There’s been some discussion lately over whether the new, popular pocket 9mm are really useful or not. I can dig it. They do seem like a solution in search of a problem. They’re pushing the boundaries of what could be considered a “pocket pistol”, but don’t offer the control and accuracy of a compact or subcompact 9mm.
I consider the ultra-compact 9mm to be the “scout rifle” of concealed carry. No, they are not as concealable as a pocket .380, and no, they are not as powerful as a .45 and no, they are not as accurate as a compact 9mm like a Glock 26 or a Springfield XD-M.
However, a small single-stack 9mm is 85% of all those guns. Just like a scout rifle is the rifle to have if you can have only one, a single-stack 9mm allows you to carry your gun in the front pocket or on your waist and gives you seven rounds (or more of 9mm) to stop the threat.
Small 9mm’s don’t do one thing really well, but an ultracompact 9mm does a whole lot of things fairly well, and they work really well as the CCW gun to have if you can only have one.
Let’s talk more about how competition, practice, training and concealed carry all fit together. JaciJ and myself shot an International Defensive Pistol Association match at Phoenix Rod and Gun Club last week at Phoenix Rod and Gun Club. Jaci shot it using her 9mm 1911-style pistol she uses for such matches, and I shot it with the 9mm Smith and Wesson Shield I carry with me on a regular basis. Jaci was shooting the match to get a good score, I was shooting it to practice my reactions if, God forbid, I need to use my pistol for defensive purposes. The difference is, unlike a lot of other competitors at that match who were shooting for a high score, I kept my (empty) gun on my hip after I was done shooting, then drove off and loaded it up with my 9mm defensive ammo of choice when it was safe to do so, because I shot with the gun I carry as a defensive firearm.
Let’s look at two stages in the match that were, as they say, ripped from the headlines’s of today’s news and how Jaci’s approach and my approach to each was different because of our different goals for the match.
Scenario: You are downtown when the Zimmerman trial verdict is announced. A group upset by the verdict begins to riot. At the buzzer, engage closest targets with two rounds each in tactical sequence while retreating to cover, then engage remaining targets with two rounds each in tactical priority.
Here’s Jaci shooting this stage by the IDPA rules and as quickly as her shooting skills allow.
I shot this stage slightly differently. I did a “tactical reload” in-between the two groups of targets, reasoning that I’d want to top up my gun if I had a break in the action, and swapped out the half-empty magazine in my gun with a full one from the mag pouch on my belt. This is perfectly legal by IDPA rules, but it won’t win you any matches because it’s slower than going to a “slide lock” reload.
You come across a mob upset with the Zimmerman trial verdict attacking an innocent bystander. Engage all threat targets in tactical priority with two rounds each.
Here’s Jaci shooting this stage so she gets a good score in the match.
And here’s me shooting it, trying to approach it as I would in real life. I made sure I told the range officer running the stage beforehand that I was going to issue verbal commands to the targets before I engaged them, so as not to freak him out TOO much when I started yelling.
Another thing I learned on that stage? My Shield doesn’t lock back on an empty magazine, and needs to head to the gunsmith.
So which is better, shooting an IDPA match for good score, or shooting it for good practice for concealed carry? Well, that depends on what your shooting goals are. I look at IDPA as defensive pistol practice first, and a competition second (USPSA is where my competition freak flag flies). Jaci (and a whole buch of other people) see IDPA as a competition first and concealed carry practice second. Those two goals are both valid, and both can be accomplished in the context of an IDPA match with equal vigor.
Update: Hey, if you’re reading this via the IDPA’s Facebook page or other points on teh interwebz, thanks for stopping by, and feel free to stick around!
I’ve been a fan of mini 9mm pistols for concealed carry since I purchased a Sccy CPX-1 in 2007. My history with the Sccy has been a little chequered, (it’s gone back to the shop three times), so I carry a Smith and Wesson Shield now. Even with that history, I’m still a big proponent of the combination of size and firepower that a sub-subcompact 9mm brings to the table, and they have the added value of having roughly the same manual of arms as their bigger cousins, the 9mm service pistol. Which is good, because despite their popularity, these are not good guns for a beginning shooter: Their small size means they have more recoil and kick then bigger 9mm’s, and that small size also equates to a shorter sight radius, making longer shots a bit tougher.
Here’s a semi-complete roundup of all the mini/pocket 9mm’s out there, set up so you can quickly compare features such as price and weight against each other gun. Scroll to the left to see all the columns.
[table id=1 /]
(1) Assuming 0.441 ounces for each 124gr 9mm cartridge and .355 ounces for each .380 100gr cartridge
(2) Concealablity Index =
( 0.75(Length) x Height x 1.25(Width) x 1.5(Loaded Weight) )/100
(3) Firepower Index = ( Energy In ft/lbs x bullet weight in grains x Capacity)/100. 124gr for 9mm’s, 95gr for .380.
(4) A full can of soda weighs about 13.76 ounces
* I couldn’t find a review for the AMT Backup in 9mm. If you know of one, leave it in the comments
IWB = Inside the Waistband holster. OWB = Outside the Waistband Holster.
SAO – Singe Action Only. DAO – Double Action Only. Striker – Striker fired. SA/DA = You guessed it, both Single Action AND Double Action, depending on how you use it.
Long, boring description of what this means over here, but for now, just think SA = better, smoother trigger but needs a safety, DA/Striker = kinda sorta like a revolver. -ish.
I added in other pistols like the the Glock 26, which we don’t often think as part of the “mini 9mm” group but is right in the middle of the pack when it comes to size, weight and firepower, and other guns like the Kel-Tec P3AT and the Glock 19 to compare the pocket 9mm’s to their smaller and larger siblings. And why the CZ P07? Because I like CZ’s, that’s why! (And it’s also an occasional carry gun for me as well).
The Firepower/Concealability Indexes were just my way of quantifying how easy any particular gun is to carry and how much oomph it brings to the party. If you like the idea or think it should be tweaked a bit, let me know in the comments.
And why weight in soda cans? Because I suck at judging weights, that’s why. In my mind, there’s not heavy, heavy and “lift with the legs, not with the back.” But a can of soda? I know how heavy that is. Imagine carrying around two full cans of soda on one side of your belt all day long (like a Glock 19), and you’ll know why pocket 9mm guns are so popular for concealed carry.
Kevin’s Note: My choice of all those is the Smith And Wesson Shield, although if CZ made something in this size, I’d probably buy that instead. I like the Shield for its combination of size, capacity, ergonomics and trigger: It’s not the smallest, thinnest, lightest or least expensive, but it covers all of those bases very well.
Jaci’s Note: Once I made the decision to purchase a carry gun, I spent a few months handling and shooting several pocket/CCW style pistols. The LC9 impressed me with its slim form, light weight and long, but smooth trigger pull. During my search for a carry pistol, I was able to shoot the LC9 on a back up gun stage at a practical pistol match. It was so easy for me to operate, I was instantly sold. One of my favorite features of the LC9 is the extended magazine floorplate. I can get a solid grip on it with my right hand, which helps me shoot it more confidently and accurately.
One of my bugaboos right now is there is little, if any integrated training right now for “civilians” that combines firearms and empty-hand techinques into a cohesive whole. I can go the the range and practice and train with a gun, and I can go to the dojo and learn to take (and throw) a punch, but there are precious few trainiers out there that are bringing the two together and teaching it in a way that is replicatable outiside of the dojo/range. Part of the problem, I think, is what we’re using to train ourselves. How can we in the “civilian” world talk about integrating guns and empty-hand techniques in a “force continuum” when we don’t have a target system that allows for a variety of responses? We shoot at IPSC, IDPA, etc and practice with our firearms shooting at paper targets, and then throw punches and kicks at an entirely different type of target in the dojo.
Maybe we need a one-size fits all target, something that can respond to punch or a kick like a heavy bag and at the same time take a pistol or .223 round without requiring major surgery. Something like that will allow us to judge our responses by the target’s threat (or not) and not by what the target is made out of. We’re training ourselves to shoot paper and punch heavy-duty PVC, we need to think in terms of threat itself, not what the target is made out of.
Thinking more about things, the place where we do our training influences also what we’re learning. I know going into the dojo that I’m going to learn punches/kicks/throws and the most we’ll deal with firearms is maybe a blue gun or two. I know walking onto the range I’m going to work on solving lethal force threats with a gun, and for safety reasons, I’m not probably not going to do anything physical while I’m armed.
What if we didn’t know what we were training for until we got to the training site?
What if a range was set up so that people could train with airsoft and/or empty-hand in one side, and safely practice live-fire on another side? How would that affect how we integrate concealed carry and empty-hand defensive techniques? What are your thoughts? Is what we’re using for practice targets and where we’re training affecting our approach to armed and unarmed self-defense?