Every year there are new, improved, and often better models of handguns vying for your dollars. The competition is stiff, mechanical, technical, and efficiency progress steadily improve, and your job of selecting the best gun for yourself is very involved and time consuming. To save you some time, money, and effort, I want to give you my 5 top subcompact 9mms and my top 6 compact 9mms for concealed carry, based on current specifications, my preferences, and things I look for. I want to share with you the criteria I use to arrive at my top carry guns. I started with about 50 current pistols, narrowed them down to 21, then to 15, and now to my top 5 subcompacts and my top 6 compacts. This is a very personal process and your preferences and criteria might be different than mine. That is fine, but consider and blend all the features, specs, and your personal preferences and criteria for the best selection for yourself. Do not make the mistake of focusing on only 1 gun at first, because your best friend, relative, or one instructor says that is the best one. Or just because of selling price. Again, some guns are best for one individual (and not for another) and their particular mix of gun attributes, useful features, personal preferences, price, etc. Be more systematic and rational by following distinct and orderly decision-making steps. First set your goal or use, then establish your criteria, prioritize desired features, research the available alternatives and the pros and cons of each gun, shoot your top 3 guns by following a standard drill for all of them, evaluate all of the factors against your criteria, and decide for yourself before you buy or even begin looking at the many guns out there.
In a utopian world, it would be great to own all 11 of these guns and even some others, but this could be cost prohibitive for some folks. I am fortunate to own all of them and have shot them all. For me, ALL of these 11 guns presented here are very quality, accurate, and reliable guns for ME for my carry purpose. So the bottom line is to know what specifically you want in your carry gun, state your personal preferences and your specific criteria, then consider my criteria and my short list of guns in this article. What is the best gun for me or someone else may not be the best gun for you or another. So, you develop your own system and criteria based on what’s important to you. Here, I give you my top 10 criteria you may want to use to save you some time. Also, I present comparative specifications for just 5 of the many subcompact models and 6 of the many compact models on the current market. You may want to add or subtract from my criteria and modify them to include what’s important to you. Be sure to rent or borrow and try the gun before you buy it. You would not buy a vehicle without driving it would you? I used my criteria to analyze, compare factors, evaluate, and field-test shoot all of these guns. I review, compare, evaluate, and rank 21 concealed carry guns in depth in my recent book “Concealed Carry & Handgun Essentials” and on various websites. Below are my criteria for myconcealed carry handguns.
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. Remember to not focus on just ONE criterion (e.g. only price or only trigger press), since for overall effectiveness several, if not most or all, factors must be met. 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 & Practice 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); for subcompacts- length of 3.0″-3.2″ or so;
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 so 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 near 8-10 in a 9mm magazine for carry (but can carry a spare mag or 2 sometimes); for compacts I prefer 10-17 rounds;
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.
Here are the specifications for my top 5 current concealed carry subcompact and my top 6 current concealed carry compact 9mm handguns, for your consideration. Remember, your preferences, goal, and priorities are what’s important, so consider your personal preferences, features, etc. to supplement these specs. Also, be sure and shoot your own top few finalist guns before your selection.
All of these guns are excellent options for subcompact and compact 9mm concealed carry. They all meet MY criteria with very high evaluations and I highly recommend each one of them. For this article, I did not rank them nor did I rate each of the criteria factors individually for each gun, like in my other website Reviews and my book. They all are rated very high on each criterion. It would be very difficult (but possible) for me to decide without any hesitation on my number 1 subcompact and compact concealed carry guns, since these all are so very acceptable. But, I give you my top carry gun in my book, based on overall rank. Again, it is your decision. As you certainly know, there are several characteristics, pros and cons, factors, and criteria to include and consider. My top lists here may help you narrow your list some. You must make your own tradeoffs, ratings, and rankings according to your goal, desired features, preferences for certain factors, specs, etc. We all want all of our criteria to be met for our one compact or one subcompact perfect carry pistol, but realistically because of the variation in our personal preferences, maybe only 8 or 9 of the 10 criteria can be met by any one gun. There is not a one perfect subcompact gun nor a one perfect compact gun for ALL of us. Maybe we’ll get lucky and we can meet all of our criteria for that “perfect” concealed carry gun, like from among my or your limited choices. Do your own scientific analysis and decide for yourself. Do the pros outweigh the cons and are the large majority of your criteria met by any one gun? Keep in mind that you can have more than one concealed carry gun, so enjoy the process.
I hope this article has helped you gain some information you did not previously have about some possible subcompact and compact 9mm handgun options for concealed carry. Consider that this is just my point of view, my opinions and preferences, 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 that you are willing to pay for ahead of your range time. Keep SAFETY as a top consideration. 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. Again, Safety First Always!
Now a real challenge for you. Rank order your final choices by your priority selections. What are YOUR TOP 5 Concealed Carry GUNS, in order, considering both compact and subcompact guns in your one list of 5? I would like to know some of your main criteria?
THANKS to Sig Sauer and Polycase for providing some test and evaluation ammo for these pistols.
Sig Sauer for Elite V-Crown 9mm FMJ & JHP ammo
Polycase for Inceptor 9mm RNP Frangible ammo
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].