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Best 9mm Pistol for Defense


If the gun owners’ road to hell is paved with good intentions, “what is the best concealed carry handgun” was probably the first question to get tossed into the cement mixer, likely to be followed by more specific charges like “what is the best 9mm pistol.”

Good questions to ask, hard ones to answer.

On the surface, it’s well-meaning enough. Everyone wants the most reliable, accurate product at the best price. Under the skin, it’s a tragically manipulated thought experiment that has spawned a digital mass grave of Top 5’s, Listicles, Click-quizzes, and message board brawls.

But we hope to give you knowledge instead of a short but opinionated answer. We're RECOIL, not CNN. We also hope, by the end of this, you’ll appreciate the difference between the two.

Pocket Sized Pistols Glock 43 Sig p365
We always want to maximize our success while balancing concealability. The number of CCW-focused firearms isn’t likely to decrease in the coming years.

If we frame the problem as if it were a simple internet search, “the best concealed carry gun” should be one that appears highly in multiple searches. We say this because what goes into your mental search bar should be a series of other questions that lead you to the end result of a “best” choice.

And, for that matter, the result you really want is “what is the best concealed carry handgun for me.” This means lifestyle, environment, and, yes, personality, come into play.

First things first, though, is caliber. Generally speaking, the debate over caliber is mostly closed off, as 9mm, and its many names are widely accepted as the most common, and ideal choice in that it balances the trifecta of capacity, power, and cost.

So we're looking now for the best 9mm pistol, for personal protection.


Selecting a best concealed carry pistol, really, is about choosing a handgun that best fits your daily routine.

Ideal handguns are ones established enough in the market that you can find good holsters for them at a reasonable price. This means being able to sort through how one intends to carry it. Since no two people are alike, having options when it comes to carrying is ideal.

The best 9mm pistol, for your scenario, will then be determined by lifestyle considerations, combined with the environment. Mechanically speaking, putting the same engine (caliber) in a smaller frame (size of the gun) will translate into more felt recoil.

9mm Luger, 9mm NATO, 9x19mm, 9mm Parabellum, “Nine”, so many names for one caliber

So, starting with the fine-tuned engine of 9mm, a larger frame will generally shoot smoother and fit more ammunition, but be more noticeable. In contrast, given good holsters are available, a smaller gun will be easier to conceal across multiple clothing wardrobes, but be less enjoyable to practice with. For most of us, balance is key.

In states that have seasons, one will occasionally hear chatter of having a “summer gun” and a “winter gun” where the larger one conceals well under flannel, the smaller choice is more fit for board shorts.

A similar strategy is to have an every day carry handgun of choice optimized for balancing size and capacity, and later add a smaller, more concealable option like a SIG SAUER P365 for circumstances like summer tank tops or fitted suits.

The intended use and the design match best when the buyer has some time to be proactive about their purchase. Below we've laid out a list of the best 9mm pistols common in 2020 into two categories: the balanced “Carry” label, and the smaller “Deep Concealment” options.


At the top of the list of needs is cost. Defending one's self is a right, and manufacturers recognize this. In past years, the development of handguns has generally clustered most great carry guns around an achievable price point.

Coincidentally, most higher-cost pistols are either produced for a hyper-focused purpose, like competition shooting where one does not need to consider concealment, or they are catering more to collectors. A classic recreation of a Schofield revolver is rewarding to hold in one's hand, but not practical at over $1000.

Tenicor Certum3 Glock
Three different Tenicor Certum3 holsters used for three different Glock setups

Each of the choices in this list has been selected within a price range that allows the buyer to secure the pistol, ammunition, and a good holster for under a grand.

At the opposite end, is performance. While higher price does not always translate into better accuracy or reliability, we've lost track of the times that something “just as good” simply wasn't.

Necessary features of the best 9mm pistol are reliable construction, holster options, can be easily disassembled and reassembled with confidence, and comes with a trusted suite of expected features.

When it comes to things like triggers, we recognize that while there is room for preference, most can be sorted between the “in” of a reliable handgun, and the “out” of either being too specialized or hindering enough to warrant another choice.



Glock 19 gen 5 C&H precision plate
Glock's position in the market is secure. Pairs well with an AR15.

The industry standard for a reason. The most recent evolution of the iconic handgun shows that Glock is listening. They may be slow to implement changes, but the aftermarket support is second to none with this handgun.

While continual iterative improvement with each new generation tends to disprove Glock's claim of “Perfection”, it has to be said that Glock comes closest to that goal in terms of reliability and durability.


Is the Sig P320 the best 9mm pistol?
The SIG Sauer P320 was introduced in 2014 as a modular, polymer construction, striker-fired pistol that would grow into the M17 and M18 now used by the U.S. Army. (Manufacturer’s photo)

Sig Sauer's P320 has challenged the hegemony of the ubiquitous Glock 19, and emboldened by a victory securing multiple military contracts, the pistol's aftermarket support is set in stone.

The company's propensity to release their firearms in many different colors and themes did not get lost on the P320, catering to those who like having options.

SIG hasn't been resting on its laurels with the P320, as they launched the FCU program where you get to custom build your own handgun. We got a chance to review the intense aftermarket support here.


Smith & Wesson M&P 9 EZ

Available in a wide range of models with a host of features including with or without a thumb safety, the Smith & Wesson M&P 9 EZ is specially designed for those of us with weaker hands or compromised grips.

The “EZ” means the slide is incredibly easy to rack back to chamber a round. If you or someone you know has ever struggled with racking a semi-auto pistol, this is a perfect solution.

S&W takes several more steps to make this the most accessible firearm it can be including having larger than normal sights. While this reduces your potential precision, it makes getting a good sight picture much easier if you have weaker eyes.

Additionally, the magazine is a simple single stack 8+1 that uses a weaker than normal spring to make it nearly effortless to load.

While grip safeties are entirely normal on 1911s and many other older designs, they are rather rare in modern polymer pistols. The EZ 9 brings this feature back to give a layer of safety and comfort in using the pistol without requiring extra manipulation or strength.


Is the FN 509 midsize the best 9mm pistol?

Fabrique Nationale's 509 Midsize carries with it the features of their full-size contender for military applications. Known for their contributions to military armaments, FN's latest take on the polymer handle, striker-fired pistol looks like it will hang around for a while. For a Full Review on the FN 509 Series, read here. (Published in RECOIL #50)


cz p10c unsung heroes 9mm pistol

On the roster for the best 9mm pistol is this sleeper handgun. The CZ P10C slides into this S-tier list by, first of all, carrying over many of the favorite features of the Glock 19, while bringing its own surprisingly excellent trigger and ergonomics along with it.

CZ has been known for many things in the past, with a force-of-nature grip on competition handguns while also building duty-use firearms for decades.

The CZ P10C has gone on for some time as one of the most tragically under-rated handguns, with both an excellent pricepoint, and distinctly clean features in regards to swappable ambidextrous controls, and optics-ready versions for a price just a little bit below other options.

Although it is supposed to be able to fit into any holster designed for a Glock 19, some work better than others. For a one-stop purchase that got so much right out of the factory, this sits high on our list of recommendations.


Is the Sig p365the best 9mm pistol?

As featured in Jack Carr's thriller series, the SIG P365 has made a heavy, recognizable impact on the micro-pistol scene. Though it doesn't have any single distinguishing feature that makes people jump, it checks each of the necessary feature boxes very well.

With a 10+1 capacity out of the box, and the SIG P365 XL variation accepting optics with no aftermarket milling, it is a solid choice amongst the growing category of micro-compact handguns.

Like Training Wheels for a Red Dot? SIG SAUER released a special version, the SIG P365 SAS.


Springfield Hellcat

Released about a year after the SIG 365, the Springfield Hellcat was the industry's second entry into the new wave of sub-compact 9mm pistols with 10 or more rounds in the standard magazine.

While SIG kicked it off with the 365, the Hellcat did one better by giving us an 11+1 capacity.

Coming with the ability to mount optics as a standard feature the Hellcat is a wonderful pistol in every respect! From the checkering to the trigger to the fit and feel, this is one of the current kings of concealed carry.


Is the glock 43 the best 9mm pistol?

No list would be complete without a micro contribution from GLOCK. For those who appreciate reliability from the get-go, as well as those who cannot leave anything stock, the G43 is a solid choice. Aftermarket slides, triggers, compensators, and more compliment the “ar-15 of handguns” and there is no shortage of holsters to choose from.


Is the Walther pps the best 9mm pistol?

Not restricted to Bond references, the Walther PPS has long been a key player of the subcompact market. Early on the scene with enough time to refine their already appreciated trigger, this single-stack sibling to the PPQ has various magazine options to hold 6, 7, or 8 rounds.


Is the FN 509C the best 9mm pistol?

A variant of their lineup that contended for the Army's new Modular Handgun System, the FN 509 compact sports a plate mounting solution that accepts most red dots sights.

As red dot optics on handguns moves from trending to an industry staple, we appreciate companies that have the end-user in mind through their product design.


At the end of the day, it is the responsibility of each person to choose for themselves what they think is the best 9mm pistol for their circumstances.

This is why there will never be a definitive best choice across the board. Still, there are certainly better options as far as situationally ideal choices, or better manufacturing. While the options will eventually change, these choices are dominating what's available in 2020 and a good place to start.

When looking at other options, one should consider what holsters are available and if desired, what aftermarket add-ons can be found.

Choosing a handgun can be contentious, and opinions do show their teeth, but a well-informed buyer is a protected buyer, and choosing what is best for your scenario is easier when you have evaluation criteria. It is never good to buy without first starting proactively with the best weapon: knowledge.


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