Urban Survival Guns and the Law: Now that Illinois was forced to stop completely trampling over the constitution and begin acknowledging its citizens’ rights to protect themselves outside the home, they’ve joined the other 49 states (minus the District of Columbia) that provide at least some form of concealed-carry law on their books.
As of this writing, it remains to be seen whether theirs will be a ‘Shall Issue’ provision (doubt it). More than likely, even after new laws take effect, it will still be easiest to procure firearms on the street.
But if you live in a part of the U.S. that believes law abiding citizens actually should be allowed to defend themselves in public, I highly recommend you consider exercising your right to carry.
But don’t get too excited just yet, Huckleberry. The mere act of pulling your pistol can land you in hot legal water, even if you don’t fire a single shot.
Let me say it plainly: Drawing a firearm should be your absolute last resort. Often, carrying a less-lethal form of personal protection is prudent.
Check out some alternatives to urban survival guns here.
Remember that, should you survive your emergency, you’ll have to explain why you drew your weapon to the authorities, if not a court of your peers.
Still want to carry a firearm? Great, let’s talk more about stopping power.
A firearm’s stopping power is a hot topic of late. For many, bigger is better. In some cases, this is true. Just the sight of a .45 ACP should make any would-be criminal strongly consider a career change in a hurry. But not always.
With larger calibers, control is an issue. If you aren’t physically able to accurately and repeatedly fire the weapon in quick succession --not every confrontation is over with a single shot-- it won’t do you much good. Even experienced, physically fit shooters can struggle to control its power in rapid fire.
Conversely, .22 LR, or even .22 magnum, can be fired consistently by just about any shooter. Despite its small size, it can kill. But accuracy is key. A gut shot, a bunch of gut shots in fact, probably won’t be enough to stop an attacker hopped up on adrenaline (and Lord knows what else).
There are countless stories of attackers being absolutely riddled with bullets who still put up a fight, for a short while anyway. A head shot appears to be the only reliable way to stop perpetrators in their tracks.
So in the end, caliber size may not make a whole lot of difference in pistols. Accuracy does.
You want a pistol with minimal recoil, but is powerful enough to get an attacker’s attention should you hit him center mass.
Unless you’re taking down a grizzly, I’ve found 124 grain 9mm hollow points to be a good compromise between “stopping power” and controllability. Police and military use 9mm and it’s one of the cheapest handgun calibers out there. If for no other reason, that makes 9mm a good concealed carry choice.
Concealed carry license holders must become comfortable not only carrying their pistol, but firing it as well.
In addition to live-fire, be sure to add dry-fire and drawing exercises to your practice routine. Simply practice drawing and pointing and shooting will help increase muscle memory and confidence with your weapon. However, without special equipment, you still don’t really know whether you’re on target or not.
Products like laser bullets allow you to verify your accuracy anywhere, without live ammunition. When paired with a reset trigger kit (originally developed for Glocks, it allows you to “fire” the laser bullet without resetting the striker - really, a must-have for this type of practice), you turn your pistol into an arcade-style, point-and-shoot gun. Duck Hunt, baby.
This type of practice doesn’t come cheap. Expect to spend anywhere from $50-$200 on the laser bullet (depending on caliber) and around $200 on the reset trigger. But considering the price of ammo, these can be a bargain over time. With expected battery life of 5,000 shots, you can expect to save hundreds of dollars. Not quite as fun as the real stuff though.
The reset trigger is not a quick install either. Though folks familiar with breaking down firearms should handle the installation all right, on the Glock for instance, it does involve removing the trigger pin, locking block pin and the trigger housing pin. In addition to replacing the entire trigger mechanism, you’ll also need to remove the striker assembly, which may not be as easy as it sounds. Tools required: a punch set, a steady hand and 30 minutes (or more).
If you have more money than time, it’s worthwhile to buy two pistols, one for actual fire and one for dry-fire, as the reset trigger assembly will not fire live ammunition. The laser bullet system is available in 9mm and can be fitted for .40, .45 calibers and even for 12-gauge shotguns as well.
Ok, enough with the preamble. Here are the reviews:
For everyday carry, I choose a Glock 26 - affectionately known as the “Baby Glock”. Its shortened grip, enough for two fingers, minimizes printing (showing the gun’s profile through clothing). It’s a double stack magazine design, which feels comfortable and secure in the hand, even before installing custom grips or a magazine extension. This also allows greater bullet capacity (10 + 1) than other concealed-carry single-stack models. However, the double stack does make the pistol wider, making it tougher to conceal when carried on the hip.
I’ve found Glocks to be a polarizing brand; you either love them or hate them. I love their simplicity. They can be broken down for cleaning without any tools. They lack an external hammer, making the design sleeker, which allows a smoother draw -- nothing to catch on clothing. And “slide bite” isn’t an issue.
There is also no manual safety. I initially thought this was a down side, but realized this is one less thing to worry about in an emergency. Coupled with a trigger guard holster, a necessity for safety, all I have to do is draw the weapon and start shooting.
They’re also very reliable (kinda important for self defense) and affordable (I paid $509 new).
However, I do not like the stock sights. The “U” shaped rear sight is particularly difficult to align with the front white dot.
That said, I have heard good things about the Smith & Wesson Military &Police (M&P) line. Once Glock’s patents expired, S&W fine-tuned their design with tips from law-enforcement personnel. Thus, the M&P line was born. Though I’ve never shot an M&P, a cop buddy, who used to carry a Glock, swears by them.
They're typically cheaper than comparable Glocks too.
Sig Sauer is legendary for making high-quality pistols and the P938 is no exception. It is very easy to conceal on the hip or in the pocket (or anywhere else, for that matter), but the single-stack magazine limits you to 6+1 rounds. Sig offers an extended 7-round magazine, making room for your pinky, but that defeats the purpose of the deep-concealment design in my opinion.
During a test fire, the P938 performed flawlessly. Though, it should be noted, only 20 rounds were put through it -- not exactly running it through the gauntlet. That said, there was minimal kick, making it easy to recover the sights for successive shots.
Sig advertises the design of the P938 is similar to the tried-and-true 1911, with thumb safety, magazine release and slide stop in similar locations. This is good, if you’re a fan of the 1911, which I’m not for concealed-carry purposes. Like the 1911, the P938 has an exposed hammer and relatively large grip safety spur which has a tendency to catch during draw.
On the plus side, you can strip it for maintenance and cleaning without tools. Just push the slide back and remove the slide stop.
The grips are also mini versions of the 1911 and actually make the slender single-stack profile more manageable in larger hands. They’re easily changed too, just remove a couple screws.
The P938 will run you around $700.
The Ruger LC9 is a tiny pistol that still packs a punch. It’s relatively inexpensive; you can find them for less than $400.
The barrel is barely over 3 inches long, limiting its accuracy at a distance. But since most altercations occur with mere feet separating you from attacker, this is really not an issue.
Breaking down the Ruger for cleaning requires a punch or small screwdriver. Once a single pin is removed, the slide slips off, giving you access to the barrel. Not as simple as the Glock or Sig, but still pretty easy.
The LC9 just squeaks in under 1 inch in width, allowing it to be easily concealed beneath a thin t-shirt. Ruger achieves this slim profile with a single stack, 7+1 capacity magazine. This is a bit of an issue, as you want as many bullets as possible in an emergency. (Note: You can never have enough.) Still better than a revolver, though.
The small, overall size makes the LC9 perfect for pocket carry. (You should use a pocket holster to minimize printing.) Because of the slender, shortened grip, the LC9 is better suited to shooters with smaller hands. I considered the LC9 for my concealed carry weapon, but it just felt uncomfortable in my hands. Others disagree. One woman told me that, though the factory trigger pull was a bit long, she liked the LC9 because the grip just felt right, allowing her to control it better than larger pistols. To each his, or her, own.
Final Word on Survival Guns
When it comes to choosing between manufacturers and styles of urban survival guns, it more often than not boils down to personal preference. Take your time when selecting a firearm. Make sure it feels comfortable in your hand. If possible, test fire before you buy to make sure you can control it. Then practice, practice, practice until the pistol feels like an extension of your hand. Get as comfortable with your weapon as possible because self-defense situations are anything but calm.