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7 Reasons to Ditch Subcompacts & Carry Full Size

Sure, subcompacts and micro compacts are all the rage, but have you tried a full-sized handgun? We walk you through why carrying a big gun might be better.

Carry guns, and their sizing comes in waves…

We’ve seen the rise of subcompacts, pocket .380s, single-stack 9mms, and now micro compacts.

Micro Compacts with Micro Red Dots, Top
Micro Compacts

For decades we’ve tried to get guns to be small but capable. What about full-sized guns, though?

Sure, they can be large, making them hard to conceal in some situations; however, with the current crop of awesome holsters from companies like PHLster, Harry’s Holsters, Raven Concealment Systems, and others, it’s gotten much easier.

PHLster Floodlight OWB
PHLster Floodlight OWB

Today we aren’t going to drag full-sized guns through the mud. Instead, we stan the carry of full-sized handguns, strap them on, tighten our belts, and talk about why full-sized handguns rule for concealed carry.

Why You Should Think About Full-Size Carry Guns

1. Full-Sized Guns Are Easier to Control

A big handgun is super easy to control, especially compared to a subcompact or micro-compact firearm.

The larger grip fills your hand and is often fatter, which allows for more control. Bigger grips also help displace recoil without causing any kind of pain.

(Need more tips on gripping your gun? Check out our How-To Grip A Gun.)

Glock 17
Glock 17

You know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever shot a Smith & Wesson 340 PD in .357 Magnum compared to a Smith & Wesson 686.

Some guns can be so small they are downright painful. Duty-sized handguns are often heavier, and a heavier gun absorbs recoil, making it a much softer shooter.

A great big gun packs less muzzle rise and flip as well. This results in faster and more accurate follow-up shots compared to smaller guns. The larger a weapon is, the more control.

For a gun designed for self-defense, being able to control it can be invaluable. This becomes even more important if you are stuck using a firearm with a single hand. More control can be pretty dang nice to have in a gunfight.

Shooting a CZ P-09 side by side with any single stack 9mm can be an eye-opening experience in terms of the difference in control.

PHLster Floodlight IWB CZ P09
PHLster Floodlight with CZ P-09

If you move to larger calibers like .45 ACP, .40 S&W, or powerful calibers like .357 Magnum, then the difference is massive as well.

2. Bigger Gun = Bigger Magazine

How awesome is it that the Sig Sauer P365 is as small as it is while still being able to hold 10 rounds of ammunition?

Isn’t that just amazing? Sure, but it’s really nothing compared to a full-sized handgun.

P365 Front
Sig Sauer P365

Most modern handguns in 9mm can typically hold between 17 and 20 rounds of ammunition. If you get into odd calibers like the 5.7, then that number gets even higher.

Even revolvers can climb into 7 or 8-round capacities when the frames get larger.

Maybe it’s my machine gunner history, but having more ammo makes me feel nice and secure. I like knowing that the possibility of me running dry in a gunfight is a whole lot lower while carrying a full-sized gun.

Glock Mags
Glock Mags

It’s tough to beat a full-sized 9mm when it comes to capacity.

Using something like a .45 ACP makes it easy to fall into revolver-like capacities with small automatics. And if you go big, like Glock 21 big, you get 12 rounds without complaint.

Having more ammunition is never a bad thing, and full-sized guns let you have it.

3. Longer Sight Radius and Greater Accuracy

The measurement from the rear sight to the front sight is called sight radius. The longer that measurement is, the easier it is to shoot accurately.

A full-sized handgun with a big full-sized slide grants you a longer sight radius and likely more proper sights.

M&P Fullsize
M&P Fullsize

Sight radius doesn’t make a gun mechanically more accurate, but it makes it easier to shoot accurately.

A longer sight radius helps you notice and correct imperfections in your sight picture. The longer the sight radius, the more you’re capable of noticing those tiny movements throwing you off target.

Sight Alignment of Pistol
Sight Alignment of Pistol

If your sights are slightly out of alignment, the effect on the target will be smaller with a longer sight radius.

For example, if you take a Sig P365 and shoot it side by side with a Sig X5 P226 with a 2mm error in sight alignment, then the X5’s projectiles will land closer to the intended target than the P365.

Sig P365 SAS and Johnny
Sig P365 SAS

There is also the effect of the front sight being further from your eye ever so slightly. Since it’s further, it appears smaller, making it easier to see and hit targets at longer ranges.

There are also some schools of thought that the slightly longer barrel adds more stabilization to the projectile making it more accurate.

4. Better Accessories

A big full-sized handgun offers you way more room for accessories. More than that, it offers room for better accessories.

Lights, lasers, optics, and cup holders have gotten smaller and fit on smaller guns as well.

Walther PDP Full Size Solo
Walther PDP Full Size

However, those accessories are a bit smaller, and sometimes bigger is better. Let’s look at lights.

The TLR-7 is cool, but the TLR-1 is twice as powerful and extremely capable. It’s brighter, offers a longer effective range, defeats photonic barriers, and more.

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Look at lights like the Modlite PL350, and it blows away any other competitor on the market.

Small optics are great, I love the Shield series and the Holosun 507K, but they still can’t touch the capabilities of larger sights.

Micro red dots

Optics like the RMR, Leupold DPP, and Aimpoint Acro offer more than the micro red dots. The RMR and DPP are tougher, more durable, more resistant to the great outdoors, and offer massive windows.

at OpticsPlanet

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

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Bigger guns can also be fitted with better and more effective compensators, mag wells, and additional accessories we rarely see on little guns.

Leupold DPP Pro on the Walther PDP

5. Easier to Reload

The geometry of a big gun lends itself well to increasing your capabilities all around, including the reload.

A big fat grip offers you a bigger place to house your magazine. Since it’s bigger, squeezing that big magazine in place is much easier.

The longer grip also means you don’t have a pinky pinning a magazine in place or getting in the way of your reload.

I love my P365, but I look like a Brit drinking tea when I reload. I have to flare my pinky out, or the magazine won’t drop free and will get pinched when I reload.

With my Glock 17, I hit the buttons, and the mag drops free without issue. I can keep that good firing grip throughout the entire reloading process.

at GrabAGun

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

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Measuring reloads is not just about the time it takes to get a round in the chamber, and it includes getting a magazine in place, a round in the chamber, and an accurate round on target.

The same goes for the revolver as well. Snub nose guns keep the cylinder tight to the frame; for some guns, you lose the ability to use a speed loader.

A snub nose .357 Magnum means you have a shorter ejection rod which can mean some of those long, empty casings stick when trying to reload.

Bigger guns just reload easier and often must be reloaded less often.

6. Better Ballistics

Bigger guns mean a higher velocity, and a higher velocity means better terminal ballistics.

Handguns suck at fighting, and you might want to get as much potential power as possible, and a full-sized gun offers that. That higher velocity comes from the longer barrel.

Glock 17
Glock 17

How much of a difference can there be? Let’s examine a standard 124-grain JHP — a popular round in the 9mm world. From a 3-inch barrel, the bullets are moving at 988 feet per second.

Increase that barrel length to 5 inches, and we see the same projectile moving at 1,115 feet per second. That’s an increase of about 12.9% in velocity.

Why does this extra velocity matter?

Ballistic gel testing is about more than penetration depth, it also covers measuring bullets to find out their expansion capabilities.

One of the main factors in how a pistol round stops a threat is expansion. A hollow point is designed to expand when it hits a soft target. To properly expand, the projectile often needs to reach a certain velocity.

Typically, the higher the velocity, the better the round will expand and the more reliably it will expand.

Velocity matters and a full-sized gun’s slightly longer barrel gives you a good little boost.

Level up and go big

7. Easier to Clear Malfunctions

The last thing you want your gun to do in a fight is malfunction…and the second to last thing you want is not to clear that malfunction.


The same factors that go into making a full-sized handgun faster to reload make it easier to solve malfunctions.

The size of the slide and grip offers you more space to grip. Its larger area makes it easy to retract the slide and free the magazine.

From those complicated malfunctions, you can drop the mag, rack the slide, and get on with it.

Bigger guns are easier to handle, including clearing malfunctions and getting the gun back into service.

Final Thoughts

When you go to the range, I’m betting you prefer shooting the larger handguns in your collection. You likely shoot them better, and they are more comfortable to handle overall.

Who doesn’t want those same features in a carry gun?

Full Sized Handguns
Full Sized Handguns

Full-sized handguns offer you a ton of benefits and might be the best choice for you when it comes time to conceal carry. Admittedly they are larger and can be a little tougher to conceal. That does pose a challenge.

It demands a good holster, a good belt, and some grit and determination at times. You can learn more about carrying one of these big boys in How-To Concealed Carry a Full-Size Gun.

Then again, maybe it’s not for you, and that’s okay too.

Let us know your thoughts on full-sized guns in the comments below. Looking for some affordable full-size models? Head to our Best Full-Size Guns Under $400 for more options. But if you need something smaller, check out our list of the Best Concealed Carry Pistols.

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14 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar

    I wish I could but they’re too difficult to conceal, especially in my anti-2A state where deep concealment is priority.

    March 8, 2023 1:24 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Chuck Cochran

    I'm comfortable carrying either, and train/drill regularly with both a full size Walther PPQ M2 and a SIG P365. I carry the SIG in hot weather and the Walther when a cover garment is needed in the winter.
    The Walther is the easier of the two to shoot, and my groups tighten up with it (longer sight radius), and the PPQs trigger is unbeatable for a stock trigger. So I admit I have to work a little harder with the SIG to keep my groups acceptable. 0

    February 27, 2023 9:14 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Steve Sheridon

    Another thing, here in Israel we go to a custom kydex maker for a holster. No matter what gun and what set up- lasers lights etc, he will make you the perfect kydex IWB/OWB/pocket holster while you wait- around 40 minutes, for around $80. He'll do whatever I want like a cover for the mag release button, any colour and texture as well. Hell, he even let's me come at 10.30pm! Do they not do this in the U.S.?

    February 27, 2023 3:34 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Chuck Cochran

      There are folks around the US that do custom work. The problem is, the US is a big place, and there's often quite a distance to travel to find a gear maker (nearest one I know of from my home is over 300 miles away). So they are custom makers out there, just a lot of territory to cover.

      February 27, 2023 9:31 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      That's pretty cool. Does the custom kydex maker need the firearm in hand to do the work? I'm looking for a holster for my SIG P227 tactical that is suppressor ready (tall sites and a threaded barrel) and has a Streamlight attached. I can't find anything that works so far. Can you share the custom kydex maker's name and contact info?



      March 3, 2023 11:14 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        Steve Sheridon

        Yes any custom kydex maker will need the firearm present (unless it's a standard gun with no accessories) as the procedure involves vaccuuming the kydex to the pistol so all the bumps and lines hug the pistol. You will also tell him how firm you want the holster to grip the firearm. Google custom kydex maker near you and it's worth the trip- the holster will last a lifetime... also get some reccomendations from people so you know your dealing with an expert....

        March 4, 2023 12:45 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Steve Sheridon

    A gun the size of a G19 is the best size to firepower ratio there is. That's why it is the most popular carry gun in the world. Size is important not only for concealment but for weight as per comfort as well. Grip is irrelavent because you can swap out backstraps and place a rubber sleeve over the grip. Sight radius is irrelavent because of red dots. Power is irrelavent because you can carry +P hollowpoints. Capacity is irrelavent because you've got 15 rounds on tap and a spare mag can carry 17, 23, or even 33 rounds. Even weight is irrelavent because you can carry 147 grain bullets to beef up weight for first shots...
    That's why I'll stick with my M and P 2.0 with Apex flat faced trigger that has gone 23,413 rounds without a single stoppage.....

    February 27, 2023 2:00 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      I respectfully disagree that grip is irrelavent because of backstraps and accessories. For me, holding a Glock is like holding a 2x4: no ergonomics and it's too big to fit my hand comfortably. I've tried all kinds of Glock backstraps and accessories in an attempt to mitigate the feel and it's still not a comfortable grip. That's why I don't carry a Glock.

      March 3, 2023 11:55 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    I don’t really know why but tier 1 concealment is never said on here to be a good holster, I’ve tried and used many holsters different ways Teir 1 axis is the most comfortable holster I’ve ever used and every person that I know tried them swapped to them,I don’t get paid to use there stuff either,it by far is the best ever saw,I carry 19 with extra clip appendix all day u barely notice u have it

    February 26, 2023 9:01 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    A lot of gun carry people wear jeans, the guys especially but this applies for women also even though guys seem the be the biggest "violator".

    Guess what guys, jeans for guys actually have two styles of wear - one is waist and the other is hips.

    NO, your hips and waist are not the same thing. The waist is above those larger bones you feel and those bones are the hips. The jeans intended for hip level wear will still have a waist size and most guys buy based upon this, but for hip wear that waist size shown is actually around your hips and not the waist.

    Why is this important for concealed carry? Because if the belt/holster is around your waist and fitted properly the hips will keep the gun, due to its weight, from working its way down your body and you will not have that frequent "Hey, wait a second, let he hike up my gun some its sliding down." - it will be stopped by and rest on top of the hips at the waist. If its on the hips there is nothing but the friction of how tight you have the belt to keep it from tending to slide down. I see it all the time, people I know that carry stopping to hike up their pants in a manner that hopes no one will notice and they are wearing hip style wear jeans/pants. Sure, this is not the only thing but remember the pants and belt also need to be sized properly

    Yeah, its not always noted with the product (sometimes it is) but they actually come in those wear styles. Try them on or know the wear style before you buy them. You guys, In case its not noted with the product by trying them on you can tell - waist wear style jeans will still have a comfortable amount of room at the bottom of the crotch area when they are pulled up to your waist and the hip wear will be a little more snug when pulled up to your waist. For women's wear its a little different their bodies are different so they need to choose what best suits them in this aspect for waist wear jeans and pants. Every time I see pics here for some guy carrying a gun with jeans showing concealed carry positions they always seem to be wearing them on their hips and the jeans always seem too small - on the actual hip line is the worst place you can put a gun if you are trying to conceal carry.

    The next thing I see with the jeans in pictures of people demonstrating concealed carry is they are actually too small. Here's a hint, the zipper plat (they part which covers the zipper) is suppose to lay flat if the jeans are the proper size. Its not suppose to bulge out or gap open. So that means either the jeans are the wrong size or you are wearing waist intended jeans on your hips. Just because you can still get them on and fastened and zipped does not mean that are the correct size. If you fasten the jeans the zipper its self is gaping apart before you zip if by a distance of more than the width of your middle finger you are hitting the limit for size and need to think about the next size jeans.

    If you are going to conceal carry and wear jeans, or any pants actually, get the correct wear style of waist wear and the correct size. You probably are not 16 years old any more so don't dress like your in high school when conceal carrying and get the correct pants and size. Your conceal carry will be a lot more comfortable and even conceal better because the area above the hips called the waist is softer and the gun can tuck in more instead of the almost 1 inch of outward push added by it being mostly or all the way on the hips. This helps not only for smaller guns but its best for larger guns.

    OH, and stay away from 'fashion' jeans for concealed carry. They almost always are hip wear. Ya might get away with it, women more than men, but in the end your conceal carry will probably be more conformable and better with waist wear style of jeans.

    February 26, 2023 1:42 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      To clarify:

      By proper fit and waist size for IWB choose the waist size WITH the IWB holster in place and the zipper plat does not gap out when standing or sitting - if a non-stretch waist band.

      The best thing that ever happened for mens pants and IWB is the stretch waist, and its best for IWB jeans/pants. Get your correct fit and size waist wear without the IWB holster in place and the stretch waist is going to take care of accommodating the holster better and more comfortably than a non stretch waist band.

      For OWB concealed carry the correct size and fit for waist ware - remember, no gapping zipper plats.

      February 26, 2023 2:26 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      As a man, my hips are the same diameter as my waste. So, my hips will not keep my gun belt from dropping. What does keep my gun belt from dropping is cinching the belt down properly so that it's tight enough to stay where I put it, but not so tight that it limits my movement and breathing.

      March 3, 2023 11:58 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    8. When you run out of ammo larger frames make better clubs.

    February 26, 2023 9:48 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      Heavy is good, heavy is reliable. If it doesn't work you can always hit them with it.

      February 26, 2023 12:39 pm
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