Ranking Handguns - What Is the Best Small Carry Gun?

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Ranking Handguns - What Is the Best Small Carry Gun?

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"The best things come in small packages."

This phrase is often uttered around the holiday season in reference to Christmas gifts. But, when dealing with daily concealment, could it also apply to your handgun?

Gun manufacturers have been trying to find the perfect balance between portability, power and ease of use for centuries. Now, more than ever, the concealed carry handgun market is incredibly diverse, offering more options for carriers to find that perfect sidearm. 

However, trying to find the right concealed carry firearm is a challenge. Unfortunately, we can't offer you the silver bullet by giving you the definitive, end-all-be-all gun for concealed carry. But, we can offer some guidelines to use when you begin ranking handguns to find the best one for you. Here are a few ways to find the best compact carry pistol for you.

Essential Features for the Best Small Carry Guns

Whenever you're considering which firearm you should purchase, there are several traits you need to research and review whenever you are making that final decision. Not only is your firearm a substantial investment, but it's also what you count on to defend yourself in a life-or-death situation. 


You wouldn't drive a car that only starts half the time you turn the key. You need to be able to rely on your firearm if the time comes for you to defend yourself. We understand that no gun is without fault, and even the most reputable brands have the chance to malfunction. However, you want to choose a concealed carry weapon and ammunition with the lowest likelihood of failing. This trait should supersede all other features you look for in a firearm.


Being able to shoot accurately is essential when choosing a firearm. While this may sound obvious, the length of the barrel and distance between sights can make it more or less challenging to aim. A firearm's accuracy will come down to your experience level. If you are relatively inexperienced, you may need to choose a larger gun than you would otherwise want to for concealment. You can master any firearm, but smaller firearms generally have a steeper learning curve.

Ease of Use

If you get a firearm that is difficult for you to use, it will make self-defense more difficult in a life-or-death situation. This category may seem subjective, as writers and forum contributors all have different definitions of an "easy-to-use" firearm. However, these three traits can make a firearm more accessible to operate:

  • The strength required for a trigger pull. While a snub nose revolver may seem like the perfect sidearm for someone with small hands, many small revolvers have double-action triggers that require a stronger squeeze to fire than a semi-automatic pistol.
  • In-hand comfort. With a smaller handgun, it may be more difficult to get a firm grip when firing. A firearm that fits well in hand can help you aim and fire more confidently.
  • How easy it is to load and reload. In a life-or-death situation, the less time it takes to load and reload your firearm, the better. 

Ammunition Storage and Caliber

Once you've found a group of firearms that are reliable, accurate and easy to use, you'll be able to narrow down your choices of firearm storage and caliber. As a rule of thumb, most smaller handguns will require smaller caliber bullets and have less ammunition capacity. 

Comparing Concealed Carry Sidearm Sizes: What Is the Best Small Carry Gun for You?

Now, we can break down a few different types of handguns by their size to see which might work best for you. One rule firearm experts use to categorize firearms is to measure barrel and grip length instead of ammo capacity or caliber. 

Pocket Pistols

Pocket pistols usually have a barrel of three inches or less. As their name suggests, these firearms are the most portable and the easiest to conceal. However, they usually hold the least amount of ammunition and use the lowest caliber of ammunition. Due to their small grip and short rail length, these firearms can be difficult for inexperienced shooters to fire accurately. 

Subcompact Pistols

Subcompact pistols have barrels between three and three-and-a-half inches in length. These firearms are the halfway point between a compact and pocket pistol, as they offer a portable package but also have a larger ammo capacity and more stopping power. Many subcompact pistols offer workarounds to make them easier to use than a pocket pistol, like magazines that extend the length of the pistol's grip. 

Compact Pistols

Compact pistols have barrels that range from three-and-a-half inches and four-and-a-half inches. Most concealed carriers can handle compact pistols without the firearm feeling too small or too large. They have a larger ammunition capacity and can handle a wider variety of ammo types. The compact category meets the Goldilocks status, as it is portable enough to not be cumbersome in most concealed setups while also having enough heft and size to reduce recoil and improve accuracy. 

Full-Size Pistols

A full-size pistol is any handgun with a barrel over 4.5 inches, usually designed for open carry. Full-sized pistols have more stopping power than the previously mentioned pistol categories. A full-size handgun is probably too large for concealed carry in most situations. Some firearm owners use full-size pistols for home defense or shooting at the range. 

The Most Comfortable Concealed Carry: Where Do You Plan to Conceal Your Firearm?

If you're trying to rank firearms and firearm categories, where and how you plan to conceal them are essential points to note. If you need a firearm that will offer the most comfortable concealed carry experience, you may value the portability of a compact or smaller handgun. If you plan to conceal your firearm in your home but don't plan to carry it, a full-size pistol will provide the most bang for your buck.

Finding the Right Firearm for You

There are a lot of great lists online that will give you an awesome breakdown of the author's top handguns for concealed carry. It's a great idea to take a few notes from experienced firearm experts and then try their recommended firearms out at a firing range with an experienced marksman. Many ranges offer gun rentals of a wide variety of handguns.

While you should always practice your draw, firing technique and gun care after you purchase your firearm to get the most out of it, finding a firearm you are most comfortable with initially can eliminate later frustrations.

If you have the perfect firearm but need to give it a secure and hidden location in your home, check out our line of firearm concealment products. From small flags for handguns to larger pieces that can accommodate rifles and shotguns, we're sure to have a great option for your firearm.

Make it easier for you to access your concealed firearm and harder for everyone else. See our full lineup on our products page today! 

Have a question about our products? Visit our contact page today to get in touch with a team member who can help you start storing your firearms in a smarter, safer way.


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