Concealed Carry

Buyer’s Guide: 15 of the Best 9mm Pistols

Two of the best 9mm pistols

There are dozens of makers of handguns today, and the variants and subvariants number well into the hundreds.

While other calibers have their place, the single most popular pistol cartridge is the 9mm Luger. This potent number is everyone’s cartridge.

It isn’t the most powerful or the least expensive, but the 9mm Luger cartridge works well for target shooting, competition, personal defense, home defense, training and even some forms of hunting.

The 9mm is practically a universal service cartridge with the police and military.

Those looking for a first centerfire handgun often gravitate toward the 9mm Luger.

By the same token, very experienced shooters often choose the 9mm for personal defense and service use.

man shooting best 9mm pistols

Background and Criteria

The following report is a look at 15 of the best 9mm pistols.

These include service-size, competition handguns, compact and subcompact handguns, and a couple that may squeak by as pocket pistols.

This was a difficult report to put together. Not due to a lack of information, but rather due to the overwhelming number of these popular handguns.

I kept moving the pistols around, trying to be fair, to cover a lot of ground, and to provide a good list of pistols that offer great performance.

This isn’t a fluff piece filled with manufacturer’s images of pistols I have never fired.

There isn’t a pistol in this report I do not have extensive experience with and have fired at least 1,000 rounds through in testing.

Some have been in use for many years, while others, like the SIG P320 Legion, are relatively new pistols.

The 9mm Luger cartridge is very efficient. It’s a high-velocity and high-pressure round, developing good velocity even in relatively short barrels.

The ammunition is reliable, effective with the right combination of bullet penetration and expansion, and controllable.

Some of the best handguns in the world chamber the 9mm. I divided the report into service-size, compact, subcompact and even pocket size.

There is some overlap on size. These are good handguns well worth their price. In some cases, I would be about as happy with one as the other.

As an example, there are many CZ 75 fans, but the Beretta 92 and SIG P226, in a tactical sense, will achieve the same thing.

Differences in handling and handfit mean a lot to some us and it is best to get the pistol you prefer.

If you cannot get exactly what you want, there are a number of alternatives. Be sure to check out our guide on how to pick your first handgun if you need some help.

Most of us will own as many of these handguns as we can afford. The pistols covered, in their respective niche, are excellent firearms.

Best 9mm Handguns

Full-Size Pistols

1. SIG Sauer P210             

The original P210 is a classic, well-made and very accurate handgun. It’s also a terribly expensive pistol.

The modern SIG P210A is reliable, affordable, and at least as accurate, if not more so, than the original.

There are several versions including an all-out target version. The standard model is the author’s favorite.

This is a pistol you will not be disappointed with.

SIG P210

2. SIG Sauer P320 XFive Legion   

I waited six months for the XFive Legion. It’s a heavy, but fast-handling 9mm handgun.

The polymer frame is combined with tungsten — you would swear it’s a steel frame.

This is a competitor’s dream, optics-ready, with a crisp trigger action and excellent sights. The balance is exceptional.

This is a pistol that top-notch competitors rave about. The pistol is supplied with three 17-round magazines.

I am developing a great affection for this soft-shooting pistol.

SIG P320 XFive Legion

3. Sarsilmaz SAR 9   

The SAR 9 comes in at a very good price for a pistol offering Walther-like performance.

The pistol bears a resemblance to the Walther polymer-frame handguns, while the trigger action feels more like a GLOCK.

The pistol handles well and has proven reliable with a wide range of ammunition.

A handgun adopted by the Turkish military must be a pistol to bet your life on!

I like the SAR 9 and especially the SAR 9X. A full-size 9mm with a 17-round magazine is attractive for home defense.

SAR 9 pistol

4. Beretta 92       

What can you say about the Beretta 92?

Superbly well-made, reliable, more accurate than most realize, and a war winner, from the 92 Compact to the Beretta/Wilson Combat pistol, the Beretta 92 has continually given good service.

I cannot recall a malfunction with any of these pistols.

An oscillating wedge supplies lockup, while the open-top slide prevents bric-a-brac and grit from tying the pistol up.

Magazines and holsters are readily available, including 20-round 9mm magazines.

mans shooting beretta 92 pistol

5. SIG Sauer P320/M17  

The Army’s new pistol is the M17, a military version of the P320. SIG has given us a modular, polymer, striker-fired pistol with good combat ability.

The pistol has proven reliable and more than accurate enough for personal defense.

The P320 features SIG reliability and may be used in several frame sizes simply by changing the easily replaced grip frame.

This is a thoroughly modern pistol that is just now becoming appreciated by professional handgunners.

After all, the pistol is seen often in the winner’s place at pistol matches.

SIG M17

6. CZ 75B        

The CZ 75B is a classic old-world pistol available today at a fair price.

You don’t have to go to the gun show and scrounge up a 1970’s pistol to find this type of quality, it’s for sale right here at Cheaper Than Dirt!

The pistol screams quality without putting a crease in the wallet.

I’m first to admit the double-action first-shot pistol isn’t going to win competitions, but for daily carry and home defense, the DA/SA makes a lot of sense.

The CZ 75 has an enviable reputation and is available in a number of variations that are some of the best 9mm pistols.

Two CZ 75 Pistols

Compact Handguns

7. FN 509

Moving into compact versions of service pistols, we have the FN 509.

A striker-fired, polymer-frame, sure, but with unique features making it a formidable choice for personal defense.

The FN 509C compact version came optics-ready. The sights are well regulated for 124-grain loads as issued.

I like the character and performance of this pistol. It isn’t everyone’s polymer pistol and offers real performance.

FN 509 Compact

8. SIG Sauer P229 RX   

The P229 RX isn’t just optics-ready, it is optics-equipped from the factory.

The SIG P229 9mm is a great handgun, well-balanced and reliable. Many SIG fans regard the P229 as the best balanced of the P-series handguns.

I agree. Take a step up with the P229 RX by adding a ROMEO1PRO red-dot sight and you have a very fast-handling optics-equipped pistol.

This is the handgun I learned how to use a red dot with. This isn’t an inexpensive pistol, but it is a very good handgun.

SIG quality, reliability and accuracy are evident in the P229 RX.

man shooting SIG P229 RX pistol

9. GLOCK 45

The GLOCK 45 9mm is a superlative example of the polymer-framed striker-fired handgun.

Building on the popularity of the GLOCK 19X, the GLOCK 45 features the GLOCK 17 full-size grip and the shorter GLOCK 19 slide.

The result is a pistol that clears leather quickly. The pistol features GLOCK reliability and an excellent heft and balance.

Instead of the FDE finish on the GLOCK 19X, the pistol features the standard black finish and also adds forward cocking serrations.

GLOCKs are incredibly well-loved and are some of the best 9mm pistols.

Two GLOCK Pistols

10. Beretta APX   

The Beretta APX 9mm certainly has a unique appearance. The APX doesn’t feature forward or rear gripping serrations.

The slide is covered in serrations!

Beretta may have been late in the polymer-frame/striker-fired/modular handgun race, but they have given us a very reliable and useful firearm.

The APX is available in several sizes. The Centurion (what Beretta calls their compact) seems ideal for balance and usefulness.

Beretta APX Centurion

Subcompact 9mm Handgun Options

11. Ruger MAX-9

Subcompact 9mm handguns are popular. The pistols are light and useful for all-day carry.

They aren’t difficult to conceal.

Some are based on service pistols and have compromises inherent in cutting down a full-size design.

Recoil is greater and you cannot make hits as quickly and accurately as with the full-size pistols, but they are not duffers!

The MAX-9 is a product of proven principles, but owes little to other handguns. The pistol remains controllable despite its modest weight.

The MAX-9 is a high-capacity handgun, with a 10-round standard magazine and an extended 12-round magazine. The MAX-9 is a game-changer.

Ruger MAX-9 pistol

12. SIG Sauer P365   

The P365 9mm is famously SIG reliable. The pistol is well-made of good material like all SIG products.

A flush-fit 10-round magazine provides a good balance of firepower — which I prefer to call reserve of ammunition — and concealed-carry comfort.

The P365 is the pistol to beat in a high-capacity subcompact, and is one of the best 9mm pistols.

SIG P365 pistol

13. Springfield Armory Hellcat  

The Hellcat, with its standard 11-round and extended 13-round produced a sensation when it was introduced.

A fresh design that owes little to other pistols, the Hellcat is not only light and compact, it shoots well.

The Hellcat may have rendered quite a few handguns obsolete, but arguably was the impetus for the introduction of other high-capacity subcompact pistols, such as the Smith and Wesson Shield Plus and Ruger MAX-9.

The Hellcat has been the base for other introductions, including the new optics-equipped Hellcat handgun.

Quite a few experienced shooters are enthusiastic, considering the Hellcat and its performance. 

Springfield Armory Hellcat on wood table with ammo best 9mm pistols

14. Taurus GX4

To the best of my knowledge, the Taurus GX4 is the most compact of the new generation of slim high-capacity 9mm handguns.

The pistol features 11-round flush-fit magazines, an advantage over most of the subcompact 9mm pistols. A 13-round magazine is an option.

The Taurus shoots like a larger pistol. Control is good to excellent. The pistol features a good trigger.

The sights are compatible with aftermarket GLOCK units, a big advantage in a new introduction.

Taurus GX4 Pistol

15. Bond Arms Bullpup 9

This is perhaps the most unique pistol in this review. The Bond Arms pistol features a unique action that demands the magazine to feed from the rear!

The double-action-only pistol may be slipped into a jacket pocket or crews pocket and be instantly ready for action.

The bullpup design applied to a pistol results in a very short pistol with a reasonably long barrel.

The Bond Arms pistol is well-made of good material and offers excellent protection in a light, compact package.

It’s definitely unique, and one of the best 9mm pistols.

Bond Arms Bullpup 9 best 9mm pistols

What do you consider to be the best 9mm pistols? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.


Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Handloader
Rifle Magazine
Handguns
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns



Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (45)

  1. Walther PPQ M2 by far the best 9mm made. Hands down nothing comes comes close to the comfort, and the reliably is flawless. Also, the best trigger pull around period.
    Just like the other post:
    Walther PPQ Walther PPQ
    Walther PPQ Walther PPQ
    Amazingly Accurate

  2. To each his own folks. Go shoot em all and decide for yourselves. Not everyone agrees. I can carry Glock, Sig, Ruger, Rock Island Armory, Colt, or S&W.

  3. Thanks for your article rating 9 mm pistols. I am in complete agreement with you on the Sig Sauer P-210. A real pleasure to shoot. Expensive but worth every penny.

  4. The Glock 26 should be in here 10+1, and Glock makes the 12 rd Mag for the 26 now. An excellent firearm, as is the G19, just a bit larger. The nice thing about the G26 is that you can shoot the G19 15 rd , G17 17 rd, and even the 33rd. mag.

  5. What about the Glock 43x? I recently purchased one, i have ran more than 250 rounds through it, and seems to be better than my ex’s p365 SIG

  6. Ruger is on here for the subcompact but the full size SDR 9 is my favorite out of all my other semi auto pistols . I just like what ruger brought to the table On these plus ruger was one of my first semi auto pistols . I like it so I got the SDR in tritone in 9, 40 and 45 …probably get the 22 sometime down the road maybe

  7. Well, this was a waste…
    Only one I’d consider on this list would be the Taurus GX4.

    Army issued an M9… couldn’t stand it.
    Sheriff’s Office issued a SIG P226… couldn’t stand it.
    My wife and brother both have Hellcats… can’t stand them.
    State agency issued S&W 686 then in 2005 when the semi-auto M&P was introduced my agency switched… both of those… yes please.
    Sadly S&W barely even got a mention here… a passby mention of the Shield Plus… which beats any of the other sub-compacts mentioned.
    Equal or better capacity, a grip that actually fits a full size person with a full sized hand, and ergonomics/grip angle that don’t make you seem like you’re hunting for squirrels in tree tops… cough cough Glock.

    Practically everything else on this list is like holding a sawed off 2×4.
    At least no version of a 1911 style made it on here.

  8. Can’t believe the Ruger SR-9 is not on the list. One of the best triggers on the market and very accurate.

  9. Defender in 9 mm is most accurate, reliable and a beauty. All this plastic is great for the Toyota Corolla folks…but life is too short to drink cheap beer…and shoot cheap guns.

    Only city folks like us may need more than 6 rounds.

  10. I seriously cannot believe that they left off the H&K VP9. Better than most of the pistols they included.

  11. Most people have never heard of them, but the Beretta 92 “Steel 1” is one of the finest 9mm firearms ever built.

  12. Compact carry handgun: The Springfield XDe is a superb, hammer-fired, 1″-wide, 9mm with an easy-racking slide (also available in a .45 cal version for an additional $38). Best of all, the XDe puts you in charge, because it has a fabulous 3-position safety, like the expensive FNX and H&K. One has to push the XDe safety up to go on manual safety; then, push it down to the middle “fire” position, with the hammer either cocked (for “cocked & locked” carry), or in the down, resting, DA location; push this safety lever down further, to its third “decocker” position, and it will automatically jumps right back up to the “fire” position after decocking the gun, returning this handgun to the increased safety of a 10- to 12-pound, revolver-level, DA trigger pull weight for the next shot fired. $542 MSRP with a choice of a 3.5″, 3.8″ or 4.5″ barrel, but available for as little as the $400 I paid at a local TN gun store. Comes with 8-round and 9-round single-stack 9mm magazines, with occasional deals that include an extra “free’ magazine or two.

  13. The GLOCK 43 is an amazing compact 9mm. It’s my current EDC for my job as an Professional Bodyguard.

  14. I am sure this was a difficult article to write. I own, or have own several of the 9mm’s on your list and agree with your opinion.
    But, I’m somewhere disappointed not to see Browning HP on this list. Though it is an old design it is combat and police tested, reliable, and accurate.

  15. I HAVE BEEN TRAINING ALL MY LIFE,AND,I WILL CONTINUE TO DO THE SAME,FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE, that being said, i have been carrying since 2012, i have many different styles ,sizes and brands, you have to do your own research, shoot more then one, look for all helpful and safe options, hand size, control ,recoil are all most important, also, ease and comfort. my every day carry is a Kimber Micro9,with crimson trace laser, true, only 8 rounds but,,, i have smaller hands so, all boxes checked, i always carry an extra mag full of back-up ammo too. most important is shoot alot, make the gun feel like it is a normal part of your every day life. stay safe!

  16. I carry the Beretta Nano, every where I go. Love this gun. Big brother is a Beretta PX4 Storm in .40. Ankle holster the Beretta .32 Tomcat Stainless Steel.

  17. There are several discontinued handguns that would have been candidates for this list. As example, the STAR BKM was a NATO (Spanish Navy) approved 9mm. With both so many discontinued and new models, everyone will have their own list. The nice thing is that it possible that everyone will now be able to express why they think a specific make and model should have been included. OR – What discontinued 9mm, kike the RUGER P89, should be revised and brought back. What does everyone think???

  18. H&K’s are like Glocks, just with better triggers and greater accuracy and should be in your list.

  19. CZ-75B very high quality gun. very accurate and a kind recoil and very accurate in the right hands.
    they don’t mess with a perfect design.

  20. I am dumbfounded that there is no mention of two icons and two modern-day, “one in every house,” 9mm’s:

    Colt 1911 in 9mm
    Browning Hi-Power
    Glock 17
    Glock 19

    Does the author’s have any combat experience as an LEO and/or military veteran?

  21. Has the author really fired 1,000+ rounds through the Bond Arms Bullpup 9? I understand the inclusion of a high quality pocket pistol on this list, but can’t imagine forcing 200 boxes of ammo through a firearm that can’t be a rewarding range experience.

  22. I like the CZ p07 duty
    Mostly because I’ve owned it since it came out. Having it’s internal slide and low bore axis . I’m sure there are others, There’s always something bigger and better but I know how to use this

  23. I own a Berretta 92A1 and it serves me well. I also have 2 Kimber Micro 9s that are extremely concealable and accurate. Another accurate 9mm I have is a Canik TP9SFx. Reasonably priced and reliable.

  24. What has caused the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield to have fallen out of favor so quickly. Just a few years ago it was rated as the best out of the box especially in that price range. Now it’s not even mentioned on your list. What happened?

  25. He didn’t mention those glocks because Sig doesn’t leave any room on the list. A glock is only popular amongst amateurs.

  26. Just wondering why the H&K VP 9 or any of the Walthers didn’t make your list? I know you can’t put everyone’s favorite in but you sure loaded up on Sigs (and I love them) to the exclusion of others that seem just as deserving.

  27. I want a Glock 15 as mentioned in the first post except they never made one, the 17 was the first and lowest number in the series.

  28. I’m with Lefty. My EDC pistol is the G26 and my bedroom pistol is a G19. The G26 will take the G17 and G19 mags. Carrying the G26 and a G19 or G17 spare mags make a great combination.

  29. Repeat after me: Walther PPQ, Walther PPQ. Walther PPQ.

    The best of of the box pistol, period.

    Any questions?

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