How I Decided How Much Gun to Carry

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For people considering starting to conceal carry, choosing the right firearm can be an exciting and daunting task.

Advice can range wildly depending on the source you ask, and the final decision of which pistol to carry can be an intimately personal one. One of the first major considerations for a new concealed carrier will be "How much gun should I be carrying?"

For years I exclusively carried a single stack M&P 9mm Shield with a spare magazine.

This is a slim gun, and with the spare magazine I was carrying 15 rounds of +p hollow point ammunition. It took me time, but I got to the point where I was physically and mentally comfortable carrying all that gear on my waist. It didn’t print too much, it didn’t put too much pressure on my lower back, and while I got really good at shooting that little guy, one day I decided I just needed more gun.

I had seen people online concealing ‘full sized pistols,’ which provides them with more ammunition, a longer barrel, and a larger grip. All of that translated to better ‘shootability,’ which is capacity, follow-up shots, accuracy. I finally bought myself a Glock 19 and a reputable in-the-waistband holster, along with a mag pouch. Now I was carrying double the ammunition I had carried with my Shield, plus the inherent advantages of a larger framed pistol.


Then my back hurt. And I had to be careful what clothes I put on or the gun would print too obviously. Playing around with new holsters mitigated the back pain, and I found comfortable outfits that concealed the gear well, but the larger Glock will never be as comfortable and as hidden as that Shield 9mm is.

So, there’s the crux of the problem.

Carry a less capable firearm and gain the benefits of a small frame handgun, or carry a larger pistol (just in case you need to take down a squad of six rifle-and-knife-wielding ISIS militants) and suffer some pains and inconveniences.

In the end, my decision is a balance. The smaller Shield is my ‘Summer Gun,’ which hides well under a plain T-shirt. It also gets used if I am feeling pain in my back, or if my clothing simply cannot allow more gear. The Glock 19 is what I carry at all other times.

I might gripe about my back while carrying that gun, but after a gunfight no one has ever complained that they had too much gun.

Choose what’s right for you, and don’t be afraid to change tactics and techniques if the environment or your body dictate to do so.

Share what you carry in the comments below.