Choosing a firearm for Concealed Carry, Self- and Personal Defense

July 2, 2012 — 4 Comments

Choosing a firearm as a Concealed Carry Weapon (CCW) for home defense is a real challenge, especially if you’re not a gun nut and aren’t surrounded by gun nuts. Trawling the Internet and seeking advice from accessible gun nuts yields varying opinions about what to get and why. I’ve recently started to consider acquiring one.

The starting point ought to be an evaluation of your motivation. Why do you want a firearm? For me the answer is simple – self and personal defense.

South Africa is rated #7 with regards to violent crime and stated as being #1 with regard to murder. Though the statistics are dated it does provide a foundation for the popular opinion people I know have of my country. The basic fact is that the average criminal involved in hijacking, home invasions, rape, and robbery is likely to be armed. In the city where I live in violent crime, including murder and hijacking and rape, is a concern and protecting my family is important to me. I’ve been lucky enough to make it this far in life without the sense that the world is a dangerous place. Whether its my sixth sense, the leading of the Spirit, or recent re-exposure to firearms, the urge to acquire a firearm for CCW has dawned.

The last time I fired a gun with any kind of consistency was between the ages of 5 and 7. I’ve done one or two fun shoots in my adult life and put over 30 years of time in between. The only serious attempt at firearm usage was recently doing a Combat Shooting course through Golani Krav Maga. This means that I don’t have a large volume of experience. Understandably you’d want to file my recommendations here under the realm of “opinion.”

Disclaimer: I’m not a very experienced firearm wrangler. Hence, this piece of writing doesn’t count as professional advice. Consult a trained professional, do your research, participate in some training, do a few tests, and make up your own mind.

Considerations

Here are some of considerations that helped me define a selection of firearms:

  1. Budget. Firearms can be extensive – purchase price, maintenance, and ammo. Decide ahead of time what the ceiling is on your spending. I decided to plan for a new firearm that is reliable. When considering 9mm vs. .40mm vs. .45mm I did the math. Roughly, ammo on the 9mm is 1/4 the price of that for the .40mm and .45mm. Given that I’d like to regularly get in some time on the range and that more rounds is going to benefit me the most that’s the route I decided on.
  2. Ergonomics. What size weapon can I comfortably carry as a CCW? How well do I shoot with the weapon? Naturally, your own build, style of dress, size of hands, etc. will vary. I considered Full Size and Compact versions as those provide a large capacity of rounds in 9mm.
  3. Training. An important consideration when choosing to go with a CCW ought to include the training your going to be getting therewith. Basically, in a stressful situation you’ll default to your level of training. The test I came up with below will go partway to “showing you up” and thereby evidencing where you need training and practice. Remember, with a concealed weapon you need to be able to draw from concealment, ready the weapon, and successfully put rounds on target in an incredibly short space of time. This requires regular practice and moderated training.

The test

In the end no amount of thinking and talking and research is going to replace hands on experience. So I found a great indoor range where they allowed me to test several firearms. My basic test to see which weapon is the most natural fit is as follows:

  1. Warm up by putting a few shots down range. Basically, get any stress related to shooting out of your system.
  2. Place a target at 15m.
  3. Chamber a round. Fire 5 rounds into it slowly and deliberately, with the goal of being as accurate as possible. For this you have 15 seconds. Have someone time you.
  4. Draw from concealment, i.e. how you’re going to be carrying your CCW. Fire 5 rounds into the target as rapidly as you can while maintaining control and being responsible. For this you have 8 seconds. Once again, have someone time you. It’ll keep you honest.
  5. Compare the groupings. (Take photographs of your groupings and keep them. They’ll come in handy in a few months time to see your improvement.)
  6. Repeat with the same weapon at 7m.
  7. Repeat the cycle for all the weapons you’re considering.

Now compare the groupings of your shots between the 15m and 7m. Repeat the test for all the firearms you’re testing. If you can afford to then do the test twice. Ideally you need a variety of weapons, i.e. all the weapons you already consider viable options. If possible include a weapon or two that you haven’t considered. You may end up spending quite a bit on ammo that day but this investment will help you settle on a choose that you’re happy to stick with.

Why do the test at 15m and 7m?

Well 15m is likely to be the longest distance I’m going to be using your weapon in a home based encounter. In the dark its going to be hard to positively identify the target. In real world application this means having to positively identifying an imminent threat down the longest passage or at the end of my garden from my front door. Also, 15m gives me a sense of where my shots are going to be headed and what kind of spread I can expect. Should I miss the assailent at 7m (or closer) this is where those rounds are going to be going. Its not uncommon for an untrained user to put none of their rounds on a target at this range under stressful conditions. Hopefully having to draw and fire 5 rounds in 8 seconds will illustrate this.

The distance of 7m is likely to be actual distance one is likely to begin engaging an assailant – that’s across the room or the mid-point between two rooms. This is the distance one is expected to be legally competent at. With competency in my country is measured by being able to put 10 rounds on an A3 target at this distance with no pressure. Repeating the test at this range evidences the difference between what’s required to be certified as technically competent and what’s required to be sufficiently proficient. Again, it would not be uncommon to miss the target even at this distance under pressure.

Bear in mind that safety is your responsibility. If you don’t feel safe doing this test then don’t do it. Rather, get some assistance from a trained professional.

Admittedly in a real-world home defense scenario you may be facing an assailant at shorter distances, including “bad breath range” where the assailant has gotten hold of you. This isn’t something that I could meaningful create a range based test for. Its also the kind of situation where additional skills are called for. Overall I felt that closer distances lay beyond the scope of this test for determining which firearm best suits me as my initial CCW.

Comparisons and Conclusions

What you should have by way of comparison with each gun is your grouping at 15m and 7m providing a sense of how well you do firing deliberately versus chaotically. Trialling several weapons will give you a sense of which fits you most naturally. In the end you will either pick the one your really want or the one that you did the best with. Through the test I was able to narrow my results down to two weapons the CZ 75 PO-7 Duty (link, pictured below), and the Glock 19. Both are comparable in size. However, I was much better with the Duty.

As I’d recently got some experience with doing the Combat Shooting course with the Glock 17 I added that to the lineup. I found the test to evidence that I actually performed better with the Glock 17 Gen 3 (link, pictured below). This could be because my recent experience has been with the Glock 17.

My groupings were as good on the rapid fire test at 15m as they were at 7m with the G17. I was more accurate with the Glock 17 than any other weapon I tried when firing deliberately and when firing chaotically. Though the Glock 17 its larger than the compacts and the Duty I found that its as readily concealable on my person given my build and style of dressing. I’ll repeat the test again this week with a friend or two who’re also looking to purchase.

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4 responses to Choosing a firearm for Concealed Carry, Self- and Personal Defense

  1. 

    Good article Tim. I personally would go for either the Glock 17 or 19. Both excellent firearms, for all the reasons you mentioned.Polymer CZ’s haven’t had great reviews,specifically with regards to cycling/jamming, which to me, is a definite no no, especially when its comes to choosing a firearm for self defense.I think one of the most important things you’re doing, which most people don’t do,is test firing different firearms. This would give you a good indication of what “feels” good.I think you on the right track buddy and in my totally biased opinion(i just love these Tupperware guns),you can’t go wrong with a Glock.
    Cannah

  2. 

    This is really well written Tim, nice article. In a toss up between the CZ Poly and the G17/19, as a carry weapon, I would opt for the glock. It has fewer external parts to catch or snag on clothing when being unholstered, and as Cannah said, it has a proven track record when it comes to jams and misfires. That said, I still trust an old steel CZ 75 over any other firearm when it comes to reliability. It is heavier than its polymer counterparts (1,3kg loaded with 15 x 9mm rounds), but you can drop it in mud and still fire it immediately afterwards. This is of course a non-expert opinion.

    A note on your selection criteria though – various firearms are now available with different barrels so that you can practice using 9mm rounds, but carry it with a .40 barrel. A .40 round has much greater stopping power than a 9mm.

    Also, when doing a comparison on weapons, I feel it’s better to go with what ‘feels’ right in my hand as opposed to what i shoot with most accurately. Accuracy @ 7/15m is down to stance and getting your technique right, an experienced shottist will get the same grouping out of both weapons. If I feel comfortable with a firearm in my hand (grip, weight, positioning of mag release & slide lock etc.), I’m more comfortable practicing with it until i am happy with my grouping. In all shooting, practice makes perfect, but I feel better and more at ease shooting a firearm that i feel safe and comfortable with.

    Another thing to consider is the aftermarket accessories for the firearm. The CZ Poly is relatively new and so sourcing aftermarket sights etc. could be both difficult and/or costly. The glock has remained relatively unchanged through the different gens, making parts, mags etc much cheaper and readily available in SA. This is generally my primary consideration after price and ergonomics, as you don’t want to be without your weapon for months and spend a huge amount on smithing if you do have an issue with it.

    One last note: if you are considering a CZ, check out the CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow. It is apparently a superb weapon, which was specifically designed for use by military and law enforcement, where they have increased the capacity to 18 rounds and shaved off some of the exterior finishing to make it easier to carry and use in high-stress situations. It is known to be exceptionally reliable.

    • 

      Hey Tristan,

      Just a quick note – the grouping comparison is between the two different approaches to putting 5 rounds down range so not how neat each grouping is but rather the difference between trying to be accurate and trying to be quick.

      Budget in part limited the choice of firearms to the 9mm calibre. I focused on the 9mm cause the cost of ammunition is cheap in comparison to the .40 and .45. With my starter gun I plan on putting quite a few rounds down range and will get twice the happiness out of the 9mm. (Technically I’m only 5% less accurate with the .45 compared to the 9mm.)

      Those are all great points. Thanks for your notes!

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