Best Concealed Carry Guns by Caliber

Best-of lists can be lots and lots of fun, and most best-of lists around guns focus on a single caliber. While that’s fun, I’ve always thought, why not a best-of list that gives you the best guns from various calibers? With that in mind, I set out to ponder, gather opinions from friends, and create a list of the best concealed carry guns by caliber. I am specifically starting with popular calibers. Sadly, we won’t have your favorite wildcat or near-extinction round or even the latest high-tech super round. I stuck to just the popular options out there.

.22 – Ruger LCR in .22LR or .22 WMR

I’m grouping .22LR and .22 Magnum together in this list. Mainly because I feel like the Ruger LCR is the best option out there for both calibers. In .22LR, the gun holds eight rounds, and in .22 WMR, the gun holds six rounds. These two rimfire rounds offer very low recoil and concussion rates, which makes them great for those who are recoil-adverse. The Ruger LCR offers a very compact, snub-nose-style revolver that can be very easily concealed.

The polymer-infused design keeps the weight light and the price fairly low. The LCR features great triggers, although the rimfire variants aren’t quite as nice as the centerfire options. The revolver design makes it easy to deal with failures to fire. Rimfires tend to be a little less reliable than centerfire guns, so being able to just pull the trigger to solve a malfunction issue is quite nice.

.380 ACP – Glock 42

The Glock 42 is a very interesting design in the world of .380 ACP firearms. It’s fairly large compared to something like the Ruger LCP, but it’s also much comfier and easier to shoot. The grip is long enough to hold onto and makes the gun plenty easy to control when compared to other pocket .380s. We get that famed Glock reliability and simplicity.

The Glock 42 gives you a smooth striker-fired trigger design, capable sights, and a very easy-to-conceal weapon. The Glock 42 is the best .380 ACP to me because it’s super small and easy to carry but doesn’t pack the recoil of something like the Ruger LCP. The presence of real sights and a striker-fired trigger makes it easy to shoot more accurately than other micro .380s.

.38 Special/.357 Magnum – S&W Model 66

We also pairing the .38 and .357 Magnum together since the .357 can eat both. It’s tough to pick a good concealed carry .357 Magnum. The ultra-short and ultra-light models are not for everyone. However, the S&W Model 66, or combat magnum, provides a fairly compact revolver that’s still fairly easy to shoot. The Model 66 with a 2.5-inch barrel is no snubnose.

However, it won’t beat your hand up with every Magnum shot. Heck, it’s downright soft with .38 Special loadings. This makes it versatile for a variety of shooters and situations. The S&W Model 66 is a very proven revolver and is still in production to this day.

9mm – SIG P365

The famed 9mm round and concealed carry go together like peanut butter and jelly. The current crop of most pistols is 9mm and is what we call micro compacts. The king of the Micro Compacts is the SIG P365. I list the P365, but this could be any of the P365 models, including the X, XL, SAS, etc. It’s a very easy shooting gun that’s quite accurate and capable.

The P365 offers excellent capacity for the size, a great trigger, and excellent sights. SIG makes optics-ready options and various sizes to match your various needs. It’s super reliable and comes in magazine capacities ranging from 10 to 17 rounds. The P365 is well established, and there are tons of holsters, lights, and more available for the weapon.

.40 S&W – S&W Shield

The old .40 S&W is seemingly on its way out. The little cartridge has been edged out of everyday use by 9mm but still sticks around. A lot of .40 S&W guns are duty-sized blasters like the P229 and Glock 23. The classic Shield is one of the best concealed carry-ready pistols in the .40 S&W cartridge. The M&P Shield series are well respected, and one of the most common carry guns out there.

The S&W Shield is the same size as a single stack, 9mm, but it chambers the larger .40 S&W caliber. The Shield offers you a fairly compact pistol that’s thin and easy to tote. It’s also easy to control with the notoriously snappy .40 S&W. It’s also reliable, well-proven, and widely available at a great price. It’s one of the few modern single-stack .40s out there.

10mm – Glock 29

The 10mm, 40 S&Ws stronger, stouter, and cooler brother is a little bit niche. Although with S&W, SIG, Springfield, and more releasing new 10mm guns, it’s still popular enough to warrant a spot on the list. The 10mm is a purpose-built powerhouse of a round that can be used to deal with everyone from two-legged vermin to bears. It’s a very powerful round and comes in numerous loading options.

The Glock 29 is one of the few subcompact 10mm caliber handguns out there. It’s been produced for decades and remains one of the only compact choices for concealed carry. The little Glock 29 is thick but short and easy to conceal. The little gun has a big bark and holds ten rounds with 15-round options available. If you need a powerhouse of a gun, the Glock 29 is tough to beat.

.45 ACP – Colt Defender

There are lots and lots of compact M1911s on the market. The problem is most are made in small numbers and can be tough to get. Colt makes plenty of Defender models that aren’t tough to find. The Defender model shrinks the design to a three-inch barrel. It still keeps the traditional .45 ACP caliber in play with the classic single-stack design.

The Defender comes with tons of modern features, including a lightweight aluminum frame. We get G10 grips and tritium Novak-style sights. The gun has a nice beavertail for a high grip and classic 1911 Ergos. All in all, it’s a great handgun for those looking to throw 200-grain’ ashtrays’ from a compact package.

By the Numbers

There we go, we’ve done it. These are my favorite and what I think are the best concealed carry guns by caliber. I’m only one person with one set of experiences; which guns would you swap? Which calibers would you add? Let us know below!

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Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record-setting 11 months at sea. Travis has trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines, and the Afghan National Army.

He serves as an NRA-certified pistol instructor and pursues a variety of firearms-based hobbies.


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