Concealed carry options are a matter of choice. Not so much choosing to carry—you’ve already made that decision—but rather choosing how to carry. Whether your best gun for CCW use is a .38-caliber revolver, a generally simple and straightforward sidearm that has remained a staple for small-caliber concealed carry use since the 1930s, the latest .380 ACP, or something that packs a lot more punch like a subcompact 9mm, .40 S&W or .45 ACP semi-auto, the one thing that will change more than the gun you choose is how and where you carry it throughout the year. The greatest dynamic for change in concealed carry is weather, simply because what works in winter when you have several outerwear options might not be as concealable or practical when the summer heat is blazing and you’re down to cutoff shorts and a T-shirt.

Dressing around a concealed handgun needn’t be problematic. It’s all a matter of comfort, and that’s the operative word because the majority of CCW permit holders will never draw their gun under duress or in threat of imminent danger. It does happen, make no mistake about it, but of the tens of thousands of individuals who carry concealed for personal protection or in the course of their profession, the statistics are in favor of never having to draw your sidearm.

For this article I have chosen a variety of guns and calibers. First, a personal CCW favorite, a Colt Cobra .38 Special, which is a variation of the venerable and famous Colt Detective Special. Though long out of production, the Colt offers the advantage of carrying six rounds, were most modern .38 Special, .38 Special +P and .357 Mag snubnose revolvers carry only five rounds. A revolver, regardless of make or model, remains one of the most reliable and easiest to conceal backup guns. Second, taking a step down in caliber to .380 ACP, the choice here is the popular Ruger LCP, one of the smallest and easiest to handle of modern .380s. In this size and caliber class there are more than a dozen choices today, all of which have advantages and disadvantages in their various modes of operation, i.e., single-action (SA), double-action-only (DAO), double-action/single-action (DA/SA), manual safety, no safety, hammer-fired, striker-fired, second-strike capability and construction. What they have in common is general size and ease of concealment. What works for one, works for all.

Stepping up to a larger-caliber con-cealed carry handgun used to mean a compact version of the 1911, and while there are many available, there are smaller options such as the 9mm Ruger LC9, Boberg XR9-L, Walther P99, Smith & Wesson 1911SC and Springfield Armory’s XD-S .45, the later being the smallest .45 ACP available.

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