Choosing Your First Concealed Carry Handgun & Holster In 2015 (The Short Version)


Recently I had a close family member ask me advice about guns and holster types.

It made me realize that some things I take for granted, because I’ve read so much and trained so much, are not immediately obvious to the casual gun owner or new gun owner.

The fact is: most advice that’s in gun magazines or even on the internet (with a few exceptions) is trash.


Many gun articles are written by writers with little actual training experience or even very little concealed carry experience.

Others are written by people that at one time were experts, but haven’t updated their knowledge base in years, or continued to adapt to proven improvements in basic TTP’s.

So let’s talk about the basics today, what I call the 80/20 version (based off Pareto’s principle of the 20% of knowledge that will get you 80% of the results you want) …

The Question: What Gun & Holster Combo For 2015?

So a close family member sent me the following email that sparked this discussion:

    “What do you think of the Glock 17? Heard anything bad about it? Do you have holster for small of your back?”

And at first, I was stunned.

After all, the Glock 17 is the handgun that started the polymer/synthetic gun revolution. It’s, literally, the most popular handgun in the world.

I thought that “everyone” knew it would be a great choice for a self-defense handgun.

But, as I said, what I thought was common knowledge apparently isn’t.

Now that’s not to say I’m an expert that knows everything, but I do have a fair bit of experience here having spent quite a bit of time learning from true experts in the field–the best of the best.

The point is that there is a CLEAR trend in the modern combat pistol choices of today’s experts.

The Best Handguns For Self-Defense (An 80/20 Guide)

The short and long of it is that you can’t go wrong with a 9mm Glock or 9mm Smith and Wesson M&P.

If you want a full-size “service pistol” then choose the Glock 17 9mm or the Smith & Wesson M&P9.


If you want a slightly smaller, usually easier to conceal option, then go with a “compact” model of one of the above. The Glock 19 or the M&P Compact 9mm.

(For the record, I carry the Glock 19 Gen 4.)

If you want (or need) an even SMALLER gun for some reason, then you get the most reliable small gun you can in this category which, again, can be found in the Glock 43 9mm or Smith & Wesson M&P Shield.

Both the Glock and the Smith and Wesson M&P line have been proven over decades of use by police, military and competitive shooters. They work.

You will see more people using these at shooting classes, competition shooting events, and in the holsters of American Police than any other guns for a very clear reason. They’re proven. They work. They’re the best choice if you’re just starting out or don’t know what you don’t know yet. Pick the one you like better and that fits your hand best.

9mm ammo is the cheapest of all service calibers and is readily available, pick a self-defense load from this list and then practice with the cheapest stuff available. Done.

The Best Holsters For Concealed Carry

The second part of the family member’s question was asking me if I had a small-of-the-back holster.


Please don’t carry a gun there. Don’t get a shoulder holster. Don’t even think about carrying a “cross draw” holster.

And for the love of God, get a real holster, not a flimsy $10 Wal-Mart nylon holster that won’t stay on your belt and folds and flops around meaning you have to point the gun at yourself and use two hands to re-holster your gun after shooting.

Here is the best advice:

Get an inside-the-waistband, probably kydex, holster and carry it behind the hip on your strong side (most likely around 3-4 o’ clock, figuring out the most comfortable and concealable place on your body behind the hip).

* Appendix carry is also an option, but not until you have a lot of training under your belt and understand the risks involved. 

Stay away from cheap brands like Uncle Mike, Fobus, etc.

While many experts I respect hate hybrid holsters, I carried one for the majority of my concealed carry experience (Crossbreed Super Tuck Deluxe) thus far but I do certainly recommend switching to a better made kydex one at the earliest opportunity.

If you’re into leather, then Galco makes the Summer Comfort or the Royal Guard(very respected and been around a LONG time).

If you’re into Kydex (I am), then Raven Concealment makes a good pancake style holster. JM Custom Kydex makes an excellent IWB holster as well.

I further recommend an FBI cant for reasons I will explain later, but it makes things better most of the time.

In Summary …

I like simple.

Whenever I start learning about a new topic, I try to put my ego and personal preferences aside and learn from the experts first.

I didn’t pick a gun and carry method and then seek to defend it because I liked it. I chose the one that has been proven to work and then worked from there.

Here are some additional articles that are great reading if you want more info than this short, 80/20 guide I gave you:

Your First Gun – by Greg Ellifritz

The 5 Best Handguns for Self-Defense – Caleb (not me) at Gun Nuts

Gun “Experts” and their Idiotic CCW Choices – Greg Ellifritz

Features to avoid when buying an IWB Holster – Greg Ellifritz

Recommended holsters for concealed carry – Caleb (not me) at Gun Nuts

If you’re getting started looking for a good self-defense gun and holster in 2015, then following the simple advice in this article will save you a LOT of time and frustration.



  1. What is your take on Kahr 9mm guns. Comparing, I found it a lot lighter than the M&P, but not much information on reliability.

    • I dont have any personal experience with them, but I hear they CAN be reliable … after a break in period. Different models work better (380 vs 9mm) I think has some articles on the Kahr.

  2. Hi
    I have a lot of infantry military experience in most weapons.
    I carry with me Springfield subcompact 45 or a FNX combat 45.
    I’m particularly paralyzed from 97. I don’t use a holster I use a put The gun in my cargo pocket of my bib overalls. Much better to carry and conceal too.

  3. As a gunsmith of over 25 years, an NRA firearms instructor, certified law enforcement armorer, I have a certain amount of knowledge in this area. I have taught CCW classes and trained numerous people at the range. Additionally, one of my best friends is a retired ATF agent and was an expert witness on firearms in many, many trials.
    That said, I will agree and disagree with you.
    The Glock has improved over the years and is now a fine weapon. If this conversation was occurring 15 years ago, maybe even 10, I’d have said steer clear from the Glock. But it has improved. I don’t own one and I likely never will. While Glock was not the first polymer framed handgun, it is still problematic.
    The Glock is a lot more complicated, then say, a 1911. Most common problems with a Glock include Lock block pin, trigger spring, slide lock spring, slide stop lever, recoil spring issues. FTF and FTE can be problematic with any autoloader, but I’ve seen more issues with that particular problem with Glocks than any other auto loader.
    But is Glock bad? No. It is now a good firearm. But don’t dismiss all the others.
    Glocks tend to be a little harder for new shooters. It’s a little different in the handling.

    The only thing about holsters is to be sure to get one that covers the trigger. Too many AD’s with a holstered weapon that exposes the trigger.

    • I agree all holsters should cover the trigger …

      But after that I’ll disagree

      – you’re the first person I’ve ever heard saying the Glock is more complicated than a 1911? The Glock has less parts and is less complicated to shoot

      – I’m not sure what problems the Glock had 10 years ago that you’re referring to? Among most people I’ve talked to, a lot of them actually like early generation Glocks better.

      – And striker fired pistols like the Glock/M&P tend to be the easiest to shoot for new shooters — not “a little harder”. There’s one consistent trigger pull, and assuming you have the safety-less M&P – just grab the gun, aim it, and shoot.

  4. I was one of the first owners of the original Colt Mustang Pocketlite .380, bought many years back. It shoots great, and I have ever regretted the purchase or desired any gun to replace it for concealed carry.

  5. How much did Glock pay you for that endorsement?
    What a biased piece of baloney!
    I’m an old fart from the old school, who totally disagrees with you except on one comment–
    you don’t know anything about other concealed carry choices!
    At my age– and I’m up there, I can’t reach behind my hip to draw– so that location is out for me.
    I have a Kahr CW 45 to carry in an outside the waistband holster. It has an excellent reliability history.
    I hate the Glock trigger pull, and this Kahr is not much better, but feels better! Shape is more of an issue with me due to the longer pull on a DA only gun. My objection on the Kahr is too much curvature, and they won’t change that– I know, cuz I asked them!
    In the end, an individuals physical situation needs to be factored in, and adjustments made accordingly.

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