Subcompact glock and ammo

Best Single-Stack Subcompact 9mms [Concealed Carry]

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Concealed carry options abound for most of the United States. Every state now has some form of concealed carry law on its books. The upside to all of this is that more and more people are getting their concealed carry permits than ever before, and most of them seem to be carrying some form of 9mm pistol–which includes some of our favorite subcompact 9mms!

Screenshot usacarry.com poll
The favorite caliber breakdown.

A poll taken by usacarry.com drew over 1,800 respondents–39% of which reported carrying a 9mm. The next most popular caliber was the .40 S&W, with 24%, followed by .45 APC pistols with 23%. 

Sure, it’s not a scientific poll, but it at least sheds an unofficial light on what folks out there are carrying. 

One of the most popular 9mm pistols at present is the subcompact single-stack and for a number of reasons! We’ll dig into that more, but first, let’s take a look at our lineup!

  • Ruger LC9s: This pistol is slim, lightweight, and compact. Very useful for personal protection.
  • Glock 43 Gen 4: This pistol is ultra-concealable, accurate, and fantastic for all shooters.
  • S&W M&P Shield 9: This pistol is easy to conceal and offers professional-grade features, with simple operation and reliability.
  • S&W M&P Shield EZ 9: Slightly bigger than the Shield 9, but easier to rack. And it’s just as high quality as the Shield 9.
  • Beretta BU9 Nano: The BU9 is small, powerful, and intuitive to use. This pistol is perfect for concealed carry and self-defense.
  • Taurus Slim (PT709 Slim): This 9mm single stack design is both practical and effective as a self-defense weapon.
  • Kahr CM9: This handgun is small and light, making it ideal for concealed carry. The well-known brand has been popularized by law enforcement and the military.
  • Springfield Armory XDs 3.3 and 4.0: This pistol is a high-capacity self-defense weapon. With a slew of safety features for secure carry and peace of mind.
  • Sig P365: This pistol has redefined the micro-compact pistol category. One of the most coveted firearms in the industry.

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What is a Subcompact 9mm Pistol?

Pistols tend to fall into one of three overall size categories: full, compact, and subcompact. For the purposes of this article, I will loosely define them as follows:

Single Stack vs Double Stack
Single vs. Double Stack Mags
  • The full-size pistol has a barrel at least four and a half inches long and a capacity of sixteen or more rounds.
  • Compact pistols will have a barrel length of around four inches and will carry from ten to fifteen rounds.
  • The subcompact pistol has a barrel length of around three inches, and the gun will carry up to ten rounds. Sometimes subcompacts are small enough be carried in a pocket holster. Most will utilize single-stack magazines with a few exceptions.

Exceptions certainly exist. 

One example is the Springfield XDS. This pistol comes with either a 3.3 or 4-inch barrel and a seven-round flush-fit magazine. The 3.3-inch version is firmly in the subcompact family but given my definition of a compact guns’ barrel length above, the 4-inch model is technically a compact. 

It can be a bit confusing. We will confine our survey to 9mm guns with a three-or-so inch barrel that has the ability to hold up to ten rounds using flush-fit (not extended) magazines. Sound good?

The subcompact gun, especially subcompact 9mm pistols, is probably the fastest-growing segment of current handgun production. However, they may not be for everyone. Let’s talk some more about why you might want (or want to avoid) subcompact handguns.

Why Do You Want a Subcompact Handgun?

You must examine the reasons that are leading you to look at subcompact 9mm handguns. These guns are, for the most part, not the best choice for an inexperienced shooter.

Here’s why:

  1. Felt recoil is usually multiplied because of the lightweight and short length of the subcompact.
  2. The subcompact’s short grip frames can be hard to control with their smaller grip size. Extended magazines do tend to provide extended grip, but a stock flush-fit magazine won’t, and we’re talking flush-fit.
  3. A shorter sight radius can make it more difficult to hit a target much beyond ten yards or so, even for experienced shooters.
  4. The magazine capacity of the little guns can be restrictive. Some subcompacts hold as few as five or six rounds, which means you must be accurate and not waste shots.

So, now that we’ve figured out that we want to carry a subcompact 9mm and we know how we’re going to carry it, the only question remaining is–which gun am I going to buy?

Well, we’ve got some recommendations for you!

Best Single Stack Subcompact 9mm Handguns

Anyways, we know you’re here to talk about the guns, so let’s talk about the guns! These subcompact 9mms are all very popular CCWs, but they also are some of my favorites for the task. 

I’ve rounded some of the specs to the nearest decimal point–if you want exact measurements, check the manufacturer. All guns are polymer-framed and striker-fired unless otherwise noted.

Let’s jump in!

1. Ruger LC9s

Specs
Height 4.5 inches
Length 6 inches
Width .90 inches
Barrel 3.1 inches
Weight 17.2 oz.
Capacity 7 + 1 (9 round magazine available)
MSRP $445

This gun is a personal favorite. There are more expensive guns out there and I have carried a few of them, but dollar-for-dollar you can’t beat the LC9s. 

Ruger LC9S 9MM FDE
Meet the Ruger LC9s!

It is the quintessential subcompact 9mm. I have one with me a lot of the time as it lends itself to different styles of carry and is light but packs a punch. 

My usual method of packing one involves using a pocket holster, although I do have IWB-style holsters that work as well. This gun has been around a while, so holster selection is good!

A Word of Advice: Check the “s”

If you go to look at this Ruger at your local gun shop, please make sure you’re looking at the LC9s. That “s” is important, as it differentiates this model that is striker-fired from the original LC9 that used a hammer. 

The trigger pull is very different between the two. 

To my knowledge, the plain ol’ hammer-fired LC9 is no longer made, but you may run into one while shopping. 

Anyways, we’re here to talk about the LC9s. The trigger on my LC9s is around 5 pounds and smooth as butter. The sights are dovetailed, which means they can be replaced, but the factory sights do the job very well.

Ruger LC9 with the IWB Holster
Ruger LC9s

Ruger is a company that has been accused of over-building almost all of its handguns, adding weight and strength where it may not be needed. The LC9s does not fall into that category.

It is under an inch wide, weighs an ounce over one pound, and is short enough to disappear inside a pocket, but it is still strong and is +P rated for limited use. I have put hundreds of my 124-grain cast bullet reloads through mine with no gun-related problems. 

It comes with the standard seven-round flush-fit magazine and nine-rounders with finger extension are available. With both mags loaded and one in the chamber,  you have 17 rounds of 9mm self-defense ammo at your fingertips. 

That hopefully should suffice.

Too Thin?

One comment that I have heard on the negative side is that this gun is TOO skinny and that it squirms in your hand while being shot. I would rather have to add something to an easily concealed gun’s grip than try to remove material from one that is too wide.

But to be honest, I did find it a little squirmy, but it wasn’t a hard fix. I choose to add step traction tape to my grips. Y’know, the stuff that is designed to be put on the leading edge of stair steps to add non-slip traction. 

Why? It’s cheap, it’s tough, it adds a lot of grip, and I can go pick it up at my local hardware store. All I need to do is trim pieces to fit where I want them on my grips. You can also find custom-cut grip stickers, too, if you wanna drop a little more on your gat.

If you’re not a fan of a sandpaper-like grip though, that tip’s not for you. Be warned.

But Can It Hit?

LC9S and target
15 yards with the LC9s.

The gun is accurate. Here is a photo of a target I shot recently at a range of 15 yards for proof of that. Subcompact handguns can be a little hard to get on target, but there’s no challenge with the LC9s!

Although the group is pushed a bit to the right (my fault), it shows just how accurate a gun designed for short-range encounters can be. The ammo used was my handloads, but factory ammo might be even tighter.

This target is one of many I’ve shot that displays the inherent accuracy of the LC9s. For close-encounters-of-the-bad-guy-variety, the gun displays more than enough accuracy. 

Ruger’s reputation for building solid firearms to be sold for a decent price is well-known and the LC9s follows that proud tradition.

Options

You want a yellow LC9s? No problem. There are several color combinations available, so you don’t have to have a plain black gun!

Another option: the LC9s is available with or without a thumb- and magazine disconnect-safety. If it doesn’t say “Pro” after “LC9s”, then it has both of those safeties. 

Mine is not a Pro model, although I feel with carry guns safeties should be automatic and not require extra motions (like swiping off a thumb safety). After all, you want a safe gun, but not one that you can’t use when you need to!

Striker-fired guns usually have extra safeties built into them. External manual safeties tend to be redundant and are available in order to sell guns in those states that require such things. Nothing says you have to use them, though! 

LC9S taken down
Field-stripped LC9s.

Another variation on a theme is the EC9s. This is the value-oriented version of the LC9s that features milled, non-adjustable front and rear sights and shallower slide serrations in an effort to reduce costs. 

Another difference is the finish. The finishing process has been changed a bit in order to save a few more bucks. The EC9s is priced at around $299. If non-adjustable sights are OK with you and you are looking for one of the better buys in a subcompact 9mm, take a look at the EC9s. 

As far as the LC9s, expect to pay up to $100 less than the MSRP at your local gun shop. Either one is a great buy.

2. Glock G43 Gen 4

Specs
Height 4.25 inches
Length 6.25 inches
Width 1 inch
Barrel 3.4 inches
Weight 20.6 oz. with loaded magazine (18 oz. empty)
Capacity 6 + 1
MSRP $499
Glock 43
Glock G43 Gen 4

The G43 is Glock’s entry into the single-stack 9mm subcompact market. 

It took the company a while to produce this gun. Most other major players in the industry had introduced single-stack subcompact 9mm guns well before Glock brought out the G43. 

This eagerly-awaited gun started selling upon introduction and has been consistent in being a top-seller for the company. Many law enforcement officers carry it as a backup gun.

Glock 42 Muzzle
The business end of the G43.

What’s with the Hype?

Why is the G43 so desirable as a carry gun? 

If you own a Glock you already know the answer to that question. If you don’t own one, suffice it to say that Glock sells a lot of guns because they are easy to use and reliable and the G43 is no exception

The G43 is one of the better-selling models that Glock sells. Its single-stack magazine allows it to fit within that desirable one-inch width category that so many manufacturers strive for. 

Glock 43 Grip
The redesigned Gen 4 grip.

While it’s a little heavy compared to other subcompact 9mms, at just under 21 ounces, that doesn’t bother the people who carry it. An IWB holster (or even pocket holster, given the right size pockets) will allow you to have the gun with you all day and hardly notice that it’s there.

If you are familiar with Glocks and own one or more, the advantage of carrying a G43 is obvious. 

All Glocks pretty much work the same and the trigger is consistent within the brand. The Glock name to a lot of shooters means reliability and uniformity among models. To tell you the truth, you could do worse than to carry a Glock 43. 

Real-world prices for this gun tend to be close to MSRP, so be prepared when you are shopping to find this gun not discounted a lot.

3. Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9

Specs
Height 4.6 inches
Length 6.1 inches
Width .95 inch
Barrel 3.1 inches
Weight 19 oz.
Capacity 1 – 7 round and 1 – 8 round (extended base plate) magazine
MSRP $449
S&W M&P Shield 9
The Smith and Wesson M&P Shield 9 with the extended 8-round magazine.

The S&W Shield is a gun whose introduction was eagerly awaited by the shooting public. Adding to the excitement, S&W team shooter Julie Golob used a Shield to hit targets at 100 yards and beyond on a popular shooting TV show. 

When the guns were introduced in 9mm and .40 S&W calibers, they were good sellers out of the gate, and I’m sure you can see why.

S&W M&P Shield 9 Grip
The M&P’s grip is nice and… grippy.

The Shield is one of the top-selling CCW guns out there. It has since been introduced in .45ACP which endears it to even more shooters, but we will look at the 9mm version.

I owned one of these 9mm guns a while back and sold it. I should have kept it, so learn from my mistake!

The Shield itself is a gun that is comfortable in hand, has good sights, and digests most any ammo you feed it. It is part of the M&P line of pistols, which endows it with certain features:

  • Take-down is accomplished by rotating a takedown lever instead of removing a pin
  • The stainless steel slide carries an Armornite finish, which is truly tough and won’t show minor wear
  • A thumb safety is optional
  • Three-dot sights
  • Hinged trigger safety
  • Deeply-cut slide serrations ease racking the slide
S&W M&P Shield 9 Muzzle
Not a sight you want to see…

Like its larger M&P brethren, the Shield has a lot of great features that set it apart from others. 

Quality Where it Matters

Mine was definitely a quality gun, made to exacting specifications and its quality was evident at the range. The gun was accurate and easy to carry. I put it in a DeSantis Inside Heat IWB holster (one of the few left-hand holsters I could find) and it rode there unnoticed by me, for the most part.

With over a million of these subcompact 9mms sold, their reputation speaks for itself. If you would happen to have a problem, the lifetime service policy will see to it that it is taken care of quickly. 

S&W M&P Shield 9 Rear Sight
Check out those sights!

I’ve experienced S&W’s customer service and it is among the best in the industry. 

When it comes to shooting the Shield, the grip angle helps the gun come up and point at the target. It’s easy and feels natural to get the Shield on target quickly, which is exactly what you want.

The texturing of the grip is just enough to keep the gun tightly in your hand when firing it. The sight picture is great–the three dots line up quickly and consistently, with enough space around the front sight to allow precision shooting. 

It’s no wonder that S&W sells so many Shields–they are solid performers and are at home in a concealed-carry situation. Expect a real-world price of between $370 – $400.

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4. Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ 9

Specs
Height 5.0 inches
Length 6.8 inches
Width 1.0 inch
Barrel 3.68 inches
Weight 20 oz.
Capacity 1 – 8 round magazine
MSRP $505 (black; Crimson Trace laser available at extra cost)
MP Shield EZ
The .380 version of the M&P Shield EZ

If you like the M&P Shield 9, but have a hard time racking the slide, the Shield EZ 9 is for you!

The EZ model has all the same quality features as the Shield 9, but it features a slide that has some seriously grippy serrations and pulls back like it’s not even there. If hand strength is something you lack, then you’ll want to give the EZ a try.

Unlike its striker-fired brethren, the EZ has an SAO system (so you’ll need to rack that slide first). It also can be found with an external thumb safety or a grip safety. The grip safety makes it a little chunky-looking, but it does save you time when all you need to do to disengage the safety is get a positive grip.

Some other grip safety guns can be tiring to keep the safety disengaged, but the EZ is, true to its name, easy to handle.

Size Matters

While still a subcompact, the Shield EZ 9 does push our definition of that by a little. It’s slightly larger than the Shield 9, but I don’t think you’ll really notice a difference. We’re talking less than a half-inch in most directions, except for the barrel, which is a whopping 0.7” longer.

Like the Shield 9, that short little barrel does give you a much tighter sight radius, but the triple-dot sights are pretty easy to see in most conditions and give you a good sight picture.

The Shield 9 comes standard as a 7+1, with extended 8+1 mags available, but the EZ 9 comes with an 8+1 magazine. You even get a little bit of Picatinny rail under the barrel for a light, if you’re so inclined. See, sometimes, a little bigger can be better!

Expect to pay a real-world price between $400 and $500.

5. Beretta BU9 Nano

Specs
Height 4.2 inches
Length 5.6 inches
Width .90 inch
Barrel 3.1 inches
Weight 20 oz.
Capacity 1 – 6 round and 1 – 8 round (extended base plate) magazine
MSRP $450 (black; other colors or Crimson Trace laser available at extra cost)
Beretta BU9 Nano and keys
The BU9 Nano. Source: Beretta

The Nano was the first striker-fired Beretta marketed by Beretta USA, designed to be easily concealed in a pocket or other holster. It’s not a whole lot bigger than some .380 pistols out there but it wields a 9mm punch!

The gun has a few unique features. I owned one of these a few years ago and was struck by how small it was. It truly did fit in a pocket. Other attributes that the Nano has includes:

  • A reversible magazine release
  • A striker deactivator for service and disassembly
  • Hex-key-adjustable sights
  • Serialized chassis so you can exchange the guns’ frame for another of a different color if desired
Beretta BU9 Nano Striker Deactivator
That tiny little pin is the striker deactivator–and is very, very handy. Source: Beretta

Looking at the gun, it seems like it would ride high in your hand. It doesn’t. The grip is small, two fingers with the flush magazine but the way the backstrap and beavertail fit your hand, you don’t notice the slightly higher bore axis. 

The grip that you do achieve is more than enough to stabilize the gun when firing. Beretta’s guns often look a little different than most (example: PX Storm, Neos) but are solid designs with proven track records. 

They are popular with law enforcement officers as backup guns. Expect a real-world price of around $320-$400.

6. Taurus Slim (PT709 Slim)

Specs
Height 4.5 inches
Length 6 inches
Width 1 inch
Barrel 3.2 inches
Weight 19 oz.
Capacity 1 – 7 round magazine
MSRP $339
Taurus Slim
Taurus PT709 Slim

The Slim is called the Slim for a reason. Barely an inch wide, it disappears inside a waistband. This is one of the better-selling Taurus pistols. 

It does tend to slide under the radar, though, especially considering some of the other offerings that Taurus produces, such as the PT111 G2 or its newer incarnation, the G2C.

Taurus Slim Muzzle
The muzzle of the Taurus Slim

One of my sons bought a Slim (when it was called the PT709 Slim) and I was impressed. It was brand new and felt like it. The trigger was a bit rough, but with some shooting, it will wear in and smooth up. 

This was not my first experience with Taurus striker-fired guns’ triggers–I’ve owned several and they slick up over time. Just a quirk of the brand, I suppose.

Taurus Slim Grip
The Slim’s grip is pretty unique!

Pleasant Surprises

There were a couple of things that pleasantly surprised me about the Slim when I shot it.

First, the recoil was not bad even with hotter loads and seemed to send the gun straight back instead of flipping the muzzle up. That’s a pretty unique thing in the world of subcompact handguns. I attributed that to the decently low bore axis and higher handhold under the beavertail and trigger guard.

Taurus Slim Sight
Taurus Slim’s rear sights.

The other thing that caught my attention was the fully adjustable rear sight. Having owned other Taurus striker-fired guns with this same sight, I know that once it’s adjusted it will tend to stay put. 

Some may argue that an adjustable sight on a carry gun is a bad thing but I like the ability to center the sights for a given load without having to resort to either whacking the rear sight to move it in its dovetail or using Kentucky windage. 

With the Slim, adjust the rear sight all you want with a screwdriver, not a mallet.

You’re not going to find the Slim in production right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still get your hands on a used one. We like this pistol enough to still recommend it, even though it’s not the easiest to find!

7. Taurus G2S

As I was just now perusing Taurus’s website in an effort to check my specifications, I happened upon a brand new gun–the Taurus G2S. The above-mentioned G2C has been cloned, it seems, except that the new version is a single stack with 7+1 capability with an MSRP of about $318.

Taurus G2S
Taurus G2S. Source: Ellis County Firearms

I haven’t gotten my hands on it yet, but considering my experiences with the Taurus Slim and the G2C… I feel pretty confident that the G2S will stack up well against its older siblings.

Not-so-Lifetime Warranty

If you are buying a Taurus, you need to be aware that Taurus has changed its lifetime repair policy. 

Guns designed before January 1st 2017 carry a lifetime warranty, while guns designed after that date have a one-year warranty. I assume that the Slim, being a re-named previous model, would fall under the lifetime warranty as would the PT111 G2. 

On the other hand the G2C/G2S would have a one-year warranty since they are newly designed models. This is mentioned just to make the shopper aware of the policy change.

At any rate, Taurus has put forth great effort under new leadership to deliver guns that are reliable and are good buys for the money. 

Their efforts are paying off. If you are looking for a more budget-friendly subcompact 9mm. Expect a real world price of around $275-$300.

8. Kahr CM9

Specs
Height 4 inches
Length 5.4 inches
Width .9 inch
Barrel 3 inches
Weight 14 oz.
Capacity 1 – 6 round magazine
MSRP $460
Kahr CM9
Kahr CM9. Source: Mrgunsngear’s Blog

My CM9 was so small that I forgot I had it with me on several occasions. This tiny 9mm is definitely a contender for pocket carry. 

I shot my handloads through mine along with factory defensive ammo and it didn’t hesitate with any of it. As you can imagine, recoil was rather brisk with the hotter loads. The gun is rated for +P ammo but I don’t believe I would push it. 

As far as a subcompact 9mm goes, this one could be the definition of that concept.

As for the company, Kahr (which also owns Auto Ordnance and Magnum Research) makes its guns in the U.S. There are four basic lines of pistols under the Kahr banner–the P series, M series, T series, and C series. 

The main difference is that the P/M/T series guns use polygonal-rifled barrels while the C series’ barrels are rifled conventionally. For me, a bullet caster and reloader, this last difference between the two was the most important as cast bullets are not always recommended for polygonal-rifled barrels. So, the little CM9 shot my cast reloads and did a good job of it!

Kahr CM9 in hand
Small but mighty!

Kahr guns are noted for their smooth trigger pulls (although they are a bit long) and slightly offset barrel feed ramp. This allows the design to be more compact and yet offer reliable feeding. 

The Downside: Not Much!

About the only thing I didn’t like was the takedown drill. You have to line one notch on the slide up with another notch on the frame and only then can you pull the slide release out to remove the slide. It takes a bit of practice and dexterity.

All in all, if you are looking for one of the smallest, if not THE smallest, subcompact 9mm, give the CM9 a look. 

There are three different sizes/capacities in the 9mm C series: CM (6+1), CW (7+1) and the CT (8+1). I mention the CM9 for two reasons: it’s the smallest of all the Kahr 9mms and I owned one so I can speak from experience with it. It’s a great buy for the real-world price of around $360.

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9. Springfield Armory XDs 3.3 and 4.0

Specs XDs
Height 4.4 inches (5 inches with extended magazine)
Length 6.3 (3.3”); 7 inches (4”)
Width .9 inch
Barrel 3.3 or 4 inches
Weight 23 (3.3”); 25 oz. (4”)
Capacity 1 – 7 round and 1 – 8 round magazine with extension
MSRP $499
Specs XD-E (Hammer-Fired)
Height 5 inches (5.25 inches with extended magazine)
Length 6.75 inches
Width 1 inch
Barrel 3.3 inches
Weight 25 oz.
Capacity 1 – 8 round and 1 – 9 round magazine with extension
MSRP $525
XD-S 3.3 9MM Handgun
Springfield Armory XDs. Source: Springfield Armory

Springfield Armory is taking its small carry gun line to the next level. With the introduction of the XD line to the U.S. in 2001, the company has steadily grown its market share of subcompact guns. 

Calibers range from 9mm to .40 to .45 ACP but we will concentrate on the 9mm.

Why Three Guns?

The XDs (slim) and the XD-E (exposed hammer) lines both utilize single-stack magazines and are very close to one another in terms of specs, handling and shooting. That is why we are mentioning all three guns. 

The only difference between the XDs 3.3 and the XDs 4.0 is barrel length and accompanying overall length difference. The action and everything else are the same. 

Anyways, the XD-E is a new model that is hammer-fired, has a slide that requires 27% less effort to rack than the other two guns and has an external thumb safety in place of the other guns’ grip safety. 

On the other hand, the E model is designed to be used by less-experienced shooters–but is still a viable option for concealed carry.

Get to the Details!

XD model pistols share a feature set that is a bit different from other guns. First, they have a grip safety like a 1911. This alone sets them apart from others. 

Secondly, many XDs have a fiber optic front sight with red, green or orange rods that you can interchange. 

Third, they use a striker status indicator at the back of the slide and a loaded chamber indicator that is tactile on top of the chamber.

I love all these features for a carry gun because it makes it just that much easier to operate, get on target, and verify whether you’re loaded or not. In a stressful event like a self-defense situation, you’ll want all the help you can get.

XD-S 3.3 9MM Handgun muzzle
The XDz 3.3. Source: Springfield Armory

These pistols are good sellers and are well made. I owned an XDs in .45 ACP. It was a great shooter and carried very well. The reason I sold it was the magazine capacity–five rounds. I got tired of swapping flush-fitting magazines many times during a range session. 

Other than that, it was one solid gun that had a great grip angle and other good ergonomics.

Beginner Friendly

The XD-E would be a great gun for a new shooter, with its low-force slide retraction and exposed hammer. 

With a striker-fired gun, a rookie may get confused as to the state of his or her weapon’s readiness. A cocked hammer says it all.

I like the XD line and am considering one for my next gun acquisition. They are well-made, reliable, and are backed by a good company. Expect to pay around $360-$400 for the XDs and around $420-$480 for the XD-E in real-world prices

10. Sig P365

Specs
Height 4.3 inches
Length 5.8 inches
Width 1 inch
Barrel 3.1 inches
Weight 17.8 oz.
Capacity 10 + 1
MSRP $599
SIG P365 Left side
Sig Sauer P365

The new Sig P365 is taking over the concealed carry 9mm market if you believe what you read and the videos you see about this gun. 

Well, maybe not total domination but it is attracting a following. 

Double Stack, Double Fun

This is the only double-stack magazine model that I included in this article. I know, blasphemy.

You may wonder why, since we’re talking about subcompact, easily-concealed guns and most double-stacks don’t fit those criteria. The reason it’s included is evident if you look at the specs. The gun is basically the size of most of the other guns I’ve mentioned here, and the specs are close to them except for one area: capacity.

SIG P365 and magazine
P365 with the extended baseplate mag

The P365 includes two 10-round magazines, with a 12-rounder available. You could carry thirty-three rounds of ammo if you have the included extra ten-round magazine, and then buy a twelve-rounder. 

Ten plus one, plus ten more, and twelve more… that should be enough for just about anybody!

SIG P365 in holster
P365 in a holster

The capacity is only one reason to look at this gun. Sights are another. XRAY3 Day/Night sights are available from the factory, so you won’t have to spend more to add night sights to your P365. 

Another factor is that the gun is rated for +P ammo. Most people who have shot a P365 say they shoot very well and are controllable. Recoil from +P ammo in an 18-ounce gun could get a little exciting, but the word is that recoil isn’t all that bad.

SIG P365 Sight
Your view down the sights!

TL;DR?

If you are a Sig lover, give it a look. If you’re not particularly fond of Sigs… give it a look. I have owned other Sigs and they are very well-made guns. Expect to pay close to MSRP for a P365–the supply is very slowly catching up with the demand.

Honorable Mentions

Kel-Tec PF-9

If you are on a pretty strict budget but still want to have a decent subcompact 9mm to carry, take a look at the PF-9. You get one 7-round magazine and a gun that will definitely fit in a pocket holster. 

Kel-Tec guns are made in Florida and they are backed by excellent customer service. You can find the PF-9 for around $250.

Sig P938

The Sig P938 is a 1911-style subcompact 9mm. It looks and functions as a 1911 would but is a bit different on the inside. This little gun is very popular, which is why it had to make our list.

The P938 includes Sig NiteLight sights and a 6+1 capacity. Being a single-action gun, most folks carry it cocked and locked, though the ambidextrous thumb safety helps keep the gun safe when it’s not being fired. 

Sig’s reputation doesn’t hurt anything, either–this is a solid gun. The alloy frame adds to the weight and allows you to fit custom grip panels if so desired. I have seen this gun priced anywhere from $550 – $650.

GunBest FeaturesPrice
Ruger LC9sA firm and comfortable grip
Slim, lightweight and compact
High-visibility, dovetailed sight system with drift adjustable rear sight and fixed front sight
Striker-fired with a short, light, crisp trigger pull for faster, more accurate shooting
$249.97
Glock 43 Gen 4Reversible magazine catch
Interchangeable backstraps
Dual recoil spring assembly reduces the recoil
Rough textured frame
$489.99
S&W M&P Shield 9Extremely thin and lightweight
Polymer frame with embedded stainless steel rigid chassis system
Striker-fired for short consistent trigger pull
M&P’s patented take-down lever and sear deactivation systems
With extended capacity
$385.00
S&W M&P Shield EZ 9Easy-rack slide with bold three-dot sights, polymer frame on a steel chassis. Integrated grip safety and optional thumb safety. Holds 8+1 rounds.
Beretta BU9 NanoComfortable to use
Comes with a serialized chassis and modular design
Weighs 19.8 ounces (just over 1 pound)
$462.99
Taurus Slim (PT709 Slim)It holds 7+1 rounds in total capacity
Rated to handle +P ammunition
Keep recoil down
The controls are easy to reach with only one hand
Affordable
$229.99
Kahr CM9Micro-compact 9mms can be a handful to shoot
The system is smooth and consistent
Easy to use
Most women will find this comfortable to carry anywhere
$385.99
Springfield Armory XDs 3.3 and 4.0The most accurate and easy to shoot
Interchangeable backstraps
Powerful pistol for self-defense
$498.00
Sig P365The best size to capacity ratio of any subcompact pistol
With good trigger and sights
Comfortable to use
$448.99

Conclusions

As with any “best of” or “roundup” articles, the gun selection is biased by my experiences. These are some of my favorite subcompact 9mm handguns, but your mileage may vary.  

You are the one who has to select the gun that feels right in your hand, that is reliable, and that you would trust your life to. Only you can make that decision. 

First-time buyers especially need to be aware of their specific needs and purchase accordingly. While it’s best to get your hands on the gun you’re interested in, if a range rental isn’t an option, ask your local gun store staff about handling it safely in the store.  

Be safe, first and foremost, and then practice with range ammo and your proven-in-your-own-gun self-defense ammo. And don’t forget to have fun!

If you carry concealed, don’t forget to check out our guide to the best concealed carry insurance. You never know when you’ll need it.

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14 comments
  1. Hi Mike,
    I just wanted to say thanks. I really enjoyed your article. I’ve read a many gun articles recently and this was more informative (and well written) than most. I didn’t know the Springfield XD-E had an easier to rack slide. My father-in-law just took a pistol training class and was complaining about the slides. I’ll pass that along to him. Keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words. I try to put information out there that I would be interested in if I were looking for a gun. Having owned most of these guns (and having been a shooter for over 40 years), I’ve learned a few things about what makes a certain gun a good buy or not. Tell him about the XD-E, and, if he’s interested in a .380, the S&W Shield EZ has a very easy slide to rack, as well. I was totally blown away by how easily it overcame the recoil spring and allowed a round to be chambered. Just another gun to consider. Again, thanks for the very kind words!

  2. Hi Mike. Could you check to see if the new Diamondback Db9 gen 4 should make it on this list? I am thinking about buying it but wanted to see some reviews first. Thank you.

    1. Charles, to be honest I’ve not shot a Diamondback 9mm – all I know is what I’ve seen by reviewers and forum contributors. I did look it up to check any new features they might have included in the Gen 4 model and I’m impressed with the gun’s look and specifications. The new Glock sight compatibility, forward slide serrations, enhanced grip ergonomics improved trigger/reset, 6+1 capability, captive recoil spring and new slide release lever bring the DB9 into the fold with other small 9mm’s feature sets. To be honest, some DB9s seem to have had reliability issues according to some reviewers, while others only sing its praises. For a 13-ounce, .90-inch-wide pocket pistol, it looks very interesting – especially considering its $269 full MSRP. You should be able to find one around $200, I’d imagine. Couple that with its limited lifetime warranty to the original purchaser and I’d say it’d be worth a hard look. Thanks for your comment!

    1. Ari, my very first thought is that I’d love to have one! I like the 15-rounder; I can only imagine how nice the smaller 10-rounder is. I don’t have either, but have owned enough Ruger semiautos to know that they build ’em for keeps. They are tough as nails and very reliable, not to mention very affordable. As with the LC9S, though, I do wish they’d go to a different take-down system…you can lose a pin. Other than that, I’d sure like to have one in an IWB holster. Thanks for your question!

  3. A very written article I enjoyed reading. Any one of the above guns will do the trick of subcompact carry. Once chosen the owner needs to practice to be proficient. I have found some of the guns listed were not for me, while I was more comfortable with others. The main thing is to train and be comfortable drawing and manipulating the firearm as needed as well stated in the article.

    1. Kevin, you’re right…any of these would work, it’s just we shoot some better than others. Thanks for writing!

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