Friday, August 21, 2015

Concealed Carry 1995 and Today

Twenty years ago, my home state established a concealed carry licensing program for residents.  At the time, I was working with someone that had an after-hours firearms dealership business.  He was keen to set himself up as a state recognized concealed carry license instructor so he kept me in the loop on class requirements as they evolved.  As soon as classes started popping up locally, I immediately enrolled.  While I was never certain of the numbering scheme used when issuing the licenses, I believe I was within the first 1000 licenses issued across the state.

Back in 1995 the State required that each concealed carry handgun be listed individually by type and serial number on the concealed carry license.  You were allowed to have up to three firearms listed on your license.  Further, you were required to qualify and demonstrate safety proficiency by the type of handgun(s) included on your license.  From my foggy memory, I believe the two types of firearms were identified as Pistol and Revolver.

In the weeks leading up to my concealed carry class, I was faced with the arduous task of deciding which firearms I would be committed to carry on my first license.  If they allowed three, then I certainly needed to have three on my license.  But which three?  Back in 95, you couldn't go to the internet and tap into the collective experiences of hundreds of other people.  Your information came from printed gun magazines (all unicorns and rainbows with every gun reviewed being GREAT!), advice from your buddies, and whatever happened to be available at your local firearm dealer.

Concealed carry handguns in 1995 along with period correct ammunition.  From L to R:  Smith and Wesson 3913 9mm, Colt Mustang Pocketlite 380 Auto, and Smith and Wesson Model 60 38 Special 
I knew I wanted a pocket pistol, pocket revolver, and a belt gun on my license.  The revolver was a lock.  I had previously purchased a Smith and Wesson Model 60 because "everyone needs a revolver" and the Model 60 was a classic 38 Special revolver.  The pocket pistol was an impulse purchase when my firearm dealer friend mentioned that Colt was winding down production of the Mustang Pocketlite 380 Auto and I could get one for a sweet price.  Compact versions of the Wonder 9's were just coming into their own in the mid-90's so selection was limited.  I ultimately added a 3rd Generation Smith and Wesson 3913 single stack 9mm as my belt gun.

Ammunition selection was easier 20 years ago.  In the age before YouTube ammunition testing you trusted what you read, or what your buddies told you over a few cold beverages.  Winchester Black Talons and Silvertips were the jacketed hollow point rounds to carry.  Snub nose revolvers performed best with Remington 158 grain lead semi-wadcutter hollow points.  That was the beginning and the end of the ammunition discussion.

My ammunition performance skepticism developed many years ago and I will admit to running a few rounds of each of these into waterlogged phone books just to see how they performed.  No denim, no gel, just a single guy with a guest bathroom bathtub full of waterlogged phone books.  Shooting the phone books at the range yielded beautifully expanded bullets covered in wet phone book scraps.  That was a good enough terminal performance demonstration for me at the time.

Holsters were mostly of the leather variety in the 1990's.  I'm sure someone was making Kydex holsters back then, but if you didn't read about it or see it at a gun show it didn't exist.  I discovered the Law Concealment System IWB holster through their Guns and Ammo magazine ad.  It worked well for the 3913.  The Ahern Pocket Natural for the Colt came from a local firearms retailer.  The Blackhawk! holster isn't the original pocket holster I used with the S&W revolver.  I think it was an Uncle Mike's holster of a similar style that was most likely given away or trashed many years ago.

Two of the three holster makers in this photo are no longer making holsters.
By now you are probably wondering why my guns still look new and how I could possibly still have ammunition I purchased more than 20 years ago.  Well, the sad truth is that I'm a bit of a pack rat and also that I just didn't practice with my carry guns and ammo very often.  I ran enough ammunition through them to make sure they worked reliably and practiced enough to assure I could qualify with them.  I didn't feel compelled to train for speed and accuracy.  There, I admitted it and feel better now. 

Our State dropped the specific handgun listing requirement by my first or second license renewal so I wasn't locked in on these three handguns very long.  That turned out to be a good thing because the number of Shall-Issue states expanded greatly in the late 1990's and the handgun manufacturers responded with a plethora of new firearms purposely built for concealed carry.

Transitioning to more recent times, a little over four years ago I started this blog with a goal of writing articles that I would want to read if I happened to find them online.  Fair and honest reviews of guns and ammunition weighted heavily on facts and less on my personal opinions.  If something was great, I would say that.  If something sucked, I'd let you know that too.  It's been an interesting journey through 364 blog posts and 331 YouTube videos.

Having reached the 2,000,000 page view milestone for the blog this week, I had the idea for this article comparing concealed carry 1995 versus what I currently carry in 2015.  To keep things fair, I picked my 3 most carried handguns using the same classifications used in 1995.  Most of these have been reviewed on the blog.  You can find all the published gun reviews listed HERE.

Concealed carry handguns in 2015 along with preferred carry ammunition.  Springfield XDs 3.3 45 Auto, Kahr P380 380 Auto, and Ruger LCR 9mm
For my revolver, there has been no other in my pocket since I reviewed the Ruger LCR 9mm last year.  I like the LCR 38 Special, but appreciate the ballistic advantages of the 9mm in this platform.  My pocket auto of choice is a Kahr P380 380 Auto with factory night sights.  My AIWB belt gun is a Springfield XDs 3.3 in 45 Auto with extended mag if I can pull it off with my clothes that day or flush fit 5 round magazine if I can't.  One thing all three of these handguns have in common is they were reliable, accurate, and easily "shootable" from the very first day I tried them.  Any modifications are limited to sights, grips, or magazine upgrades to increase capacity with any handgun I intend to carry.       
As I was laying out the two sets of pictures, I was struck by the handgun design trends over the last 20 years.  For me, polymer frames have replaced steel and aluminum frames.  Who would have imagined we would be shooting polymer revolvers 20 years ago.  Stainless/brite guns have transitioned to black.  Every handgun type is 2 to 4 ounces lighter now than its predecessor in 1995.

If you follow the blog and YouTube channel you are aware of the extensive amount of ammunition testing I've done over the last 4 years.  If this is your first visit to the blog, the ammunition tests are all cataloged for you HERE.   I've tested each of the loads, shown in the picture, through my handguns and have high confidence in their reliability and terminal performance.  If you stopped me on the street and checked my magazine or moon clip, you would find me carrying these loads at any time of the year.

Holsters have also changed quite a bit in the last 20 years.  The XDs rides at 2 o'clock in the appropriately named Two O'Clock holster from Comp-Tac.  Remora holsters can be used as a clip-less in waist band holster or as a pocket holster.  The Kahr P380 holster features a leather Remora-Hyde lining.  The LCR holster has the stock padded denier lining.

Modern holsters replace moisture absorbing leather with Kydex or water-resistant synthetic fabrics. 
So there's my current rig rundown for all of you that's subject to change at any time if I'm working on a handgun review.  I really do like to carry the review gun as part of the review process, but when the review is complete I'll be back to one of the three choices shown above.  Notice that I'm not proclaiming these choices to be the best available.  I'm proclaiming they are the best available choices for me.

While I'm pretty stoked about the blog crossing the 2 million views milestone, I wanted to let you all know that the blog will be going on hiatus for a bit.  I will be pursuing some commissioned ballistics testing opportunities and also some freelance writing assignments for a much larger blog. With that said, I still reserve the option to drop a content bomb here from time to time as opportunities arise.  I will continue to make and post YouTube videos as time allows.

Thanks for stopping by and reading through my trip down concealed carry memory lane.


  1. Well, congrats on #2,000,000 as well as your *paid* ballistics & blog writing gigs. Guess that means you're now getting paid to have fun and will "never work another day in your life"!

    Well, enough rumor-starting. Let me state that I consider these distinctions very well-deserved. Can you point us in the direction of your new blog? I'd like to follow it, too.

    1. Thank you Sir. As always, I appreciate your continued support of the blog.

      It's not a big secret that I started doing freelance reviews with GunsAmerica back in 2014. I have a few of those reviews listed on the Gun Reviews page of this blog. makes it super easy to follow their blog if you inclined to do so. I enjoy the scope and variety of their coverage and working with them has been great. Working with GunsAmerica has challenged me to raise my game when it comes to reviews. This is one of the reviews I did for them last year.

      Commissioned ballistics testing came to me out of nowhere, but I understand why companies would like me to do some preliminary testing before they sign up for comprehensive testing with an accredited lab.

  2. Thank you for all your hard work. You have made me feel confident in my "fbi load" choice for snubs.