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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, most 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.

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 it's many names, is widely accepted as the most common, and highly 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. 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. Each of the choices in this list have ben 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 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.

SIG SAUER P320 Series

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.

FN 509 Midsize

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 it's 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 features 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.


Is the glock 43 the best 9mm pistol?

No list would be complete without a 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.

Walther PPS

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.

FN 509 Compact

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.

Closing Off the Best 9mm Pistol

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.

Honorary Mentions: Polymer80

Differences from a stock Glock include the front locking block, additional locking block pin, rear slide rails, and a coiled slide lock spring.

Amidst the challenges of every-day-life, we find it immensely convenient that agencies like the ATF have to stick their nose into anything fun, innovative, or useful. Polymer80 has led the charge with 80 percent lower recievers, for AR-15's as well as for handguns, and their PF940CL drops a reverse card on the Glock 19x. Putting a long slide on a short handle, the Polymer80 frame requires that the purchaser finish fabricating the lower before it can be used. Effectively turning a paper-weight into a privately-made firearm, the ATF raided Polymer80 for their products in the past, but that hasn't stopped them so far. Legally sold as a blank in need of finishing, a polymer80 lower does two things: provides a project that results in a self-defense tool, and pushes back against the ATF attack on a legally owned 80 percent lower.


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One response to “Best 9mm Pistol for Defense”

  1. Louis Steven Menyhert says:

    What about the Hellfire?

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