What's The Purpose Of Your Carry Pistol?

Which is more important to your EDC selection: specialization or versatility?

posted on May 30, 2024
3 pistols, 3 pocketknives

The KelTec P3AT is limited to deep concealment and close-range use, while the Glock G48 is more versatile. The potent SIG P320 X-TEN  can perform a wide range of tasks, including protection from wild animals.

A gunwriter friend recently attended an event that left him with some Leica-branded swag. Knowing I have deep feelings for my old, pre-World War II Leica IIIb camera, he was kind enough to gift me the bag, which included a Leica-badged Swiss Army Knife.

It’s your typical Victorinox model, the one the company calls the “Climber,” which is basically the O.G. Swiss Army Knife: the one with the corkscrew and scissors in addition to the knife blade, file, awl and can opener. (Lore is that the Climber is based on the Swiss officer’s issue, and if it’s not true it should be, because of the corkscrew.) Anyway, while I carry a pocketknife every day of my life that doesn’t involve strolling through a metal detector, it’s not a Swiss Army Knife. I carry a smaller Spyderco with the patented Emerson “Wave” opener on the spine of the blade; I used to carry a Delica, but I recently switched to a smaller Dragonfly.

The Spyderco Dragonfly doesn’t open Swiss military wine ration bottles. It doesn’t have a screwdriver either, nor even a toothpick for getting bits of muesli or landjäger out from my teeth. All it does is cut stuff. On the other hand, for the sole purpose of doing knife-specific stuff, the Dragonfly has it all over the Victorinox as far as functionality.

You can open a Dragonfly one-handed with ease. Master the Emerson wave opener, as a matter of fact, and the thing will open with an audible CLACK when yanked briskly from your pants pocket. The Climber, though, requires two hands and fiddling with the little thumbnail cutout on the blade to tease it open.

Unlike the Swiss folder, the Spyderco has a pocket clip that means it will always be right where you’re looking for it. You won’t have to fish it out of the bottom of a pocket, amongst your spare change and folding money. The blade on the Dragonfly, while still small, is beefier than that of the Victorinox and, importantly, locks in the open position. Locking open is a big deal when dealing with certain cutting chores.

So, the Spyderco is a better knife than the Victorinox—if all you need to do is cut stuff with a knife. The Climber, on the other hand, does knife stuff pretty OK, as well as being able to do a reasonable job with a lot of other chores, too.

Of course, the Victorinox is only doing a “reasonable” job with all those screwdriver or bottle-opening chores. People who need a tool that can do really good work with the knife blade as well as handling all kinds of normie tool chores will usually pick a multi-tool like a Leatherman MUT or Gerber Center-Drive. Sure, they’re big and bulky, but they can do both knife and tool stuff really well.

By now, probably half the readers are glancing at the top of this column and wondering if “HANDGUNS” is some new spelling of “POCKET KNIVES” with which they had previously been unfamiliar. Gentle reader, I have a point! (And not simply the one on the knife.)

Carry guns come in all kinds of flavors.Probably the statistically most common ones these days are one of three kinds: teeny little micro-.380 ACP semi-automatics of the Ruger LCP variety, small-frame snub-nose revolvers or itty-bitty micro 9 mm pistols like the Kahr PM9 or Glock G43. These handguns are like the Spyderco Delica. They only do one thing—serve as a defensive CCW piece against would-be human assailants at fairly close distances—very well.

Sure, you can engage in recreational plinking with your Smith & Wesson Shield, and I’ve seen some amazing feats of marksmanship out past 50 yards with a Smith & Wesson Airweight .38 Spl. J-frame. If your local shooting club is switched on, it will likely have some sort of “outlaw” side match optimized for bitty little .380 ACP carry guns along with the more typical run-and-gun stuff, but this is all something of a stretch.

On the other hand, there’s the next size up in carry guns, which are more equivalent to the Victorinox. These were formerly epitomized by the Glock G19 or the 2.5- or 3-inch K- and L-frame revolvers from Smith & Wesson. Nowadays they’re getting supplanted by the Glock G48/SIG Sauer P365XL-type pistols and 3-inch Ruger LCR or Taurus 856 Defender wheelguns. In exchange for a bit more difficulty in concealability, the shooter using one of these gets a pretty big bump in the versatility department.

Unlike a tiny little KelTec P3AT or a titanium J-frame, you could run, say, a Springfield Armory Hellcat Pro or a Kimber K6s revolver in a weekend-long shooting class without needing Advil to deal with day two. Similarly, there are classes in most action-shooting sports where a committed shooter could do well, at least in club-level matches, with this type of pistol. In exchange for giving up a little utility in the primary purpose (the “concealed” part of “CCW”), there’s a lot more that can be done.

Finally come the “multi-tools” of the CCW handgun world, which are your 4-inch and longer medium- and large-frame revolvers, as well as duty-size (or even long-slide) semi- automatic pistols. I know plenty of people who carry a Glock G34 or a SIG Sauer P320 X-FIVE concealed, albeit the majority of those folks are in a position to “dress around the gun” and don’t have to worry about losing their jobs if someone twigs to the jumbo blaster under their cover garment. Many of those folks are in the firearm industry or else serve in law enforcement, the military or both.

Similarly, I have friends who live way out past where the buses don’t run in the Pacific Northwest or Alaska, and don’t have to get very far off pavement to find themselves a couple links down the food chain. For them, a 10 mm FN 510, SIG Sauer P320 X-TEN or even a Smith & Wesson .44 Mag. Model 629 Mountain Gun doubles as a CCW gun in town (in a town where the concealment part is more a matter of discretion than necessity) as well as having the horsepower to maintain their right-of-way versus Mother Nature.

If you’re reading this magazine, you’re unlikely to be the sort of person who only owns one handgun that’s usable for carry, but it’s still a topic that’s worth pondering. Which capability is most central to your needs in a CCW sidearm, concealability or versatility?


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