Comparison of 14 Top Subcompact 9mm Carry Pistols

Comparison of 14 Top Subcompact 9mm Carry Pistols

Which of the current top 100 concealed carry (CC) subcompact 9mm guns available in the market now are you going to consider? Yes, there are many out there. What is the latest and greatest gun vying for your attention and bucks? Can you narrow the options down to 3 or 4 to chose from? Will it be a striker-fired, hammer-fired, double or single stack, single, double, or double-single action, with or without an external safety, green fiber optic front sight or orange luminescent, two dots or three dots, magazine disconnect or not, 5 pound or seven pound press, long or short reset, polymer or steel frame, 7-round or 10-round capacity, 15 ounce or 23 ounce weight, etc. What about the key accuracy and reliability factors? Well, you better have a system for comparing the many alternatives and know what you want up front. This article will give you my top 10 criteria you may want to use to save you some time and present the comparative specifications for only 14 of the many models on the market now. You may want to add or subtract from my criteria and modify them to include what’s important to you. Above all, rent or borrow and try the gun before you buy it to save buyer regret and the “if only I knew” syndrome that could follow your purchase. Sadly, early on I and some friends learned this the hard way. I reviewed, analyzed, and shot all of these guns. You can see almost all of these reviews on this website; some are on other websites. I own almost all of these guns because I made a conscious decision to buy the ones I wanted to buy, based on my criteria and field tests.

For me, accuracy, reliability, trigger press and reset, width, and weight are important first considerations, among other things. So, how accurate is it out of the box, without any modifications (and costs) like trigger job, different sights, grips, springs, etc.? Is it reliable (defined by me as consistency of good hits over repeated trials)? Durability is another factor. What is the force necessary for the trigger press? There is a big diffference between a 4.5 and 7.5 pound trigger press for results? Is the trigger smooth and crisp? What about the reset distance for follow-up shots? Does it have a long or short travel and is the reset point readily identifiable? How do the guns compare? The width of the gun and its grips are more important to me than the barrel length for concealed carry purposes. While both are important, I do not want the wider gun to bulge at my hip line when I carry, like most revolvers do for me. Of course, there is a difference between a 3-inch barrel and a 6-inch barrel when carrying and method of carry affects this. For this article, I arbitrarily narrowed down my many CC pistols to these 14. I could have considered more, but for this brief article I had to shorten my list. My recent book “Concealed Carry & Handgun Essentials” considers 21 CC guns and I compare and rank them there. To answer the question “Is this a gun I recommend for CC?”, I have to know the specifications and features of each gun, then shoot my finalists for my personal decision. It does not really matter what your friends, family members, or the “experts” say, since you have to know for yourself what works with your idiosyncracies, preferences and shooting abilities. Be careful and compare apples with apples and not with oranges, so to speak. Compare like features and specifications. Below are my criteria for my CC handguns. As always, establish your own criteria, do your own research and check my data, information, and most importantly, try the gun yourself.

MY CRITERIA

Here are just 10 of my Criteria and factors I use for evaluating any handgun. In addition to my criteria, there are other subjective features that may be appealing for some, like a certain style, mag release location, action, caliber, appearance, number of mags included, type of sights/modifications, bore axis, rail, grip angle, non-porting or porting, included extras like a holster and pouch, customer service, etc. So, I combined these into my last Miscellaneous criterion. I must admit that ALL gun-choice decisions involve tradeoffs, but I really want ALL of my criteria to be met. Dreaming? I assigned a total possible point score of 10 points for each of my 10 criteria for a total possible score of 100 points. You can certainly add your own additional criteria and preferences or subtract any of mine. Here are mine: 

1. Accuracy and Reliability- Performs well without reoccurring malfunctions and stoppages and results in  consistent, accurate target hits with a 3″ inch hit group or so at  5-15 yards for concealed carry;

2. Trigger Press maximum of about 5.5-6.5 pounds – lessens force applied for less movement & better accuracy- and press that is crisp and identifiable (TRAIN to be Trigger Safe);

3. Trigger with short travel distance (a short travel distance increases the speed the trigger can be fired) and easily identifiable and short reset point; Trigger with a smooth consistent press for every shot (less need to transition between presses & make adjustments);

4. Barrel length of 3.0″-4.5″ (primarily for concealed carry);

5. Sights that are basic & simple (easy to use & see–I like Fiber Optic fronts); fast target acquisition; for my   purposes– adjustable for windage; Night Sights for low-light situations;

6. Proper Gun Weight to minimize recoil (I prefer about 25 oz. or less for carry- but there are tradeoffs);

7. Caliber match to my needs, characteristics & abilities (consider medical & physical limitations); 9mm is my preference for carry;

8. Capacity -adequate for use & feature tradeoffs- usually prefer at least 8-10 in a 9mm magazine for carry (but can carry a spare mag or 2 sometimes);

9. Ergonomics – Hand Comfort and Grip Fit, controls easy to work and easily accessible; rounded, low-profile;

10. Miscellaneous – Overall Finish, fit, & quality appearance & workmanship; mag release location; ambidextrous controls; accessory rail as required; grip angle; bore axis; competitive market price; excellent customer service with friendly & helpful representatives; ease of disassembly-assembly; Hard Case; Extras (third mag, holster, pouch, extended & flush mags); warranty length & extent; etc.

SPECIFICATIONS

Here are the specifications for 14 current CC subcompact 9mm handguns, for your consideration. Remember, to also consider your personal preferences, features, etc. and to shoot your final guns before your selection.

Comparison of 14 Top Subcompact 9mm Carry Pistols

CONCLUSIONS

There are several characteristics, pros and cons, and criteria to include and consider and you make your own tradeoffs according to your goal, desired features, preferences for certain factors, etc. We all want all of our criteria to be met, but realistically maybe only 8 or 9 of our 10 criteria can be met by any one gun. Maybe we’ll get lucky and we can meet all of our criteria with that “perfect” CC gun. I guess that is why every year we learn of the next latest and greatest gun that has added both front and rear fiber optic sights, the sturdy G-10 grips, the ported slide and ported barrel, easy takedown method, modular and exchangeable trigger assembly, ambidextrous everything, capacity of 25 (?), etc. But, do your own analysis and decide for yourself. Overall, do the pros outweigh the cons and are your top criteria met? Also, remember you can have more than one CC gun. My wife is looking over my shoulder as I write this and is trying to hit my delete key to erase this last statement. Ha! I guess she believes we have enough guns already. Really, 50 each is not too many is it? It depends on the features you want and its uses… personal preferences. I hope this article has helped you gain some information you did not previously have about these 14 possible CC handguns. Consider that this is just my point of view with my live-range fire and shooting the guns myself. Again, as always, I recommend that you shoot any handgun yourself before you purchase it. Decide on your criteria, how you will primarily use the gun, and what features are important to you and you are willing to pay for ahead of your range time. Then critically evaluate the gun YOURSELF per your criteria and purpose, with standard drills (several mentioned in my book), with various ammo types and brands, over an extended break-in period of about 500 rounds. Remember, Safety First Always.

Continued success!

Photo by Author.

* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.

© 2016 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected].

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  • VSanity

    So which would you say is best value for function? I have the S&W Bodyguard 380 since it’s ultra portable but my mother is looking for a 9mm subcompact, was recommended the LC9S, price of $340 brand new with extra mag included. Thoughts?

    • ps

      I have the LC9S. It seems as solid as my LC9 (they just do not malfunction), but the trigger is much better. It is easy to shoot, extremely accurate, cycles flawlessly, and is easy to conceal. I carry mine in a pocket holster, and no one knows it is there. I took my college aged daughter to the range this week, and she discovered she could shoot it one-handed – even with her incredibly small hands. You can’t go wrong with the LC9S in my opinion, but see if you can take one for a test drive at a range. For what it is worth, my LC9 has the Lasermax sight which I find completely useless. My LC9S has just the standard iron sights.

    • Col Ben

      Hi VS. Yes, I like the LC9S and its great, smooth, light & short trigger. I own it and carry it often. See my review thoughts here on Sept.23, 2014. Also reviewed many others here & in my book, like Ported Shield on May 5, 2016 here & other sites.Be Safe & have fun trying the various guns. Best!

      • JackG058

        My first carry was the LC9S. While I liked all of the features of this striker fired handgun, the too easy to press magazine release made it to where I just didn’t trust it for wearing on my hip. I even had Ruger do some maintenance on it, which helped, but when the gun is pressed against my side to much, the mag pops out a bit, rendering the gun useless, since it will not fire without a mag inserted. My Glock 26 does not have this problem at all, nor does my newly purchased SCCY CPX-2, which is now my favorite carry handgun.

  • Pete Lewis

    Your chart doesn’t say hammer-fired or striker-fired.

    • Ken

      I don’t think it matters.

  • Steven Smith

    Great article, as always. Why no Glock 26? It’s very popular and fits the criteria well.

    • Col Ben

      Hey Steven. In the past few years since the G26 was introduced, many have wanted a comparison to the G43. For this article, I had to limit my top 200 Subcompact 9mm guns (Ha!) to just a few, thus 14. My book goes into more detail with my 21 9mms I recommend for carry- the G26 is one. As you know, this is a purely subjective, very personal opinion-related list and other fine guns are not included. So just my opinion, but based on my criteria, shooting and owning them. I own all but 2 of my top 21. Also, I like the G19 I own & others, but it is not considered a subcompact. The G26 double-stack subcompact is thicker (fatter grip) than the G43 single stack I included– G26=1.18″: v. G43= 1.02″. This width is a very important factor for concealment. I do not like that my medium-sized hands’ pinkie finger dangles off the mag on the G26. Also, the G26 weighs unloaded about 3.7 oz more than the G43– G26=21.7 oz v. G43=18 oz. The G26 is longer than the G43, but not by much. But, the G26 is .08″ shorter in height than the G43. I personally found the G26 trigger press to be a little heavier than the G43, which causes more force to be exerted with more movement, affecting personal accuracy for me.Just a few on my thoughts to help you and other folks, but try it for yourself.

      Again, thank you my friend and continued success. Be Safe!

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  • jimkimmons

    Should have had Kahr represented. Excellent quality for the price.

    • 2ThinkN_Do2

      Kahr has a disconnect with many firearm owners, not sure what the real reason is, but I have a disturbing feeling about it. It’s too bad, as you said: they make excellent firearms and they are also some of the most accurate, reliable and compact; with a larger barrel than many that are smaller. Maybe those are some other reasons they are frowned upon. Their metal guns might be a bit pricey, similar to Kimber, and some others, but you get what you pay for.

      • jimkimmons

        I agree. Their metal guns are well constructed. My MK40 was built like a tank. Unfortunately, it weighed almost as much as a tank too.

  • KUETSA

    G26

  • Lloyd M. Mitchell

    Amazing the Keltec PF-9 didnt make the listing…

    • Col Ben

      Hi Lloyd! Some say it’s a fine low-priced gun and others say spend a few dollars more and get more. Again, very PERSONAL preference per your own criteria. After all you are using it to defend your own life. I don’t like to cut corners or take a chance on reliability and accuracy if there are other proven options for myself. PRICE is not a major concern for defending my life. Some have told me about light primer strikes and having trouble digesting pressure loads and 147 gr ammo. Others have told me about extractor and extractor spring problems- FTEs. A friend said very hard recoil to control on this SC. Frankly, I have never shot one, so consider that. I stand by my top 21 recommended guns in my book and the narrow list of 14 for this article… ones I have personally shot and own. So again shoot it for yourself and per your criteria for your own decision. SUCCESS!

  • get a life and stop being stup

    I carry a SCCY with a laser ..love it and easy to carry and conceal with a pancake holster ..fires very well and have no problem hitting a target..never had a problem with it and is covered with a lifetime warranty..

    • JackG058

      I just added the SCCY CPX-2 to my collection. I absolutely love it. Yes, it has a longer trigger pull but since that is your safety, and it is very smooth and consistent, I find that I don’t mind it at all. It has less recoil than I would have thought as well, for such a smallish pistol. SCCY has done an amazing job on this pistol, and the additional pluses of lifetime warranty with the gun, not purchaser, along with the amazing low price, it was a no brainer to me.

    • Col Ben

      Hi GAL-SBS. Glad the gun is working out for you! I understand SCCY was started by former Kel-Tec folks. Some friends tell me the budget-priced Gen 2 CPX (no MS) has a long & heavy trigger press with creep, had light firing strikes with some FTExtracts, and a very extended mag release. I want to test & evaluate it for myself! I requested SCCY send me one to Review recently, but no response yet. I understand they do have very good customer service with a lifetime warranty. I’ll share my opinions later about using it for CC, if I get one. “Always shoot straight.”

  • Chris Jones

    I see guns listed wit specs, but no actual discussion about the guns? Does your book actually rate them on your 10 point scale with descriptions of how each gun does/doesn’t meet the criteria?

    • Col Ben

      Hey Chris. Yes, my book RANKS my Top 21 CC guns by categories, e.g. Weight-Loaded, Standard Capacity, Trigger Press, Width, & Price. It includes not only an OVERALL RANK of my top guns, but a rank within each category, using MY criteria and factors. I focus on the positive of the guns meeting my criteria; you decide if it doesn’t meet YOUR criteria… or if it does meet your criteria. I also have Reviews of the guns in separate articles, which are quite lengthy (my book is already about 300 pages) and take a specific gun, gives my analysis, and rank it relative to the others. Go to my website and send an email to get my signed book at a discount for readers & students. Continued Success!

  • 2ThinkN_Do2

    Any particular reason you chose not to include any Firearms by Kahr? MK9, CM9, PM9, P9, K9 . . . not one?

    Kimber Micro 9 is excellent so far; worse thing was trying too find a 7 round extended magazine. Kimber is Out Of Stock, so I called around to local Kimber dealers and found ONE (all they had) at the first dealer I tried. Would be even better if they flared the front of the extension like others do, to retain the 3rd finger better and add an 8 round extended as well. So far I like it much better than the Sig P290RS I sold 9 months ago; the Kimber has been 100% trouble free.

  • drantigmo

    Conclusion was janky. There was no conclusion. How in God’s name am I supposed to find, then test, all of these??? That’s why I read these articles…to help me narrow down choices. Sheesh.

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