Choosing YOUR concealed pistol

We are often asked what firearm a person should get for concealed carry. It’s easy to answer Glock 19 or Sig P365 or any other popular and prevalent firearm currently on the market, and sadly, many people answer with a specific make/model without taking the time to define what requirements the inquirer may have. In this article, we’re not going to answer this question, but we will help identify what some common requirements are for a CPL-intent firearm.

Before we get too much into this, though, let’s take a moment to understand that the firearm is one part of a system that includes the firearm, carry location, holster used, and clothing. Some of these concepts are discussed in our previous article, The box full of holsters, the box full of lessons.

Each of these subsections should be thought of as a filter, allowing the shopper to remove items from the list of firearms they are considering.


Whaaaaaaaa? Reliability isn’t first? No, not at first, it isn’t. Why? Because the AK-47 is not a concealable firearm. “But but but… we’re talking about pistols!”, I hear you cry. Correct, which is why concealability comes first. It’s a concealed pistol license. Duh?

In Michigan, there’s no real penalties for printing (the pistol is exposed through clothing, or otherwise identifiable) but in some states, printing is a serious issue. Either way, the professionally minded concealed carrier will choose to conceal or open carry, and it shall be that way. ‘Casual’ concealed carry, where some printing is acceptable, is for amateurs.

Concealability will vary for everyone, and it will depend on the firearm-location-holster-clothing system the carrier has in place. Women especially understand this system as they are faced with more form-fitting clothing that makes concealability harder. For them, even mid-size firearms like a Glock 19 will not be concealable.


Also, consider the climate. Here in Michigan it is shorts and t-shirt weather for 3 months. Carrying a mid frame pistol may be a challenge. “Sun’s out guns out” isn’t a phrase about open carry! The firearm you choose should still be concealable. For the remaining 9 months of the year, it may be relatively easy to do. It’s not uncommon to have 2 or even 3 pistols that can be considered for concealability as wardrobe changes.


Let’s just face it. Some places are filled with obliviots that wouldn’t notice the negligent discharge of a flare gun. Strip malls and Starbucks are filled with these types. Even then, if for some reason your concealed pistol were spotted, the worst that would happen is you’d be asked to leave without your triple machiato by the timid barista.

Some places, though, might carry some real consequence. Your workplace may not have rules against concealed carry, but it might not be the best thing to be spotted with it. You may have the permission of your pastor to carry at church, but some families spotting the gun may not be so comfortable.

For these places, smaller generally means more concealable. If your travels include a ‘high discretion’ location, this is worth noting in your selection process.


Yes, now we will talk about reliability, now that we’re actually talking about concealed carry pistols. Simply put:

  • It must go bang when the trigger is actuated.
  • It must not fail to go bang when the trigger is actuated. I
  • It must not go bang when the trigger is not actuated.

Pretty simple, right? So far, it is. But let’s talk about something called functional reliability. Everyone likes to talk about how revolvers are the most reliable handgun. In truth, they are not. The myth of revolver reliability is most borne out of two points:

1) In the early days of semiautomatics, ammunition used poor quality primers (they were good in their day) that caused frequent failures to fire (misfires). This, coupled with the cartridge manufacturing skills of the day, caused variability in ammunition quality. This brings about point 2…

2) In a semiautomatic handgun, failure to fire requires a slide manipulation to cycle past the malfunctioning cartridge and bring another cartridge into the system. This is a more time consuming process than simply squeezing the trigger again like on a revolver.

In practice, a reputable-manufacture revolver is less mechanically reliable than a reputable-manufacturer semi-automatic.  However, once the user is added to the system, a revolver is more functionally reliable than a semiautomatic. Simply put, the semiautomatic requires a stable hold so that the slide can move relative to the frame, to cycle the action. “Limp wristing” can cause this relative movement to be impeded. A revolver does not have this drawback.

As always, the shooter is a factor in the system. Those with weak grips, must shoot one handed, or other limitations that may exacerbate malfunction need to consider this in their reliability assessment of the shooter-firearm system.

Manufacturer reputation is also a part of reliability. Do they have the know-how to make a reliable firearm? Do they have the infrastructure to correct (recall) any issues? Will they stand by their product? One only needs look at the Remington R51 fiasco to understand it’s not just about name, it’s about real reliability.

Stopping Power and Manageability

Stopping power is the difficult to define concept of the cartridge’s ability to deliver the force to neutralize a threat. In truth all handgun cartridges are poor stoppers, and it must be recognized we are trading convenience/concealability for effectiveness. It’s just the way it is.

To make matters easier, the following cartridges are common CPL-intent.


  • .380 ACP
  • 9x19mm
  • .40 S&W
  • .45ACP


  • .38 Special
  • .357 Magnum

Yes, there are others. Yes, we know you have your favorite. Yes, it may not be on this list. But let’s be honest, if your .43 cal Acme FullSemi Obscurus  is the very best there is and you swear by this mythological wildcat cartridge, why are you reading an intro to CPL article? Hmm?

For the rest of us, the above cartridges represent commonly available, readily purchasable, and affordably trainable cartridges that have a wide array of CPL-intent pistol models available.

Now let’s talk about manageability. We group stopping power and manageability together because it’s not just about the cartridge, it’s about the firearm-shooter system. the .357 Mag and the .40 S&W tend to be a bit ‘abrupt’ in their recoil. Smaller frame pistols may also have this effect and feel when shooting.

The FBI explored the powerful 10 mm auto cartridge in the late 1980’s after a shootout in Miami left two agents dead and five more injured. It was concluded that the 10 mm auto had improved power, but its manageability was unsuitable for most agents. We have the same concerns, and most of us have fewer training opportunities than an FBI agent.

We must find the firearm-cartridge combination that gives us the most stopping power that we can safely and effectively wield. And that means trying out multiple handguns in multiple calibers. To the gun store!  But wait…

Manageability Part 2

A big part of manageability is the firearm’s ergonomics. Is it the right size for us? Is the grip wide/narrow enough to effectively shoot? Can we get enough grip contact to create a reliable shooting platform?

Note I did not say “does the gun feel good to hold/shoot”? This is largely the most ridiculous ‘gun guy’ pieces of advice out there. I’ve seen countless Facebook posts from these guys that say “go to the gun store and pick what feels good in your hands”. NO! Worst advice ever.

The measurable is “Can you effectively wield it?”, not “does it feel good in your hand?”. There is a vast difference, and failure to understand this leaves you with possibly violating item #1 (Concealability). You’ll walk out with a full frame Walther P99 or H&K VP9 with no real way to conceal carry it. (Although, an H&K P30 is my carry gun, but I’m 6’2″ and dress as necessary to do so…)

Effectively wield. Key words.


Capacity is unfortunately the sacrificial lamb in all of this. It’d be nice if the grips contained some magical; space where 3000 rounds could be placed and fed reliability, but that technology seems to have been lost with the demise of the 1980’s soldier of fortune movies where reloads were either optional or just a plot device to go hand-to-hand.

If high capacity is an absolute requirement, item #1 (Concealability) may have to give a bit of leeway, as will your carry location and attire.

In conclusion…

I sincerely hope this helps. There are tons of great guns out there, and they are improving in quality every day. It’d be easy to spout off favorite models, or just tell you to get a Glock 19 like everyone else on the planet, but this would be giving you my solution and not yours. Investigate the above topics. Try them out. Ask friends that have them and actually put them on with the holster, etc. Carry them for a day if you’re able (as law permits). Is your solution one gun or two or more? That’s OK too.

Just remember this is a filtering process, and it truly helps to be unforgiving honest in in your approach. I know you love the gold plated Desert Eagle 50AE because it matches your Texas Centennial commemorative belt buckle, but if we take a moment and be objective, it might not be the best carry choice. Not saying don’t own it, just be diligently pragmatic about its stability for this role.

The box full of holsters, the box full of lessons

Most experienced CPL people have a box full of holsters. Why? The truth is, we spend a great deal of research on the firearm we will concealed carry. What is the right size for me? How do I balance capacity with concealability? How do I balance ergonomic control against concealability? Does it support my accessory requirements? Do I like the grips? Does it go pew pew when I hit the trigger?

We spend far less time understanding that the blaster is only one part of the system that is made up of firearm-location-holster-clothing. All of these factors are important if we hope to maximize firearm capability against the requirement of concealability. It is also important to note that the firearm and the clothing in this system are somewhat fixed: They’re already determined. The newly minted CPL’er rarely goes out and buys a whole new wardrobe to accommodate his new firearm, and after such an investment, he is unlikely to buy a new firearm right away to something that may be more suitable.

What’s left is the carry location and the holster that must interface and integrate these two ‘fixed’ factors.

For carry location, the new CPL’er must learn what works for him. Is strong side 3 o’clock the best method? Appendix carry? Small of back? Cross draw? It takes time to learn what works for someone, and each person’s daily range-of-motion requirements may be different. A full time driver who is right handed may find cross draw to be beneficial, or a good shoulder holster position. A desk jockey may get a bit pinched up at appendix carry. Small of back is mostly for sadists.

Once it’s determined where to carry, one then needs to find a holster that carries well in that position. But, In the Waistband (IWB) or Outside the Waistband (OWB)? Which is more concealable with my daily wardrobe? Which is more comfortable? Which is more effective?

While making this decision, along enters the marketing. A simple search engine result will yield a sea of holster flotsam floating towards the screen, each one being the superior product with superior ergo that superior warriors in Kydexstan all swear that they and their Special Forces brethren have trusted their lives with. It’s easy to buy into this for features one may not need, that are just poorly made, or have a bad form factor that would have some people just leaving the uncomfortable mess at home.

We mostly end up getting a holster based on internet reviews and a couple personal recommendations.

Now for the re-do loops.

The odds of assessing all of this correctly on the first go around is slim. As with a sore and injured body part, we rarely understand the range of motion we actually use in a day until something painful is screaming at us about it. And yes, pinching leather or Kydex and an unforgiving pistol slide can be painful. So, a reassessment of carry location occurs. Sometimes the holster can be used in the new location. Sometimes it cannot. Order up another one and throw this in the box.

Once the carry position is a bit better understood, and the holster made for this position is obtained, how does it feel? Does it work as intended? Does it pinch? Does it dig in? Does it________? Odds are this is another holster in the box and a new one purchased. IWB? OWB? New location for these? Add it to the box.

We haven’t even tried to draw it under training duress yet.

It becomes easy to see how concealed carry results in these assessments. It becomes a point of humor among veteran CPL’ers about the box full of holsters and the slight pause after mentioning it as we remember the trials of optimizing OUR carry system for US.

It does get better. After the initial carry gun is replaced with a newer model or another purpose (many people carry a compact model firearm every day but have a ‘mouse gun’ backup of some type for discretionary carry), the lessons learned from the box of holsters are not repeated for the new gun. Range of motion is understood. Carry location has already been determined. Wardrobe considerations have been addressed through experience and modified as time went by.

The system is understood. It is a box of lessons.


Safety rules: Not optional, no matter how ‘Murica you are

I had a lovely ‘discussion’ with a FB denizen yesterday regarding gun safety in class. A person indicated they were concealed carrying (they had an out of state permit) through the entirety of the CPL class they took (not a K&B class).

Since there is a strict “No ammo in the classroom” rule, this would have been a huge NO. A guy who we will aptly name Fudd enters the conversation, decrying that I am an anti-gun liberal doing nothing more than creating a pistol-free zone because I do not believe in the 2A. Those that know me know there is really nothing further from the truth.

The reasons for the no ammo in the classroom are this:

1) The NRA says so, and this is an NRA class. When one agrees to instruct something and effectively enters a contract, one upholds his word to do so, not just the parts they like.

2) (more importantly) In order for a firearm to discharge, 3 things are needed. A firearm, ammunition, and trigger actuation. To ENSURE a safe training environment where students and instructor may be handling firearms AND where dry-fire trigger actuation may occur, the means to make the situation safe is simply deny the presence of live ammunition.

Many things are taught in our CPL class, including DA/SA trigger pull, trigger reset, and other factors that require dry fire.

In a similar vein, if we were teaching a reloading class, and ammo must be present to address the coursework, the firearm would be what was denied in the classroom.

Fudd insisted that separating ammunition from the training area where firearms and trigger actuation was occurring was anti-2A. It is not. It is establishing a safe environment for all involved.

GSSF Recap with Berge Avesian

by Berge Avesian

I just got back from my very first Glock Shooting Sports Foundation (GSSF) competition! It was great and I highly recommend it. My performance on the other hand was not so stellar. Let me preface this with a little background: My EDC is a Sig. I carry Sigs on duty. I’ve gone to competitions with my Sig (and done quite well). I am basically a Sig guy. Now in my safe I have a number of pistols, Glocks among them, but none get so exercised as my Sigs. If I was shooting my Sig 226 today, in competition, I have no doubt I would have put up some formidable numbers but…I wasn’t shooting my Sig.

This GSSF competition was limited to Glocks only. So I pulled my Glock 22 in .40 cal from the back of my safe, grabbed my pistol bag and extra magazines and headed to the range. In hindsight I should have realized I had a problem the moment I picked up my spare mags; two of them were 10 rounders left over from the 1994 AWB! Are you starting to see how I’ve let this pistol languish? Any way I headed out the competition and honestly didn’t do too bad in the 1st two events. The 3rd and final event was the metal plates. Where the first two events could mask my poor marksmanship thanks to larger targets, the plates meant I’d have to be on target with my sights and missed shots would not go unnoticed. 4 strings of fire, 6 plates each and I only hit 15 with 44 rounds! Now I’ve been shooting for a long time and I am very familiar with all manner of firearms and how to handle them. But that doesn’t mean I’ve spent enough time on all of them to understand their nuances and how they shoot (high, low, right, left?).

When the buzzer beeped and I brought my Glock 22 up to bear on the first plate, I was dead on with my sights! The front and rear sight were in near perfect alignment. I squeezed the trigger. Bang! The plate remained unmoved. Follow up shots all had proper sight alignment yet all but the last in that magazine failed to find its mark! What happened?! It took me 2 magazines to figure out the front sight on my Glock is a bit low and every one of my missed shots hit exactly below the steel plate. D’oh! Needless to say I caught on to my sights too late to salvage the heat. If I had just given my Glock as much attention as my Sig I might have figured the sights out and shot a much better score.

Don’t let this happen to you. Whether you are like me and have a bunch of guns or just have one or two, you need to practice with everything you have. Try to run every gun you have enough that you become intimately familiar with its fit and function. Don’t wait till competition or worse a life or death situation to realize you should have been training with your guns more!

Happy Hunting!

Berge Avesian

Keep & Bear Podcast E0006: Holsters 101

In Episode 6, Berge and Don talk about holsters. The firearm, holster, belt, method of carry, and attire all work together as a SYSTEM for concealed carry. What are some of the considerations when choosing a CPL pistol? What does a good holster do for those considerations?

Follow the RULES!

This morning the Detroit News has yet another report of a man negligently (negligently not accidentally) discharging his pistol with fatal results.  The details are sparse but what we are told is that he was cleaning his pistol, then in the process of showing it to his wife discharged it right into his chest.  Of all the stupid ways to die…

If I understand this right, he was cleaning his pistol while it was loaded.  Then managed to, in showing the pistol to his wife, point it at his chest and actuate the trigger.  It is at this point that I want to reiterate the 4 BASIC rules of safe gun handling:


These rules are all you need to safely use a firearm, yet so many people forget them, never learn them or disregard them.  When that happens we have people shooting themselves in the chest unintentionally.

This was a needless death, but let us not let the moment pass without reflection on how you can learn from his mistake.  While the above rules deal with how to safely operate a firearm, they don’t specifically speak to how to safely clean one.  With that in mind I offer my humble advice for your consideration. The first step to safely cleaning your firearm is to MAKE SURE ITS UNLOADED!!!  Remove the magazine, open the cylinder, open the bolt, lock the action open, do whatever you need to do on your firearm to get access to the chamber so you can visually AND physically inspect it!  If there is something there STOP! REMOVE IT! Then proceed to break down your firearm according to the owner’s manual. If you want to take it a step further, clean your firearm in a room or area free of live ammo.  You do this and the worst thing that can happen to you while cleaning your firearm is dropping it on your foot.

Once your firearm is clean refer to the 4 cardinal rules of safe gun handling and you will never appear in the news like the poor fellow above.  Stay safe, have fun, & concentrate on the front sight!

Post by Berge Avesian, Keep & Bear LLC

Guns: An American conversation

K&B’s instructor Don Alley was invited to be a part of a conversation group about ‘gun violence’ in America. The rules were really rather simple: Be respectful. So far, this rule is holding rather well among the participants.
A big clue-in to the state of the republic can be found in this group. The majority of Americans have no real idea what a ‘right’ is, and believe that the collective mentality is all the justification necessary to limit, curtail, and outright infringe on someone’s rights.
The most unfortunate thing seen so far is the same tired thought process of adding burden to the peaceable gun owners that would have no effect on crime or violence. This most often takes the form of  “Should gun owners have to ___________________ before buying a gun?”

The fill in the blank so far include:

  • buy liability insurance
  • take mandatory gun training
  • have to wait (between 3 days to 1 month)
  • submit to an intense background check
  • demonstrate justifiable need

In all cases, these are infringement. A liability tax is nothing more than a financial burden, and the enacting of it pre-supposes there will be some type of incident requiring it. With this presumption of future guilt and financial burden, it would not only make the poor more vulnerable, it may expose them to greater danger by those willing to commit acts seeking an insurance payout.

Gun training is ALWAYS a good idea. Always. Mandatory gun training, though, is not. By making a mandatory training, the government would then be able to control training fees, access to class times, and testing difficulty to regulate who may own a firearm and who may not. Agenda-driven action can move these variables in the future.

Wait times have not ever been proven to be effective.

Background checks and NICS checks, while an infringement, have not been heavily opposed by the pro-gun community, because we too hope to see violence drop. But with government agencies failing to report many items to the database, the database being fraught with errors, and no real way to seek redress for being put on the database, many oppose a more formidable check. An additional question is why, if it is a background check, are gun data such as make, model, and serial number being submitted?

Demonstrating justifiable need moves the ‘right’ to keep and bear arms squarely into a government doled privilege. Furthermore, it reinforces the notion that someone else may inflict their preference upon others, by the enforcement of their perception of ‘need’.

Hearteningly, though, there are at least a few freedom-minded individuals on this ‘conversation’, slowly replacing ‘fear’ with understanding. In the end, we hope that wisdom prevails, Americans choose freedom, and the fearmongering of the anti-gun agenda is quelled with a majority public rebuke.


Emergency preparedness wrap up

K&B ran our Emergency Preparedness 1 course, introducing people to emergency prepping in a planned and thought out way. Our goal in this course is to get people the knowledge to make thought our plans for the threat events they face, in a manner that they can face them. This precludes cookie cutter or add-to-cart solutions designed for profit.

We also ran our first Emergency Preparedness 2 course, which focuses on get home bags, evac bags, and more. Like our first course, this is a reality-driven approach to building an emergency kit.

We were honored to have a full class for each of these courses, with both K&B alumni as well as new students. Our feedback has been very favorable, with comments including the planning system is well organized and methodical, the course material was complete and realistic, and the courses complimented each other and flowed well.

As always, we are honored to be a part of your training choices, whether it be personal protection, firearm proficiency, or preparedness.


We have the RIGHT to keep (own) and bear (carry) arms. This Right is endowed by the creator (or is a natural right, if you are secular). This right is not ‘granted’ by the Bill of Rights Second Amendment, because that then extrapolates that this right is government’s to grant or retract. ‘Shall not be infringed’ is a directive to government, not to the people.

With the recent Florida shooting, and a string of copycat threats, Americans are being asked to reexamine those rights. The same calls for ‘common sense’ are being made. The same infringements being proposed. The anti-gunners claim to want a ‘conversation’, which will take the form of “what infringements are you willing to accept”? This is not a conversation worth entering.

At its core, rights are either inherent as the birthright of sentient beings, or they are a set of qualities able to be agreed upon by the social collective. The former is the true answer, as defense is a natural right and freedom from coercion and violence is an understood liberty. This can be seen in both John Locke‘s  works, as well as our Declaration of Independence “that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. The Bill of Rights then goes on to enumerate them.

If a right is unalienable, and endowed by the Creator (or a natural right), what say does social collectivists have in what rights you may exercise?