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  • Rowan

Stop buying small guns!

Updated: Nov 13, 2023

Subcompact guns seem to be getting more and more popular. I see more and more Sig 365s and Glock 43s out at the range. While the new generation of subcompact guns has come a long way they have a very specific purpose that seems to be lost on a lot of people. Subcompact guns are designed to conceal as well as possible. They are small, light, and compact so you can more easily hide them under clothing. To achieve that goal they all share similar features: Slim grips, reduced magazine capacity (although new subcompact squeeze in an amazing number of rounds) reduced sight radius, shorter barrels and more compact controls.

The reality is a small pistol has one real advantage over a larger gun, its size. Everything else is a drawback.

A small gun:

Recoils more - Small and light guns recoil harder and have a snappier recoil impulse.

Is harder to aim - If you are using iron sites the short sight radius makes aiming more difficult and imprecise. In addition, most red dots for subcompact guns are very small with narrow windows. You aren't throwing an SRO on a Sig P365.

Holds fewer rounds - The Sig365 holds an impressive 12+1 rounds but a Glock19 holds 15+1 and a full-size Glock17 holds 17+1. If this is a home defense gun and doesn't need to be concealed why limit yourself on ammo capacity?

Is less fun to shoot - With the increased recoil, the shorter sight radius, and having to repeatedly reload magazines a range day with a subcompact is just not as fun as a larger, more capable pistol.

But what if it fits my hand better?

Too many people buy a handgun because they held it at the gun store and it felt good in their hands. There is a lot more to choosing a pistol than simply how it feels.

Buying a gun is a lot like buying a car. There are different cars for different uses. You wouldn't buy a Toyota Corolla for a race track and you wouldn't buy a car based solely on how comfortable the seats were right?

Seeing someone with a subcompact pistol who doesn't even conceal carry is a lot like seeing someone on a farm with a Mini might be small and easy to park but it doesn't exactly haul a trailer or carry a load of feed.

The reality is that picking a defensive handgun is more like buying a sports car than a daily commuter (except it's a reliable racecar...which doesn't really exist, but you get the point). You want a gun that will perform when you need it to. When you need it to is likely to be a high-stress environment where you want the best performance possible. Nobody in a gunfight has ever wished they had a smaller gun with fewer rounds.

Unless you have extremely small hands there is a good chance you can effectively shoot a compact pistol or maybe even a full-size pistol. It might feel a little less comfortable in the hand but the real test is whether or not you can actually shoot it well. I have shot $7000 race guns and was surprised to find they felt...terrible. The grips are large and extremely aggressively textured and they often have counterweights that make the whole gun feel a bit like a brick. Was it as comfortable to shoot as a Glock 17? No, absolutely not but there was no denying it made shooting targets a lot easier.

With all that being said guess what I carry most of the time...a Sig P365. I carry one because I am confident enough in my abilities to overcome the natural drawbacks of the smaller gun and because I wanted something small and light enough that I never had an excuse not to carry it. I also bought it because I have several other larger guns that I much prefer to shoot and serve much better at roles like home defense or competition. Every time I shoot my P365 I am reminded that it is not nearly as enjoyable or easy to shoot as my other guns and consequently I find myself rarely shooting it...even though it is the most likely gun I would use in a defensive situation. Obviously, that is not a good combo and it is a constant reminder for me that I've got to get out and practice with it.

I have a feeling that many people end up starting with small guns like the P365 and find they don't really enjoy shooting them that much. As a result, they don't get much practice and don't have fun at the range when they do. I see guys from the range to the gun counter recommending subcompacts to women all the time, women who could very likely shoot a larger gun but they get convinced that a little tiny gun will somehow be less intimidating or easier to shoot. That little subcompact is shooting the exact same bullet as a great big steel frame 2011, so all that difference in mass ends up in your hands as increased recoil.

When it is time to pick a gun at the gun store think about what you want that gun to do for you and pick accordingly!

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