Little Guns Don’t Kick, Right?

Fairly often, new gun owners will purchase a diminutive gun for self defense. Something easily concealed. Often a compact 9mm semi-auto or a lightweight snub-nose .38 revolver. Then they’re astounded when at the range, it bucks, roars and snorts hard!

Little gun + powerful cartridge = recoil & muzzle blast.

Small guns often have small grips, making it difficult or impossible to gain a full grasp on the handgun. The grips may well be designed to have the small finger curled up under the grip, rather than wrapping around it. The short barrels on these guns force a very short sight radius, making it tough for the shooter to be accurate. There’s also a LOT of muzzle blast, flash and recoil from these little guns.


How to work around this? I just use a bigger gun most of the time. I’ve found a full-size 1911, a mid-size revolver, or a GLOCK® semi-auto conceal fairly easily and I just dress around the gun. Then again, I’m not much of one for fashion. There’s no doubt a smaller gun is easier to conceal.


Avoid the .357 mag in a very small, lightweight revolver. Those things are extremely difficult for most people to control in rapid fire. Avoid the +P+ 9mm ammo in a small, lightweight semi auto for the same reason.  Standard 9mm & .38 ammo is far easier for the shooter to control. Rounds on target is what we’re looking for, not horrendous muzzle blast & flash and recoil so severe that it disrupts our accuracy.


With a small gun, consider going to a small cartridge. Not tacti-cool, but very useful. This is particularly true for someone who has little experience or training with handguns. A small gun may NOT be a very good idea for a beginning handgunner.


When choosing that important self-defense gun, don’t necessarily shop for the smallest and lightest, instead shop for one that fits, and one that doesn’t have so much recoil & muzzle blast that it discourages regular practice.

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Choosing Your Strong Side Holster

First, get that concealed carry permit! It’s so easy anymore for a good person to obtain a concealed carry permit, make sure you’re legal! Then abide by those rules that keep people from carrying in prohibited places.


How to carry? You’ve gone to the trouble of obtaining a quality firearm, and have learned to shoot it well. You’re a responsible person and won’t be reckless with it. There are so many different ways, but you’re after security and accessibility.

It’s imperative that when you tuck that handgun away, it stays tucked until you want it out. I’ve seen a case where a man lost a lightweight .45 from his belt holster and didn’t even notice the gun was missing for over an hour! Worse, he was escorting a group of children at the time. Turns out he had removed one of the safety devices from the holster, which allowed the gun to literally just fall out onto grass. You want a holster that carries your handgun securely and won’t let go of it while going about your daily routine.

You also want a holster that releases the handgun when you NEED it! I’m reminded of the time when as a young officer I ended up confronting a suspected car thief at close range. This is considered likely to be a very violent scenario, and officers are trained to draw their guns for a “high risk stop.” I tugged on that gun. And tugged on it. And tugged some more. The “security holster” did a fine job of hanging onto my duty gun. I finally just handcuffed the guy. Sure would have been nice to be able to get my gun out though… My holster and I had a little chat after that and I made some adjustments.

I highly recommend a quality “strong side” belt holster for full and mid-size handguns. If you’re right handed, your right hand will be near the gun at all times. You’ll not need a lot of extraneous movement to draw the firearm. The holster should be at least fairly rigid, so that it remains open after the gun is drawn. This makes re-holstering easy. It should also fit the specific model of gun very well. Avoid holsters that are advertised to carry a wide variety of guns – none will be properly secured. Either quality leather or Kydex are suitable for a quality holster. Good brand names include Safariland, DeSantis, Kramer, Blade Tech, and the relatively new Blackhawk Serpa.

Kramer may well be at the top of the heap. Greg Kramer has been in the holster & belt business for a long time and uses only high quality leathers, including horsehide if so desired. His products are not inexpensive but they’re excellent:

The others have advantages and disadvantages. When shopping for a holster, look for one that fits the gun perfectly. It should retain the gun even when the holster is held upside-down. The holster should remain open after the handgun is drawn, permitting quick and easy re-holstering when the threat condition changes. It should allow a quiet draw. No need to advertise your draw. A quality holster, of leather or Kydex, will last for years, perhaps decades. Choose well.