Compact, slim, accurate, and simple. All mantras for the most modern concealed carry pieces today. They all apply to a design introduced 118 years ago as well – the Colt M1903.
While well-engineered semi-auto pistols abound today, the same statement simply wasn’t true in the early 20th Century. Most early autoloaders were downright funky (see the Bergmann 1896), had bad ergonomics (Borchardt C93), were overly complex (C96 Broomhandle, which are notoriously hard to disassemble), and proved to be evolutionary dead-ends (the Luger – not a lot of toggle actions in production these days).
Enter the gun guru of Ogden, Utah, Mr. John Browning, who largely hit it out of the park with his freshman semi-auto handgun, the FN M1900 of 1896, the first pistol with a slide – let that sink in. A simple blowback single-stack chambered in .32ACP – which he also invented – he followed that up in 1897 with his short-recoil operated Colt Model 1900, a larger gun whose action was recycled into the Colt M1902, which we have talked about before, then scaled down to make the Colt M1903.
And with a “carry melt,” easy maintenance, and outstanding ergonomics, the new gun is surprisingly modern when compared to today’s offerings.
More on the Pocket Hammerless in my column at Guns.com.
Every 25 years or so, handguns catch a big developmental wave. For instance, the last one prior to modern times occurred with the “Baby” Glocks of 1994, when the company debuted subcompact 10+1 shot pistols to make the most of the federal assault weapon ban. Those guns proved so successful that Glock now makes a subcompact model in all of their calibers– including the only company that makes a 10mm Auto pocket gun– while others have increasingly tried to imitate, duplicate or one-up the concept.
This brings us to 2018 when Sig Sauer brought their new “micro-compact” P365 to SHOT Show. Even smaller than the Glock G26 but with the same magazine capacity, it was a smash. Since then, Springfield Armory has brought their Hellcat to the market, with much the same concept, as had Taurus with the G3C.
Well, on the same day this week, both Ruger and Smith & Wesson announced their own separate P365/Hellcat/G3C competitors, the MAX-9 and the Shield Plus, respectively.
Ruger’s new MAX-9 Pistol, which, importantly, is optics-ready for under $500.
S&W M&P Shield Plus
Here is a snapshot of who they stack up when it comes to specs:
As for how they compare against each other in real life, the jury is still out on that one.
For a few months last year, I actively carried and shot the heck out of a Taurus G3C on a T&E review. I was surprised in the fact that the non-frills Brazilian-made gun just flat out worked and digested everything I fed it. Carrying with a DeSantis holster, it felt good and I felt confident with it. So much so that, at the end of the review period, instead of sending it back to Taurus (I had saved all the packing and was fully prepared going into the review to “return to sender) I bought the damned thing.
They ship with 3 12-round mags and are an extremely compact design– that works– which is always a good thing. Price runs between $275-$350 depending on where you find them.
Now, Taurus just announced they are delivering an optics-ready version to the market, ready right out of the box to carry just about every pistol red dot (Trijicon RMR, Noblex-Docter, Vortex Venom, Burris FastFire, Sightmark Mini, Holosun HS407C, Leupold Delta Point, C-More STS2, Bushnell RXS-250, and TRUGLO TRU-TEC Micro) there is.
The asking price is in the low $400s, which is nice.
Today there is no shortage of compact, sub-compact, and even micro-compact 9mm handguns that are designed to be small enough for pocket or ankle carry. However, in the early 1970s about the best you could get in that size, barring a manually-cycled Semmerling LM4, was a .25ACP mouse gun like a Colt Junior or Browning Baby or a J-frame/Dick Special.
Then came the OMC/AMT Back Up.
I have to admit, I pocket carried this bad boy for years…
More in my column at Guns.com.
Announced earlier this year, the FN 509 Compact builds on the legacy – and growing popularity – of the platform that was originally designed in 2015 to compete in the Army’s Modular Handgun System program. While the Pentagon ultimately went with Sig, the extensive R&D led FN to release the 509 to the commercial market in standard, Tactical, MRD, Mid-Size, and LS Edge variants since then.
Overall length is just 6.8 inches with a 3.7-inch barrel. Shipping complete with low-profile iron sights, the FN 509 Compact tips the scales at 25.5 ounces. The size puts it a skosh smaller than the Glock 19 and, with the included 12-round flush fit and 15-round pinky extension mags, able to carry the same capacity of 9mm.
I’ve been checking one out for the past few weeks, and it is my current T&E carry gun.
If you think that grip texture is super aggressive and “sticks” to your hand, you are absolutely correct, my friend!
More on the FN 509 Compact in my column at Guns.com.
Before there was the Walther PP, Sauer 38, or Mauser HSc, an obscure Bohemian Czech gun designer by the name of Alois Tomiska– Tom to his friends, or so goes the story– crafted a curious little vest pocket .25 ACP that was, importantly, double action, a first for the time.
Meet the Wiener Waffenfabrik Little Tom.
Brass magazine that is inserted through the top? Czech!
More in my column at Guns.com.
Cutting edge when introduced, the Sig Sauer P229 was foisted on me in 2005 and, after we learned to get along, has grown to become a favorite.
That was the year Hurricane Katrina sucker-punched the Gulf Coast and left my then-profession with Ma Bell somewhat on the ropes. Dusting off my firearms trainer certs, I soon took a gig with a Department of Homeland Security contractor to train guards working the myriad of FEMA sites that sprang up like mushrooms. Intending this to be a temp job until I moved back into telecom, I wound up with the company for almost a decade, running courses all over the country on a variety of different contracts. Long story short, I stood on the range and watched well over 100,000 rounds of ammo burned through four pallets of Sigs in very short order.
And I still have a couple P229s from that era around today.
More of my “16 Year Journey with the Sig Sauer P229” in my column at Guns.com
For the last 15 years, CZ produced a great sub-compact pistol based on its vaunted CZ 75 line that was perfect for concealed carry, the handy little 2075 RAMI.
Introduced in 2005, the RAMI was in every sense a chopped-down CZ 75, using the famed pistol’s double-action/single-action design and double-stack magazine format. Whereas the full-sized CZ 75 typically had a 4.7-inch barrel which yielded an 8.15-inch overall length and 38-ounce weight, the alloy-framed RAMI hit the market with a 3-inch barrel, 6.5-inch overall length, and an unloaded weight of less than 26 ounces.
While the downsized RAMI shipped with a 10-round flush-fitting magazine in 9mm format, it could accept all standard CZ 75 double stacks due to its family tree. They typically shipped with a 14-round extended magazine with a grip extension as well.
More on the RAMI in my column at Guns.com.
For the past several months, I have spent a lot of time testing and evaluating a number of small pistols intended for concealed carry and have done the worst thing possible– fallen in love with one.
My typical go-to EDC for the past 15 years has either been a Glock G19 (3rd Gen, or G19X) or an S&W M&P M2.0 Compact, augmented by or substituted with a J-frame or G43. However, after going 1K rounds with the new FN 503, I am increasingly substituting the snubby/tiny Glock for this thin little 9mm.
The FN 503, left, is just a hair smaller than the Glock 43, right, while having the same magazine capacity, steel sights, and a better trigger.
More on my journey with the FN 503 in my column at Guns.com.
For those who want a pistol-mounted red dot that will fit a slide without a slide cut while still co-witnessing the front sight, Leupold now has you covered.
Meet the new Delta Point Micro is a direct replacement for a factory rear sight on Glock and Smith & Wesson M&P series pistols. The versatile new sight is lightweight – hitting the scales at just 1.1 ounces – and uses a simple 3 MOA red dot with eight brightness settings and a tool-less battery compartment. Further, if the battery dies, it just serves as a simple ghost ring sight.
More in my column at Guns.com.