Everyone seems to have an opinion about the “best” CCW, and we all know what opinions are like… CCW (concealed carry weapon) is a term used for a concealed weapon one carries on their person, usually on a daily basis. So what’s the best the best CCW? Like all answers to all generalized questions, it depends. Mostly on who’s asking the question. More specifically on a given individuals skillset, size, athletic ability, and area of operation. This being said, we set out in this write up to find the most versatile and effective CCW over the widest variety of scenarios and for the largest group of people.
Choosing a CCW:
As we mentioned earlier choosing a CCW is a very individual specific task. The first thing that must be taken into account is an honest assessment of combat skillset, mindset, and weapons proficiency. It starts with a mindset of willingness to protect yourself and your loved ones by any means necessary. If you do not have the proper mindset stop reading here, become a vegetarian, buy a Prius, and vote for gun control. If you’re still reading you’ll need to establish your strengths and weaknesses in a fight, and take into account any weapons you have extensive experience with. For example, a bladed weapons expert may choose simply to carry a knife or knives because they are comfortable and proficient with that weapons system.
A concealed weapon does not necessarily have to be a firearm, and in some areas a firearm cannot be legally concealed. Someone highly proficient in the use of edged weapons can be more effective in close quarters than an individual with a firearm. If you’re well versed in operation of a 1911 style pistol a sub-compact 1911 type pistol might be your best CCW strictly due to familiarity. If you are moderately skilled with weapons or less than moderately skilled we recommend carrying a revolver due to ease of use and operation. The point here is that when a situation arises that you have to draw a concealed weapon to defend yourself your bodies stress response will make normally easy tasks much more difficult. When the parasympathetic nervous system takes over you had better have a well ingrained body response that can only come from many hours of repetitive training with your chosen weapons platform.
Smaller weapons are obviously always easier to conceal, and any weapon is better than no weapon! If you buy a full size pistol for concealed carry only to turn around and not carry it on a hot day then its rendered completely useless. The size of the individual carrying the concealed weapon should also generally be a direct representation of the size of the weapon. This is to improve the operator’s ergonomics and weapons manipulation. If you have little man syndrome buy a big truck. Carrying a Glock 20 at 5’5” tall can get you killed or possibly even arrested. It can get you killed if the pistol you’re carrying is too large for an individual with smaller hands to properly manipulate in a life threatening scenario, and it can get you arrested or otherwise harassed by law enforcement for “printing”. Printing is when a concealed firearm is showing through the individuals clothing that’s carrying it because it’s too big or not being properly carried. A larger person can more easily conceal, and more easily manipulate a larger firearm. This is why we say the weapon needs to fit the operator. Your athletic ability and level of physical fitness also plays a role in choosing a CCW. I need to mention here that having a sharp and prepared mindset should spur an individual on toward maintaining at least a decent level of physical fitness and prevent one from being obese. Being obese makes it extremely difficult to effectively conceal and operate most weapons systems.
Your body type will affect where you can carry your weapon. IWB, OWB, shoulder holsters, pocket carry, around the neck, belt buckle holsters, ankle holsters, up the sleeve, and good ol’ Mexican carry are just a few ways to conceal a weapon. Flexibility is a facet of physical fitness that will manifest itself by your ability reach your CCW in its carry position. Athletic ability, mostly in the area of hand-eye coordination, will affect what type of weapons you can hope to master. Balisong knives, karambits, and semi-auto pistols are more difficult to become highly proficient with than kubaton’s, fixed blade knives, and revolvers.
Your area of operation will determine what types of weapons you can carry and how you can conceal them. Warm weather environments make it more difficult to conceal weapons thereby limiting the size of concealable weapons as well as the types of carry. As a rule of thumb smaller is better for concealed carry. It is also important to find a balance between conceal ability and ease of access. Many would be attackers can cover 21 feet in about 2 seconds, this means you need to find a way to completely conceal your weapon with the ability to effectively employ it in less than two seconds. A task that takes planning and practice, but also a conversation for another write up because we are specifically discussing weapons in this review rather than concealment, employment, and use.
Smith and Wesson revolvers are widely known for their reliability, durability, accuracy, and attention to detail. Their higher end pistols and custom shop work is the best money can buy. S&W J frame revolvers have been used as concealed carry firearms and backup guns for law enforcement officers for decades. They don’t double feed, stove pipe, fail to feed, fail to eject, experience out of battery detonations, and they almost never jam. When you pull the trigger they go bang (when properly used and maintained).
The M&P 340 no lock is no exception to its legendary line of succession. This modern adaptation of the J-frame revolver comes complete with all the bells and whistles: Night sights, laser grips, and a space age Scandium alloy frame. It weighs in at just 13.3oz unloaded making it incredibly concealable and the .357 magnum rounds can stop a charging bear. In fact I’ve carried this pistol on mountain trail runs through remote regions of the Rockies and Appalachians in the pocket of my running shorts for just that reason.
The only problem we’re aware of inherent to this series of pistols is with the lock. Although being able to render your revolver inoperable with a key is a great idea, we’ve heard that the locks can sometimes be activated incidentally by high recoil. Obviously that could be a serious problem if your firearm locks while firing it in a life threatening situation. For this reason we opted to go with the no lock model so we don’t have to worry about that. Like anything else in this world there are a few drawbacks to this setup.
Recoil is extremely potent when firing heavy .357 magnum loads, in fact I would venture to say it has more felt recoil than any pistol on the market. That can easily be remedied by firing .38 special round which is safe and recommended for the faint of heart. The trigger pull on this particular double action only model is a bit heavy but very smooth with a nice break and not bad at all for a double action. The reason we went with a DAO design is because an exposed hammer can be more than a nuisance for a CCW revolver. If it were to get snagged in the wrong situation it could cost the user his/her life.
The combo of night sights and Crimson Trace laser grip works well at night and in low light conditions even without a flashlight. We must stress the importance of target recognition in self-defense scenarios, but if you were without a flashlight at night this pistol can keep you in the fight. The revolver points very well and the front sight post is highlighted as it should be on a CCW pistol. It allows for quick target acquisition and fits directly into proper “gun fight = front sight” training. This pistol can be carried in pocket holsters, IWB, OWB, fanny packs, deep concealment undergarments, and shoulder holsters but our favorite method of concealing this pistol is with an Alessi ankle holster.
We’re calling this our best overall concealed carry weapon because of ultimate concealabity due to size and weight, relative ease of use, and excellent knock down power. We must note that there will be pros and cons to any CCW set-up. The down sides to this firearm are ammunition capacity and accuracy. It’s relatively easy to maintain “combat accuracy” with practice but it takes much more training to achieve a high level of accuracy with a “snub-nose” revolver than it does with a larger pistol. The pistol itself is incredibly accurate but the short barrel and snappy recoil can make manipulation difficult at first.
Training is crucial for any CCW setup or weapons platform and this is no exception to that rule. To maintain a decent level of readiness one must also develop plans for various scenarios and run through said scenarios first with dry fire practice, then at the range. Your plan for self-defense should be based off your normal daily activities. Have a readiness plan for your workplace, your vehicle, and your leisure activities. An often overlooked aspect of CCW readiness that is a good example of the importance of planning and training is one’s ability to access their CCW while in their vehicle with a seatbelt on. If you cannot easily access your CCW while in your vehicle wearing a seatbelt then you’ll need to adjust its location while riding or driving. The other downside to this revolver is that it only holds five rounds, but with planning and training five rounds of .357 magnum should more than enough to protect yourself and your loved ones. Speed loaders are an available option for quick reloads. We recommend keeping at least two in your vehicle and/or EDC (every day carry) bag.
Model M&P340 CT
*Suggested Retail, Dealer Sets Actual Pricing