These days, it seems like I’m almost always packing either a compact or subcompact 9mm for my daily carry.
For someone who lives in the South like me, a smaller, easily-concealed handgun just makes more sense than trying to hide a full-size handgun, and is a lot more convenient. In general though, these types of firearms make up the vast majority of carry guns these days, at least in terms of sales so it seems I’m not alone in thinking that a tiny niney is the way to go.
Thinking about picking up a sub-compact 9mm of your very own? Boy have I got news for you. I’ve carried just about every sub-compact 9mm from just about every manufacturer and I have just a whole slew of opinions about them.
To keep this to a reasonable length (y’all know I like nothing more than running my mouth about firearms) I’ve forced myself to keep this to the top five choices out of the twenty-five that I’ve evaluated over the past year or two.
Let’s talk about how I narrowed my list down, and then we’ll dive into the guns themselves.
What Makes These Guns So Good?
When choosing any concealed carry gun, there’s a few things I like to keep in mind: reliability, concealability, and shootability.
First, reliability. If it doesn’t go bang reliably, I’m not going to trust my life to it, and neither should you. Everything on this list is as reliable as anything man-made can be. I also need it to be accurate and put bullets where I tell them to go.
Next, concealability. I want something that not only conceals well, but something that conceals comfortably. These guns are all small, so we have to look at how well they conceal with various body types, and how comfortably.
If a gun isn’t comfortable, has sharp edges or is otherwise not well-designed for concealment under clothing, you’re less likely to carry it, and less likely to have it on you when you need it.
Finally, how easy is it to shoot the gun? Shootability is especially important with such small handguns so things like a well-designed grip, good texturing, usable sights, a good trigger, and other little touches can make a big difference when it comes to putting rounds where you need them.
Which is kind of important for a handgun you may have to use to defend yourself with.
So which guns meet these requirements? Quite a lot actually. But here are the ones that not only met the requirements for the best subcompact 9mm carry gun, but exceeded them.
The original Smith and Wesson M&P pistol series was designed to compete with Glock for the title of most popular striker-fired gun in America, and while it didn’t quite succeed in topping the Austrian gunmaker’s success, it certainly made a name for itself and in a lot of ways helped to drag Smith and Wesson, known for their excellent revolvers, into the 21st century.
The updated M2.0 series of M&P pistols further improved on the originals, and helped to further demonstrate S&W’s commitment to modern innovation.
The new model Shield has proven to be one of the most popular offerings in the legendary manufacturer’s catalog, and with good reason. The 7+1 or 8+1 capacity gives you a good amount of firepower in a diminutive package, and the very intuitive grip angle makes getting on target quickly very natural and smooth.
In a defensive situation, your shooting skills are going to be at the worst they’ve ever been. Adrenaline is going to ruin a lot of your fine motor skills, your heart rate is going to be through the roof, and your aim is going to be the worst it’s ever been.
In a situation like that, having a gun that points intuitively and quickly even when you’ve forgotten 90% of what you know about shooting can be a literal lifesaver.
On top of that, you get gun that is small enough to be pocketable, with a good trigger, good sights, and S&W’s legendary reliability and excellent customer service.
What’s not to love?
Rounding things out, we’ve got steel three-dot sights, a 3.1” barrel, an overall length of 6.1” and a weight of 18.3oz. All in all, a small, lightweight blaster that handles and shoots like a much larger gun.
I highly recommend giving this one a try because a lot of the advantages of the Shield are going to be in how they shoot.
Much like the original Shield, the original LC9 sold fairly well, but there were some improvements that some folks wanted. Ruger, like S&W was only too happy to listen to their customers and bring those to market for the second generation.
The main things we all wanted were a better trigger and them to lose the thumb safety, and that’s exactly what Ruger gave us in the LC9s Pro.
The Pro version has a 7+1 capacity with the flush-fit magazine, and a capacity of 9+1 with the extended magazine. Both mags have flat baseplates or pinky-extension options available that you can swap around based on your preferences.
For the specs, we have an overall length of 6”, a 3.12” barrel, and a weight of 17.2oz, making it just a hair lighter than the Shield.
The gun also has three-dot sights, which I don’t love, but that’s mostly a preference thing. They are plastic and not steel, but this is a budget-minded decision that I don’t mind too much.
Performance-wise, the gun has been 100% reliable with defensive ammo, and with cheap FMJ ammo. Overall, I gave it about twelve different kinds of ammo and it digested it all nicely.
In general, I was pleased with the LC9s Pro when it came out 5+ years ago, and I’m still pleased with it today. The rounded edges and small form-factor make it easy to carry, and a street price of around $350 makes it easy on the wallet and help it to land a spot on the best subcompact 9mm handguns list.
I can almost just leave this whole section blank, but I’m paid by the word so let me tell you some things you already know about the Glock 43.
Like everything else on this list, it’s a single-stack 9mm designed for concealed carry.
Like every other Glock on the planet, it has the same sights, same trigger (more or less), the same controls, same disassembly procedure, same basic design, same basic construction from the same materials, and the same legendary reliability that will keep it running forever and ever amen.
The question is… is all this same-ness a good thing? Is it deserving enough to be on the best subcompact 9mm list?
For me, yes it is. I like Glocks. I’m familiar with Glocks. I can fully disassemble a Glock down to the bare frame with my eyes closed and a beer in one hand. I shoot just about every Glock with equal skill. I trust every Glock I pick up to work when I need it to.
If you’re a Glock fan, and you’re looking for a sub-compact 9mm, then the 43 makes a lot of sense. Having a gun with the same manual of arms as your other handguns makes training and building that essential familiarity much, much easier.
It has a 6.26” length, a barrel length of 3.39”, and a weight of 17.95oz, putting it right in line with every other gun on this list for the most part.
If you’re not a Glock fan, then…skip it. Honestly, as much as it pains me, if you aren’t interested in the Glock ecosystem, and don’t like Glocks there’s not much to recommend about this one.
The trigger is alright, and the overall dimensions are good for a pocket gun, but the big selling point is that Glock reliability, and similar manual of arms across all the different offerings. Oh, and all the customization options. After the AR-15, Glocks are the most customizable guns on the planet with more after-market manufacturers than any other brand.
So, basically, if you like Glocks and you want a sub-compact, get a Glock 43. If you don’t like Glocks, the 43 just isn’t good enough to recommend it over the other options. It is still a very good gun, and I adore mine.
Going straight from the most reliable and consistent brand on the planet to Taurus, which most people consider one step above those prison-made firearms crafted out of plumbing parts and Elmer’s glue, is going to give people whiplash.
But the Taurus G2S has still earned its place on this list. Like the G2C (the compact version), the G2S has proven itself to be a reliable and functional defensive firearm for those on a budget. It seems that Taurus, the proverbial stopped clock, has indeed gotten it right for the second time.
I don’t know if this is a fluke, or Taurus stole this design from someone else, or if the company is genuinely working to become a quality manufacturer instead of the butt of gun writer’s jokes, but the G2C and G2S just…work.
Don’t get me wrong, I fully expected to fire a few mags through this thing, find out just how terrible it was, and then happily return it and never touch it again.
Instead, I’ve put 800 rounds through it without any issues, except for a distaste for steel-cased ammo. Something about steel cased ammo, coupled with something about the finish and lack of polish on the inside of the magazines or the inside of the gun makes for feeding and ejection issue.
My advice: don’t use steel-cased ammo in your defensive firearm.
I also had to adjust my grip a little bit and not grip quite as high as I normally would because the slide was cutting into my hand, but that’s not a huge deal on a small, defensive handgun that you probably won’t be shooting a huge amount.
If you use defensive ammo in this defensive firearm, and you don’t choke up on it too high, you’ll find it to be shockingly reliable, and quite possibly the best defensive handgun in its price bracket.
This is the big reason this gun is on the list guys. The Taurus G2S, at about $200, is the cheapest path to a reliable defensive handgun.
Well, short of stealing a gun from someone, which I don’t recommend because stealing is wrong and stealing from someone who you know for a fact owns a gun is catastrophically stupid.
For $200, you get a gun with a 3.25” barrel, a 7 round magazine, an overall length of 6.25”, and…not much else. It’s bare bones and simple, and it has a manual safety which I don’t love for a carry gun, but it’s at least small and unlikely to be accidentally engaged.
Overall, the G2S has some issues, but I wanted to include a better bargain-basement option than just telling people to deal spend more money and buy a LC9s or EC9s. I don’t think finances should keep people from being able to defend themselves, and for that reason alone I’m glad the G2S exists.
It’s not the best gun on this list, it’s objectively the worst gun on the list. But it did make the list. The list of the best subcompact 9mm handguns. Why? Because for $200, you can have a way to defend yourself that, while not the most polished, is still perfectly functional and reliable.
If you want the absolute most polished sub-compact, with all the features and cutting-edge design you can get, the SIG P365 is the one to get.
SIG really outdid themselves with this gun, which builds on their modular chassis handgun concept they pioneered with the P320, which is going to be the new official sidearm of most of the US military.
The P365 uses a similar chassis design that allows you to swap out the grip, slide, trigger, etc as much as you want without having to buy another firearm, which is great if you love to tinker, or just want one firearm that can cover a variety of handgun needs.
The P365’s other party trick is in the magazine. The gun is overall about the same size as the Glock 43, but it holds an extra four rounds for a 10+1 capacity. For a gun this size, that’s honestly insane.
SIG did some major design work on this, and created a magazine that is totally unique, and the design is protected by three different patents, so this is going to be a SIG-exclusive for a long time.
Other than that, you get a 100% reliable firearm with a barrel length of 3.1”, an overall length of 5.8”, and a weight of 17.8oz, all of which is pretty standard.
The trigger is good, the sights are fine, but the real selling point is an industry-leading capacity and the chassis system. And that’s why, of all the guns on this list, this is on of the best subcompact 9mm handguns.
The best subcompact 9mm won’t weigh you down and can practically disappear into a pocket…until you need it. They carry well, shoot well, and the ones on this list are will serve you well if you ever need to defend life and liberty from those who would take them away.
Which of these best subcompact 9mm handguns is your favorite? Which ones have you tried? Let me hear from you in the comments!