By Col Ben Findley
It was very difficult for me to narrow down my original list of 21 compact 9mm carry guns to six of the best compact concealed carry pistols.
USA –-(Ammoland.com)- There are many very good, top-rated 9mm compact pistols available now for concealed carry, so I want to help you narrow your decision by giving you just a few of my opinions here. Of course, picking the best compact concealed carry pistols is a very individual decision for you based on your personal preferences, criteria, and a lot of considerations.
It was very difficult for me to narrow down my original list of 21 9mm carry guns, but I want to briefly give you my criteria, considerations, on the final six best compact concealed carry pistols. I hope the ones here to help you make your own choice. (My previous article for this website and others gives my top 5 subcompact 9mm carry pistols.)
6 Best Compact Concealed Carry Pistols in 9mm
Any one of these six compact guns I present here would make a fine choice for best compact concealed carry pistols. I analyze by categories, compare, and rank all of my top 21 concealed carry guns that I recommend in my book “Concealed Carry & Handgun Essentials.” It was difficult to narrow the options down to 6 CCW compacts, so consider all the features, specs, and your personal preferences and criteria for the best selection for yourself.
Set your own requirements and make your own tradeoffs, since there is NOT a perfect compact gun for all folks. Then decide if you want a single action only, double action only, or a striker-fired gun or something else, a 5 or 7 pound press, an external manual safety or not, night sights, etc. These compact pistols range in capacity from 10 to 17 rounds, from a 3.50″ to a 4.01″ barrel length, with a trigger press of between 5.0 to 6.5 pounds roughly, and from 21 to 31 ounces unloaded weight, with suggested retail prices from about $569 to $1179.
Remember, you can shop around and often pay less than retail prices. Certainly, price alone is not a major criterion for those who recognize that this decision is about a life-or-death tool, but it is one factor.
Maybe the solution is to own all 6 of these fine guns. I do own all of them, but I get strong hints from someone in my house to limit the inventory. Here, I give you my top 10 criteria you may want to use to save you some time in your selection process. Also, I show below comparative specifications for just these 6 of the many compact carry pistol 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 you from buyer regret and cognitive dissonance.
I used my criteria to analyze, compare factors, evaluate, and field-test shoot all of these guns. I review them individually and in depth in various gun review articles. In my book, I compare and evaluate various concealed carry guns and rank them in several categories, like rankings by weight loaded, standard capacity, width, trigger press, price, etc.
Best Compact Concealed Carry Pistols : 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. 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:
- Accuracy and Reliability- Performs well without recurring 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;
- 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);
- 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);
- Barrel length of 3.0″-4.5″ (primarily for concealed carry); for compacts- length of 3.5″-4.1″ or so;
- Sights that are basic & simple (easy to use & see–I like Fiber Optic fronts); fast target acquisition; for my purposes– adjustable for windage; Optional Night Sights for low-light situations;
- Proper Gun Weight to minimize recoil (I prefer about 25 oz. or so for carry- but there are tradeoffs);
- Caliber match to my needs, characteristics & abilities (consider medical & physical limitations); 9mm is my preference for carry;
- Capacity -adequate for use & feature trade offs- usually prefer at least 10 rounds in a compact 9mm magazine for carry (but can carry a spare mag or 2 sometimes);
- Ergonomics – Hand Comfort and Grip Fit, controls easy to work and easily accessible; rounded, low-profile;
- 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.
Below are my 6 top 9mm concealed carry 9mm COMPACT pistols, based on my criteria, my rankings, priorities, and preferences. Hope my opinions help you decide on your criteria and options, so you can personally select your best carry gun to meet your needs and preferences.
Final Six List of my Best Compact Concealed Carry Pistols (with gun review links)
- Smith & Wesson M&P 9C Handgun
- Ruger SR9C Handgun
- FNS 9C Handgun
- Springfield EMP 4.0 Handgun
- SIG Sauer 320c Handgun
- Glock 19 Compact Pistol
Compact Pistols For Concealed Carry Specifications:
Here are the specifications side by side for my choice of six best compact concealed carry pistols in 9mm, for your consideration. Again, remember, to also consider your personal preferences, features, priorities, etc. and to shoot your final guns before your selection.
Best Compact Concealed Carry Pistols Range Test
For previous testing and evaluation reviews of the guns individually, I have shot all of them (and frequently do now), shooting at least 500 rounds in each using the drills in my book and my protocols. I have found each of these 6 compact handguns to be accurate and reliable for my use, skills, criteria, and preferences. I rotate among all six compact guns for my concealed carry everyday carry (EDC), as necessary. See my Reviews of all these guns separately on various websites and my rankings and factors in my book. So, safely shoot these guns for yourself to make your own decisions, before you buy.
For this brief follow-up range test which supplements my previous range tests and drills, I fired a total of 180 rounds or so of quality Sig Sauer Elite Performance 9mm 115 grain FMJ and V-Crown 115 grain JHP ammo and just a few on hand of the Polycase Sport Utility Ammo 65 grain (1525 fps velocity) 9mm frangible, with no-lead polymer RNP projectile. For each of the 6 guns this time at the range to verify my previous tests, I shot two trials of 5-round groups for each handgun from a standing Modified Isosceles Position, with a two-handed grip, at 5, 10, and 15 yards on IDPA targets. Understand that this brief, supplemental test is just a partial indicator of accuracy and reliability of the guns and ammo, so do your own range test with more ammo and thorough drills for your guns.
For this old codger, the average group sizes for all distances using mostly the Sig Sauer ammo and just a few on hand of the Polycase ammo were:
- 115 grain JHP: 2.00″
- 115 grain FMJ: 2.60″
- 65 grain RNP: 2.80″
Best Compact Concealed Carry Pistols Conclusions
All 6 of these guns meet and exceed MY criteria and are excellent options for compact 9mm CC pistols. 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 separate Reviews of the guns. They all are rated very high on each criterion. As you certainly know, there are several characteristics, pros and cons, factors, and criteria to include and consider.
My list of six here may help you narrow your list some. Remember, you must make your own tradeoffs, ratings, and rankings according to your own goal, desired features, preferences for certain factors, specs, etc. We all want all of our criteria to be met for our ONE perfect compact CC pistol, but realistically because of the variation in our personal preferences, maybe only 8 or 9 of our 10 criteria can be met by any one compact gun.
There is not a one perfect best compact concealed carry pistols for ALL of us. Do your own analysis and decide for yourself.
Blend your personal, subjective evaluations with the specifications evaluations. 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 CC compact gun if the house “rules” and budget permit. So, you can use one compact 9mm for competition shooting, a different one for concealed carry, another for home defense, one for casual recreational plinking and range fun, and maybe one for hunting, etc.
I hope this article has helped you gain some information you did not previously have about some possible CC compact 9mm handgun options for CC. Consider that this is just my point of view, my opinions, 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. 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 and Be SAFE!
**Photos by author and manufacturer.
* 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]
About Col Ben Findley
“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 2016) 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 www.FloridaHandgunsTraining.com.