Is It Time to Retire Your CCW Handgun?

Take some time to evaluate if your self-defense plan might benefit from a change or upgrade in concealed-carry hardware.

by posted on January 13, 2023
Horman Female Range Draw Corrected

With another birthday just around the corner, I've found myself taking a beat to evaluate where I am in various facets of my life. This has involved some self examination as well as conversations with loved ones. What's working well? What needs some adjusting?  Where to next?

This process also got me thinking about concealed-carry rigs. Some folks adopt a gun and holster system that serves them well for the next 30 years, while others have set-ups that seem to be ever evolving. And for those who do make changes, what are their reasons for doing so? Is it time to retire or upgrade your daily carry gun, or can you keep on keepin’ on with what you already have? Here are a few questions to consider.

Is My Gun Reliable?
I realize that some readers might see this question as condescending or conceded on my part. Who would knowingly choose to stage or carry a jam-o-matic or a gun that just might go click instead of bang when a crisis hits? But friends, I have had face-to-face conversations with folks who, when they learned their defensive firearm was likely to fail, shrugged their shoulders and said something along the lines of, "Oh well, I probably won't need it anyway."

Mentioning, showing or brandishing a gun in the course of a confrontation is an escalation of force. Doing so may end the conflict (the assailant runs away) or it may turn into a fight for your life. Relying on a gun that is known to be faulty in its function is a big mistake. I could write a whole article about why that is the case but I'll hone in on this one point: Leaning on an untrustworthy gun robs the self-defender of precious time and opportunity to employ a reliable defensive tool or tactic. If your concealed-carry gun has a hitch in its get along, bench it until it can be properly tested, tuned, repaired or replaced. Do not pack an iffy piece!

Is the Gun I'm Using Too Old?
This is a ticklish question to answer because individuals' definitions of what qualifies as “old” differ greatly. Some folks start to worry that their gun is getting long in the tooth because they've been carrying it for four or five years while others are cheerfully packing pistols manufactured just after World War II.

Unlike milk, bread and electronic devices like cell phones, well-made handguns do not expire or suffer from planned obsolescence. A pistol or revolver that is properly maintained can remain utterly reliable for decades. And as long as there are ammunition and replacement parts available, guns can be passed along to the next generation (and even on after that).

Perhaps a better question is this: Does this gun support the features I want? The last few years we've seen a surge in the popularity of carry pistols outfitted with micro red dot optics. And this has lead to a variety of factory fresh compact pistols that ship with optics-ready slides. But the vast majority of semi-automatics made before this latest trend cannot be fitted with an optic without either some gunsmithing or having the slide replaced. If you want an optic, or other more recent features, you're probably going to have to upgrade.

What if Something Better Comes Along?
Guns are expensive, as are the ammunition, holsters and cleaning supplies used to support them. That’s why I can understand why someone might see the purchase of a new or different model as a waste of money, or, feel like a dummy because they didn't buy the "right" gun the first time.

In some cases, that something better didn't exist when the last handgun purchase was made. We recently posted a write-up about Ruger's LCP Max .380 ACP pocket pistol in which I outlined the five ways I think this model addresses common pocket-sized pistol problems. But you couldn't buy one until the middle of 2021 which means those who purchased a previous model may be pulling out their hair.

Other times it's just a matter of the good ol' learning curve that life likes to throw us. We do the best we can with what we know and the resources at hand at the time a decision needs to be made. If a new or different model is going to make you better prepared, then it's a worthwhile investment.

How Am I Doing These Days?
I remember seeing a podiatrist's office sign that read, "Time Wounds All Heels." Although it was funny and a bit pessimistic, the sentiment is still relevant. Our bodies are going to change over time. It may be an increase in knowledge, muscle memory and skill due to training and practice. This may mean you're ready to beef up your defensive system to a more powerful option than you started with.

If age or injury has brought on changes in visual acuity or hand strength it may be time to change your sight system or caliber of ammunition. Either way, there's a good chance that we're not the same concealed-carry practitioners we were a few years ago. It's worthwhile to evaluate if changes in your gear will better support where you are in your defensive planning now.    

What If Someone Criticizes My Carry Gun Choice?
I've been involved in the shooting sports, both casual and professional, for many years and have yet to meet someone who pointed and belly laughed at me because I chose to own this or that firearm. Generally speaking, shooting-related endeavors tend to attract friendly folks and those mostly keep to themselves at the shooting range.

Those who may choose to comment tend to fall into fairly friendly conversational categories. You have your brand loyalists, who will say that what you're packing is all well and good, but they love their Model X, the Model X is the best and you really ought to get one! Next there's the Latest & Greatest crowd who are enthusiastic about endorsing upgrades, modifications and trending defensive calibers. And then there are the members of The Concerned. These are the folks who, usually from genuine desire to be helpful, will point out that they think your carry gun may be lacking the necessary power, ammunition capacity or features needed to put up an effective defense.

Know that no matter what your carry gun may be, someone might agree enthusiastically, someone else may disagree emphatically while the vast majority of us are just glad that another American citizen is choosing to exercise his or her Second Amendment rights.

If someone does choose to provide some constructive criticism regarding your concealed carry choice then be open to what they have to say. I've gotten some terrific advice and recommendations over the years in the course of friendly conversations. And I made some good friends too. But other bits of less than useful commentary or advice can simply be left behind at the range along with the used up paper targets and empty ammo boxes.     



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