Top Concealed Carry 9mm Pistols for Year-End 2017

Top Concealed Carry 9mm Pistols for Year-End 2017

Some estimate that there were at least 3,000 9mm pistol models in the U.S. concealed carry handgun market in 2017. Others estimate closer to 5,000 models. And there are about 16 million concealed carry folks in the U.S. with an opinion about which handgun is their top 9mm choice to carry. So which ones are your top choices now and why? This article will present my opinions about my top concealed carry 9mm pistols for the end of this year 2017 in three categories:

  • Compact Pistols
  • Sub-Compact Pistols
  • Pocket Pistols

I spent a lot of time considering about one hundred 9mm pistols that I have recently reviewed and reduced the many great guns down to 18 9mm pistols in the three categories. Yes, I know there are other calibers that you can carry, excellent .45s, .40s, and .380 pistols, etc. for concealed carry. And there are many other outstanding 9mm pistols in the three categories. For example, I have ranked 5 or 6 more 9mms in each category that did not make my cut for the Top 5 or so in each category. This article intentionally omits these and others for space reasons, and I do prefer to carry a 9mm, as do many of my readers. And, I have my opinions like you do.

My sole motivation for this article is to objectively organize my criteria, priorities, and personal preferences and match them to the 9mm guns’ specifications and features that I am familiar with to determine my top 9mms for my concealed carry. I am not prescribing my choices as the pinnacle of the “best” for everyone, as the all-knowing guru of guns. I do not have even close to all the answers, and you are the expert for yourself, not me.

Hopefully, this will help you organize your thoughts about the many concealed carry guns or at least save you some time. Your criteria, priorities, finalists, and choices are just as good as mine and certainly better for you and your factors and preferences. That is fine because there are no right or wrong criteria or selections, just what each wants and prefers. Here I give you my ideas for what they are worth. I hope they help you some. So these are not the “best” or “the only ones I recommend” for carrying, but instead, these are MY top 9mm choices by category, based on my criteria and my personal preferences and opinions at the end of this year. I do own, shoot, and carry all of these fine handguns in each category, based on concealed carry situations, garments, and weather.

So you can better understand my comparisons, here are my brief category criteria and definitions for the 9mms. Recognize that my intuitive ideas and your personal preferences may override any criterion, since this is mostly a subjective process and not exact by design. As usual, we make individual trade-offs based on our gut feelings. Have fun with this! Your category definitions may differ from mine, but here are:

My Basic Category Definitions:

Compact: Barrel length of close to 4 inches or so, but not less than 3.5 inches and not more than 4.2 inches. Not over 31 ounces or so in weight, usually less and near 25 ounces.

Sub-Compact: Barrel length of less than 3.5 inches, but not less than 3 inches, with an unloaded weight of less than 25 ounces and preferably near 20 ounces or less. Width of 1.10″ or less, preferably less.

Pocket: Barrel length of close to 3 inches or so, with an unloaded weight of near 20 ounces or preferably less. Width very near 1″ or less, preferably less. This category is affected by the type of garment you wear and the size of the “Pockets.” Cargo pockets are designed larger than dress slack pockets.

In addition to specifying the 9mm caliber, category definitions, and gun specifications and features, here are some more of my criteria for concealed carry guns. I rated each criterion on a 10-point scale with 10 being the highest rating, as I do in each of my posted reviews for each gun. Note that almost all of these guns are rated 10 in several criterions, so that is why they are my top choices. Other concealed carry guns not listed here ranked high in some criteria, but not in enough individual criterions to put them at the top of my lists. Again, personal preference and subjective.

Some More of My Criteria:

1. Accuracy and Reliability – Performs well without reoccurring malfunctions and stoppages and results in accurate target hits with a maximum of a 4″ inch hit group (this is not bullseye shooting-but for self-defense) at 7-15 yards consistently (prefer 3″ or less hit group at 7 yards);

2. Trigger press preferred about 4.5-6.0 pounds which sometimes varies by category & gun design.

3. Trigger with short travel distance, easily identifiable and short reset point, and a smooth, consistent press.

4. Sights that are basic & easy to use; enhance fast target acquisition & follow-up shots; e.g., tritium or other Night Sights or Fiber Optic front sight.

5. Capacity – For 9mm want at least nine in a compact gun; at least seven in sub-compact and seven in a pocket gun.

6. Ergonomics – Hand comfort and grip fit; controls easy to work and easily accessible; rounded, low-profile for concealed carry; helps control felt recoil and muzzle flip; feels very good in hand; proper grip angle and bore axis to match individual preferences.

7. Miscellaneous – Overall finish, fit, & quality appearance; mag release location; ambidextrous controls; accessory rail; ease of disassembly-assembly; included accessories; hard case; extras (e.g., holster, pouch, or loader); excellent customer service & repair reputation with friendly & helpful representatives; within your budget; etc.

NOTE: For me, I did not put a lot of weight on price, since I cannot place too high a dollar value on a gun used for defending my life and the lives of my loved ones. This is a top priority for me and my wallet. If I must save and wait to purchase my top concealed carry gun, I will. I want the very best gun for myself to get the job done of defending lives. Everyone must individually make this decision, prioritize, and decide the expenditure for their own concealed carry gun.

General Rule of Thumb for Concealed Carry Pistol Selection

As always I believe the best concealed carry pistol for you is the gun:

  1. with the highest caliber,
  2. that you are most accurate with,
  3. that feels the most comfortable and fits your hands,
  4. is the most controllable by you,
  5. are willing to carry with you every day, and
  6. have shot & tried before you bought it.

Below is a listing of my top personal choices in 9mm for concealed carry in each of the three categories: Compact, Sub-Compact, and Pocket 9mm pistols for year-end 2017. I hope this helps you. I compare my Top 5 choices in each Category (Sub-Compact & Pocket Categories have ties, so more guns in those Categories) by my criteria, specifications, and my preferences that I believe are important for concealed carry. I do have available more details on these and other excellent 9mm concealed carry guns in my book and some published reviews.

COMPACT: Springfield EMP4 Contour- Note the Fiber Optic Front Sight & Bobtail Cut on Butt of Gun to Help Concealed Carry
COMPACT: Springfield EMP4 Contour- Note the Fiber Optic Front Sight & Bobtail Cut on Butt of Gun to Help Concealed Carry

COMPACT: Walther Arms PPQ M2 9mm- Great Trigger

COMPACT: Walther Arms PPQ M2 9mm- Great Trigger

Top COMPACT 9mms

Reviews for the Top Compact Concealed Carry 9mm Pistols for 2017

The Springfield Armory Enhanced Micro Pistol (EMP) 4 Champion pistol is highly rated on all my criteria. It is my top concealed carry compact 9mm gun, but I do practice and rotate among the other four compacts listed. All are great concealed carry guns! The EMP4’s specifications and features match my preferences, and the gun handles and shoots outstandingly for all concealed carry factors vital to me, e.g., accuracy, reliability, ergonomics, trigger press, width, and sights. It is a heavier steel 1911 gun in 9mm, and this helps reduce movement for accuracy, control of recoil, and muzzle flip. It is not too heavy for me to carry all day. It has a special short-action design and a frame/grip length that is 1/8″ shorter than a traditional 1911, solving many usual full-size 1911 problems. Its magazine is designed to fit the 9mm without adding a spacer specifically. Since the slide stroke and breech face are made for the reduced-length 9mm case, reliability is not a problem. The shorter grip radius makes the gun very comfortable and controllable in my medium-sized hands while being a smaller-proportioned gun for comfortable carrying. The butt is angled, or some call it a “Bobtail” to remove the sharp corner of the frame to help conceal the pistol better. It does cost more than some folks want to pay, but, again, you get what you pay for and must consider the critical goal of saving lives. The longer 4-inch, stainless steel, match-grade bull barrel has a fully-supported feed ramp to help control recoil. The G-10 grips look nice and also function well for grip control. The trigger is great!

SUB-COMPACT: Smith-Wesson M&P Shield M2.0 9mm
SUB-COMPACT: Smith-Wesson M&P Shield M2.0 9mm
SUB-COMPACT: Springfield Armory EMP 3 9mm
SUB-COMPACT: Springfield Armory EMP 3 9mm


Reviews for the Top Sub-Compact Concealed Carry 9mm Pistols for 2017

POCKET: Sig Sauer P-938 9mm
POCKET: Sig Sauer P-938 9mm
POCKET: Ruger LC9s 9mm
POCKET: Ruger LC9s 9mm

Top POCKET 9mms

Reviews for the Top Pocket Concealed Carry 9mm Pistols for 2017

Continued Success! Hopes this helps and saves you some time. Check out my book for more concealed carry guns, rankings, and analysis. Go For It!

Photos 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.

© 2017 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

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Smith & Wesson M&p Shield Ez 9mm Pistol With Manual Safety, Black - 12436

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"Col Ben" is retired with 30 years service in the U.S. Air Force, with joint services Special Ops duty and training, and is Air Force qualified as "Expert" in small arms. He is a Vietnam-era Veteran. Ben is an experienced NRA-Certified Pistol Instructor, NRA Range Safety Officer, and FL Concealed Carry License Instructor. Ben recently wrote the book "Concealed Carry and Handgun Essentials for Personal Protection" (second printing) with 57 comprehensive Chapters about concealed carry and handgun principles, techniques, and tips for both experienced and new shooters. His reference book is endorsed by several organizations and is available on his website at Contact him at
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More Glocks please.

Col Ben

Sure. What are your Glock selections in each of the 3 cats… and WHY? Your criteria and opinions are valued.


I stick with 40S&W over 9mm.


Ah, the caliber wars! I have come to the conclusion that regardless of caliber, I want to be armed when I need it. In this day, it is the user that is the most unreliable part of the self defense equation. Ammunition has advanced so that 380, 9mm, 40, 45 are all effective rounds. And before we get pissy over ‘knockdown power’ and foot-pounds of energy please note that in shooting situations you will care less about bullet size and weight than you will about putting the shots on target. I can tell you from personal experience that you won’t really care about the size of the gun pointed at you as much as you will about whether or not there will be a bullet with your name on it coming out of the end of the barrel.

Carry what is comfortable, appropriate to your attire, and that you can competently handle. Practice with those guns, then hope you never have to use them.

Col Ben

Hey Coach62. Yes, shot placement is king, no matter the caliber.

As always I believe the best concealed carry pistol for you is the gun:
1) with the highest caliber,
2) that you are most accurate with,
3) that feels the most comfortable and fits your hands,
4) is the most controllable by you,
5) are willing to carry with you every day, and
6) that you have shot and tried before buying and carrying it.

Later, I’ve got to get practicing!


Because he’s a known Glockhead. My Sig will shoot circles around his Glock, and look and feel better while doing it. Neener, neener.

Col Ben

Thanks Gloomsinger. I sincerely appreciate your and G50AE’s ideas. Glocks are fine guns and I own the G19, G17, G43, etc., but there are others just as fine or finer to consider overall and for any given purpose. I stand by MY rankings for my preferences and features, etc.(including the G43 in my 2 categories.) Everyone should develop their own criteria, recognize their individual preferences, and do their own thing without imposing their standards and choices on others. There are no universal right choices for all, but ones for each person and their mix of features, goals, etc. That is why we have so many different brands and models manufactured to choose among. It would be terrible if we had just one standard model to select, like back in the U.S. auto industry in 1893 and the Duryea Model or in 1903 and the Ford Model A. There are definitely individual needs and preferences to consider. Let’s do our own thing. YES!


Somebody has to let the air out of his head once in a while or he may accidently pop it with the pin on his CCW badge. Heh.

I happen to have a G43, which is a great little gun, especially since it was updated to performance mode. I love my little guns, although I do have a few larger hand cannons I enjoy.

My criteria? Fit, finish, reliability, accuracy, ease of maintainance, appearance and firing performance. I don’t have large hands, so certain guns (like most Glocks and Springfields) feel very chunky in my hand. But the gun picks you, not the other way around. You may have an idea what you want, and it can be the greatest gun in the world, but if it doesn’t feel like a part of you when you hold it, it may as well be a paperweight. When I picked up my Sig 938, it felt like no other gun I’d ever held. The balance was perfect, the weight was ideal for it’s size, the Hogue grip fit my hand perfectly, the sights lined up immediately, and when it fired it was a deadly accurate dream. It comes with all the bells and whistles and shoots like a gun twice It’s size. I was blasting targets at 25 to 50 yards with ease. No other in my collection is like that, and I like them all. A minor downside is it’s a little more complicated for a new owner, and requires a bit more effort to clean it, but I’m so accustomed to it now it takes no effort.

Col ben

Yes, love the 938. It is my #2 pocket gun and my #4 sub-compact 9mm. With a 3″ barrel and only 16 oz, nice weight, balance & easy to carry. My wife really likes it too.


A Neck Chain CCW Badge Holder Thingie or a Belt Clip CCW Badge Holder Thingie elimiates the need to pin your CCW Badge on.

Col Ben

Be careful if you decide to wear a CCW Badge, since you may get in trouble & legal problems if you are determined to be impersonating a law enforcement officer. Also, remember you are carrying a “CONCEALED” gun and do not want to advertise that you have a gun… as evident from your neck chain CCW badge. To me there are many more “cons” than “pros” for wearing a CCW Badge (even if legal in your state). Use caution and be safe.


CCW Masks, because concealed means concealed.

Col Ben

How about CCW Hats with blinking neon?


That sounds like it would be very “tactical”. CCW boots similar to wrestling boots with the letters “CCW” on their sides would go nice as well, IMHO.


The M&P Shield is my top choice, but it isn’t perfect out of the box. The Apex trigger enhancement system is a must. About $160, and a moderately easy owner install, and you have an outstanding CCW. Lightweight, reliable, accurate, and comfortable to carry, as well as easy to conceal.

Col Ben

Hey Michael. Yes, as you know from my article and review, I rate the Shield M2.0 high in my sub-compacts. Everything and every gun has both pros and cons, but for ME the new M2.0 trigger is NOT a con. It is NOT a must for me on all of the M2.0 guns I own… Shield sub-compact, compact, and full size. Do you own the M2.0 Shield? Have you shot and tried the new trigger?

The new M2.0 series guns all feature the Pro Series trigger… and it is one of the nicest factory triggers of any striker-fired gun I have shot. For me, this is an important point in the M&P’s favor.
Also, try Walther’s PPQ M2 great trigger. Continued success!


HK P2000sk in 40 Smith. Best “little” gun I’ve ever owned.


Curious. Col. Ben rates 9mm handguns but not the .380s in a prior article. I smell bias ; methinks he’s surreptitiously saying that the 9mm is better…
Sure the 9mm will do the job…
with the right ammo . But then that’s true of the .380 ACP.
I also notice that all of his choices are expensive. E.g. above $350 . Yes there’s the adages about putting a price on your but if you don’t have the money…What about those of us who have a limited budget?

Col Ben

Hey Rusty. I have articles and rankings here for both 9mms and .380s. I like BOTH. I don’t want to get into the age-old caliber debate, because both the 9mm and .380 rounds and guns have strengths and weaknesses. I do prefer the 9mm for CC and the .380 for a BUG and pocket carry. But, for me the most important factor is SHOT PLACEMENT with whatever caliber or gun. You can carry the biggest caliber gun, but if you can’t hit your target accurately with its projectile, what’s the point? Also, the smaller and lighter the firearm and round, generally the harder it is to shoot accurately, but the better for CC. One of the most important factors is to get to the range, PRACTICE, and shoot the gun and caliber you are thinking about buying and carrying, so you know how you can handle it for accuracy and handling, before you buy it. I can’t say that the 9mm gun and ammo are always the best for everyone. “IT DEPENDS.”

AMMO is also very important. Penetration and Expansion are affected by it. If over-penetration is a concern with 9mm, select proper self-defense HP rounds and maybe even consider a heavier round, like 147 grain defense rounds. If you can get a more powerful round in the same-sized gun, why select the smaller one with less performance?

There is much research out there, like Ellifritz’s study that says the major calibers, like .45, .40, 9mm, and .380 are all very close in statistical terms of actual PERFORMANCE and STOPPING POWER. Of course, the .380 is not the performer as the bigger calibers are, but it is still effective. The .380 Auto typical load propels a 95-grain bullet at 845 fps to produce 151 ft.-lbs. of ENERGY from a 2.75-inch barrel. It produces about 2.76 ft.-lbs. recoil energy from a 1-pound firearm.
A typical 9mm Luger load propels a 115-grain bullet to 1,000 fps out of a 2.75-inch barrel. (Velocities increase along with barrel length.) This produces approximately 255 ft.-lbs. of ENERGY while generating 5.36 ft.-lbs. of recoil energy from a 1-pound pistol. So, when compared to the 9mm Luger, the .380 is smaller, generally lighter in recoil, but not as powerful when it strikes a target. But, BOTH the 9mm and .380 have a place in self-defense.

FELT RECOIL is another factor and varies from one individual to another. The more the gun and cartridge produce recoil, the more your ability to shoot multiple rounds accurately– SPEED and PRECISION– are affected. The less recoil to deal with, the faster you’ll be able to shoot to any given level of precision. Generally speaking, the 9mm does have a higher velocity, a larger grain bullet and more powder to push it out of the barrel, with more penetration. In other words, it generally does perform better than the .380 does. It is impossible to take physics out of the equation. In a deadly-force encounter, the more rounds you can put into vital areas and quicker, the sooner the bad guy/gal is going to stop being a threat to you. But, a 9mm does recoil more than a .380, but individuals handle it differently.

The 9mm Luger is likely America’s most popular handgun cartridge because it offers a balance of power, shootability, reliability and concealability. Because of these traits, the cartridge has become popular, more available, and, at this time, generally costs less than a .380 round. So you can practice more for less money with a 9mm than a .380. If you choose 9mm, you are immediately granted myriad options in loads, handgun models, sizes, and accessories, etc. My solution: carry and use both for self defense.
“Whatever floats your boat.” Success!

Bonzo's Ghost

I carry the Sig P226 Legion, and it handles and shoots like a dream. I have huge hands, and can only carry full size guns. It seems that many, if not most shooters must have small/medium size hands, as evidenced by this never ending, ”smaller is better” compact/sub-compact/pocket pistol craze. I just wonder why, given all of its distinct advantages, more people don’t or won’t carry a full size pistol? I know, and have read of many petite women who carry full size 1911s, so what’s going on with everyone else? It can be done (and comfortably, as I used to carry an FNX 45 full size) you just need to dress around the gun with x-large shirts and a quality Kydex OWB holster that hugs the body. I just wonder if the pendulum will ever swing back in favor of larger, duty size pistols. If larger pistols, with all of their advantages, do come back into favor (and I think they will) people will slap themselves, and wonder why they ever thought of carrying a (harder to shoot) compact or sub-compact
pocket pistol. As someone (it might have been Colonel Cooper) once said: ”A ”Fighting Gun” is not meant to be comfortable, it’s meant to be comfortING.”

Col Ben

Yes, I have the full-size 226 SAO, 226 DA-SA, and one with the Romeo 1 Rd. Love them, but for me just too big to carry for my medium frame and the Florida hot weather with my t-shirts and shorts. Even with my extra large shorts and over-sized shirts. They shoot great and are near the very top of my full-size guns, like my G17, Springfield Range Officer, Colt, Springfield, Kimber, and Sig Commanders, 1911s, etc. Their increased weight, longer sight radius, and size do help dampen the recoil. But not for carry for ME because they are wider, taller in height, (some) double stack, longer grip… so print more easily. Of course, their heavy weight can be offset by a very good holster and great gun belt. Not to disagree with the legend Lt Col Cooper, but today most want comfort AND comforting guns. In any event, do your own thing and what works for you individually. Success!