Concealed Carry Corner: Best Caliber For Small Carry Guns

Matt E
by Matt E

Welcome back to another edition of Concealed Carry Corner. Last week, we talked about the hassle of gun-free zones and the best way to navigate them. If you happened to miss that article, be sure to click the link here to check it out. This week, I wanted to take a closer look at an argument I recently heard in a gun store when it comes to smaller carry pistols. An older gentleman walked in and wanted to look at 380 pistols because he wanted something that packed a punch but didn’t have snappy recoil. I kept looking at guns in the same area to eavesdrop on the conversation but he had a lot of misconceptions about recoil and modern carry pistols. I figured this would be a good topic to jump on and take a closer look at the best caliber for small carry guns.

Concealed Carry Corner @ TFB:

The Classic 380 Vs 9mm Argument

When it comes to classic arguments in the gun community, there will always be the 45 ACP versus 9mm argument as well as the 9mm versus 380 ACP. The technological advances in modern carry pistols are much different from where it was 20 years ago. The days of bulky carry guns with single-stack magazines have changed to smaller guns with higher capacity than ever before. The argument between 380 and 9mm has been somewhat reignited with new models like the Beretta Cheetah and Glock 28 along with SIG’s new P365 in 380 ACP as well.

Space for 380

The market is still supporting 380 ACP as a caliber. However, there are so many options for higher capacity 9mm carry guns that you wonder why people would still carry a lower-powered round with questionable stopping power. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for 380 pistols like the S&W EZ pistols or the Ruger LCP which is one of the smallest carry pistols on the market. Having some sort of firearm on your body is better than nothing. Having some sort of firearm for self-defense is better than having nothing at all, but some of these pistols like the LCP are incredibly difficult to shoot accurately under stress.

What most people don’t think about is how much development went into the modernization of 9mm self-defense rounds to the point where the FBI and other agencies switched back from the larger 40 S&W to 9mm due to the similar energy transfer with less felt recoil. The difference in felt recoil between 380 ACP and 9mm isn’t as drastic as it is between 40 S&W and 9mm, however. The truth is 380 ACP can still be rather snappy depending on what handgun you are using Another important aspect to keep in mind is size constraints when it comes to carrying guns.

Size Constraints

When the debate between 380 and 9mm becomes very interesting, we start looking at real size constraints. Whether you’re in a pair of swim shorts or just have a small fanny pack, sometimes the only way to carry a firearm small enough is to move down into the micro carry pistols to make things work properly. Sometimes it’s not possible to carry something like a Glock 48 or Glock 19 when you have minimal clothing on at the beach or during the hot summer months. It’s important to still have something to protect yourself and that’s where the smaller framed Glock 42, Ruger LCP and Kahr Arms CM380 come into play.

There have been times I have carried really small options because of the weather and sometimes that’s the least restrictive choice when the outside temperature hits 90 degrees and up. I cannot tell you the number of people who own multiple firearms and end up carrying something small like the Glock 42 or Ruger LCP just due to overall size and weight. They may be incredibly hard to shoot fast under stress and the stopping power may be limited but it’s still better than being completely unarmed.

What’s Best?

People will always go back and forth on what works best for them but the truth is everyone has different clothing choices and body styles. I don’t think there’s a 100% correct answer but for the vast majority of people, a modern sub-compact 9mm pistol will not only be a better tool for stopping a threat but will be easier to train with on a regular basis as well. Of course, the most important thing is to actually have something on your person every day. If that means carrying a smaller gun over nothing at all then the smaller pocket pistol is the obvious choice.

Often times with these debates, there’s no black-and-white answer but a shade of grey where the truth lands. 380 is certainly less than ideal when it comes to a self-defense round, but it’s still going to be better than having nothing at all. Not everyone can have a wide variety of carry pistols for a given situation and I understand that. It makes life easier but some people can only afford one or maybe two pistols to have for carrying concealed. So if all you have is a 380 ACP pocket pistol for concealed carry, then you should train with that and make the best of it. If you are able to upgrade to one of the more modern 9mm pistols, I would suggest doing that instead.

Overall Thoughts

When it comes to picking a carry gun, there are countless options on the market. Some may get caught up with old stigmas that 380 ACP somehow has less recoil and is a better carry gun round than the slightly larger 9mm round. If you gave me the choice to carry a small 380 ACP or slightly change my outfit to carry a bigger 9mm, I would choose to carry the 9mm. This is my personal choice but plenty of other people choose to go with a smaller 380 pocket pistol. What would you guys choose if you had only one choice? Let me know in the comments below. If you have questions about carry guns or firearms in general, feel free to shoot me a message on Instagram @fridgeoperator. Stay safe and we will see you next week on another edition of Concealed Carry Corner.

TFB’s Concealed Carry Corner is brought to you by GLOCK

Matt E
Matt E

I'm an avid shooter and love educating whether it's at my job or in the shooting community. I'm an average joe that really loves talking with other people about firearms and other passions.I'm active on Instagram on @fridgeoperator.

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2 of 21 comments
  • Autofull--   kevin horning Autofull-- kevin horning on Apr 24, 2024

    best one is what ya have with ya, i have quite a few pistols but, i carry my engraved baby browning with serious ammo and a spare mag. all in my top left shirt pocket. way more power than ya think. just my two guys.

  • Ronald bard Ronald bard on May 11, 2024

    Q : what is the best way to cope with recoil from the "little" carry pistols/revos ?

    A : compete with the "little" carry guns !
    my CM 9 is a regular at IDPA matches , BUG Div.