What is the best 9mm handgun available on today’s crowded market? We a look at the best of what’s out there and give you all the help you need to determine which “Parabellum” pistol is right for you.
The 9mm pistol is the staple handgun for many Americans. These weapons are versatile, affordable, and easy to learn even if you don’t have any shooting experience. However, there’s no doubt that some 9mm pistols are better than others. Additionally, sifting through the glut of 9mm pistol models across online markets can be tiring and confusing.
No need to stress. Below, you’ll find a quick overview of what you should look for when you need a new 9mm pistol (or if you’re buying your first one). Plus, we’ve collected the top 5 9mm pistols currently on the market. Let’s dive in!
In This Article:
Comparison of the Best 9MM Pistols
Below is my list of the best 9mm pistols for 2021. I list the best choices in terms of value, performance, design, and cost.
Click on the name to head to the product page, read reviews and check prices or skip ahead to the list of pistols.
|Smith & Wesson M&P Shield M2.0|
|Glock G26 Gen 5 9mm|
|Springfield Armory XD-E|
|Heckler & Koch P30K|
|Sig Sauer P320 Compact 9mm|
|CZ 2075 Pistol|
|FN 509 Pistol|
|FN 503 Subcompact Pistol|
|Glock 17 9mm Pistol|
|Glock 19 9MM Pistol|
|Glock 43x FS Slimline Pistol|
What to Look for in a Quality 9mm Pistol
Not all 9mm pistols are made alike. Focus on the following factors and you’ll be able to narrow down your search to a great 9mm handgun that works for you.
1. Name recognition
While the caliber started slow, typically just seen in German-made Lugers and Mauser C96 pistols across the first 30 years of the cartridge’s career, the 9mm today is the most popular chambering for modern semi-automatic handguns.
In 2018 alone, some 2 million 9mm pistols were made in the U.S., more than any other caliber– a figure that doesn’t include pallets of guns coming from overseas.
With so many horses in the race, it is always a better idea to bet on an experienced thoroughbred who knows the course instead of an untried newcomer or unsteady nag.
Dropping the horse metaphor for plain talk, the odds you will get a good pistol from a company like Glock, Ruger, Sig Sauer, Smith & Wesson, or FN– who have made thousands of them over the course of decades to near-universal acclaim– are much better than grabbing some oddball from who knows where.
Sure, the price difference between, say a Glock and a “Fly by Night 9” may be just $150 or $200, and they may look and feel mostly the same, but when it counts, is your life worth that extra cash?
2. Mature design
Everyone loves the newest thing. When a customer is offered a choice between a solid design with a good reputation that has been on the market for years, or the just-released gee-whiz carry gun that is an ounce lighter, has a cooler finish, and carries two extra rounds for the same price, it isn’t hard to forecast what will likely sell.
However, there has been a nasty trend among new handgun models to come out with issues that are only discovered after they have been in circulation for a few months.
Even top-notch companies are not immune to such problems in beta models. For instance, take the primer/striker drag issues with the early Sig P365 or the more recent recall on S&W Shield EZ, a gun that reportedly tended to go full-auto.
When evaluating choices for a 9mm handgun, or any firearms for that matter, it may be a wise idea to select something that has already gone through its teething problems.
3. Aftermarket support
One of the worst thorns an owner of a new (or at least new to them) handgun can run into is to find out that their new 9mm has very few holsters available to fit them, extra magazines cost $75, and there are no options to replace the kind of creepy trigger or sometimes hard-to-see sights.
To skirt problems such as these, either go with an established design– one that has been in production for several years– or double-check to make sure the new model under consideration is supportable. If possible, do a quick search for replacement magazines, triggers, and holster options to get an idea of life cycle costs before committing to a pistol.
Foremost in the mind of handgun shoppers looking into 9mm pistols is to evaluate the intended use for the firearm. Inside the caliber, there are duty/home defense guns, which are generally full-sized with a 4-inch barrel or longer and a double-stack magazine with a capacity of 13 rounds or more.
Such full-sized guns made in the past 20 years will typically have an accessory rail on the frame to accommodate lights and lasers while guns made in the last few years in this size envelope will often have the provision to mount optics such as micro red dot sights.
More compact guns, with barrels under 4-inches long but still with an accessory rail and a double-stack magazine, are ideal for carrying outside the home but can still be used for home defense.
Sub-compact or micro-compact guns, which often delete features such as double-stack magazines (in place of a smaller, single-stack mag carrying fewer cartridges) and accessory rails for the sake of making a more “melted” design that can make them more concealable.
However, these guns also give up sight radius, making them inherently less accurate at distance, and can be less comfortable to shoot due to their tendency to have a snappier recoil and more pronounced muzzle flip as they have less mass to eat up that impulse.
5. Action Type
All 9mm pistols will be either single or double action, which refers to the number of actions a single trigger pull will perform.
Single action pistols will only fire when you pull the trigger. The hammer is released, starting a chain reaction that results in the bullet leaving the barrel. Double action pistols’ triggers actually perform two actions: they both pull the hammer back and release the hammer to fire a bullet.
There are advantages and trade-offs to both types. Single action pistols have lighter trigger pulls (meaning you have to put less finger weight on the trigger to squeeze off a shot), but you have to pull the hammer back manually in between every bullet. Double-action triggers require more of a finger pull but might allow you to squeeze off more shots rapidly since you don’t have to pull the hammer back yourself every time, and are great for concealed carry or home-defense.
6. Grip Quality
Many of the best 9mm pistols will have fantastic grips with textured surfaces or ergonomic shapes. Textured surfaces are great since they make the pistol easier to hold, even if your palm is sweaty.
Meanwhile, ergonomic shapes are more comfortable to hold and will prevent your hand from cramping. This is mostly useful if you’re practicing with a 9mm and have to hold it for long sessions at the gun range.
Also, removable replaceable grips make for a customizable shooting experience and can improve hand feel, control, and shooting comfort.
7. Weight and Size
Of course, some 9mm pistols are bigger and heavier than others. In general, larger and heavier pistols will have larger magazines and higher bullet capacities. They may also have a bigger accessory rail, allowing you to add optics or other attachments to the weapon.
On the flip side, smaller and lighter 9mm pistols are better if you don’t want to carry a weapon that weighs too much or you need to conceal. They’re a better choice for a concealed carry weapon specifically, as you’ll be able to fit more comfortably in a variety of concealed carry holsters if it’s more compact.
8. Optics Support
See if a given 9mm pistol includes any iron sights out of the box. Sights allow you to better hit your target at a distance. You should also see whether the sights are adjustable (to allow you to compensate for different variables), fixed, and day/night sights which will help increase the lighting situations in which your sights remain useful.
9. Rail Space
Consider whether you’ll need a 9mm pistol with a mounting rail. Some pistols allow you to slot new attachments, like red dot sights or other optics, to the top of the pistol or beneath the barrel, while others lack this functionality in exchange for being more affordable.
The Best 9mm Pistols Reviewed
1. Smith & Wesson M&P
- Weight: 18.3 ounces
- 7+1, 8+1 capacity
- Length: 6.1”
- Sights: front and rear white dot
- Finish: stainless steel and armornite
What we liked:
What we didn't:
Smith & Wesson edged out their Reservoir Dogs-era metal-framed “wonder nines” in 2012 with the new Military & Police series of polymer-framed guns.
It’s no surprise that Smith & Wesson top this chart with a relatively new member of their M&P series: the M&P Shield 2.0 Compact. This lightweight easy-to-use 9mm pistol has a lot to like, including a stainless steel Armornite finish for both the barrel and the slide.
In a nutshell, this provides the weapon with an excellent aesthetic and protects it from corrosive and abrasive damage – so the weapon should last for a long time to come.
Moving on from hammer-fired DA/SA pistols to striker-fired guns, the new M&Ps had to slog it out against Glock, which had already carved out a big part of the LE market, but the fact that they had better triggers and sights while sporting the same sort of reliability and a “made in USA” cache bought the Smiths lots of room to maneuver.
Today, the second generation M2.0 variants, particularly the Compact version, is about the closest thing to a “Glock killer” for the G19. Plus, the M&Ps of all generations have a take-down lever and sear deactivation system that allows for disassembly without pulling the trigger– something most other polymer-framed pistols lack.
For these looking for something in the M&P2.0 neighborhood, there’s also a single-stack subcompact companion to the M&P, the Shield, beating Glock’s 43 series gun by several years.
Today, the Shield M2.0 has a better trigger than the first-gen models, as well as aggressive grip texture and an optimal 18-degree grip angle for a natural point of aim. Thin and lightweight, the Shield boasts a 7+1 and 8+1 capacity depending on what magazine you use and the new Shield Plus aims to take on the Sig 365 in the Micro 9 game.
Designed with performance and safety in mind
It also offers a full-size frame and comes with an easy-to-access external safety, which is easier to use than a number of compact 9mm pistols which mount safeties a bit too close to the slide for comfort. Other benefits include both front and rear sights that use white dots for added visibility, even in brighter environments.
You get a lot of value out of this striker-fired pistol as well, since it comes with two magazines out of the box. Ultimately, it’s a durable and serviceable metal-framed pistol that fires the reliable 9mm luger at works well for training, self-defense, and concealed carry.
2. Glock 26
Glock’s also very well known for their 9mm pistols. The Glock 17 is a classic, and Glock 19 is the standard for law enforcement. These polymer-framed pistols will usually last for a very long time even with consistent use.
- Weight: 21.69 ounces
- Capacity: 10+1
- Length: 6.42”
- Sights: Front and rear iron
- Finish: nDLC (diamond-like carbon)
What we liked:
What we didn't:
Takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’
Indeed, the Glock 26 pistol is perfectly representative of a Glock’s tendency to keep on trucking even after you put it through a lot of punishment.
It’s an extremely durable and safe weapon through and through, with a lightweight polymer frame that still allows the weapon to be lightweight at 21.69 ounces.
Nice touches throughout
In addition, it’s a compact but tough 9mm pistol that can deliver unparalleled accuracy thanks to its polygon rifling and the improve the barrel crown. You’ll be able to use this for close-quarters self-defense just as well as long-distance target shooting.
We also really like the removable finger grooves for the grip, so you can choose how the grip feels depending on your comfort.
It also comes with an ambidextrous slide, so it’s a good weapon for both left and right-handed users. The lacks a manual safety, so if that’s a requirement for your selection there are other options which include manual and external safeties.
3. Springfield XD-S
Springfield Armory’s XD-E 9mm pistol is an excellent example of a well-rounded 9MM pistol. It features a special melonite barrel finish that protects it from damage and corrosion.
But most importantly, the Springfield XD comes with a double and/or single-action system that allows you to swap between both styles of firing on the fly. Want a lighter trigger pull, or do you want to ignore the need to pull back the hammer in between shots? It’s all up to you!
- Weight: 28 oz
- Capacity: 8/9+1
- Length: 7.7 inches
- Sights: Fiber optic front, white dot rear
- Finish: Melonite
What we liked:
What we didn't:
A beautiful example of Springfield craftsmanship
The Springfield XD is also just a good looking pistol. The sleek frame is only 1 inch wide, so while it’s not the thinnest pistol on the marker you’d be hard-pressed to find handguns much thinner.
Low effort slide
It also comes with a low effort slide, requiring about 27% less effort on average to cycle compared to many other striker-fired 9mm pistols.
The XD-E pistol can also be carried “cocked and loaded” with the safety on, meaning you can have the hammer ready to go for quick-firing at the drop of a hat.
Even better, when you set the pistol to double-action, it requires a longer and more deliberate trigger pull to increase your safety if you plan to use this pistol for concealed carrying or just when walking around with it in your holster.
4. HK P30K
The HK P30K 9mm pistol is impressively lightweight and easy to conceal, making it a great choice if you need a concealed carry self-defense pistol.
With a full length of only 6.42 inches and 24 ounces it’s one of the smallest 9mm pistols you can find – but it offers an impressive 10 round capacity, making it’s great for regular duty carrying as well.
- Weight: 23.99 ounces
- Capacity: 10+1
- Length: 6.42”
- Sights: Front and rear
- Finish: black nitride
What we liked:
What we didn't:
Adjustable grip for customization & control
It features a completely adjustable grip, including interchangeable backstraps and lateral grip panels. So you can customize the grip according to your hand shape and size.
Furthermore, the pistol is available in several trigger firing modes. You can even choose a special double-action “law enforcement modification”, which requires more finger weight for your initial trigger pull for added safety.
Double action or single action combo option
You can also choose a double action or single action combo pistol, plus a model with dual ambidextrous manual safeties on either side of the frame.
Additionally, different slide and magazine release levers are available depending on the exact model you choose. As you can see, this 9mm pistol is very customizable. The only downside is its relatively high asking price.
5. Sig Sauer P320
Sig’s P320 9mm pistol is another great choice, particularly if you want great factory sights. The Sig Sauer P320 Compact has both front and rear sights, with the rear sights offering contrasting illumination so you can use the pistol even in low light or nighttime shooting situations.
Developed to both compete for the Army’s Modular Handgun System contract and offer a more forward-looking alternative to their P-200 series pistols, Sig Sauer introduced the P320 in 2014.
Ditching the common frame and slide format that almost every other semi-auto pistol used, the P320 instead uses a fire control unit that can be swapped out between different grip modules to quickly allow the user to move between full, carry, compact, and subcompact sizes.
The modularity of the design made it a shoo-in for the MHS program, and the military is currently fielding the gun as the M17 and M18 pistols, respectively. This is truly a 21st-century handgun.
- Weight: 25.3 oz
- Capacity: 14+1
- Length: 7”
- Sights: Front and rear (night)
- Finish: stainless steel and nitron
What we liked:
What we didn't:
15 round capacity
Furthermore, it features an impressive 15 round capacity, so it’s great for squeezing-off multiple shots at the shooting range or for taking down a threat with certainty.
Its striker trigger action ensures a crisp trigger pull and good stability with every squeeze. You’ll also appreciate that the barrel material is made of durable but lightweight carbon steel.
A stainless steel finish for the frame and a Nitron finish for the slide ensure that the pistol is protected from corrosive damage. It should last for a long time to come.
6. Beretta 92
One of the most venerable double-stack 9mm pistols on the market, the steel-framed Beretta 92 has been around for almost 50 years.
There is a reason for that: it just plain out works.
Adopted by dozens of militaries around the world, including the Pentagon who has used it for the past four decades, this “Back to Back Gulf War Champ” is still very relevant today in its third generation, the Vertec 92X series.
While originally a full-sized gun, the 92 is also produced in shorter Centurion and Compact variants.
7. CZ 75
Originally designed for export in Cold War-era Czechoslovakia, the steel-framed CZ 75 was so successful that it outlasted that country and is still going strong.
Now made in the Czech Republic and Kansas, the old-school CZ 75 is well-liked, reliable, and has a reputation for accuracy. It is also offered in a Compact version which is much lighter owing to its forged aluminum frame, as well as being more carry-friendly.
Alternatively, if seeking a more plastic experience, try the CZ P-10, and we’ll let you guess what the “P” in that designation stands for.
8. FN 509
Designed to compete for the Army’s Modular Handgun System program, more than a million rounds were put into the development and testing of the pistol series that was introduced in 2017 as the FN 509.
A versatile polymer-framed striker-fired 9mm, it is available in a long slide (LS) Edge variant for practical/competition use, standard-length models, Tactical variants with extended magazines and threaded barrels, and Compact guns ideal for concealed carry.
Don’t let the fact that it is kind of a sleeper on the market, those who know, know.
9. FN 503
FN’s first subcompact single-stack pistol since the Model 1910 (Browning Model 55) went out of production in 1983, the FN 503 is ideal for concealed carry, especially in a deep-cover or non-permissive environment where printing could be inconvenient.
Slightly smaller than a Glock 43, this modern 9mm is a hidden gem for protection outside of the home.
10. Glock 17
This legendary striker-fired 9mm launched the Glock empire when it arrived on the market in the early 1980s. The first successful polymer-framed pistol, it overcame an initial uphill fight– nobody likes change– and has encouraged a crop of imitators.
Boasting a 17+1 shot capacity, this full-sized combat handgun has gone on to be the most adopted in Western military service around the world, with countries ranging from Britain and France to South Korea and Singapore trusting it.
The latest variant, the Gen 5 model, includes upgrades such as the Glock Marksmanship Barrel which is extremely accurate.
11. Glock 19
A more compact version of Gaston Glock’s G17 design, the Glock 19 for many is the perfect multipurpose handgun.
With a standard 15+1 round capacity, the G19 stands ready for use in home defense, is enjoyable to shoot on the range (there are documented specimens still ticking with well over 100,000 rounds fired), has more aftermarket support than just about any other firearm ever produced shy of the AR-15, and, when using the right holster, is a favorite carry gun for many.
There is a reason the G19 consistently tops the best-selling pistols list. Go for the Gen 5 model for the most current set of features.
12. Glock 43
The smallest 9mm handgun that Glock makes, the “slimline” Glock 43 was introduced in 2015 and was an instant hit.
Providing a 6+1 capacity pistol that was smaller than some of the most compact .380s and .32s on the market, the G43 soon became the choice of many for concealed carry, be they the average CCW holder or off-duty police. Hitting the scales at just 20 ounces when fully loaded, the gun is one of the few 9mm pistols that can be ankle carried comfortably. We dove deep into the G43 in our review of Glock’s concealed carry masterpiece.
For those who would prefer a few more rounds, the Glock 43X still has a slim profile but offers a 10+1 capacity and is just three ounces heavier.
13. Ruger EC9s
Ruger introduced their hammer-fired Lightweight Compact 9mm, or LC9, a decade ago and it had a lot to like. However, once the company switched to a striker-fired version with more economical fixed sights a few years later, the Essential Compact 9mm (striker-fired), or EC9s, brought a bit more to the party and for less cost.
Offering a 7+1 capacity in a pistol just 6-inches long overall and 17-ounces in weight, the EC9s has a few minor improvements over the Glock 43 while costing less.
On the downside, it doesn’t have the same aftermarket support, with fewer options for holsters and no options for upgrading the basic sights. However, for a few dollars more one can get a Ruger Security 9 Compact model which is only a couple ounces heavier but offers 10- and 15-shot magazines and the ability to swap out sights.
14. Ruger Security 9
A fundamental replacement for the company’s chunky old P-series pistols of the 1980s and 90s, the striker-fired polymer-framed Security 9 series is much more contemporary.
Lightweight but with a 4-inch barrel and 15+1 capacity, the gun is compact in the same way that the Glock 19 is, but costs less.
Using drift adjustable sights, the Security 9 is also offered in a Pro version that comes standard with Tritium night sights. For those wanting something smaller from the same line, there is the Security 9 Compact variant.
15. Sig Sauer P229
Just as the Glock 19 is seen as a more perfected sequel to the preceding G17, Sig Sauer’s P229 was introduced in 1992 following almost 15 years of feedback on other Sig P-200 series pistols.
With a flush-fitting 13-round magazine in its 9mm variant– Sig retired the .40S&W option last year– the P229 has a smaller capacity than a lighter weight G19 but for fans of metal-framed double-action/single-action hammer-fired pistols, it is preferred over contemporaries such as the Beretta 92.
In short, the P229 is kind of like the gun version of a Cadillac: it may not be the fastest car on the road, but it will get you there in style.
16. Sig Sauer P365
Sig kind of broke the carry gun market with their P365, the lead entry of a line of pistols that are now considered “Micro 9s” as they are very small, rivaling single-stack subcompacts such as the FN 503 or Glock 43, but have a modified double-stack magazine giving them a 10+1 or 12+1 capacity.
Since its initial introduction, Sig has expanded the P365 series with larger XL and XL Spectre models as well as a melted SAS model.
They have also sparked a whole line of imitators that are trying to keep up, however, most of those other Micro 9s, for now at least, should probably still be in the beta test first-generation stage.
Brazilian gunmaker Taurus has been working for the past quarter-century on its semi-auto 9mm game and the G3 series, as you may figure from its name, is the third generation of that effort.
While these guns are affordable to the point of being eschewed by many of today’s more aristocratic gun shoppers as too cheap to be any good, it is almost impossible to find a bad review of these bad boys.
Plus, with a 12+1 capacity and a size just shy of the Micro 9 category, they check a lot of boxes for those looking for a good carry gun.
How did 9mm get so popular?
Introduced by Georg Luger around 1900 for use in the toggle-action semi-automatic military pistol that carries his name, the 9mm Parabellum– also seen as 9×19, 9mm Luger, and 9mm Para– became popular initially in Central Europe.
Then, by the early 1940s when handguns like the Astra 600, Browning Hi-Power, Poland’s Radom VIS, and the Finnish/Swedish Lahti were in circulation, it started to become a more worldwide cartridge. Shortly after World War II, it was the staple cartridge in use with Western military combat as well as law enforcement duty pistols, spreading to America by 1954 with the Smith & Wesson Model 39.
Within a few decades, the light-recoiling 9mm, which still provided effective ballistic performance with appropriate bullets, had largely replaced both lighter rounds such as the .380 and .32 ACP, as well as toppling the vaunted .45ACP in popularity.
In 2017, the FBI tapped it as its standard duty caliber for handguns, a move that cut the legs out from under the .40S&W which had long been billed as splitting the middle ground between 9mm and .45ACP.
In short, today’s 9mm now stands atop the mountain when it comes to modern pistol calibers as it is controllable for most shooters, is typically available in a diverse range of loadings from target to protection to hunting uses, uses a case, and an overall length that allows it to function even in very compact pistols, and it performs as advertised.
While the 9mm is an excellent choice when it comes to an all-around handgun caliber, and the variety of pistols chambered for are more expansive than anything else out there, the combo does have a few pitfalls to navigate.
As a double-edged sword of its popularity, with so many firearms chambered in 9mm in circulation, it soon became the least available ammo in the country in 2020 during the COVID panic. Much like Charmin two-ply, gun owners stopped by the local big box or gun shop and picked up a few extra boxes. Added to that were millions of new first-time gun owners– many selecting 9mm handguns as they were the most prevalent in display cases– and the shortage grew even more dire.
Of course, ammo makers are working overtime to fill those empty shelves, and the laws of supply and demand dictate that eventually, they will be so successful at the restock that 9mm ammo will be stacked in pallets at every gun store in the land, it is probably a good idea to grab several extra boxes as soon as that surplus appears, just in case.
The 9mm handguns of today represent the cutting edge of firearms development, with over a century of lessons learned coaching along that evolutionary process to its current pinnacle.
With so many designs offered, there is something to fit every need and purpose for those looking for a quality pistol that can last a lifetime. Do your research and choose wisely and the odds of being disappointed are slim.
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