As stated in many of our answers, “best” is definitely a subjective term. Instead of thinking of “best”, let’s go over some topics for consideration:
The gun needs to fit your hand comfortably, and it also needs to comfortably fit inside whatever space you plan to conceal it. It is possible to conceal a heavy, full-size pistol with the right clothing…but would you want to carry it all day?
Keep in mind also that the smaller the gun, the more you will feel the recoil. Physics states that mass absorbs force (we are not physics professors). Putting it simply; the heavier the gun, the less it will kick.
A self-defense firearm needs, before all else, to get the job done. Calibers smaller than .380 are usually not recommended for primary self-defense because of the limits of their stopping power. If you’re thinking “Just shoot them in the head”, we’ll remind you that the skull is dense bone, the mouth has no stopping power, and the soft tissue of the eyes and nose are a very small target, which is moving and trying to hurt you at the same time. This is one of the reasons instructors recommend aiming for center mass.
Human bodies are tough. Even with well-placed shots, field research by law enforcement has shown that an assailant can continue to take actions for up to 30 seconds after receiving a mortal wound. You want a caliber that will cause a significant shock to the core systems in a relatively small amount of time. This is why we typically recommend .380 or above, and it is typically recommended to plan on at least 3 shots per bad guy.
Simply put; Guns that hold fewer rounds can be smaller and more comfortable to carry. This isn’t going to be much help if your home is invaded by a group of bad guys. We recommend your carry gun hold at least 8 rounds. Modern magazine technology has seen sub-compact and micro-compact pistols that can hold as many as 15 rounds of 9mm.
4. EASE OF DEPLOYMENT AND USE
Semi-automatics have the benefit of being extremely reliable, easily accessorized, and carry an increased ammunition capacity over revolvers. That being said, it is important to get with a qualified instructor to learn the basics of how to clear a stoppage (jam / malfunction). “Jams” aren’t common, but they do happen. Be honest with yourself about how much time you will responsibly put into learning your particular firearm.
Revolvers, on the other hand, have limited options for enhancement or accessorizing and typically hold a maximum of 6 or 8 rounds. However the mechanical function of a revolver makes it much less prone to malfunction. The saying goes “It’ll fire every time you pull the trigger”. While this might seem like the perfect choice for a beginner, keep in mind that revolver triggers have a heaver pull. Before deciding on a revolver for your concealed carry, put on in your hand at your local gun store and try to pull the trigger a few times. It should feel like the equivalent of lifting an 8-10lb fitness weight using only a string and your index finger. If this is too difficult, go back to considering learning the semi-automatic.
We get the question all the time “What is a safe gun?” or “Do you have any guns with a safety?”. Let’s clarify first: A manual safety device on a firearm is meant as a drop-safe mechanism. Meaning, it’s not meant to keep you from pulling the trigger, it’s generally meant to keep the gun from going off if you drop it on the ground or leave it loose in a bag (try not to ever do either). The only thing that keeps you from pulling the trigger is firearm safety basics, so we recommend taking a class regardless.
Generally speaking, if the firearm lacks a manual safety and is a reliable brand (meaning that it’s the type of brand that has military and law enforcement contracts) that typically means that you can toss the gun across the room onto the floor and it shouldn’t fire (we don’t recommend testing this) because the manufacturer passed a drop-safety test with such flying colors that the manual switch was not required or recommended.
All firearms must pass minimum drop-safety requirements before leaving the factory and ending up on a sales floor. So let’s change this question to “What is a safe gun for ME”. Assuming you have enough hand strength to perform the basic functions of the gun (loading, unloading, pressing the trigger), then we would ask what you plan to do with it. If you’re going to throw it in your pocket or bag without a holster, the gun needs to have a manual safety. If you will keep it in a holster and learn to retrieve it from the holster, it’s typically recommended that you look for a semi-automatic with no manual safety — meaning that it will fire when you press the trigger (when you need it!). If you do choose a firearm with a manual safety, you will need to practice engaging and disengaging the safety so that you don’t forget to do it in the middle of a fight!