Can Your CCW Gun "Survive"?

Republished from The Outdoor Wire.

Over my years of carrying and training people to carry handguns for serious purposes, I have noted some trends in how people decide "what gun" they want to have for concealed carry. The considerations for both regular CCW folks and off-duty LE are almost exactly the same, so I see little difference in requirements for what one should carry.

Most people will choose a handgun that feels good in their hand, that they shoot well, or what that is small and easy to conceal, or some combination of these factors. One factor that I rarely see considered, unless one has already had a bad experience, is whether or not one's chosen handgun will be reliable under the conditions that it is going to be carried, or if it will survive those conditions.

A given handgun may be reliable under certain conditions, but not when exposed to some of the conditions that they are placed under when carried concealed.

Some case studies to illustrate my point:


Some of the 1911's reputation for reliability was based on guns carried in battle in Condition 3 (hammer down on an empty chamber) in a flap holster.

The 1911 is legendary in many circles, and was used by the US military for two world wars along with numerous other military actions, in addition to be a staple of early police use of semi-auto pistols. However some authorities, such as retried SGM Kyle Lamb, along with several other special operations folks, have noted that the 1911 doesn't do well in austere environments and has serious reliability issues.

How is this possible?

Carry mode appears to be the answer. In WWI and WWII, and for most of the history of the 1911, it was carried in condition 3 in a flap holster. In modern times, such as incidents noted in the debriefing for the "Blackhawk Down" fight, the 1911 was carried by Delta operators in a thigh rig with no protective flap, and in condition 1. This change in carry mode led to the 1911s Delta was using to get debris into the back of the slide and firing pin area, causing failure-to-fire issues. It's something to be considered.


Carry in the pocket? Carry in a pocket holster.

A well-known firearms instructor decides to give up the S&W snubby, carried as a back-up gun in his pocket, for one of the new age very small single stack 9mm pistols. After some time in carrying, he notes that the 9mm pistol, if not field stripped, cleaned and re-lubed at least weekly, will consistently give a first shot and then a fails-to-feed.

The instructor ends up going back to his .38 snub as a BUG, even though the 9mm pistol is superior in capacity, power, and reloading speed, because the greater certainty of those first shots being available from the snubby, and due to the snub being more able to survive neglect and pocket lint.


Undercover narcotics officer took to carrying a well-known and famous brand of .380 pistol on his ankle. One bad day he has to pull the gun while caught up in a robbery/attack by two armed suspects. He successfully pulls the .380 and gets one shot off, wounding one of the attackers, but then the pistol has a stoppage that he is unable to clear before he is shot by the second gunman.

The pistol he was carrying that day was not robust enough to work through its daily ankle carry, which subjected the gun to dust, dirt, moisture, etc.


Another firearms instructor is carrying a popular small single stack .380 concealed close to his body in the summer when he had to wear lighter clothing in hot weather. One day he decides to do some routine maintenance, and finds that the trigger on his pistol is dead. In detailing the gun to find out what was wrong, he finds that the mainspring of his gun has corroded due to sweat and the end loop had snapped.


A police officer friend of mine has a limited number of back-up guns to choose from by his agency policy. He decides to run a small .380 pistol in an ankle rig, normally worn outside of his boot. He works in an area of the country where it gets VERY cold in the winter, and snow is common. I express my concerns about his gun and holster/carry mode choice. Due to agency rules he decides to stick with the gun and holster combo for the time being.

Modern service autos tend to have a good reputation for reliability but aren't always very small. With the right holster and clothing choices, it's worth it to go with the larger gun in many cases.

Later that year, after things got below zero in his area, he has a chance to live fire check his BUG and finds that it freezes up dramatically when exposed to moisture and cold, giving him one shot and then the slide fails to function.

If one is going to carry a handgun under severe conditions, be those conditions civilian or military, the pistol needs to be up to the task.

All of the militaries on Earth have gone to some variation of a semi-auto service grade pistol, and one very real reason for this is that a modern service grade semi-auto pistol, such as the Glock 17, Sig 226, etc. are the most durable and reliable handguns ever built for use in austere conditions where they are subjected to abuse, dirt, dust and weather.

There are a number of compact versions of these service grade pistols that make an excellent choice for CCW use, the Glock 19 and 26, the S&W M&P Compact and Shield, the Sig 229 and 239, are all examples of such pistols.

If you are unable to make one of these pistols work, there are often other choices that can work for the carry mode chosen.

If your chosen pistol cannot survive such conditions, then you may have to think about changing their mode of carry, to have more than one sample of their chosen handgun on hand for when one of them fails, or realize they will have no choice but to have a strenuous maintenance program to keep the handgun in working condition.

Chuck has been a full time law enforcement officer for 28 years, and served his department as a firearms and defensive tactics instructor since the late 1980s. Chuck also served as member of his department's tactical team for 17 years. Chuck is a national trainer for the National Law Enforcement Training Center, and continues to teach for that organization. Chuck is also an active IDPA and USPSA competitor. After retiring from full time law enforcement, Chuck has maintained a part time commission and started his own training company, Agile Training and Consulting.

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