Looking for a full-size 9mm pistol for duty, defense, or competition? We’ve got you covered with this list, no matter what your needs are.
I’ve been extremely lucky to work in the firearms industry for almost a decade now, and since I’ve been doing this stuff professionally, I’ve had the opportunity to use and abuse just about every readily-available handgun on the market.
I’ve always had a soft spot for 9mm handguns in general, but there’s just something about a sweet-shooting full size 9mm that brings me no end of joy, so I’m always the first to volunteer when it comes time to review and test one.
Because of that, I’ve gotten to handle an awful lot of full-size 9mm pistols, and of course I’ve developed favorites.
Which brings us to our topic for today, and why you clicked on this article. We’re going to go over the best 9mm full-sized handguns around.
If you’re looking for something to keep in a nightstand, something to carry on your hip, or something to smoke a field of competition with, and you want it in 9mm, these are the guns you want.
Let’s get started with…
Benefits of a Full-Size 9mm Pistol
There are a number of reasons to choose a full-size 9mm pistol.
Personally, I think a 9mm in this size is just about the perfect handgun, provided concealability isn’t a concern. The vast majority of militaries, police departments, and federal law enforcement agencies run full-size 9mm sidearms, so I think it’s safe to say they agree with me.
A full-size 9mm is going to be easy to grip and easy to aim, and recoil is going to be fairly minimal thanks to the weight of the platform. Anyone who’s fired hot defensive loads out of the smallest of 9mm pocket guns will tell you that they have some snap…not so with a bigger gun, especially one with a steel frame.
In addition to being fairly light on recoil, 9mm ammo is cheap and plentiful, but also more than powerful enough to stop a threat reliably.
All of this combines to make a full-size 9mm handgun the number one choice for duty use, and a popular choice for home defense as well where the pistol is more maneuverable and less likely to overpenetrate than a shotgun or a rifle.
Sure, a Navy Seal can move through a house with a rifle just as smoothly as they can with a handgun. But if you’re a Navy Seal, you don’t need this article in the first place. If, like me, you’re a good, conscientious shooter that also has a regular day job that doesn’t involve training to move tactically through an urban environment…pistol might be the better choice, eh?
Finally, there’s probably a lot of people here thinking about a full-size 9mm for competition, and with good reason. Many 3Gun, Steel Challenge, IDPA, and USPSA divisions are dominated by full-size 9mm handguns, especially where power factor scoring isn’t in place, or all guns are scored minor.
Basically, if you don’t need a .40 S&W or larger for power factor scoring, most people choose 9mm for the higher pressures (which make compensators and muzzle brakes more effective) and lower recoil.
Alright, now that we know the reasons why, let’s take a look at the best examples of full-size 9mm handguns on the market right now.
SIG P320 X-Five Legion
The SIG P320 had some growing pains when it was first released, but thankfully SIG has got those issues sorted out now. In fact, a variant of the P320 won the Army’s M17 contract, and as of 2019 will be the official sidearm of all branches of the US military, replacing the Beretta M9.
The X-Five Legion is the competition-ready variant of the P320, and it comes with a host of features that make it ready to rock in any environment, right out of the box.
First up we have the Legion’s big party trick; a polymer frame that’s been infused with tungsten to make it harder and heavier. Why heavier? Recoil control. This material is almost as heavy as steel, but with the impact resistance of polymer, which makes for a best-of-both grip frame. Personally, I think that this idea is cool as hell, and I can’t wait to see how other manufacturers react to it.
More traditionally, the gun has a match-grade bull barrel for accuracy, a light competition-style trigger with a clean break and extremely tactile reset, and some excellent Dawson Precision adjustable fiber optic target sights.
Oh, and if you don’t like the factory sights, or just want to run an optic, the slide comes drilled and tapped for mounting the SIG Romeo1Pro, and with plates available for mounting a number of other optics as well (Trijicon, Burris, Vortex, etc).
Finally, you get 3 17rd mags with aluminum baseplates, a removable mag well extension to facilitate faster reloads, and an all-steel guide rod with two interchangeable recoil springs so you can tune the gun to your liking.
You also get a front rail that you can slap a light on to make an excellent home defense gun.
Glock 17 Gen 5 MOS
The Glock 17 is one of the most popular full-size 9mm handguns on the planet. It’s extremely popular with law enforcement at all levels, and makes for an excellent duty gun. I know you know Glocks, and know how reliable they are, and you know what they look like.
Either you love ‘em or you hate ‘em, so I’m going to focus on why the Gen 5 is worth the upgrade, and why you might want one of the new ones.
First and foremost, the Gen 5s have a better finish than the Gen 4s, so if you’re holstering and unholstering your gun a lot, or generally see a lot of wear on your handguns, it might be worth the upgrade for that alone.
Next up, you have Glock’s new Marksman barrel which is more accurate than the Gen 4 barrels. I think. Probably. It depends on who you ask. Personally, I can’t tell a difference off the bench, and I think I just shoot the Gen 5s better in general. I’m not sure how much of that is the barrel, and how much is because of the other improvements.
If, like me, you hated the finger grooves of the Gen 4 you can rejoice with me because they’re gone. Also, the whole generation has more rounded edges that help prevent snagging and in my opinion, look better.
The new G17 is a great duty gun, with 17 rounds on tap, and a full-size grip and respectable sight radius.
Finally, the MOS variant comes with optics plates so you can mount your favorite red dot up top, making this another great home defense choice as well. I personally have shot a few Carry Optics matches with this gun, and it does well in that area too.
This isn’t quite a target gun though, and if you’re looking to compete, you should check out its big brother, the G34.
Glock 34 Gen 5 MOS
The Glock 34 Gen 5 MOS is Glock’s most popular competition-ready handgun. If you see a high-level pro shooter using a Glock, this is going to be the one.
The G34 is very similar to the G17, with the same size grip and frame, and a longer slide with a longer barrel. It of course has all the same standard Gen 5 features you want, but it also has a better trigger and adjustable sights.
The extra barrel length gives you better muzzle velocity (slightly) and the increased sight radius makes aiming easier, especially when you’re trying to make shots at longer distances under pressure. You also have all the myriad Glock upgrade options from the roughly ten quadrillion manufacturers that are out there making excellent parts that can help you customize your G34 exactly to your liking.
Then again, if you’re trying to shoot Production class, you can rock and roll with the G34 exactly as it comes from the factory. It’ll also be an excellent option for home defense, though I’d go with the G17 for a duty sidearm.
In short, if you’re a Glock fan and want a competition gun with the same manual of arms you’re already used to, the G34 is the way to go in my opinion.
The CZ 75 is the second most popularly copied handgun design in the world, after the legendary 1911. A lot of those copies are good, and some are even great. For me though, I want the original.
The CZ 75 is available in a huge number of configurations, so you can get just about anything you want, but I generally recommend the 75B to most folks. The “B” just denotes the presence of a firing pin block safety, making the gun a little safer than the standard 75.
The 75 B is a steel-framed beast with a 16+1 capacity, 3-dot sights, and the DA/SA system that has made it such a popular design all around the world. Like all CZ 75s, the B model uses a slide-in-frame design that helps keep the muzzle more in line with the shooters hand, which helps mitigate recoil.
Ergonomics and design are really the 75 B’s main selling points, like all CZ 75s. Yes,the gun is reliable and built like a tank. Yes, it’s accurate. But the real story is in the ergonomics and the feel of the pistol in the hand.
I know, I know. Ergonomics and feel are subjective, but what’s not subjective is the huge number of people who absolutely fall in love with the 75’s ergos. Seriously, go pick one up at the gun store if you don’t believe me.
I’ve never held a gun that felt more natural in my hand than the 75, and there’s plenty of people who agree with me. Give it a shot yourself, and see how you like it. You may just fall in love too.
CZ Shadow 2
And if you love the CZ 75, you’ll love the Shadow 2 even more. CZ got into the competition shooting market back in the mid-nineties, and they’ve been a staple of the USPSA Production circuit ever since, with newer models coming out for Limited and Open divisions.
The Shadow 2 was designed specifically to dominate the Production division, and it’s done quite well there. Almost a third of USPSA Production shooters use a CZ 75 of one flavor or another, and the Shadow 2 is a significant portion of that.
It has a much-improved trigger (not that the standard 75 trigger is bad), an undercut trigger guard and high-riding beavertail so you can get your hand as close to the bore axis as possible to minimize muzzle flip. The mag release is reversible, and has three extended positioning options you can play with to get it right where you want it. No one with adult-sized hands should be unable to reach the mag release comfortably, and without breaking their firing grip.
Finally you get a fiber optic front sight with a HAJO rear sight that is click-adjustable for elevation, and drift adjustable for windage.
All of this makes for one of the best non-custom competition handguns ever made, but it would also serve just fine as a duty or home defense gun. It’s a bit heavy, and I personally wouldn’t want to risk losing a $1,200 gun to an evidence locker forever, but if you want the best of the best in your bedside safe or carry holster, this might be the option for you.
If you want to give yourself every advantage in IDPA Stock Service Pistol or USPSA Production? This is the gun you want.
There are a lot of great full-size 9mm pistols out there to choose from, but these are the best of the best in both performance and value. I’ve put a few thousand rounds (at minimum, my Shadow 2 is coming up on 6k) through every gun on this list, and I can say without question that they will stand up to your carry, competition, or home defense needs.
Which of these full-size 9mms do you like the best? Are you one of those people that think .40 S&W is just better?