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The Pitfalls of Small Guns

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By Vic Laboy

It is not uncommon to hear that a firearm is too large or that some hands have greater difficulty properly gripping the pistol. During my time behind the counter, I found the simplest way to summarize this is by equating handguns to clothing. While I am comfortable with my SIG Sauer P320 carry model that offers a full-length grip, John or Jane Doe next to me might prefer a much smaller configuration. To accommodate the more specialized desire, many companies have engineered smaller, sub-compact pistols. In theory, they seem ideal for concealment due to the smaller stature; however, there is a dark side to these “small guns.”


Determining Potential Risks

As we stated before, small guns are one of the most personalized items on the market. Each model is carefully crafted for different applications and users. While departments issue a full-size Glock 17 or 22, some prefer a smaller Glock 26 or Kimber Micro 9 as part of their everyday carry, or EDC. A common misconception is that larger size equates to more felt recoil. In theory, it makes sense; however, it is quite the opposite. Contrary to popular belief, a Glock 17 will have less felt recoil than the Glock 26 and there are a few reasons to this.

First, the longer barrel allows the gas and pressure buildup to be absorbed into the barrel, whereas shorter barrels experience more dispersion once the projectile exits the barrel. Secondly, the smaller frame depletes your ability to gain a higher purchase on the grip. For example, while I can get a full grip a full-size Smith & Wesson M&P 9, it’s an entirely different story with models like the Ruger LCP or Smith and Wesson Bodyguard 380. When gripping, the pinky and, depending on the model, sometimes the ring finger hang just below the baseplate of the magazine. Unbeknownst to some, this can drastically affect accuracy and shot placement. Sure, we’re not aiming for precision, dime-sized grouping at 15 yards with a .380; however, this is something to consider.


Next, round capacity is sacrificed as your pocket cannon is not capable of housing 15-round magazine without purchasing an obtrusive extended magazine that will also negatively impact concealability. Models like the Taurus Millennium G2, 709 Slim, or even back to the Glock 26 only house 10 rounds in a stock magazine, excluding a chambered round. “I only need one round to stop the threat” is a statement that is heard far too often. It couldn’t be further from the truth.

There are numerous factors to consider, such as clothing, or how prepared you are to engage a threat. For instance, say your Ruger LCP is your primary choice of EDC. When faced with a defensive scenario, most experience an adrenaline dump which can result in failure of even the most basic motor functions. Statistically speaking, you are bound to miss three to five shots. If your small gun of choice only houses six, this leaves you with a single round to defend your life with. Those with combat experience can attest to the fact that, depending on shot placement, a threat is not immediately deterred by a single round and may continue to push forward to accomplish their task.

Many instructors will advise that small guns designed for concealed carry are generally engineered to be carried often but not fired due to the significant recoil. It is not uncommon for each to be used as a backup to your EDC, not as a primary for reasons stated above.

Finding the Right Fit

“This single stack 9mm or .380ACP is perfect for women.” “I’m buying this for my wife to carry since the others are too powerful.” Both are cringeworthy statements I’ve heard throughout my time and hold little to no accuracy. The best firearm is the one that fits comfortably and you can handle and fire with ease. When first introduced to firearms, I fired both a full-size and sub-compact and was taken aback by the significant amount of felt recoil with the Beretta Nano versus the full-size. As a beginner, my initial understanding was the smaller platform would not feel as powerful. I later came to understand the opposite as fact over the course of my involvement within the industry.


When visiting your local gun store, take time to study the small guns and ask questions. One day your life may depend on this chunk of steel, and it is best to ensure you are comfortable with the purchase. Study the ins and outs, the feel, texturing, cycle the action, and so on. I’ve told potential buyers that I do not want to sell them an item they are uncomfortable with and recommend firing it prior to completing the transaction. After a quick visit to the range, there were plenty of times where their minds were changed after firing the model their buddy told them was the “ultimate handgun,” and they arrived at a more educated decision.

Final Thoughts

It is important to note that the statements made in this writing are not to bash to berate those who are comfortable with small guns, or companies that make them. Do not take these opinions as fact and conduct your own personal research to determine what is right for you. Only use this as guidance and topics to consider when making your selection. Once your trials are complete, pay us a visit and we will be happy to set you up with your purchase. Check us out at and browse our extensive inventory. As always, train hard, train smart, and stay safe!

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