Over the past 3 months, I’ve gone through the process of obtaining my concealed carry license and my first firearm. It’s been a long and laborious procedure.
Getting the license itself was not problem. I scored a 245 out of 250 on my shooting proficiency test and the written test was not a challenge. The extended length of the process was due more to my inability to make a decision and choose the gun I want to carry.
The weapon that I utilized to train and certify was a borrowed Springfield XD-M 9mm. I loved the feel and performance of the semi-automatic handgun, even though it had one FTE (failure to eject). Because of that experience, my research began centered on small, 9mm semi-automatics. I had no idea how dizzying the experience would be. I believed I had narrowed the field to three guns. In reality, it was only the beginning.
Since the gun I used to qualify was a Springfield XD-M, I was very interested in the smaller XD-S. I was attracted not only to the small size, but also the safety features. It includes the Ultra Safety Assurance Trigger System which locks the trigger in place until direct rearward pressure is applied. Along with that, the XD-S has a grip safety which disables the gun until a firm grip is applied to the pistol. And finally, it has a Loaded Chamber Indicator which allows you to verify without a doubt, visually or by touch, that there is a round in the chamber.
Beyond that, the XD-S is a great shooter and feels very comfortable in your hand. At 6.3” in length, 4.4” in height and only 23 oz. in loaded weight, it’s easy to conceal.
I did not want to “pull the trigger” on my first gun, so I looked at other options in the 9mm field. The second on my list was, to me at least, the most sexy option available (if a gun can be sexy). With sleek lines, demure size and a great pedigree, the Walther PPS was high on the list.
By pedigree, of course, I mean the quarter-plus century connection Walther has had with Bond. James Bond. Until the most recent movies, 007 has always used the PPK, one of Walther’s .380 options. The PPS is the slightly larger 9mm offering.
Ergonomically, the PPS is a plastic polymer-bodied pistol that is slightly smaller and slimmer than the XD-S. It has a changeable back strap that allows you to adjust the thickness of the grip. It also acts as a quasi-safety, since the gun is inoperable when the strap is off. Ah, but what if you lose or break that strap? Dead gun. That’s a potential problem, but not one you hear about often.
It also includes a euro-style paddle magazine release. Most guns have a release button on or near the grip. The PPS has a lever under the trigger guard that releases the magazine when it is pressed down. It’s quite ingenious, and it relieves the fear of accidental magazine release when you bump up against something.
The PPS is a little more expensive than the XD-S and a bit harder to find, though that may change now that Walther has opened their new plant in Arkansas.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield
Third on my list of 9mm options was the M&P Shield by Smith & Wesson. The Shield is a smaller version of the M&P Compact. Noticeably smaller. At only .95” wide, it’s made for concealment. It’s a well-rounded gun, literally. There are no sharp edges and pointy bits to hang up on your shirt or cause imprint.
One thing that is most often mentioned about the Shield is its reliability. This is a gun that just works. Choose practically any ammo, including cheap-made Russian stuff, and the Shield chews through it nicely.
It includes a thumb safety, which some people like and some don’t. Another difference in this gun and other 9’s is the height. Holding a Shield in your hands, it’s obvious that it’s taller than the usual squatty 9mm pistol. This is not a deal breaker, but it calls for some adjustment in shooting style.
This gun is very popular and was hard to find in stock for a while. For me, it just didn’t feel right, both physically and stylistically. I prefer not to run with the crowd, which is one reason I was seriously considering the Walther PPS.
In the end, I bought none of these. Yet, at least. In a future post, I’ll share the reason I started looking into smaller caliber .380 pistols and where that led me.