By Mark “Six” James
First and foremost, I’d like to say Hucky set me up by asking me to write this article; as I expect a lot of feedback on the topic from my fellow professionals.
When it comes to selecting a firearm; selecting a firearm is like selecting wine, taste is a matter of preference, within reason; as the mission should dictate the tools. However here are a few variables that I feel one should consider.
The major considerations for most people when it comes to selecting a firearm, whether for self-defense or executive protection should be:
If this is a duty or agency weapon are there specific departmental or agency requirements (i.e. double action only, single action, double/single action, model etc.). How much time do I have to devote to training?
Is the caliber or capacity appropriate for my intended use? Would my personal, department, agencies or clients needs be better satisfied through multiple firearms, as opposed to one size fits all?
Reliability – when it comes to reliability most of the large modern gun makers build reliable handguns. Make sure you select a manufacturer and handgun that is built to be driven hard. It must be able to stand up to the pressure of continuous practice and training.
Simplicity – ease of operation (i.e. trigger, magazine release, slide release, and takedown etc.) should be a major consideration. In the stress free life of the square range every handgun seems fine. However under the stress of a deadly force situation you need a weapon that is simple to operate, and one you feel you can operate effectively under low light conditions.
Accuracy – some people will think about accuracy as number one; but accuracy is a direct byproduct of training and the component you can most impact. Most of today’s large modern gun manufacturer’s handguns shoot pretty reliable groups from any gun vise, so accuracy is not about the gun, but about the operator. Most guns shoot more accurately than you can hold them.
Caliber – I am a firm believer that most people should consider shooting the largest caliber and heaviest load of bullet that they can shoot accurately. Accuracy should always trump caliber size (it doesn’t do you any good to have a large caliber that you can’t control).
For personal or executive protection I am not a fan of any caliber below 9mm (although well placed rounds to the vital areas from a .22, .32 or .380 will typically have a positive ballistic effect on your adversary; however under stress most people will only be half as accurate as they are on their best day at the range).
My first consideration of accuracy is your ability to place the rounds repeatedly center-mass using both hands. Then the ability to place rounds repeatedly center mass with one hand. My recommended calibers are 9 mm and .45 ACP for semi-automatic pistols and .357 and .38 special for revolvers for working guns.
I know there are many other fine calibers available however the above I have found those are the easiest calibers to consistently find ammunition for and typically have the greatest variety in load options.
When it comes to revolver or semi-automatic, in general a revolver’s inherent advantages lie in their simplicity, and ease of operations with minimal potential for malfunctions. Semi-automatic handguns advantages typically lie in their increased ammunition capacity and speed in reloading for most operators.
If you work with a firearm and cannot easily operate both, then you need to ask yourself have you dedicated enough time to your training. Consider testing (many reputable ranges typically offer both revolvers and semi-automatic that you can rent by the hour prior making a purchase) multiple calibers in both revolvers and semi-automatic pistols before making a purchase.
Is concealability (3 inch or shorter barrel) or accuracy (5 inch barrel) more important to you? Most people will typically shoot a longer barrel more accurately than a shorter one. If you can only buy one handgun, most people will probably benefit from a 4 inch barrel as it gives you the best of both worlds.
Also most people will shoot a single action or light double action semi-automatic handgun more accurately than the longer trigger pull of a double action semi-automatic handgun.
Just like everything else we do, the mission should dictate the tools to maximize your effectiveness. With that said here are my choices in selecting a firearm for most EP assignments.
They are ranked by alphabetically not by preference.
High Capacity Pistols (Double Stack Magazines)
• Glock 19 (9 mm, 4.02 inch barrel), Glock 30 (.45 ACP, 3.78 inch barrel)
• Ruger SR9 (9 mm, 3.5 inch barrel)
• Sig Sauer 229 (9 mm, 3.9 inch barrel)
• Smith & Wesson M&P9 (9 mm, 4.25 inch barrel), M&P45 (.45 ACP, 4 inch barrel)
• Springfield XD9 (9 mm, 4 inch barrel), XD45 (.45 ACP, 4 inch barrel) Slim Frame Pistols (Single Stack Magazines)
• Colt 1911 Commander (.45 ACP, 4.25 inch barrel), Defender (.45 ACP or 9 mm, 3 inch barrel)
• Kimber Ultra Carry II (.45 ACP, 3 inch barrel), SIS (.45 ACP, 5 inch barrel)
• Sig Sauer 239 (9 mm, 3.6 inch barrel), 220 (.45 ACP, 3.9 inch barrel)
• Springfield EMP (9 mm, 3 inch barrel), Operator/TRP (.45 ACP, 5 inch barrel)
• Taurus PT 1911 (.45 ACP, 5 inch barrel)
• Ruger SP101 (.357, 2.25 inch barrel)
• Ruger LCR (.357, 1.87 inch barrel)
• Smith and Wesson 649 (.357, 1.87 inch barrel)
• Smith and Wesson M&P R8 (.357 or .38 Special, 5 inch barrel)
• Taurus 617 (.357, 2 inch barrel)
Material choices generally include titanium, aluminum alloy, steel, and stainless steel. Finishes, primarily for alloys or steel, include matte (non-reflective black), blued (mirror-like blue-black), and nickel plated (shiny silver chrome).
Stainless steel resists rusting, blued steel is extremely durable but will corrode if not cared for, and titanium and aluminum alloy are extremely light, with titanium being the lightest (about two-thirds the weight of steel). Materials and finishes are generally also a matter of preference.
The more details you work, and the more you train, the more you will find limitations for any of the tools you select. Whatever you decide, try to buy it once and avoid buying new cheap gun as opposed to a quality used one, if finances are a concern. In conclusion pick a handgun that is reliable, simple, and accurate and a caliber you can handle.
Make sure that there are a wide variety of accessories made to fit it (i.e. holsters, grips, lights, ammo etc.). Don’t rely on what the police or military are carrying (their choice may have come from the lowest bidder, although generally their choices will be pretty reliable), but rely and what you have tested and fired for yourself and what performed best for you. Work hard, train hard and realize the tool you select may be called upon to save your life or that of your client one day.
Mark “Six” James is the Founder and Executive Director of Panther Protection Services, LLC a full service protection agency which provides security consulting, threat assessment, executive protection, women’s self-defense training, and firearms instruction. He is a seasoned Close Protection Operator/Executive Protection Specialist with over 25 years of firearms, martial arts and dignitary/executive protection experience. He is also a member of the Board of Directors for Deepwater Security, a member of the British Bodyguard Association, NRA and International Defensive Pistol Association and Greater Atlanta Defensive Pistol Association.
For more information, on Mark and his publications please visit:
Austin in Texas
I’ve taken a few courses on Executive Protection since my exposure from the Military. The only gun you need is the one that you shoot the best. I am a huge fan of Sigs. I have shot Glocks and Berettas but really like the Sigs. 1911’s have 100 year old technology that has no place in concealed carry with today’s lighter hi capacity DA or striker fired tools. The Sig 2022 is a great $400 professional pistol. That is a great point about making sure a handgun will work with all kinds of ammo and a lot of people never even test there Defense Ammo.
Great article. I have found over the years that I throw away a lot of ammo(due to traveling through airports and what not). For this reason I recommend carrying a handgun which eats any ammo on the shelf. For this reason I highly advise against 1911’s for EP. 1911’s tend to be the most ammo finiky handguns of all. I know I can pick up ANY 9mmLuger ammo and expect 100% dependability in my Glock 19. I find a carriable 357 to be versatile also but ammo has gotten as high as 45 even when buying 38spl. I find 38spl isn’t as common on shelfs as it once was either. Another point being that some states like Florida limit EP and other armed forms of security to 38, 380, & 9mm only. If you happen to be a reserve officer like me doing EP you can often slip through cracks like that.
Do not leave out the HK series of pistols. I own many of the above pistols, but one of my favorites is my HK USP .45 compact. Can be carried double action only, double/single action, or “cocked and locked”.
I also like my Glock 19. The fact that you can squirrel away a 32 round mag or two somewhere for emergencies is nice.
I have a rarely used, frequently cleaned glock 26, which jams every few hundred rounds or less, so I am not convinced of glocks reliability. This is the only gun I have ever owned and am looking for something more reliable.
My choice of weapons for c/c will be the Beretta’s PX4 storm in 9mm. Like the feel of the grip and good sight pickup for fast and accurate shots. I pray I will never have to use it on duty. Glocks are good too except you have to get use to the trigger action. This will be my second choice. !! Om Mani Pat Mi Om !! Have a safe and nice day.
Another good one. I love my Glocks but know that they are not the right gun for everybody. It’s always good to keep an open mind.
Excellent article. The topic was presented in a manner that the Executive Protection Professional could digest, but not so heavy handed that if your not a rabid shooter your eyes would glaze over. Engaging and informative.
Elijah Shaw, CEO
Icon Services Corporation
Derrick Gonzales, USCG
Great job with the post. And great replies by everyone else! I use a Heckler & Koch USP .40 Compact. I have small hands and the compact fits perfectly in it. Not too big for a .40 so I can carry concealed easily, and draw easily if need be. By the way I’ve never had a failure with it. So if you got the money (which took me months and months to pile up) H&K is always a good buy. Also, as Damien R. said earlier, availability is a big concern. I live in south Florida and it isn’t hard finding any gun I want. But I was raised in the Midwest and quality gun shops were few and far in between (but I was lucky enough to get my USP for $700 over 5 years ago!). I think a professional, or average joe for that matter, should determine his mindset before buying a gun. What will it’s purpose be? (range or protection?) Where will it be kept? (car, house, desert?) And how many hours are you willing to commit to upkeep and training? First, a person needs to know why a gun is needed and how that incorporates into their life, then they can move on to the fun part!
Great article. Glad to see both my concealed carry guns made the list (XD’s). Although they are both different calibers and barrel sizes I can use the same BlackHawk holster for both guns, it fits both. I love my Sigs, the 229 40 and 226 45 but they are very heavy guns to have fully loaded on your belt for 10-12 hrs a day for concealed, great for exposed though. Of course we all have opinions and it isn’t just a one size fits all thing. I really like the part about going and renting guns (just 5 bucks here plus their ammo, not yours) and shooting multiple guns to see what feels right for you, not everyone will be the same, different hand sizes, grip sizes etc. I also liked the part about the importance of shooting both strong and week handed. Keep up the good work and all my EP Brother’s “stay low”..
Great article Six!
I agree that calibre is important; nothing smaller than a 9MM. However, ammunition is as vitally important. I always recommend Corbon DPX where/when available. Also noted was the importance of training…firearms skills erode quickly. I recommend that if you are carrying a firearm for business, you should be launching at least 150 rounds a month downrange in relational drills. Don’t just run the target down 25 feet and try to put them all through the same hole…but rather practice drawing from concealed carry, moving off the line of attack and engaging accurately under severe time constrictions (less than two seconds).
Also, for revolvers, a Smith 340PD makes an excellent backup gun.
Mr Dauda Ishaku Nigeria
GREAT ARTICLE!!!! But you’ve forgotten about (JERICHO)Browning but my best choice is Glock. (YANN HOW ‘RE U?)
As always, a great article. Perhaps one more category to add – availability. Choosing the gun mag guy’s pick for the latest and greatest exotic piece of unobtainium might make you cool, but how cool are you when you cant get basic replacement parts, mags or ammo? As well, if you are on a team sized detail having the same weapons/caliber/magazines is a must as no one wants to be the only guy (or gal) shooting a 10mm and run out of ammo….
As a side topic, invest in quality gear. I ran into a guy once, who had an $800 handgun, a $200.00 gun case and used an $8.00 holster on a $12.00 belt. Cost is not the issue, but I hope you get the point. Get quality gear: holster, gunbelt, mag holsters.
Lastly, as Six said, but I’m paraphrasing: train, train, train. Weapons handling and shooting skills are perishable.Carrying a firearm in conjunction with the profession may seem cool, but it is a tool. Knowing how and when to employ the tool is WAY cool. Unfortunately we run into too many people that think just owning a firearm is enough. Figuring out you dont know how to use your tool when you need it the most, is not the time to wish you had trained more.
Good times! Look forward to the next one!
Dr. L.C. Holifield
It has gotten to a point that whenever “Six” writes an article regarding firearms, I don’t even have to read it because I know its going to be “spot on” as all of his articles generally are. GREAT ARTICLE!!!
Six; great article on a topic that is rarely mentioned in such a professional context. Thank you for this needed information.
Once again you have covered all avenues. Great article Mark.
Mark, great post I really appreciate you taking time to write this article. I think you’re spot on with your observations, I guess my feelings are, your selection should be based on the environment you operate in, what you are comfortable with, What you are most accurate with, and your threat level, I personally like Glock’s and Sig’s, but my personal choice is the Glock 23 w/ 2 Glock 22 spare mags. Decent tradeoffs in firepower, size, and availability of ammo.
M. O'Neal Mitchell
Comprehensive and concise, a very good article. You never fail to speak to that which is both the art and science of our craft. May you be blessed, as your knowledge blesses us, your brothers.
Sig P226. reliable as hell and accurate or Glock 17. The comment about Tupperware guns show ignorance. Have a Glock with over 10,000 rounds through it without any problems.
Original Browning Hi-Power is a great tool. I tried to focus the article based on availability of parts, and accessories to fit the tools. Some great guns are hard to find a variety of holsters built specifically for those tools.
Good one! Just forgot to mention some of the “old faithful” still commonly found in Africa, where I live and work, such as Browning Hi-Power and CZ’s! Having said that a lot of younger operators seem to swear by the Glock series (Beware of Tupperware guns!) Keep dispensing knowledge!!!