For most Americans, term “carry gun” implies a handgun capable of being concealed on their person discreetly to protect themselves from bad guys. For outdoorsmen, the term can imply any firearm that can be easily carried along with other essential gear, just in case you need to take on a predator or bring down a meal. Here are five carry guns that will work for nearly any situation.

Taurus Defender Polymer

Taurus Defender Polymer.

The Taurus Judge is one of the most versatile revolvers ever made because it’ll fire .45 Colt cartridges and .410-bore shotshells. The only downside is its weight. So Taurus released the Defender Polymer, a lighter version that features steel components where it counts, but a polymer body to trim it to 23 ounces unloaded. It holds five .45 Colt loads or 2.5-inch .410 shotshells. Although not super accurate, it’s a lightweight hand cannon that rarely needs cleaning. Now that’s a lifesaver. MSRP: $650.

Smith & Wesson M&P Shield

Smith & Wesson M&P Shield.

One of finest guns available for deep concealed carry, the M&P Shield has a low-profile frame and slide that sends recoil straight back into the hand, thereby mitigating muzzle-flip. It’s also supremely reliable, has no-nonsense controls, and is accurate. Yet at only 1 inch thick and 19 ounces, it’s made to conceal. Its integrated Crimson Trace Green Laserguard makes it easier to put the bullet where it needs to be under pressure and bad lighting. I shot golf-ball-size groups at 7 yards and never experienced a jam. Carried inside the waistband, it’s virtually undetectable. $449-$589.

Glock 40 Gen4 MOS

Glock 40 Gen4 MOS.

In Wyoming’s Thorofare region that borders Yellowstone, bold grizzlies have an annoying habit of eating people. I formerly trusted a revolver for forays into this backcountry, but then Glock released its Model 40 MOS in 10mm Auto. A 175-grain, 10mm bullet going 1,290 fps delivers 650 ft.-lb. of energy at the muzzle—roughly 150 ft.-lb. more than a .357 Mag. With a good rest, it is accurate to 100 yards. The Glock’s 15-round capacity, the 10mm’s power, and the red-dot’s precision make this sidearm one of the world’s best. $699.

Ruger LC380

Ruger LC380.

Certain scenarios—like your anti-gun friend’s wedding—require extra-deep concealment and call for a gun that fits in a front pocket. For these times, it’s best to go with the smallest handgun class available—the mini-sub-compact, also known as a pocket pistol. Ruger’s LC 380 is a perfect example. You’re not going to win a turkey shoot with it, but that’s not its purpose. It can save your life. Why? Because you’ll be likely to have this 17-ounce polymer-framed, striker-fired .380 ACP-caliber firearm close at hand. It holds eight rounds and has a decent trigger. $499.

Kimber Ultra Crimson Carry II


Carrying a full-size 1911 is like hanging a boat anchor from your belt. Fans of 1911s who want a carry option, though, should look to the Kimber’s Ultra Crimson Carry II. While bullet velocities won’t measure much over 600 fps from its 3-inch pipe (I could actually see some of the bullets in flight when the lighting was right), it’s a mighty wide pipe. Eight rounds of .45 ACP make this 25-ounce Cadillac of carry pieces awesome indeed. I found that its Crimson Trace Lasergrips, great ergonomics, and terrific 5-pound trigger make this pistol easier to shoot than comparably sized guns. $1,200.