Compact handguns are quite literally made for concealed carry. Not only can a small, lightweight pistol like a Glock 43 or Smith & Wesson M&P Shield M2.0 be toted in most any carry position, but they also hide well in purses, fanny packs, and other carry-type bags. Lesser-sized handguns also boost maneuverability and press out quickly.
But like anything, these advantages come with tradeoffs you need to account for when making the decision to go compact.
The Accuracy Aspect
One of the first things most shooters will notice when making the switch from a full-size pistol to a compact one is they’re harder to shoot accurately. A long-barrel pistol provides a longer sight radius, fills the hand better and has more weight. They also produce less felt recoil and muzzle rise than compact counterparts, allowing the shooter to get back on target faster and better focus on the task at hand. Most serious handgun shooters will tell you they shoot a longer-barrel pistol more consistently than a short one, especially at distances beyond 15 feet.
But data shows this isn’t likely as much of a real-world problem as it might sound. While the FBI doesn't track self-defense encounters, it does keep records of officers who lost their lives in the line of duty. From 2015 to 2019, 44 percent of all officer-involved shootings happened between 0 and 5 feet. So, when a gunfight ensues, especially in a self-defense situation, it’s typically going to be at very close range. Other data suggests more than 70 percent of self-defense handgun use is at distances of less than three feet.
In other words, accuracy needs to be viewed in a practical context. Using a compact self-defense pistol that produces effective accuracy within the range you’ll most likely need to shoot—and is small enough that you’ll actually carry it—is arguably a better option than a full-size pistol that will sit in a gun safe at home because it’s too bulky to carry.
Building the skills needed to produce consistent accuracy from any firearm simply boils down to practice. Invest time at the range and in dry-fire practice to hone your skills with your compact handgun, and accuracy won’t be an issue.
Short Barrels & Terminal Performance
Velocity is the driving force behind any round’s terminal performance. To neutralize a threat as quickly as possible, a bullet must penetrate to a critical depth and expand enough to cause trauma. Virtually all quality self-defense ammunition is designed to do this, however, much of it was only engineered to do so at the higher velocities generated by a full-size pistol’s longer barrel. Run that same ammo through a short barrel, and velocities drop significantly, leaving penetration and expansion in question.
Thankfully, savvy ammo manufacturers recognize this and build loads specially designed to function properly in compact platforms. Speer offers two of them Gold Dot Carry Gun and the longtime favorite, Gold Dot Short Barrel.
Gold Dot Carry Gun was specifically developed for law enforcement officers who carry a compact pistol. Its G2 bullet showcases a unique nose design that sports a shallow dish filled with a high-performance elastomer instead of a typical large hollow-point cavity. Larger hollow point cavities require more speed for the bullet to separate, and that's not the case with this design. When the bullet hits its target, the elastomer is forced into internal fissures that rapidly start the expansion process. Even when fired from short-barreled handguns, Gold Dot Carry Gun ammo promises uniform expansion and increased separation of petals.
Another great option is classic Gold Dot Short Barrel. Based on the original Gold Dot bullet design, this option has been tuned to provide effective penetration and expansion when fired through barrels as short as 1.9 inches. Plus. it produces less felt recoil, making your snappy compact pistol easier to shoot accurately.
Whatever compact handgun you choose to carry, if you feed it the right ammunition, understand its strengths and weaknesses, and train appropriately, it will be there for you when it matters most.