Guns help prevent an estimated 67,740 crimes a year, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. This little factoid might be the deciding factor in whether you choose to keep yourself safe by buying a compact handgun. Of course, there are other reasons as well to own a compact handgun perfect for concealed carry.
We have reviewed quite a few guns over the years here at Sniper Country, and I’ll take you through my pic for the five best compact handguns.
I carry a compact handgun almost every day in case something actually happens. I also prefer using compacts because of their size. They fit in most bags, jacket pockets, and purses. Now for the shortlist, I’ll be reviewing the following handguns:
- Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ: A sharp-looking semi-automatic gun that’s easy to operate by almost anyone
- Glock G19X: Representative of many compacts; a popular gun designed for the United States Army
- Springfield Armory Hellcat Micro-Compact OSP: A small pistol that has numerous features and can carry many rounds for its size
- Sig Sauer P365 Nitron Micro Compact: One of the models in the P365 lineup that are known to be reliable for every carry
- Taurus G3c: An enhanced version of the Taurus G2c 9mm pistol
Skip straight to the reviews below, or continue reading for a bit more background on these mini powerhouses that are compact handguns.
What Are Compact Guns?
The size of compact handguns makes them an ideal gun for everyday carry. Additionally, they don’t take up much space ― lightweight, more comfortable to carry, and easy to conceal. Moreover, they are large enough to get your entire hand around the grip even with small hands.
If you’re a new gun owner, you might find it uncomfortable to bring a full-size gun for everyday carry. Also, you might find most subcompacts as being too small. This is because smaller guns have less area to hold the grip, therefore leaving your hands sore, and your pinky finger to dangle uncomfortably. For many, the compact size is the “just-right” size.
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Common Compact Gun Calibers
Most compact handguns generally come in .380 ACP and 9mm calibers. Both calibers offer enough stopping power with a light, manageable recoil. The 9mm is a more beginner-friendly caliber because of its firing balance and stopping power. Additionally, its ammunition is affordable and easy to find (at least pre-Covid…), and the magazine can hold a high capacity. Furthermore, 9mm handguns have stronger recoil than .380 ACP loaded weapons. Above all, these are versatile weapons that work as both a concealed carry or home defense gun.
How To Choose a Compact Handgun
By now, you should have an idea of what a compact handgun is. Now it’s time to know how to choose a compact handgun that suits your needs. Don’t get too overwhelmed and rush to a gun shop to buy the same gun some expert reviewed to be the best (even if it is our review). Of course, it may be a gun that works for them, but their build and shooting style may vary considerably from you and your style. When you get to buying one, makes sure you consider these features and how they apply to you:
- Practice: Before choosing and buying a gun, it’s always important to go to a range that offers you opportunities to try different models. After a few trips to the firing range, you’ll certainly have an idea about the type of gun that you can handle and which one checks all the boxes for your needs.
- Special Features: Now that you have an idea of what to look for in a gun, what’s next? Get yourself informed about the gun you choose, afterward, consider how you will carry and store it. Another thing to ask is, are you planning to have it as a daily concealed carry? If so, how do you dress? Can you be comfortable with that gun with your usual clothing? Can your wardrobe choices conceal it well?
- Fit: A gun that’s a good fit in your hand means easy handling and accurate shooting. Always consider the size of your hands and see if the gun is a good fit. Can you reach the trigger? Is the weight of the trigger light or heavy? Are the front sights visible? How about your grip? Your hands shouldn’t feel sore even after long use. More importantly, you should be able to have a comfortable grip on your gun.
- Sights: Look at the sighting systems and consider your vision so that you’ll be able to shoot more accurately. In addition, it should be clear and visible. Primarily, the size of the barrel is also considered because it can affect your sight.
- Safety: After a few trips to the range, you should be able to operate the gun you choose with ease. Do you prefer guns with a safety? Have you read up on how to take the weapon apart and put it back together for cleaning and other purposes, and are you comfortable with how to do it? Moreover, can you rack the gun and reload the magazine easily?
- Durability & Use: A reliable gun is also important. Always opt for a gun that you can control and rely on. Can you handle the recoil? Can you shoot with accuracy when using it? How’s the quality of the gun? Don’t ever sacrifice quality, especially for everyday carry handguns. You need to be able to depend on it if something happens, and you need to use it.
Now you know what compact handguns are and how to choose one. It’s time for the good stuff. Let’s talk about some actual guns to consider.
Compact Handguns to Consider
|Compact Gun||Type||Capacity||Barrel Length||Weight||RRP|
|Smith & Wesson M&P 9 Shield EZ||Hammer-fired||8+1||3.675 inches||23.2 ounces||$490 |
|Glock G19X||Striker-fired||17+2||4.02 inches||24.83 ounces||$600|
|Springfield Armory Hellcat||Striker-fired||11+1, 13+1||3 inches||17.9 ounces||$599 |
|Sig Sauer P365 Nitron Micro Compact||Striker-fired||10+1, 12+1||3.1 inches||17.8 ounces||$600|
|Taurus G3c||Striker-fired||10+1, 12+1||3.2 inches||22 ounces||$309|
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ
|Capacity||8 + 1 (2 magazines included)|
The Shield lineup of the Smith & Wesson has a notable balance of being small enough to conceal and large enough to shoot well. The Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ is available in a 9mm or .380 caliber.
Of course, this handgun doesn’t have the EZ in its name for nothing. EZ means that this compact handgun is indeed easy to load, easy to manipulate, easy to shoot, and easy to handle. It’s a semi-automatic compact with an internal hammer and it’s got a slim, stack design with a barrel length of 3.675 inches. In addition, it can hold 9 rounds in total using an 8+1 magazine, which is pretty low when compared to others in the category. The magazine release is reversible and easy to position when it’s time to reload. It also contains tabs on its follower that allow you to pull straight down to reload the magazine easily.
Its springs are soft, which makes it simple to rack. Its thumb safety lever is ambidextrous and it’s also straightforward to activate. They have models available that come with or without the safety lever. It sports a three-dot sight, where the front sight has a hole with sides painted in white, rendering its white dot.
The trigger doesn’t have a center safety tab, which is common to most modern pistols. Instead, it has a grip safety. The grip angle is 18 degrees, which is common to the M&P line. It’s large enough with a nice texture for a nonslip grip. The trigger usually breaks at around 4.5 pounds and delivers a smooth action. It’s also incredibly light at 23.2 ounces. Overall, it’s a good all-around choice for both everyday concealed carry and home protection.
Arguably, it’s truly the best compact handgun made for shooters who have arthritic hands or less grip strength.
- Easy to load
- Easy to rack
- Grip safety feature
- Better grip texture
- Great for those who have less physical strength
- Contains only 9 rounds
- Dot design might gather dirt and gun-related residue over time
The Smith & Wesson 9mm Shield EZ – YouTube Video:
|Capacity||17 + 2 (two magazines included)|
Glock has a reputation for reliability. The Glock G19X is a 24.8-ounce hybrid pistol. In other words, it’s a Glock 19 slide on a Glock 17 frame. Hence, the first-ever “crossover pistol.” Glock designed it for combat use by the U.S. Army, although it never made the Army’s arsenal because of its price. However, it stands out because of its distinct color, which is “coyote tan.” One of its notable features is the Marksman Barrel, a different rifling that enhances accuracy.
It also features a smoother trigger pull and an enlarged magazine release. This compact chambers a 9mm caliber with a capacity of 19 rounds when using a 17+2 magazine. In addition, you have the options to load it with 19-, 24-, 31-, or 33-round magazines.
It eliminates the finger grooves for a more comfortable, solid grip. For safety, it includes three features: a firing pin safety, trigger safety, and drop safety. The slide stop is ambidextrous and finished with nPVD coating to prevent corrosion. It also contains a cross-slot where you can attach a laser or light.
Near the magazine well, it features a lanyard loop, which would have been a great addition to the army. However, I didn’t find it very useful for civilian use. This weapon might be hard to conceal completely because of its full, lengthy grip. But if you make a few adjustments to your wardrobe and carry position, you can conceal it without issue. To sum it up, the Glock 19X is a powerful compact handgun with great accuracy and is easy to control.
- Enhanced accuracy due to marksman barrel
- Has three safety features
- Has a rail for adding laser or light attachments
- 17- to 33-round magazine capacity
- Hard to conceal
Glock G19X – YouTube Video:
Springfield Armory Hellcat Micro-Compact
|Capacity||11 + 1, 13 + 1|
Next on this list is the Springfield Armory Hellcat Micro-Compact. This striker-fired handgun is “The World’s Highest Capacity Micro-Compact Pistol.” It also comes in another model, the Springfield Hellcat OSP. The only difference between the two is that the Hellcat OSP features a slide cut for a red dot. Moreover, the Hellcat has an ideal concealable size that doesn’t give up on capacity. It’s small, with a length of 6 inches and thin at 1 inch. Additionally, it has a provision for optic and good carry sights.
Its controls are within easy reach and it’s loaded with great design and features. The magazine is a reversible flush type that can hold 14 rounds when using a 13+1. An 11+1 magazine option is also available. This is plenty of rounds for a micro-compact handgun.
The front and rear slide have serrations, but I find it shallow. It’s got a standard rail section molded into the dust cover. The polymer frame features an “adaptive grip texture.” In other words, it’s a design that locks the pistol into your hands. It also doesn’t have that rough feel on your skin. In addition, the frame is a bit wider than the slide, making the slide release easy to hit. It also has a pinky extension that you can add to the 11-round magazine if you prefer a three-finger grip.
For the sights, it features its U-Dot tactical rear and tritium luminescent front. The U-Dot is very distinct and bold and offers the shooter a fast sight picture. It’s a drift-adjustable U metal outlined in white. The front sight is a clear visible dot around a tritium vial. Its trigger has a blade safety in the middle, which you can depress before shooting. At personal defense distances, it’s extremely accurate. The recoil is also incredibly soft for a gun this size. This is because of its dual captive recoil spring with a full-length guide rod.
The Springfield Armory Hellcat Micro-Compact is indeed an ideal handgun for concealed carry. It also contains many features for a small gun, but not so small as to become difficult to grip on. It’s arguably one of the best compact handguns on this list. You can get this at $599.
- Can be hidden easily
- Red dot sight attachment
- Fast and clear sight picture
- Adaptive grip texture
- High capacity for its size
- No grip safety
- No frame safety
The Springfield Armory Hellcat Micro-Compact – YouTube Video:
Sig Sauer P365 Nitron Micro-Compact Handgun
|Capacity||10 + 1, 12 + 1|
Sig introduced the P365 in 2018. The Sig Sauer 365 is a family of guns and is one of the best compact handgun options available in the market. It’s known for its excellent ergonomics. Likewise, the P365 Nitron Micro Compact is no different from its lineup when it comes to reliability. It’s also very light at 17.8 ounces, and smaller at 5.8 inches, than its fellow pistol class, making it great for pocket carry.
This striker-fired 9mm pistol is the ideal balance of high capacity and concealment. It features a ‘modified’ double-stack magazine that can hold 11 rounds. It’s also available in both the flush-fit and extended versions. In addition, there’s an option of 12- to 13-round extended magazine capacity, which is a lot of rounds for one small pistol. It’s designed for comfortable shooting, having a higher grip design to manage recoil. The textured polymer grip for a nonslip hold with a slim rail where you can add light or laser attachments.
The slide is made of stainless steel with a Nitron finish for corrosion resistance. Its slide has rounded edges with front and rear serrations for easier racking. It has a green dot front sight that’s visible enough for aiming with two rear dot sights. It also comes with a Sig night sight for accuracy in all lighting conditions. For me, this model has one of the best sights for a compact pistol.
The Sig P365 Nitron Micro-Compact is accurate for its featherweight and short barrel. In short, it’s one of the best compact handguns for personal defense. As for recoil, it’s manageable but it can feel snappy when firing the 9mm round. You can get this for $600.
- Easy to conceal
- High round capacity
- Ergonomic design
- Snappy recoil
The Sig Sauer P365 Nitron Micro Compact – YouTube Video:
|Capacity||10 + 1, 12 + 1 (three magazines included)|
Taurus has a reputation as a manufacturer of reliable yet affordable guns. The company keeps on improving its guns’ durability, design, and features. The G2c proves that when it became one of the best-selling compacts in the U.S. Now, we have the G3c, but what’s the difference? The Taurus G3c is an upgraded version of the G2c.
This 9mm polymer-framed, striker-fired gun can arguably be comparable to the Sig Sauer P365, Springfield Armory Hellcat, or Glock 43. It has a matte black Tenifer finish, a more durable and longer-lasting finish than previous finishes. But even though the G3c’s finish is different, you might see it wear from time to time, mainly because of frequent use. It’s important to take note of this, especially if you plan to store it in a holster.
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This compact comes with a reversible magazine release. It comes with three 12+1 magazines which can hold a total of 13 rounds. Front slide serrations are also a notable improvement of this model. Additionally, it’s got a visible white dot for the front sight and a blind dot rear, which are both made of metal. The grip is comfortable, with a fine texture that has an extended thumb rest on both sides. Moreover, it’s ergonomic and has an excellent gripping surface.
It comes with a slide stop in front of the outside frame safety, which can be an issue for some folks. But if you don’t want it, you can always use it as a thumb rest. It also improved its trigger with a wide, flatter shape that has a crisp pull and fast reset. This great compact handgun for beginner shooters, especially at its budget-friendly price. If you’re up for an affordable gun with decent quality, then Taurus G3c is the best compact handgun for you. It’s available at a price of $300.
- Easy to use
- Great to use for everyday carry
- Long trigger pull
- Finish wears off easily
- Not ideal for holster use
The Taurus G3c – YouTube Video:
I hope this article has served as a great guide for you about the best compact handguns. Any handgun mentioned in this article is an excellent choice.
Remember to be always clear of your objectives when getting yourself a gun to help you choose the best gun for your needs. Of course, owning a quality handgun means learning how to operate it and practicing how to use it properly. More importantly, visit the range often to prepare yourself in case something happens. Any of the main concealed carry organizations such as USCCA and CCW Safe offer training and tips in addition to CCW insurance.
Do you need a holster? Check out our article about the Best Concealed Carry Holsters. If you need to store your gun somewhere safe, then read our article about the Best Hand Gun Safe. If you’re a 9mm shooter, check out our article about the 5 Best Compact 9mm Pistols.