I carry the Smith & Wesson M & P Shield 9mm. I made that choice after a concentrated effort involving a variety of resources.
When I decided to get into concealed carry, I had virtually no firearms experience whatsoever. A year prior I had taken a basic NRA practical pistols class with 8 hours classroom and 3 hours of actual range shooting. I had no idea what would work for me. I felt as if I was starting from scratch. My process worked well for me. Perhaps it will help others.
First, I visited every gun seller in my area (only about 5 of those) and spoke with (allegedly) knowledgeable sales people. While visiting these establishments I put as many firearms as I could in my hand to assess fit and feel. In between visits, I started reading magazines and online articles and reviews dedicated to concealed carry.
From these visits and the articles I read, I began to make decisions about what I felt would work best for me. I was able to begin listing firearm characteristics that I felt best suited my preferences. I was able to narrow down the list of prospects.
Next I watched as many reviews as I could find online (YouTube and reviews on sites like CCW GUARDIAN) for the list of candidates I felt would work well for me. Watching videos isn't the same as actually firing the gun but you do see and hear practical details that help refine that list of characteristics and preferences that are uniquely yours. My list of candidates grew smaller.
With my shorter list, I looked at manufacturer web sites and downloaded the USER MANUALS for each of my candidates. Of particular concern to me was ease of disassembly and required maintenance. My time is valuable. I also value the quality of the tools I use. My concealed firearm is a tool just like any other. It is designed to get a job done. In order to do its job, it must be maintained properly. I wanted a firearm that I could easily maintain without being a gunsmith.
The list got shorter yet. With my short list, I set out to actually fire as many of my candidates as I could. Interestingly I never got a chance to fire the Smith & Wesson M & P Shield but after firing the others and trusting the advice of some real experts (on YouTube and in real life) I made my choice.
Firing most of the short list candidates helped me choose caliber and sight style. I already knew what fit well in my hand. Buying the M & P Shield without actually firing one was a bit of a gamble but it met so many of my preferences that I was confident that it would work well. The first hundred rounds proved I had made a good choice.
I suppose the key element here is patience. Investing the time and effort to do the research, get the best advice available and get as much practical hands-on familiarity as you can will increase the odds of a good buying decision.
I applied the same basic process to my second handgun purchase. I also own a Sig Sauer P320 full size 9mm for home defense. When I go to the range I practice with both firearms. My practice routines include stationary, moving, one handed, two handed, draw from concealed and unusual position practice with both guns. I am totally pleased with my choices and while I hope I never have to use them for their intended purpose, I know that both will serve me well.
Use every resource at your disposal. Keep an open mind. Be as objective as possible. Stay focused on your preferences and ignore the hype. Refine your preferences and try as many choices as you can. If you are patient and thorough, you will make a good choice.
Headrat in FL