A dangerous mentality in the world of firearms carry is ‘because I have confidence in this firearm’. That’s not to say you shouldn’t run a firearm you trust– the danger here is when confidence is not founded on objective statistics, but when it’s a subjective one.
Subjective confidence versus objective confidence is best described as the difference between dance lessons and tequila before a wedding. One of them will make you a better dancer– the other one just makes you think you’re a better dancer.
Many gun owners rely on combinations of ammo, gear, and weapon that conform to knowledge that they’ve accepted as gospel and refuse to question, even to the point of getting defensive when that ‘sure knowledge’ is challenged. Remember that 30 years ago, the idea of the modern isosceles grip was considered ‘stupid’, and polymer-framed guns were considered toys more than serious fighting pistols. Gunfighting is a scientific endeavour; good science must stand up to relentless inquiry and questioning. If your opinions/notions/knowledge cannot stand up to scrutiny, then the only thing worse than hanging onto it is distributing it.
Objective confidence stems from two sources: mechanical reliability and functional reliability. Mechanical reliability is what the gun will do under ideal conditions; functional reliability is what it’ll actually do when you use it.
A weapon you can be objectively confident in has a certain degree of inherent mechanical reliability. Mechanical reliability is determined by eliminating human variables. You know that it is mechanically capable of holding a certain amount of accuracy at 25 yards (The standard for a Glock is 3-4″ at that range) with your given defensive ammo. It will feed, cycle, and chamber that ammo as close to 100% of the time as possible. Remember, 90% success means that you’ll have one round fail to fire in a 10-round magazine, so I wouldn’t settle for anything less than 99.9% reliability in a defensive firearm. This is why I recommend test firing at least 100 rounds of your preferred defensive load before settling on a carry load for that gun.
But mechanical reliability isn’t the be-all, end-all of a gun. Functional reliability is how effectively you, the shooter, can put rounds on target. This is where a lot of people get a little blind about their ‘favorite’ pistol. You might buy a gun because of the hype around it, or because of the pedigree of the designer, or even because of the color. But if you can’t drive that gun as effectively as another firearm, and you willfully ignore that fact for the sake of confirming your own biases, then you’re doing yourself a real disservice.
I went through an FN 5.7 phase for a while. I wanted to love the gun. And I ran it pretty well. But frankly, even after about 1000 rounds of practice, I had to admit that I couldn’t run it as well as the 9mms I usually carried. So I went back to the drawing board. Recently I picked up an M&P Pro with RDS in 9mm. I carried it for six months, ran a few competitions with it, and came to the conclusion (about $1500 dollars too late) that I’m just not as good with it as I am with my other pistols. So, back to the drawing board and dry-fire practice until I get ‘good enough’ with it.
But the reason I could do that is because I put myself on a shot timer with those weapons and compared myself to people who I knew were of comparable overall skill. Guys I compete with and train with regularly (and usually can smoke when I’m running my STI 2011 or my SP-01).
Before you say ‘I’m confident in this firearm’, as yourself what you can actually DO with that firearm. Can you clear a Bill Drill at 3 yards in under 3 seconds with it? Can you do a 10x10x10 in under 15 seconds? In under 10? Is it reliable enough that you know it’ll go ‘bang’ every time you pull the trigger? Can you consistently and reliably hit an 8″ target at 7 yards– and hit the same target twice, quickly, in under 3 seconds? Will it go 100 rounds without jamming or misfiring after you clean it? Can it run reliably when exposed to dirt and mud or weather? Does it have a service life of at least 5000 rounds or are parts breaking off during the course of normal training?
You’ll probably find that a cheap old J-frame revolver or your Springfield XD or your 10mm blaster cannon is going to make it extremely difficult to perform acceptably well in this regard. You might think Glocks are ugly and the GI-issue 1911 is the epitome of a carry gun, and don’t even get you STARTED on how ‘weak’ the 9mm round is– but at the end of the day, if you and your hardware can’t cut it, it’s time to take a hard look at the shooter and the equipment and determine which of them is to blame, and ask yourself if you can still ‘carry confidently’.