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.
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.
So in my last post I casually mentioned I have a safe room, specifically,
“I have a Mossberg 500 in my safe room loaded with #4 buckshot, and I have a pistol (usually one of my CCW guns) on or near me at all times. The shotgun is for defense of the safe room, and the pistol is there to move around the house if needed. On my shotgun, I have a shotshell holder with extra buckshot and a few slugs. I figure 13 rounds or so rounds of #4 buckshot, a couple of slugs plus the content of my CCW pistol(s) will be enough to stop most threats outside of a rampaging bungalow or at least enough to hold them off until help arrives.”
It occurred to me later that new gun owners and people new to the idea of personal self-defense don’t know what I’m talking about when I say “safe room”. Let’s explain it quickly and easily.
A safe room is to personal protection
what a home fire escape plan is to fire prevention.
And just like a home fire prevention plan, a safe room and a plan how to use it comes down to what’s important to you and how your home is set up.
Let me ‘splain.
At Cub Scouts a few years ago, my son and I were tasked with creating a home fire escape plan in order to earn a merit badge. We wrote out what we’d do in case of fire, how to tell if the fire’s outside your door and how to move through smoke. Good things to learn, but what are the chances of a deadly home fire versus the chances of a deadly home invasion? If you live in the Phoenix area, as I do, you hear stories on the news every week about home invasions. Deadly house fires? Not that often.
Alright, so how DO you secure your home? Let’s look at a floor plan for a typical home in my area (your mileage may vary). X’s represent potential points of entry for bad guys such as windows or doors, and arrows are possible home invasion routes (1: Front door, 2: Garage, 3: Back door). To secure this house (or any other home) would take three steps.
1. Secure the exterior
2. Strengthen the interior
3. Prepare a refuge
1. Secure the exterior
You know that old joke about the two hikers running from a bear and the one turns to the other and says “I don’t have to run faster than the bear, I just have to run faster than YOU!”?
That’s what the outside of your house should look like. You don’t have to live in Fort Knox to be safe, you just have to make your home appear a little more difficult to break into than the home next door. If someone REALLY wants to get into your house, they’re going to to get in, but any casual burglar is going to look for the easy mark and not the bank vault. I know this from experience: My first house was a town home, and the house at the end of our block of houses DIDN’T have a security door while the rest of us did. Guess which one was broken into? You betcha, the one on the end.
Some quick and easy ways to secure the exterior of home are:
- Exterior lighting: You don’t need to light home your home like a prison yard to make it safer. I have a simple, cheap decorative yard lighting system in the front that makes my house look really snazzy and it also has a few spotlights in strategeric areas that light up otherwise dark corners. It makes my house look great and it makes burglars consider going to the house down the block which forgot to leave their porch light on.
- Bushes and shrubs: One of the nice things about living in the southwest is there’s a whole lot of bushes that have pointy bits on them that can be planted beneath accessible windows. Now I’m not saying you should plant jumping cacti under your kid’s bedroom window, but a pyracantha bush looks great and HURTS when you get stuck in one (ask me how I know this…).
- Animals: Got a yappy dog? Good. Got a “Beware of the dog” sign? Better.
- Signs: I am not a big fan of the “I don’t dial 911, I dial .357!” type of sign: Why advertise to crooks there’s a highly desirable prize for them (a gun) in your home? And just what are you saying to a prosecuting attorney with such a thing on your front lawn? If you’ve got a burglar alarm (more on those later), advertise it. That gives crooks one more reason to move along.
We’ll talk about burglar alarms next as part of how to…
2. Strengthen the interior
Ok, so the bad guy has decided the risk of breaking into your home is worth the potential reward. What can you do to make it harder for him/her?
- Get a burglar alarm: No, seriously, get one. Yes, the cops will not show up in time, we know that, that’s why we own a gun. And no, the alarm noise probably won’t scare the burglar off. But who’s watching over your stuff when you’re not around? What happens if there’s a fire when you’re not home? You can’t watch over your house 24/7: Get an alarm, because it gives you more time to get your plan into action, keeping you safer.
- Exterior Doors: These are a BIG weakness in most houses/condos/apartments. If your HOA or landlord allows it, get a decorative steel security door for the front AND back door. If not, a reinforced jamb and striker plate will slow down most break-in attempts to the point where they’ll give up and try something else.
- Windows: Are they locks on your windows? Are you using them? Why not?
3. Prepare a refuge
Okay, so NOW your dog is barking and your alarm is going off and the bad guy is in your home and is not leaving.
This is pretty much a worst-case scenario.
Your job at this point is to get you and your family to a safe place and keep them there until the threat ends and/or help arrives. Your job isn’t to defend your big screen TV: It’s to keep you and your family alive. If the plan for a house fire is to get your family OUT of the house as quickly and safely as possible, the plan for a home invasion or armed burglary most likely be to get your family IN to your safe room as quickly as possible. Just as a good house fire escape plan as two escape routes for every family member planned out in advance, a good home defense plan has a plan and a backup plan in case that first one fails.
Where should your safe room be? Depends on the home. Remember, time works for you, not him, so your safe room needs to be somewhere you can get to AHEAD of the bad guy. Also consider where you spend the most in your home: if 90% of your time is spent in the kitchen, family room and bedrooms, designating a safe room that’s near to all three of those rooms is a good idea. Let’s go back to that earlier floor plan. The three most likely entry points for a bad guy are, in order, the front door, the garage entrance and the back door. Most of the time spent in this home will be probably be spent in the bedrooms, kitchen/nook and the family room. Given all of this, I’d look at using the master bedroom closet in this house as a safe room because it’s got one entrance to cover which is REALLY easy to defend. The difficulty with this location will be getting getting any family members that are resting in the other bedrooms into the safe room before the bad guys get to them. That’s where a dog and/or an alarm come in handy: They both give you more time to react and get your plan into action and get your family safe.
What should your safe room look like? Simply put, it should be more secure than any other room in the house. Make sure the door to the safe room locks, and reinforce the door with a heavy-duty striker plate at the very least. Consider putting some decorative bars on the window(s) if allowed by the HOA/landlord/zoning regs. Safely store a loaded firearm in the room and team it up with a first aid kit, flashlight and a charged cell phone (any cell phone, in a service plan or not) can call 911. Realize that “Panic Room” was just a movie: If someone REALLY wants to get into your safe room, they will, and at that point it will be up to YOU to stop the threat.
Sobering stuff, I know, but it can happen to anyone. If you’ve accepted the fact that your house may catch fire so you have smoke alarms and a fire extinguisher, also realize that your house might be targeted for a violence and plan accordingly. Accidents (and crime) happen: It’s what we do to prepare for them that determines a successful outcome.
I say: Why not use both?
Let’s look at what each does well and doesn’t do well.
Pistols are handy to have on you and are good for moving about and performing other tasks where a free hand is needed, such as opening open doors, leading other people to safety and/or holding a flashlight. But they’re kinda lacking in the firepower department compared to a long gun.
A shotgun or a rifle brings A LOT more firepower to the table that a handgun just can’t match, but unless you’ve got an Ithaca Auto & Burglar by your bedside, you’re going to need both hands to work the gun. An AR-15 makes a dandy home defensive firearm, but be warned: They are LOUD in enclosed spaces. If it’s legal to do so where you live, consider buying a suppressor, elsewise, some active hearing protection for you and your loved ones might not be a bad idea if you’re thinking about an AR-15 for home defense.
I have a Mossberg 500 in my safe room loaded with #4 buckshot, and I have a pistol (usually one of my CCW guns) on or near me at all times. The shotgun is for defense of the safe room, and the pistol is there to move around the house if needed. On my shotgun, I have a shotshell holder with extra buckshot and a few slugs. I figure 13 rounds or so rounds of #4 buckshot*, a couple of slugs plus the content of my CCW pistol(s) will be enough to stop most threats outside of a rampaging bungalow or at least enough to hold them off until help arrives.
I consider both a shotgun and a pistol to be integral parts of my home defense plan, much like I consider a fire extinguisher and a smoke alarm to be parts of my plan for a home fire. Each has its role to play in keeping me and my family safe. My primary plan is to get everyone to the safe rom ASAP and wait there with my shotgun until help arrives. If for some reason I need to move about my house, it’ll be with a pistol and a flashlight if it’s at night. I don’t want to go from room to room clearing my house: I’ll leave the professional tactical work to the professional tactical people.
Recently however, I noticed a flaw in my thinking. In my safe room, I had the means to stop a threat, but I didn’t have the means to stop bleeding. The nearest first aid kit to my safe room was downstairs in the hall closet.
Now in my safe room, I have a first aid kit and a bunch of Israeli field dressings and copies of my driver’s licence and CCW permit for easy identification if (God Forbid) I needed them. I keep an old unused cell phone nearby as well, because any working cell phone can call 911, regardless of whether it’s on a current plan or not.
I keep all this stuff in our safe room because I don’t want to clear my house, going from room to room with catlike stealth: I want to get my family to my safe room ASAP and keep them safe, healthy and secure until help arrives.
So what’s your preference? Pistol, shotgun, rifle, or some combination of all three?
* Why #4 instead of 00 buck? I live in the suburbs, and over-penetration through thin drywall into other houses is definitely a concern of mine.