What Size Pistol Platform?

By Jace Bauserman

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shooter in an indoor range aiming handgun

When it comes to handguns, there are lots of options, and choosing the right one can be complicated. There are full-size builds like the legendary 1911 platform, compact makes like FN's 509 Compact, and even sub-compact builds like Glock's G423X. Let's break down the purpose of each platform and touch on the pros and cons to get you pointed in the right direction.

Full-Size Platforms

Big guns have a lot going for them. Their fleshed-out frames and added weight help with grip and balance, meaning it’s easier to be proficient, and those who practice regularly can get scary-accurate. This makes full-size guns the obvious choice for a dedicated home defense pistol, since concealment isn’t on the radar.

It's also important to note that John Browning's first 1911 creation fired more than 6,000 rounds over two days without fail. The 1911 is as reliable as the day is long. In addition to making a significant self-defense handgun, it's also offered in many calibers and used by hunters who roam grizzly country and those looking to put some meat in the freezer. 

Loaded with ammunition like Gold Dot G2, which was originally designed for full-size duty handguns, a 1911 will deliver the power, terminal performance and consistency all defenders need.

Speer Gold Dot G2 box with cartiridges and a pistol magazine

Also, tar and feather me if you must, but when it comes to concealed carry, I personally love a full-size. Many will note that full-size guns like the 1911 don’t hide well under clothing or in purses, but I couldn't disagree more. Although large overall, a 1911’s build is skinny and ergonomic, which makes concealment easy, and when it's time to draw and press out, few are as smooth. Because the frame is slim, it holds tight to the body, making it my ideal choice for appendix carry.

Compact Platform

I have several compact handguns, and my wife, after testing several full-size, compact, and sub-compact handguns, decided on Stoeger's STR-9C Compact. The small frame fit her hand well and, chambered in 9mm Luger, its recoil wasn't too much for her to handle. Since she has larger hands, the grip’s double-stack magazine design wasn't too much, and the gun rides in her conceal-carry purse like a dream. She can access it quickly, and most importantly, she has supreme confidence in this model because she spent time trying a lot of handguns. It doesn't beat her up, which means she enjoys going to the range. In addition to her purse, she can carry it comfortably with any holster and belt. 

shooter in an indoor range aiming handgun

The biggest issue with a compact handgun is often accuracy. Most compact guns don't weigh much, making them harder to control and shoot consistently. But this is something that can be countered by investing time in choosing the best model for you, as well as spending thoughtful time at the range and in dry-fire practice.

Nowadays, feeding your compact handgun appropriately is easy thanks to loads like Gold Dot Carry Gun. Its bullet is built off the same overall design as Gold Dot G2 but is fine-tuned to provide the best feeding, ballistics and terminal performance through compact concealed handguns.

Sub-Compact Platform

The micro-members of the handgun family, sub-compact handguns are great for pocket carry, inside the waistband, and the small of the back.

The cost of this concealability is handling. Most of these guns are incredibly light—most under 2 pounds—making control and accuracy an issue. The barrels are short, and shooters, especially those with larger hands, often can't get a good grip. They are a solid choice for small shooters and small hands, as long as that shooter doesn't choose a caliber that will cause muzzle jump they can’t handle. 

Gold Dot 30 Super Carry packaging and cartridges

Gold Dot 30 Super Carry

Insist on more from smaller platforms. The 30 Super Carry cartridge carries like a 380 Auto, but offers the power and performance of a 9mm Luger.

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To maximize the benefits of these small handguns and minimize the downsides, it’s important to run the right ammunition. Gold Dot Short Barrel is a great choice. It uses the proven Gold Dot bulletand is loaded to provide peak ballistic and terminal performance in barrels as short as 1.9 inches, all while producing less felt recoil to ease handling.

Make The Choice

It’s important to realize there is no “right” or “wrong” choice when it comes to the platform you use to defend. Each has its pros and cons—it’s up to you to match those attributes or issues to your physical makeup, preferences and carry method. The best recipe for success is to visit a top-tier gun store where you can put different pistols in your hand and possibly even shoot them before making your decision.