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  4. 14 Best 9mm Pistols [2023]: Rated By Size And Hands-On Testing
14 Best 9mm Pistols [2023]: Rated By Size And Hands-On Testing preview image
Dec 01 2023
32 min read

14 Best 9mm Pistols [2023]: Rated By Size And Hands-On Testing

Welcome to the captivating world of the best 9mm pistols, where the fusion of power, versatility, and practicality creates an unrivaled firearm experience.

The 9mm Luger, also known as the 9×19mm Parabellum, has been a leading choice in the firearms community since the 1980s. This preference was further cemented by the FBI’s transition to 9mm semi-automatics after the 1986 Miami Shootout, underscoring the caliber’s effectiveness and reliability.

The allure of the 9mm isn’t just in its balance of power and ease of handling; it’s also in the affordability of its ammunition, as you can see in our guide for the best 9mm ammo.

This cost-effectiveness is a significant factor why many shooters, from beginners to seasoned experts, opt for the 9mm. It’s a practical, powerful choice whether you’re looking to expand your arsenal or selecting your first handgun.

In today’s guide, we’re not merely reviewing 9mm pistols but sharing our extensive, hands-on experience. At Gun Made, we’ve rigorously tested a wide range of 9mm pistols, gaining deep insights and understanding the unique characteristics of each model. So, which did we choose as our favorite 9mm handgun this year? Here are our conclusions and advice –

  1. Select a size based on your intended use: larger for home defense and range, compact for concealed carry.
  2. Prioritize a handgun with a quality trigger for improved accuracy and a smoother shooting experience.
  3. Set a budget and seek a handgun that offers the best performance and reliability within your price range.
  4. Consider a handgun with good aftermarket support for easier customization and future upgrades.
Glock 17 G5Best Overall – Glock 17 G5
echelon stock image handgunBest For Tactical Use – Springfield Armory Echelon
Smith _ Wesson M_P M2.0 Best for Versatility – Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0
Walther PDP Optics Ready Best Optics-Ready – Walther PDP Optics Ready
CZ P-09 Pistol Best For Competition – CZ P-09
Sig Sauer P320 Compact Best Compact 9mm – Sig Sauer P320 Compact
Glock 19 Gen5Best For Law Enforcement – Glock 19 Gen5
Sig Sauer P365 XLBest For Concealed Carry – Sig Sauer P365 XL
Springfield Armory XD-M EliteBest Ergonomics – Springfield Armory XD-M Elite Compact
TAURUS GX4 CARRY 9MM TOROBest Budget-Friendly 9mm Carry Option – Taurus GX4 Carry
Smith _ Wesson M_P Shield PlusBest Subcompact 9mm – Smith & Wesson M&P Shield Plus
Beretta PX4 Storm CompactBest Customizable Grip – Beretta PX4 Storm Compact
Glock G43xBest Slimline 9mm Pistol – Glock G43X
Taurus GX4Best Ultra-Compact – Taurus GX4

Our selection features semi-automatic 9mm pistols chosen for their standout concealability, accuracy, magazine capacity, modularity, and user-friendliness. Recognizing the diverse needs within the 9mm community, we’ve organized these handguns into the best full-size duty pistols, compact, and subcompact variants.

Let’s begin our exploration by focusing on full-sized 9mm pistols, known for their high capacity, enhanced accuracy, manageable recoil, and versatility across various shooting applications.

Best Full-Size 9mm Pistols

Full-sized 9mm pistols excel in home defense and range shooting, providing superior recoil control and accuracy. Yet, they’re less ideal for concealed carry compared to their smaller, lighter compact and micro-compact counterparts.

These larger pistols offer greater magazine capacity but can be cumbersome for everyday carry, choosing between size and convenience a matter of personal preference.

As we delve into the world of full-sized 9mm pistols, it’s time to highlight the best in the market. The upcoming section will showcase top models known for their exceptional accuracy and innovative features, helping you find the perfect match for both home defense and range performance.

Keep reading for our favorite full-sized 9mm pistol recommendations, tailored for those who appreciate a blend of power and precision.

Best Overall – Glock 17 Gen5

Glock 17 Gen5 9mm Semi-Automatic Pistol with 4.49" Barrel, 17+1 Rounds, Front Serrations, and 3 Magazines - PA175S203
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Magazine Type17+1
Barrel Length4.49 inches
Overall Length7.95 inches
Weight 24.97 ounces
FinishBlack nDLC
SightsFixed sights
Ideal UseBest for home defense and range training

Pros & Cons

  • Affordable with great value
  • Glock reliability and ease of use
  • Classic design
  • Straight grip design suitable for most
  • Massive aftermarket options
  • Lightweight for a full-size pistol
  • Largely available
  • Might be too big for some
  • Reliant on aftermarket customization

The Glock 17 Gen5 MOS firmly holds its ground as a top contender in the full-sized 9mm pistol category.

Its legacy began as a service pistol for the Austrian military and law enforcement in the early 1980s, quickly gaining favor with armies and law enforcement agencies worldwide. Its adoption by over 65% of US agencies speaks volumes about its reliability and performance. This history sets the stage for the Glock 17’s reputation as a dependable and trusted firearm.

Glock 17 Gen5 MOS
The Glock 17 ate through the 115-grain Blazer Brass FMJ rounds with no issues.

Our hands-on review of the Glock 17 Gen5 MOS revealed a firearm that excels in functionality and adaptability. The Modular Optic System (MOS) adds a significant advantage, allowing for easy attachment of various optics.

The pistol’s design, including front slide serrations and a precision-machined slide, enhances its utility. Other features like the ambidextrous slide release, reversible magazine release, and a comfortable grip with a flared magwell contribute to its user-friendly nature.

Glock 17 Gen5 MOS
I wish every gun came with three mags like the G17 does!

Notably, its magazine comes with a bright orange follower for easy identification, and the package includes three 17-round magazines and a magazine loader, making it a great value.

In terms of performance, the Glock 17 Gen5 shines in reliability and accuracy. Its track record of flawlessly handling different types of ammunition, including 115gr target ammo and defense rounds, is impressive. Despite some personal preferences regarding the trigger and sights, the pistol’s overall design ensures consistent and accurate shooting.

Glock 17 Gen5 MOS
The Glock 17 is a very flat shooter. These groupings were the first through the gun and only continued to improve since.

The longer barrel and slide contribute to its stable shooting dynamics, with impressive groupings even at challenging distances. These aspects, combined with the array of customizable accessories available, solidify the Glock 17 Gen5 MOS as a top choice for a range of uses, from duty and competition to concealed carry.

In comparison to other full-sized 9mm pistols on the market, the Glock 17 Gen5 MOS stands out for its blend of historic reliability, modern adaptability, and overall performance. Its ease of use and robust feature set make it an excellent choice for both seasoned shooters and those new to firearms.

For more info on our hands-on testing, check out our Glock 17 Gen 5 review.

Best For Tactical Use – Springfield Armory Echelon

Springfield Armory Echelon
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Capacity20+1, 17+1
Barrel Length4.5 inches
Overall Length8 inches
Width1.2 inches
Height5.5 inches w/ flush mag, 6.5 inches w/ extended mag
Weight23.9 ounces w/ flush mag, 24.3 ounces w/ extended mag
SlideBillet machined, Melonite finish, optics ready
BarrelHammer forged steel, Melonite finish, 1:10
SightsTactical rack U-notch rear with a tritium/luminescent front
Ideal UseBest for tactical applications, competitive shooting, and home defense

Pros & Cons

  • Modular design enhances user adaptability.
  • Exceptional reliability and accuracy.
  • Direct mounting for over 30 optics.
  • Adaptive grip texture for comfortable use.
  • Slide stop lever feels undersized.
  • Would benefit from taller sights.
  • Costlier than some competitors.

First off, let’s talk about why the Springfield Armory Echelon might just be your new go-to 9mm handgun, rivaling our top pick, the Glock 17 Gen 5.

springfield armory echelon range test with hornady cci blazer 9mm ammo

At the heart of this dynamic pistol lies its patent-pending Central Operating Group (COG) – an innovation that really stands out in the crowded field of 9mm offerings. This modular feature allows you to effortlessly swap the COG between different grip modules, facilitating a custom-tailored experience that’s an exact fit for your needs.

Our full video review of the Springfield Echelon. Go subscribe on Youtube for more video reviews!

With a barrel length of 4.5 inches, a 20+1 capacity, and an overall length of 8 inches, the Echelon mirrors the dimensions of the Glock 17 Gen 5 but with the added advantage of modularity.

The Echelon’s performance in action is truly a sight to behold. Whether you’re at the range running through drills or in a critical defensive situation, this handgun’s reliability is nothing short of exceptional.

springfield armory echelon review with trijicon rmr 2

During testing, we put 850 rounds of varied ammo types through it – from cheap range fodder to high-end defensive rounds – and we only had one failure, which was most likely user error. In comparison with the Glock 17 Gen 5, we found the Echelon to be just as reliable, if not more so.

Additionally, the Echelon’s accuracy stood up impressively against the Glock 17 Gen 5, even at a distance of 25 yards. This precision, combined with its modular design, helps the Echelon carve out its own niche in the 9mm market.

Now let’s dive into the unique features of the Echelon. Its Variable Interface System (VIS) allows for direct mounting of over 30 different optics, adding to its user-friendly nature and outclassing the Glock 17 Gen 5 in terms of optical adaptability. Moreover, the Echelon sports a melonite-finished, billet-machined slide that has been given great attention to detail. It boasts aggressive serrations, a forward trench cut, and a flared slide, making it a delight to operate.

springfield armory echelon with tlr1 hl weapon light

The adaptive grip texture offers a comfortable yet firm hold, ensuring your shooting experience is as efficient and pleasant as possible. Even the magazine capacity is thoughtful, shipping with a 17 and 20-round mag. These features, taken together, place the Echelon on par with the Glock 17 Gen 5, but with a few more innovative bells and whistles that might just tip the scale in its favor.

Check out our Echelon review to see more about what we thought about this new 9mm after 850 rounds of testing.

Best for Versatility – Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0

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Magazine Type17+1
Barrel Length5 inches
Overall Length8.5 inches
Weight 30 ounces
FinishBlack Armornite
SightsFiber Optic Green front sight; Adjustable Fiber Optic Red rear sight
Ideal UseBest for competitive shooting, tactical training, and home defense

Pros & Cons

  • Smith & Wesson quality
  • Out-of-the-box shooting
  • Low recoil
  • Reinforced polymer frame with Corrosion resistant Armornite finish
  • Loaded chamber indicator
  • Interchangeable palm swell inserts
  • Comes with two magazines
  • Stock sights aren’t windage adjustable

Coming in at a close second, we have the US-made Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0 (Military and Police) striker-fired, semi-automatic, 9mm pistol.

S&W M&P M2.0 ejection port
S&W M&P M2.0 ejection port

First introduced in 2005, the Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0 duty pistol is a common recommendation for first-time shooters who are looking for a straightforward, out-of-the-box shooting experience.

S&W M&P M2.0 profile photo
S&W M&P M2.0

As an ever-present contender to the Glock 17, this full-size modern polymer pistol comes with similar front slide serrations, a stainless-steel slide chassis, and a very crisp trigger pull with an audible trigger reset.

S&W M&P M2.0 rear sights
S&W M&P M2.0 rear sights

Though it’s heavier than the G17, what you get is excellent grip texture and ergonomics as well as plenty of customization opportunities to turn it into a sporting and competition shooter.

There’s a Picatinny rail under the barrel for your lights and lasers. Moreover, the green and red fiber optic sights offer decent target acquisition, while the low barrel bore axis reduces muzzle flip. These features offer faster follow-up shots, faster aim recovery, and an edge in home defense.

This 17-round capacity pistol isn’t as popular as its subcompact variant, the M&P Shield (which we’ll talk about soon), but it’s still an excellent full-sized pistol that’s made for rapid shooting.

Check out our Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0 review to get more info.

Best Optics-Ready – Walther PDP Optics Ready

Walther PDP Full Size 9mm, 4.5" Barrel, Optics Ready, Green Polymer Frame, 18 Round Capacity Pistol
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Magazine Type18+1
Barrel Length4.5 inches
Overall Length8 inches
Weight 24.4 ounces
Sights3-Dot sights
Ideal UseBest for tactical applications and competitive shooting

Pros & Cons

  • Excellent Walther ergonomics
  • 5.6-pound Performance Duty trigger
  • Optics Ready model suitable for a plethora of sights
  • Whopping 18-round capacity
  • Compatible with PPQ M2 magazines
  • Different barrel lengths available
  • Really aggressive slide serrations
  • Trigger guard flare might be big for some
New Walther PDP Pistol Review (9)

We saw the Austrian Glock and the American S&W full-sized handguns. Now, let’s talk about one of the most popular German 9mm pistols—the Walther PDP. The PDP stands for “Personal Defense Pistol,” so you know it’s a modern semi-automatic duty pistol.

What I most like about the PDP is that it comes in many variants, such as the Compact version. It also offers different magazine capacities and has different barrel lengths, ranging from 4-, 4.5-, and 5-inch barrels.

Walther PDP Pistol grip
Walther PDP Pistol grip

Specifically, the Walther PDP Optics Ready really caught my eye, and with a 4.5-inch barrel, it’s really a golden middle ground for a full-size duty pistol. The 3-Dot/Optics Ready sights with a windage-adjustable rear sight allows you to fully unlock its potential by installing some high-quality red dot sights.

While some feel that the SuperTerrain slide serrations are a bit aggressive, the overall ergonomics and contours offer a very stable shooting and control.

Walther PDP review Pistol trigger
Walther PDP Pistol trigger

With your Walther PDP purchase, you get a factory backstrap, a beaver tail, and two stainless steel 18-round magazines.

While Walther thrives on the success of the Walther PPQ or the Walther PPK’s historical and iconic significance, the Walther PDP fills the boots of a full-size pistol for self-defense.

Best For Competition – CZ P-09

CZ P-09
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Magazine Type19+1
Barrel Length4.53 inches
Overall Length8.1 inches
Weight 29.6 ounces
GripsPolymer /w interchangeable backstraps
SightsFixed 3-Dot
Ideal UseIdeal for duty use and home defense

Pros & Cons

  • Tactical and moddable pistol package
  • Great price
  • 19+1 round capacity is one of the largest on this list
  • Minimal recoil
  • Sizable, comfortable grip
  • Comes with interchangeable backstraps and two baseplates
  • Extra magazines are expensive
  • Long trigger reset
  • Not many aftermarket parts

Notice how I mentioned different manufacturers from different countries? Well, here’s a Czech one, just for good measure. The CZ P-09 is a modernized take on the almighty CZ 75.

It’s a vastly more straightforward 9mm platform in a polymer frame that goes full tactical with its Picatinny rail, swappable safeties, two baseplates, and two interchangeable backstraps. You know it’s a full-size pistol made to be tailored to your style.

CZ P-09 Full Size 9mm (3)

Having said that, the flush-fi, 19-round, double-stack magazine is what makes the CZ P-09 stand out from the rest of the big ones.

Despite the long trigger reset, the DA/SA design offers you a solid shooting experience, and it can eat anything you feed it—from highly powerful self-defense rounds to lighter FMJs for target practice.

CZ P-09 Full Size 9mm (2)

In conclusion, this is what makes it a solid competitor to the Glock, Walther, and Smith & Wesson, if not a bit underrated. Though the aftermarket parts for the CZ P-09 are relatively hard to find, it’s viable enough as a concealed carry handgun. The platform does allow you to turn it into a home defense gun.

CZ P-09 Full Size 9mm

Best Compact 9mm Pistols

In the diverse world of 9mm handguns, compact 9mm pistols hold a special place, offering a blend of portability and power that’s hard to beat.

These smaller firearms provide an ideal solution for concealed carry, allowing for discreet and comfortable everyday use without sacrificing firepower. With typically less recoil and easier handling than their full-sized counterparts, compact 9mms are perfect for both beginners and seasoned shooters seeking a balance between size and performance.

Whether it’s for personal defense, concealed carry, or just a more manageable shooting experience, a compact 9mm pistol is a versatile choice that meets a wide range of needs. So, which models stand out in this category?

In our next section, we’ll dive into the best compact 9mm pistols on the market, helping you find a reliable and effective option that fits your lifestyle and needs.

Best Compact 9mm – Sig Sauer P320 Compact

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Magazine Type15+1
Barrel Length3.9 inches
Overall Length7.2 inches
Weight 25.8 ounces
GripsStandard Polymer SIG Sauer Grips
SightsSigLight Night Sights
Ideal UseBest for concealed carry and versatile use

Pros & Cons

  • High-quality compact 9mm pistol
  • Outstanding reliability
  • Decent ergonomics for medium-sized hands
  • U.S. Army-approved
  • Modular for red dot sights
  • Large for a compact pistol
  • No grip safety
  • Gritty trigger

The SIG Sauer P320 is one of the most sought-after CCW pistols that really stands out as a well-balanced, do-it-all pistol. This is the same gun that won the US Army Service Pistol contract, surpassing the Beretta APX in that race.

Sig Sauer P320 X-Compact

The SIG Sauer P320 is a striker-fired, double-action pistol that’s built from the ground up. It has a stainless steel slide with a corrosion-resistant Nitron finish and a 3-point takedown safety system for easy disassembly and manipulation.

The trigger has a consistent pull, despite being a bit gritty. Additionally, there’s also one with contrasting sights, but this specific variant comes with SigLight Night Sights that offer great target acquisition.

Sig Sauer P320 X-Compact (3)

While the SIG Sauer P320 Compact is categorized for self-defense, it’s designed to be as modular as possible, as can be seen from the slightly bigger frame when compared to most 9mm compacts.

The Integral M1913 rail has a modular frame that lets you easily change grip sizes. It also supports straightforward disassembly, so you can easily switch to other calibers like the .40 S&W and the .45 ACP.

Sig Sauer P320 X-Compact (2)

Best For Law Enforcement – Glock 19 Gen5

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Magazine Type15+1
Barrel Length4 inches
Overall Length7.28 inches
Weight 23.63 ounces
FinishBlack nDLC
SightsFixed sights
Ideal UseGreat for personal defense and law enforcement

Pros & Cons

  • One of the best compact Glock pistols
  • Highly reliable and accurate
  • Ergonomic and easy to conceal
  • Massive aftermarket options
  • Minimal recoil
  • Besides maybe aesthetic reasons, none really

Since its release way back in ‘88, the Glock 19 has been a target of ridicule because it’s one of the first striker-fired pistols to get the polymer treatment. After some years, its surprising reliability and accuracy finally got the acknowledgment it deserves. Even the U.S. Navy SEALs adopted a reworked Army model.

Glock 19 gen 5 with magazines and grips

Today’s Glock G19 Gen5 model incorporates fine grip textures and no longer has those annoying grooves found on older models. It doesn’t have an external manual safety, as seen on most Glock pistols, but it has a firing pin, drop, and trigger safety.

glock 19 gen 5 hands on test

Based on Gaston Glock’s G17 design, the Glock 19 is a pioneer of the “compact pistol” variant, and its sheer popularity allows for a world of aftermarket parts, which makes it a perfect multi-purpose handgun.

Shooting the Glock 19 is super fun. Without an external hammer, you get a consistent double-action 5.5-pound trigger pull.

In a nutshell, the only difference that sets it apart from the Glock 17 is the reduced 15-round mag capacity and a frame that’s suited for a more compact and easily concealable platform.

glock 19 gen 5 trigger

The recoil is minimal with the right 9mm ammo boxes. I like the Blazer 115-Grain FMJ, Federal 124-Grain FMJ, or Winchester 115-Grain FMJ.

We’ve got plenty more to share about the G19 Gen5. Check out our Glock 19 Gen5 review for more information.

Best For Concealed Carry – Sig Sauer P365 XL

Sig Sauer P365XL 9mm Micro-Compact Pistol with 3.7" Barrel, Manual Safety, Optics Ready, XRAY3 Night Sights, 12+1 Rounds, 2 Magazines - Black
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Magazine Type12+1
Barrel Length3.7 inches
Overall Length6.6 inches
Weight 20.7 ounces
FinishBlack Nitron
SightsX-RAY 3 Day/Night Sights
Ideal UseIdeal for concealed carry with extended capacity

Pros & Cons

  • Well-made trigger
  • Lightweight and compact
  • High-capacity magazine
  • Multiple variants available
  • Comes with two 12-round magazines
  • Not as concealable as other models
  • Early models plagued by safety issues

Introduced in 2017, the SIG Sauer P365 quickly made waves in the EDC pistol market, spawning more subcompact models like the P365 Nitron or the slimmer, snag-free P365 SAS.

sig sauer p365xl

The P365 XL has a 12-round capacity in a single-stack frame that’s slimmer and smaller than a Glock 43. SIG Sauer took their time to get the blueprint right, as the trigger went through many redesigns before achieving a crisp, Glock-like trigger pull with a smooth travel.

Despite the high capacity, it’s a well-balanced combination of power and size. It’s a popular concealed carry pistol, so you can find countless IWB holsters for it.

sig sauer p365xl trigger

What I most like about the SIG P365 XL are its factory sights. They’re X-RAY night sights that allow fast target acquisition and are so visible and convenient that you’d think twice about red dot sights.

In regard to aftermarket upgrades, I recommend you don’t touch a thing besides maybe new grips or perhaps a 15-round extended magazine.

A word of advice: SIG Sauer warns that the first models had a multitude of safety issues, so I recommend you steer clear of older used models you might find in pawn shops.

sig sauer p365xl with magazine

Check out our P365XL review to get more info!

Best Ergonomics – Springfield Armory XD-M Elite Compact

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Magazine Type14+1
Barrel Length3.8 inches
Overall Length6.75 inches
Weight 27.5 ounces
FinishBlack Melonite
SightsFiber Optic front sights, U-Dot rear sights
Ideal UseBest for those seeking a compact firearm with high-quality sights

Pros & Cons

  • Modern aesthetics
  • Anti-corrosion Melonite finish
  • Fantastic DA/SA trigger
  • Great factory sights
  • Ergonomics suitable for larger hands
  • External safety might be annoying for some

Well known for their Hellcats, Springfield Armory gives us another great 9mm pistol; the Springfield XD-M Elite Compact.

Springfield Armory XD-M Elite 4.5 (2)

The XD-M Elite Compact is a striker-fired pistol with a fancy Melonite finish and a grip safety that feels like a 1911 in a modern self-defense platform. It’s a very promising subvariant made to shoot straight out of the box.

Although blockier than a Glock, it has the Goldilocks grips with a perfect texture that offers excellent control and footing for medium-sized hands. Disassembly is easy as long as you properly clean and oil it once in a while.

The highlight is the special Match Enhanced Trigger Assembly (META) trigger with a crisp, short trigger pull and a noticeable trigger reset. The double and single-action system allows you to swap between lighter trigger pulls or pull the hammer back between shots.

Springfield Armory XD-M Elite 4.5

While some might not like the external safeties, all the controls are in the right place, and the front and rear cocking serrations offer easy operation.

With your purchase, you get two flush-fit magazine base plates, three interchangeable backstraps that fill your hands, and a removable magwell.

Best Budget Compact – Taurus GX4 Carry

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Capacity15+1 Rounds
Barrel Length3.7 Inches
Overall Length6.56 Inches
Overall Width1.08 Inches
Overall Weight (unloaded)21.5 Ounces
Frame and Barrel MaterialStainless Steel
Slide MaterialAlloy Steel
Frame FinishMatte Stainless
Barrel FinishSatin Black DLC Coating
Slide FinishGas Nitride
Ideal UseBest for everyday carry for personal defense

Pros & Cons

  • Improved ergonomics and great grip texture
  • Optic cut slide
  • Accessory rail
  • 15+1 capacity
  • Reliable and accurate
  • Clean and crisp flat face trigger
  • Lack of ambidextrous controls
  • Not a large amount of aftermarket support (yet)

In our hands-on testing, the Taurus GX4 Carry T.O.R.O. stood out as one of the best compact 9mm handguns on the market. Its design is a testament to Taurus’s commitment to innovation and user feedback.

taurus gx4 carry toro hands on range test

This model, with its accessory rail and enhanced 15+1 round capacity, is a testament to Taurus’s commitment to blending functionality with compactness. The ergonomics are exceptional; the well-balanced frame provides a comfortable grip, even for those of us with larger hands, and the interchangeable backstraps allow for a customized fit.

During our rigorous testing, the GX4 Carry demonstrated impeccable reliability. We put it through its paces with 175 rounds of diverse ammunition, and it performed without a hitch, reaffirming its position as a dependable compact 9mm option. Its precision was noteworthy, with the design features facilitating consistent tight groupings on target.

taurus gx4 carry toro od green la police gear bag

Beyond its stellar performance, the affordability of the GX4 Carry is a significant draw. With its competitive pricing, often found below its $504.99 MSRP, it offers an unparalleled blend of value and quality. Having experienced its capabilities first-hand, we can confidently vouch for the Taurus GX4 Carry T.O.R.O. as a top choice for anyone seeking a high-performing compact 9mm handgun.

Check out our Taurus GX4 Carry review for the full scoop!

Best Subcompact 9mm Pistols

In the expansive arena of 9mm handguns, sub-compact models are the ultimate choice for ultra-concealability and ease of carry.

These pistols are ideal for those who prioritize discretion and comfort, especially in situations where a larger firearm would be cumbersome or impractical. Despite their smaller size, sub-compact 9mms don’t compromise on firepower, making them a reliable option for self-defense.

They are particularly appealing to concealed carry permit holders and those seeking a backup gun. With the vast array of options available, let’s narrow down the field — up next, we’ll introduce you to the best sub-compact 9mm pistols, each offering a unique blend of concealability, power, and performance.

Best Subcompact 9mm – Smith & Wesson M&P Shield Plus

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Magazine Type13+1
Barrel Length3.1 inches
Overall Length6.1 inches
Weight 17.9 ounces
SightsWhite Dot front; White 2-Dot rear sights
Ideal UseBest for concealed carry

Pros & Cons

  • Reliable Smith & Wesson design
  • Ergonomically enhanced
  • Great flat-face trigger with audible reset
  • Moderate recoil
  • Aftermarket abundance
  • Annoying gap between the extended mag and the mag well
  • Not entirely compatible with a Shield model

Instead of a Smith & Wesson Shield, I have to give this one to the Shield Plus. It’s a fantastic improvement and a definite successor to the beloved and highly popular Shield platform.

S&W M&P Shield Plus review (4)

Unveiled in mid-2021, it’s mainly inspired by the new wave of subcompacts that shake the firearms industry, like the Canik TP9 Elite SC, the Ruger Max-9, or the Heckler & Koch VP9SK.

The Shield Plus has a high-quality Armornite finish and an enhanced grip texture with an 18-degree grip angle that’s thicker and more aggressive than the G43X, for example.

S&W M&P Shield Plus review grip (3)

The crisp trigger with an audible reset and a 6-pound pull is flat-faced, which a lot of folks love in this recoil-operated platform.

What makes the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield Plus so special is the so-called “staggered stack” column design that grants it a 13-round capacity while the frame is compact for a concealed carry pistol. There’s also a 10-round California-compliant variant that weighs as much as a Glock 43X, give or take.

S&W M&P Shield Plus review grip (2)

Simply put, if you ever wanted a small EDC pistol with more bullets to shoot, now’s your chance.

Best Customizable Grip – Beretta PX4 Storm Compact

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Magazine Type15+1
Barrel Length3.27 inches
Overall Length6.8 inches
Weight 27 ounces
GripsPolymer with interchangeable backstraps
Ideal UseBest for personal defense and range use

Pros & Cons

  • High-quality Beretta design
  • Lightweight and snag-free for quick-draw CCW
  • Reliable and not picky with 9mm ammo
  • Aftermarket abundance
  • Ambidextrous safeties
  • Factory grips might not be for everyone

Most folks own a full-size pistol model from the Beretta 92 Series, which leads me to believe that the Beretta PX4 Storm Compact is unfairly overshadowed.

Beretta Px4 Storm Compact (2)

Don’t let the name fool you; it’s a subcompact. If you’re looking for a snag-free 9mm pistol for EDC purposes, the Beretta PX4 Storm Compact might do the trick.

With a consistent, old-school Beretta DA/SA trigger, 15-round capacity, and a rotating barrel system that reduces recoil, the PX4 Storm Compact brings you a new dimension in concealed carry shooting.

The polymer frame is designed for both left- and right-handed users, and it has ergonomics suitable for medium-sized hands. The original grips are nothing special, but you can find a couple of great aftermarket ones, including the Talon Grips with more aggressive texturing.

Beretta Px4 Storm Compact

The safeties include a slide-mounted decocker, interchangeable magazine release, and an ambidextrous slide lock that requires some index finger action instead of using your thumb. Either way, it’s pretty easy to get the hang of it.

Obviously, the PX4 Storm Compact is made for versatility that caters to most users’ shooting styles, and it still retains its reliability, despite the highly modular construction. There’s a .40 Smith & Wesson model that’s also available.

Best Slimline 9mm Pistol – Glock G43X

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Magazine Type10+1
Barrel Length3.41 inches
Overall Length6.5 inches
Weight 16.4 ounces
FinishBlack nDLC
SightsFixed Glock sights
Ideal UsePerfect for concealed carry

Pros & Cons

  • It’s a Glock with familiar controls
  • Unmatched reliability
  • Front and rear cocking serrations
  • Interchangeable parts with Glock 43
  • Isn’t aftermarket-reliable in comparison to other Glocks
  • Difficult to find a holster for it
  • 10-round capacity

I promise this is the last Glock on this list.

glock 43x at shooting range profile photo

The Glock 43X is strikingly (pun intended) similar to a G48, only it’s smaller and much more effective as a concealed carry weapon. We love it so much, we did a full Glock 43x review.

Expect fun shooting sessions without worrying too much about failures. The factory trigger allows quick follow-up shots, and though the recoil can kick a bit, it’s easy to get used to it. It can eat anything but prefers 115-Grain boxes, as far as I’m concerned.

You got your front and rear cocking serrations just for good measure, and the grips aren’t too bad either.

While you can find truckloads of Glock 43x upgrades, the G43X is a platform made to shoot immediately with only its factory parts. Sadly, since it has a different frame than a G43, there are not many holster options.

Glock 43X Trigger

What Glock wanted to do with the G43X was put another subcompact high-capacity pistol into the race just to diversify the market a little. The Glock 43 was already a good one, but the six-round capacity was probably bothering some, so they turned it up to 10.

Best Ultra-Compact – Taurus GX4

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Magazine Type11+1
Barrel Length3.06 inches
Overall Length5.8 inches
Weight 18.5 ounces
FinishSatin Black nDLC
SightsFixed steel white dot front sights; Serrated, drift-adjustable rear sights
Ideal UseBest for affordable concealed carry

Pros & Cons

  • Great price
  • Beveled, snag-free edges suitable for EDC
  • Great trigger with a 6-pound pull
  • Easy to use
  • Recommended for medium-sized hands
  • Includes a pistol case, two 11-round magazines, and extra backstraps
  • No optics plate included (besides the Taurus GX4 T.O.R.O.)

While Taurus isn’t known for top-notch pistol parts, they upped the ante with their overall quality. People seem to like the newer models like the Taurus GX4, and for good reasons too.

overhead taurus gx4

The Taurus GX4 micro-compact semi-automatic pistol is built for concealed-carry purposes. It’s an inch wide but boasts a high capacity, similar to the Shield Plus and the Ruger Max-9.

Featuring a recoil pad, beveled edges, an easy takedown pin, and a nifty little flat-face trigger with serrations for added control, it offers a very comfortable shooting experience for a low price.

holding taurus gx4 in hand
Holding the Taurus GX4 at SHOT Show 2022

A stainless steel frame, slide, and barrel keep the Brazilian construction together, and the DLC coating is a solid finish for a gun with this price tag. There’s no optics plate for your red dot sights, but that’s what the Taurus GX4 T.O.R.O. is for.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive, extra-small subcompact pistol, the Taurus GX4 is an overlooked little number that offers more than it promises.

How To Choose The Best 9mm Pistols

I’m sure that many will find their style in these pistols, be it self-defense and CCW, home defense, military combat, or shooting gallery fun.

If you want a newer model, it’s a good idea to keep a clear head. While the newest features may seem very attractive initially, you should wait until they find the bugs and tweak all the issues before considering a purchase.

Just take a look at the SIG Sauer P238. The first models had defective safeties, which prompted a recall before they fixed it and turned it into a superb concealed carry weapon. Even the Smith & Wesson’s Shield EZ reportedly shot more than one bullet after a trigger pull.

What’s important is you try one out at the shooting range and see how it feels in your hand. Is the recoil too much? Is the take-down process too complicated? You get the picture.

Before we let you in on some tips for 9mm pistol shopping, let’s clarify some things.

EXPERT TIP: Always be aware of the legal implications and requirements of owning a firearm in your area. Licensing, carry permits, and specific firearm restrictions can vary significantly.

The Difference Between Full-Sized, Compact, Subcompact, and Micro-Compact 9mm Pistols

There’s no clear line, but here are some main differences between a full-size, compact, subcompact, and micro-compact pistol.

Full-Size Pistols

A full-size pistol has a barrel length of 4 to 5 inches. You have your full-size, single-stack pistols that hold around 10 bullets, or a double-stack magazine that can hold even more.

To differentiate, let’s use Glocks as an example. The Glock 17 perfectly fits the category of a full-size handgun.

Compact Pistols

A compact pistol is smaller than a full-size, and the barrel length goes from around 3.5 to 4.5 inches.

Most compact pistols also have a smaller frame, are easy to conceal, and won’t print under your clothing. Manufacturers make them thinner, so they usually have fewer bullets than full-size pistols.

A good example of a compact pistol is the Glock 19, the Glock 17’s little brother.

EXPERT TIP: Don’t overlook the importance of a good holster, especially for concealed carry. A quality holster not only ensures comfort but also quick access and safe retention of your firearm.

Subcompact Pistols

The smallest category of pistols is the subcompact, and they have between 3- and 4-inch barrels. They hold fewer bullets than compact pistols and are usually used for deep concealment and EDC.

When talking about subcompacts, a Glock 26 comes to mind.

Micro-Compact Pistols

Beyond the subcompact is the micro-compact category. As concealed carry has gained popularity, so has the demand for even smaller, more concealable firearms. The micro-compact 9mm pistols typically come with barrel lengths under 3 inches and, in some cases, closer to 2 inches.

Their smaller frame and shortened grip usually mean a reduced magazine capacity, but advancements in magazine design and technology have allowed some micro-compacts to hold almost as many rounds as their larger subcompact siblings. Despite their size, these pistols maintain a surprising degree of shootability and accuracy, making them a favorite for those prioritizing deep concealment without compromising firepower.

One notable example of a micro-compact 9mm is the SIG Sauer P365. Its revolutionary design and extended magazine options have made it a game-changer in the micro-compact market, setting new standards and expectations for what these tiny titans can achieve.

Ergonomics and Grips

Holding the gun is 95% of the whole experience. It would be best if you made sure the grip textures, contours, and placement of the safeties are up to your standards and personal satisfaction.

Proper target practice means spending long hours at the shooting ranges, and you don’t want anything to feel weird or strain your palm. Even the slightest inconvenience can quickly become really annoying.

Look for pistols with replaceable grips that would complement recoil control. Some folks like straight grips, and others like a different grip angle, grooved, or slightly curved. What’s important is that they need to fit perfectly in the palm of your hand.

Overall Construction, Durability, and Weight

When semi-automatic 9mm pistols are in question, you can use stainless steel or polymer frames.

Stainless steel pistols are durable and look very cool but are quite often heavy.

Polymer constructions are really lightweight, and they perfectly house EDC pistols.

Today’s technology utilizes melonite, nDLC, and other fancy finishes that protect the gun from corrosion.

I’m convinced that all of these pistols have great durability and mechanism malfunctions rarely occur due to fragile polymer moving parts.

Get yourself a stainless steel Browning Hi-Power if you want something really cool. It’s a classic semi-automatic pistol. FN Herstal has an improved version that also works like clockwork.

EXPERT TIP: Remember, the longevity of a 9mm pistol depends not only on its build quality but also on how well you maintain it. Regular cleaning and proper storage can significantly extend the life of your firearm.

Action Type and Trigger

There are single-action or double-action semi-automatic pistols.

Single-action pistols need you to pull the hammer before you pull the trigger to shoot. They have a very light trigger pull. This is the landscape of striker-fired pistols.

Double-action (D/A) pistols pull the hammer back at your first trigger pull, then release the hammer to fire once you pull the trigger a second time. D/A triggers don’t need you to pull the hammer back.

How the trigger feels also dictates your shooting experience to an extent. You must consider the trigger pull, travel, and whether the reset is audible enough for you.

For casual shooters, I recommend shorter trigger pulls. On the other hand, pistols with longer trigger pulls prevent accidental discharge, and that’s why police officers use D/A.

Aftermarket Support

Some casual shooters don’t want to pay more for upgrades, but if you’re willing to tweak your 9mm pistol, look for modular ones with Picatinny mounting rails for your flashlights and optics.

Evaluate whether or not you just want a pistol that shoots straight out of the box like a Springfield Armory XD-M Elite Compact and the Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P 9 M2.0, or you’re looking for something that you can turn into a tank.

While extended magazines offer more bullets, new sights and optics offer great for target acquisition, and new grips offer better stability, you need to consider the holster.

The holster you choose is very important, especially if you want something that can be used as EDC for self-defense. Trust me; you don’t want to spend money on a gun that doesn’t fit a holster of your choice.

9mm Ammo For Your Handgun

When selecting the best 9mm ammo, it’s crucial to consider the purpose, whether it’s for self-defense, target practice, or tactical use.

Different scenarios call for different types of ammunition. For instance, training with the same grain weight as your defensive ammo is wise for consistency in performance. The grain weight impacts recoil, with lighter bullets offering less recoil. This choice is essential for comfort and effectiveness in shooting.

9mm ammo varies significantly in quality and application. For self-defense, rounds like Speer Gold Dot, which undergo rigorous testing and are trusted by law enforcement, are recommended. On the other hand, range ammo like CCI Blazer Brass and Federal Syntech Range are praised for their reliability and cost-effectiveness, though they may be dirtier or less suitable for self-defense.

Understanding the difference between range and self-defense ammo is key, as they have different designs and purposes.

Ultimately, the best 9mm ammo depends on individual needs and the firearm in use. Critical considerations include reliability, cost, consistency, and the specific gun’s compatibility with the ammo. It’s not just about choosing any ammo but selecting the right type for your specific situation and gun.

For more detailed guidance and recommendations on the best 9mm ammo for various purposes, check out our comprehensive guide.


The 9mm semi-automatic pistol is a reliable, well-made machine. While the 9mm bullet has less recoil than most calibers, it’s still powerful enough to stop assailants, small enough for the 10+ round capacity, and cheap and almost always available.

All of these 9mm pistols are someone’s first choice among gun owners, and most of you might already own many of them.

You can never go wrong with the good old Glock 19, a Sig Sauer P320 Compact, or a Sig Sauer P365 XL. They are legendary firearms tested and proven time and time again, and there’s a good reason why people buy the same gun despite having one already.

Note that I only listed semi-automatic 9mm pistols. Perhaps I’ll follow it up with a full handgun guide that also covers 9mm revolvers in the near future.

And if many of these handguns are too pricy, check out our guide on budget 9mm handguns.

Until then, stay safe and shoot straight.

Brady Kirkpatrick photo Brady Kirkpatrick is the founder of GunMade.com, the #1 online gun search engine. Recognizing the challenges of finding the right firearm at the right price, Brady built a platform to simplify the process, comparing prices across hundreds of online dealers and providing valuable content from trustworthy bloggers. His commitment to user-centricity and innovation has shaped GunMade.com into a comprehensive resource for gun enthusiasts. In addition to Gun Made, Brady has also lent his firearm expertise to an array of renowned publications, such as The Truth About Guns, CrossBreed Holsters, Cheaper than Dirt, 19FortyFive, We Are The Mighty, and many others.


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