For over a century, 9mm handguns have been wildly popular with military, law enforcement and private citizens. Known variously as 9mm Luger, 9mm Parabellum, 9x19mm, or simply “9mm”, handguns in this chambering are available in everything from tiny pocket pistols, to full size duty pistols.
Because the market is awash in various 9mm pistols – ranging from cheap to high end, and filling all manner of needs, one is often left wondering what is the best 9mm pistol? A better question would be to ask what 9mm pistol is best for what different roles and price points. We’ve taken a stab at answering that question. Take a look and see what you think!
Best 9mm pistols for 2021
We’ve broken this up into type of handguns and by price point. In each case, we are going to briefly introduce three different guns. Sometimes there will be overlap and repetition – after all, there are times when the same gun can do many different jobs. In each case, our choice of 9mm pistol will be based off of real world performance, and real world value.
A. By Type
1. The Best Single Stack 9mm Pistol
Single stack magazines lead to slimmer handgun profiles, which lead to slimmer, easier to carry guns. In states that restrict magazine capacities, single stack 9mm pistols are an attractive choice when compared to full size guns with limited capacity magazines. Here are our three favorites.
The Beretta Nano is a slick little single stack 9mm that gets the job done. Featuring adjustable sights, flush fitting six round, and extended eight round magazines, and a variety of available colors in the grip frame, this is an excellent concealed carry or even nightstand gun.
Springfield Armory 1911 Pistol
Springfield Armory 1911's aren’t what you’d expect as the best single stack 9mm pistol, but they have a lot going for them. For people who want a full size 1911 but can’t handle the recoil of .45, or just prefer the 9mm round, a single stack 9mm 1911 is a great choice. Ideal as a duty pistol, full size carry, or under the seat gun, it’s easy to pick the Springfield 1911 that is right for you.
The Glock 43 brings Glock perfection to the single stack 9mm world. Is it the best single stack 9mm? Well it’s a Glock, so you tell me. Built to the same rugged standards as full size Glocks, the Glock 43 is a slim handgun that is perfect for concealed carry. A single stack Glock. What’s not to love?
Choosing any of these three best single stack 9mm pistols is a great way to get an excellent concealed carry or full size 9mm single stack.
2. The Best 9mm Pistol For Home Defense
Home invasions can happen in an instance, and are always terrifying. However, you can make it more terrifying for the violent intruder than it is for you by choosing a good 9mm pistol. What makes a good home defense gun? Well, we like them with night sights and standard capacity magazines that keep you shooting until the danger has passed.
Beretta M9 Pistol
The Beretta M9 has served the US armed forces for decades, and is popular with law enforcement and civilian shooters around the world. This full sized, combat handgun is battle proven, so you know it’s one of the best 9mm pistols for home defense.
Glock 9mm Pistols
Of course Glock is on this list. You can easily install night sights if you wish, and the built in accessory rail is perfect for adding a light or laser. Popular around the world with elite forces, law enforcement and private citizens, Glock 9mm pistols may be the standard for a home defense gun.
Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0 Compact Pistol
Compact Smith and Wesson M&P pistols are a great choice for home defense. Easy to hide, and easy to bring into action, these are also easily upgraded and can be quickly fitted with a light or laser, making them an ideal 9mm for home defense.
You never want to have to face a situation where you need to use a handgun for home defense. But if you do, won’t you feel better with a high quality 9mm?
3. The Best 9mm Pistol For Concealed Carry
Everyone has a different idea of the ideal concealed carry pistol. Some demand the smallest, slimmest pistols possible. Others are content with a full sized pistol. No matter your choice, we found three great 9mm pistols to consider for concealed carry.
SCCY CPX-2 Pistol
The SCCY CPX-2 is an amazingly affordable, comfortable 9mm pistol. The double action only mode makes it very safe for concealed carry or pocket carry, while the doublestack 10 round magazine gives you more firepower than other similar sized pistols. Perfect for concealed carry.
Ruger LC9s Pistol
The Ruger LCDs is one of the best 9mm concealed carry pistols out there. Designed from the ground up to be easy carrying, reliable and snag free, it embodies all the ideals of a small, concealed 9mm pistol. And because it is striker fired, it is quicker and easier to get into action than traditional hammer fired pistols, while also offering a lighter trigger pull.
Concealed carry 9mm pistols are among the most popular of all handguns, and probably the ones that see the most use. Once you find one you love, you’ll feel safer than ever.
4. The Best 9mm Pistol For Target Shooting
Target shooting is wildly popular and easy for anyone to get into. Because there are so many different target grade guns on the market, competition has made some of them very affordable. There is no strict definition for what makes a target shooting pistol, but here are some that are perfect for target shooting.
Ruger SR1911 Pistol
Ruger SR1911 9mm pistols beg to be used for target shooting. With an adjustable trigger, adjustable rear sight, and the fact 1911’s have been standards target shooting pistols for over a century, you’ll find the SR1911 a perfect 9mm target shooting pistol.
CZ 75 Centerfire Pistol
The CZ-75 is world renowned as one of the best target pistols on the market. Extremely accurate, and a standard setting design, this is one of those rare 9mm’s that are perfect for target shooting, and regular carry. CZ precision barrels, and an ergonomic form factor all combine to make one wildly accurate gun.
Walther PPQ M2 Q5 Match Pistol
The Walther PPQ M2 Q5 match pistol defines what a modern 9mm target pistol should be. With a ported slight, optics mounting ability, light target trigger, and precision sights, this is a target range ready gun that delivers unbelievable accuracy.
9mm target pistols have been popular since the 9mm round was first introduced. Modern designs and manufacturing methods have made the best target 9mm’s ever made in history available to the common shooter.
5. The Best 9mm Competition Pistols
Competition shooting is more popular than ever, and easy to get into. Each form of competition has its own rules and methods, but they all require a highly accurate, competition grade 9mm pistol. Here are three of the best ones on the market today.
Kimber Custom 1911 Pistol
The Kimber Custom is one of the best 9mm competition pistols on the market today. Designed for maximum accuracy, and built with hand fitted match grade parts, Kimber’s optics ready competition 1911 all but defines what a high grade competition pistol should be.
Smith & Wesson M&P C.O.R.E. Pistol
Smith and Wesson M&P C.O.R.E. pistols are literally designed for competition shooting. Built from the ground up to be an optics ready match grade 9mm competition pistol, it is both affordable and scary accurate. A great way to get started in competition shooting!
EAA Witness Centerfire Pistol
The EAA Witness is built to provide out of the box competition shooting readiness. With adjustable rear sights, an ergonomic grip, match grade trigger and extremely accurate barrel, this is a fantastic 9mm competition pistol. And with a balanced competition frame, you know it will be accurate!
There are all sorts of competition 9mm pistols, but they aren’t all made equally. From entry level, to high end factory custom pistols, you’ll find the gun to suit your wallet and skill level.
6. The Best Subcompact 9mm Pistols
Subcompact 9mm pistols are very popular as backup guns for law enforcement, for deep concealed carry, and for the convenience of having a pocket pistol. There are a great many different ones on the market right now, but these three lightweight, tiny gems are among our favorites.
Springfield Armory XD-S Pistol
The Springield XD-S is among the smallest subcompact 9mm pistols on the market. Lightweight, and available with 3.3 or 4 inch barrels, it features a lightweight poly frame, a Picatinny accessory rail, and an easy carrying, snag free design. Perfect for when you just want to carry a light, but effective little 9mm pistol.
Ruger LC9s Pistol
The Ruger LC-9s is another subcompact 9mm favorite. Featuring traditional styling, ergonomic grip, and designed for comfortable concealed carry, this little gem is backed by Ruger’s commitment to quality, and has some of the nicer sights we’ve seen on a subcompact 9mm.
Glock Gen 4 Sub-Compact Pistol
Glock subcompact 9mm pistols speak for themselves. Classic Glock styling, with three interchangeable backstraps for maximum comfort, plus three included magazines ensure you’ve got an out of the box concealed carry gun ready to go. If you are already a fan of Glock pistols, why not add a subcompact Glock to your carry rotation?
Subcompact 9mm pistols are important when you need a truly discrete concealed carry. Small, lightweight, and easily tucked away, these little guns stay hidden until you need them. Then they pack a powerful punch!
7. The Best Full Size 9mm Pistols
Full Size 9mm pistols are the choice for law enforcement, security, and private citizens who prefer full sized guns with full sized magazines. Full size 9mm pistols also will offer the best sights and grips – all because they don’t have to sacrifice anything in design to scale them down in size. Here are three rock solid full sized 9’s for your consideration.
Rock Island GI Series 1911 Pistol
Rock Island GI style 1911 pistols all but define what it means to have a full sized handgun. Popular for over a century, and available in 9mm, the 1911 is the definitive full size of the 20th century, and remains wildly popular with shooters and armed forces around the world.
SIG Sauer P320 Pistol
The Sig P320 is the heart of the latest US Army issue handgun. That tells you right there it is probably the best full size 9mm pistol in the world. Interchangeable backstraps mean you can fit this pistol to the hands of any shooter. If it’s good enough for the Army, it’s good enough for you!
HECKLER & KOCH P30 Centerfire Pistol
The HK P30 is a rugged, comfortable full size 9mm pistol. With a generous Picatinny accessory rail, contoured and textured grip, and special, hyper accurate polygonal rifled barrel, you’ll have no trouble believing this is one of the best full sized 9mm pistols on the market today.
There are a lot of reasons to have a full sized 9mm pistol, comfort, size and firepower chief among them. They hold more ammo, have a better sight radius, and often just feel better in the hand.
8. The Smallest 9mm Pistols
Sometimes you really want or need a tiny 9mm pistol. As a backup gun, deep concealed carry gun, or simply the personal choice of a small gun, there are a lot of tiny 9mm pistols on the market. What this little guns lack in size, they make up with in being so easy to carry, you’ll always be sure to have a gun on your person.
Ruger LCR Revolver
The Ruger LCR is a surprising choice for smallest 9mm pistol – mostly because it is a revolver! Yes, 9mm revolvers do exist, and while there may be smaller 9mm semi autos out there, sometimes you just can’t beat a small, compact wheelgun in your pocket. If you like revolvers, and the 9mm round, this is the gun for you.
There are a lot of small 9mm pistols out there, and they readily overlap with subcompact and single stack model 9mm pistols. Take a look at our choices there, and here and you’ll have no problem at all finding the smallest 9mm pistol.
9. The Best 9mm Semi Auto Pistol
9mm pistols have been used in both World Wars, and every major – and most minor conflicts of the 20th century to the present day. They are in wide use with law enforcement and lawfully armed citizens, and have become a defining standard for what a handgun should be. But which ones are the best? Well…
CZ 75 Centerfire Pistol
The CZ-75 is highly regarded by anyone who needs or wants an accurate, well balanced and easy shooting 9mm pistol. Built to exacting Czech standards of design, accuracy, and finish, knowledgeable shooters know that the CZ-75 is among the best 9mm pistols on the market.
Heckler & Koch - Semiautomatic Centerfire Pistol
HK has been building military grade 9mm pistols for decades. These Old World quality pistols are known for extreme reliability, ruggedness and outstanding function. As an added bonus, they come with outstanding customer service in the unlikely event you ever need your pistol serviced.
Picking three of the best 9mm semi auto pistols is very hard. But when some companies have a legacy of innovation and sometimes even change the very meaning of what a 9mm semi automatic pistol is, well, then the choices are easier.
B. By The Money
Sometimes price matters. While it would be nice to buy the best, and most expensive 9mm pistol on the market, we can’t always do that. But there are plenty of fine pistols at various price points that will get the job done. Here are our favorites by price range.
1. The Best 9mm Pistol Under $500
There are a lot of 9mm pistols in the $4-500 price range. In fact most famous name 9mm’s fall in this price range, and it is the sweet spot for high quality 9mm pistols. The problem wasn’t finding good 9mm’s in this price range. It was picking just three!
With many popular handguns clocking in around $4-500, you can often splurge on upgrades like better sights or accessories and still come in at a very reasonable price.
2. The Best 9mm Pistol Under $400
You don’t have to sacrifice quality to get a sub $400 9mm. In fact, a great many well known brands and styles fall in this price range, as well as a number of very popular concealed carry pistols. These three are among our absolute favorites.
Smith & Wesson SD Series Pistols
The Smith and Wesson SD offers a compact, modern design with a consistent, 8 pound self defense trigger pull. You don’t have to worry about touchy, dangerously light triggers with this gun. And it’s priced right, so your wallet won’t feel bad either.
Remington RP Series CF Pistols
The Remington RP is a simple, comfortable 9mm pistol that normally sells for about $360. You’ll find it offers classic Glock like controls, but with a traditional styling that appeals to a lot of people. With a good price, and a great design, you’ll love this handy full sized 9mm.
Major manufacturers are happy to offer innovative and high quality 9mm pistols in the $3-400 price range, which makes them approachable to many shooters.
3. The Best 9mm Pistol Under $300
There are even plenty of 9mm pistols for people folks on a budget. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true. And they aren’t junk guns either. Take a look and be surprised! You might want to get one, even if you weren’t in the market for an inexpensive 9mm.
SCCY CPX-2 Pistol
The SCCY CPX-2 is a US made, compact double stack double action only pistol that makes a great every day carry pocket pistol. Light, powerful and holding more rounds than competing guns in the same form factor and price range, it’s a great inexpensive little pistol.
Diamondback DB9 Pistol
The Diamondback DB9 slips under most folk’s radar, but shouldn’t. A classic slim, lightweight and budget friendly 9mm pistol, it is perfect for concealed carry, or as a backup gun. Heck, it fits nicely in a dresser drawer too as a “just in case” pistol. For the price, it can’t hurt to buy one.
A 9mm pistol for under $300 is quite doable. In fact, there are many high quality concealed carry pistols that fit this price point. While you might not have all the latest trendy bells and whistles, you’ll still get a 9m pistol that you can rely on to shoot accurately and safely.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Are 9mm Pistols Accurate?
9mm pistols have been used in target shooting for about as long as 9mm pistols have been available. Today’s modern shooters demand the utmost accuracy from their guns, and manufacturers have responded. The 9mm can be a very accurate load if you have the skill to shoot it that way.
Because most 9mm pistols are used in somewhat close ranges for combat or self defense – say about seven to fifty yards, most guns are calibrated to shoot around those ranges with standard iron sights. Special competition guns that are rigged for speed and accuracy are built to take scopes or red dot sights to increase the accuracy potential of the gun.
Suffice it to say, with the right guns, and the right loads, and with decent practice and training, the 9mm pistol is extremely accurate – surely a comfort when using them in a high stress self defense situation.
How Far Can A 9mm Pistol Shoot?
The 9mm has a maximum range of about 2100 yards – or about 1.2 miles! Pretty impressive for a small handgun round. However, the maximum effective range will be far less. You really don’t want to be shooting a 9mm pistol over 100 yards and still expect it to be a viable fighting round. For that matter less than 100 yards out of most pistols is an even better choice. Typically handguns are used under 50 yards, due to the rapid way in which they drop in power.
However, that doesn’t mean you can wildly shoot off your 9mm pistol. There are many sad cases of people being hit and killed by stray bullets fired from hundreds of yards away from a shooting range. Always practice safe shooting, and always know where your bullet is traveling.
It also goes without saying that a compact or subcompact 9mm will have less range and power than a full size version. Longer barrels allow for more powder to burn, which generates more power and range for the bullet.
How Loud Is A 9mm Pistol?
9mm pistols are loud! Louder than a jet engine at take off, which means you really want to wear hearing protection when shooting them. Let’s put it this way, would you stand next to a jet engine without hearing protection when the engine is running?
Now of course, it may be that you have little choice in the matter – you really don’t have time to put on ear protection when engaging in a self defense shooting. Of course if you are lucky to live in a state where silencers are legal and you have one legally installed on your gun, then you are in luck. Even though silencers really don’t fully quiet a gun, they will make your 9mm safer to shoot without hearing protection.
In other words, never shoot your 9mm without hearing protection unless you absolutely have to. Eventually you’ll ruin your hearing – and that is something that can never come back.
What Kinds Of 9mm Ammo Is Available?
There is all sorts of 9mm ammo on the market. Ranging from the mild 115 grain full metal jacket loads that are ideal for some tiny 9mm pistols, to powerful hollowpoint ammo, you’ll find 9mm ammo for every need you might have.
For common range practice, inexpensive full metal jacket ammo is perfect. It is inexpensive, accurate and will function in pretty much any 9mm pistol. In fact, if you can’t get your gun to run 115 grain ball ammo, there is probably something wrong with it.
Of course, you’ll want to make sure your gun can function with the sort of defensive ammo you want to carry. Sometimes hollowpoint ammo has trouble feeding, and individual guns can be oddly picky about the ammo they will feed – to the point where two identical guns might not shoot the same ammo well. Of course you can always do a “fluff and buff”of your gun to improve how it feeds ammo. A simple feedramp polishing and maybe different extractor springs can do wonders for how a gun performs.
You’ll also find subsonic ammo for shooting out of 9mm pistols with silencers. Because the bullet is traveling below the speed of sound, they can be extremely quiet when fired from a suppressed pistol. This is excellent for hearing safety, and reducing noise pollution when shooting at ranges.
As a general rule, you will use full metal jacket ammo for target shooting or because your gun won’t feed other types of ammo reliably (this is especially common with older and vintage 9mm pistols), and will use hollowpoint ammo for daily carry. Be careful, high pressure 9mm ammo (rated +p or +p+) should only be fired in guns clearly approved by the manufacturer for high pressure ammo. Using it in guns not rated for high pressure ammo can destroy the gun and lead to serious personal injury.
Can A 9mm Pistol Really Kill A Bear?
While there are fluke cases of the 9mm killing bears, as a general rule, you really don’t want to try it. At all. The 9mm is simply not enough gun to use on dangerous game. Because bears are large, powerful predator animals, you need a large, powerful round to protect yourself from them. In the rare cases a round like 9mm manages to kill a bear, it is a combination of luck and sheer chance that does it.Short of a very limited range of direct hits into crucial organs or the central nervous system, a 9mm is just going to make a bear angrier at you, and you’ll probably wish you hadn’t shot it. So really, if you are going into bear country, leave the 9mm at home, and go for something with a bit more punch.
The 9mm is a very common handgun round, and can even be found in some rifle configurations. It is more than powerful enough for self defense or combat use, and is found all over the world. 9mm is standard with some of the largest and most powerful armed forces on the planet, and is also very popular with law enforcement and private citizens who carry a pistol for self defense. It also have a place in competitive target shooting and other forms of shooting sports. In other words, it is a very useful round that does almost anything outside of hunting and dangerous game protection that you might ask from a handgun.Today, there is a wide variety of 9mm handguns and ammo on the market, ensuring that the shooter can have exactly the gun and ammo combo that suits their particular and unique needs.
Steve Coffman is a consulting historian presently researching the dark history of the Washington State Secret Service, and their concerted assault on civil rights in Washington State 1917-1919.