Choosing An Off Duty Carry Gun

Size and caliber matter, but most importantly, it needs to be a gun you can count on.

I'm often asked for recommendations for a concealed carry handgun. Because much of my response also applies to selecting an off duty carry gun, I thought that I would address it here this month. There are two differences, however, that apply to police officers.

The first is that you should give serious consideration to carrying your regular duty weapon. Many officers discover that when they get their duty gun out of the bulky duty holster and think seriously about carrying it concealed, it is not as difficult as they first imagine. The advantages of doing this are that:

  • it is a gun you already have
  • it is the same one you train with regularly
  • you can use the same ammunition that you use on duty

Second, it should not cost you any extra money. I've carried many different full sized pistols over the years, including government model 1911 style auto loaders, 4 inch barreled S&W K frame revolvers and even a Glock 21 for a while. It can be done with a reasonable amount of comfort and only slight adjustments to your wardrobe, but it is not for everybody. Sometimes a full sized duty pistol just does not work, even after you have made the clothing changes. Usually this is because of the size, weight and general bulk of the gun in relation to your physical size. Sometimes it just does not go with the way you dress in your personal world.

Okay, then the second best choice is to go with the same gun design in a more compact size. I will use the Glock as an example here, because they are the most prevalent in the LE world. The same idea applies to other brands as well. If you carry a large framed Glock, such as the model 21, as your duty gun, then the compact model 30 is a good off duty choice. If you carry a model 22, then a model 23 or 27 makes sense. The idea is that, even though the gun is smaller, it is still the same operating system and uses the same ammunition. The other advantage is that it will take the same magazines that you use for your duty gun. When you carry a gun off duty, you need to carry at least one reload. It is kind of nice to have a higher capacity magazine for your spare, such as a 15 round magazine for the standard 9-round 27, in the example above, or a 17 rounder for a 10 round model 26, or a 13 rounder for the 10 round Model 30. You get the idea. You can even add a couple of rounds to that count using a +2 magazine extension. There are also collars available for at least some of the full sized magazines. They fill in the part of the magazine that sticks out the bottom of the magazine well and will give your fingers a better grip. Some manufacturers, specifically Springfield Armory with their compact XD pistol line, even supply a magazine with their compact pistols that already has that feature on a full capacity magazine. With such a set up, you have the familiarity of the operating system and at least some of the higher on duty capacity.

If you do not have a full sized duty gun that has a corresponding compact that will use the bigger magazines, at least the gun should have the same controls. I am thinking here of the SIG Sauer and Beretta pistols that are also common in police service. It is a big advantage to have the safeties, de-cock levers and other operating controls in the same place as your duty gun. The SIG P239, for example, is an excellent compact carry gun and all the controls are just like the full sized P226. Because some of the controls are significantly different than other brands of guns, it can be a real life-saver in a stressful situation to have everything the same as the gun you regularly use in training. Let's say that you still want or need to go to a different gun. Then what? Then you need to think about several things: caliber, capacity, size and carry method. They are all interrelated, so let's look at each.


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