A friend of mine who is looking to become a member of the growing numbers of gun owners who carry concealed, asked me for advice on where to start. This got me to thinking about everything that I went through when I first started out, and the lessons I learned. (Some of them being a little pricey.) First, there are some decisions that need to be made before you buy anything. Are you going to carry Inside the Waistband (IWB) or Outside the Waistband (OWB)? What caliber of firearm? Revolver or Semi Automatic? Well, I want to make this as simple as possible so I will answer these questions, with my reasoning behind the decision, and recommend two or three “starter” kits, that should get you all of the appropriate equipment you need when starting out.
Firstly, you need to decide between a revolver and a semi auto. Revolvers have great reliability, but they do not have a large ammunition capacity, and are difficult to reload quickly. 5 or 6 shots might not be enough if you find yourself in a situation where you need to defend yourself. Semi automatic pistols have the advantage here, because they have a higher capacity, and if you need to reload, it is much easier and much quicker. So my first recommendation is to go with a semi auto. Some people might question the reliability, but a well maintained, good quality semi auto pistol should be just as reliable as any revolver.
Should you carry IWB or OWB? While there is nothing wrong with carrying OWB, it is much easier to conceal what you are carrying if you carry IWB. The only downside to this is that your clothing needs to adjust to accommodate shoving a pistol and holster down your britches. Some of you may be tempted to “Mexican carry” because of this. (Mexican Carry is slang for shoving a pistol down your pants without a holster. You see this a lot on TV and in movies. This is incredibly stupid and I don’t recommend it. You run a very high risk of shooting yourself in the junk.) So, IWB it is for carrying concealed.
So now on to what type of ammunition to choose. There are literally thousands of guns to choose from. Some good. Some not so good. And in a variety of calibers from .22s up to .50 calibers. The most common for self defense are .380, 9mm, .40 S&W and .45ACP. While all of these will work perfectly well for self defense, I’m going to recommend the 9mm so that you get the most “bang for your buck.” 9mm ammunition is generally the cheapest to get among all of these calibers. Some people might say that you need to use .45 ammo, since if someone is shot with it, it will separate their soul from their body. This is not true. Below is a comparison of some common calibers. You will notice that the performance is fairly even among all of the types of ammo tested.
So, while there is nothing wrong with .380, .40S&W, or .45ACP caliber ammunition, they can be significantly more expensive than 9mm, which is extremely common. The ammo that you carry should be something that has been tested and will work well. Hornady Critical Duty, Hornady Critical Defense, Speer Gold Dot, Cor-Bon DPX, and many other jacketed hollow point (JHP) rounds will work extremely well. This is not a place to skimp out. The ammo isn’t that much more expensive than practice ammo, and you will be betting your life on it. You will need to fire at least a box or two through your pistol so that you are familiar with it and ensure that it works properly in your gun. (Some guns can be finicky.)
So now that we have it narrowed down to 9mm, there are still thousands of guns to choose from. So how do you choose which one would be best? Several things should be kept in mind, like the reliability of the manufacturer, how common the pistol is so that you don’t have difficulty finding parts and accessories, and things like that. With that being said there are certain pistols that you should avoid at all costs. These “pistols to avoid” come from the recommendation of my friend who owns a shooting range, and sees these pistols fail on a regular basis. Do not under any circumstances bet your life on a Taurus, or Bersa. There are some of these that work great. Most of them do not. Regarding Taurus, I have heard it stated once that “they make great firearms… occasionally… and not on purpose.” If you follow my recommendations, you should not have an issue. Now on to the “starter kits.”
- Generic Starter Kit
Since this is a generic choice, it should work equally well for anyone. While I personally am not a fan of Glock pistols, that doesn’t mean that they are not good pistols.
Pistol – Glock 19
Spare Magazine – Glock 19 Spare Magazine
Holster – CrossBreed SuperTuck Deluxe
Magazine Carrier – CrossBreed Tuckable IWB Single Mag holder.
Belt – CrossBreed Gun Belt.
- Female Friendly Starter Kit
Women sometimes have a unique circumstance in that they might not be wearing slacks or jeans, but might be wearing a skirt or dress depending on where they are or what they are doing. Some people recommend purse carry, and while there is nothing wrong with carrying in a purse, keep in mind that your purse can be taken from you. It is better to have your weapon on you than in your purse.
Pistol – Smith & Wesson M&P Shield
Spare Magazine – S&W M&P Shield Spare Magazine
Holster – FlashBang Holster
Magazine Carrier – Remora Single Mag Holder
- Southpaw Friendly Starter Kit
Being left handed sometimes creates difficulties in the firearms world. Many pistols were not designed with left handed people in mind, even as an afterthought. Some firearms manufacturers do keep us southpaws in mind though. I’m almost always a fan of those manufacturers.
Pistol – Springfield XDs
Spare Magazine – Springfield XDs Spare Magazine
Holster – Comp-Tac MTAC Minotaur
Magazine Carrier – Comp-Tac MTAC Magazine Concealment Pouch
So there you have it. My recommendations for starter kits for carrying concealed. Some of you might be wondering why I made the recommendations I did. It’s because I made a lot of the wrong choices first. I have several holsters that I don’t use, like a Blade-Tech, a Blackhawk Serpa, and an Uncle Mikes. I used a generic belt from Wal-mart before getting a genuine gun belt. The gun belt makes a huge difference. And test firing a handgun before you buy one kept me from getting a Sig Sauer, or a H&K. I didn’t follow my own advice once and got a Sig P938. I regretted that. Before you decide on any of these, I highly recommend that you go to a shooting range that rents firearms, and try out each one before you decide. These also aren’t hard and fast recommendations, and you can mix and match. Whatever you decide, please take the time to learn how to shoot, and how to defend yourself with a handgun. This doesn’t mean watching a video on YouTube, but actually taking lessons from certified instructors.