Full-size guns for concealed carry?

What is the best full-size gun for concealed carry?

Written by Mark Buff , GunZee founder and CEO.

Full-sized pistols make excellent range and home defense firearms, offering low recoil, high capacity, and good stopping power. However, their larger size makes them less suitable for concealed carry than smaller concealed carry handguns

While full-size handguns are bulkier and more cumbersome, there are still some options that are acceptable for everyday concealed carry. 

We highlight some of the best full-size guns for concealed carry so you can find the right fit for your needs.

Quick links:

S&W M2.0

Glock 17

Sig Sauer P226

H&K VP9

CZ P-10F

Beretta APX

How to choose?

Issues with full-size guns

For the IWB carriers, get GunZee’s large holster pad and carry your full-size pistol with comfort and confidence.

Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0

Smith & Wesson M&P Shield M2.0

Smith & Wesson M&P Shield M2.0.

Image source: https://www.smith-wesson.com/product/m-p-9-shield-m2.0

Feature

Details

Magazine capacity

17+1

Barrel length

4.25”

Overall length

7.4”

Weight (unloaded)

27.8 oz

Sights

White dot front, adjustable 2-dot rear (tritium night sights optional)

MSRP 

$629.00


The Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0 utilizes a striker-fired operating system. It has an extended stainless steel frame that accommodates a wide range of hand sizes thanks to its ergonomic full-size grip.

This grip features aggressive texturing that provides enhanced control during rapid firing sequences. In addition, it has an 18-degree angle modeled after the trusted S&W M&P line for intuitive handling.

White dot front sights and adjustable rear sights enable quick sight alignment and target acquisition. Optional TruGlo TFO sights also add low-light visibility for excellent optics in all conditions.

A flat-faced trigger delivers crisp single-action breaks with a pronounced reset. This optimized trigger improves accuracy while an integrated safety blade provides reinforcement.

Pros:

  • Low bore axis improves shooting comfort
  • Intuitive 18-degree grip angle
  • Four palm swell grips allow custom hand fit
  • Aggressive texture enables superior control
  • Rigid stainless steel chassis
  • Armornite finish resists corrosion

Cons:

  • Heavier than polymer-only framed pistols
  • More expensive than other options

“The test gun was 100 percent reliable with all four loads I used. I ran some remanufactured full metal jacket ammo through the handgun for rapid-fire drills on steel targets but did not include it in the formal accuracy testing. It was not until I vacated the bench and began shooting at steel that I really began to appreciate this handgun. Recoil was extremely soft, and muzzle rise was controllable.”  Keith Wood, Guns & Ammo

Glock 17

Glock 17

Glock 17. Image source: https://us.glock.com/en/pistols/g17

Feature

Details

Magazine capacity

17+1

Barrel length

4.49”

Overall length

8.03”

Weight (unloaded)

22.05 oz

Sights

Fixed sights

MSRP

$499.00


The Glock 17 is optimized for personal defense, including front slide serrations for easy manipulation and a precisely machined slide. Additional user-friendly features include an ambidextrous slide release, reversible mag release, and a flared magwell to support a swift reload.

Its Safe Action trigger system enables safe yet rapid, precise shots while firing under stress. The accessory rail accepts modern tactical lights and lasers. The standard white-dot sights acquire quickly in low light while remaining drift adjustable.

The Glock 17 offers easy operation and maintenance, making it a great choice for new shooters. Its reliability and effectiveness have earned the Glock 17 global recognition and popularity with law enforcement and military personnel.

Pros

  • Extremely durable and reliable pistol
  • Easy to disassemble and maintain
  • High magazine capacity
  • Light recoil and accurate shooting
  • Tested and trusted reputation
  • Affordable price

Cons

  • Large grip makes it sub-optimal for small hands
  • No manual safety

“The Glock 17 has been proven around the world for its top-notch reliability and dependability. In my hands, I’ve never had this pistol so much as fail to fire. The simple design lends itself well to reliability, and in my experience, the gun has no issues dealing with sand, water, mud, etc. It just runs and runs well.” —Travis Pike, GunBacker

Sig Sauer P226

Feature

Details

Magazine capacity

10+1 

Barrel length

4.4”

Overall length

7.7”

Weight (unloaded)

34 oz

Sights

SigLite

MSRP

$700.00


The Sig Sauer P226 showcases the excellent craftsmanship and ergonomics expected from the renowned Sig series. The full-size frame features front strap checkering and custom grip panels allowing shooters to tailor fit to their hand size. These enhance comfort and control during rapid firing sequences.

The Nitron stainless steel slide comes equipped with front and rear cocking serrations. It rides on a precision-machined aluminum alloy frame with a hard coat anodized finish that accelerates corrosion resistance.

The P226 utilizes a double-action/single-action trigger system with a smooth, light single-action pull that is ideal for defensive pistol shooting. An integral Picatinny rail allows mounting weapon lights and lasers. Contrast sights acquire quickly and remain drift adjustable for windage.

Field stripping the P226 reveals the refined interior quality Sig is known for. Improved internal safeties prevent accidental discharge if dropped. The slide-mounted decocker allows operators to safely decock a chambered round.

Pros:

  • Ergonomic grip and checkering allow a custom fit for most hand sizes
  • Smooth, crisp single-action trigger
  • Excellent reliability and accuracy
  • Picatinny accessory rail
  • Corrosion-resistant finish
  • Refined interior quality and craftsmanship
  • Multiple safety mechanisms

Cons:

  • Higher cost than polymer-framed pistols
  • All metal construction is heavier
  • Smaller magazine capacity than some high-capacity models

This YouTube commenter owes his life to the P226.

UGC

Heckler & Koch VP9

Feature

Details

Magazine capacity

15+1

Barrel length

4.5”

Overall length

7.34”

Weight (unloaded)

26.6 oz

Sights

Iron sights, Tritium sights

MSRP

$450.00


German engineering shines through in H&K's striker-fired, polymer-framed VP9 pistol. Ambidextrous controls exhibit the VP9’s attention to ergonomic detail, including dual slide releases and magazine releases appealing to both right and left-handed shooters.

Further optimizing fit, swappable backstraps and lateral plates allow for customization of the molded polymer grip frame to practically any hand size. Aggressively textured gripping surfaces enable waterlogged hands to retain positive purchase. They also facilitate rapid follow-up shots with minimal torque or muzzle flip.

A refined trigger breaks cleanly at a 5.4lb with a short, tactile reset that promotes accuracy for all shooters. Thin profile steel sights acquire rapidly and remain drift adjustable for windage, while the machined steel slide features charging supports front and rear.

Pros:

  • Fully ambidextrous controls (slide release, mag release)
  • Interchangeable backstraps and side panels for optimized grip fit
  • Aggressive grip texturing enables positive retention
  • Excellent trigger with short, crisp reset
  • Accurate sight design acquires targets rapidly
  • Machined steel slide with charging support
  • Lower bore axis helps mitigate recoil

Cons:

  • Lack of accessory mounting options/rail
  • Limited aftermarket support

CZ P-10 F

Feature

Details

Magazine capacity

19+1

Barrel length

4.5”

Overall length

8”

Weight (unloaded)

28.2 oz

Sights

Fixed 3-dot sights

MSRP

$399.00


The CZ P-10 F brings CZ's proven reputation for accurate, rugged firearms to the striker-fired pistol market. Excellent ergonomics stand out on the full-size polymer frame, including mild palm swells and deep horizontal serrations allowing shooters to aggressively torque the pistol under recoil.

An extended beavertail and undercut trigger guard promote high hand positioning for enhanced recoil mitigation. Stippling on the replaceable back straps enables a solid grip lock even with sweaty hands. Finger grooves on the front strap suit varied hand sizes.

The flat-face trigger shoe supplies ample room for engagement with a straight press and feeds into a rolling break at 4-4.5 lbs with a distinct tactile and audible reset. All controls function crisply aided by nitride finishing. Sights align quickly on target and won't shift once tuned.

Pros:

  • Ergonomic grip texture and contours
  • High hand positioning aids recoil control
  • Crisp 4.5lb flat face trigger
  • Nitride finishing for durability
  • Accurate sight design
  • Full-length dust cover protects action
  • Aggressive slide serrations

Cons:

  • Longer break-in period
  • Limited aftermarket support
  • Fewer sight options

“Great gun, worth every penny,” says this YouTube commenter about his P-10 F.

UGC

Beretta APX

Feature

Details

Magazine capacity

10+1

Barrel length

4.25”

Overall length

7.6”

Weight (unloaded)

28.9 oz

Sights

Standard

MSRP

$499.00


Beretta breaks the mold from their venerable 92 and Px4 series with the striker-fired APX. The aggressive frame texture strikes an effective balance between anti-slip grip and comfort during prolonged sessions. Modular backstraps tailor the grip, further enhanced by a built-in beaver tail that prevents slide bite.

The APX trigger delivers a clean break averaging 6 lbs, while a tactile and audible reset promotes precision shot timing.

Beretta simplifies dismantling with a broken-down chassis requiring no trigger pulls. A nitride finish coats key components to fend off corrosion, while the ceramic-blasted slide rejects glare and oils for reliable all-condition manipulation.

While bulkier than other concealed carry guns, the APX still carries well thanks to melting edges and rounded profiles. It manages recoil effectively courtesy of the closed slide and low bore axis. The enlarged heavy-duty extractor can take on thousands of rounds of varied loads with no issues.

Pros:

  • Aggressive texture enables solid grip
  • Modular backstraps customize fit
  • Crisp trigger with tactile reset
  • Bilateral magazine releases
  • Simplified disassembly procedure
  • Nitride coating resists corrosion
  • Glare-reducing slide finish

Cons:

With our IWB foam holster padding, you can avoid gouging, rubbing, and itching and enjoy another level of concealed carry comfort.

How do I choose the right full-size for concealed carry?

When selecting a full-size pistol for CCW, balance shootability and defensive effectiveness with carry comfort and concealment capability using these guidelines:

  • Ergonomics. Consider backstrap configurations, grip textures like stippling, and control positioning that enables consistent draw grip and weapon retention. Natively ambidextrous operation is also a plus.
  • Concealment. Carry profile matters for concealability, so examine slide and frame milling options and look for rounded edges that prevent snagging.
  • Trigger quality. Look for 4-5 lb clean breaks with short resets for reliable precision.
  • Optics compatibility. Find options with slides cut for popular optic footprints that allow for backup iron sight use and improve concealability.
  • Reliability reputation. Opt for options based on round count testing data rather than trends or marketing claims.
  • Holster options. Think about how you will be carrying and consider what holster options you have before you make your final choice.

Why are full-sized guns good for concealed carry?

When properly set up, full-sized handguns bring underrated concealed carry abilities. Though smaller compact pistols are more discreet, full-size platforms offer superior ergonomics, sight radius, and ammunition capacity.

Some of the advantages full-sized pistols have compared to their smaller counterparts include:

  1. Accuracy. Full-size guns typically have longer barrels that allow the bullet more time to stabilize in flight, leading to a more accurate shot.
  2. Recoil management. Larger guns often have better recoil management due to their increased weight and size. 
  3. Ammunition capacity. Full-size guns often have larger magazines and hold more ammo before needing to be reloaded.
  4. Durability. Larger guns are often more robust and durable, can withstand more wear and tear, and are often designed for heavy-duty use.
  5. Range. Due to a combination of factors, including the longer barrel length and the ability to use larger, more powerful ammunition, full-size guns have a longer effective range.
  6. Frame size. Full-size pistol frames can accommodate a wide variety of calibers and slides while sharing magazines and providing a consistent grip feel.
  7. Accessory compatibility. Full-size guns can often accommodate a wider range of accessories and modifications, such as scopes, suppressors, and extended magazines. 

These advantages come with trade-offs. Full-size guns are typically heavier and less convenient to carry, which can be a disadvantage for concealed carry or personal protection. They may also be more difficult to handle for individuals with smaller hands or less strength. 

Full-size CCW FAQ

Are full-size guns good for concealed carry?

Full-size guns can work well for concealed carry with the right holster and clothing to cover them. Their longer barrels improve accuracy and sight radius, while more ammo capacity means less reloading. However, their larger size does sacrifice concealability, so you must choose appropriate clothing and test different carry positions.

Is 9mm enough for concealed carry?

9mm is enough for concealed carry purposes. Modern defensive 9mm loads utilizing quality hollow point projectiles generate adequate penetration and expansion to neutralize threats. The advantage of 9mm is increased magazine capacity and reduced recoil to allow for faster follow-up shots.

What concealed carry gun has the least recoil?

Polymer-framed .380 ACP micro-compact pistols such as the Sig Sauer P238, Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 380, and Glock 42 provide the least recoil of common concealed carry options. Their small size and limited power keep recoil extremely manageable.

What caliber is the best for CCW?

9mm Luger stands out as the best overall caliber for concealed carry purposes. It provides a good balance of shot capacity, shooting comfort, weapon size, and lethality potential. With defensive hollow points, 9mm penetrates and expands reliably without excessive recoil or muzzle blast.

Is Glock 19 too big for CCW?

While larger handguns like the Glock 19 are not perfect for CCW, their compact frame can still be concealed with an appropriate holster and cover garment. The G19 grips well, carries 15+1 rounds of 9mm, and measures 1.5” wide to fit well in most people’s hands. The lightweight polymer frame makes it easy to carry and allows for a quick draw as well as easy handling.

What are full-size guns good for?

Full-size pistols excel as home defense handguns or duty sidearms. Their longer sight radius aids shooting accuracy while standard or extended capacity magazines provide ample ammunition, especially during prolonged threat encounters. The larger grip helps mitigate felt recoil while increased stopping power provides more takedown potential.

Are guns with shorter barrels more accurate?

Guns with shorter barrels are not more accurate. Longer pistol barrels tend to boost bullet stability and sight radius—both accuracy advantages. Shorter barrels deprive the propellant gasses of more time to impart velocity consistency and fully stabilize projectiles as they exit. Compact pistols accentuate felt recoil forces as well, which can affect accuracy.

What is stronger: .45 or 9mm?

In terms of stopping power, .45 ACP ammunition is generally stronger than 9mm. When it comes to lethality, shot placement remains the key factor in determining the effectiveness of a cartridge, regardless of caliber.

What kind of CCW holster is the best?

For concealed carry, inside-the-waistband holsters are best for everyday concealed carry. They protect the trigger guard, retain the pistol securely during vigorous movement, enable concealment under lighter garments, and allow rapid presentation of the firearm when needed.

Is it better to have extra barrel length or sacrifice some for better concealment?

Concealment is usually most important for defensive carry, favoring shorter barrels of 3-4”. While extra barrel length improves velocity consistency and sight radius to a small degree, maximizing concealability should be the priority.

Which type of pistol conceals better: subcompact, compact, or full size?

Subcompact pistols, typically defined by short grips below 4”, are known to conceal best. Their low-profile magazines, abbreviated frames, and short slides minimize printing. Compacts and full sizes require careful holster selection and cover garments to avoid printing and stay concealed.

What makes for an excellent grip on a concealed carry pistol?

An excellent concealed carry pistol grip promotes weapon retention and maximizes control during firing. This is achieved with features like optimized palm swells and finger grooves, personalized fitting through modular attachments, and aggressive grip texturing like stippling to prevent slippage.

Why does aggressive grip texture matter on a concealed carry pistol?

Aggressive grip textures, consisting of patterns of nubs or laser stippling, allow the shooter’s hand to create lots of friction holding onto the pistol. This creates confidence and ensures that your grip won’t fail or shift as you fire follow-up shots.

Should I choose striker-fired for a concealed carry pistol?

Yes, most experts suggest striker-fired trigger systems for defensive and concealed carry pistols. They provide consistent trigger pulls which helps shooters stay accurate during stressful encounters. Striker actions also simplify operations with no decocking protocol to remember and function more reliably with limited maintenance.

Does body type determine the best concealed carry pistol?

Body type plays a role in determining the best concealed carry pistol. Larger individuals with a bigger frame can typically hide full-size handguns well, with the right holster and garments. However, those with smaller frames will usually be better off going with a subcompact pistol for their CCW needs.

About the Author

Mark Buff is the founder and CEO of GunZee. He is an ardent firearms enthusiast and has been carrying concealed for more than 15 years. He created GunZee to solve his own problem: that of uncomfortable KYDEX holsters. His patented GunZee memory foam holster pad makes inside-the-waistband carry super comfortable.

Further reading

What are the best double-action revolvers for concealed carry?

What is the best Smith & Wesson for women?

What is the best subcompact handgun?

What is the best IWB holster for women?

What is the best AIWB holster?

What is the best CCW pistol for big guys?

What is the best IWB KYDEX holster?

What is the best compact handgun for IWB carry?

What is the best undershirt for IWB carry?