Five Best Carry Handguns: An Opinion

I have been carrying in one form or another for the better part of three decades. During that time, I watched the rise of the polymer striker-fired gun, which redefined semi-automatics, and the subsequent reduction in people carrying 1911s or revolvers. I have carried many handguns that I would not carry today; however, several guns have withstood the test of time, and I continue to carry them to this day.

First, let’s discuss carry guns in general. I do believe that for most people, especially those newer to carrying, the best advice is to carry one gun, one way, every day. That said, I only loosely follow this advice. I generally carry a full-frame handgun in either an outside-the-waistband (OWB) or inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster with passive retention at the 4 o’clock position on a ratchet gun belt. Which gun is carried in that position still varies (currently across three models of similar firearms). Additionally, I often carry a more deeply concealed or backup sub-compact handgun, concealed using either a pocket or calf holster.

Criteria for a “Good” Carry Handgun

We all have our own criteria for what we are looking for in a defensive firearm, and what is essential to one of us may not even be on the list for another. Thus, it is probably best to start with my personal criteria to better understand my top five list of carry handguns. In no particular order:

Capacity and caliber:

For me, capacity and caliber are intertwined. Though I prefer larger calibers, the capacity that comes with smaller calibers is often a worthwhile trade-off. I tend to prefer higher-capacity handguns chambered in at least 9mm.

Ease and comfort of concealing:

The handgun needs to be relatively easy to conceal, and the carry method must be comfortable for all-day carrying. Fortunately, I am of a larger size, making it easy and comfortable to carry full-sized handguns.


My definition of reliability has changed over the years, and I prefer handguns that can easily shoot through hundreds, if not thousands, of rounds with no issues.

Clearly identifiable as a handgun:

As data suggests, most defensive uses of a handgun do not require the gun to be fired, so the psychology of carry is essential. This psychological component comes from being confident while presenting a resistant target to potential threats. Still, it also may need to be backed up by the stimuli of a clearly identifiable handgun.

Accuracy and enjoyability of shooting:

Not only do I want a defensive carry gun that I am accurate with, but I also want one that I enjoy shooting. This enjoyment increases the likelihood that I will practice with that gun more often, at least for me.

A List of Favorites

Considering these factors, I’ve put together a list of the five best carry handguns I have carried (and still carry) and why. This list includes the Glock 17 Gen 5 in 9mm, IWI Masada in 9mm, Walther PPQ in .45 ACP, Kimber Micro 9 stainless in 9mm, and the Sig Sauer P365 SAS in 9mm.

All five of my current carries are semi-automatics, and four are striker-fired polymer guns.

The Glock 17

I initially carried Glock pistols chambered in 10mm. However, as age and risk levels changed, I switched to 9mm and started carrying the Glock 17. I have been competing and training with Glock 17s for over a decade and have come to trust the pistol. Though perhaps too large for some, the Glock 17 checks off almost every box for me as I can easily conceal it (especially in colder temperatures), it provides a hefty capacity of 17 rounds of 9mm, it is clearly identifiable as a gun, and I am very fond of shooting it. The Glock 17 is the gun I carry most often in my collection.

The IWI Masada

I am impressed with the IWI Masada and consider it the best-for-the-price defensive 9mm gun current on the market. I previously carried the IWI Jericho, but as I moved from metal frame guns to polymer frames, both fell out of rotation.

IWI made a resurgence with the release of the polymer-framed Masada. Though I have carried the Glock 17 and 20 in an IWB holster, they are a little blocky and less comfortable when switching to IWB carry. I hoped the Glock Slimline 48 might be a good solution, but its lower capacity and smaller grip surface made it not the “right” gun for me.

The Masada, on the other hand, is approximately the same dimensions as a Glock 17 and has the same 17 rounds of 9mm capacity, but its more rounded design made it perfect for IWB carry for me. During hotter months, it becomes my primary IWB concealed carry in a Kydex Dara holster.

The IWI Masada in 9mm
My primary IWB concealed carry handgun is the IWI Masada in 9mm. (Photo:

The Walther PPQ 45

I started carrying the Walther PPK in .380 as a sub-compact and a Colt 1911 in .45 ACP as a full-frame gun decades ago when I first got into concealed carry. As both of these guns fell out of my rotation, I wanted to add the .45 ACP back in. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the Glocks in .45 ACPs and I do not get along. But I was immediately hooked when Walther came out with the PPQ in .45 ACP.

Though a larger, full-frame gun, the double-stack magazine provides 12+1 rounds of .45 ACP in a surprisingly easy-shooting package. Though a little big for concealed carry, I generally carry this firearm when home or around the ranch in a Crossbreed OWB leather and Kydex holster.

The Walther PPQ 45
Combining Walther Arms’ history with the truly American round of the .45 ACP, the Walther PPQ has become my primary OWB carry gun at home on the ranch. (Photo:

The Kimber Micro 9 Stainless

When Kimber released the Micro 9, I had to check it out. I love the look of this gun, but years of shooting 1911s seem to transfer, as I am more accurate with this little hammer-fired metal frame gun than I am with many larger frame guns. I also love the classic look, and the stainless finish helps to communicate “gun” despite its smaller size.

As I carry this gun in a BugBite neoprene calf holster, I also appreciate the external safety as the trigger is slightly more exposed compared to larger Kydex or leather holsters. Although it has a lower capacity (7 rounds of 9mm), I am pleased with my accuracy with this little gun and have run thousands of rounds in practice through it with no issues.

The Kimber Micro 9 Stainless
I am very fond of the look of the Kimber Micro 9 Stainless in 9mm, and it is my primary deep concealed and backup handgun. (Photo:

The Sig Sauer P365

Though I still carry the Kimber Micro 9 in a calf holster when needing deeper concealment, the Sig Sauer P365 became my go-to pocket carry gun as soon as it came out, replacing the Kimber Micro 9 in that role. I often exercise, ride (horse and motorcycle), or work in ways that limit traditional carry. As such, I use a Sticky Holsters pocket holster for a fast way to ensure I have a concealed carry, regardless of temperature, activity level, or style of dress. Like all of the guns on this list, I have practiced with this gun and fired thousands of rounds with no issues. Needless to say, the Sig Sauer P365, with its 12-round magazine capacity, is the perfect gun for me.

The Sig Sauer P365 SAS
Rounding out my carry handguns is the Sig Sauer P365 SAS edition, generally carried in a pocket holster. (Photo:


The guns listed in this article have all proven highly reliable, and each fills a specific niche in my carry rotations. Although everyone needs to find the right gun for them based on the criteria they find to be most important, these are the top five guns I currently carry. At the end of the day, choose a gun that is right for you and is likely to be carried regularly.

Joel Nadler is the Training Director at Indy Arms Company in Indianapolis and co-owner of Tactical Training Associates.  He writes for several gun-focused publications and is an avid supporter of the right to self-sufficiency, including self-defense. Formerly a full professor, he has a Ph.D. in Psychology and now works as a senior consultant living on a horse ranch in rural Indiana.  Feel free to follow him on Instagram @TacticalPhD.

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