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choosing a ccw gun form factors

Concealed Carry Handgun Factors - What is Most Important?

For those in the concealed carry community, the question gun developers are always asking is what form factor makes the most sense for concealed carry. The problem? One size never fits all.

There are a multitude of form factors that affect choice of firearm characteristics. A person's own style of movement, their body size, their strengths and weaknesses, and the clothing they prefer to wear all play a role as to which handgun form factor is going to be most important when answering the question of what makes a "good CCW."

CCW Reliability — What Can Go Wrong?

Handgun reliability can be gauged by a simple question: does the firearm perform its intended purpose without malfunction?

Unpacking that question means thinking about both human and mechanical error. Human error begets mechanical error while making and using the firearm. After use, is it cleaned and maintained? During manufacturing, are the components and their materials correctly installed, engineered and designed?

Another factor to consider with handgun reliability is correct use of ammunition, which gets back to human error. Using questionable or incorrect ammunition will impact its reliability. Hang fires, squib loads, stove pipes and failures to feed are an interaction between firearm malfunction and ammunition.

Failure to extract the ammunition from the handgun chamber can be either mechanical or human error. This can occur for several reasons like a dirty chamber or an issue with the extractor.

A firearm can also have an issue with being out of battery when it does not cycle fully. Double feeding ammunition is a jam in the firearm, which can be caused by issues like a faulty ejector or broken casings on ammunition, contributing to an unreliable handgun.

A handgun's reliability contributes to shot placement and grouping while on range or while lawfully engaging a lethal threat. When a pistol or revolver fails to place a shot and it has nothing to do with how capable a shooter is, real issues arrive. This is why reliability plays such a huge role in what makes a good concealed carry weapon. Fortunately, modern manufacturing practices tend to be much more credible, minimizing (but not completely) chance for error.

However, brands and specific models have garnered positive and negative reputations through modern history, based on design and engineering defects.

There's an ongoing argument on whether revolvers are more reliable than semi-automatics, with one root of the debate being their lower rate of feeding failures.

Handgun reliability is a complex topic and has a large impact on choosing the right firearm. Have anything to add here? Great! Comment your experience below, and if your reliable firearm isn't listed, include that as well.

What Affects Handgun Concealability?

Handgun concealability can be broken into type, shape and size — but the caveat here is that any sidearm that can be concealed qualifies as a "CCW," but not all are created equal in this category.

Micro and subcompact pistols and revolvers are more concealable options. Just to name a few:

  • The Beretta Pico (380 auto) has an overall length of 5.1 inches and height of 4 inches.
  • The Glock 26 (9mm) has an overall length of 6.41 inches and height of 4.17 inches.
  • The Taurus Mini Revolver (380 ACP) has a 1.75 inch barrel.

A slim profile will contribute to a firearm's weight and carry capacity. Single stack versus double stack magazines will inherently impact the width of the firearm.

Smaller, more concealable handguns also serve within a specific niche: backup handguns. Storing one in an ankle holster may be a viable option, based on personal preference, in addition to a primary concealed or open carry option.

Handgun storage and placement will play a large role in this realm of CCW form factors. Outside the waistband (OWB) carry, while certainly concealable with the right clothing choice and how high the holster rides, is at a disadvantage to deep concealment methods.

Inside the waistband (IWB) placement behind the hip, appendix carry and small of the back tend to be common options. Shoulder holsters with a thick coat may also be a decent option. A pant leg over an ankle holster can be a simple choice.

Bottom line here: handgun concealability form factors are an integrated system of size, weight, shape, caliber, magazine type, revolver wheel, storage system, storage placement and other miscellaneous factors.

Mingling these into a successful combination is key to optimizing the handgun concealability form factor.

Comment what you think the most important concealability factor is, and if your CCW isn't listed in the poll, let others know in the comments as well.

What to Think About with CCW Ammo Capacity

Ammunition capacity in handguns is affected by caliber, magazine and revolver wheel capacity. The amount of rounds and their type, size and strength are a formulaic component to the vague application of "stopping power."

Stopping power is a term bandied widely, but applied loosely. As an application to ammunition capacity, it nebulously contributes as a form factor within effective concealed carry weapons.

Stopping power can be defined as a weapon's ability to cause enough trauma to consequently incapacitate a lethal threat, thereby becoming a measurement system of how likely a concealed carry firearm will lawfully stop a lethal threat in its tracks.

More shots placed increases the likelihood of neutralizing a lethal threat. As caliber scales in size, it will generally decrease the amount of necessary rounds to stop a threat. Because there is finite space in a magazine, larger rounds will logically take up more space.

Therefore, the organization of ammunition in a magazine will affect how many rounds may be carried. A double stack staggers the available ammunition, increasing carrying capacity while also increasing overall width.

Single stack magazines as a concealed carry weapon form factor depreciate the chances of printing, but may limit the amount of ammunition available — an issue that can be circumvented by carrying spare mags.

While it comes down to personal preference, as does most realms of firearm ownership in the vastly diversified marketplace, the number of available rounds will vary, but the ultimate question one has to answer is this: how many rounds will it take to neutralize the threat?

That will be impacted by the number of magazines on hand, their total carrying capacity and the efficacy of their caliber and type (hollow point versus full metal jacket, for example) — let alone potential high capacity magazine legislation limiting certain types in the concealed carrier's state.

Comment below or on social media what ammunition capacity gets the job done best. Some follow the three rounds at three yards within three seconds mindframe, but others see differently.

Ammunition, like firearms, also tends to get expensive.

Gun Affordability — Are Cheap Guns Bad?

Cost is an important concealed carry form factor to consider, bringing to the table a discussion on the validity of cheap guns.

But what is the threshold for "cheap" and what is its application?

A more appropriate way to approach the topic is to weigh value against cost. What does the firearm offer based on materials and tested reliability and how do those variables stack up against the product's associated price tag?

A low price tag can be an amazing opportunity, but research will be the key component on this matter. Gauge consumer perception and firearm reliability before going in on a purchase.

A low price can also indicate cutting corners in manufacturing or materials, and depending on the application and execution can cost the concealed carrier more than what's listed on that attractive price tag.

Don't see your firearm on that poll? List it in the comments along with your viewpoint on gun affordability at retail and private sales.

gun blog writer jake smith

About The Author

Jake Smith is a copywriter and photographer based in the pacific northwest. He graduated from the University of Idaho with degrees in public relations and apparel.