3 Things to Consider When Choosing Your First Carry Gun

3 things to consider when carrying

Choosing your first carry gun is a tough decision. There are so many factors to consider and everybody’s different! We’ll run through some of the decisions you’ll have to make when choosing your first firearm for personal protection but just remember, it’s always best to come in and see us to experience the options and find the firearm that works best for you.

1. Semi-Auto versus Revolver

Don’t laugh. A revolver is a completely viable carry option! It’s just a little bulkier (in most cases) than a semi-auto. There are definitely some up sides to carrying a revolver as well. A revolver is more mechanically simplistic and therefore, has fewer moving parts meaning there’s less of a chance for something to go wrong. The downside to a revolver is that it grossly limits your capacity –> translation is that you have fewer rounds of ammo to stop the bad guy(s). Most carry revolvers are 38spl and typically have a 5 round capacity. Reloading a revolver with speed is not a skill many people possess. 

There are many options when it comes to choosing a semi-auto handgun for personal defense. They range so much in size, felt recoil, concealability, and more. One of the main things to remember when choosing a handgun for carry is that you need to balance concealability and felt recoil. The general rule of thumb (and remember, there’s ALWAYS exceptions to the rule) is the bigger and heavier the gun is, the less felt recoil you have. 

2. How do you plan on carrying?

IWBIn our opinion, the best way to carry is concealed. Not because open carry is bad (we love open carry too!) but because concealed carry allows you to have the element of surprise if needed. For us, we also live in the state of Minnesota so, for better or worse, people here aren’t as comfortable with open carry as they may be in other places. We don’t carry firearms to make others feel uncomfortable. At River Valley Arms & Ammo, we carry firearms to protect ourselves and our families. Because of all this, we recommend concealed carry. However, that’s obviously not the only option. Enter your next decision – how do you plan on carrying?

There are so many ways to carry and carrying a firearm is a little bit like choosing what pair of shoes you’re going to wear that day. We choose different tools for different jobs. You don’t always wear your tennis shoes when you need to go gallivanting through the swamp. You don’t always wear your work boots when you’re going to church. This is why you will likely end up with several holsters for carry. There are many options for carry that include but are not limited to:

purse carry

  • Inside the Waistband (ITW)
    • Appendix 
    • 3 o’clock
    • Small of the back
    • Cross draw
  • Outside the Waistband (OTW)
  • Ankle
  • Bra
  • Shoulder
  • Thigh
  • Purse
  • Backpack

There are several custom options as well that solve a specific issue for a group of people. Take some time to investigate the various ways to carry. Stop in to the shop and try on a few (yes, we actually allow people to try on holsters here) and get an idea of what’s going to work well for you.

3. Choosing a Caliber for Carry

EVERYBODY has an opinion on what caliber you should choose for personal defense. Our philosophy here at River Valley Arms & Ammo is choose a caliber that you’ll carry. Of course, there are calibers that are balistically more effective for personal defense than other. Just remember that bigger isn’t always better in this case! 

Ammunition technology has come a long way. Today, most calibers have a great option for personal protection. The main factor to consider is that you need to have penetration but not over penetrate. The most common calibers for carry are .380, 9mm, .40 and .45.

Many people have opinions against the .380 as a carry option with their primary objection as it doesn’t have enough power. However, there are so many personal defense ammunition options available that overcome that objection that it’s really a non-issue. The .380 caliber is a great option for carry. The downside is that many of the firearm options are very small. That’s a good thing when you’re looking for concealability but not such a great thing when you’re looking to control felt recoil. When you’re looking for your first carry gun, don’t rule out the .380 but there are certainly options that may fit you better.

The 9mm caliber is by far the best selling carry caliber in our store. Balistically it has decent penetration but doesn’t over penetrate, the ammo is affordable so you can spend LOTS of time practicing (like you’re supposed to!) and there are tons of options to find the right sized firearm that fits your needs. In my book, 9mm is the king of carry.

The .40 caliber is balistically the best caliber for carry. However, it also typically comes at the price of more felt recoil. More felt recoil typically translates into poor accuracy. Ammunition is higher priced and the selection of carry guns starts to diminish in this category.

The .45acp caliber is the largest carry caliber we’ll discuss here. Most folks I’ve encountered that carry a .45 have the mindset that bigger is better when it comes to carrying a large caliber. However, I have children and I would die if anything every happened to them… especially if it happened because of a projectile that I discharged. Over penetration is a very real concern for me. I don’t want to discharge my gun in my home to protect myself and have the round go through a wall and into something I don’t intend to hit. Now, there are certainly ammunition manufacturers that have compensated for this issue but a .45 also typically has a large amount of recoil. Having said that, your follow up shots don’t always go where you want them to when you’re compensating for that amount of recoil. Long story made short, a .45 is a viable carry caliber but you have to know what you’re looking for.

Last but not least, is one of the most common calibers across all platforms, the 22 long rifle (22lr). Personally, I’m not a huge advocate of carrying a .22lr as a personal defense caliber but the gun that’s with you is better than the gun that’s at home in the safe. So, if that’s the only thing you’ll carry, carry a .22lr. Full disclosure: If you stop in to the shop here to buy a .22lr for personal defense, I will try to educate you enough to let you know that you can carry a larger, more effective caliber. 

You have all these things to consider to choose the right carry gun for you. 

How are you going to make the choice?

Join us for a demo shoot this Saturday, September 30th, 2017 12pm-4pm.  

If you can’t make it to the shoot, come on down and visit us at River Valley Arms & Ammo in Morton.