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It seems like every week or so there’s a new 9mm pistol out there that gets touted as the end-all, be-all handgun for every person’s every need. While we haven’t yet found the one Wonder 9 to rule them all and be crowned “best 9mm pistol”, there are certainly a number of fantastic options out there.
Our #1 overall recommendation goes to the Glock 19 Gen 5, but there are several others that might be better for you depending on your specific needs. Today, we’re going to go over the top 12 best 9mm pistols, along with everything you need to know to choose the best one to meet your needs.
I’ve been carrying and shooting 9mm pistols competitively for years, and throughout this article, I’m going to give you recommendations for carry, home defense, and even some competition and target shooting-focused options.
We’ll talk about reliability and shootability for each, as well as things like warranty, customer support, upgrade potential, and more.
And to end things off, we’ll go over some frequently asked questions and things to look out for when making your selection so you can be absolutely certain you’re picking up the best gun possible for your specific criteria.
Glock 19 Gen 5 MOS
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Sig Sauer P365XL
|VIEW ON BROWNELLS →|
|VIEW ON BROWNELLS →|
Sig Sauer P320
|VIEW ON BROWNELLS →|
CZ Tactical Sport 2
|VIEW ON BROWNELLS →|
Here Are The 12 Best 9mm Handguns
1. Glock 19 Gen 5 MOS
First up, we have our top pick, the Glock 19 Gen 5 MOS.
Glocks, for better or worse, are the industry standard for modern handguns in a lot of ways. They’re reliable, no-frills guns that are simple, accurate, and reasonably priced to boot.
The Glock 19 is their compact 9mm model and is one of the most popular handguns on the planet. It sees use in civilian circles as a carry gun and is used by numerous law enforcement and special operations forces around the world as well.
The compact size gives you a full-fingered grip and a reasonably long sight radius without the overall gun being too large to conceal easily. Standard mags are 15 rounders, but you can get state-compliant 10-round mags too if that’s something you need.
You can also run the 17-round Glock 17 mags, 33-round “Big Stick” mags, or even 50-round drum mags, but good look concealing those. It is nice to know you can use them in a pinch though, especially if you already have them lying around.
Performance-wise, the trigger is markedly better on the Gen 5s than previous generations, but it’s still the same basic Glock trigger you probably know, and either love or hate.
If you’ve never fired one before, there’s a short uptake and a relatively crisp break, followed by a rather sharp and audible/tactile reset, all of which is great. It does feel a bit mushy and heavy compared to some other modern target guns, but it’s about on par for most defensive pistols.
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Of course, like all Glocks, you can customize this one to the nth degree, so swapping in a new trigger that’s maybe a little nicer takes about 20 minutes.
With the MOS, or Modular Optics System, version, you also get the option to add a small red dot to the pistol, which is becoming more and more popular on carry guns (with good reason).
Having that red dot on top of the slide makes target acquisition faster and easier in low light. They’re also great for shooters with astigmatism. The MOS-line of guns from Glock all come with slides specially cut for mounting these types of optics.
All in all, the Glock 19 is sized well for carrying, has the round capacity to make a good home defense gun, and performs more than well enough for many different pistol competitions, making it a great one-size-fits-all option.
While it may not be the best at everything, you can do everything with it, and this jack-of-all-trades design makes it our top pick.
- Overall Length: 7.28”
- Barrel Length: 4.02”
- Width: 1.34
- Weight: 1.4lbs
- MSRP: $640.99
2. Sig Sauer P365XL
Next up we have a carry gun that’s really gathered a following since its release, the Sig Sauer P365XL. The P365 changed people’s perceptions of what a micro-compact can be, and now the P365XL has changed the game for the sub-compact world.
Sig has managed to fit 12+1 rounds into a magazine not much larger than what would be a 6 or 7 round mag in other guns. That, coupled with the near full-size grip of the P365XL, plus the excellent trigger and sights, has made this a fan-favorite carry gun for many folks.
Personally, I find it to be one of the best shooting compact 9mm pistols on the market, and I’m definitely not alone in that opinion.
It’s also utterly, completely, boringly reliable. We’ve experienced no issues with any defensive ammo, and it eats cheap target ammo just fine too. Overall, if you’re looking for something that’s a little smaller than the Glock 19, but still has plenty of rounds on tap, this is a great option.
The P365XL also has a much better trigger than the G19, and much, much better sights. And you can mount an optic to it as well. The only downside is the price, but for the innovation that went into this gun, it’s certainly worth it.
Finally, this gun does come with an optional manual safety on some variants, so if you’re looking for something with a 1911 style thumb safety, this is a great option for you.
- Overall Length: 6.6”
- Barrel Length: 3.7”
- Width: 1.1”
- Capacity: 12 +1 or 10+1
- Weight: 1.2lbs
- MSRP: $$699.99
3. Glock 43x
Next, we have another Glock offering, the new G43x. The G43x combines elements of Glock’s Gen 5 lineup with their Slimline series, giving you a compact-size grip not much smaller than that of the Glock 19, but with a thinner overall profile and much shorter slide.
What this ends up giving you is a Glock that has a full-fingered grip, with a short slide and a very svelte profile. Think of it like the Glock 19’s shorter, skinnier younger sibling.
It has a 10+1 capacity, giving you an edge over the regular 43 and some of the other 6+1 capacity sub-compact 9mms out there, which we absolutely love. And it carries like a dream. This thing really disappears on your waist and feels almost like it’s not even there.
The slimline profile vastly improves comfort and concealability, making this one of the best Glock’s for deep concealment. If you’ve ever worried about your gun printing through your shirt, you can rest easy here.
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The 43x is incredibly thin and light in weight, but it still has all the same reliability and competent design that you’d expect from Glock. The new Glock Marksman Barrel is nothing to sneeze at either and is one of the most accurate pistol barrels we’ve tested.
Personally, I really enjoy the 43x and it has quickly become my go-to carry gun when I’m not carrying the P365XL or a specific gun for a review. It’s small, accurate, and absolutely disappears under even a thin t-shirt.
And it’s a Glock so…if you know Glock and you love Glock, this is a phenomenal option.
- Overall Length: 6.5”
- Barrel Length: 3.41”
- Width: 1.1”
- Capacity: 10+1
- Weight: 16.4 ounces
- MSRP: $499.99
4. Sig Sauer P320
The Sig Sauer P320 got a lot of hype on its release because of the modular frame concept, and many of us (or maybe it was just me) thought this was just that: hype.
A few years and a few healthy servings of crow later, I’m happy to admit that I was wrong about the P320. Sig has a hit on their hands here, and the modular frame/serialized fire control group concept has really turned heads in the gun world since its release.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, the Sig P320 has a serialized trigger group, basically. With most handguns, it’s the frame that has the serial number and is, therefore, legally speaking, the firearm.
Now that’s fine, but it does mean that you can’t just swap grips and take your full-size grip down to a compact.
With the P320, you can.
Since the fire control group is the gun as far as the authorities are concerned, the P320 can effectively be three or four guns depending on how you dress it up. And while the process to change things over is a bit fiddly, it only takes a few minutes to switch things up.
Cool transforming party trick aside though, it’s also just a great gun on its own merits. The trigger and sights are excellent, especially by duty gun standards, and the gun is as reliable as any Glock.
A version of it has even been picked up by the US military to replace most of our aging contingent of Beretta M9s, and thus far the Marines I know that are using them absolutely adore them. Especially compared to all the 20-year-old Berettas.
- Overall Length: 8”
- Barrel Length: 4.7”
- Width: 1.4”
- Capacity: 17+1 or 10+1
- Weight: 29.5 oz
- MSRP: $679
5. CZ Tactical Sport 2
CZ has gotten so good at making competition guns that multiple organizations have had to make rules changes to keep CZs from blowing other guns out of the water. If that’s a not ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is.
The Tactical Sport 2 is one of their latest offerings, and the gun I was most excited to try out this year.
It is an update, as you can probably guess, to the original Tactical Sport, and all of the custom parts that were floating around for the original are also available for the Tac Sport 2.
This is a hefty all-steel gun designed to absolutely smoke the competition. The trigger is one of the crispest and cleanest I’ve ever felt, and is easily the best I’ve ever felt in a sub-$2000 handgun.
Seriously, you have to feel it to understand, but the Tactical Sport 2 (and Shadow 2) triggers are the best out of any mass-production handgun, bar none.
The heavy steel frame, low bore axis, and recessed slide all work together to keep muzzle flip to a bare minimum, making this one of the softest shooting 9mms you’ll ever come across. It’s also incredibly reliable, and in almost 2000 rounds I’ve never had a single failure of any kind.
And I’ve cleaned it maybe four times.
The sights are excellent target-focused models with a flat black rear sight and red fiber optic front sight. Ergonomics are phenomenal, and the aggressive checkering on the aluminum grip panels helps you control recoil well even with wet or gloved hands.
All in all, if you’re looking for a competition gun and you have the money to spend, this is your best option without going down the custom 2011-style rabbit hole and spending $3000+.
- Overall Length: 8.86”
- Barrel Length:5.28”
- Width: 1.57
- Weight: 3.03lbs
- MSRP: $1699.99
6. Glock 17 Gen 5 MOS
Next, we have the quintessential duty gun, the Glock 17. When people think of a Glock, this is usually the one they’re thinking of because it’s used by just about every police force in the Western Hemisphere it seems like.
It’s longer and taller than the Glock 19 we chose for our #1 pick, so the G17 is a little harder to conceal. We like this one much more for an open carry or home defense gun.
The 17+1 capacity is the bonus you get for the extra grip length, and the barrel is a teeny bit longer at 4.49” which gives you a little bit more velocity.
Other than that, this is business as usual for Glock. Same trigger, same sights, and you can use all the same mags. Well, you can use all the double-stack 9mm mags that are either 17 rounders or larger.
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That gives you options for everything from the stock 17 rounders, to expanded competition mags that hold from 21-28, all the way up to the 33rd Big Stick mags and 50 round drums.
And of course, you can change out literally every single part on this to tweak your Glock to be just how you like it. Seriously, there are so many aftermarket Glock parts makers that you can actually build a complete Glock 17…without a single actual OEM Glock part anywhere.
Out of the box with this one, you get all the same Gen 5 improvements like the better trigger and the new more durable finish, as well as the MOS optics-ready slide that’s just begging for a Trijicon RMR or Vortex Venom, or whatever your favorite micro red dot is.
Rounding things out, you have a standard Glock rail upfront that can accept all sorts of lights, which we always like to recommend on a defensive gun if possible.
- Overall Length: 7.95”
- Barrel Length: 4.49”
- Width: 1.34”
- Capacity: 17+1 standard; 19+1, 24+1, 31+1, or 33+1 with extended mags
- Weight: 33.33 oz
- MSRP: $620
7. CZ 75 SP-01
Full-disclosure, the CZ 75 is my absolute favorite handgun, for both sentimental and practical reasons. Even with that disclaimer out of the way, though, the CZ 75 SP-01 is one of the greatest 9mm handguns on the planet.
There’s a reason the CZ 75 is one of the most prolific (and prolifically copied) handguns around, and the SP01 just improves on the already-established formula.
All CZ have really done here is take a classic 9mm sidearm, the CZ 75, and update it for the 21st century with improved grip geometry, checkered front and back straps, and an improved beavertail that allows you to “choke up” on the gun to a much greater degree.
The SP-01 is designed for military and police applications, and it has already found great success there, particularly among European counter-terrorism organizations and certain military forces, but it has also found a following among competition shooters.
Several shooters have won the IPSC World Championship with SP-01s, and the gun’s excellent trigger, low bore axis, and phenomenal balance mean it’s probably going to continue to be a fixture in competition around the world.
Shooting the SP-01 is a very pleasant experience, with the robust steel frame soaking up the limited felt recoil and making rapid strings of fire feel very good. If you’re looking to tear it up on the USPSA or IPSC circuit, an SP-01 is a great first choice.
It’s also perfect for open carry or home defense too. The 19+1 capacity gives you plenty of firepower on tap, and the 1913 rail lets you mount a light or laser to help with target identification in low-light situations.
The trigger is also exceedingly good, like most CZ pistol triggers, and it’s likely to have you wondering why other service pistol triggers tend to be so sloppy and gritty.
- Overall Length: 8.15”
- Barrel Length: 4.6”
- Width: 1.46”
- Capacity: 19+1
- Weight: 2.54lbs
- MSRP: $829
8. Beretta M9A4
Next, we have another update to an old standby, the Beretta M9A4. For those of you who couldn’t guess, this is an update to the M9A3, and it’s already kicking ass in the competition world and being looked at by several large municipal police departments.
Like previous M9s and Beretta 92s, it’s a DA/SA behemoth with a steel frame. I’ve heard people say that gripping the M9 feels like grabbing onto an oil barrel, and while I don’t find it that bad…I can certainly understand the sentiment with my smallish hands.
Ergonomically, the new M9A4 feels a lot better than its predecessor, with a narrower, less rounded grip and more of an undercut at the rear of the gun that allows you to choke up a bit further and get better purchase on the gun.
It has the typical low bore axis that, coupled with the heavy frame and barrel, makes this gun a pushover in the recoil department. I have always found the M9 series to be incredibly soft shooting, and I know I’m not alone in that assessment.
Finally, the M9A4 features an optics-ready slide so you can mount your red dot of choice on top and go out and compete in Carry Optics if you want.
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Overall, the M9A4 is a worthy addition to a lineup of pistols that have served the US military for almost as long as the 1911 did, and it makes for a perfect home defense or duty carry gun. It’ll also kick ass in tactical shooting sports, especially with the addition of a red dot on top.
- Overall Length: 8.7”
- Barrel Length: 5.1”
- Width: 1.5”
- Capacity: 18+1
- Weight: 2.08lbs
- MSRP: $1099
9. Canik TP9 Elite SC
Canik has made a name for themselves in recent years with a number of excellent budget-minded guns that seem to offer performance well beyond what most would expect from their low purchase price.
The TP9 Elite series is a great example, and you can find variants within that series to fit every possible pistol need, but we’ve chosen the relatively new TP9 Elite SC (sub-compact) for this list.
While all of the TP9 Elite guns are worthy of consideration, the SC offers some truly great performance out of a sub-compact gun, and as such is our number one pick for this particular roundup.
It has a very thin frame and 12+1 capacity, making it a great budget-minded competitor to the Glock 43x. It’s also got a similarly-sized barrel and overall length, making the comparisons even stronger.
It is a touch wider and heavier than the 43x, but it also has some additional features like excellent Warren Tactical sights that blow the stock sights on the 43x out of the water. The TP9 Elite series also has a visual and tactile loaded chamber indicator on the back of the slide.
This makes chamber checks in the dark a simple matter of touching a finger or thumb to the back of the slide, which is great for low light situations, or for scenarios where you’re trying to be quiet.
Finally, the trigger on the TP9 Elites just rock, and are some of the best OEM triggers you’ll find on striker-fired handguns in this price range.
Overall, it was difficult to choose which TP9 Elite to include on this list, so we went with the one we have the most time with, the TP9 Elite SC.
We’ve fired well over 1000 rounds through this one, and it’s been incredibly reliable through all of that, even more so than its larger brethren, which sometimes struggled with low-powered target 115gr target ammo.
- Overall Length: 6.71”
- Barrel Length:3.6”
- Width: 1.32”
- Weight: 1.53lbs
- MSRP: $400
10. EAA Tanfoglio Witness Polymer
Next up we have another excellent budget-focused gun, the EAA Tanfoglio Witness Polymer. It was a tossup between the polymer and steel versions, so we went with the slightly lighter and more affordable one.
Just keep in mind that most of this applies to the other version too, so you have some options available if the fantastic plastic isn’t your thing.
The Witness is a full-size DA/SA pistol with a manual thumb safety. Ergonomically, it feels fairly close to a Beretta M9/92fs, which makes sense because, like Beretta, Tanfoglio is an Italian company (EAA is the importer for US sales).
The big upside here, besides the fact that you can sometimes get these for just $350, is the extremely low bore axis with a slide that rides inside the frame (again, someone was peaking at Beretta’s work with the 92 here, but we’re not complaining).
That low bore axis coupled with the better-than-average trigger and sights makes the Witness a really nice option for carry, competition, or home defense. We’re back in that Glock 19ish territory where we have a gun that really can do it all.
And that price isn’t anything to sneeze out either. Don’t confuse cheap with cheaply made, however. Tanfoglio is part of a long lineage of high-quality Italian gun makers, and they’ve done nothing so far to dishonor the big names that came before them.
- Overall Length:8.1”
- Barrel Length:4.5”
- Width: 1.4”
- Weight: 1.8lbs
- MSRP: $660.40
11. IWI Masada 9mm
Lastly, we have a relatively new gun from a relatively unknown manufacturer (at least here in the US): the Israeli Weapon Industries Masada.
You may know IWI from the Tavor, the bullpup assault rifle you may have seen in movies and video games, and the civilian version of which you may have seen on shelves at your local gun store.
Their foray into the duty/carry gun world is the IWI Masada, a polymer-framed, striker-fired pistol designed to meet the sidearm needs of Western militaries, particularly the Israeli Defence Forces.
It uses a low-profile barrel that keeps the bore axis as low as possible, which in turn keeps the muzzle flip down. This makes the Masada a great gun for rapid-fire shooting, particularly in a defensive situation.
That said, we’re starting to see these in competition contexts too and there are many folks using them to great effect there. The slide is also optics ready, and there are already mounting plates available for the most popular pistol red dots.
Shooting the Masada is actually very pleasant and the lowered bore axis is immediately apparent, especially compared to something like an HK or Sig. You really don’t feel the muzzle flip nearly as much, and most of the recoil is directed straight backward.
For competitors and tactical shooters alike, this is a great thing as it allows you to regain your sight picture much faster from shot to shot, making rapid and accurate follow-up shots a cinch.
If you’re looking for something that can do double duty as a home-defense or duty gun, while still being able to compete in something like Carry Optics, this is the gun for you.
- Overall Length:7.4”
- Barrel Length:4.1”
- Width: 1.3”
- Capacity: 17+1 or 10+1
- Weight: 1.43lbs
- MSRP: $480.00
Why Use a 9mm Handgun?
At this point, the better question is why wouldn’t you use a 9mm handgun?
Seriously, there’s a reason nearly every police force, government law enforcement agency, and military branch in the country (and in the rest of the Western world) uses a 9mm sidearm of some kind. Well, several reasons actually. Let’s go over some of the main selling points.
A 9mm handgun is going to be easier to shoot than a similarly sized and weighted .45 ACP or .40 S&W handgun. That’s just simple physics. A 9mm cartridge is smaller, with a lower power powder charge and a lighter bullet.
That translates into noticeably less recoil, which makes follow-up shots faster and more consistent.
Now, can you train to the point where that extra recoil doesn’t matter? Absolutely. But if you aren’t going to the range every day, and you want something that you’re most likely to be able to put rounds on target with while still having enough power, 9mm is right in the sweet spot.
A 9mm pistol is basically always going to have a higher capacity than a similarly-sized .45 or .40 caliber pistol. Again, physics wins here and the smaller 9mm just takes up less space than its beefier cousins.
Having more bullets on tap lets you deal with more problems. We figured that out all the way back in the Civil War when the Henry rifle and other repeating firearms came into common use, and it has been a guiding principle of weapon design ever since.
Today, if you’re in a situation where you have to deal with multiple targets, either on the field of competition or in a defensive situation, you’ll be glad of the extra firepower. With a 9mm, you’ll typically get 30-40% more than with the common larger calibers.
Smaller Size & Weight
Again, physics is guiding our decisions a bit here, but a 9mm handgun can be smaller and lighter than a .45 or .40-caliber gun of similar capacity. That makes it easier and more convenient to carry and conceal.
Credit where it’s due, heavier guns have less recoil which is always a plus and is a big reason why a lot of people prefer the slow push of .45 ACP recoil to the sharper-feeling snap of 9mm recoil.
That said, if we’re talking about competition guns that’ll only be on your hip for as long as it takes you to run a stage, weight isn’t an issue and we can go with something with a metal frame to soak up some of that 9mm snap.
When we’re thinking about carrying and concealment, it’s a different story. I don’t care how big and tough you are, carrying a bigger, heavier gun is less comfortable and convenient than something smaller and lighter.
Having a gun that’s easier to carry means you’re more likely to have it on you when you need it, and you have to do less to dress around it. This added convenience is a big part of why you see so many sub-compact 9mm carry guns.
In a situation where you need to stop a threat, accurate shot placement is going to do more for you than a slightly bigger hole in said threat. For that reason, and because most people find 9mm easier to shoot than larger calibers, 9mm typically gets the nod when it comes to defensive cartridges.
The fact that you have more rounds available, and therefore more opportunities to put one where it needs to go to stop a threat is just icing on the cake.
So why aren’t we all carrying .22 LR handguns that hold 30 rounds and have about as much recoil as a pellet gun? After all, a .22 LR and a .50 BMG are equally disruptive to the ole brain stem at the end of the day, right?
Well yes, but when faced with a life or death situation, your accuracy is going to suck.
Even trained professional shooters in the police and military see a sharp degradation in accuracy between the range and a real-world situation where bullets are being fired back.
For that reason, we want the rounds that do hit where we want them to have the greatest possible chance of stopping the fight. A 9mm is going to have a better chance at that than a smaller round like .380 ACP, or the aforementioned .22LR, which isn’t much more than an airsoft round.
Finally, a 9mm handgun is going to be cheaper to buy and cheaper to feed than a .40 S&W or .45 ACP, dramatically so in some cases.
It’s been the NATO standard handgun cartridge since 1962, so plenty of ammo manufacturers make it, and you can buy it in just about every country on the planet (assuming such ammo sales are legal).
This availability gives you a good selection of rounds to choose from, and keeps the overall price fairly low, especially compared to some of the other options.
The fact that most 9mm handguns simply use less material in their construction than other larger calibers makes the cost of the gun itself cheaper too, which is never a bad thing.
9mm: The Goldilocks Round
At the end of the day, 9mm offers a perfect balance of shootability and stopping power, in a relatively affordable, small, and lightweight package. At least for most people.
Some folks may want something a little larger, some might want something a little smaller, but for most people, 9mm is right in that sweet spot and is the most effective option. There’s a reason it’s the most popular handgun cartridge on the planet, after all.
Types of 9mm Pistols
When classifying 9mm pistols, you can either sort things into categories based on size or based on your intended use.
For our purposes, we’re going to focus on intended use, but we’ll touch on sizing issues a bit as we go as well.
9mm Pistols for Carry
At the end of the day, you can carry any 9mm pistol, but some 9mms are much easier to carry (and especially conceal) than others.
Most people are going to be carrying concealed, which means smaller guns are king here. The only thing to keep in mind is that you’re going to have a harder time shooting something super small.
That said, for most folks the convenience of something small and compact is worth the tradeoff of having a gun that’s a little bit more difficult to shoot. For this reason, most carry guns these days tend to be compact or sub-compact.
Again, you can conceal a CZ-75 or a Glock 34 and if you want to do that, go for it. That said, a smaller and lighter gun is going to be more convenient. We generally don’t recommend anything much larger than a Glock 19 for concealed carry.
Any 9mm that’s designed around carry is going to be as small and thin as possible to make concealing it as easy as possible.
Beyond concealment concerns, carry guns are geared towards defense. This means they typically won’t have a manual safety, and they’ll have a fairly heavy trigger compared to something like a competition gun.
We typically recommend polymer-framed, striker-fired guns for carry as they’re both lightweight and reliable, and don’t have typically have a manual safety that you might struggle with during a high-adrenaline defensive situation.
9mm Pistols For Home Defense
For home defense, full-size guns are generally preferred. These guns will also work great for open carry and are generally going to be the easiest to shoot thanks to their higher weight, longer sight radius, and full-sized grip.
These guns are going to have a larger capacity as well and will be able to accept a light most of the time.
That light can be a lifesaver if something goes bump in the night and you decide you need to bump back.
In addition to identifying your target and making sure you’re not about to put a hole where it doesn’t need to go, a light can blind and disorient an attacker as well, making it harder for them to shoot back.
Of course, just like you can carry a full-sized handgun, you can certainly defend hearth and home with a sub-compact carry gun too. If you don’t have the budget for both, we recommend going with something that’s primarily a carry gun first and foremost.
If you can swing both, then the larger gun with the larger capacity certainly isn’t a bad thing.
9mm Pistols For Competition
Lastly, we come to competition guns. These are typically full-size, and sometimes even have an extended slide to make rapid strings of fire more manageable.
As pistol competitions have grown in popularity, more and more manufacturers are turning out competition-ready guns that have improved triggers, fiber-optic or tritium sights, and even flared mag wells to help with reloading.
These days, you don’t even have to pay a four-digit price to get your hands on one of these guns. Some excellent competition-ready guns can be found for around $500-$700, and some of the best examples around can be had for just a little over a grand.
These guns will have some of the lightest triggers around, which makes them a less-than-ideal choice for home defense, and they’re typically big and heavy by design, which makes them a terrible option for carrying unless you’re open carrying and aren’t worried by the extra weight.
For someone looking to shoot targets, and to do so quickly and accurately, a purpose-built competition gun is the way to go. This will give you the best trigger, barrel, and sights out of the box so you don’t have to tweak much.
What Should You Look For In a 9mm Handgun?
Your specific needs for a 9mm handgun are always going to be the most important thing to consider. Are you looking for a concealed carry gun? What about a target or competition gun? Maybe something for home defense?
These questions should guide your selection, and while you can certainly use a 6-round sub-compact for competition, or an 18 round full-size gun for concealed carry, there are generally better options.
Let’s take a look at some things to keep in mind for each different class of 9mm handgun.
Choosing a 9mm Concealed Carry Pistol
When you’re choosing a concealed carry pistol, the first thing you want to look for is reliability. That is one of our biggest criteria for the guns on this list, and it should be your number one priority when it comes to choosing something you may have to defend your life with.
Whatever you choose, make sure it’ll go bang when you need it to.
Next, you’re probably going to want to think about size, but you have to be careful. The first instinct for a lot of people is to just go for something as small and concealable as possible, which can be a bit of a trap.
What you want to do is get something that’s small enough to conceal well, but large enough that you can still shoot it well too. Sub-compacts are great, but they can be difficult to shoot accurately, especially at distance.
That said, sub-compacts are more likely to stay on your belt, and not be left in the car or in a bag somewhere because they’re too heavy or bulky.
The gun you have is always a thousand times better than the gun you locked in the glove box because it was digging into your side and you figured you wouldn’t need it.
Also, you should try to get something with a good trigger, and if at all possible try it out before you buy to make sure you can shoot it accurately enough that you feel comfortable with it. Plenty of carry guns these days have good triggers, but some of them still suck so be choosy here.
Some good examples would be the SIG P365, the Glock 43 and 43x, the Glock 19, and an honorable mention that just barely didn’t make the cut for this list, the Springfield Hellcat.
Choosing a 9mm Home Defense Pistol
If you’re looking for a home defense pistol, we still want to focus on reliability first and foremost, but we no longer have to worry about concealability.
Instead, we want to focus on shooting performance, and maybe think about what kind of optional extras we can add too.
Assuming you’ve got the reliability aspect covered, you’re going to want something full-size, and with a solid capacity. Look for things that are described as “duty pistols” and you’ll be in the right ballpark.
You should also get something you can mount a light to. Being able to clearly identify your target is absolutely vital in a home defense situation, especially in a situation where you might have loved ones around too.
Some solid examples include the Glock 17, the Glock 34, the CZ 75 and SP01, the SAR9 the Tanfoglio Witness, the Beretta M9A4, and the IWI Masada.
For some honorable mentions that don’t appear, the SIG P320 (and its variants), the S&W M&P 2.0 series, and the Ruger SR9 are all great options as well.
Choosing a 9mm Competition Pistol
Finally, when it comes to choosing a 9mm competition pistol, you’ll need to consult with the organizing body of your competition. Now, if you’re just looking for a target gun for fun, or to try and show your buddies up at the range, then you don’t have anything to worry about.
For something like USPSA, IDPA, or 3-Gun, you’ll need to figure out what class you’re going to be shooting and what exactly is legal. Some leagues will have approved gun lists, while others will just have feature restrictions to keep in mind.
Beyond that, you want something that has a very good trigger, as that and your own skill will be the two biggest factors influencing your accuracy.
Your trigger should be relatively light, much lighter than you’d want on a carry gun, and smooth. You don’t want any stacking or sticking to pull your shot. You’ll also want something with a fairly long sight radius, which makes shooting accurately much easier.
And if the gun comes out of the box with target sights, so much the better.
We really like the addition of red-dot-ready slides on many guns these days, so if you’re looking to shoot something like the Carry Optics division of USPSA, be on the lookout for something that says “Optics Ready”.
Lastly, you’ll want something with a fairly high capacity, something in the neighborhood of 18 rounds or so, and something you can get fairly cheap extra mags for. Most pistol sports are going to require a few extra mags, and you’re probably going to step on some of them at some point.
Some good examples of competition guns include the CZ Tactical Sport 2, the Beretta 92x, the CZ Shadow 2, the Glock 34, and the Canik TP9 Elite SC
There are a ton of great 9mm pistols out there, many of which we didn’t even touch on because they didn’t quite make the cut to be included as one of the very best.
That said, if you’re looking for a 9mm pistol that absolutely won’t let you down, and will do everything you need it to, then the Gen 5 Glock 19 MOS is a safe bet.
It’s reliable, accurate, and it’ll keep going forever which makes it one of the best values in firearms. It is also sized well for carrying concealed, home defense, or even certain competitions, and is one of the most “one-size fits all” handguns around, so chances are it’ll fit your hands just fine.
Sure, there might be other 9mm guns out there that do this or that better, there is no going wrong with a compact Glock in the most popular handgun caliber on the planet.
That said, any of the other options on this list will also do you right, and may make a better choice depending on exactly what you’re looking for. At the end of the day, choosing a handgun is a very personal choice.
Hopefully now, armed with all the information here, you can make that choice an informed one. You should now know everything you need to know about choosing a 9mm pistol. Just be sure to evaluate what you really and truly need, and you won’t go wrong with any choice from this list.