Women’s Best Conceal Carry Gun – Four Options Chambered in 9mm

By: M. Ashley Evans

First published here

Gun Choices: Caliber Differences

Two of the most common calibers of ammunition for concealed carry guns are 9mm and .380. Side by side, they look a lot alike. They both are the same diameter but 9mm is just a little longer.  But which one is better? That is up to debate, and there are a few other factors to consider.

The .380 ACP is also known as a 9mm Browning. It was first introduced by Colt in 1908 as a self-defense round  – hence ACP for Automatic Colt Pistol. Its also called 9mmX17, 9mm Short, etc.  It is rimless, straight walled, and designed to have less felt recoil. The .380 can hold a maximum of 5.3 grains (that’s grains of water, which is a more accurate measurement than solid grains).  Its velocity is 1050 FPS and a penetration depth of about 9 inches.

In contrast, the 9mm is known as 9mmX19 Parrabellum. It was introduced in 1902 by DWM, a German weapons manufacturer. It was designed for their Luger pistol for the military. The most popular weight is 124 grains, but there are several weight variations available. It can hold a maximum of 10 grains of water. It is rimless and tapered. The 9mm has a velocity of 950-1400 FPS and a penetration of around 13 inches.

The 9mm doesn’t penetrate a lot more than the .380, because the extra energy causes it to expand a bit more – which slows it down considerably. That expansion causes a lot of tissue damage, and that helps to stop the attacker. This isn’t to say that the .380 isn’t a qualified candidate – the differences between the .380 and the 9 are extremely small compared to the differences between a .380 and a .32.

Here is an excerpt from a great article found here

“(About the .380) A typical load carries roughly 3 grains of powder that propels a 95-grain bullet at 845 fps to produce 151 ft.-lbs. of energy from a 2.75-inch barrel. It produces about 2.76 ft.-lbs. recoil energy from a 1-pound firearm… A typical 9mm Luger load contains about 6 grains of powder used to propel a 115-grain bullet to 1,000 feet per second (fps) out of a 2.75-inch barrel. (Velocities increase along with barrel length.) This produces approximately 255 ft.-lbs. energy while generating 5.36 ft.-lbs. of recoil energy from a pistol weighing 1 pound….

“While 255 ft.-lbs. of bullet energy from the muzzle of a 9mm Luger is not a lot in the firearm world—consider that an average .30-06 deer rifle produces around 2,500 ft.-lbs. energy—a 9mm’s energy is far greater than a .22 LR’s piddly 105 ft.-lbs. and many other smaller calibers. It has about 68 percent more energy than the .380 Auto.”

So while the 9mm does have a lot more power, the .380 has 94% less felt recoil when fired from a gun of equal weight. That makes it a lot easier to accurately shoot multiple rounds. But 9mm guns are typically a little larger and heavier than .380 guns, and the extra weight helps to reduce the felt recoil. So when choosing a concealed carry gun there are a few steps to consider:

  1. Make sure it fits in your hand well
  2. Be sure you will be able to conceal it properly
  3. If it comes in multiple calibers, choose the largest one that you can rapidly fire with accuracy.

 

Gun Choices

1. Kimber Micro

kimber micro 9

This is one of my favorite carry guns. Its overall length is only 6.1″ and it has a height of 4.01″. So while it doesn’t fit into my jeans pocket, it is extremely easy to conceal in a holster. It is definitely one of the easiest 9mm to conceal in my opinion.

The Kimber Micro 9 comes in several variations. I like the stainless one. It has a weight of about 15.6 ounces unloaded. The 1911 style frame and the heft of this pistol are definitely something required – a +P round of 9mm can have a pretty steep felt recoil. But it was absolutely manageable with this gun. It isn’t my first go-to for a fun time on the range, but I can put a lot of rounds through it without any trouble.

The Kimber Micro 9’s dovetailed, dotted sights are fantastic. Its single action trigger is crisp and clean and will break between 5-6 lbs.  To safely clear a malfunction, you can still engage the safety and then pull the slide back. It can hold 6+1 and there is an optional magazine extension available.  While Kimber can be a little finicky about ammo, I have not noticed any problems with this one.

 

2. Sig P938

sig p938

This Sig and the Kimber Micro 9 are often considered the best of the mini-1911’s. The 938 looks just like a slightly larger 238.

The night sights are very nice – but there is not as much light on either side of the front sight as I prefer, but that may be because I have short arms. This too holds 6+1 unless you buy the extended magazine plate. The trigger reset is much better than many other 9mm’s and is about 7.5 lbs.

The Sig P938 weighs 16 oz unloaded. It is 5.9″ long and 3.9″ tall. It is almost identical to the Kimber Micro 9, just a TINY bit shorter. Sig uses a Nitron coating which helps to prevent the moisture from your skin from rusting it. All in all, it is a beautiful little gun that would make an excellent carry weapon.

 

3. Springfield EMP

springfield emp

This is probably one of the most enjoyable guns I have ever shot. The frame is a forged aluminum alloy and the slide is forged stainless. It is heavier than the other 9mm’s mentioned so far – weighing in at 27 oz. The EMP 9 is 6.6″ long and 5″ tall. The 3 dot Tritium sights as standard make for very easy target sighting.

The EMP (Enhanced Micro Pistol) is the smallest TRUE 1911 created so far. From barrel bushings to the trigger traveling straight back and even the back strap safety – its a 1911 through and through. Everything has just been scaled down to fit the 9mm. It is a beautiful gun – the Cocobolo grips, satin finish steel slide. The trigger is very clean and only about 3.5 lbs. This gun is a bit pricier than the other two options.

The earlier models (until 2009) were prone to failure to feed problems, but all of this has been resolved. I have read a lot of reviews from people who were not very happy with it – and each review is by a man who said that the gun felt a little small. It all goes back to how the gun fits in your hand. The EMP is my first go to for a fun day at the range and definitely what I reach for when competing.

 

4. Dan Wesson Valkyrie

dan wesson 9mm

This is a gun that I can’t wait to get ahold of but have done a lot of research on. It is absolutely on my must-have list. Its price is a little more than the Springfield EMP, but everyone who has shot one that I’ve talked to says that it is worth every penny.

The Valkyrie is top quality and every part is tight fitting, which makes for some very accurate shooting. A lot of people are crazy about the finish – but the Duty Finish actually something that I’m not extremely crazy about the looks of. However, I do love the concept for a conceal carry weapon. Moisture will rust a gun extremely quickly – so a ceramic coating that will do a great job in protecting the gun from the moisture and salt in your skin is the way to go.

The Valkyrie is 8 inches long and 5 inches tall. It weighs 28 ounces unloaded. It is a little longer than the EMP, so as a short woman I would probably open carry or use a Can Can holster around my waist as opposed to an IWB holster. The trigger is shorter than a  lot of other guns of this size – which is why my small hands fit around it so well. The trigger is light, at about 4 lbs. The Tritium night sights are a little different than what is on the other guns listed. These are a stacked two dot system – you line up the dots to form a figure 8. If you’ve never shot a gun with those type of sights, takes a little getting used to, but it is really great for low light situations.

 

Choosing the Firearm that Fits – for Women

When it comes to choosing the right firearm, everyone has an opinion. Yet choosing a firearm that fits properly is key to a successful and enjoyable day at the range.

“Glock is the best all around pistol for every shooter!” some people have told me… but until the Glock 43, there wasn’t one that I felt was a decent fit for the shape and size of my hand.  Sure, I could shoot the Glock 26 with great accuracy – but it wasn’t the right fit.  

“Every female shooter needs to start with a revolver” … well yes and no.  I do strongly advocate all new shooters start with a revolver – especially women who are a little hesitant to conceal carry due to their concern in remembering to pull the slide to eject a stovepipe in the heat of a life or death situation.

I have shot a lot of different kinds of guns in my life.  That is one of the many blessings of being raised in a very pro-gun family.  During all the courses I have attended, there has been precious little mentioned in regards to GUN FIT – for women.

Most avid shooters say  “just go try a few and you’ll know” – yes this is true, to an extent.  This is true for people who know what they are feeling for, who have a keen grasp of bodily awareness.  But I’ve taken several women to the range who severely lacked this skill. Not because they didn’t have the intellectual capabilities – but because listening to your body is a skill that has to be taught.

This article will be the first in a series of small pistol reviews for women, and to briefly outline what the proper fit is, and why it is important. Granted, this is a subject that can have numerous books written about it – because there is so many details involved.  The physics of gun recoil,  and how it travels through the body, the positioning of your hands, the tenseness in your wrists and elbows – all of this comes into play and is absolutely fascinating!  All this, combined with the science of ballistics – each weight of powder, the shape of the powder grains, each caliber bullet all come into play in a very delicate art that has a tremendous impact (pun intended) in choosing a firearm that fits.

IMG_6192-07-03-18-04-52

When I was researching for my conceal carry weapon, I wanted the best of both worlds – I wanted a gun that was not only a JOY to shoot, but one that I could conceal easily, and still trust to be a sufficient tool to protect my loved ones. I was told such a gun didn’t exist – that you have to sacrifice less felt recoil in order to have it small enough to conceal carry.  For the most part – this is true. But after trial and error, I found a few exceptions. More on that here.

Newton said, “every action has an equal but opposite reaction.” In brief, recoil is the brief interaction of two objects, causing them to move in opposite directions.  Just like two ice skaters pushing off of each other causes them to each move backward. Felt gun recoil, is the result of momentum conservation. The exploding gunpowder propels the bullet forward.  The bullet has mass and speed – which is momentum going in the forward direction.  Felt recoil is the balance of momentum being pushed in the opposite direction.  If the gun has a larger mass, the felt recoil is much less. Now, this energy doesn’t just stop at the butt of the gun – it travels through your hand, wrist, arm, shoulder and throughout your body.  I’ve had family and friends tell me how funny it is to watch my hair fly back when shooting large caliber rifles – all because of the balancing momentum traveling backward through me.

The pistol should fit comfortably in the palm of your hand.  A good feel has a bit of heft in the grip, and balanced – not so forward leaning that it threatens to fall out of your hand. You want the grip to be centered in your palm – so that the energy flows through you in a central direction.  If the grip is so wide that the center is over the meat of your palm, it will be felt with a sharper, harsher, felt recoil.  We will discuss grip style and stance in a post about accuracy, here.

 

 

In the image above I am documenting how the pistol is sitting in my hand. The top left is a Ruger LCP .380.  The grip is narrow and centered in my palm. It feels a bit front-wards leaning – which gives it a very snappy felt recoil. The recoil doesn’t hurt in my arm, but it is front end snappy, which makes for a sharp sensation in my palm. In the top right is a Colt Pony .380. The stainless frame gives it a nice heft. It is centered in my palm and feels balanced in my hand. In the bottom left is a Springfield XDS 9mm.  Even though it is a single stack, the grip is SLIGHTLY too wide for my hand and the center of the back part of the grip is more over the meat of my hand.  So even though I can shoot it accurately, the felt recoil is MUCH harsher than the Kimber Micro 9 shown in the bottom right image. The Kimber, as you can see, is centered over my palm, has a nice heft, and a great balance.

So go head to the range – and notice how the gun fits in your palm.  This will go a long way in helping you find a gun that fits YOUR hand.

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