Semi-Auto or Revolver For Concealed Carry
Choosing a firearm for concealed carry is a personal and individual decision made up of your own preferences, requirements, and other factors that will make a difference in what you choose for CC.
Some of those things will probably include the gun’s weight, size, caliber, design, barrel length, capacity, concealability, IWB or OWB carry (inside or outside the waist band), and others.
But when considering the most basic differences between ‘carry’ firearms, a very basic choice you must make is semi-auto or revolver.
Here are a few pros and cons of each…
SEMI-AUTO CONCEALED CARRY
More capacity; number of rounds-cartridges
Faster to reload with mags
No bulging cylinder; generally thinner and easier to conceal
More moving parts; more could go wrong
Inoperable with a jam until cleared
Racking the slide
REVOLVER CONCEALED CARRY
More basic operation, fewer parts; less to go wrong
Simple to operate; point and shoot
Cylinder bulge; some may be more difficult to conceal
Slow to reload; put round in each cylinder
There is no perfect concealed carry gun.
It’s not as much about the gun and/or its caliber as it is about accuracy. The best carry gun is the one which you are the most accurate and comfortable with.
When choosing a CC gun, consider the question “Will it be comfortable enough to carry everywhere?”
You might consider a different concealed firearm for different conditions or destinations.
Research the gun’s reputation – what are people saying about it?
When you do select yours, practice, practice, practice.
So what gun do you prefer for CC?
What are your prerequisites or requirements?
Add to the Pros and Cons list by leaving a comment…
Gotta go with semi-auto .45 ACP. At close range, stopping power is key. There are some nice smaller versions out today instead of the pants-dropping M1911.
Being a Firearms instructor, very good quick article for the new shooter.
I mostly always try to steer woman in the direction of a revolver. Mostly for what you stated about them. Easy point and click, not much to fiddle with to make it go boom and simplicity is best when you are in your bed at night and awoken to hear that window crash. Not to mention, there are some mighty fine revolvers out there and some are even putting tactical rails on them to hold lights and or lasers.
Myself, I carry a full size .45 ACP and I also carry a .9mm compact as backup. My first CC was a 5 shot .357 snub nose revolver.
Nice job and keep up the great work. If you carry, Carry On!
That is certainly a very assuring thing about a revolver in a very high stress moment… point-click (boom). One of ours (revolver) is a S&W 642. Simple operation and 100% trust it will go boom. I also will carry a M&P45 (semi-auto) for a bigger boom (and I trust it too).
A “gun’s weight, size, caliber, design, barrel length, capacity, concealability” are certainly thing to consider…..BUT, if it doesn’t go bang EVERY time you pull the trigger….then all other considerations become moot. After scouring the gun forums, i found a pistol that NO ONE had anything bad to say about….Ruger LCP (.380). I’m not saying its the only one….but the owner reviews sealed the deal for me! It just doesn’t jam.
Bill, I sometimes carry a Colt Mustang Pocketlite (.380) and really like it for its compact dimesions and the variety of ways which I can carry it. It is probably alot like your Ruger LCP. I have not fired it enough yet to offer an opinion on jamming. So far so good.
Jake the Mustang is great….but not for LH people like me :)
DW has a Ruger LCP (.380) and she loves it.
This argument is as old as Chevy vs Ford.
Try different styles and carry what you are comfortable with.
It is your life —
So what less rounds in a revolver, learn to shot and hit what you aim at.
Besides a revolver leaves no casings behind.
You are absolutely right – which is why it is so important to practice, practice, practice.
Thanks for adding another ‘PRO’ to the revolver category – no shell casings left behind.
When loading the mags for my CC semi-auto, I wear cotton archive gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints on shell casings.
I believe in the revolver. Knowing my luck a semi-auto will jam at the worst possible time. Not liking the limited capacity I also picked up two quick loaders effectively giving me 15 shots. I still need to practice more with the quick loaders but there is more piece of mind.
Whatever you are most comfortable with. I’m 62 and have carried a revolver for most of my life. I started carrying a S&W mod 15 in the Air Force and a mod 19 in the police academy and still carry a mod 60 S&W in a Galco Summer Comfort IWB holster every day. My wife carries my old mod 36. What ever you carry, practice with it constantly.
As my old man has said more than a few times, “If I’m rollin’ around on the floor in a scuffle… that revolver’s gonna work one-handed… EVERY time.”
I believe that is possibly the biggest “pro” for a revolver!!
I agree too – that is a very significant PRO.
If you happen to have a DAO (double-action-only) semi-auto with a chambered round, it would equate with the circumstance which Tim mentioned. The thing is – not every semi-auto is DAO and not everyone is comfortable with that scenario. Even with some DA/SA (double-action/single-action) semi-auto’s, many people aren’t comfortable with carrying while cocked-and-locked.
Just bought “The Judge”, public defender, love it!
I found the old German police Walter PP .32acp a nice weapon. Speed of the auto, accuracy of the revolver, dependability remarkable. It hit what you pointed at every time. Perfect balance. Perfect cartridge, more rounds, quicker recovery, more bullets in target in shorter time. The barrel doesn’t float like a browning pattern, but is fixed to the frame, like a revolver. Eight rounds quickly placed in a target the size of a tangerine at 20 feet, and that’s as good as anyone ever needs to get. Just practice shooting in very low light. Almost all the times you will ever need to pull and shoot will be when the target is within 20′ and in low light. The weapon will not snag on things, will not jam, and, will not break. Stripping is easy and cleaning a breeze. See if you can locate a surplus police positive (PP). If the bore is nice, get it..no matter what year it was made.
Most quality firearms are a great investment. Better than just about any other. I can’t believe the prices on weapons today! I never thought bullets would vanish from shelves. I never though we would ever get to the point where we were only ONE Judge’s opinion away from losing the 2ND Amendment.
Don’t buy Gold. Buy Guns.
Oh, I have just a though on revolvers. If you use double-action, in order for your revolver to fire, the cylinder must be able to turn first. I was trained to take revolvers from people based on this, if held captive by one. One grabs the revolver over the top of the cylinder to prevent it moving, if the weapon is partially cocked, slide your hands web between your thumb and forefinger, over the frame between it and the hammer. It might hurt if the hammer falls, but the gun will not fire. A downward jerk and twist and the gun is yours. Recover and fire the weapon into the attacker.
Any auto which fires from an open bolt can also be taken. The palm of your hand strikes the muzzle and partially pushes the weapon’s slide to the rear, as you grab its slide from above. If the attacker pulls his trigger at this time, the hammer hits the back of the slide and not the firing pin. The slide recovering to its normal location will take the hammer down with it. A jerk down and twist and you have the weapon, round in chamber, you brush a hand over the weapon to move its hammer into firing position and shoot the attacker.
Yeah, I know. But, it’s your only chance.
I should indicate that the auto take is designed on taking a .45 Government Mod 1911.
Myself I carry two revolvers , which is called a “New York Backup ” , faster to pull another weapon than having to reload , first is a Charter Arms Pitbull 9 mm , second is a CA DAO Undercover .38Special , I carry speed strips for both . I am a big guy so I have no trouble carrying and hiding both guns , matter of fact I carry both in a twin appendix carry position , I carried a wheel gun when I was a deputy so it is like a part of me , I love and shoot autos but I feel like I shoot better with what I am the most trained and familiar with , plus the revolver is more reliable . I have no problems with the calibers I have chosen , since I have seen on the job how handgun wounds effect outcomes in shootings . I do like the idea of the CA Pitbull .45acp version coming out soon , and plan on buying one of those too . All I can say is choose for yourself what you are most comfortable with , can shoot the best with , and don’t just pick up a firearm because you read in a magazine how great it is , gun magazines push products whose advertisers pay them to push , if you have a friend that has firearms speak with them about trying some of their firearms if you are not a firearms owner yet . Just my two – cents worth . Be prepared and ready. Keep your powder dry.
More to my comment , the CA Pitbull 9mm is built on the mid frame of the CA line so I had a .357 Magnum DAO hammer placed into the Pitbull , the frame sizes are the 5 shot .38 version , the .357 version , and the Bulldog version which is what the .45acp version will be built on ,. The reason for the DAO hammer is liability , plus the fact that there is no hammer spur to get caught on anything so easier and faster draw . I reload my own ammo so I have plenty to practice with , but with the way it is hard to find ammo now , practice when you can , I would say at least once a month , try shooting at least 50 rounds , be serious about your practice , there are some who will tell you that you have to shoot 5, or 10 times that much but if you have the right mindset you don’t plus the cost for most of us shooters is out there . Practice with whatever type of reloading device you use , mindset is involved here also , get to where it is second nature . Be prepared and ready. Keep your powder dry.
I taught firearms at a NJ police academy for 15 years and have c/c a firearm into retirement.
I have found out that a revolver is most reliable in an emergency but a well trained shooter with a reliable auto does have some advantages over the revolver.
Never carry an semi auto with an empty chamber,( I know several police officers that carried their revolvers with the first shot falling on an empty cylinder , ( the thought was in a struggle for the gun the officer had an advantage) . I never thought so.
The most important factor in a shoot is WHEN! The most difficult factor in a shoot is Do I.
The FBI teaches that you never draw your weapon unless you intend to kill someone, period. I didn’t believe this as a rookie but came to believe it as a truth in my service years. It’s not an easy decision to shoot someone either for a police officer or a citizen during an emergency situation…Both have lost their lives deciding too late.
I hear you on that. When I moved from Maine to central Florida I had to start over and learn what would work here for concealed carry. Since most every day is shorts, t-shirt and sandals, I settled on a Galco IWB holster for my S&W mod 36. Worked great, but soon found out that due to sweating, I was washing the bluing right off the gun. I invested in a mod 60 stainless and it works great here. Wife now carries the mod 36 in a purse.
I agree it’s a personal choice but sometimes there is no choice. My father (82) just asked me to trade a couple of revolvers for autos from him due to the fact that neither he nor my mothers hands are strong enough to rack a slide anymore and they don’t feel comfortable keeping one cocked and locked. Also one point I always make is jamming.Anyone that has never had an auto jam, either is not shooting enough or unbelievably lucky. I personally have never had a revolver FTF except from the ammo.
I have carried for and qualified for duty with DA revolvers and semiautos. I am comfortable with either. You would be surprised how fast you can reload a revolver with a speedloader from a pouch(part of quals). But for the last 12 years I carry a fullsize SIG 220. You have to adjust your wardrobe with some cover shirts( summer)and a decent good quality belt and the like,but I dont even notice the weight anymore. in fact I feel naked without it. Other times I may carry my SW 66, or for a night out with the girlfriend my Taurus 85.
Just get comfortable with carrying regularly,to the point that its done instinctively, practice(even presentation and dryfiring counts) and stay aware of your surroundings.
Many Pistol packers don’t routinely unload their mags to give the springs a rest. Gun mfgrs sneer and say their mags are safe to keep loaded. If you believe ahe advertizing, don’t worry about having your gun jam when you need it most. Otherwise, unload mags daily and alternate days with mags freshly loaded (and decide if you want a live round in the chamber – could be a lifesaver or a big mistake depending on how things go). As a result I prefer a hammerless revolver for simplicity & ease of use.
Reloading could become a problem though because once you’re in a challenging situation your large muscle groups take over and it will likely take you longer to reload than when you are prracticing at a range…
Pistol packers should be unloading their mags on a regular basis. Think of it as quality control at the range. I’ve been using mag fed weapons for over 30 years. Never had mags cause a problem. I will say that all mags are not created equal.
My thought on revolvers… I can only think of two reasons to use one:
1) I’m going after someone and don’t want to leave evidence
2) As a last resort. Still rather use the 870.
Bryan You are “spot on” my friend 60 years of gun experience in law enforcement, firearms training, and self taught engineering by real life testing, has provided to myself the needless storage of unloaded or even partially loaded magazines in order to minimize weakening or function of same.
I have performed 10 year storage of fully compressed mags with no loss in function………….so maybe the old adage, dont believe anything you read and half of what you see………use your own experience.
DANG, I live in a state where CC is next to impossible to get. Time to move.
You all have no idea how lucky you are.
Autos are easier to hide in warm weather. I can slip my Colt 25 auto or one of the Beretta’s in the pocket of my shorts and they are a lot less noticeable then a stubby 357 Mag that I carry in the winter. Yea the 25 auto is small, but I can hit all head shots with any handgun on a B-27 target at 30 feet. 5 or 6 25 auto bullets will do the job fine.
“Well, you know. lt’s a toolbox. You put the tools in for the job.” ~ Sam
Sig ultra 1911 and Colt Magnum Carry 357.
I’ve been debating, for my wife and I, between revolvers and center-fire handguns. For her, I have been considering either the LCP or the LCR. It is going to ultimately be up to her, but I would like to know what you all recommend. For her, carrying a purse, the bulge of the revolver would not be an issue. I am personally considering a Kimber Ultra Carry, but am shying away because of the price. I have been looking into the SR45, SR40C and the LC9. Unfortunately, I want them all. I’ve also been looking into the S&W M&P handguns. Any recommendations or warnings will be greatly appreciated.
I’m somewhat of a newer shooter with only a few years of experience. I ended going with a service revolver (4 inch barrel steel 357) as a gun to learn on; my rationale was if you can master the long heavy trigger of a revolver you’ll be able to master any other trigger that much easier. Now I find that many 9mms don’t recoil enough for me; I’ve just grown accustomed to kick. I tried a pf9 of a friend and hated the nature of it’s inconsistent trigger pull. Further I limp wristed it a lot and I’m not a weak person. I tried the same friend’s lcr and had no problems – even with full power 357s. Needless to say that was what I purchased. I have nothing against autos but for the time being my wheel guns work for me.
I just bought a S&W model 638 and love it. In Vietnam I carried a 45 M16 and a M79 never had a problem with any one of them. I bought a Taurus PT709 and was having all kinds of problems. Sent it back to the company and they sent me a new one. The new 709 shoots great and without any problems but after the first one I will trust my revolver over the auto.
There is no single answer for everyone, as mentioned above. For me, I love the slide guns and choose a Glock 23 for my CCP, but a friend of mine who is almost exactly like me in belief, chooses a .357 wheelgun for his CCP.
So… I’ve said that I carry A Glock 23 for normal, everyday situations, but I also have a set of .357 calibered guns and ammo stash for TEOTWAWKI situations. Though I have lots of .40 ammo for the daily carry Glock 23, and shoot it regularly, I also have lots of .357 Magnum ammo for my old-school revolver and my new-school Henry Big Boy .357 Rifle.
When TSHTF and it will, you need to have a plan. Though you may want to carry a specific caliber/type today… consider TEOTWAWKI and buy/stash for both. I’d also consider a reloading system and the supplies for that… if you are really conscientious.
I also have lots of ammo for other loads. You yourself should be prepared and have a plan. That plan should be to be able to trade things for other things. Ammo is valuable. Have some.
Whatever you choose to carry,
make sure you can put the first shot where you want.
That’s the one that counts!
The basic rule is simply this-If it jams it is useless, if you don’t totally trust your semi-auto go with a wheel gun; some semi-autos are highly reliable and suitable for CCW. You will know how reliable you semi is AFTER 5000 rounds and rough/dirty testing it.
Best of luck.
Year 2021 update: I type this in the late fall/before winter season in a year after gun and ammo sales were unprecedented. Many people have bought guns. How many of those people that purchased are going to be carrying out in public? Guns are available again on dealer shelves. Ammo availability is spotty at best. I have had better luck finding ammo at Farm and Ranch stores than sporting goods outlets.
I was the last of a generation trained on the revolver decades ago. Options of high quality, reliable semi-auto pistols of compact size was limited back then and were frequently custom jobs. (think $$$). Since I have left work as an LEO and did a number of years in Private Security, the options of viable CCW tools has expanded and I’ve had a chance to try many of them. There have been a few times I’ve had my weapon drawn with multiple assailants. Those times made me think of going with a higher capacity weapon. (if people are going to take down a cop in uniform, they usually charge in numbers).
2021 Update: I’m 60 years old with arthritis in my body to include my hands. My Kahr CW 9 has been replaced with a S&W 380 EZ. I still carry a Ruger LCR in 38 special. My wife has arthritis too and these are guns she can access and use effectively. I no longer take on high risk security jobs or work any jobs where I am marked by a uniform or badge.
Wishing you a happy holiday season Cali refugee,,
Durned arthritis sucks,,,i know
CCW for high risk security work: Back in the day when I did transport valuable cargo or worked in a standing facility, I wore the Kahr CW 9 in an IWB holster on strong side and had a S&W bodyguard in a weak-side coat pocket. Reloads were: 1 Bianchi speed strip for 38 special and 1 spare magazine for the Kahr. I was fortunate enough to meet several people in my life who have also been in gunfights. One of them was Jim Cirillo and those that survived have strong opinions about what works. (he advocated for the New York Reload). I have done a lot of Hospice work in the past 20+ years. I have inherited many old snub-nose revolvers. They are seeded around my home these days.