By W. Thomas Smith Jr.
In a recent conversation with Daily Caller’s Guns & Gear editor Mike Piccione and former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense and author Jed Babbin, I explained to both that for the purposes of concealed carry, I prefer my Taurus PT 111 Pro 9mm over my other handgun, an FNP .45 ACP.
Naturally, as a former Marine infantryman who appreciates the unforgiving knockdown power of the .45 (we carried the old M1911 in my day), I would rather pack the FNP as my personal-protection weapon. But that big cannon is simply too much to comfortably conceal.
Fact is, in a perfect world, my preference would be the .45’s stopping power, adequate number of rounds (15 in my FNP), and accuracy, all boiled down into a gentlemen’s Sherlock Holmesian-style derringer. But there is no such animal. So my compromise is the Taurus.
Mike, on the other hand — also a former Marine — owns enough weapons to outfit a pistol team.
Mike tells me his handguns are not really owned, but more like family.
“Much like Angelina Jolie or Madonna adopt African kids, I adopt guns,” he says.
Members of Mike’s concealed-carry family, include:
• Kel-Tec P32
• Walther PP .32
• Walther P-38 9mm
• Beretta 84 .380
• Sig 232 .380
• Kahr K9 9mm
• Rossi M69 32 S&W Long
• Taurus PT22 .22
• M1911 .45
• Taurus PT 101 40 S&W
• Beretta M9 9mm
• Rossi 851 .38 Special
• Taurus Titanium revolver seven-shot .357 Magnum with ported barrel
“And I still have not gotten to my specialty handguns yet,” he adds.
Then there’s Jed Babbin — a former U.S. Air Force officer, former U.S. deputy undersecretary of defense, and lifelong weapons-enthusiast whose dad incidentally was a World War II combat Marine.
Jed’s primary carry piece is a Sig Sauer P-220 .45 ACP, and, frankly, I’m happy for him, but it’s not without a bit of schoolboy envy. After all, I too owned a P-220 — it even had the old West German stamp on the slide — the finest, most-accurate handgun I’ve ever owned. But a divorce many years ago and a subsequent demand for some quick, liquid cash led me to sell my unique West German-made baby. And I’ll always regret that.
Sigs are superb. In fact, Jed tells me his pals in the Naval Special Warfare community have all but “forbidden” him from purchasing or carrying anything not made by Sig.
“I have two, and used to have a third,” he says. “My first was a P-228 in 9mm: Fabulous pistol. I trained at Blackwater with that.”
But Jed sold the P-228 to buy a Kimber, which his oldest son now owns as his carry weapon.
“Next came a P-226 — the limited release of the SEAL-design weapon, with the big trigger guard, etc. and the Budweiser [SEAL trident] engraved on the slide,” Jed says. “Some of the guys gave it to me for raising over $100k for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation by getting Laura Ingraham to auction one off on the air.”
Then Jed acquired the P-220. “SEALs are plenty good enough to use the 9mm,” he says. “This old guy needs the bigger slug. If I hit something, I don’t need to do it twice.”
My conversation with Jed and Mike spurred my interest into who carries what and why, so I queried a few friends. Not all wanted to go on the record, and some who did, only discussed what they own, not whether-or-not they routinely carry:
Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely, U.S. Army (Ret.), former FOX News senior military analyst, tells me: “I own a Taurus Judge, Beretta 9mm, two rifles, one shotgun, a .357 mag, and others. Reasons for owning are to protect one’s family and property against criminal elements and a tyrannical government as well as a defense and offensive capability against domestic and foreign enemies that threaten the United States. My weapons are also for hunting and recreational activities.”
Capt. Sean Parnell, a U.S. Army infantry officer recently back from the fighting in Afghanistan, tells me he carries either a Ruger Lightweight Compact Revolver (LCR) .38 special or a Glock 23 compact .40 cal.
“As you know, I have been trained to shoot well by the military and whatever I shoot I can hit regardless of the weapon I carry,” Parnell says. “What it really boils down to for me is comfortability and for that, the Ruger LCR is the best choice.”
According to Parnell, the Ruger weighs 13 ounces unloaded, and can easily be carried in one’s pocket.
“I know this isn’t ideal,” he says. “But this is the perfect weapon to carry concealed. It is made of a lightweight polymer that requires minimal maintenance and is nearly ‘jam proof’ because it is a revolver.”
The .40 cal., which Parnell’s Glock is chambered for, is “often considered to be an off caliber round,” he says. “This in turn makes the rounds cheaper to buy for target shooting. Also, its compact design is ideal for concealed carry. One can carry this pistol easily with an inside-the-pants holster. I wanted something that packs a bigger punch than a 9mm, but less kick than a .45.”
Stephen Morrill — a Florida-based writer and a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War — says he carries “a stainless steel, parkerized .45 Colt Combat Commander, one of the 1991 series, when I do [carry], which is rare.”
Why a .45?
“I’m simply accustomed to .45 handguns from my Army service,” Morrill says. “They all take-down and clean about the same. The Commander is smaller, making it a better carry weapon, though the trade-off is more muzzle rise each shot and, of course, the barrel is about an inch shorter than the old government model.”
According to Morrill, “I always figured that the first shot counts the most, and if you use a big enough bullet, the bad guy might not be needing more. I’ve read too many stories about cops needing to shoot someone six times with a .40 or, worse, 9mm. Never heard of anyone needing to shoot more than once or, rarely, twice with a .45.
For weekly target practice, Morrill uses a Ruger Mark III 22/45 Hunter model. “It shoots cheap bullets just fine,” he says. “Shot off a bunch this morning.”
Caitlin Kelly, also a writer, who authored the book, Blown Away: American Women and Guns, actually does not own a firearm, but says that having fired many weapons for her book, she would probably prefer a Glock 9mm if she did decide to carry. “I shoot best with and most like the feel of a 9mm, and I preferred shooting a Glock because it’s so much lighter,” says Kelly. “I trained on a Glock one afternoon at Quantico, which was pretty cool.”
Clare Lopez, a retired CIA operations officer, has a concealed carry permit, but — like Kelly — owns no weapon. If she did, it would “probably be a 9mm automatic, because I’ve used it before,” and she’s comfortable with how a 9 handles.
Chris Carter, a firefighter from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, says: “As a first responder, I see first-hand the tragedy of lives lost that could have been prevented had the victim been carrying a firearm for self defense. Therefore, I carry a .45 automatic loaded with the best ammunition available because when it comes to protecting my family, I want the unmatched stopping power that the .45 offers.”
Note from editor Mike P. ~ I’ve added a few FMK 9c’s to my list recently.
– W. Thomas Smith Jr. is a former U.S. Marine rifle-squad leader and counterterrorism instructor who writes about military/defense issues and has covered conflict in the Balkans, on the West Bank, in Iraq and Lebanon. He directs the U.S. Counterterrorism Advisory Team. He is the author of six books, and his articles appear in a variety of publications. Smith’s website is uswriter.com.