Carry Association is loaded with valuable resources and information, a good amount of which is free. There is access to a free weekly newsletter, as well as archived articles from a wide range of authors, myself included. Access U.S.C.C.A. at