By Col Ben Findley
Gun writer Ben Findley takes on the challenge of picking the five best subcompact concealed carry pistols, lets see if you agree or disagree?
U.S.A. –-(Ammoland.com)- Of the many current top-rated 9mm subcompacts on the market, I want to present five of them here to help you make your own choice.
You cannot really go wrong with any of these five or any of my top 21 concealed carry guns that I analyze and recommend in my book “Concealed Carry & Handgun Essentials.”
It is difficult to narrow the pick of best subcompact concealed carry pistols down to 5, so consider all the features, specs, and your personal preferences and criteria for the best selection for yourself.
My List Of Best Subcompact Concealed Carry Pistols Includes (with gun review links):
- Ruger LC9S Pistol
- Smith & Wesson M&P 9 Shield Pistol
- Springfield Armory EMP Pistol
- Sig Sauer P938 Pistol
- Taurus G2 Series Pistol
These guns range in suggested prices from about $300 to $1300, but while price alone is not a major factor for me, it is one factor. The guns represent striker-fired DAO subcompacts like the Ruger LC9S with its very light 5.2# press and narrow .90″ width and the ported single-stack Smith & Wesson Shield with its fiber optic front and rear sights, no mag disconnect, and very narrow width.
The striker-fired Taurus SA/DA G2 is also present with its capacity of 12 rounds, very low price, memory pad, and nice textured grips with rounded edges. Single action guns are also represented by the totally reliable Springfield 1911 EMP subcompact with its match-grade bull barrel and match-grade 5# or so trigger, its dual-spring full-length guide rod, and its 9 round capacity. The diminutive metal Sig Sauer 938 as a mini-1911 SAO with ambi safeties is on the list and has the shortest total length, lowest height, and weighs in at only 20 ounces with its 3″ barrel.
So, will it be a striker-fired, hammer-fired, double or single stack, single, double, or double-single action, with or without an external safety, fiber optic or night sights or both, magazine disconnect or not, 5 pound or seven pound press, long or short reset, polymer or steel frame, 7-round or 12-round capacity, 19 ounce or 27 ounce weight, etc…
Maybe the answer is to own all 5 of the Best Subcompact Concealed Carry Pistols.
In my case I do own all 5 of these subcompacts on this list and, honestly, they are all very quality built, accurate, and reliable guns for ME for my uses. So it boils down to personal preference and your specific criteria and desires for selecting YOUR gun. 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 when selecting the best subcompact concealed carry pistols to save you some time. Also, I present comparative specifications for just 5 of the many subcompact 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 in depth in my book and on various websites. In my book, I compare and evaluate my top 21 concealed carry guns and rank them in several categories, like weight loaded, standard capacity, width, trigger press, and price.
For me, accuracy, reliability, trigger press and reset, width, and weight are important first considerations, among other things.
- 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 difference between a 5.2 and 7.3 pound trigger press for result.
- 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 5-inch barrel when carrying and method of carry affects this. To consider a carry gun, I have to know the specifications and features of each gun, then actually shoot them for my personal decision. It does not really matter what your friends, family members, or I believe, since you have to know for yourself what works with your idiosyncrasies, preferences and shooting abilities, and concerns.
So accept the responsibility and investigate, research, and shoot the guns on YOUR list for comparison to your criteria and desires. Below are my criteria for my CC handguns.
Best Subcompact 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 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;
- Trigger Press maxiumum 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 subcompacts- length of 3.0″-3.2″ 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; Night Sights for low-light situations;
- Proper Gun Weight to minimize recoil (I prefer about 25 oz. or less 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 tradeoffs- usually prefer at least 8-10 in a 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.
Best Subcompact Concealed Carry Pistols Specifications
Here are the specifications for 5 my best subcompact concealed carry pistols in 9mm, for your consideration. Remember, to also consider your personal preferences, features, etc. and to shoot your final guns before your selection.
Best Subcompact Concealed Carry Pistols Range Test
For testing and evaluation, I have shot all of these guns previously and frequently, shooting at least 500 rounds in each using the drills in my book and my protocols. I have found each of these 5 subcompact handguns to be accurate and reliable for my use, skills, criteria, and preferences. I rotate among all five subcompact 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 150 rounds of quality Sig Sauer Elite Performance V-Crown 9mm FMJ and JHP ammo in various 115, 124, and 147 grains. For each of the 5 guns, I shot two trials of 5-round groups for each handgun from a standing Modified Isosceles Position, with a two-handed grip, at 5 and 10 yards, and a one 5-shot group from benchrest at 20 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 this old codger, the average group sizes for all distances using the various Sig Sauer V-Crown ammo were:
- 115 grain JHP: 2.75″
- 124 grain JHP: 2.50″
- 147 grain JHP: 2.90″
- 115 grain FMJ: 2.80″
Note that the point of impact for each bullet weight was very consistent between the 124 and 115 grain JHP V-Crown rounds. My best rapid-fire individual groups were 1.9″ from the 124 grain JHP and 2.2″ from the 115 grain JHP. Practice! Practice! Practice!
Best Subcompact Concealed Carry Pistols Conclusions
All 5 of these guns are excellent options for subcompact 9mm concealed carry and they all meet MY criteria with very high evaluations.
For this article, I did not rank them nor did I rate each of criteria factors individually for each gun, like in my other gun review articles.
They all are rated very high on each criterion. It would be very difficult for me to decide without any hesitation on my number 1 subcompact CC gun, since these five are all so very acceptable.
As you certainly know, there are several characteristics, pros and cons, factors, and criteria to include and consider. My list of five best subcompact concealed carry pistols 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 perfect subcompact 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 subcompact gun. There is not a one perfect subcompact gun for ALL of us. Maybe we'll get lucky and we can meet all of our criteria with that “perfect” CC subcompact gun, like from among these five choices. Do your own 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 CC subcompact gun, so get ready to fork over the bucks. I hope this article has helped you gain some information you did not previously have about some possible CC subcompact 9mm handgun options for CC.
Next, I want to reduce my many COMPACT CC 9mm pistols down to six options. Stay tuned for my 6 Best Compact Concealed Carry Pistols in 9mm article soon. 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. Remember, Safety First Always.
**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. Contact him at [email protected]