Top 3 California Compliant Concealed Carry Handguns

Californians who want an everyday carry (EDC) handgun have fewer options than most other Americans. So let’s navigate the California Roster of Certified Handguns and find the best 3 choices for concealed carry.

california republic flag

California gun-control craziness —

California lawmakers boost on saying California has the strictest gun laws of any state in the country. What non-Californians may not know is that in addition to magazine capacity limitations, waiting periods, background checks for ammunition, and a host of other gun control, the state also restricts which models of guns the subjects of the state may purchase.

In 2001, California enacted laws that created a roster of guns certified for sale by the California Department of Justice (DOJ). That roster currently consists of 804 different handgun models. So with 804 handguns to choose from, what’s the problem with selecting a suitable gun for everyday carry (EDC)?

Here is how the California DOJ summarizes the law:

No handgun may be manufactured within California, imported into California for sale, lent, given, kept for sale, or offered/exposed for sale unless that handgun model has passed firing, safety, and drop tests and is certified for sale in California by the Department of Justice. Private party transfers, curio/relic handguns, certain single-action revolvers, and pawn/consignment returns are exempt from this requirement.

gun store in california

Owning an off-roster gun in California —

You may have noticed it mentioned some exemptions to the rule. This exemption is because you can own guns, not on the roster. You can’t have them shipped to California, manufacturers can’t make them in the state, and if you own one and move to the state, you must register it with the California DOJ.

Here is an expert from a post explaining a bit more about owning an “off-roster” gun in California:

Some of the most popular handguns for concealed carry, such as the Sig Sauer P365, aren’t on the list. The odds are remote, but you may be able to find a Californian who owns one. Things that are rare fetch higher prices, and people are not usually willing to part with them.

If you find someone willing to conduct a private party sale and pay the premium, a person with a Federal Firearms License (FFL) can complete the transfer. You will still need to wait 10 days, complete California DOJ paperwork, and pay an additional fee to the government, But you could be the proud owner of your very own used Sig P365.

Sounds fun right?

p365 not on california authorized gun list

Finding the best gun for concealed carry allowed in California —

Unfortunately, the truth is, there aren’t 804 different types of guns on the list. This is because each variant, even if it’s a different finish or color, is counted in the total.

Also, the extensive testing process and a yearly fee of $200 per gun keep options from some smaller manufacturers off the list.

We don’t have much to work with, but here are my top 3 guns for my friends in California.

Number 1: 3rd Generation Glock 19

You’ll notice that you can’t own a 4th or 5th generation Glock handgun in California. However, all’s not lost; you can still purchase the tried and true Gen 3. The Glock 19 is the standard for striker-fired concealed carry handguns. Even though Californians can’t use the 15 round magazines, the size of the Glock 19 is suitable for concealment while providing grip space and a balanced feel.


glock 19

Number 2: Smith & Wesson M&P Shield

The M&P Shield was an extremely popular sub-compact handgun for concealed carry before Sig released the P365 with higher capacity. The Shield’s 10 round capacity is perfect for Californians who live under magazine capacity limitations.

Number 3: S&W 638

The J-Frame 638 revolver in .38 SPL+P from Smith & Wesson is a fantastic EDC concealed carry option for Californians who want a revolver. The 638 is aluminum framed and purpose-built for concealed carry. You can find them with three different hammer styles: internal, shrouded, and external.

SW638, number 3 concealed carry gun for CA

Closing —

So those are my top three recommendations for concealed carriers in California. California may add new guns to the list in the future, but that does not seem to be the trend. We don’t see new guns making it to the list, great options like the Sig Sauer P365 and P320, Glock 48 and 43X, M&P Shield 2.o, Springfield Hellcat, Walther PDP Compact, and many others.


  1. Jonathan Limebrook on February 22, 2022 at 10:26 am

    “You’ll notice that you can’t own a 3rd or 4th generation Glock handgun in California.”

    Obviously you mean 4th or 5th generation, because you then go on to tout a 3rd gen G17. Of course the 17 is an excellent choice, but since you can only have a 10-round mag, why not go with the lighter, more concealable G26? (Like I do).

    • Matthew Maruster on February 22, 2022 at 10:58 am

      Hi Johnathan, thanks for catching that. You’re correct it should have read 4th and 5th gen Glocks are not on the list.

      As far as carrying a 26 instead of a 19 you sure could. I prefer the 19 over the 26 not just because of capacity. The 19 feels more balanced to me. It’s slightly heavier, the recoil impulse is different. For many the 26s grip doesn’t provide enough grip space. Sure one could add grip space with mag extensions. It may not be worth it for you to swap to a Glock 19 from a 26 if you’ve used both and like the 26. Personally I think the 26 doesn’t provide a substantial advantage over the 19. Plus if you guys can get rid of those mag capacity limitations you’re in business.

  2. Scott hultner on June 28, 2022 at 9:38 pm

    My son lives in idaho & owns a sig p365. He wants to give that to me for my birthday, can I accept that & register In california?

    • Victor Dunsmire on September 9, 2022 at 3:08 am

      Nope. Unless you’re active law enforcement.

    • Mark on November 29, 2022 at 5:59 pm

      Yes, you can accept it.
      Key text: “The transfer of a firearm between a parent and child or a grandparent and grandchild is exempt from the dealer transfer requirement. The exemption does not apply to step-children/step-parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, or cousins.”
      Just don’t forget the paperwork.

  3. Stewart Johnson on July 19, 2022 at 1:24 pm

    Yes, you lucky ——- :-). Have to print out the correct transfer forms for CA DOJ,

  4. E. Ryan on July 23, 2022 at 8:47 pm

    If I had a second spleen I’d trade it for a HellCat. If my parents, children and grandchildren didn’t live here in California, niether would I. (Born and raised here but the leadership has destroyed it)

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