As with most products, the adage on the gun market is “bigger is better,” but smaller is more convenient for concealment. Modern shooters have many options in overall size, weight and caliber for their guns. Some prefer a concealed gun to be on the smaller side. Others like their pistol larger because of either its reduced recoil or their own physical build. Accordingly, I have chosen a good cross section of guns to discuss. Alas, space requirements preclude me from covering more models, but this should give you an idea of what’s out there today.

S&W M&P Shield

I just received a new gun from Smith & Wesson called the M&P Shield. As you might guess, this gun is the latest in slim technology, available in both 9mm Luger and .40 S&W cartridges. With a practically standard 3.1-inch barrel the gun measures a curt 6 inches and weighs 19 ounces empty. As for width, the top part of the slide only measures 1 inch across. No doubt, this gun is made for carry and qualifies as the perfect concealed weapon.

To make the Shield more concealable, S&W has included both extended and flat magazines, altering the length of the grip while allowing shooters an extra margin of comfort. Either one fits my average build and hands, but if my feet were held to the fire I’d opt for the flat option and the loss of one round of capacity, regardless of the caliber. Some may balk at the almost 7-pound trigger pull, but keep in mind that this is not a target gun. With the way the leverage has been engineered I was, in all honesty, amazed the trigger pull was this high, especially for a striker-fired pistol—it is that good.

In construction, the gun follows the M&P line perfectly. The slide and barrel are stainless steel with a proprietary Melonite coating that adds a nice bit of weight to the gun. Ripple-type slide serrations aid in cocking, and the dished-out area on the slide adds a bit of class. Over the years sights have always been the bane of shooters, particularly on hideout guns. But Smith has rallied to the cause with near-perfect sights for the Shield. The notch on the rear sight is crisp and cut large enough to fill the void of the single white-dot front sight: on the rear-sight blade there are twin dots; lining up all three dots gives you a good sight picture even in low light. For those who wish to zero the weapon with one particular brand of ammunition or bullet weight, the rear sight is not adjustable according to Smith. However, the front sight is adjustable via a brass drift.

Operator controls are on the left side of the gun and include (from front to back) a rotating takedown lever, a slide stop and a flush-mounted manual thumb safety.

There is a loaded-chamber indicator at the rear of the barrel as seen topside. The magazine release is large enough for proper operation. And there are stippled areas on the grip while the grip itself has a slight arch to it at the rear. The triggerguard has been enlarged so the gun can be used with or without gloves, and the internal passive trigger safety prevents the gun from being fired when dropped.

Firing the gun proved an interesting experience despite its small size and streamlining. All guns were fired at the customary 7 yards. Groups for the M&P Shield averaged 2.5 inches with over-the-counter Winchester ball ammunition. Recoil was pleasant for a gun of this size. Suggested retail is $449. (; 800-331-0852)

Ruger SR9c

With the way things are going now, you may have a hard time choosing a concealed weapon. Witness the Ruger SR9c, a modified SR40 series handgun that is positioned to become very popular, very fast. When you pick it up, the reasons become obvious.

The SR9c is a little larger and heavier than S&W’s Shield, but this is why I like the gun—the weight tones down recoil on the 9mm round. Also, the SR9c has a wider slide and, going one better, offers different magazine configurations to adapt to the shooter’s needs. First, you have a standard 10-round magazine for use with a flat baseplate for ultimate concealment. Ruger goes even further by offering a finger-grip extension that allows your smallest digit to rest naturally at the base of the gun for support. And for states that allow them, Ruger offers a 17-round magazine that sticks down past the grip frame but has an extension adapter.

The SR9c suits my style with some excellent concealment options. One is the ambidextrous safety lever that, like your favorite Model 1911, locks the sear and the slide when in the up position. A quick flick downward places the gun in action, and the safety is just large enough that I can place my thumb halfway back on the lever to move it to the down position. As with all Ruger guns there are internal safeties in concert with trigger bars and interlocks to improve safe handling.

Topside, the two-dot rear-sight assembly is adjustable for elevation by means of a slot screw—for windage, via a drift. The front sight is angled to prevent snagging from a holster, and there is a loaded-chamber indicator at the rear of the barrel. Along with the ambi safety, the magazine can also be ejected from either side of the gun—a real boon to left-handed shooters. Front of the triggerguard is an abbreviated Picatinny rail for a small light. The guard itself is rounded with enough width for a solid purchase of the weapon with your support hand. The grip too is well engineered, having the right amount of checkering on both sides and on the front of the frame. You can also change the grip configurations without extra parts or tools by pushing the pin outward from the gun and reversing the insert to either a flat or an arched backstrap.

On the left side of the gun there are operator levers, which include the slide release and a takedown pin for easy disassembly. On the slide there are twin-cocking serrations, and at the rear there is a visual indication of the striker when the gun is cocked or uncocked. Firing the gun in the 9mm chambering was indeed a pleasure when considering the weight, grip size, stature of the gun and 7-pound trigger pull. With the Ruger, I managed groups around 3 inches.

Here’s what you ultimately get with these new Rugers: a 3.5-inch barrel length, a choice from four 9mm models of various capacities and one .40 S&W model, a bright stainless or blued slide, an overall weight of around 23.5 ounces empty, a case, a lock and a magazine loader. Suggested retail is $529. (

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