Your concealed carry gun, by definition, is not an object of public display. What it looks like is nobody’s business but your own. Unless, of course, you have to take it out and use it one day, in which case the only thing most people will likely notice about your pistol is the size of the hole in the muzzle.

Your perspective is much more friendly. You have made a commitment to live with your gun every day. You have an intimate relationship with it, and its aesthetic appeal to your senses is part of that. You may be perfectly happy with its fresh-from-the-factory utilitarianism, as the unadorned and necessarily purposeful lines of a firearm, race car, boat or airplane represent an inherently strong aesthetic itself. Or you may want to make a few changes, personalize your gun’s form, customize its function. Or you may want to go even further and commission a master engraver to transform your daily carry pistol into a work of art. Whatever you decide, rest assured that it will not matter to anyone but you, so concern yourself only with your own personal satisfaction.

If you’re under the mistaken impression that carrying a pretty pistol appeals only to the ladies, consider the thoughts of Sheriff Jim Wilson, a practical man who carries his gun exposed for all to see. He recalls when he was running a gunshop and also working at the Denton County Sheriffs Office, and so had a little extra money to buy handguns for his own use: “West Texas Wholesale had bought a bunch of factory-engraved Colt 1911s from the Custom Shop and was offering them at plumb reasonable prices. After a good deal of cogitation, I decided to order a blue-steel, D-engraved Government Model. It cost me right at $800. A set of carved ivory grips was added to sort of guild the lily, and I had the finest .45 auto that I have ever owned. This engraved 1911 is the gun that generally accompanies me in my duties as a county sheriff. It shoots to point of aim with most brands of 230-grain hollowpoint ammunition and has never jammed. A good-looking handgun that shoots well too is one of life’s little joys. Long ago, I made the decision that I couldn’t abide fancy guns that were meant to be hung on the wall. I’ll keep on packing this engraved Colt and let my son hang it on the wall, assuming he wants to, after I’m gone.”

Important point that must never be forgot: Even the most beautiful guns in the world are made to be shot.

The expansive flats of semiautomatics and graceful curves of revolvers present tempting surfaces for the firearms engraver to work with. Techniques range from the skilled use of specialized modern power tools such as the Gravermeister, which can produce attractive results for a relatively modest cost, to traditional hammer-and-chisel engraving no different from the time-consuming method used by hand craftsmen hundreds of years ago. Engraving can be restrained corner-and-border treatments or lavish full coverage scrollwork with gold inlays. It can be lightly etched with hand pressure alone for the painterly effect of the Italian School, or deeply carved in the bold German fashion. Engraving or no engraving, special metal finishes as well as fancy or embellished grips and holsters can raise the beauty quotient of your personal sidearm to new heights.

After all, as a very good-looking lady of my acquaintance once said, Life’s too short to carry an ugly gun.