There is something very personal about picking out a new carry gun. You will be spending a lot of time with your pistol, so it must be comfortable. There is a big difference between when you put it in the holster first thing in the morning and later, when it’s been there for 15 hours. Little things that you think you can ignore become very big things as the day moves on. Comfort is important because most people will find excuses not to carry an uncomfortable handgun, or they will replace it with a little gun because it’s lightweight and small.
It’s important to remember that you are carrying this gun because you may have to use it to defend your life or the lives of others. Sure, the little pocket pistol, mouse guns are comfortable to carry around, but stop and ask yourself: Do you really want one of them in your hand when you are fighting for your life?
There is a balance between the little mini-guns and a full-size “rock ’em sock ’em” pistol that is too big and heavy to carry all day. For me, the Compact-sized GLOCK 23 is the perfect choice. For starters, the GLOCK design has no sharp edges or protrusions that poke and prod me all day. The SAFE ACTION trigger ensures the gun is always ready for action.
Your fine motor skills and cognitive thinking will both disappear in a high-stress situation. The simplicity of the GLOCK design means you have less to think about and nothing other than the trigger to manipulate. There is no need for you to worry about pushing off a safety—just pull the trigger. Also, a striker-fired trigger system is ideal for a carry gun. They are easy to master and shoot well with, yet they are much safer in a high-stress situation than a light, single-action trigger and will reduce the possibility of a tragic unplanned discharge.
The G23 is compact. At 21.3 ounces (31.18 ounces loaded), it’s light enough to carry comfortably all day, yet it’s large enough so that I can shoot it very well. The grip is big enough for me to have good control over the handgun. The sights are clear and easy to see, and with a 4.02-inch barrel length, the gun has a 6.02-inch sight radius for more accurate shooting. In fact, this gun shoots so well that my son-in-law, who works in federal law enforcement, competes exclusively with his G23 in IDPA, 3-Gun and USPSA matches. This is the same gun he carries when he is off-duty and has a choice in carry guns.
Oddly enough, I never see a shooter with a pocket pistol at any of the matches. Why is this important? What good is a carry gun if you can’t hit the bad guys?
Personally, I am a firm believer that when it comes to defensive handgun cartridges, bigger is better. At least within reason. Unfair or not, the 9×19 does not have my trust. I shoot thousands of 9×19 cartridges every year in competition, but when it comes to defending myself or my family, I hold to the old adage that fighting pistol cartridges should start with a four.
The .40, the cartridge the G23 is chambered for, was created after the 9×19 failed horribly during the infamous 1986 Miami FBI gunfight, perhaps the most studied shootout in American history aside from the OK Corral.
The Miami shootout led the FBI to the conclusion that the 9×19 was an inadequate man-stopper. The solution was the 10mm Auto cartridge, but excessive recoil issues caused the loads to be reduced. Because the longer case was no longer needed, the shorter .40 was developed in 1990. Over two-plus decades, the .40 has proven to be a reliable mainstay with law enforcement and civilian self-defense. Recoil is very manageable, yet the .40 has nearly as much energy as the .45 ACP. The .40 can generate nearly 500 foot-pounds of muzzle energy, depending on the load. This is considerably more than a 9×19, which struggles to produce much over 350 foot-pounds. But, more importantly, the .40 has a larger, heavier bullet than the 9×19. Handguns do not produce a lot of muzzle energy when compared to a rifle, so they depend on bullet diameter for their terminal ballistic performance. A larger bullet punches a bigger hole and damages more important body parts.
Bullets have improved dramatically since the Miami debacle, and we have moved way past the days of non-expanding “expanding” pistol bullets. But, there are never any guarantees. Even the best bullet can fail to expand. The brutal truth is that while a 9×19 bullet may or may not expand, a .40 bullet will never shrink. The .40 cartridge will fit in the same-sized handgun as a 9×19 because the cartridge’s overall length is actually slightly shorter than for the 9×19 cartridge.
So if big bullets are the key, why not a .45 ACP? That goes back to the “personal” part of choosing a carry gun. The .45 ACP or 10mm Auto cartridges are longer, and because the magazine is in the grip, a handgun chambered in those cartridges will require a longer grip size. If you have big hands, that’s not an issue, but my wide hands have stubby fingers and I find the larger grips in any double stack .45 ACP handgun difficult to manage.
Find Your Fit
This brings up another very important point. Your carry gun should fit your body style well so that you are comfortable not just carrying it, but also in shooting it. If you are struggling to reach the trigger, you will never shoot it well. In the end, if you miss, it doesn’t matter what cartridge or bullet you are using. With a gun that feels like an old friend in your hand, you will want to shoot it more often. Practice is critical if you choose to carry a handgun. Handgun shooting is not a storable skill and it erodes fast. You must train often, and if you enjoy the experience you will be much more willing to do that.
Of course, a single-stack .45 ACP may fit your hand well with its smaller grip, but then the issue is magazine capacity. It’s often pointed out that most gunfights are over in a few shots, so a single-stack has plenty of ammo. But that conventional wisdom does not consider the times we live in and the changes that have occurred. The threat of multiple assailants is all too real now. Possible scenarios include terrorist attacks, a gang attack, home invasion or angry mobs due to social unrest or the aftermath of a natural or man-made disaster. A higher magazine capacity means more ammo to deal with these things, not only in the gun, but with your spare magazines as well. The old saying that it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it applies to ammo. It would be tragic to lose your life over something you can so easily control, such as the amount of ammo you are carrying with you.
In the end, after I examine at all the options and issues, logic keeps pointing at the GLOCK 23, which is why it’s my carry gun of choice.