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Traits of the Ideal Concealed Carry Pistol

Deciding to carry concealed isn’t an easy decision. But if, after much consideration, you decide it’s the right choice - you’re now faced with a difficult, yet fun, task: finding the ideal firearm to meet your concealed needs.  While all concealed carry (CC) handguns represent a balance between firepower and size, the best ones share a few ideal traits.

Make Sure That Gun Stays Hidden

The whole point of concealed carry is to keep folks from knowing you are carrying. Some states and localities even make it illegal for the outline of your handgun to show through clothing, which is referred to as printing. Large/service size handguns usually do not fit the concealed carry bill because they print too dramatically. 

Because of the printing concern, concealed carry handguns must be relatively compact. Overall pistol thickness and grip length are the two most essential dimensions for a concealed carry pistol because they dictate how well the pistol hides. For this reason, pistols with dimensions around 7in long, 1.20in thick and 5in tall are a practical maximum concealed carry size. Naturally, any handgun smaller than this maximum size conceals even better. 

The CZ P07 represents a compact double-action pistol with decocker.

No safety? No problem. 

Even the most highly trained individual can be caught off guard during a defensive shooting. Stress causes tunnel vision and fine motor skills diminish. The fewer controls you have to manipulate on your pistol, the higher your chances of success under pressure. 

Because of the stresses of defensive shootings, any handgun with a manual safety lever that must be deactivated before firing is typically not advised. But no need to fret. There are plenty of handguns out there with automatic safeties. Double-action handguns with decocker levers, for example, are a great choice. This type of handgun uses a long heavy trigger pull for their first shot for safe carrying.  

Striker-fired pistols also fit the bill as they lack manual safeties. These pistols use automatic internal safeties with consistent trigger pulls for each shot and are also safe without a manual safety.

Provided you carry with a round in the chamber, both types of pistols are instantly ready for action after drawing. If you’re looking for more information on which action is better - take a look at my article Double-Action vs. Single-Action Handguns for more information.

The H&K VP9SK is a compact striker-fired pistol.

Keep your Gun Light Weight

Thankfully, you are more likely to carry your concealed carry handgun than actually use it. Since you carry your concealed carry pistol frequently, it must be lightweight. The good news is gun manufacturers have significantly expanded the materials with which they work. While there was a time when all handguns featured heavy all-steel construction, those days are long gone. 

Today, many manufacturers construct pistol frames from aluminum or polymer, which significantly saves weight while maintaining strength. For folks that prefer the feel of an all-metal handgun aluminum frames are a great choice. But if you’re looking for the lightest handgun possible polymer-framed pistols are the only way to go.

Regardless of which material you choose, make sure to choose the lightest pistol possible because the heavier your pistol is, the less likely you are to carry it. 

The Sig Sauer P229 is a classic aluminum framed compact pistol.

The Smith and Wesson Shield is a polymer-framed ultra-compact pistol.

Why Night Sights/Red Dots Matter

Even if you use a light to illuminate your target, being able to see your sights is essential for accurate low light shooting. Standard iron sights are not very helpful since they turn black in low light. While sights with white dots or outlines are easier to see in low light, these sights are still not illuminated. Night sights are the perfect choice as they work just like standard iron sights during the day then they glow in low light so you can accurately aim. Most night sights use tiny glass vials of radioactive tritium gas which act like miniature neon lights. There’s no need to be worried about radioactive element exposure, these vials are sealed up and safe to be around. 

If you want to be on the cutting edge of handgun optics, red dot sights are the only way to go. Many companies make concealed carry handguns with slides pre-machined for miniature red dot sights. Red dots sights on handguns offer the advantages of fast target acquisition and natural both open eyes shooting.

If you are on a budget or have an older pistol not set up for a red dot, night sights are still a great option. Regardless, most defensive shootings occur in low light, so make sure you can see where you are aiming. 

Trijicon HD night sights.

Vortex Venom miniature red dot sight.

Which ammo should you choose? 

For a concealed carry pistol, it is best to carry the largest round that still gives the highest magazine capacity and the lightest recoil possible. With improvements in bullet technology, 9mm Parabellum is the perfect fit for most folks’ concealed carry needs. 

Compact sized concealed carry pistols in 9mm typically hold at least 15 rounds depending on the design. Ultra-compact, single stack (as opposed to double stack) magazine pistols usually hold six to eight rounds of 9mm. While concealed carry handguns certainly exist in larger calibers, most do not offer the ideal combination of magazine capacity, power and low recoil in a compact package like 9mm Parabellum. 

If you are more sensitive to recoil, .380 ACP offers performance not too far from 9mm Parabellum with less kick. At the end of the day, make sure to carry a concealed carry handgun in a caliber that you shoot well and that makes you feel comfortable. 

9mm Parabellum.


When it comes to concealed carry, the fact that you carry at all is more important than what you carry. However, when lives are on the line, it makes sense to stack the odds as high as possible in your favor. Choosing a concealed carry pistol with the best modern traits is a great way to ensure that you come out on top when the chips are down. If you haven't picked your concealed carry handgun, we have plenty from which to choose. Now, get out there and train!

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