If you’re interested in becoming a concealed carrier, walking into the gun store can be a real wild ride. Each gun clerk is going to have a slightly different opinion on what makes a great first concealed carry handgun. It’s up to you to decide what works right for you.
A big problem, as I see it, is that most gun stores don’t allow the customer to try a gun before buying. Some gun stores do. For someone interested in purchasing his first concealed carry pistol, I recommend shopping at a gun store that let’s you try before you buy.
There’s a wide price range in concealed carry pistols. New, right out of the box, the average market is between $350 and $800.
Under $250 Concealed Carry Pistols
If you don’t mind carrying a heavier, bulkier pistol that has mixed reviews across the market, there’s always the Jiminez Arms JA 380 or JA 9. Clunky, heavy, and contested on long lasting durability, carrying one of these usually only sets back the average gun owner about $200.
And then there is the HI-Point 9. About an ounce lighter than the JA 9, it’s what I would imagine Walmart would make if Walmart decided to make guns. Utilitarian, contested on combat effectiveness, and certainly cheap, the HI-Point 9 can also be picked up for generally less than $250.
Both are better than carrying nothing at all.
Under $425 Concealed Carry Pistols
At the $350 end, you’ll have your pick of a wide array of sub and micro-compact .380 ACP pistols. If you find the right shop offering the right special, you can usually pick up some 9mm models like the M&P Shield or Bodyguard series, and possibly some Kahrs, Phoenix Arms, Tristar, and others.
Just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s bad.
A great example of a cheap concealed carry pistol is the M&P Shield, chambered in 9mm. It holds around 8 rounds in a standard size magazine. Smith and Wesson definitely ran into some initial hurdles with recalls but the newer models out now have improved ergonomics and mechanics.
It’s a solid striker fired pistol. No bells, no whistles, but plenty reliable.
In terms of .380 ACP pistols, just know that the pistols may be a little cheaper, much more compact, and easier to conceal but ammunition prices generally average more than their 9mm counterparts. We wrote a pretty extensive list of .380 ACP pistols in this article. Prices may vary but for under $425, you’ll get a very solid, easy to conceal pistol.
Recoil is also much more manageable than 9mm. Less muzzle velocity, penetration, and transfer of energy than a 9mm but easier to stack into a magazine.
Concealed Carry Pistols Between $425 And $575
The vast majority of commercial market, new in box, concealed carry pistols fall within this price range. You will probably not be able to get a brand new Kimber for this price. If there’s a special, you may just be able to get a new Sig Sauer P320, P238, or P938. You will guaranteeably be able to pick up a Glock 42, 43, 26, 36, or 19.
Glock gets a lot of fan love. They are a no frills, hard working pistol that has time and again proven itself effective through a wide range of punishing tests. In terms of concealed carry pistols, Glock makes either a compact double-stack Glock 26 (“Baby Glock”) chambered in 9mm or its single-stack family (G42, G43, G36, etc.) that come in a wide array of calibers and generally all hold 6 in a standard magazine.
The next big player in this market is Springfield Arms. Springfield makes its XD series specifically for everyday carry markets. While they offer premium models that go way above the $575 ticket price, you can generally always find a very reliable Springfield XD within this range.
Concealed Carry Pistols Above $600
If you can shell out more than $600 for a concealed carry pistol, the world is your oyster. You have your veritable pick of whichever pistol fits your hand, you enjoy shooting, and carries your caliber of choice.
This is where you find Hechler & Koch, Sig Sauer, Kimber, and the premium line of Kahr. This is also where you get into Berettas and larger compacts that offer the magazine capacity, night sights, and grip styles that many gun owners prefer.
So, how much should a concealed carrier spend on his pistol? As a tool you plan on carrying everywhere, everyday, pick a pistol you feel you don’t mind using every single day.
If budget is a constraint, go for what you can afford and save up for that next concealed carry pistol that you think you would be better suited to carrying. There’s plenty of us that started off with a used, clunky pistol and eventually moved on up to something that suited our tastes better.
No need to impress anyone. This is a pistol that’s not for show — it’s for tell. And, as always, carry everywhere, every day.