By Eve Flanigan
Carrying concealed often requires downsizing where the gun is concerned. Today’s handgun manufacturers understand this and most offer either subcompact versions of their full-size models or stand-alone models specifically made for concealment. While companies have different labels for their firearms sizes, here we’re defining a “small” gun as one with a barrel of 3.5 inches or less, but larger than a derringer or miniature gun as featured in the first installment of this series. Here are our top picks:
Springfield Armory Hellcat
Industry leaders know concealed carriers want bigger capacity as well as red dot options. But no one was offering both out of the box, until now. Springfield Armory answered the call for higher capacity combined with concealability in a big way, by incorporating a slot for mounting a red dot sight as well as a tritium front sight. Its magazines hold 11 or 13 rounds. The 9mm Hellcat seems to be one of the hottest pistols to hit the market in recent years, packing lots of features in a compact handgun that’s just six inches long and four inches tall with a three-inch barrel. The weight is 17.9 ounces with the flush magazine and no ammunition. In a surprising departure from what has become tradition with Springfield’s popular XD series of pistols, the Hellcat has no grip safety — a change sure to be welcomed by many.
This gun should be flying off shelves in both the standard and red dot-ready format. Base MSRP is $599.
SIG Sauer P365
Two years ago, SIG Sauer broke new ground in the small-gun category when it released a radically compact 10+1-capacity 9mm. The P365 was not without initial production-run bugs, but SIG remedied those in short order and this pistol is the current king of the mountain as a concealed carry option. It has a 3.1-inch barrel, is 5.8 inches tall and 4.3 inches tall. Empty weight is 17.8 ounces. With the rollout of even greater-capacity magazines, as well as several variants that use the same magazines, SIG has made the P365 a brand within a brand. This popular choice is offered with or without a manual safety.
SIG solved numerous concealment problems in one fell swoop with this gun. Not only is its capacity healthy, bigger mags make it practice-friendly. The tritium night sights that come standard are a real advantage in dim light and save the user the trouble of upgrading. The trigger is good enough to be competitive with full-size stablemates. Base model MSRP is $599.99.
The sole revolver on this list is made by a company known for its 1911 pistols. Kimber broke the mold for carry revolvers when it made a six-round, .357 Magnum-chambered cylinder that takes up the same amount of space normally occupied by a five-round cylinder. The two-inch barrel and rounded profile of the K6s make it easy to conceal. Buyers can choose from a variety of finishes, three grip materials (wood, rubber and G10 synthetic), sights, an optional three-inch barrel on some models, and there is even a double-/single-action model. This handsome firearm is 4.4 inches high, 6.6 inches long and weighs 23 ounces unloaded.
Those who love a revolver will find the K6s easy to conceal, but perhaps difficult not to show off, especially when equipped with some of the fancier grip options. That additional round is an advantage for self-protection and represents an innovative design. For those who prefer their collector’s items to be on the practical side, this is an ideal choice. MSRPs begin at $899.
Walther PPQ SC
Walther took its 9mm striker-fired PPQ to the chop shop and the result was this smooth operator. Easy to rack and fully ambidextrous, this subcompact (SC) gun is designed to handle like its full-size brother but in a concealable package. With a 3.5-inch barrel, it’s one of the larger choices here. Three magazines, two 10- and one 15-round, are included with purchase. Two variants of this model are offered, one with phosphorus night sights and one with tritium.
Walther describes the PPQ SC as “full-size in disguise,” reflective of this gun’s capacity and ease of handling. It’s ideal for someone who wants an easy-racking semiauto that transitions from daily carry to serious range use with a simple magazine change. MSRP starts at $649.
The sole .380 ACP on this list, SCCY’s CPX-3, was introduced at the 2019 SHOT Show. It’s available with a stainless- or matte-finish slide, and the company produces it with a frame in an array of vibrant colors that have become the SCCY calling card. This hammer-fired, double-action-only shooter has an aluminum-alloy receiver and a 2.96-inch barrel. It weighs just 15 ounces empty, is 4.9 inches tall and 5.7 inches long. The grip has prominent finger grooves. Curved cocking serrations contribute to its fashionable appearance. Its windage-adjustable three-dot sight setup is better than many in the .380 playing field.
We selected the CPX-3 as a top pick for its generous capacity: 10 rounds in both the flat-bottom and pinky-support magazines. Two of the flat-bottom and one pinky helper mag are included with purchase. With a nine-pound trigger pull but no manually operated safety, the CPX-3 represents an attractive choice for the new gun owner who wants to carry concealed, and the MSRP of $309 is especially budget-friendly.
So Many Guns — Which One Will You Bring Home?
Choices in the small concealment gun category improve every year. Consumer expectations have raised the bar for sight systems, ease of handling, capacity and trigger operation. The best choices are guns that offer modern features in all these categories, while still fitting it all into a concealable product. Find your favorite retailer and range and check out the many making the grade today — there’s something out there for every concealed-carry practitioner today.
Dave Miles talks with Adam Painchaud, Director of the Sig Sauer Academy in New Hampshire, about keeping the basics of gun handling, well, basic. Adam explains his approach to helping newcomers get their first rounds on target. No matter what your skill level basic fundamentals apply.