Subcompact pistols are light, portable, convenient, effective enough for self-defense and easy to conceal. That makes them ideal for summer concealed carry, right? Well, maybe. The “convenient” part is true. The “effective enough” characteristic is also largely true, although I’ll never complain about too much capacity in a larger gun. What’s not on the list is the ability to shoot them well, especially while under pressure.
Here’s the trade-off: You pay for that portability, ease of concealment and light weight with a higher difficulty of operation. A subcompact has a short sight radius, which makes it less forgiving to aim. A slight sight misalignment will translate to a much bigger miss downrange than will the same offset on a full-sized gun. You also need to consider how light weight and reduced grip surface area impact control. Recoil is like taxes and political speeches at Hollywood awards shows — it’s always there. The lighter the gun and the less there is to hang on to, the harder it is to manage.
As long as you know the trade-offs and practice accordingly, there are some great subcompact options from which to anchor your summer carry strategy.
The Classic Smith & Wesson Snub-Nosed Revolver
There are too many variants to list here, but you can get a Smith snubby in steel, aluminum, scandium and even polymer. That allows you to make some specific weight versus recoil trade-offs. A steel model will be heavier to carry but gentler on the hands. The ultra-lightweights offer effortless portability but will wake you up in the morning when you pull the trigger. There are jazzed up Performance Center models like the one shown here, complete with moon clip cuts in the cylinder for speedy reloading. Capacity is usually five shots (unless you go to one of the more boutique calibers instead of the .38 Special or .357 Magnum standbys).