Jul 13, 2010

Weighty matters

One of the prime issues with concealed carry is striking the fine balance between "bring enough gun" and "so much gun I don't bring it". In other words, enough power to be a realistic defensive firearm, but light enough that you will carry it always.

"Carry your gun - it's a lighter burden than regret."

Without descending into caliber wars, I choose not to carry anything smaller than a .38 at this point. For a while it was a .380, but the Bersa got to be uncomfortable (godawful pointy beavertail on that thing) and has been sent on down the road, to be replaced by a S&W 642 in .38Spl.

Last night in conversation with Weer'dBeard I mentioned carrying the new 4053. He grumbled about it being an overly heavy brick. This from a guy who carries a Commander-size 1911 - admittedly in Scandium, but still a serious gun. (There, ya happy, weer'd?)

I got to thinking about just what we choose to carry around on a daily basis, so tossed all my possible carry guns on a scale with a full load of ammo. The results were interesting!

My default carry piece, a S&W 642 .38Spl, with five rounds of Federal Hydrashock 129gr +P: 1lb 0.9oz

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The new carry piece (when a holster arrives), a S&W 242 .38Spl, with seven rounds of WWB 125gr +P: 1lb 6.2oz

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My first carry (not often!), a steel-frame Government 1911 .45ACP, with 7+1 of WWB 230gr JHP: 2lb 13.6oz

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What's on my belt right now, a S&W 4053 .40S&W, with 8+1 of WWB 180gr JHP: 2lb 2.5oz

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And while I could carry this one, it's unlikely I often will. A S&W 5946 9mm, with 15+1 of WWB 115gr JHP: 2lb 12.1oz

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Now, anything you choose to carry, you should be carrying a reload for it. Not because you expect to need those shots, but (A) you might, and (B) malfunctions happen. Magazines fail at the worst possible moment (and in the middle of an IDPA stage is NOT the worst possible moment). Slap-rack-bang doesn't work, you better be ready to drop mag and slam home a fresh one.

So what's got the lightest reload?

Well, it should be obvious: six rounds of .38Spl on a speed strip. 2.9oz.
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For a bit more than double the weight, you can carry eight more rounds of .40, at 7.5oz, or seven rounds of .45 for 7.6oz.
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And at the top end, tipping the scale to 8.9oz, is 15 rounds of 9mm:
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So how much are you really going to be carrying around? Lighter than regret, but some of these are heavy burdens:

642 with a reload (+1): 1lb 3.8oz
242 with a reload (-1): 1lb 9.1oz
4053 with a reload: 2lb 10.0oz
5946 with a reload: 3lb 5.0oz
1911 with a reload: 3lb 5.2oz

Doesn't sound like a lot, does it? Think about it hanging off your hip for 10-14 hours a day. There's a reason a lot of police officers have long-term back problems, and it's not just spending too much time in a patrol car.

So how much gun is enough gun? That's for you to decide on your own. You'll learn to dress around the gun you carry, though. Here are the four calibers in question:
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9mm, .38Spl, .40S&W, .45ACP

Each of those is a perfectly acceptable choice as a defensive round. I would trust my life to any of them. Above all, shot placement matters though - so hie thee to a range and throw some lead!

Off topic, for you haters:

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Yes. That is what you think it is. An Aimpoint on a HiPoint.

Edit: In his link love, Jay mentions including holster weight in the overall weight. He makes a good point. There are two reasons I didn't.

First and foremost: I've only got proper holsters for the 1911 and the 642. Leather is on the way for the other three, but t'ain't heah yet. It pains me to admit it, but the 4053 is riding in a cheap-ass Uncle Mike's IWB sleeve* right now.

Second: carry method is an intensely personal choice, and what kind of holster you wear will determine weight. E.g., a simple leather "yaqui slide" arrangement, for nearly any gun, will only weigh an ounce or two. A leather retention high-ride OWB holster for a 1911 could weigh north of a half-pound. Kydex or other plastic holsters are yet another variation.

Magazine pouches tend to be on the light side, but truth be told, I just drop a spare magazine or a speed strip in a front pocket. Your gun might be well-concealed, but nothing screams "I'm carrying!" like a magazine or two sticking up from your belt.

* - people rip on the generic Uncle Mike's stuff as worthless. I disagree. It's *inexpensive*, but their $10 IWB sleeves work just fine. I won't call them classy, but they are functional. Not everyone can afford a purty leather rig... which I think may be the topic of tonight's blog post.


Jay G said...

Awesome post Z. Link incoming...

Mike W. said...

Wait, you're not going to weigh the Hi-Point and show us the tactical trenchcoat you use for carry?....

Great post!

I sometimes carry a Sig P220ST + weakside reload, but it's just so much easier to throw my airweight in a pocket.

Roadkill said...

Great post, Zer! I've often thought a lot about weights on carry guns. Ammo really adds an insane amount of weight. I think really weight is more an issue than size.