XdAndKnife (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The purpose of this article is not to knock on compact , subcompact, or  pocket pistols. In fact, I have quite a few compact and subcompacts that I really like.  I have had a lot of inquiries as to why I go to all the trouble of carrying my full-sized Springfield XD and XD(M)s as opposed to something like the Ruger LC9. The reason I am writing this is simply to explain my thought process behind why I carry full-sized handgun.

Intimidation Factor:

The majority of every battle is fought mentally. If that’s the case, then we should do whatever we can to diminish the enemies fight by handicapping their mental capabilities. How do we do this? Through intimidation.

A lot of people argue that a gun is a gun. Whether they are using a .25 caliber pocket pistol for defense or a .45 service pistol, they believe that the attacker will react the same.  If this were the case, law enforcement and military would carry light, little guns in a small caliber. After all, the smaller calibers are generally cheaper to shoot, and are by far easier to carry around.

According to “Handgun Wounding Factors And Effectiveness” one of the FBI’s training materials:

“Psychological factors are probably the most important relative to achieving rapid incapacitation from a gunshot wound to the torso. Awareness of the injury (often delayed by the suppression of pain); fear of injury, death, blood or pain; intimidation by the weapon or the act of being shot; preconceived notions of what people do when they are shot; or the simple desire to quit can all lead to incapacitation even from minor wounds. However, psychological factors are also the primary cause of incapacitation failures.

– Special Agent Urey W. Patrick of the FBI Firearms Training Unit

Ease of Use:

A full-sized handgun is easier for me to shoot. This is a personal statement, as everyone is going to have their own types of firearms that they excel with.  My training has shown me that I personally shoot more consistently with a full-sized handgun then with a pocket pistol.  If I ever have to pull my gun,  I’m going to be dealing with a enough stress already; I don’t need to be struggling with a pistol that I’m not consistently accurate  with at the same time.

Sight Radius:

Sight radius refers to the distance between the front and back sites. Naturally, a larger gun is going to have a longer sight radius. The longer the sight radius the easier it is going to be to get more precise sight alignment and see any movement in the sight alignment.


Newton’s laws of motion state that “for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction”. Every time you shoot a round, pressure builds up in the chamber. That pressure pushes the bullet out of the barrel, causing an opposite force which cycles the action.  That opposite force is what causes recoil. The heavier a gun is, the more recoil it will absorb.

If I were to shoot the same ammunition in both a pocket pistol and a full-sized pistol, the full-sized pistol would have less perceived recoil. The reason why I say perceived recoil is because the same amount of force is exerted on both guns (because the exact same ammunition is being shot though both guns),  one just happens to absorb more of the force.

With more recoil being absorbed into the gun, that means less movement to my sight alignment. I can now get my sight alignment and sight picture back to where it should be quicker than with a smaller gun.

There is also the consideration that a larger, heavier handgun can be used a small club if the need arises. Yes, I just mentioned  pistol-whipping.


I like knowing that I’ve got a good combat grade sidearm on me. This means it’s going to have loose enough tolerances that the gun feeds easily, but not so loose that it can’t be shot accurately. It also means no frilly “safety” features that can cause a problem in a combat type of situation, such as a magazine disconnect. Of course I could go on for hours about guide rods (for some reason, guide rods fascinate me), but I’ll leave that for a later post.

Any tactical advantage I can secure before the fight might very well end up saving my life.


Now, every handgun is different, feeds differently, and reacts differently under different conditions. However, what I have found is that the shorter the slide travel, the more severe the feed angle on the feeding ramp leading up to the chamber. This can (note I said can, not will) cause problems with feeding, extraction, etc.  Although I train on clearing weapons malfunctions, I’m still not going to knowingly put myself in a situation where I might have to.

As I always say, a firearm collection is much like an underwear collection. Everybody has different needs, comforts and favorites. This article is not designed to  try to convince anyone that I’m doing the right thing by carrying what I carry, or that everyone else should carry a full-sized gun too. Like I said before, it is simply an explanation for all those who wonder about my concealed carry choices.

© Packing Pretty, Grace McKee 2012