There is an entire industry of trainers that make a living telling you “which gun is best” for concealed carry. It is critical to be careful about the advice you receive. Carrying a concealed handgun is not rocket science—it is simple common sense. Just because one person prefers a particular handgun does not mean you will.
One of my former officers is a perfect example. This man could print five-shot groups inside a couple inches at 25 yards with a Chief Special. It was amazing to watch, but it’s also very rare. Doing that at 10 yards is a good day for me with that gun. It would have been nuts to tell him that carrying a five-shot revolver somehow put him behind the curve. Others might be better off with a hammer. It really is about what is best for you. It does not really matter if you choose a revolver or pistol. As long as you can shoot it well and be comfortable carrying it, you’ll be fine. The only handgun that will save your life is the one you have, and all the opinion in the world won’t save you.
My general advice is to carry the handgun you are most likely to carry all the time. It is not about how powerful it is, so long as you can place shots where they need to go and it will do the job. Especially with today’s ammunition, effectiveness is more about shot placement. In the last few years, we’ve seen several quality handguns in usable calibers that are small, lightweight, accurate, and reliable.
For me, 9mm is the minimum these days in a semi-auto pistol. It is a proven caliber with several choices of solid self-defense ammunition available. In a revolver, the new, smaller Magnums or .38 +P cartridges are a good start. Bigger is fine, just as long as you can handle it. One of my favorite sayings is to carry the biggest pistol you will carry and can shoot accurately, repeatedly, and under stress.
There is a happy medium and you need to find it. It is no more useful to carry a hand cannon you cannot hit anything with than a pea shooter that requires four magazines to stop the threat.
This is a self-defense application and it needs to do the job. This is not about being comfortable—it is about being prepared. That requires a real handgun that will stop an aggressive and motivated threat. Yet, it needs to be as comfortable as it can be and still do the job. Bigger pistols require more effort, but it may be worth it. This is where the lifestyle portion of the equation comes in. Having carried a 4-inch 1911 pistol for well over 25 years, it certainly can be done. It just requires some compromise and effort. Is it easier to carry a pocket pistol, sure, but that is just not for me.
I prefer having a proven pistol in a proven caliber that I have trained with and used consistently. For others, it might different—and that’s fine—just make certain you are completely aware of the limitations of the handgun you carry.