When choosing a handgun for carry, you MUST consider the situations that would cause you to actually use it.
Think for a moment of the extreme circumstances that would make those of us here actually pull the smokewagon. In my case, I think about protecting my family during a robbery, abduction or attack. I would never be able to live with myself afterwards if I was lazy and carried a mouse gun when a shotgun wielding bad guy pulled a robbery. Or even worse, if someone attempted to snatch my daughter and I was toting a Kel-Tec instead of a pistol I am an expert with.I am not against modern DAO pistols like the Glocks or SIG DAK for carry, because they can be carried safely and shot very well. I am not against the "smaller" guns either if the shooter is very good with the gun. However, I am not impressed with the carry of a gun that is difficult to shoot accurately and in a marginal caliber.
For what it's worth, I've listed the guns I carry in various categories below.
Small, go-to-church guns for low risk carry (when I really don't want to carry), but I can still shoot effectively:
S&W Model 60 - the sights make accuracy tough, but this gun is a good shooter in a service round (.38 Special), easy to carry and totally reliable. In addition, it is a good back up and gun to hand off to a second shooter like my wife. A true pocket gun that can be fired through clothing. DA trigger system.
SIG 232 - here the .380ACP caliber is borderline, BUT I can shoot it as accurately as a service sized gun and make head shots. Again, it is easily carried and concealed. TDA trigger system.
Glock 27 .40S&W - too chunky for real pocket carry, but very accurate and powerful. In some situations this is an ideal gun. Mine has a heavy trigger for coat pocket and fanny pack carry. Heavy DAO for safety.
Medium, carry most of the time guns for off-duty:
Glock 19 or Glock 23 - probably my favorite all around carry guns due to the weight, size, accuracy, calibers and comfort of shooting. I probably shoot these as well as the full sized models out to 15+ yards. "NY1" trigger (8LB DAO).
S&W 3913 - what I often carry at work and off duty. Light and accurate 9mm. I am comfortable with the S&W TDA system because I have carried it for over 20 years.
My latest gun, a SIG 229 - this .40S&W is an experiment for me. I did a lot of shooting with the DAK guns that have a "Light Double Action" trigger that is the hot new thing in law enforcement. For the most part I do not like LDA guns, but of the breed I believe the SIG DAK is best. It feels like a PPC revolver trigger at 6.5 pounds. I prefer the TDA SIGs for tactical reasons, but the DAK is great for deliberate shooting for accuracy - it is incredibly smooth for an auto... or revolver!
Large duty type pistols that I carry on duty or during cold weather include the S&W 4506-1, 4566TSW, 5906, Performance Center PC9 (.45s and 9mms) - again, I am comfortable with S&W TDAs. Also, Glock full sized pistols, and the SIG 220 or P226.
Notice my list does not include revolvers except the M60. I don't think large revolvers hold anything for me as a carry gun any more. The size, weight and capacity is just more efficient in autos, and the autos are usually more concealable. Besides, I am a better shot with a pistol.
I have traded off my HK pistols (at right). They had too foreign of an operating system (trigger, safety, mag release), and I found myself not carrying them enough to be familiar or "automatic" with them as I call it.
WHAT THE HECK?! I must not be a true GunGeek! Notice the absence of any 1911 or other SA pistol on my list. I rarely carry my 1911s. Even though they are great guns, I do not favor them for carry. I simply do not prefer or endorse the SA for concealed carry. I can do it, and sometimes will when on a range trip (to keep things simple), but IMO a Glock 23 or SIG 229 are pretty big guns, and the steel 5" 1911s I own are boat anchors. Even if I had a chopped 1911 I would not carry it- to me they are like the S&W Model 60 and have limited application, but without the benefits the M60 offers (size, weight, concealable, reliable pocket gun).
In any event, I believe that many if not most gun geeks pick their carry gun by what is on a gunzine cover. I am most impressed by someone who knows his gun and uses it well, regardless of brand, model, size or action. But with the vast selection of handguns available today, it is easy to lose sight of the circumstances in which we are likely to use our smokewagon! I prefer to carry only those guns which I know I am utterly safe, handle "automatically", shoot accurately, and will be effective in the event I am forced to use it.
The type of action is critical in the selection of carry gun, but there are wide variations in the available choices. For instance, the SIG DAK is considered a DAO and so is a Kel-Tec, but they feel nothing alike. My TDA S&W pistols have a very smooth DA pull and short reset, but many TDAs have a heavy crunchy feel. IMO we can no longer generalize about action type in terms of quality pull.
Whatever action type is chosen, the trigger must be such that you can shoot a pie plate with 100% hits at a distance of 15 yards while at the range. Consider again the circumstances of the likely use of your carry gun: if you cannot meet this simple range standard with your carry gun, consider a different gun and/or more training. It will be much harder to score hits in an emergency, and your misses will go somewhere!
IMO the bottom line when selecting a gun for carry is how well you can shoot with it, and how effective it would be in the scenarios you are most likely to use it. There is no single answer for everyone, and the compromises of the real world will likely be in direct conflict with your first choice. There is no BEST carry gun.