Pocket 9mm pistols dominate the sales reports as of late. Small guns that nearly equal the size of older .380 pistols but have the power of a 9mm seem to be a nice solution for the concealed carry crowd. These guns are big enough to kill, but small enough to conceal. So which one should you settle on? Like most things, you get what you pay for. However, if you are lucky—you may get more than you bargained for.
They say that an inexpensive gun is better than no gun. I’d have to agree. While I don’t recommend compromising your safety to save a few bucks, it is a simple fact that not everyone wants to spend a ton of money on a high-end handgun. As an example, the SCCY CPX-2 is one of our top sellers this year. The CPX-2 is small, lightweight and fits snugly in your pocket. It resembles a Kel-Tec P-11 when you glance at it from a distance. The controls on the CPX-2 are better than the old CPX-1. They ditched the manual safety, and they included a slide stop. The magazine button does stick out quite a bit, but it didn’t get caught on anything during testing. Holding and maneuvering the pistol was a breeze, and it felt good in my hand. I have to be honest though, that double action trigger is long, heavy, and unpleasant. It feels like your pulling a sled across a rock pile. When firing, recoil was rough—really rough. Although I never felt like it was going to fly out of my hand, follow-up shots were not that great due to the recoil. If you shoot it enough, you will have to push the rear frame pin back in as it tends to slowly work itself out when the gun cycles. I had to do something similar with the Diamondback DB9, so this was not a big deal. Even though this is not a feature I like in a handgun, given that it is for defensive purposes, I’m not going to be cycling hundreds of rounds in the same day. That’s what my M&P is for. On the plus side, accuracy was good and it shot to point of aim. I experienced no feeding or ejecting issues in 100 rounds of ARMSCOR USA 124 grain ammunition. I did experience one misfire. After the second pull, the round fired instantly. I’m not sure if it was the firing pin or a weak primer in the ammo, although this type of ammunition typically gives few problems. For the price, I would consider this gun a decent buy. The improved ergonomics makes carrying the CPX-2 a good option if you don’t mind that trigger pull.
It seems like just yesterday the Kel-Tec P-11 went on the market as the smallest 9mm available. Truthfully, it’s been around for over 17 years. Time flies when you’re a reliable, accurate, durable 9mm that once was over a decade ahead of the buyer’s curve. I’ve owned one of these little pistols for six years and have never had any major issues with it. It is easy to conceal, shoots straight, feels comfortable, and holds 10+1 rounds or 9mm. If I had to complain about something, it would be the trigger. The darn thing is really heavy and long. I realize that a pocket pistol is supposed to have a long trigger, but that doesn’t make shooting it any easier. The trigger has a full length reset and the recoil, although sharp and heavy, is manageable. I would have to say that the P-11 is still fun to shoot, despite having a trigger pull as long as my arm. With a little practice, accuracy is excellent considering it is not a match grade gun. The magazines are all steel and it weighs 14 ounces unloaded. This is an excellent pocket gun I would recommend from personal experience.
Kahr made a name for themselves in the pocket 9mm market since their start in 1995. Justin Moon, the founder and CEO of Kahr Arms, was not happy with the quality of concealed carry guns available on the market at the time. By his junior year of college, he constructed one himself. I purchased a CM9 from Kahr a year ago and haven’t looked back. I rarely if ever have any issues with that gun and I would bet my life on it. For the past year, it has been my daily carry. It is small, lightweight, and fits nicely in my pocket. I’ve fired all kinds of ammunition through it, including +P, and haven’t had a problem. The CM9 is actually a budget-friendly version of the PM9. The CM9 is identical to its much more expensive cousin except that Kahr omitted the match grade barrel with polygonal rifling and went with a standard rifling pattern. They used a metal injection molded slide stop instead of a machined part. Instead of a roll-marked frame, Kahr chose a simple engraving to label the gun. It doesn’t look as pretty, but I don’t really care. The front sight on the CM9 is fixed, instead of dovetailed, a feature that I do wish the CM9 had. The trigger is long, but very smooth. Kahr is famous for their smooth double action triggers, and it is not hard to see why. The only issue I have with the gun is without the aftermarket 7-round magazine, the handle is noticeably short. This is great for concealment, but bad for guys with big hands. It takes a considerable amount of practice to become proficient with that grip. I’m sure I could have fixed it with a bit of custom stippling, but I can still hit my targets with confidence. The CM9’s price point puts it in the middle of the road for concealed carry pistols. If you are willing to pony up just under $400 bucks for a pocket pistol, you could do much worse than a Kahr.
A little higher up the dollar ladder sits the Colt New Agent. The trend in the past has been to upsize a .380 design to fit a 9mm cartridge. This gun is the reverse. The new agent is a concealed carry 9mm version of the legendary Colt 1911. The price point is high, but so is the performance. In the world of concealable pistols that pack a full size punch, the Colt New Agent is king. The three-inch, stainless steel bushing-less barrel along with a lowered and flared ejection port provide for excellent accuracy and outstanding reliability. Designed for a snag free draw, Colt fitted the carbon steel slide with a unique trench style sight. It takes some getting used to, but it works great with a little practice. When firing, the perceived recoil seemed more pronounced than what I am accustomed to with 1911s, but it was manageable. The colt handles +P ammo with no problems and the single action trigger is very comfortable. The rosewood grips look amazing, the familiar sight of the 1918-style safety lock, and grip safety reminds you that you are holding a 1911. If you want to carry a 1911 around, this would be a good option. Colt is a legend, and this pistol lives up to their reputation.
I have to confess. I think the Sig P239 is an ugly gun. I just don’t like the lines. Does it matter? No, of course not. Guns are tools and whether or not a gun is visually appealing scores few points in my book. In fact, the Sig P239 is an outstanding firearm, so please don’t fill my inbox with hate mail. Sig developed this gun in response to demands from law enforcement and federal agents for a compact back-up pistol ideal for off duty concealed carry. The slim profile of this single-stack pistol provides easy concealment without sacrificing handling, which makes this gun extremely comfortable in the hands. The excellent handling characteristics of the P239 are the result of engineering Sig calls performance engineering and it’s one of the keys to all SIG Sauer pistols. The grip gives you plenty of room and it feels almost like you are holding a duty pistol. It weighs in 1.57 pounds, so you know you’re carrying an all metal pistol. One feature that I have to say I didn’t expect, was the accuracy. This gun shoots straight, really straight. I was hitting record groups at 15 yards with no trouble, and the trigger had an amazing reset. I thought the tight tolerances SIG Sauer is famous for would make the gun fussy on ammunition, but the little heater ate everything I fed it, including some cheap Tul-Ammo. Even though I chuckle to myself every time I pick one up, I remind myself that given its performance, it is among the finest concealed carry pistols ever engineered.