9mm pistols and ammo

Best 9mm Pistols | A Complete Guide

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There are hundreds of 9mm pistols out there, but with so many options it can be really intimidating to try and decide what the best one for you is.

While I might not be able to absolutely say what your next 9mm pistol is going to be, I can definitely point you in the right direction!

From classics like the Walther P38 to recently adopted combat pistols like the M17 — we have our picks for the Best 9mm Pistols!

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What Does “Best” Really Mean

When we say “best”, what are we using as our measuring stick? Most power? Best value ratio? Longest service life?

When it comes to what the “best” firearm is, it can be a little subjective. What I think is the best might not be the best for you, but it is at the very least one of the best.

Let this list be a guide for you, a starting point, or a road map. I’ll give you the pros and cons of every gun listed so that you can make the best decision for what is right for you.

I strongly recommend that if you can rent or borrow a firearm before buying it, take the opportunity!

What To Look for In A…

Home Defence Pistol

Dedicated home defense pistols need a weapon-mounted light. I will bang this drum until I die. Really, I think any defensive pistol should have one, but HD pistols need one more than most.

Bersa Pistols

To that end, get one with a rail of some kind so you can mount one.

I also recommend that it be on the larger size, such as a full-sized pistol, and that you have access to extended magazines (if they are legal in your state) so that you can take advantage of the size.

Don’t worry about weight, in fact, heavier is better. More weight means less felt recoil and since you’re not carrying this pistol — you can live with a few more ounces.

CCW Pistol

Again, I recommend a white light mounted to your gun. However, if you’re going for a super small option then that might not be possible or practical. Still, I recommend it.

Weight will be an issue. I’ve carried a full-sized Beretta 92FS in IWB holsters and while it is doable, it’s not comfy for a long day of walking around.

Beretta 92FS
“The Beretta 92FS I carried during the height pandemic and civil unrest.”

Be honest with yourself about how, when, and why you want to carry — that will help a LOT in looking for the perfect CCW for you.

Are you in the car 95% of the time you want to carry? Then a heavier gun might be a great option.

Do you want to carry while jogging? Something smaller and lighter could be the ticket. 

Think about how, where, and why and you can answer a lot of questions about what will make a great CCW pistol.

Range/Competition Pistol

Range guns should be fun and a lot of fun comes with aftermarket options. Extended magazines, new sights, red dots — the list goes on!

The same can be said for many forms of competition pistol. If you want to trick your gun out and get that little bit more performance out of it, you don’t want something no one makes parts for.

That said, reliability and a proven platform are still the most important aspects.

Women’s Pistol

Most gun stores will try to sell you something pink, small, and “lady-like”. But that is total horse hockey.

Granted, I’m not a woman, but I have shot with and trained with a lot of ladies when it comes to firearms.

Pointing 9mm pistol ready to fire

I strongly recommend a gun that is heavy for its size and that has grips that can be adjusted.

More weight means less felt recoil, this is nice for everyone but especially important for those of smaller stature and less hand/arm strength. 

Along with that, you likely have smaller hands than what the average handgun is designed for. Not all of you will, but many might. Being able to switch out the backstrap of a pistol or change the side panels on the grip will help tailor the gun to your hands for a more comfortable and secure grip.

Classic or Collector’s Pistol

Some guns are just fun to collect. Be it for their place in history or who their past owners were or just because you like them. These guns are special not for their ability to put rounds down range but rather for an X factor that can be hard to define.

Old Beretta 9mm Pistol
Classic or Collector’s Pistol
Some guns are just fun to collect. Be it for their place in history or who their past owners were or just because you like them. These guns are special not for their ability to put rounds down range but rather for an X factor that can be hard to define.

I’ll tell you about a few of my favorites, but these might be the most personally subjective options out of the bunch.

The Best 9mm Pistols

Best 9mm Home Defense

Sig Sauer P320

Recently adopted by the US Military under the M17 and M18 names, the Sig Sauer P320 is absolutely one of the pinnacle designs for handguns on the market today.

Sig Sauer P320 9mm Pistol
“Sig Sauer P320 is also easy to convert to other calibers like 357 Sig”

There is a lot I could say about the grip, the reliability, the ease of shooting, but all of those are expected in a modern combat pistol and really aren’t what make the P320 different.

Instead what makes the P320 so good is the legal definition of how the pistol is built.

Normally, the serialized part of a handgun is the frame. Instead, Sig Sauer has designed the P320’s fire control unit as the serialized part.

So legally speaking, the “firearm” is the internal trigger pack — not the frame.

This is a game-changer because it allows you to customize what has classically been the hardest part to change of a pistol — the frame itself.

With one P320 trigger pack, you can drop it into a full-size, compact, or subcompact frame with just a few moments of assembly.

Don’t like plastic? Aftermarket metal frames are widely available now.

Icarus Precision P320 metal frame
Icarus Precision P320 metal frame

The checkering not to your liking? New polymer frames are easy to get and install.

This opens up a lot of room for customization! It also, if you really wanted to, lets you have one pistol for CCW, home defense, and competition all in one.

The options are only limited by your budget really.

While the P320 comes in several flavors, for home defense I recommend the full-size version. If you are thinking of using the P320 for home defense and CCW — get the compact.

CZ P-09

Another awesome gun that was born in part by US Military looking for a new service pistol, the CZ P-09 was updated to meet the trial requirements, although, in the end, CZ did not submit it.

CZ P-09

But that doesn’t mean this isn’t an awesome pistol. Personally, I love it to bits.

Get it with iron sights or a red dot mount, this is a beast of a gun. You also have extended magazines galore at your fingertips and more aftermarket parts are coming out every day.

Incredible reliability, a full-sized frame, and interchangeable ambidextrous controls — this is a gun that simply won’t disappoint.

Glock 17

One of the classics, maybe even the gold standard for polymer pistols, the Glock 17 Gen 5 is too many the perfect firearm.

I have gotta say though… it’s not my perfect gun.

One of the strengths of the Glock platform is that it’s good for everyone, but perfect for very few right out of the box.

Glock 17 9mm Pistol

And yet, with so much aftermarket support for it, it’s pretty easy to make it perfect for you if you want to make some changes to it.

Even without any changes, it is one of the most reliable and durable firearms ever made. That alone makes it an incredibly attractive option for new and old shooters alike.

Best 9mm EDC CCW

Springfield Hellcat

Second to the market in the world of sub-compact, high capacity CCW firearms the Hellcat was about to raise the bar a little and deliver a gun that almost everyone loves.

Springfield Hellcat guns

Available with and without a red dot, the Springfield Hellcat is a great little shooter that puts 11+1 rounds in your hand with one of the smallest form factors you can get.And yet, it doesn’t feel like a tiny pistol in your hand. The grip has enough meat on it and the slide has enough grip to it that shooting it feels barely different from a compact pistol like the Glock 19.

Springfield Hellcat 9mm Pistol
“Langdon Tactical offers an upgrade package for the Springfield Hellcat that really shows off what it is possible”

This is a huge difference and a major advancement in CCW technology. 

It isn’t the only option that does this, but it is one of the best. Personally, I like this next option slightly more…

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Sig Sauer P365

The first gun to radically change the CCW world since the Glock 19 was introduced in 1988. Before the P365 a sub-compact 9mm never had more than 7 or 8 rounds in the magazine, that changed when Sig Sauer designed a new magazine and pistol that was finally able to hold 10+1 but still maintain such a small footprint.

Sig Sauer P365

With the stunning success of the P365, nearly all of the major firearm manufacturers came out with their own version of a high-capacity sub-compact 9mm within a few years. Thus were born the Springfield Hellcat, Glock 43X, and Mossberg MC2c.

Sig Sauer followed the P365 with several different versions, such as the XL and the SAS. The SAS is specially designed as a pocket gun version and the XL has a slightly larger grip and comes standard with a slide that can mount red dots.

Glock 19

A classic gold standard for CCW, the Glock 19 is a bit larger than the latest generation of sub-compact pistols. Really, the G19 is about as large as it gets without being annoying to carry.

EDC CCW Glock 19
“There isn’t much left of the original Glock on my EDC CCW Glock 19, but it’s still a Glock… technically.”

Not perfect for everyone, but a solid option for anyone, the G19 is also one of the most customizable pistols ever made.

Glock 19 in black
“Glock 19 in a more pure form”

If you want a small and simple CCW, the Glock 19 delivers with a 15+1 standard magazine and solid sights.

Or if you want to really max it out, you can do something like what I carry — a Glock 19 frame, custom slide, red dot, extended magazines, and a Modlite weapon-mounted light.

Best Range & Competition 9mm Pistols

CZ Shadow 2

One of the best competition pistols ever made, the CZ Shadow 2 is one badass gat.

CZ Shadow 2
“OG Shadow 2s need an optics cut for mounting a red dot, like this one by Stonebridge Gunworks. CZ now also offers the Shadow 2 in an Optics Ready model that uses a mounting plate”

Based on the legendary SP-01 the Shadow 2 has a huge list of upgrades that most people will get done custom to their SP-01s. The Shadow 2 lets you skip sending it out by including them as factory upgrades.

From a flared magazine well to better grips to better sights and more, the Shadow 2 is ready out of the box to kick ass at matches.

It even comes with extra magazines!

Glock 34

There isn’t a lot to say about the G34 because it’s really just a G17 but with a longer slide and barrel.

Glock 34

This is better for competition since it gives you a better balance and allows for faster follow-up shots. If you’re shooting irons only it also raises your maximum possible precision. 

It has a ton of aftermarket support and takes a lot of the same parts as the Glock 17 does.

The G34 starts out as a great production pistol and a great way of getting into shooting sports — but unmodified you may quickly outgrow it.

Beretta 92FS/M9

Adopted by the US military in 1985 the Beretta 92FS/M9 has been serving police, military, and civilians worldwide for over 30 years. 

It has also cemented itself in pop culture by being the pistol of choice for action stars since it was released. Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Robocop just to name a few.

Bruce Willis Die Hard Movie Poster

This is a rock-solid platform with an alloy frame, DA/SA trigger, 15+1 standard magazines, and a safety/decocker mounted on the slide.

These days the 92FS/M9 can feel a little outdated and it definitely shows its age. But while it might not be the most universally ergonomic pistol on the market, it is one of the most reliable and battle-proven.

Beretta 92FS
“I’ve added new grips and a lighter trigger, but otherwise my Beretta 92FS is stock standard.”

The alloy frame adds weight to the pistol and absolutely eats recoil. A DA/SA trigger takes some getting used to, but the Beretta is smooth and consistent. 

Be it for range fun or using for a production class competition pistol, this is one of the best and one of my personal favorite.

Best 9mm For Women

Smith & Wesson M&P EZ 9

Due to the nature of how firearms work, there really isn’t a lot of difference in how difficult the slide is to work manually assuming other factors like caliber and action are the same.

The EZ 9 turns that on its head though by being magically easy to pull back without sacrificing anything in durability, reliability, or range of ammo it can handle.

Smith & Wesson M&P EZ 9

For most people, working the slide is more a matter of technique than raw strength. But the EZ 9 being so incredibly easy makes technique almost irrelevant.  

That’s the secret spice that makes the EZ 9 awesome, but in every other way, it’s still a solid gun with one downside.

The magazine capacity is kind of crummy at only 8+1. That’s a major downside that is hard to ignore, but a gun that you can always operate is better than one that you can’t.

Glock 17, Gen 5

Yes, the Glock 17 was already on this list — but gens 3 and 4 don’t really stand out as Gen 5 does.

Gen 5 has a wide range of options for changing out the backstrap for different sizes to accommodate almost any hand size. That combined with all of the other benefits of the G17 makes for an outstanding option for women who might need to change up how a gun fits.

Best Classic or Collector’s 9mm Pistols

Browning Hi-Power

One of the greatest pistols ever made, period. Designed mostly by the legend John Browning, the design was unfinished at the time of his death. 

Dieudonné Saive from FN would complete the design and incorporate a number of changes over the years after patents sold by Browning to Colt for the 1911 expired during the 30s and 40s.

Browning-FN Hi Power
My Canadian built Inglis MK. I* Browning-FN Hi Power. Built in Canada in the 1940s these are still the primary Canadian Army sidearm, although they are expected to be phased out in 2022/2023”

A 13+1 magazine, single action, hammer fired, steel frame pistol — the Hi-Power is, in my opinion, the first “Wonder 9”. 

After you use a Hi-Power you can instantly see why dozens of military units around the world have adopted it as their primary firearm and why nearly every 9mm pistol design since its introduction has taken major design cues from it.

Plus, there is a wide range of types and sub-designs for you to really dig into if you want to collect them.

Beretta M1951

If you squint and cross your eyes a little, it looks like a 92FS. And for good reason, the M1951 is basically the grandfather or great-grandfather of the 92FS.

Produced from 1956 until the 1980s and adopted by about a dozen militaries around the world, the M1951 isn’t the most flashy of classic 9mm pistols — but it is a great starting point for collectors.

Beretta M1951

Batches of these have come into the USA over the years so that it is fairly easy to find, but not incredibly common either.

Chambered for 9mm means it’s easy to get ammo, but magazines can be hard to find.

As long as you have a magazine for yours, these are fairly cheap pistols that are great shooters.

It feels like a 92FS in a lot of ways, but different enough to not feel like a copy either. The largest change to get used to is the single-action trigger.

Walther P38

Totally overshadowed by the P-08 Luger, the Walther P38 really doesn’t get the respect it deserves.

In its day the P38 was a cutting edge design that put 8+1 9mm in your hand.

Walther P38

A standard-issue pistol during WWII the P38 is a combat pistol built on a budget by master gunsmiths.

With tens of thousands of them out in the wild, it’s pretty easy to pick up and normally not a wallet-breaking price either.

If you want to get into the weeds with it, there are a dozen or more sub-variations of the P38 that you can really get into for collecting.

Wrapping Up

For over 100 years the 9mm Luger has been protecting us in our homes, on our persons, and in our wars.

The above is a great selection. However, there are dozens of other pistols I could also recommend that are all chamber this awesome ammo. What makes them all so good is, of course, that they are built on a cartridge that is so versatile and almost perfect.

9mm might not be able to do every job, but it can do most of them.

Other Interesting Guides

  1. I love reading your articles and have relied upon your wisdom before every weapon related purchase I’ve made since the day I first discovered your works. This is also the first (and only) article thus far featuring a grammatical error, but at least I now know your are human. Thank you for all you do, Mike.
    -Cam Caveman Frye
    U.S. Army Special Operations (Ret.)

    1. Cameron,
      Thanks for the kind words, and thanks for your service to our country! I’m glad I could help you. I strive to put good information out for all to read, and I’m always glad when something I write is beneficial. So you bought specific guns based on my articles? That’s awesome…again, I aim to help in these decisions and I’m glad I could help with yours. I’ll have to re-read the article to find the error – I’m picky about such things! 🙂 Thanks again!

      1. The paragraph under “let’s look at some guns”. “Some folks are can be pretty OCD”. Ironic lol.
        Thank you for your reply, sir. As a writing enthusiast myself, I look forward to many more great articles in the future!

        1. I will do my best to keep you reading, and, yup, sometimes I can be OCD myself! (You should have been in on my decision as to which .45 ACP to buy…ended up with the XDM. THAT was an experience, even for me!)

  2. Just read your article about the G2C and clicked over here after reading the recommendation to do so. I must admit I’m surprised to not see the Sig 938 here. I also checked the “best single-stack Subcompact” article and saw it as an honorable mention at the very bottom. I think your articles are great and we are all entitled to our opinions, but I personally think the 938 is the best subcompact pistol on the market with only 1 draw back. Price! I got mine on sale out the door for $500. That’s cheap for a 938 but still ALOT of money imho. I also have always been a big fan of the 1911 platform, and when I was a “first starting out shooter” I had some issues with accuracy when it came to double action only and even some striker fire guns. I like the little to no travel and very light triggers. I have since remedied that, but only after I got my 938.

    Regardless, I have put hundreds and hundreds of rounds (probably getting close to 1000) through my sig and never had any issue. Not one! I also have carried it every day for the past 4 years both in the waste band, out, and in the pocket. It’s amazing! I can make one 3-4 inch hole in a target at 7-10 yards and put 90% of my rounds on a silhouette at 25 yards. I have had a glock 26 and 27, RM 380, S&W Shield, Ruger EC9S and sold or traded all of those. (good guns, don’t get me wrong, but I kept my 938 through all of that).

    Anyway, I don’t know if you have a lot of experience with the 938, and if that’s the case, I’d encourage you to work with it and maybe even give us a review! It’s definitely top of it’s class (in my experience).

    Thanks for what you do!

    1. Ken, first thanks for writing. I always value what readers have to say. As for the 938, I really haven’t had much experience with one. I hold just about everything Sig makes in very high regard and the 938 is no exception. I’m glad you’ve had such great results with yours – they are a quality piece, no doubt. I was just trying to write about mostly striker-fired guns in that article since those are what are hot right now. I love 1911s – I’ve written an article or two on them and have owned a few – but I was just trying to narrow it down a bit. Who knows…maybe I can do a review on a 938 at some time! Thanks for your comment!

  3. The best 9mm?
    That works 24 7 365 10years..
    Because you will not need it 9 years, but then the one moment…
    My Cz p10? Sig 226? a rubbish 9mm Revolver?

    I prefer the old Walther ppk cal 32, ( my Ruger Gp100 44 S is antitank but…)
    And here in Austria many don`t like the Glock-marketing, sorry but there was a
    Styer much better, but not the big dope show. ( Like my Porsche 991t is and not
    the glimpi pimpi supa hefti..you know, WORK LIVE BALANCE)
    And for all this,we all do not want to kill, but have the save, if, we do not must…
    Fine your articles are made in real solid, because ERGONOMICS is it.
    If not, my stone old Colt Walker would do it, loud and..” one Moment please, bad guy with your B&T 223..

    Fine Side of what works.

    1. Joseph, interesting take on things. I look upon the Sig 226 and just about any CZ with great respect – they make very good guns. (I own a variant of the CZ compact). As for the Walther PPK, it is good in any caliber. I understand the .32 is probably more popular in Europe than over here – the PPK is an excellent example. Also, your comments about Glock marketing are very interesting – you’re coming at it from the standpoint of them being fairly local, unlike in the U.S. where we do have a Glock presence, but not the headquarters. And – you really own a Colt Walker? THAT was a handgun! Thanks for writing!

  4. Taurus® now offers a Limited Lifetime Warranty on their G2c pistols.

    “The following Taurus handguns, previously covered under a one-year warranty, will now be covered under a Limited Lifetime Warranty:
    Taurus® G2c, G2s, TH series, Taurus TX22, 1911 Commander, 1911 Officer, Taurus Spectrum®, Raging Hunter®, 856, and 692 revolvers.”

    Read more at https://www.taurususa.com/taurus-limited-lifetime-warranty-2/

    1. K. O., Taurus is really upping their game. The warranty is a big part of their upgrade. Customer service is better, too. I appreciate your comments-thanks!

  5. I REALLY appreciate the photography on this website when it comes to close-ups of the guns! I have been through some professional photography training and also shoot a lot of close-ups and ultra-fine detail shots for my job, so I know what makes a good photo. Whoever does these pictures is great about getting us shots of guns that the manufacturers don’t always show us!

    Example: The last photo above of the M&P 9C shows me the manufacturing seam line of the polymer lower, going right down the center of the rail and back to the trigger guard. Now that doesn’t make it a bad gun by any means, but I guarantee that S&W also would never publish a photo like that because it shows the very slight manufacturing mark/line in the polymer, which lets you know it simply isn’t a $1,000 gun. This is what I like about this website- Good, Honest reviews that don’t hide anything.

    1. Ed, thanks again for the kind words. Usually, if a photo has a “snipercountry” watermark, it’s one I took. I use a Canon DSLR. I’ve been into photography for many years, but today’s equipment makes getting good pics easier than before. I do try to get the best shots I can – sometimes that works better than others – but I want to show that detail you talked about so folks can see the “whole truth”, or at least what the thing looks like up close. Thanks again for writing!

  6. Years ago now I was looking for a semi-Automatic 9MM. I knew nothing about them, since my only handgun I had was a classic S&W .38 Police Special that my Dad bought some time in ’64 or ’65. Since he passed away in Oct. 1966, it is practically new.
    I kept it in a drawer and I’d get it out and clean it just for fun.
    The semi-auto I purchased was a low cost SW9VE. The next thing I knew the SD9VE came out and the SW9 was like leprosy, nobody wanted them.
    So now, I seem to have a pistol that is dangerous and I can’t sell it.
    What is wrong with it? Thanks

    1. Chaplain, I’m not sure that the SW is dangerous, I don’t see why it would be. It might have had some reliability issues (mostly magazine-related) and a less-than-perfect trigger, but those issues were fairly easily fixed. I owned 2 SD9VEs and they worked well, and were based on the SW. I don’t know why you can’t sell it, unless your gun exhibits some malfunction you haven’t mentioned…check gunbroker.com for some prices. Thanks for writing!

    1. John, interesting mix. I like the Rugers – I reviewed the P90-series .45 on this site. The Hi=Points tend to be very reliable, as well. Appreciate your comments!

  7. I love all your articles!! I’m looking to buy more guns but I’m curious as to what you think of the canik tp9 elite sub compact. I’ve never fired this gun but it feels great in my hand! You guys are detailed! Thank you!!

    1. Jim, I really like Canik guns. I owned another Turkish-made gun, a Sar K2P – the review is on the site here. Politics aside, the gun is well-made, for not a lot of money, If you get one, reply back and tell us how you like it. Thanks for writing!

  8. I picked up a KelTec P11 at a gun show years ago that apparently was a law enforcement turn-in. I never got a feel for it and ultimately let it go in trade for a PT111 G2C, which I absolutely love! In fact, my son had one that became a dust collector after he fell in love with Glocks, so I bought it from him. They are great pistols right out of the box, and I’ve never had a problem with either one of them. With the G2 and G3 models now, and people’s fascination with the latest model of anything, a PT111 would be a good buy and a great addition to anyone’s collection, as well as a good carry gun.

    1. Max, you are right. I owned 2 G2cs and now have a G3c. The trigger is better and the sights are steel but otherwise it’s pretty much a G2c. Glad you like yours- thanks for writing!

  9. Great read. Have you had the opportunity to handle and fire the Walther PPQ pistols Mike? The trigger is a unbelievable. It remains the only gun I can consistantly double tap with. I own the .40 S&W, my son owns the 9mm version and his department’s armorer signed off on him using it as his off duty carry.
    If you get the chance to try one, I’d like to hear your take.
    The SIG P365 you covered is my CC weapon now. Though I tried SIG’s proprietary ammo designed for the gun, Hornady”s Critical Duty was superior for accuracy and functioned flawlessly, so that’s what I use.
    Keep up the good work

    1. Bemused, yeah, I’ve shot the PPQ – I reviewed herein. I really liked it. It is a daily carry gun for a good friend – he shoots it well. Thanks for writing again!

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