In the interest of practicing what I preach, as well as giving me something to do, I have decided to pick the ‘best’ carry pistol for me from my current small collection. This journey is mine alone, but I encourage you to think about what you value in a carry gun, do some research, and then shoot your short list side by side with a few drills that highlight the skills you’re likely to need.
Rather than rely on changing fancies over different guns and brands, and to avoid the collector trap (which I can’t afford), I want to pin down what is ‘best’ based on actual numbers, and then go with that choice for a while.
Like Chris at LuckyGunner, I’m going to start compiling my own scoreboard of guns by shooting the same few drills and getting comparison numbers. This is something I talked about in my youtube article.
If you’ve been with me for a bit, then you know that over the last couple of years, I have had a shift in priority for my carry guns. To quickly reiterate, my priorities are, in order:
- Not shooting myself
- Not shooting what I don’t want to shoot
- Shooting what I want to shoot
Mechanical Requirements and Features
I’ve spent a lot of skull sweat weighing the relative importance of shooting the gun accurately, shooting the gun at speed, day to day handling, threat management, one handed manipulation ease, weight and carry comfort, concealability, magazine capacity, accessory and magazine cost and support, and company reputation.
I’ve taken a honest hard look at the number of negative outcomes from things like NDs (negligent discharge) from sloppy administrative gun handling, trigger checking in high stress situations, sympathetic hand movement, and support gear failure/wardrobe malfunctions. It became apparent that I should acknowledge that I’m probably not as good as I think I am, and that leaning on a mechanical feature to add an extra layer of safety isn’t a sign of weakness.
(ouch for this guy. Keep an eye on your gear)
Here’s a short list of what I currently value in a carry gun, all things considered.
- Reliability. I use the ‘2000 round challenge‘ that TLG outlines. Though an initial 200-300 round break-in and subsequent testing with carry ammo is a good start down that road.
- No manual safeties. No extra buttons to get the gun into action. I’m not against guns with safeties, I just have chosen to go down the path buying guns without them. I like decocker only for DA/SA guns.
- Ability to monitor the trigger with the thumb while holstering via either an exposed hammer, tactile striker indicator or Striker Control Device (The Gadget) on a Glock
- Double Action Only. I was on a DA/SA kick with the Beretta PX4c, but I decided that I favor the shot-to-shot trigger consistency of a DAO. The long deliberate trigger press helps with people management and mitigates a few of the possible negligent situations mentioned above. I also feel like I pay more attention to my sights through the longer trigger press, which I realize is a personal problem. Claude has mentioned that this phenomena is not unique to me, however.
- Overall concealability for my current living situation and needs.
I chose three drills. One is pure speed, one is pure accuracy, and the last is an integration of speed and accuracy at varying distances and is used by the LAPD. Claude Werner chose and modified the LAPD course to rank some guns and I glommed on with him.
The drills are:
- The Bill Drill from a Low Ready at 3 yards. 6 shots from a low ready on an target I can’t miss allows me to find my split-time/speed limit with that gun. The low ready starting point means I don’t have to have support gear for the gun I am testing and can shoot at a range where drawing from a holster isn’t allowed.
- 25 yard, 10 shots slow-fire on a B-8 bullseye, unsupported. Calculating the score. Pure accuracy. Sights and Trigger.
- (TacProf modified) LAPD Combat Course (Page 11 of this PDF). This one includes various ranges, par times, emergency and speed reloads, shooting from cover, drawing the gun, shooting from a low ready, target transitions, and some headshots. It’s a challenging course of fire that is scored for points, so there is some scoring resolution at the higher skill levels.
- Glock 19 (My ‘control’ firearm that I’ve carried for 9 years). Striker fired, 15 round magazine. .120″ Ameriglo fiber optic sights, 3.5# connector and 6# Trigger spring.
- Sig Sauer P250 Compact with a medium-subcompact grip module. 12 round magazine. Double Action Only with a trigger like a smoothed out revolver. Ameriglo Orange front sight.
- H&K P30sk with V1 “Light LEM” trigger. This is my newest pistol. 10 round mag. Double action only. The LEM trigger has long light travel up until you get to a 6lb or so trigger break. It feels like a marriage of the weight of a Glock trigger with the trigger travel of the P250.
Ammo: Freedom Munitions 124gn reloads.
- Glock 19
Avg. Split Time: .25 seconds
25 yd B-8 Scores: 48/100, and 60/100
LAPD Combat Course:*
- Sig P250 Compact
Avg. Split Time: .29 seconds
25 yd B-8 Scores: 46/100, and 70(1x)/100
LAPD Combat Course:*
- HK P30sk
Avg. Split Time: .228 seconds
25 yd B-8 Scores: 76(2x)/100, and 76(0x)/100
LAPD Combat Course:*
*I haven’t had an opportunity to shoot the LAPD combat course yet, but will add to the post when I do.
I really don’t have a logical explanation for why I could shoot my new sub-kompact HK better than a pistol I exclusively shot and trained with for over 9 years. The only excuse I can think of is that I shot the Glock early in the session, and as I warmed up, my scores improved. Alternatively, I simply shoot this HK better than my G19.
If I go strictly by the numbers, the HK gets the nod. If I go by what features I have the warm and fuzzies about, the Sig or HK get the nod. I’m glad my perceived needs aligned with my test scores.
I’d admit that the results are close enough to probably not matter. It’s really a wash. I also realize I have a slow trigger finger. I’m also not a high volume shooter, with most of my practice coming in the form of dry-fire. Ultimately, my visual and mental processing speed and decision making ability will be the speed limit of my shooting, not the physical manipulation of the gun.
As a result of my findings, I’ll be strapping on the P30sk in the morning for the foreseeable future. The Sig will get a X300U and a Safariland ALS Holster for House Gun Duty. The Glock19 will cry in the safe.
I encourage you to do similar testing for yourself. You won’t know which of your guns you shoot best until you run the numbers. Don’t get married to specific gun based on ego, time invested, stubbornness, or blind trust in an instructor’s recommendation. Also, don’t change guns with the wind. Consistency and dedication to the grind is the key. Almost any gun will do, if you will.
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8 thoughts on “Picking Your Carry Gun Based On Shooting Metrics”
Well done Buddy!
Wow, impressed by the HK. I like your requirements and your ranking of them. Also think your rationale was pretty good as well. The objective measure of a drill with a timer is obviously the clincher.
I suspect that like most things in a person’s life, our gun choices change with time; age, experience, proficiency, infirmity, even state of residence and type of employment impact our decisions.
I have been impressed by the HK as well! I just got done shooting it at the RangeMaster conference and got 64/207 with a new, subcompact, gun with a non-familiar manual of arms. I’ll take it!
You’re absolutely right. What gun we choose is VERY personal. I really like your list there. All of those play a role in which pistol is most appropriate for us. Cheers!
I’m interested in reading follow ups to this. I’ve been kicking around the same questions in my head and I’m currently carrying and practicing with a Glock 19 again. One thing I’ve discovered is that one range trip doesn’t always give me results that I can count on. A second, third, or even fourth range trip is often needed to really see what the difference is between different pistols. By difference, I mean in my ability to shoot them.
I’ve been really tempted to test out a P30sk LEM. Can’t find one to rent anywhere so it could be an expensive experiment. I tested a P2000 v2 and didn’t shoot it very well. I’ve heard that the P30sk has a better trigger but I don’t know if there would be enough difference to really be able to tell. My biggest issue with the P2000 is the trigger breaks a long way back. It was really difficult for me to get used to.
Hope you’re able to post a follow up soon.
I don’t know if it’s a big enough difference. For some reason, my brain seems to like the LEM length. The v1 is a little lighter than the v2, but I don’t know that it would make a huge difference.
As far as multiple trips go… I totally agree. The ‘honeymoon’ period with a new gun is real. I intend to keep doing some comparisons going forward with the g19 and sig and just make sure it wasn’t a fluke.
The p30’s trigger also breaks near the frame. So I think you’ll find the same issue as with the p2k.
Thanks for commenting!
I evaluate my carry guns over 5 trips plus add a subjective “feel and manipulation” score. Ended up ruling out compacts on that and shooting scores….and I really wanted to like a compact…
That’s a good rule of thumb. I’m still in the initial feeling out process of the SK. I’m really digging it. It seems to shoot really flat for me, and I can do good work at 25yds with it.
Everyone will have their own conclusions, and as long as it’s based on real data, then I’m good with it!