Firearms

Choosing the Best 9mm

Sideguard inside the waistband leather holster

Choosing the best 9mm is about as personal of a decision as finding the best pizza. With dozens of manufacturers, hundreds of models, and thousands of configurations, there just isn’t really a “best,” just a “best for me.” However, that doesn’t mean all 9mm pistols are made equal. There are some that stand head and shoulders above the rest, here are three of them.

Keep in mind, these are three handguns that are good at almost anything, but they aren’t specialty pistols for anything. If you need a gun that can do most things well, these are awesome picks. But if you need a top of the line pistol to do one task, you might not want to choose any of these three.

How to Choose

The right gun will depend a lot on what you want to do with it, but it will also depend on you. Your hand size, grip strength, your body shape will all play a role in determining what pistol works best for you. Likewise, the kind of gun you like will play a huge factor in the process. DAO, DA/SA, striker-fired vs. exposed hammer, and the list goes on and on.

While these are important things to think about and play around with, I’m not going to dive into them here since to do so would requiring writing a book or more on the subject. Instead, think of this as a starting place.

And with that, lets take a look at my picks for the Best 9mm Pistol for Full-Size, Compact, and Sub-Compact.

Full Size

Glock 17 9mm pistol right profile
The Glock 17 9mm is easily the most proven striker-fired polymer-frame handgun.

Glock 17, Gen 5

Larger than compact or subcompact firearms, a full-size handgun is suitable for duty carry, open carry, self-defense, competition, and a lot more. And while you can use them as a CCW, they are often much harder to press into that role. When it comes to concealment, smaller is easier.

Glock has been a huge player in the handgun world since the Gen 1 Glock 17. Adopted by military and police around the world, Glock likely has the strongest following and by far the best aftermarket options. The best thing about Glock is the aftermarket. It’s not hard to turn an off the shelf 9mm into a customized handgun that was designed in every way for you and your needs.

At the same time, a stock Glock will still be bomb proof, reliable to the ends of days, and capable of almost any role.

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Compact

SIG Sauer P320 Subcompact
Sig Sauer P320 Sub-Compact 9mm with night sights, Nitron finish, Striker Fired DAO Trigger, and railed grip module. Comes with three 12RD magazines and kydex holster.

SIG Sauer P320

Winner of the XM17 Modular Handgun System competition and adopted for the U.S. Military, the SIG P320 is a nice gun that has earned its place.

There is that one thing though, when the P320 was released there were issues. Namely, the drop safety of the gun was not up to the standards that we expect. However, since then, the problems were fixed, the gun improved, and it is now all it claims to be.

The best part of the P320 is how modular SIG has made it. Not only is the grip size tweakable, but the caliber itself can be quickly changed using one of SIG’s X-Change Kits.

Another nice plus is that it comes with metal magazines. A guns magazines are often the main source of malfunction in the system, the P320s metal magazines are well made and more durable than many others on the market.

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Subcompact

Springfield XD-S with Crimson Trace Laserguard right
Coming standard with a 3 dot sight, including a fiber optic front sight, and extra back straps to help you size the gun perfectly for your hands.

Springfield XD(S) 3.3

Subcompact guns are generally regulated to being CC weapons or used as backup guns.

When Springfield first released the XD-S it came in .45 ACP – that was the gun that I fell in love with. But even though I love .45 ACP, it’s heavy. Sometimes life calls for a smaller and lighter gun, and the XD(S) in 9mm delivers exactly that.

Coming standard with a 3 dot sight, including a fiber optic front sight, and extra back straps to help you size the gun perfectly for your hands. It also sports a grip safety for extra peace of mind – if you’re a fan of 1911s, you’ll like this extra level of protection.

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Final Thoughts

While these are some of my favorite things, don’t feel out of place if they aren’t some of yours. Just like pizza, finding the pistol that is right for you will take some time and experimentation. With these three guns in mind though you’ll hopefully have a great starting point!

If you had to pick a full size, compact, and subcompact handgun, which three would top your list? Share your answer in the comment section.

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 (23)

  1. Have the above mentioned Glock and the XDM, like both but just like the feel of the XDM

    Have the XDs in both 9mm and 45. Both nice guns but 45 tends to be my carry because I got the 9 in a longer barrel. Sometimes carry my Kimber with night sights. Great gun, super trigger but seem to also fall back on the XDs, itÔÇÖs just easier.

  2. Apparently, you like plain cheese pizza. I prefer a thick crust 1911. Also toppings like Ruger, Colt, and Smith and Wesson. And the number one thing is my pizza must be 100% made in the USA!

  3. Full size-Smith and Wesson M&P 9. Same features as the Glock 17, but more ergonomic and better sizing for hands than the 17.

    Mid size/Compact-little brother Smith and Wesson M&P 9C (compact). About the same size as the perennial favorite Glock 19, same features as the full size.

    Sub-Compact-Kahr CM9. Less than an inch wide, very easy to hide in a smooth shooting 9mm. Long, smooth trigger is a great safety feature for a gun with little room for any other safety.

  4. Why is Ruger never mentioned? All the ones mentioned are originally based or made overseas.

    I’ve an LC9 (great small gun) and a Ruger American which IMHO are superior choices to yours.

  5. I have gone through 5 or 6 carry firearms over the years. I finally settled on a G19. I wasnt sure about the weight initially, but the purchase of a good carry belt solved that.
    Obviously, reliability is a huge factor. Additionally, I like the simplicity of the firearm. No doodads, whoozits or gizmos hanging off it. It just works.
    So, to answer the author’s starter question. G19 (which I consider full size), compact PT 111 G2 Taurus, sub… well, not sure that it falls into the sub realm, but the Kahr PM9.

  6. Full size: Sig P226 M25 Navy or Beretta M9A3. Compact: Glock 19x in FDE, Sig P365 or the Wilson Combat EDC X9. Sub Compact: Ruger LC9.

  7. My personal rankings:
    .
    Full Size: Walther PPQ
    Compact: H&K VP9SK
    Subcompact: Walther PPS

    I guess IÔÇÖm the one person on the planet that thinks Glocks are about as ergonomic as holding a shoe…

    1. No, you’re not the only one. glocks are not comfortable to me either, not as bad as a highpoint, but they both feel like a plastic brick to me…..

  8. Interesting that you’ve chosen a striker fired example for all 3 choices. Are traditional DA/SA pistols losing popularity? It seems that is the case in the article. Personally, I find the Beretta 92/M9 preferrable to the Glock, but thats my personal bias coming through I’m sure.

  9. springfield ? meh, I’ve had one in 45 acp, now have a s&w shield 45 acp. it’s not as bulky, doesn’t beat my wrist up damn near as accurate at 25 yards as my s&w pc 1911 45. springfield completely opposite on all of those accounts

  10. SIG P938

    The good:
    1911 platform, weighs 16oz. empty 6+1 or 7+1 mag, IMI Kydex holster, goes bang every time, doesn’t pull my pants down like a 2.5lb. compact 1911 45.

    The bad:
    Slippery mags with very tight springs are hard to load and wouldn’t want to have to do it in a hurry under fire.

    Conclusion:
    My current favorite EDCC w/Federal 147gr. Hydra-Shok JHP.

  11. Compact 9mm or .40 = Sig P320 X-Carry or Glock 19X

    Subcompact 9mm for CC = Sig P365 or Beretta Nano

    Full size = SOOOO many great options and too little time (and money) !

  12. If you had to pick a full size, compact, and subcompact handgun, which three would top your list?
    My answer: Glock, Glock & Glock!
    I have multiple handguns and am standardizing so they all feel and operate the same. The Glocks are also easier to disassemble for cleaning than many other pistols.

  13. Those of us cursed with magazine limitation i.e. New York won’t be disappointed with the Glock 26 or [42?]in 9mm,although I wish the rifling would allow unjacketed ammunition.That said,since I’m limited to 10 rds I’ve gone to the Glock30 45 ACP and retrofitted it with a Lone Wolf barrel[for unjacketed ammunition].My choice,if I ever get my NICS back,will be for a full size 21[or 43??] 45 ACP retrofitted with Lone Wolf barrel/24 lb springs/tritium front sight/factory 45 ACP+P 230gr or hand loaded ammo near/equaling the 460 Rowland.[1200 fps w.230gr]

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