How Small is Too Small for Concealed Carry?

We are a society of convenience oriented individuals. We constantly strive to improve on what we do in every aspect of our lives in the interest of comfort and convenience. Some would describe our drive to live life easier as laziness and being complacent. Others may say that we, as a society spend more time looking for solutions to non-existent problems than we do in addressing real issues that are begging for our attention. Whether you believe that any of this is true or not, it is undeniable that the demand for smaller, lighter, and more powerful concealed carry handguns is strong in the American market.


There are a number of considerations that should have our attention in order to optimize the selection of a concealed carry handgun, but the number one concern is how well we can use it when the time comes to put it to work doing what it’s designed to do.

Assuming that moving concealed throughout our daily lives without detection, including access and recovery of the handgun with one hand to the carry location, is within the scope of our capabilities, employing the gun in the most effective manner to engage a target becomes the highest priority.

Factors such as action type, caliber, weight, dimension, and ergonomics all have a definite impact on the user’s ability to effectively place bullets on target. Perhaps the most important consideration to achieving success is the fit of the handgun to the hand of the user. Proper fit may be defined as having a gun that seats into the hand in such a manner as to place the muzzle on the target as the hand(s) are naturally extended toward the target, while allowing an unrestricted movement of the trigger to fire the gun. Under stress, our bodies tend to move in the most efficient means possible in spite of our training. So why not capitalize on what fits, and hedge your bets on the highest likelihoods of success?


None of the currently offered calibers in concealed carry handguns are proven one-shot stoppers, which means that not only does the first shot out of the gun have to be on target, but the necessary follow up shots do as well. Unfortunately, bigger isn’t always better, simply because the recoil characteristics of the cartridge overpower the weight and fit of the gun in the shooter’s hand to make accurate subsequent shots all but impossible in any reasonable amount of time. That being said, I will have to join with the majority of my colleagues in the industry and say that with rare exception, the .380 ACP or the .38 Special cartridges in any of their many platforms should be the bottom consideration of any serious defensive selection.

It is hard to argue with Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of motion, particularly when we increase power generated by the cartridge and simultaneously decrease the weight of the launching platform. A classic case and example would be the five-shot alloy revolvers chambered in magnum calibers using true magnum ammunition. If it hurts you to shoot it, you won’t practice with it, and therefore it would be open to question as to how well you would do with it in a lethal force confrontation. The same thing goes for the lightweight auto pistols using +P heavy bullet weight ammunition. No matter what you have, if you can’t control it, what good is it?


Going back to our original idea of how small is too small, just considering hand size alone we can make a very good decision using the following guidelines.

•    At a minimum, you need to have a grip sufficient to accommodate the middle and ring fingers

•    You need to be able to pull the trigger with natural trigger finger placement and range of motion without interference with either side of the frame or the support hand

•    You need to be able to handle and manipulate the gun to effect reloads and to clear stoppages as efficiently as you would a larger size gun

•    You need to be able to put two shots on an eight-inch paper plate at five yards in under two seconds from a ready position
These guidelines are just that. They are not absolutes and locked in stone. They do, however, make a lot of sense for the required application, and should be seriously considered.
Going too small for convenience is potentially dangerous, particularly if you haven’t trained to spontaneously respond to a lethal threat with that piece of equipment from the carry location, and with the ammunition that you will carry on the street.


At the Sig Sauer Academy we recommend that you carry the largest gun that you can comfortably conceal, and choose the largest caliber that you can consistently and quickly hit the target with.

Simple Is Good!

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