Small single-stack handgun with a DA/SA trigger?
February 22, 2008 6:47 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for an affordable single-stack pistol suitable for concealed carry, preferably in .40 S&W. The only problem is, I'd like something with DA/SA...

This is sort of a followup to this question: are there any small single-stack handguns with a DA/SA trigger? I've got small hands, and I find the wide double-stack grip on Glocks and the like uncomfortable. The Kahr CW40 is a perfect fit for me, but it's double-action only, and I like the feel of a double action/single action trigger.

Can anyone recommend a gun shaped like the Kahr CW40 (i.e. single-stack magazine, 3.5" barrel), only with a DA/SA trigger? I'm looking to pay around $500, plus or minus $150 or so. Thanks!
posted by vorfeed to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have small hands. Glocks, and my beloved HK, feel huge in my hands. So, for concealed carry, I like my Taurus Millennium Pro. I can close my hand around the grip and touch forefinger to thumb.

I have it in 9mm, but it's available in .40SW. It isn't quite DA/SA, since it's striker fired. However, it will provide a real primer strike from an uncocked state with just the pull of the trigger. If cocked, the trigger pull is much lighter. The magazine seems to be doublestacked, but they are far more vertical than, say, my HK's magazine.

I warn you. The trigger is sloppy. I shoot about half as well with it as I do with the HK. However, it's fine for a close-quarters, concealed-carry weapon.
posted by Netzapper at 7:21 PM on February 22, 2008

Here are a Smith and a SIG that meet your criteria; although I think each of them is slightly more expensive than the upper end of your range, you probably won't pay MSRP.

I've no experience with either gun.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:30 PM on February 22, 2008

The SIG P239 meets most of your requirements except price. It goes for between $650-$750 depending on your dealer.
posted by Tenuki at 7:32 PM on February 22, 2008

Best answer: For DA/SA you wipe out most of the 'low cost' options. As you've discovered, a lot of them are DA-only.

Smith and Wesson has long produced DA/SA guns because some police departments (which represent the bulk of their customers, or at least it seems like it) prefer them. They aren't cheap though; for under $500-650 you'll be looking probably at used ones. They make a plethora of models but you might want to start looking at the 410S, which is a 10+1 .40S&W with what they call a "traditional double-action," which means DA/SA. I've fired one and it's pretty nice, although I've consistently made better groups out of Sigs and Kahrs, for reasons I'm uncertain of It has an MRSP of $750, but guns are like cars: the second you take it home from the store and put ten rounds through it, it loses a good 10-20% of its value (especially if you lose the packaging and accessories)... so I'd say you could probably pick up a used one in good condition within your price range. Keep an eye out at gun shows especially.

Really though, I'd recommend the Sig P229 or 239, even if it's a bit outside your price range. (The '229 is double-stack and the '239 is single-stack, so really it's the '239 that fits your requirements although I'd advise you to at least pick up the '229 and see what you think.) I've fired the '229 and the trigger is, for a factory gun, smooth as silk; it's as good as some S&W Custom Shop guns I've played with. I understand the 239 is the same mechanism except for the magazine and some other slight differences. There's a little article on it, with some background, here. I'm thinking very seriously about buying one. Again if your price range is a hard ceiling, you may want to look into used guns, but I don't think that's bad -- just look carefully for any signs of abuse.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:22 PM on February 22, 2008

The 410S is double-stacked, isn't it, Kadin? The 3913 I linked is single stacked.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:38 PM on February 22, 2008

The Kahr is a really, really nice gun. There is a strong argument that can be made that a "point and shoot" pistol (no safety, no different DA/SA trigger pulls, etc) gives a safety and training edge, because it is totally predictable: same trigger pull every time, no safety to fumble with when you are stressed and it is dark and your hands are moving in slow motion, etc. So don't write off the Kahr if you haven't had a chance to shoot it.

An option that might meet all your criteria is one of the many variants on the venerable 1911 -- there are a bunch of companies making small frame versions -- usually 6 or 7 round, single-stack magazines. Usually but not always in 45 caliber. I find that the 1911-variants just don't fit my hands, so I have never looked at them with any seriousness and can't recommend one company over another; the large nearby gunstore has a big selection, and handgun magazines are full of ads for them, so I know there is a lot of choice.

Another not-what-you-were-asking-for option: S&W ultralight revolvers in their small frame ("J frame," I think). Can be had SA/DA or DA-only, and some models will give you the choice of using 38+P or .357, either of which is a very effective handgun round. The revolver will give a reliability that most, if not all, semi-automatics cannot match -- there just isn't much to go wrong.

In thinking about conceaaibility, don't forget about the question of weight. A steel-frame, full-sized handgun might be around three pounds unloaded; an ultralight polymer frame Kahr or a S&W ultralight revolver can be under one pound, loaded. That makes a huge difference in how it will drag down your pants or weight your purse; it also can make the difference between taking the gun with you or leaving it in the gunsafe.

This is why so many people use the Keltec P3 as a concealed weapon, even though it is "only" .380 -- it is small and light enough that carrying it around is not an enormous pain in the ass.
posted by Forktine at 5:35 AM on February 23, 2008

Is there a gun show near where you live? Gun shows normally have a huge selection of used pistols laying out on tables for you to check how they sit in your hand.

Are you totally sold on DA/SA? I would like to also recommend that you contemplate a single action 1911 frame. They are very popular carry pistols.
posted by popechunk at 6:47 AM on February 23, 2008

I'll Nth the SIG P239. It's not the most svelte single stack out there but that's obviously not your primary concern. The slight edge of a .40 is taken off real nice with a hogue rubber grip.
posted by paxton at 7:22 AM on February 23, 2008

Usually, 1911's are single action, carried cocked-and-locked. Every trigger pull is short and brisk, but the weapon is carried with a thumb safety engaged. People love them for carry, because they're so slim, but you do have to get the act of disengaging the safety burned into your brain, or in a panic you'll draw the weapon and slam away at the trigger in utter futility.

A lot of 1911 shooters, myself included, keep our shooting-hand thumb ON the safety during firing, and this makes it so that, if you put your hands on a safetied weapon, it'll feel wrong and your thumb will push the lever down.

If you must have a longer trigger pull, some folks in Canada have you covered. Para-Ordnance makes 1911s with what they call a "Light Double Action" trigger, which has more travel than a standard 1911, but without all that much additional pull weight. I personally have yet to try one, but I've only ever heard favorable reviews of them.

The 1911 is a GREAT fighting handgun. And since it's slim, it's one of the best pistols out there for shooting one-handed, which will come in handy if you're also trying to deploy a flashlight. Every gun owner should have at least one.
posted by Doctor Suarez at 10:32 AM on February 23, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. I will try to check out the Sig P239 -- hopefully one of the ranges has it for rent around here. I'll probably choose between this and the Kahr, depending on how it feels. I do like the Kahr a lot... it feels perfect, other than the trigger, and I think I could get used to that. I'll see how the Sig compares.

As for 1911s, I'd love to have one, but they tend to be way outside my price range. I'll keep an eye out for an affordable one.
posted by vorfeed at 10:43 AM on February 23, 2008

If you don't live in California, vorfeed, the Taurus PT1911 comes in at around 600 and has a TON of features usually only seen on more expensive guns. The only reason you can't get it in CA is because it was introduced after a few gun safety laws came into effect that disqualify most new pistols.

Otherwise, get a Springfield mil-spec and add custom parts to it over time as finances allow. 1911s have a HUGE aftermarket of parts and services.
posted by Doctor Suarez at 6:17 PM on February 23, 2008

ikkyu2: "The 410S is double-stacked, isn't it, Kadin? The 3913 I linked is single stacked."

Yep, you're right; when I glanced at S&W's web page, trying to find the one I'd shot, I got confused and thought the 410S was single-stacked because it was listed as 10+1, but I think they may just be selling it with a "low cap" mag...

As for 1911s, you could probably put something together for not too much over $500 if you were willing to make a project out of it. Buy the frame by itself, then pick out parts and assemble it. However, speaking as a 1911 enthusiast, I'm not sure that's really the direction to go for a self-defense/carry gun that you want absolute reliability out of (unless you're very confident in your own gunsmithing skills). Assembling your first 1911 can and will be a great learning experience, but it can also be a bit like adopting a puppy: one that stovepipes and misfeeds instead of chewing your shoes, but a lot of work nonetheless.* Plus – and I hesitate to say this because I don't want to get into the firearms equivalent of a religious dispute – when you carry a traditional SA-only gun, you get into a lot of issues that just don't exist with more recent DA/SAs (Condition 1 vs. Israeli draw, etc.).

But anyway, point to ikkyu2 on the S&W.

* And like the puppy, one that I'd argue is totally worth it, if that's what you're looking for. But I wouldn't go around pushing it on anybody, as much as I think it's possibly the awesomest firearm design of all time.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:09 PM on February 24, 2008

Even small 1911's are never going to be ideal concealed carry weapons; they're big and heavy by comparison to the other guns we're talking about. You might put something like a Kimber Pro Carry in an under-jacket shoulder holster, but you can drop a P239 into your front pants pocket without it taking your pants down.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:11 PM on February 24, 2008

Look into the Rock Island Armory 1911s; they run from $350-500 depending on where you buy. They're made in Brazil, but then so are the Springfield and Taurus 1911s.

I currently have a Glock 17, and am debating REALLY hard between a Glock 26 and a compact RIA 1911 as my CCW firearm.
posted by mrbill at 8:42 PM on February 24, 2008

Here's the Centerfire Systems 1911 page; prices are $339 and up.

(no affiliation with them; I just got their latest flyer in the mail a few days ago)
posted by mrbill at 10:40 PM on February 24, 2008

Even small 1911's are never going to be ideal concealed carry weapons

It's very hard to be impartial about 1911s once you've got the bug, so you find yourself recommending them all of the time, for everything, assuming that the asker also implied "thing of beauty" in their question. I am probably guilty of that.

1911s are never going to be as light as a lot of modern (especially polymer) guns, you're right. They do get pretty small, though, and it's more enjoyable to shoot self-defense calibers with a weightier pistol.

Hey, mrbill, I knew you'd be along presently. I don't know if you remember me, but I inherited your cube at Kramer Lane; you gave me a gmail invite along with MS from Kramer Lane. Anyhow: Howdy.
posted by popechunk at 6:27 AM on February 25, 2008

I'm a bit late to the game here, and my first choice suggestions are already represented (Kahr, Sig, 1911), but since I just stumbled on one of these the other week, it might be worth pointing out that Walther has a brand new single-stack pistol that fits your requirements.

The linked version is PPS 9mm, but they do list a .40 as being available. It refers to itself as "Action: Striker Fire Action, Pre-Cocked " which if it's anything like the P99 is a DA/SA in a striker-fired configuration.

I have a couple of P99s and they are very comfortable guns, I played with the PPS at the shop for a little bit, and I didn't find it nearly as nice in the hand, but it was very concealable.
posted by quin at 7:20 AM on February 25, 2008

I think you have a bunch of really good answers here. I just want to add that if you haven't already done so, make sure to build the cost of a good-quality gun safe into your budget. They aren't expensive (and there are often subsidies -- in Washington State, sales tax is not charged on them, for example), but if you ever have visiting children in the house (never mind having your own), this is a really important safety item. I like the Gun Vault brand small boxes (and paid a lot less than the prices listed on their website -- shop around), but there are a lot of other choices, some very good.

Trigger locks are ok, I guess, but locked away in a safe, the gun is totally out of sight and reach of a child or other inquisitive visitor, a dishonest repair person, and anyone else whom you don't want to have access to the gun. I paid under $100 for mine, and just budgeted it as part of the cost of buying the pistol.
posted by Forktine at 10:02 AM on February 25, 2008

Best answer: ...make sure to build the cost of a good-quality gun safe into your budget.

This is good advice, and Walmart has a cheap one.
posted by popechunk at 5:18 PM on February 25, 2008

Some gun safes are not so great, though -- look at the design before you buy it (and definitely bolt it down or use an accessory cable to keep it secure).
posted by Forktine at 6:47 PM on February 25, 2008

Holy smokes, Forktine that's awful!
posted by popechunk at 8:13 PM on February 25, 2008

Response by poster: To followup: I tried the Sig P229, and hated the trigger -- the first double-action pull felt kind of rough and hesitant, rather than one smooth motion as with the Kahr. It was also a bit larger & heavier than the Kahr, and more expensive.

I ended up going with the Kahr CW9 (the local gun store didn't have the .40 in stock, and I find I shoot a bit more accurately with 9mm, anyway). After putting 200 rounds through it, I think I made a good choice, DA only or not. :) Thanks to everyone who posted!
posted by vorfeed at 1:30 PM on March 3, 2008

Response by poster: (also, special thanks to popechunk for the link to the cheap gun safe!)
posted by vorfeed at 1:45 PM on March 3, 2008

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