Picking Your Carry Gun Based On Shooting Metrics

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:

  1. Not shooting myself
  2. Not shooting what I don’t want to shoot
  3. 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.

A post shared by ENDO (@everydaynodaysoff) on

 (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.

The Drills

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.

The Guns

  • 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.
L to R: P30sk 10 round, Sig P250 12 round, Glock 19 15 round. I don’t know how HK can’t fit 2 more rounds in their mag, but who am I to ask questions?

The Results

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.

The Conclusion

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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What Does Average Joe Need In A Trigger?

Have you ever had a Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon moment? It’s a type of cognitive bias where you could swear that the frequency of mentioning a topic has seemingly increased to impossible numbers for no apparent reason. I feel like I’m experiencing one with Double Action/Single Action (or DA/SA) and Double Action Only (DAO) pistols as of late.  It seems like all the people I respect and listen to are talking about the merits of DA/SA guns for a host of reasons. It has caused me to give DA/SA more than a passing consideration.

Beretta M9

Striker fired guns are easier to shoot well

I began carrying a gun every day nearly 10 years ago (time flies). The Glock 19/26/42 primarily, but also the S&W shield, and even an X D45 for a short time. I carry in the appendix position (1 o’clock) exclusively. I also carry a few double action only guns when I have to be very discreet, but I bought them for their size, with no real consideration for their mode of operation. I bought and carried the striker guns because of their reliability, capacity, and consistent trigger pull. It’s what my first instructor told me to buy and I have been pleased with my purchase. When you’re just learning to shoot, having one repeatable trigger press makes things easy, and a novice shooter can get up to speed quickly with a relatively short, light, and consistent trigger. Until relatively recently, I didn’t understand why someone would want a DA/SA pistol like a Beretta 92 or Sig P series pistol for concealed carry or a home defense gun.  Striker fired guns are easy to shoot, after all. I was ignorant of the benefits and I now realize the appeal, let me try to hash it out…

G19 w/ TTI +4 basepads
My Current Carry

It’s Not Just About Shooting

Based on training I had done with Claude Werner, The Tactical Professor, and with Craig Douglas of Shivworks in his A.M.I.S. coursework, it becomes clear that not everyone needs shooting. As Craig says, there are shoots, no-shoots, and don’t-shoot-yets. The seed was planted that learning to think and talk with a gun in your hand under stress was a skill worth developing. So is learning to hold someone at gunpoint safely. Up until these things became clear to me, I thought the most important thing was being fast. Competing in IDPA and working with a timer, while critical for improving pure shooting,  neglects the soft skills of people management. The ‘hardware’ (AKA stuff you can buy) component of this wasn’t clear at the time, but started to come together for me recently. I have been lurking at Pistol-Forum.com and found a nugget of wisdom worth sharing from respected member GJM:

For a game gun, my priorities are how easy it is to shoot other stuff. For a defensive gun, my priorities are not shooting myself, not shooting something I don’t intend to, and then how easy is it to shoot something you do intend to shoot.
. . .
I think short, light striker triggers are overrated on a carry gun, regardless of how they perform on pure shooting tests. I do love pistols with short, light triggers to game…

There is a lot of discussion of the ‘street trigger’ over at Pistol Forum. This thread is worth your time.

Let’s consider GJM’s three points for a defensive gun in his order of importance, since I totally agree with him.

Not Shooting Ourselves:

Just recently, a young man accidentally shot himself in his thigh and bled out after taking a selfie with his gun. Whether it was an XD45 (a striker fired gun) or 1911 with safety disengaged, it’s unimportant. It highlights a likely lack of training, possibly poor equipment,  and/or a gross lapse in concentration and judgement. Would a DA/SA gun with a long trigger pull and exposed hammer for thumbing while holstering have saved him in lieu of proper training and gun handling? We won’t know. But it’s worth consideration with the amount of folks with either no or only state mandated safety courses under their belt. It’s also worth considering that everyone can make mistakes and no one is infallible.

The exposed hammer is something I hadn’t considered as important. As I said, I’ve always been a Glock guy and I’m always careful when I holster and always look the gun into the holster. But I remember a few years ago I read about Todd Green of Pistol-Training.com developing The Gadget, which replaces the standard Glock Slide Cover Plate and rides the striker so that you can feel the striker moving as the trigger is pulled. Todd sent me an advanced copy to play around with while I wait for the one I paid for to ship. I’ve had it on my G19 for a few weeks now and I have to tell you, it’s something I didn’t know I would want until I had it. I like the idea of knowing if the trigger is moving when I’m putting the gun away. This has me considering DA/SA and DAO guns with exposed hammers.

The Gadget on my G19.

Not Shooting What We Don’t Intend To:

This section will be short because all I have to go on is anecdotal evidence about long trigger pulls allowing more time for thinking during an adrenalized encounter. I’ve never shot anyone, nor have I had to hold anyone at gunpoint. But guess who has? The Police! They regularly point their guns at people and usually don’t have to shoot them. Several instances I’ve read about have credited a long double action trigger pull with not having to take a life because there was enough time for either recognition that there was no weapon present, or the situation was changing during the trigger press and there was time to let off before the bang. Just because I’m justified in taking a life, doesn’t mean I want to if I can help it.

So how does this apply to regular Joe Homeowner? Very often, when we pull a pistol on someone who needs a pistol pointed at them and show clear intent to use it, we don’t have to shoot. This is threat management. When we hear a bump in the night, 999 times out of 1000 it will be someone we don’t want to shoot in the house.

So imagine waking up from a dead sleep from the house alarm blaring, feeling the adrenaline coursing through your veins, grabbing your pistol, and going hunting where you heard the noise… you see a figure in your garage, you level your gun, and in the time it takes you to begin to press through the double action shot… you realize it’s your daughter sneaking in at night. You yell at her and ground her and nearly have a stroke thinking you might have shot your daughter. That’s exactly what didn’t happen here. The deputy made several mistakes, two glaring ones are not having a light and not issuing a verbal challenge to the ‘figure’ in the garage. So would a long DA trigger pull helped here in lieu of white light and verbalization? Who knows. But it certainly has me considering  DA/SA and DAO guns very seriously for the long first trigger pull.

Shooting something we intend to shoot:

This is the category that I only have experience with double action only J-frames and tiny .380’s. I extensively dry fired my J frame for a year and it made me a better shooter on all of my guns. I’m not a great revolver shooter, but I can tell you that with dedicated practice, it’s not only an arm’s reach gun. The same is obviously true with DA/SA guns. People have difficulty with the changing weight and length of the trigger between the first and subsequent shots, but this is a practice and training issue.

Watch Ernest Langdon of Langdon Tactical run the F.A.S.T. with a Beretta PX4 compact

Sure they are ‘harder’ to shoot well. I likely won’t be as fast as I am with my Glocks. But I like a challenge. I like new stuff. I like change. A few tenths of a second might be worth the safety margin in every other facet of handling. Watching people like Mr. Langdon shoot a DA/SA like that makes me want to try a DA/SA gun and see how I do against the clock.

So is it worth the switch?

I don’t know if it is. I’m intrigued by the prospect. I definitely think it’s at least worth considering. There’s lots of options. Here’s a thread from P-F to give you some ideas.  Sorry I’m late to the party DA/SA and DAO guys and gals. Mock me if you must.

Protect the Brood and don’t accidentally shoot yourself or your daughter,

Defensive Daddy