I stroll into a mid-sized gunstore in Oklahoma City to check out the latest sub-compact pistols. So you know, I’m not an operator who wears a tactical haircut. I’m an ordinary citizen who’s aware that a gun could save my life—if it’s easy enough to carry that I’ll actually carry it. That’s why I like sub-compact pistols.

Don, the 30-something dude behind the waist-high glass counter, probes with a standard opener. “In the market for something specific?”

“Yeah, a new pocket pistol that’s reliable and accurate.” (I throw out “pocket pistol” for the fun of it.) “I heard there’s some new stuff out.”

“Lots. Any caliber in particular? Price?”

“I’d consider .380 to .45, but I really like 9mm, possibly .40. All price ranges.”

Don proceeds to show me eight sub-compacts, including last year’s variation of Smith and Wesson’s Shield, Glock’s 42, and Sig’s P938. The rest are new.


Ruger LCR

He reaches in the case directly in front of him and picks up a Ruger LCR. “I’m familiar with this one,” I say, “but something looks different.” Don points to its grip and says, “That, mainly. Plus it has a new finish on the cylinder.” For about a decade the 17-ounce LCR (Lightweight Compact Revolver) and its semiauto sister, the LCP, have been two of the handiest handguns available, but they’ve never been the easiest to shoot. (No sub-compacts are, but Ruger’s wafer-thin, hard-plastic grip can be especially difficult.) For 2015 Ruger remedied its 5-round, 9mm LCR by contracting with rubber stock specialist Hogue to produce its new grip. Problem solved. I’m amazed at the difference. If you’re a revolver person, this little 1.875-inch-barrel snubby is for you. ($619;

Springfield XD Mod.2

“Here’s a sweet new variation of Springfield’s XD line, the Mod.2,” says Don. He hands me a polymer pistol that’s a replica of a full-size XD, only with a 3-inch barrel and smartly stippled grip panels. XDs have been wildly successful because they are reliable semiautos that are slightly less expensive than Glocks and Sigs, and they come with a holster, spare mags, and accoutrements. “What’s the deal?” I ask. “Nothing but a sub-comp that holds 16 rounds of 9 or .40 S&W.” I grip it and act like a bad guy is storming the store. It represents the maximum in firepower for a gun this size. Its new Grip Zone grip paneling is somewhat gimmicky, but it’s certainly better than the purchaseless XD grip of old. It’s also heavier than I typically like in a pocket gun. “What’s it weigh?” I ask? “About 26 ounces.” There’s nothing “sub” about that, but at least those ounces aren’t wasted. The Mod.2 is packed with features usually reserved for bigger guns, including a rail, legit sights, and several safeties. It’s perfect if you’re more concerned with firepower than weight. ($565;

Taurus Curve

My eye spies something else in the next case over. “What the heck is that?” “It’s a Taser,” says Don, but he sucks as a liar. I can see it has a good-sized hole in its end and a trigger in the middle. But it’s curved, almost like the wallet of a man who hasn’t picked up a tab, ever. I receive the futuristic firearm curiously, like it’s a baby alien, and turn over its tag to read its name. Even if it doesn’t sell, kudos to Taurus for pushing the envelope, I think. I pull its mag out by pinching it and rack the slide. I palm it in my right hand like a smart phone and clip it inside my waistband via its integral belt clip. Forget about using sights because it’s slick; aim with its integral laser and flashlight instead. Buck Rogers would approve. “Well?” Don prods. “Looks like Taurus solved the problem of wearing a square gun on a round waist.” Made of molded polymer, the thing weighs just 10 ounces. The magazine holds six rounds of .380 Auto. Of all guns here, it’s the most intriguing, but I’d like to try it before buying. If, however, the gun’s as comfortable to wear as it looks, I’ll never take it off. Reluctantly, I do just that and hand it back. ($392; [](http://www.

Kimber Micro Raptor

“If you want to go top-shelf,” says Don as he gingerly lays a Kimber Micro Raptor on the rubber mat. I recognize that this is a scaled-down Model 1911, something Kimber does superbly. It’s expensive, but man, it looks like a diamond with its snakeskin-looking grip and stainless finish. “Forty-five?” I ask. “Nope, .380.” If you’re a devout Model 1911 shooter but need one you can carry and don’t mind splurging, this Micro Raptor is one badass piece. It weighs 13 ounces and features the same controls as a full-sized model of this venerable handgun. If Don Johnson carried a sub-compact, this would be it. ($960;

Glock 43

There’s one more I want to see, because over the years I’ve learned that there are few handguns more reliable than Glocks. Glock isn’t famous because its pieces are frequently seen in movies or referenced in rap songs. It’s known around the world because it’s likely the most reliable handgun ever invented. Quite simply, it goes bang every time. It’s genius it that its design is simple, there are few controls to fumble or figure out, and they are inherently accurate. For these reasons and more, Glock models have become a favorite of law enforcement, sport shooters, and concealed-carry-permit holders. In the past, however, Glock hasn’t offered a true sub-compact. Glock historically utilized double stack (bullets are staggered in two stacks within the magazine to increase its capacity) mags that hold 10 to 16 rounds, but in doing so they were naturally fat. But Glock’s Model 43 is a single-stack 9mm handgun that’s 1.02 inches wide and weighs 17 ounces. It holds only 6 rounds in the magazine, but that’s why it can be hidden by a t-shirt. What I really like is the curve on the 43’s grip. It’s a beavertail design that allows the shooter to hold the gun as high as possible on the frame, a move that mitigates recoil by forcing the gun straight back into the hand rather than up during recoil. It just feels good. ($529; With all these choices, it’s also tough to decide without shooting them. So that’s what I intend to do next.