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Here’s Why It’s OK To Buy A Sub-Compact Firearm For Concealed Carry


By Robert Farago. Republished with permission from

When you’re looking to buy your first concealed carry firearm, don’t get sidetracked by discussions about caliber. Don’t worry about the size of the bullets you’re carrying around. In most defensive gun uses, the bad guy sees the gun aimed in his or her direction and scarpers. In cases where the good guy actually shoots at the bad guy, most perps discontinue their attack once they notice flying lead – regardless of the bullet size headed their way. I recommend that newbies schlep the largest caliber firearm they can comfortably carry, but the most important part of that advice is the word “comfortably.” Because the most important pre-requisite for successful armed self-defense is to have a gun. . .

At the risk of repeating myself, the easier it is to carry a gun, the more likely you are to carry it. Which is the whole point of this exercise, yes? But here’s the thing: carrying a good-sized concealed carry firearm – and by that I mean anything other than a compact or sub-compact gun – can be a real PITA.

If you want to carry a good-sized gun in a discreet inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster, chances are you’ll need to buy pants a size larger than normal, and then ditch ALL of your current trousers. Before that, you’ll need to find a gun and IWB holster combo that doesn’t chafe or thrust your gat into an internal organ. That’s an expensive, time-consuming and not particularly enjoyable process.

If you carry a good-sized (i.e. non-compact gun) in an 0utside-the-waistband holster (OWB), you have to cover your gat with an untucked shirt. Everyday carry makes every day casual dress Friday. For millions of working stiffs, that ain’t happening. Even if you can roll that way, you’ll probably need to buy shirts that are a size larger than normal to avoid printing (the gun showing through the shirt).

Off-body carry in a purse or briefcase? Don’t do it. You must keep control of your firearm – and have immediate unfettered emergency access to it – at all times. You do NOT want an unauthorized person to get ahold of your gun. You DO want to draw as quickly and efficiently as you possibly can, if and when you have to. Good luck with that.

The solution? Carry a compact or sub-compact gun.

Shock! Horror! Gun guys will tell you – in no uncertain terms – that bigger is better when it comes to armed self-defense. Larger handguns have less recoil. That makes them easier to control. Which increases accuracy, enabling effective longer range shots. Larger handguns also carry more and bigger bullets than those “girly” guns. And there are plenty of carry systems that will comfortably accommodate a “proper gun.”


They’re absolutely right. But again, larger guns are not easy to conceal or carry comfortably. And if it ain’t comfortable . . . You can put a small, slim gun like the Ruger LC9 into an IWB holster, wear your normal pants and forget it’s there. You can carry a small, slim gun like the Kahr PM-9 or the new GLOCK 43 in a OWB holster, cover it with any old T-shirt and no one will know. Best of all, you can pocket carry a small gun.

You can buy a cheap pocket holster (e.g., Uncle Mike’s), put a diminutive firearm like the SIG P238 into the front pocket of your jeans, suit pants or casual trousers and carry on as per normal. In fact, small gun pocket carry is the ideal carry system for concealed carry newbies. It’s totally discreet, perfectly comfortable and doesn’t demand a change of wardrobe. As long as you use a holster, don’t carry anything else in your “gun pocket” and practice drawing, extraction isn’t dangerous or difficult.

I’m a strong proponent of home carry. You’re most likely to encounter a lethal threat in your own home, and you have the most to lose if you lose. So ask yourself this: is my gun and holster so comfortable that I don’t even think about removing my firearm when I get home? As they say, the first rule of a gunfight is to have a gun. ANY gun.

Quick aside. Women . . .

Despite the appearance of tactical kilts, women have a lot more wardrobe options than men. Specifically, skirts, dresses, shorts, jeans and pants; and all manner of tops, from long-sleeved dress shirts to crop-top T-shirts. Fortunately, there are a wide-variety of holsters designed for all of these options. But nothing that suits all of them. So any women contemplating concealed carry – please do! – will need a selection of holsters. As Bruce Hornsby will tell you, that’s just the way it is.

There are plenty of downsides to carrying a compact or sub-compact gun, some of which I’ve mentioned above. But this is one of those cases where new gun owners shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Truth be told, there is no perfect self-defense gun or carry system. Your mileage will definitely vary according to your sex, body shape, clothing, lifestyle, job, skill level, training, budget, choice of firearm and more.

But this much is true: small guns offer more carry options. Call it the “big dog big problems small dog small problems” analysis. Besides, there’s no reason a first-time concealed carrier can’t graduate to carrying a bigger gun later. Also recommended.

Categories: Beginners Guide, General
About Brandon Curtis | View all posts by Brandon Curtis

Brandon is the founder of Concealed Nation and is an avid firearm enthusiast, with a particular interest in responsible concealed carry. His EDC is a Glock 27 that holds Hornady…

Brandon is the founder of Concealed Nation and is an avid firearm enthusiast, with a particular interest in responsible concealed carry. His EDC is a Glock 27 that holds Hornady 165 gr FTX Critical Defense rounds, and rides comfortably in an Alien Gear Cloak Tuck 3.0 holster.

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  • Dirk

    What I carry is based on time of year and what I am wearing. My full size .40 cal is not practical to carry in the summer in shorts and a t-shirt. I’ll carry my subcompact 9mm or a snub-nosed .357 then.

  • Ron McDonald

    Beretta 21A, With two spare mags. Comfortable as hell.

  • Mike Silvers

    I carry a XD IN .40. I ,after trial and error swear by the Crossbreed super tuck. If the weather is warmer, I carry a XDs in .45. Also in a Crossbreed Supertuck. Both are equipped with a Crimson Trace. Stay Safe

  • Chris Lee

    As I prepare for the assault against the .380 cartridge, I carry my G42 every day IWB in either a N82 Tactical or PJ Kydex at 4:00 with two reloads. It’s quick, comfortable, reliable and works for me.

    As for caliber, no .380 is not 9mm, .40, .45, .357 whatever. It can get the job done unless I come up against ISIS. In that case I’m probably out gunned and screwed anyway :)

    • Phil Elliott

      Actually .380 IS 9mm, it’s just 9mm short.

      • Chris Lee

        Indeed, 9mm Kurz. Try to explain that to the caliber nazi’s and they’ll be sure to let you know if you plan on shooting anything but pussy cats that .380 just won’t do :P

        (Jokes to people who take things too literally)

        • Phil Elliott

          LOL Thanks Chris! I want to be shot with a .380 (said nobody ever). Or anything else either.

  • Douglas Gerber

    I’m glad you mentioned the shirts. I carry OWB because I didn’t want to buy all new pants. But now that the weather is nicer, I’m finding that my size L shirts are tight over my weapon. The upside is that shirts are a little cheaper than pants. Carry on and practice.

  • Not just any full size gun. A colt 1911 gold cup accurized Trigger job and polished feed ramp. Everyone knows this…

  • David Horgan

    I’m a smaller guy and I carry a commander length SR1911 with a Galco OWB leather holster. No problems with concealment or draw and the cant hides the gun well. WHOLE lot more comfortable than IWB even than the XDS I carried IWB. This is just my opinion, too each their own….

  • rightwingsoup

    All that really matters is what the individual is comfortable with. As for me, Ruger LC9 IWB.

    • Don Edmunds

      Same here. Small, comfortable and unseen with quick access.

  • Adam Barnett

    I wear kilts exclusively. No worries here.

  • Um… you might want to try shooting at .25 mag. You can have it held up against a bad guy’s body and you will still miss.

  • Brother Mutt

    I carry a LC 380 Ruger with two extra clips works fine for me

  • Scott White

    It is a firearm, weapon or a gun. Not a “gat”. Personally that chaps my ass and made what would be a good article suck.

  • Caprock

    The comment about the caliber being irrelevant is most likely true. For once, several years back I had a criminal pull a gun on me and threaten to kill me with it. The very next day I was trying to remember details to report the incident and one issue was the type and size of the gun…..I could remember it was a revolver. But, looking up the business end of that gun….For all I could remember, even if it was only a .22cal….To me it appeared to be a .500 Caliber or possibly larger bore. :)

  • Lance H

    I carry around a Ruger LCP in my front jeans pocket. Not uncomfortable at all and the pocket holster keeps it oriented the way I want it for a fast and easy draw. But for those times I might head into the ‘hood, I have an Alien Gear IWB holster that is about the most comfortable way I’ve found to carry my Kimber Pro TLE II.