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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What do you consider to be the best 9mm pistols? Let us know in the comments below!
About the Author:
Bob CampbellBob 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.
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Best 9mm Pistols: The Top 10 Semi-Automatic Handguns
The 9x19mm is the most popular handgun cartridge in the world. Just about every major gun manufacturer produces various types of 9mm handguns making it tough to pick the best 9mm handgun for your personal use.
Many popular 9mms are selected out of personal preference which makes some of the choices somewhat subjective. But at the end of the day, best sellers are best sellers for a reason. Speaking of best sellers, check out the best selling 9mm sights.
Our guide below will help you navigate through the minefield of garbage out there on the web, but first – let’s look at a little history and also check out our top 3 picks. You might also be interested in our top picks for 9mm carbines.
OUR TOP THREE PICKS
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A brief history of the 9x19mm Parabellum (Luger):
The 9x19mm Parabellum was introduced in Germany by George Luger in 1902 to use in their own firearm, the “Luger” which is where the 9mm luger gets its name.
The 9mm Parabellum gained a considerable amount of popularity during World War I and World War II. It’s now the standard handgun cartridge of all NATO forces. Many members of law enforcement put their trust in the 9mm cartridge every day when their life is on the line, which means that this cartridge should be good enough for just about anyone.
The 9mm has been credited with increasing Semi-Automatic pistol sales to overtake revolvers and has become the world’s most common cartridge used for pistols. This makes the 9mm an excellent choice for any type of survival scenario as the ammunition will be plentiful.
The Top 10 Best 9mm Semi-Automatic Pistols
Below is a breakdown of our Top 10 favorite 9mm pistols. While the Glock and the CZ are two of the most popular 9mm handguns, there are now many different options on the market that have become popular over recent years.
Let’s jump in.
1. Glock 19
The Glock 19 was not the first pistol Glock produced, but it has gone on to become the most popular model in their lineup and is arguably the best Glock 9mm handgun. It’s one of the most versatile models that functions perfectly as a concealed carry and a home defense handgun. While it’s no pocket pistol, the Glock 19 is a compact pistol with a 4.01-inch barrel and a total length of 7.36 inches.
The 9mm semi-automaticGlock 19 features a polymer frame that reduces the weight significantly. Which gives you a loaded weight of 30.18 ounces.
The Glock 19 holds a total of 15 9mm rounds but can accept 17 and 33 round Glock magazines as well. The Glock 19 has an integrated Picatinny rail for the attachment of flashlights, lasers, and other Glock 19accessories.
The Glock 19 has been widely adopted by police and military forces across the world because of its reliability and simplicity. The Glock 19 is capable of operation in a wide variety of different environments, and has succeeded across the world.
The Glock 19 is a striker-fired weapon that doesn’t feature an external hammer of any kind. This provides a consistent and crisp 5.5-pound trigger pull. The Glock 19’s popularity has guaranteed that accessories and upgrades for it are abundant.
The recoil is minimal and quite comfortable. The newest 4th generation models come with interchangeable backstraps that allow the user to tailor the grip to their hand sizes. The grip fills your hand very nicely and is quite comfortable.
There is no manual safety on Glock pistols, but the firearm does have three separate safeties. This includes the most important trigger safety mechanism. This gives the user a simple and intuitive system that allows you to put rounds on target rapidly.
The Glock 19 is a well-made, accurate, and extremely reliable pistol that can fill a lot of different roles.
2. Browning Hi Power
The Browning Hi Power makes its way onto the list by being way ahead of its time. Used by more than 90 countries worldwide the Hi Power was one of the first wonder nines. Wonder nines being a term applied to 9mm handguns with a high magazine capacity.
The Browning Hi Power was developed in the 1920s, it was a John Browning Project originally, but he passed before it was finished. FN did move forward to complete one of the most iconic handguns in the world. More than once it was on both sides of a foreign war.
The Hi Power is still a very popular firearm. The single-action-only trigger is a throwback to the classic 1911 design. It’s light, smooth, and breaks evenly. The reset is very short as well as tactile and audible.
The steel frame is an excellent example of why steel frames are still viable. It’s strong, but light, and makes the weapon thinner overall. The comfort in the hand is top-notch and by far one of the most ergonomic designs.
The Hi Power served as an inspiration for the CZ 75, another best 9mm handgun on this list. The Hi Power has inspired dozens of different features on modern handguns and that is why it is on this best 9mm handgun list.
3. CZ 75B
The CZ 75 is one of the most interesting designs to come out of the Czech Republic. Many European firearm engineers have designed firearms that functioned with little regard to aesthetics, or personality. The CZ 75 is often considered the best CZ pistol because it combines function with form to make an effective and eye-pleasing firearm.
What sets the CZ 75 apart from the competition is the fact the slide rails are inside the frame. This positions the bore much lower than an average handgun. This reduces muzzle flip and makes rapid-fire easier to control and more accurate.
The CZ 75 is a name attached to a large family of pistols produced by CZ. Like the CZ SP01, this CZ 9mm handgun is still a CZ 75, but it features a rail. You are well served by any design based on the legendary CZ 75.
The modern CZ 75 is a favorite pistol across Europe for police and military forces. The weapons are also a favorite among competition shooters around the world. The CZ 75 is a very smooth shooting pistol with very little recoil.
The CZ 75 features an all-metal frame that while heavier, does absorb recoil more so than polymer frames. The weapon is hammer-fired and can be fired in a double or single action. The weapon can feature either a safety or a decocker depending on your personal choice.
One of the best features of the CZ 75 is its amazing ergonomics. It feels very natural in the hand, and the slim grip conceals a magazine capable of holding 16 rounds of 9mm. The smooth trigger pull gives you a predictable and crisp break, especially in a single action. Its ability to holster easily also rivals the CZ’s cousin – the 1911 with ease of carrying both IWB and OWB.
But for those of you who like “options,” the CZ 75 sells a conversion kit that transforms the pistol and allows it to shoot .22LR ammunition, making this an extremely versatile handgun. One of the contributors on the GunBacker.com staff has three different CZ 75’s that he swears by on a daily basis.
The weapon is an excellent choice for home defense and competition. It is a bit large and heavy for concealed carry. The design lends itself well to speed shooting and heavy use. The CZ 75 is a classic design that harkens back to the days of muscle cars and steel handguns.
4. S&W Shield
The S&W Shield is an extension of the S&W Military and Police line. The Shield is unique because it is a single-stack firearm designed for concealed carry. The use of a single-stack magazine makes the weapon easier to conceal carry by being lighter and thinner.
Size-wise the S&W Shield is small and lightweight and allows for extremely comfortable concealed carry. The short 3.1-inch barrel gives you a solid barrel length and good sight radius for a compact pistol. The overall length is only 6.1 inches and it weighs a mere 20.8 ounces.
Even though it’s a small pistol you have the ability to carry 8 rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber. This gives you enough capacity to deal with 99% of violent situations you may encounter as a concealed carrier.
With the M&P Shield, you have the option to have safety or no safety. This option does give the users who prefer manual safety an option for a modern concealed carry pistol. The M&P Shield uses both a stainless steel barrel and slide material to resist rust, and ensure durability over thousands of ammunitionrounds.
The M&P Shield is an easy shooting handgun. Especially when you consider its small size and thin grip. The comfortable recoil makes follow-up shots very easy. This means accurate double taps are a breeze to make.
The large three-dot sights make getting on target an accurate and quick experience. These three dot sights are the same kind you’d find on a full-sized pistol. The bigger the sights the easier it is to get on target and engage accurately.
The M&P Shield is lightweight, easy handling, and comfortable to carry a handgun that has proved its place among the best-concealed carry handguns.
5. Springfield XD(M) Competition Series
The Springfield XD series is one of the most versatile lines of handguns on the market. The XD(M) line specifically offers a variety of features that makes it one of the best 9mm handguns. The Springfield XD(M) series comes in a variety of different sizes and specifically the 5.25-inch barrel Competition model is certainly in the Top Ten 9mms.
The 5.25-inch barrel gives you an excellent sight radius that helps make the weapon easier to shoot, especially at longer ranges. The XD(M) competition model features a set of adjustable rear sights and an orange fiber optic front sight that is bright and easy to see. This bright front sight is incredibly easy to see in both day and low light situations.
Right behind the front sight, you’ll notice a section of the slide has been removed. This is known as a lightning cut, and it reduces the weight of the weapon, and the weight of the slide. This reduced weight slide allows the weapon to cycle faster and reduce felt recoil from a lighter reciprocating slide.
This makes shooting the weapon very comfortable for extended periods of time. Even if you aren’t looking to jump into the competition world the XD(M) is an excellent choice for self-defense and home defense. The weapon holds 19 rounds of 9mm in its flush fit magazine.
The Springfield XD(M) Competition is a striker fired weapon with a solid trigger pull. The reset is quite noticeable and you both hear and feel the trigger reset. Out of the box, you’ll notice outstanding accuracy, which is a big product of that match grade 5.25-inch barrel.
The XD(M) is an amazing weapon, and for a full-sized polymer frame firearm, it is hard to beat.
6. Sig P226
The Sig P226 is a legendary 9mm handgun. After barely losing to the Beretta M9 to become the United States Military’s sidearm of choice it bounced back as the choice of the elite Navy SEALs. The Sig P226 is an all-metal frame, double or single-action semi-automatic handgun.
The SIG P226’s all-steel construction makes recoil an absolute non-issue. The SIG P226 soaks it up like a champ and allows you to rapidly fire the weapon accurately. The SEALs recognized the potential for this weapon when they adopted it.
Modern Sig P226’s come equipped with a Picatinny rail to attach accessories, and some are now even coming from the factory with red dot sights installed. Sig has continued to update the P226 over the years and keep it relevant for the tactical user.
The Sig P226 does not rely on a manual safety but relies on the long initial double-action trigger to prevent accidental discharges. The Sig does have a prominent decocker that allows you to lower the hammer safely and instantly and set the gun into double action.
The weapons feel amazing in the hand, and both the double-action and single-action triggers are smooth and predictable. The single-action is remarkably crisp and delivers a short, and tactile reset. Reliability is off the charts and the weapon is well known to work around the world regardless of the harshness around it.
The weapon is very accurate and the excellent trigger contributes to the user’s ability to hit the target. Most models come with Sig’s excellent Sig Lite night sights which are combat-oriented and effective regardless of the light level. The weapon can handle anywhere from 15 to 20 round magazines to give the appropriate amount of firepower when needed.
The Sig P226 is an outstanding combat handgun and will continue to serve far and wide. From the frontlines to the guarding the front door the Sig P226 has you covered.
7. Walther P99 AS
Walther is most famously known for providing James Bond’s sidearm throughout the film and much of the book series. The Walther P99 served in several films with Bond and the company. Outside of the Bond films, the Walther P99 is easily one of the top 10 9mm handguns.
The Walther P99 is a striker-fired handgun with unique action. Instead of a partially cocked striker, the Walther P99 uses a double and single-action design. This is common with hammer-fired weapons, but certainly unique with striker-fired guns.
This is one of the few striker-fired handguns that would allow the user to restrike if the round doesn’t ignite immediately.
The Walther P99 also has what is done as the anti-stress, or AS, trigger. The Anti-stress trigger creates what is effectively a single action, two-stage trigger. This allows you to carry the weapon in single action while reducing negligent discharges due to stress.
The weapon can also simply be carried in double-action mode. Once the first shot is fired the trigger will be a single action for all follow-ups. The single-action trigger is by far one of the most sensitive, and lightest stock triggers I’ve ever felt.
On top of the light and crisp single-action trigger, you get a rock-solid double action that is light, slightly long, but very consistent. The reset is about 1/8th of an inch. It seems as soon as you let go of the trigger it’s reset and ready to go.
The Walther P99 AS uses a polymer frame that reduces weight and makes the weapon comfortable to carry. The P99 also features a de-cocker button on the top of the slide that is large and easy to use. The weapon’s magazine release is ambidextrous and is not the traditional push button.
Instead, it is a lever placed on the trigger guard that is accessible by the thumb or trigger finger of the firing hand. It takes some training to do effectively, but once mastered can be quite fast and handy. The Walther P99 AS is an interesting and unique design that gives users a modern 007 handgun.
8. Beretta 92FS
The Beretta model 92 has long been Beretta’s flagship handgun. It beat out the SIG P226 to become the United States military’s general issue handgun and has served since 1985. In that time, the 9mm Beretta semi automatic handgun traveled around the world and served in severe and horrid conditions, but has always functioned.
The Beretta 92FS is the most common model of the Beretta 92, but several variations do exist. Outside of the military, the Beretta has served with numerous police forces not only in the United States but around the world.
The Beretta 92 is a heavy-duty all-metal handgun that soaks up the recoil of a 9mm cartridge without issue. It’s an excellent handgun for beginners because the recoil is utterly low, even with +p ammunition this gun is a kitten. The design of the Beretta 92 is unique with the open slide design which the weight of the reciprocating slide.
This reduced slide weight also helps with recoil and muzzle rise, making both slightly softer. The Beretta holds between 15 to 17 rounds with flush fit magazines depending on the magazine manufacturer you choose, and Beretta even makes factory 32 round magazines that function flawlessly.
Beretta produces a wide variety of different finishes for their firearm, including a beautiful Inox variant, and features a hardened bluing as standard. The Beretta M9, a military variant of the 92, features a finish designed to deal with humid jungles, arid deserts, and salty oceans. The M9 finish will basically stand up to anything short of a cutting torch.
The Beretta 92 is one of the most reliable handguns on the market today. It averaged 17.500 rounds between stoppages during military testing. Most people on average will not fire 17,500 rounds through a single handgun.
9. Heckler and Koch VP9
The Heckler and Koch, or HK, VP9 is a 9mm handgun that’s more on the bargain side of the HK lineup. The first thing you notice is its sleek lines and graceful appearance. You’ll also notice the ridiculously ergonomic handle that feels great.
There’s a slight bulge on the handle, which is designed to squeeze inward, which cocks and readies the weapon to fire. The weapon cannot fire without this portion being squeezed into the grip. This results in a safe, ready to carry and ready-to-fire single-action handgun.
The trigger is light, crisp and short, and making shooting accurately an absolute breeze. Accuracy wise the VP9’s barrel has polygonal rifling and a fixed cold hammer-forged barrel. Saying this thing is accurate is an understatement, to say the least. It’s easily one of the most accurate firearms you can buy, making it a great pistol for anyone just starting out.
The VP9 also features a unique gas retardation system that significantly reduces the felt recoil when firing the gun – harkening back to the original HK that made HK famous – the P7. This also makes shooting with a fixed barrel more comfortable. Overall it’s a handgun that’s tough to go wrong with and scores well with many fans – almost as much as the legendary P7.
10. Ruger SR9
The Ruger SR9 is a relative newcomer to the 9mm semi-auto market. It’s made of a lightweight, polymer frame that is an excellent option for concealed carry. It’s well balanced, comfortable, and easy to shoot which is why many consider it the best Ruger pistol.
The Ruger SR9 has a remarkably smooth trigger pull that has yet to be rivaled by many of the competitors that have been around for a while. It has two safeties, a manual safety and a trigger safety. Both have to be disengaged to fire, making this an excellent and simple choice for conceal carrying. Concealed carry and simplicity walk hand in hand together.
The SR9 was Ruger’s answer to the last several generations of shooters that have become more accustomed to shooting Glocks and other 9mm polymer pistols. The cost point of usually around $400-$500 makes this a pretty solid bargain, especially among new shooters that may be just starting out.
Ruger manufactures in their Prescott Arizona facility, making this Ruger 9mm a great firearm for those individuals that want to stay true to the American brand and buy something American made.
With the vast amount of 9mm handguns on the market, it’s hard to make a list of the top ten best 9mm pistols today. We got the classics that tend to make everyone’s list, but we also have new handguns that are being introduced each and every day. These two extra guns come from a company that seems to be dominating the 9mm market lately and deserves special consideration on everyone’s best 9mm list.
It does seem like, in the past few years, Sig has been dominating the 9mm market, and the Sig P365 is one of their latest entries into that space. This is a compact 9mm that is double-stack and meant for concealed carry. Where it innovates is in relative size and capacity. Up until a few years ago, if you wanted a gun this small that held 10 rounds, you’d be looking at a .380.
Here’s our dedicated review of the Sig Sauer p365.
Sig spent some time getting this one right, and they certainly have. The trigger on the 365 is excellent, making it a much better shooter than many in this size category. For anyone who has been on team Glock for some time, this is one to check out.
For this article, we picked the SAS model in particular. It has a 3.2” barrel and gutter-style sights so that it can be drawn without snagging. With that said, it comes in a few barrel length and slide configurations, so you can almost certainly find one you like.
If we were recommending a new concealed carry gun to you today, this one would make it on our top five list of guns you should try out before making a purchase decision.
Okay, we know this is a 9mm gun list. But we have to say that we love 1911s. A lot of us have used them for years, and the smooth action, easy disassembly, and manual safety make it the concealed carry choice for lots of people. But, this is a 9mm list, so recommending a full government size Colt in .45 would be out of place.
Instead, we’re recommending the Sig P938. Sig’s series of mini 1911’s are well-made guns in both .380, or in this case, 9mm that function just like their bigger counterparts, but in a more manageable caliber out of this size of the gun.
The all-metal frame makes these heavy for their size, which we like in something with a barrel this short to manage some of the recoil. Similarly, the 9mm model can be found with a threaded barrel, if, like us, you want to try running one with subsonic ammo.
These are quality 9mms that, even though they’re a little niche in light of some newer offerings, are fantastic shooting, quality handguns that you would do well to consider for concealed carry.
Best 9mm: Parting Shots…
9mm, it just works. More and more people are going back to the classic 9mm cartridge. Defensive ammunition is bridging the gap between 9mm and other larger calibers, and even government agencies are going back to the 9mm cartridge. For more details, you can read 9mm vs the .380 ACP and 9mm compares with the .40.
The 9mm round is nothing new and has been around for decades. However, it seems like what’s old is new again and the 9mm cartridge may very well be the round of the future.
Best 9mm Pistols in 2021 (For Concealed Carry, Home-Defense, and More)
We've covered many of the benefits of the 9mm caliber in more detail in other guides on this website, but I'll touch on its benefits and history as quickly as I can.
History and Performance
As I covered in our comparison of the most popular pistol calibers, many consider 9mm to be the minimally powered round for self-defense purposes. Today, all branches of the U.S. Military, 60% of the United States police force, and the majority of civilians rely on 9mm semi-automatic pistols as their concealed carry or duty carry handgun.
However, this wasn't always the case.
From 1911 to 1985, the Army's pistol of choice was the M1911/M1911A1, famously chambered in the larger .45 ACP (or .45 Auto).
Until the late 1980s, many police forces and the FBI issued .38 Special and .357 Magnum revolvers. The FBI then switched to .40 S&W, another larger cartridge.
So what led to the adoption of 9mm pistols?
The Army's Switch to 9mm
As far as the Army's adoption of the 9mm is concerned, the switch was a part of efforts to standardize the sidearms of all branches of the United States military, called the Joint Service Small Arms Program (JSSAP). When we refer to 9mm, we're specifically referring to 9x19 Parabellum, also known as 9mm NATO (and 9mm Luger). As the "9mm NATO" name suggests, this is the standard cartridge for NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) countries today and was before the U.S. Military's adoption of the round.
9mm vs .45 ACP Size Comparison
It's important to remember at this time the Cold War was ongoing, making it seem likely that NATO forces may be waging war with the Soviets at a moments notice. Thus the benefits of arming troops with the same caliber as our allies was recognized.
Other realized benefits of 9mm NATO came down to its size. As the picture above and to the right clearly show, 9mm cartridges are substantially smaller than .45 ACP and other common handgun calibers.
This allowed troops to carry more 9mm ammunition than larger calibers at the same size and weight. It also allows 9mm pistols to hold more rounds than similarly sized .45 ACP pistols, which we covered as one of its biggest benefits in our 9mm vs .45 ACP guide.
After multiple long rounds of testing, the U.S. Military landed on the Beretta 92FBS as their sidearm. Recently, in 2017, the U.S. Army announced a new sidearm choice, a modified version of the SIG Sauer P320.
SIG Sauer P320
The FBI's Switch to 9mm
While the U.S. Military was a relatively early adopter of 9mm, the FBI and local police held out longer.
They did however come to realize the benefits of semi-automatic pistols (particularly increased capacity) following the 1986 FBI Miami Shootout, in which two FBI agents were killed and five were wounded. Following this event, the FBI eventually landed on issuing Glock .40 S&W pistols, though they did use SIG Sauer's P226 in 9mm in the interim.
In 2015, the FBI fully embraced 9mm, issuing new Gen 5 Glock Pistols. The FBI stated:
“The Ballistic Research Facility has conducted a test which compares similar sized Glock pistols in both .40 S&W and 9mm calibers, to determine if more accurate and faster hits are achievable with one versus the other. To date, the majority of the study participants have shot more quickly and more accurately with 9mm caliber Glock pistols. The 9mm provides struggling shooters the best chance of success while improving the speed and accuracy of the most skilled shooters.”
And this brings us to arguably the most important advantage of 9mm to civilians, particularly new firearms owners.
It's easier to shoot than larger calibers, while still having sufficient stopping power. While rounds like .40 S&W and .45 ACP's greater kinetic energy impacts your intended target with more force, they also generate more felt recoil to the shooter. This makes it more difficult to accurately and quickly fire subsequent shots. It can also just make for a less pleasant shooting experience.
Due to 9mm's incredibly widespread use, there's generally a tremendous supply of 9mm ammunition available. This means prices for 9mm ammunition are a great deal more affordable than all other defensive calibers.
It's incredibly important (and fun) to get familiar and accurate with your firearm that you intend to use for self defense. 9mm full metal jacket (FMJ) ammunition, the type of ammo you'll most often use at the range, costs about 2/3 what you'll find .45 ACP and .40 S&W for.
Here's a list of our picks for the best 9mm ammo.
Note: We recommend buying ammo in bulk online to get the best prices. You can save a tremendous amount this way, compared to buying in smaller quantities, especially compared to when purchasing it from your local range or store.
For concealed carry and other defensive purposes, it's recommend to use hollow point ammunition. You can learn about the difference between FMJ vs hollow points here.
Not only is ammunition cheaper, but you may also find that 9mm pistols are generally cheaper than pistols chambered in other defensive calibers. Again this is due to the large supply of 9mm pistols, seeming to outweigh even the tremendous demand.
Summary of 9mm Pistols' Benefits
- Less recoil than larger calibers, making it easier to shoot multiple times fast and accurately.
- Greater magazine capacity than larger caliber similarly sized guns.
- Cheaper ammunition than all other defensive calibers.
- Ammunition is generally widely available.
- 9mm pistols are sometimes cheaper than similar pistols in other calibers.
With that out of the way, let's get onto our picks for the best 9mm pistols.
Most accurate 9mm Pistol Out of the Box
The Gun Source is proud to bring you the most comprehensive guide on the internet related to 9mm handguns. We’ve put round after round down range and made sure to bring you the cream of the crop. Any 9mm pistol on this list is worth the purchase if you’re in the market for a new gun.
Browse 9mm Pistols Now
9mm pistols are the most popular and versatile handguns in the world. They are used by different types of operators for recreational, competition, defensive, military, and law enforcement use.
Many novice shooters and first time gun owners choose 9mm pistols for self-defense and recreational shooting because they are easy to use, very reliable out of the box, and pack a lot of firepower. The average person just cares about how accurate and easy to handle a pistol will be as soon as they purchase it, and how reliable it will be in the future.
There are literally hundreds of 9mm pistols and their variants to choose from. But which are the most durable, easy to use, and accurate right out of the box with no modifications needed? Which 9mm pistols are designed for competitive target shooting, and which are developed with the rugged reliability and modularity required by professional service duty?
This article will give you a comprehensive list of the best 9mm pistols that are very versatile and accurate out of the box. Each pistol in this list excels at what it was designed to do. Some will be more accurate than others, but all of them are accurate enough whether they were engineered for self-defense, range shooting, competition, or law enforcement use.
Not everyone reading this is aspiring to be a professional sport shooter who demands expensive competition-designed pistols. Some of you probably just want a nice reliable firearm that will fit in your favorite piece of gun concealment furniture.
If that was the case then our list would be shorter and outside the price range for most people. We have purposely left out most elite, high end competition pistols and included instead a variety of models that will satisfy most of our readers.
Many people want a versatile weapon that can be stored at home, concealed, and occasionally taken out to the range for target practice (with minimal training or upkeep). That’s because the average person just wants a reasonably accurate 9mm at 25 yards that will protect them and their family at a moment’s notice. Our list of 9mm handguns will satisfy those users, along with serious range shooters, sport competitors, and gun collectors.
This list will feature the best and most accurate 9mm pistols out of box that will come in different shapes and sizes while serving a variety of functions. All of the pistols in this article are semi-automatic because autoloaders are by far the most popular type of 9mm pistols which are designed for accuracy, durability, concealability, rapid fire capability, and high magazine capacity. Revolvers simply don’t provide the rapid firing and high magazine capacity of semi-automatics.
So let’s dive a little deeper into the popularity of 9mm handguns and why you should consider buying one.
The Top Rated 9mm Pistols Right Out of the Box
GLOCK G19 (Compact)
The Glock is a popular series of plastic, short-recoil semi-automatic pistols developed by Austrian firearms maker Glock Ges.m.b.H that has been supplied to armed forces, security, and law enforcement around the world for over 30 years.
Glocks are highly popular firearms for recreational, competition shooting, and home/self-defense right out of the box. They are lightweight, quick firing, and easy to use.
The G19 Compact is the all-round talent of the Glock family of 9mm pistols. It’s ideal for a versatile role because of its reduced size. It’s typically used as a conventional backup service pistol. It’s one of the most compact versions of all the 9x19mm Parabellum variants. It’s a reduced size version of the Glock 17, which was the original 9x19mm model introduced in 1982.
Glocks are considered to be among the most reliable striker-fired pistols due to uniquely advanced features and a cocking mechanism whereby the trigger is partially responsible for cocking the striker. This mechanism reduces the load on the recoil spring and requires less action from the recoil spring, ensuring sufficiency energy is available to replace a new round and achieve full battery under adverse wear and tear conditions like heavy fouling.
The Glock 19 is accurate enough for self-defense and range shooting right out of the box. It’s a very functional pistol known for reliability and handling, but not for supreme competition-level accuracy (because of the way it was designed with looser parts fitted together for customization).
It’s a compromise between sufficient accuracy for self-defense applications and rugged reliability. It’s able to hit 4-inch target groups up to 25 yards (plenty accurate for new gun owners). But shot patterns start to deviate at 50 yards and greater.
What you have with the Glock 19 is high dependability, concealability, and ruggedness out of the box. It’s reliable and simple to use, with minimal recoil, and comfortable in the hand. The Glock 19 has a standard 15 round magazine capacity, but is available with 10, 17, or 19 round versions. All components are interchangeable with the parent Glock 17.
Glocks in general are some of the best overall 9mm pistols because they are relatively cheap, very reliable, simple to operate, compact, and accurate. This is why they are so popular with civilians who just need an accurate short range handgun for self-defense.
Springfield Tactical Response (1911 TRP)
The Springfield Tactical Response (TRP) is the modernized version of the legendary Custom Professional Model HRT 1911 that was first developed for the FBI. The 1911 is an American icon and one of the most recognizable handguns in the world. It’s variations have been used by military and law enforcement for most of the 20th century.
The U.S. government accuracy standard for the 1911 was 5” dispersion at 25 yards and 10” grouping at 50 yards, with the pistol zeroed at 50 yards. The 1911 was chosen by the FBI for its ability to perform reliably and accurately. It has a very quick second shot and excellent ergonomics.
Many shooters prefer the battlefield-tested 1911’s unique trigger which is tunable and has a straight, short, and crisp pullback.
The Springfield TRP is the best production 1911 in the world. With a fit forged frame and slide, the TRP series has been tactically proven in the field to be reliable under the worst self-defense and combat conditions. You can use this pistol immediately out of the box without any break-in period. It has one of the most simple, elegant, and accurate designs ever created.
CZ-USA Shadow 2
This semi-automatic pistol is one of the most popular choices on the competition shooting circuit. In fact, CZ-USA pistols like the Shadow 2 are used by elite competitors twice as much as any other brand. Calling it simply accurate would be an understatement.
It’s a double-action/single-action (DA/SA) pistol chambered in 9mm with a steel frame, adjustable sights (fiber optic front), and ambidextrous thumb safety. It’s pretty heavy compared to other 9mm pistols and impractical for concealed carry. That’s why it should be used mainly for target shooting and home defense.
The Shadow 2 has improved all of the best features of its predecessor including having a higher beavertail and undercut trigger that allows the shooter’s hand to situate as near to the bore axis as possible. A contoured slide reduces muzzle flip so you can fire off quick shots in succession with higher accuracy.
New trigger components drastically reduce trigger reset and provide smooth DA and crisp SA. The CZ-USA Shadow 2 has a perfect balance and trigger pull. You can fire thousands of rounds without any issues. It’s a super accurate handgun. Inexperienced shooters who pick up a Shadow 2 will immediately gain better accuracy and start firing tighter groups.
GLOCK G34 Gen5 MOS (Competition)
The GLOCK G34 Gen5 MOS is the pricier flagship variant specifically designed for competitive IPSC shooting, combat, or self-defense. With its extended barrel, longer sight radius, and longer slide dimensions (compared to the G17 and G19), this pistol is all about achieving the best accuracy and target engagement of any GLOCK model.
The Gen5 has the best trigger of any GLOCK model and an improved Marksman Barrel that delivers greater accuracy through polygonal rifling, an enhanced barrel crown, and no finger grooves on the grip. (seen above with reflex sight)
These characteristics are why the G34 is used extensively by elite sport shooters. Also, the G34’s high accuracy, 5.5 lb trigger pull and simple snag-free design are a few reasons why SWAT teams deploy the pistol as a backup weapon. It’s also capable of mounting a Trijicon RMR red dot sight.
The G34 is a simple striker-fired semi auto 9mm with a 5.31 inch match-grade barrel that takes precision to the next level for GLOCK pistols. It is capable of achieving outstanding shot grouping at 50 yards and holds 17 rounds in the magazine (with a loaded weight of 34.57 oz).
The G34 is an exceptional self-defense handgun and target shooter. It’s also easy to accessorize and personalize your pistol to your shooting style.
Walther PPQ M2
The Walther PPQ has one of the best factory triggers for accurate 9mm pistols straight out of the box. The PPQ is a good middle-ground handgun for those who aren’t exactly sure what type of pistol they need but desire a solid, versatile, and accurate sidepiece.
It’s an incredibly comfortable and ergonomic handgun that is highly effective for self-defense. Most critics consider the PPQ M2’s striker-fired trigger to be one of the best on the market.
The subcompact variant is an ideal 9mm pistol for concealed carry. It’s lighter and shorter compared to the standard PPQ, which is more ideal for range shooting and home defense (but also capable of concealed carry too). All PPQ variants feel amazingly contoured in the hand, which increases precision for any user.
The Walther PPQ has a very short and crisp trigger pull, comparable to the 1911. Overall, the PPQ delivers outstanding efficiency and performance right out of the box.
Sig Sauer P210
Sig Sauer has always been associated with precision craftsmanship and high quality performance, which is why their firearms are some of the most sought after in the world for recreation, competition, law enforcement, and military use.
The P210 is a locked breech, self loading semi-automatic handgun. It’s sleek, minimal design and walnut wood grip gives it a classic look and feel.
Widely regarded as one of the most accurate and best 9mm Luger pistols in the world, the Sig Sauer P210 is a sleek modernized update to the vintage 1947 model. It has a precision-machined stainless steel slide and frame with a lightweight target trigger (3.5 lb. break). This P210 has updated American controls.
The Sig Sauer P210 is adopted by many sport shooters because of its outstanding accuracy and controls. It only fits an 8-round magazine but those rounds will be on target every time. The trigger is crisp and smooth (like breaking a glass rod), and is arguably the best feature of the pistol.
It’s no surprise that the NRA named the Sig Sauer P210 the 2019 Gun of the Year.
Heckler & Koch P30sk
The P30SK is an extremely well-crafted modern police and security pistol that maximizes function and safety features in an ultra-compact concealed carry design.
Not much needs to be said about Heckler & Koch other than it’s one of the most respected firearms manufacturers for law enforcement and military personnel in the world. If accuracy wasn’t a serious consideration when designing HK pistols, then elite special forces units wouldn’t have adopted HK firearms.
But what sets HK apart from a lot of brands is their utmost commitment to factory testing before releasing to market. The P30 is rigorously test fired for accuracy, function, and proofing to ensure that the pistol will function perfectly out of the box.
This extensive testing of HK pistols like the P30SK is why elite law enforcement and military units admire and respect Heckler & Koch firearms.
However, if all you care about is accuracy, then the P30SK may not be the best 9mm out of the box for your specific needs. This is a sophisticated military grade handgun that specializes in security and function in the worst environmental conditions. It may have too many safety features or modularity capabilities for someone who just needs a casual range shooter.
Having said that, the P30SK has an ideal concealed carry design and a smooth and quick dual-action trigger.
Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0
The Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0, like the Glock, is often the choice for first-time pistol owners looking for a self-defense firearm. But it’s capable for sporting and professional use too. The M&P 2.0 is light, compact, reliable, and comes with 17+1 round mag capacity.
It’s a striker-fired, semi-auto polymer pistol with a stainless-steel slide chassis, and a modernized platform that includes innovative features in many aspects of the handgun, including the grip, trigger, frame, and finish.
A low barrel bore axis increases shooting comfort by reducing muzzle rise for faster aim recovery and improved accuracy. The trigger pull is light and crisp. The grip is aggressively-textured and interchangeable.
9mm pistols like the M&P 2.0 and Glock series are popular for having a striker-fired trigger system that is quick and minimizes trigger pull. That’s why these pistols are popular for new gun owners who don’t need competition-level performance. Some shooters think the M&P 2.0’s trigger feels better than a Glock.
The Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0 is cheaper than most of the other pistols on our list. It’s one of the most affordable, easy to use, and accurate 9mm Luger pistols out of the box that can be used for a variety of purposes. It’s also great for concealed carry because of its lightweight polymer frame and low profile sights.
Browning is a legendary brand that released the original Hi-Power 9mm pistol in the 1920’s which was way ahead of its time. Like the Springfield 1911, the Hi-Power has one of the most classic designs you’ll find. It’s one of the first “Wonder Nines” pistols (high magazine capacity 9mm handgun).
The Browning Hi-Power has inspired the features of many newer 9mm pistols on our list, such as the CZ 75. This classic design is technically no longer in production, so it’s definitely worth adding to your collection.
The Hi-Power is a single action with a light, smooth trigger and quick reset. Nothing too fancy about this pistol other than being highly accurate in the hands of a competent operator. It really represents an ideal balance of handling, size, and power.
A single action trigger is preferred by most professional shooters and the Hi-Power’s trigger break is clean and crisp.
It has a machined steel frame and slide that is strong, light and thin. The handle has an ergonomic design that will feel comfortable in any sized hands. The natural pointability of the Hi-Power makes it simple and accurate for anybody right out of the box.
Springfield XD-S Mod.2
The Springfield XD-S Mod.2 is an excellent concealed carry weapon (CCW) with high accuracy right out of the box. In fact, the XD-S Mod.2 was designed specifically for CCW aficionados who desire a small and powerful single-stack pistol for self-defense.
The XD-S Mod.2 9mm is part of Springfield’s high performing XD series of feature rich competitive shooting pistols that’s engineered into a slim, single-stack polymer frame with multiple available upgrades and sight options.
It’s higher hand position, thin slide, enhanced ergonomics and grip texturing make the XD-S a very comfortable and advanced pistol for CCW operators at a respectable price. It’s a bit longer and taller than a Glock 43 Compact, but 0.09” thinner and comes with 7 or 9-round mag capacity.
The Springfield XD-S Mod.2 is a striker-fired 9mm most suitable for concealed carry or self-defense. It’s very similar to it’s tactical and competition-level sisters like the XD-M and XD-M Elite.
The XD series are some of the best striker-fired polymer pistols with solid and crisp trigger pulls for accurate shooting and low muzzle rise.
CZ 75 B
Originally developed in 1975 by a Czech manufacturer, the CZ 75 B is a DA/SA hammer-fired pistol and one of the most copied 9mm handgun designs in the world. It has been highly popular among law enforcement personnel since its inception. Many modern variants were developed based on the original design of the 75 B.
One of the original “Wonder Nines”, the CZ 75 B combines form and function into a durable, reliable, and accurate 9mm handgun. It just has this sleek, classic, yet modernized look. It’s bigger and heavier compared to other pistols (all-steel frame). This added weight improves the pistol’s accuracy, but doesn’t make it very suitable for concealed carry.
The CZ 75 B is really a performance bargain with unique design features. It’s accurate, durable, reliable and ideal for home defense, range shooting, or combat. It holds 16+1 rounds with a very comfortable grip and offers great accuracy out of the box.
Beretta 92 FS
For over 25 years the Beretta 92 FS has been one of the best 9mm tactical pistols for military and police forces around the world. It’s been serving the U.S. Army as the M9 since 1985.
The 92FS is simply one of the most durable, accurate, and reliable DA/SA semi-automatic handguns on the market. It’s easy to use and delivers superb firepower. It’s exceptional accuracy is due in part to an open-slide, short-recoil delayed locking-block system.
With these innovative designs you can expect to unload thousands of accurate rounds effectively, with fast and flawless cycling, and never experience “stovepipe” malfunctions.
In terms of accuracy out of the box, the Beretta 92 FS surpasses the U.S. military’s standard requirement of a 10-shot group of 3” or less at 55 yards. That’s super accurate. The 92FS is manufactured to extremely precise tolerances to maximize accuracy for any shooter or shooting style.
For civilians, the 92FS is ideal for sport shooting, target practice or self-protection. It’s made from an all-metal alloy framework and is exceptionally lightweight for its size at 33.3 ounces. It’s robust design and reduced slide weight easily absorbs the recoil of 9mm rounds and reduces muzzle flip, thus making the Beretta 92 FS a good option for beginners.
This is another polymer-framed, double-action striker-fired autoloader designed for law enforcement, military, and commercial use. It has a cold hammer-forged stainless steel barrel, Picatinny rail, polished chamber and feed ramp, loaded chamber indicator, and fixed 3-dot sight.
The FNS-9 comes in several variants such as the “Longslide” (introduced in 2012) or compact. It offers reliability, accuracy, and speed. The FNS-9L (Longslide version) has been relentlessly tested in every type of shooting event from high speed USPSA/IPSC to 3-gun matches and precision bull’s-eye competition.
It has 4 standard safety features (trigger, firing pin, drop, and out-of-battery). This is a premium service-quality 9mm at a reasonable price that’s been competition tested and will be highly accurate out of the box.
Pardini GT9 5″
This is a high-end competition pistol designed in every way for elite target shooting. The first Pardini rimfire pistols were designed in the 1970s and used heavily in Olympic rimfire target shooting events.
The Pardini GT series is designed specifically for IPSC shooting and open carry self-defense, having been introduced in the late 90s/early 00s for bullseye and action shooting sport. The GT9 is the 9mm chambered variant with a 5” barrel length (the shortest in the GT family).
The GT9 5” is a semi-automatic single action trigger, with an adjustable trigger mechanism, and a geometric short barrel recoil locking system. It has a slant angle handgrip (swept backwards) that keeps the bore axis very low and a short trigger reach. A beavertail allows a high grip position.
These ergonomic features give a clean and easy shot with perfect recoil control. The fully adjustable trigger pull mechanism is simply incredible for competitive shooting. Trigger travel to break is less than 0.3mm, second stage break has virtually no movement, reset is 3mm, and the pull weight is 2.2 lb.
Pardini pistols come with a hefty price tag because they’re elegant, elite competition shooters with exceptional craftsmanship that are guaranteed to operate flawlessly.
An excellent alternative to any GLOCK, the APX is Beretta’s first full-size, striker-fired pistol designed specifically for military and law enforcement duty. This means the APX has been extensively tested to deliver superior durability and reliability under the harshest use conditions.
The Beretta APX is simple to disassemble and has a removable chassis that can be modified with replaceable polymer grip frames and interchangeable back straps. The ergonomics, trigger, and modularity are all outstanding features. Slide serrations make it stand out from other polymer striker-fired pistols.
The APX is all about “extreme duty use” and function over form for CCW operators. The pistol is really designed to be accurate, durable, versatile, consistent, and low maintenance in order to satisfy as many service professionals as possible (in a police department for example). You can fire thousands of 9mm rounds with the APX and it will never malfunction. It has a striker deactivation safety so you can easily disassemble the pistol without having to hold down the trigger like other striker-fired pistols.
The Beretta APX has a fantastic hand grip. It’s trigger is also really good out of the box (one of the best features). It’s affordable and cheaper than other modular service-grade 9mm pistols. It’s very accurate, reliable and can be used out of the box for range shooting or self-defense. Solid pistol designed for hard work.
The Lionheart LH9 is a compact, light and versatile semi-automatic 9mm pistol that was originally designed for law enforcement and military service use in South Korea. The original model was manufactured by Daewoo Precision Industries and introduced in 1989 as the K5. It was carried by commissioned officers in the South Korean military.
In 2011, Daewoo partnered with Lionheart Industries and reintroduced an updated version of the K5 in American markets, known as the LH9. It features a redesigned hammer, wider slide serrations, optional Picatinny rail, and redesigned hand grips. The pistol also has a three-dot iron sight.
What makes the LH9N (‘N’ for Novak) so unique is its “fast action” trigger mechanism that keeps the mainspring compressed while the hammer is de-cocked. This mechanism is known as Triple Action or double action/single action, and marketed as Double Action Plus+. This innovation essentially allows the pistol to have a trigger travel of a DA and the trigger weight of a SA. The lighter trigger pull allows for a much more accurate first shot.
The frame is forged in 7075 aluminum alloy. The barrel and slide is made from 4140 steel. There is a more compact version called the LH9CN, which is Lionheart’s lightest and most compact Novak model — ideal for CCW operators.
The LH9N is an elegant and reliable 9mm handgun. It’s perfectly suited for range shooting, concealed carry, and home defense. It has superb target acquisition capability and can be upgraded with fiber optic 3D sights.
Because the Lionheart LH9N is an innovative 9mm designed for professional service use, and combat-tested for over 20 years, you can expect this guaranteed accuracy out of the box to come with a higher price tag.
The Ruger SR9 is a solid, compact, and accurate semi-auto 9mm Luger that’s affordable and easy to use out of the box. The SR9 is a striker-fired pistol that is short recoil operated with a locked breech, stainless-steel slide, and low-reflective finish. It is lightweight and slim.
The SR9 is comparable to the Glock and other 9mm polymer-framed pistols, making it a simple and effective choice for beginners wanting a concealed carry or self-defense weapon. It’s one of the thinnest double-stack pistols on the market and is used as a backup weapon for law enforcement.
The striker-fired Ruger SR9 has a pre-set trigger, like the Glock’s “Safe Action” system, that partially cocks the striker when the slide is cycled and then fully cocks and releases it when the trigger is pulled. This creates a moderate to heavy trigger pull that is preferred by law enforcement professionals, but not necessarily for competition shooting.
The SR9 comes with multiple safety features like an ambidextrous thumb safety, a loaded chamber indicator, a cocked-striker indicator, and firing pin block safety. The pistol also comes with open iron sights with 3 dot enhanced contrast, drift and elevation adjustments.
Chambered in 9x19mm Parabellum with a 17-round mag capacity, the SR9 is a solid and economical pistol best suited for concealed carry and self-defense. It’s a rugged, low-maintenance, and reliable handgun that’s comfortable to carry and quick to use.
Wilson Combat EDC X9
The EDC X9 is another high-end competition shooter that’s among the most expensive 9mm pistols on our list. This is a recoil operated, tilting barrel semi-automatic pistol that combines the performance of the classic 1911 design with increased reliability, concealability, and high capacity performance.
The 1911 is one of the most accurate 9mm pistols ever designed, and the Wilson Combat EDC X9 is all about providing shooters with that 1911 match-grade accuracy plus advanced features out of the box. The EDC X9 is a full-size long barrel CCW pistol that is extremely reliable with a double-stack magazine holding 15+1 rounds.
Get some new grips and make it a pink pistol for your wife!
The EDC X9 is basically a modern hybrid of the EDC 9 1911 slide assembly and a new X-frame for high capacity. You get the accuracy, ergonomics, and trigger pull of the classic 1911 pistol design. The modernized X-frame is a high capacity 1911 frame that’s similar in size to the classic, compact single-stack 1911.
If you like double stack custom 1911’s, single action 1911 cocked and locked carry, and 1911-style triggers, then you should check out the EDC X9. It’s about the same size as a GLOCK G19 but just a few ounces heavier when loaded. It has very thin grips that slide in dovetails into the aluminum alloy frame, which is held in place by a one piece backstrap. Customizable trigger length options are available.
The Wilson Combat EDC X9 delivers superior ergonomics, 1911-style accuracy, concealability, and reliability. It’s truly a superior and versatile pistol for everyday carry, and one of the best 9mm pistols out of the box.
Sig Sauer P320
The Sig Sauer P320 is one of the best striker-fired 9mm pistols in the world. It was adopted by the U.S. Marine Corps in 2017 as the M17 and M18 (compact variant).
If you’re looking for modularity along with accuracy, then the Sig Sauer P320 should be one of your top choices. The P320 platform is highly innovative with 12 different modular variations available in 9mm Luger. The P320 XFIVE LEGION, for example, is an ideal balance of added weight and features that creates one of the top shooting pistols on the market. All of the striker-fired P320 pistols are unmatched in durability and reliability.
Some versions, like the P320 RXP XFull-Size, come with the newest reflex optic technology. The P320 XFULL variant is designed for serious shooting pros. It’s a full-size model with a 4.7” slide and barrel that delivers supreme accuracy, usability and comfort while still being practical for concealed carry.
The Sig Sauer P320’s compatible grip module comes with an extended beavertail design and deep undercut for high grip and enhanced recoil control. If you want a compact, modular, military-grade 9mm handgun with high accuracy out of the box then definitely consider the Sig Sauer P320.
Heckler & Koch VP9
Heckler & Koch’s VP9 is class leader in trigger performance and ergonomics. It is HK’s latest and most successful 9mm design. Like all HK pistols, the VP9 is rigorously designed for consistency, repeatability, and performance. It’s a military-grade pistol that’s popular among civilian range shooters.
The VP9 was influenced by HK’s hammer-fired P30 pistol, but integrates a unique striker firing system instead. It has a very light trigger pull. The VP9 is basically a P30 frame with an advanced striker-fired slide design.
The trigger quality is among the best you’ll find in any striker-fired pistol. It has a short, light take up and a solid SA break followed by a quick reset. The VP9 has a high strength polymer frame and ergonomic, adjustable hand grips which are meticulously designed to fit any human hand.
The HK VP9 also has a proprietary captive flat recoil spring to reduce recoil force and improve shooting control during rapid fire, as well as a cold hammer forged barrel and polished feed ramp.
The 2020 version will come with a 17-round magazine, new sight configuration, and optics-ready cut with cap. The VP9 is an expensive military-grade 9mm out of the box but you’ll get the accuracy and performance that you pay for.
The History of the 9mm Cartridge
Admired for being compact and easy-to-use, the 9mm handgun is the most popular type of pistol in the world and provides an excellent balance between stopping power and firing capacity, making it one of the best personal concealed or open carry self-defense weapons available.
There are so many reasons to choose a 9mm pistol, which is why it’s the most popular handgun in the world. Essentially, 9mm pistols are respected for their portability, reliability, fast firing speed, high magazine capacity, as well as their robust, high tech modular designs.
Check out shotgun history here.
9mm handguns are very versatile. They can be used for concealed carry, range shooting, competition, or home defense. They are widely adopted by law enforcement and military forces worldwide. They are designed to be lethally effective at up to 55 yards while combining a flat trajectory with moderate recoil.
9mm pistols are relatively lightweight handguns with moderate recoil that are ideal for many situations because they won’t over-penetrate targets like more powerful handguns, but they can still unleash a lot of firepower quickly and effectively.
The 9mm is the most widely used military handgun and submachine gun cartridge in the world. These pistols owe a lot of their form and function to the cartridge they were designed to accommodate. The 9mm is a very special cartridge that has evolved and gained in popularity over its long history, and handguns have been continuously enhanced to maximize the potential of this legendary cartridge.
Let’s take a look at how the 9mm cartridge became so widely used today.
The 9mm cartridge has reinvented itself over 115 years. During that time it’s been used in various types of pistols, revolvers, carbines, and submachine guns. The 9mm cartridge is known by several names, all referencing the same thing: 9x19mm Parabellum, Luger, 9mm, 9mm NATO, 9 mil, 9×19 etc. There are other variants of the 9mm with slightly different dimensions but we are only referring to the 9x19mm Parabellum/Luger.
Here’s an interesting thread on why.
The 9x19mm Parabellum was developed by Georg Luger and introduced in 1902 for the Luger semi-automatic pistol (aka the 9mm Luger). Interestingly, the word “Parabellum” is derived from the Latin motto of the German manufacturer of the Luger pistol, meaning “prepare for war”.
Demand for a caliber that was larger than the 7.65x21mm (or the 9x17mm/.308 ACP pistol round that assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand) increased the international popularity and adoption of the 9x19mm cartridge around the start of WW1.
After WW1, the 9mm became a highly popular caliber for pistols and submachine guns for military and law enforcement forces worldwide, especially in the United States. Thus, many variants of the 9mm started to be developed by the Germans.
The second half of the 20th century saw the 9mm explode in popularity as projectile design improved alongside more efficient gunpowders and the ability for magazines to carry more rounds. People started realizing that the 9mm was ballistically superior to other rounds like the .38 Special.
The early 80’s to mid 90’s saw a big rise in the use of semi-automatic pistols in the U.S. (particularly in the civilian market), led by the adoption of the Smith Wesson Model 39 by the Illinois State Police in 1968 and the Beretta M9 by the U.S. Army in 1985. Revolvers were being replaced by 9mm semi-autos that had larger magazine capacity and could fire much faster.
Why 9mm Pistols Are Still So Popular Today
The idea behind the development of the 9mm was to create a round that had sufficient stopping power but wouldn’t be so big that it would limit the magazine capacity of firearms. So the 9mm has always been a perfect balance of defensive stopping power and firing capacity. This characteristic is probably the biggest reason why the 9mm has been so widely adopted by civilians, law enforcement and military units around the world. People want something that can reliably stop a human or hit a target at close range, not necessarily down a rhinoceros or catch a squirrel.
9mm pistols are used for self-defense, sport shooting, target practice, or military and law enforcement purposes. They are easy to use, versatile, accurate out of the box, low maintenance, with light to moderate recoil and clean/crisp trigger pulls. These are some of the characteristics that make 9mm handguns so popular with civilians and professionals alike.
There are a variety of 9mm variations with slightly different dimensions. We are going to focus on pistols that are chambered for the 9x19mm Parabellum/Luger. All of these pistols are going to embody the characteristics just mentioned in some shape or form including being plenty accurate out of the box.
For example, the hand grip shape is an important consideration for the average user. Hand grip has an effect on recoil control. You want a grip that fits perfectly in your hand. Some grips are angled, others are straight, while some are curved and contoured. Competition shooters may want a grip that’s angled (swept backwards) with a beavertail.
The trigger system is another important factor, especially the weight and distance of the trigger pull. Some triggers require a lot more force to pull than others or have a farther distance to travel. As a novice shooter, you may want a lighter and shorter trigger pull to fire more accurately and quickly. Competition shooters tend to prefer single-action trigger mechanisms, for example. Law enforcement personnel need heavier and longer double-action trigger pulls so they don’t easily discharge the handgun in the wrong situation.
The weight of a pistol is yet another important consideration. Some competition shooters are considerably heavier than a compact, concealed carry weapon for example. Ergonomics, weight, and trigger pull are things you should consider. Some 9mm pistols have lower muzzle rise (aka muzzle flip) than others, which is also important if you’re a beginner who struggles with maintaining accuracy.
The Overall Benefits of 9mm Handguns
The 9mm is more popular than ever especially among civilians and service professionals. Many 9mm pistols are marketed to bridge the gap between civilian and professional service use. They are the simply the most versatile handguns in the world.
Our concealment coffee tables house multiple 9mm pistols and still leave room for a rifle or two!
There are so many reasons to own a 9mm handgun. They have light to moderate recoil, relatively low muzzle flip, cheap ammunition, and higher magazine capacity. 9mm pistols are relatively lightweight, easy to use, and ideal for self-defense, concealed carry, or recreational/sport shooting. They are modular, ergonomic, and have incredibly innovative trigger mechanisms.
It’s really hard to provide a definitive ranking of the most accurate 9mm pistols because experimental tests are only as good as the operators firing the weapon. Having said that, these pistols have been proven to be among the most accurate field-tested 9mm pistols in the world for casual, service, and competition use.
Practically speaking, the most accurate 9mm handgun out of the box is the one you’re most comfortable using and capable of firing effectively. All of the pistols on this list are well-designed and highly accurate (some are the most accurate in their class). It’s the operator, not the handgun, that has the biggest impact on accuracy.
People usually assume that pistols with longer, full-size barrels tend to be more accurate because they have a longer sight radius between the front sight and rear sight. In reality, the difference in barrel length doesn’t significantly impact the accuracy of the pistol for targets under 55 yards (unless the barrel is snubbed, which isn’t the case for any pistol on this list).
Some of the fancy long barrel 9mm designs for competition shooters are also the most expensive, often reaching 4-5x the price of a competent all-round service pistol that’s designed for durability, accuracy, and concealability in mind. Most of the pistols in this article match those basic descriptions while being between 400-$800 and offering excellent accuracy out of the box.
Having said that, there are handgun features to take into consideration that affect accuracy, especially if your a first-time gun owner or novice shooter.
9mm top pistols rated
Best 9mm Pistol for Defense
If the gun owners’ road to hell is paved with good intentions, “what is the best concealed carry handgun” was probably the first question to get tossed into the cement mixer, likely to be followed by more specific charges like “what is the best 9mm pistol.” Good questions to ask, hard ones to answer. On the surface, it’s well-meaning enough. Everyone wants the most reliable, most accurate product at the best price. Under the skin, it’s a tragically manipulated thought experiment that has spawned a digital mass grave of Top 5’s, Listicles, Click-quizzes and message board brawls. But we hope to give you knowledge instead of a short but opinionated answer. We're RECOIL, not CNN. We also hope, by the end of this, you’ll appreciate the difference between the two.
If we frame the problem as if it were a simple internet search, “the best concealed carry gun” should be one that appears highly in multiple searches. We say this because what goes into your mental search bar should be a series of other questions that lead you to the end result of a “best” choice. And, for that matter, the result you really want is “what is the best concealed carry handgun for me.” This means lifestyle, environment, and, yes, personality, come into play. First things first, though, is caliber. Generally speaking, the debate over caliber is mostly closed off, as 9mm, and it's many names, is widely accepted as the most common, and highly ideal choice in that it balances the trifecta of capacity, power, and cost. So we're looking now for the best 9mm pistol, for personal protection.
Selecting a best concealed carry pistol, really, is about choosing a handgun that best fits your daily routine. Ideal handguns are ones established enough in the market that you can find good holsters for them at a reasonable price. This means being able to sort through how one intends to carry it. Since no two people are alike, having options when it comes to carrying is ideal.
The best 9mm pistol, for your scenario, will then be determined by lifestyle considerations, combined with the environment. Mechanically speaking, putting the same engine (caliber) in a smaller frame (size of the gun) will translate into more felt recoil. So, starting with the fine-tuned engine of 9mm, a larger frame will generally shoot smoother and fit more ammunition, but be more noticeable. In contrast, given good holsters are available, a smaller gun will be easier to conceal across multiple clothing wardrobes, but be less enjoyable to practice with. For most of us, balance is key.
In states that have seasons, one will occasionally hear chatter of having a “summer gun” and a “winter gun” where the larger one conceals well under flannel, the smaller choice is more fit for board shorts. A similar strategy is to have an every day carry handgun of choice optimized for balancing size and capacity, and later add a smaller, more concealable option like a SIG SAUER P365 for circumstances like summer tank tops or fitted suits. The intended use and the design match best when the buyer has some time to be proactive about their purchase. Below we've laid out a list of the best 9mm pistols common in 2020 into two categories: the balanced “Carry” label, and the smaller “Deep Concealment” options.
CARRY GUN NEEDS:
At the top of the list of needs is cost. Defending one's self is a right, and manufacturers recognize this. In past years, the development of handguns has generally clustered most great carry guns around an achievable price point. Coincidentally, most higher cost pistols are either produced for a hyper-focused purpose, like competition shooting where one does not need to consider concealment, or they are catering more to collectors. A classic recreation of a Schofield revolver is rewarding to hold in one's hand, but not practical at over $1000. Each of the choices in this list have ben selected within a price range that allows the buyer to secure the pistol, ammunition, and a good holster for under a grand.
At the opposite end, is performance. While higher price does not always translate into better accuracy or reliability, we've lost track of the times that something “just as good” simply wasn't. Necessary features of the best 9mm pistol are reliable construction, holster options, can be easily disassembled and reassembled with confidence, and comes with a trusted suite of expected features. When it comes to things like triggers, we recognize that while there is room for preference, most can be sorted between the “in” of a reliable handgun, and the “out” of either too specialized or hindering enough to warrant another choice.
THE ROSTER: CARRY SIZE
GLOCK 19 MOS
Glock's position in the market is secure. Pairs well with an AR15.
The industry standard for a reason. The most recent evolution of the iconic handgun shows that Glock is listening. They may be slow to implement changes, but the aftermarket support is second to none with this handgun.
SIG SAUER P320 Series
The SIG Sauer P320 was introduced in 2014 as a modular, polymer construction, striker-fired pistol that would grow into the M17 and M18 now used by the U.S. Army. (Manufacturer’s photo)
Sig Sauer's P320 has challenged the hegemony of the ubiquitous Glock 19, and emboldened by a victory securing multiple military contracts, the pistol's aftermarket support is set in stone. The company's propensity to release their firearms in many different colors and themes did not get lost on the P320, catering to those who like having options.
SIG hasn't been resting on its laurels with the P320, as they launched the FCU program where you get to custom build your own handgun. We got a chance to review the intense aftermarket support here.
FN 509 Midsize
Fabrique Nationale's 509 Midsize carries with it the features of their full-size contender for military applications. Known for their contributions to military armaments, FN's latest take on the polymer handle, striker-fired pistol looks like it will hang around for a while. For a Full Review on the FN 509 Series, read here. (Published in RECOIL #50)
On the roster for the best 9mm pistol is this sleeper handgun. The CZ P10C slides into this S-tier list by, first of all, carrying over many of the favorite features of the Glock 19, while bringing it's own surprisingly excellent trigger and ergonomics along with it. CZ has been known for many things in the past, with a force-of-nature grip on competition handguns while also building duty-use firearms for decades.
The CZ P10C has gone on for some time as one of the most tragically under-rated handguns, with both an excellent pricepoint, and distinctly clean features in regards to swappable ambidextrous controls, and optics-ready versions for a price just a little bit below other options. Although it is supposed to be able to fit into any holster designed for a Glock 19, some work better than others. For a one-stop purchase that got so much right out of the factory, this sits high on our list of recommendations.
SIG SAUER P365
As featured in Jack Carr's thriller series, the SIG P365 has made a heavy, recognizable impact on the micro-pistol scene. Though it doesn't have any single distinguishing feature that makes people jump, it checks each of the necessary features boxes very well. With a 10+1 capacity out of the box, and the SIG P365 XL variation accepting optics with no aftermarket milling, it is a solid choice amongst the growing category of micro-compact handguns.
- Like Training Wheels for a Red Dot: SIG SAUER released a special version, the SIG P365 SAS.
No list would be complete without a contribution from GLOCK. For those who appreciate reliability from the get go, as well as those who cannot leave anything stock, the G43 is a solid choice. Aftermarket slides, triggers, compensators, and more compliment the “ar-15 of handguns” and there is no shortage of holsters to choose from.
Not restricted to Bond references, the Walther PPS has long been a key player of the subcompact market. Early on the scene with enough time to refine their already appreciated trigger, this single-stack sibling to the PPQ has various magazine options to hold 6, 7, or 8 rounds.
FN 509 Compact
A variant of their lineup that contended for the Army's new Modular Handgun System, the FN 509 compact sports a plate mounting solution that accepts most red dots sights. As red dot optics on handguns moves from trending to an industry staple, we appreciate companies that have the end-user in mind through their product design.
Closing Off the Best 9mm Pistol
At the end of the day, it is the responsibility of each person to choose for themselves what they think is the best 9mm pistol for their circumstances. This is why there will never be a definitive best choice across the board. Still, there are certainly better options as far as situationally ideal choices, or better manufacturing. While the options will eventually change, these choices are dominating what's available in 2020 and a good place to start.
When looking at other options, one should consider what holsters are available and if desired, what aftermarket add-ons can be found. Choosing a handgun can be contentious, and opinions do show their teeth, but a well-informed buyer is a protected buyer, and choosing what is best for your scenario is easier when you have evaluation criteria. It is never good to buy without first starting proactively with the best weapon: knowledge.
Honorary Mentions: Polymer80
Differences from a stock Glock include the front locking block, additional locking block pin, rear slide rails, and a coiled slide lock spring.
Amidst the challenges of every-day-life, we find it immensely convenient that agencies like the ATF have to stick their nose into anything fun, innovative, or useful. Polymer80 has led the charge with 80 percent lower recievers, for AR-15's as well as for handguns, and their PF940CL drops a reverse card on the Glock 19x. Putting a long slide on a short handle, the Polymer80 frame requires that the purchaser finish fabricating the lower before it can be used. Effectively turning a paper-weight into a privately-made firearm, the ATF raided Polymer80 for their products in the past, but that hasn't stopped them so far. Legally sold as a blank in need of finishing, a polymer80 lower does two things: provides a project that results in a self-defense tool, and pushes back against the ATF attack on a legally owned 80 percent lower.
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