Enough Gun

10-Apr-13 – 10:13 by ToddG


A perennial discussion over at pistol-forum.com revolves around a seemingly simple concept: how much gun is enough?

There are many schools of thought but they can be reduced to two opposing camps:

  1. One says that a small gun (often represented by the ubiquitous Smith & Wesson j-frame) is likely to have every capability one might need in a realistic self-defense scenario and that, due to its size and light weight, has the benefit of being easy enough and comfortable enough to conceal that it would always be with you.
  2. The other argues that larger semi-auto (often represented by the equally ubiquitous Glock 19) is vastly more capable when you need it and not that much harder to conceal if you put your mind to it.

I am solidly, unwaveringly, fervently in the second camp. In fact the smallest gun I ever carried regularly was a SIG P229. The majority of my concealed carry life has been spent with full size Berettas, full size SIGs, then a slew of full size guns during the pistol-training.com endurance tests (M&P9 full size, HK P30, HK45, Glock 17, and now an all steel railed 5″ 1911).

In all the practical shooting and force-on-force training I’ve done, never once have I thought any of the following:

  • I wish this gun held less ammo!
  • I wish this gun had a longer, heavier trigger!
  • I wish this gun was a lot harder to reload!
  • I wish this gun had worse sights!


In fairness, my job and my lifestyle allow me to dress in such a way that carrying those guns is possible. If you’re a Beverly Hills lifeguard required to wear Speedo briefs at work then your reasonable concealment options aren’t quite as numerous. But many people use dress codes as an excuse. Carrying a serious gun in a suit and tie isn’t impossible, it simply takes more thought and effort than tossing a Ruger LCP in a pocket. (as an aside, I own an LCP and like it quite a bit… but I carry it as a backup to a real gun, not as a replacement for one)

A common argument among the mouse gun crowd is that “most problems can be solved with a mouse gun if you’re smart about it.” But the flip side to that argument is that “you can carry a real gun most of the time if you’re smart about it.” How is that even a tough choice? Option A, more effort in the calm of your home putting the gun on; or, Option B, more effort in the middle of a life-or-death fight. Gosh, Bob, let me think about that one for a minute…

What I actually hear when people start to talk about the benefits of the mini-gun isn’t that there are really times or places that they cannot carry a more serious gun. Rather, the issue is that they simply choose to toss a j-frame in the pocket rather than go to the trouble of wearing, say, a belt and a holster. If you choose to carry a low capacity sub-caliber handgun because you’re feeling lazy, that’s fine. But please stop trying to justify it as a smart choice.

g26-jAnd even when the situation does require something a little smaller, there are far better options with more firepower, better ballistics, and better shootability. Take the Glock 26 for example. Sure, on paper it’s a little bigger and a little heavier than a lightweight j-frame. But practically speaking it’s ridiculously easy to conceal. I’ve spent plenty of days in non-permissive environments wearing a Glock 26 in a SmartCarry holster. Maybe the SmartCarry isn’t as simple as dropping a gun into a pocket but I get twice as many bullets… bullets that are more effective… in a gun that is easier to shoot. Gosh, Bob, I need to think about this one, too…

Here’s a comparison of the G26 and a Smith 442 size:


As mentioned above, the mouse advocates like to tell us that most problems can be solved with a low capacity anemic small-caliber pistol. They’ll say that most unpleasant incidents are resolved simply by displaying a gun. They’ll say that many incidents are resolved as soon as the first shot is fired. They’ll explain that often as soon as one assailant is shot the rest, no matter how numerous, will run away rather than press the fight.

And you know, they may be right. The odds are that a mouse gun really will be enough gun for me to get through life. Of course, if we want to talk about odds then why carry a gun at all? Most people will never need one at all regardless of size, caliber, capacity, and the rest. If we really want to play a numbers game we can save ourselves a ton of money and effort and skip carrying altogether.

But if I’m not going to play the odds, it’s intellectually dishonest to talk about 2% chances as opposed to 1% chances. Heck, the way I look at it, if fate is having her way with me then I’d rather be prepared for as much as I can be rather than some statistical average. The problem with statistical averages is that half the time you end up on the wrong side…

In some circles there is also a certain sense of coolness that comes from carrying a minimalist sidearm. Let’s face it, what’s cooler: hunting a lion with a .375 Magnum rifle or hunting a lion with a Bowie knife? But cool or not, personally if I found a lion stalking around my kitchen I’d prefer the rifle. My handgun isn’t meant to be a fashion statement. It’s meant to be a handgun.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

  1. 22 Responses to “Enough Gun”

  2. There was a time in my life when I carried a j-frame. Then an incident on a roadtrip where I realized I only had 5 shots before I had to reload changed all that.

    By 167 on Apr 10, 2013

  3. The tension comes from the fact that you rarely, if ever, need a gun, but when you need a gun, you need a gun — and you’d like as much gun as possible.

    So, which is better, a gun that’s convenient for you in your daily life — thousands and thousands of uneventful days in your daily life — or a gun that’s a wee bit better that one time you really, really need a gun — if that day ever comes?

    It’s a trade-off, and there is not one right answer.

    By Isegoria on Apr 10, 2013

  4. The fact is some people disagree with the point of compromise when playing the odds. Not carrying a handgun is certainly playing the odds in my favor. Carrying a small “J” in my pocket at home increases the odds in my favor a great deal. Carrying a G26 in my pocket is again an increase in the odds in my favor BUT not as great an increase as simply having a gun in my pocket.

    Sure my P229 is a better choice on my belt when out and about BUT MY threat management analysis for hanging about the house in shorts or mowing my yard keeps the “J” frame or Kahr PM9 as a better option for securing my person without compromising my safety by carrying nothing.

    As my motorcycle rider coach stated…” you have to be comfortable with the level of risk you can accept.”

    By Tom on Apr 10, 2013

  5. 167 — That’s not at all an uncommon story. I’ve had two friends over the past couple of years experience the same exact thing. Luckily, neither of them needed to draw (which the mouse people would argue proves their point) but both stopped using the j-frame as a primary after that.

    By ToddG on Apr 10, 2013

  6. Miss your blog postings…you have a great way of breaking down a subject and making me re-think certain attitudes and beliefs. As usual, well done!

    By jess banda on Apr 10, 2013

  7. Tom — The question isn’t just a matter of “how much better is the G26?” It’s also about how much harder is it, really, to carry the G26 instead of the j-frame. I’d argue that it’s about 60 seconds of effort more in terms of putting on some kind of suitable holster. Why risk it for 60 seconds?

    jess — Thanks much!

    By ToddG on Apr 10, 2013

  8. How non-permissive were the NPEs in question for you though? Visiting a business where you could get thrown out for carrying is a lot different than visiting a place where you could get thrown in jail or have your entire career destroyed forever.

    I agree that a lot of people make excuses and use laziness to carry a smaller gun, but by the same token there are a lot of gun guys who talk about how easy it is to conceal a real gun when they can wear an untucked polo all day and getting made would just lead to an awkward conversation.

    By Jeff on Apr 10, 2013

  9. Jeff — Some of the NPEs definitely had serious consequences. For obvious reasons I’m not going into more details than that.

    But I agree with your basic premiss. As I said in the post, if you really cannot conceal something bigger than you just can’t. That doesn’t change the fact that a lot of people simply choose to carry a mouse gun in places where, with minimal thought and effort, they could carry something significantly more effective.

    By ToddG on Apr 10, 2013

  10. I daily carry (concealed of course) P30LS 9 mm in kydex. I was planning to buy P2000SK, but I already change my mind and I will buy shorter P30 without safety and change the catch lever for the slim version from P2000. Too small guns are not practical. I agree with Todd in everything.

    By MKabar on Apr 10, 2013

  11. At the same time…you don’t want to be “that guy” who carries a glock 34 and a spare 33rd magazine “just in case”. If you get attacked by that many armed (or even unarmed) men, your speed shooting skills might not get you all of those hits in the space of time that it takes the bad guys to drop you. At some point, you carrying a truckload of firepower is optimistic to the point of being semi-ridiculous. That being said, I’d prefer each and every advantage possible. (Sir, you might have just talked me into buying yet another glock…arghhh!)

    By John on Apr 10, 2013

  12. I carry full size P30LS and even 5″ “true size” USP Expert (Glocks is not my cup of tea) is nothing unimaginable for me to carry. I carry also Ka-Bar large TDI knive and 21″ telescopic baton (and train Krav Maga) – not because I am “that guy” but because laws in my country protect criminals not decent citizens. So using real gun in selfdefence is really absolutelly the last possible solution. Many people in my coutry who defend themselves with guns ended up in jail :-(. Because our laws are absolutely crazy stupid with all this extra nonsense extremity humanity. Fot the others side – I don’t carry spare magazine – I don’t live in Afghanistan or Iraq or something like that, so more then 2-3 round is extremely unlikely and possible malfunction is not my concern – I use HK :-).

    By MKabar on Apr 10, 2013

  13. J frame is plenty fine for 99% of the folks who carry.

    You need a carry gun you will actually carry all the time… 99% of people who carry say they’ll carry a full-size GLock/HK or 1911… end up not carrying because their chosen gun ends up being too big/heavy hard to conceal all the time.

    A J Frame easily slips into your pocket as your wallet does, you’ll likely have it all the time.

    By John P. on Apr 10, 2013

  14. Good advice if you are a professional firearms trainer or someone who only carries in his house.

    By The Judge on Apr 10, 2013

  15. Lol, I actually do have a glock 34 (but no 33 rd mags) and it is about as big as a government model 1911. I’d carry it over a 1911 any day. Nothing wrong with a .45 caliber 1911, but that’s only 3 or 4 rounds more than a J frame at a much larger size. This post does however make me consider buying a compact like a glock 19 or 26. I’ll be blaming Todd 😀

    By John on Apr 10, 2013

  16. “”I had an old Model 42 which I wore ’til it had a light ‘Army finish’ (rust) on it! When I learned S&W was bringing it back as the Model 642, I had Wayne get me one of the first ones and do his stuff on it. It’s ideal to carry either as a primary or back-up weapon. While I usually have a Lightweight Commander on me, I always have the 642, usually in that belly band which Bob Smith of Guardian Leather designed. If I was forced to start giving up all my handguns, the 642 would be one of the last to go!”

    Ken Hackathorn

    By The Judge on Apr 10, 2013

  17. There is no reason not to have very small through full sized handguns available for carry. Social situations will dictate wardrobe and sometimes a very small gun is all you can carry discretely. However, the article does not address another option: off-body carry. There are so many options. One can throw a gun into a briefcase, Dillon Plan-B or even a thick clipboard (held in place by foam). Consider handing the larger gun to your wife or girlfriend to carry in her purse.

    By Tom RKBA on Apr 10, 2013

  18. A carry gun should be comforting… not necessarily comfortable.

    I’m a firm believer in the more capacity = more gooder. Handguns are anemic at best when it comes to the human body. Couple that with the fact people don’t realize that criminals often operate in teams of 2 to 3.

    At 4 shots on avg to stop a threat effectively (3.5 rounds fired in 2006 NYPD OIS incidents), a 6 shot anything just doesn’t cut it with the very real possibility of getting assaulted by more than one attacker. Especially when there are a number of semi autos with 8-12 round capacity while still in that size and concealability restraints.

    By SamuelBLong on Apr 10, 2013

  19. Todd, great post. I have this same “debate” with coworkers. And like you, I favor what I’ll catagorize as a “fighting gun (handgun),” versus a “pocket (mouse) gun.”

    I have a couple criteria for a back up (secondary) handgun. I must accept the same magazines as my primary, and it must preform well enough that I can use it to fight my way back to my car (or wherever), if my primary goes down… My primary is an HK45, my secondary is an HK45c. Before that it was a P220 & and P245. And way back, it was a P226 & and a P228. The P228 was arguably too large to carry as a secondary/back up, but I did it, because I believe in the criteria I have set out. Now, my off duty gun (ccw) is my HK45c, I have not yet found a clothing situation I could not conceal this handgun with an IWB holster. In the summer it is t-shirt and shorts all the time… I just have to wear shorts that have belt loops, that is the only requirement I’ve found thus far.

    There are plenty of guys I work with, who subscribe to the; a pocket gun will serve their back up gun purposes. However, when confronted with situations (incidents which have actually occured, not some crazy made up hypotheticals), they generally don’t have a good response to why they think a pocket gun will work..

    Anyway, good post, thanks and take care of yourself.

    By LCSO264 on Apr 10, 2013

  20. This is a really great post. What I think is disturbing is that, even in Texas, the number of CHL holders is small by percentage.

    Of THOSE people, very few actually carry every single day.

    Of THOSE people, probably a high percentage of them carry pocket or subcompact guns. They’re getting extremely popular.

    What percentage of THOSE people can make a head shot with a J-frame from 25+ yards in a movie theater incident like Colorado?

    I just feel that, if you’re going to carry a gun, carry a gun that is going to maximize YOUR capabilities and fit the tasks that may present themselves.

    The main problem I see is that many CHL holders have VERY limited imaginations—“This is what my fight is going to look like.”

    Well, can you imagine filling up the car at night with kids strapped into car seats? Multiple assailants, shooting through auto glass … I feel like that would be enough to swear people off of pocket .38’s and .380’s.

    By Mitch on Apr 11, 2013

  21. I think the j-frames and small .380 ACP’s have there place when carry is not allowed by company policy however, not illegal. Having a gun at your job that is ridiculously easy to conceal has a place in a personal battery of weapons. Carry something more substantial in the vehicle and on your person once you leave the job-site. I carry an M&P 9 FS daily and do find comfort in this due to a full-size pistols ability to give you adaptability and firepower.

    By Brian on Apr 11, 2013

  22. Todd,

    I want to use your 4 “I wish…” bullets as my signature line in firearms forums. Or, maybe, just throw them out as random answers to questions. Excellent.

    Happy shooting, dv

    By dustyvarmint on Apr 12, 2013

  23. I sold my 642 a week ago. As simple as it was to carry I had stopped carrying it over a year ago and opted for my G23 instead. The reason for carrying the G23 daily instead of the 642? I shot the G23 a whole lot better than the 642. What passes for a front sight on the 642 was getting increasingly hard for me to see, while I was able to get HD night sights for my G23. I’ve had no problems concealing my G23 in a Crossbreed holster.

    By Mark on Apr 13, 2013

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