Concealed Carry Pistols: Polymer vs. Steel Framed Guns

It’s a matter of weight, capacity, trigger, action, recoil — just a handful of considerations.


Polymer and steel framed guns both have their place when it comes to carrying concealed. And just like with anything else, they both have their pros and cons. In this blog, we’ll break down why you would use one gun over the other as well as some popular models to carry concealed.

If you’ve ever enjoyed the classic 1911 model pistol or carried a 1911, you know how reliable these single stack firearms can be. In recent years, the all-new 2011 became a popular double-stack firearm for concealed carry as well as all steel framed guns built from their polymer predecessors.

Here are a few considerations before choosing a polymer or steel framed gun to carry concealed:

1. Safeties on Polymer- and Steel-Framed Guns

Most concealed carry permit owners, or gun owners for that matter, do not go to the range nearly enough to practice with their carry gun or firearms that they own. Safety mechanisms on polymer and steel framed guns are very different and each takes time to get used to before gun handling becomes second nature.

On most steel-framed guns like 1911s and 2011s, there is an external thumb safety and even a backstrap safety. When drawing from concealment, your grip needs to be perfect each time to disengage both safeties or else the gun won’t fire when you need it most. First, your grip should be high enough on the gun to have sufficient pressure on the backstrap safety to disengage it. Next, your thumb needs to naturally land on the thumb safety to disengage it while drawing out of a holster. If you don’t regularly practice these actions for this to become second nature for you, a steel-framed gun (at least one of these two styles) might not be your best choice. Your life will depend on what you’ve practiced, so it has to be engrained in your muscle memory, or else you’ll fumble with the gun at the time it matters most.

Polymer guns provide an easy platform to carry with most often just a powerful trigger safety. This makes it easy for a permit holder to draw and fire the gun without having to remember anything else.

2. Felt Recoil

One of the biggest differences between polymer and steel framed guns is felt recoil. The added weight of steel-framed guns gives shooters less felt recoil and an easier return to zero for follow-up shots. Polymer guns tend to be lightweight, and most often more compact in size, making the gun move more and harder for you to control and even grip.

3. Weight

While the felt recoil of steel-framed guns is better than polymer guns, the added weight can be a downside. What clothing do you plan on wearing daily? A sturdy belt will be a necessity for carrying any steel-framed firearm. Don’t forget to consider the total weight of not just the gun, but also the loaded magazine that will be in it.

4. Budget

Determine your budget for a concealed carry pistol. A reliable firearm is important to save your life, so when it comes to looking at polymer and steel framed guns, determine the max amount you’d be willing to pay for a quality pistol. Most always, steel-framed guns will be priced slightly higher than polymer guns.

Popular Concealed Carry Polymer and Steel Framed Guns

Walther PDP

One of the latest from Walther Arms is a well-balanced, steel-framed, concealed carry pistol. The PDP comes in a compact size with a capacity of 15+1 rounds, is optics ready, has great ergonomics, and has a brand-new performance duty trigger.

Sig P365

Sig Sauer built the P365 to perfection for concealed carry. This polymer-framed pistol can have a capacity of 10+1 or 12+1 in the micro-compact model, is optics ready, and is known for its clean, crisp trigger pull.

Walther Q4 Steel Frame

Another one of Walther’s latest releases was its Q4 steel-framed pistol featuring a 15 round capacity. This gun was machined from solid steel billet for reduced recoil and does not have an external safety you have to disengage before firing making this a good option for carrying concealed.

Glock 43X

Glock is known for its reliability in all conditions. Their Glock 43X has been a popular model to carry due to its slimline frame, the familiar Glock trigger, and reversible magazine catch. The only downside is its limited capacity of 10 rounds.

M&P Shield

The M&P Shield carry pistol by Smith & Wesson has been around for years, with improvements made upon the gun with each release. This polymer-framed gun has a variety of options to include an optics-ready model, the choice of adding a thumb safety, and a variety of calibers. The M&P Shield has a low capacity of 7+1 or 8+1 rounds. The new Shield Plus, introduced earlier this year, builds upon the same frame but has a slightly wider grip that holds up to 13 rounds. Smith & Wesson smartly designed the gun to work with all the same holsters as the original model.

Springfield 911

The Springfield 911 is a concealed carry gun built off of the familiar 1911 model chambered in both .380 ACP and 9mm. This gun has the lowest capacity of all with only being able to load 6+1 or 7+1 rounds.


Consider your daily lifestyle when choosing a concealed carry pistol that will work for you. Make sure the gun fits you and is a pistol you can easily manipulate and maintain.




Kenzie Fitzpatrick is a professional competitive shooter and an active blogger for many firearm websites. As an NRA-certified instructor and National Range Officer Institute Chief Range Officer, Kenzie trains new shooters on basic firearm safety, brings new shooters to competitive shooting, and works major matches across the country. She has a passion for teaching people how to concealed carry and is a positive ambassador for the Second Amendment.

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