The single-stack 9mm pistol format is one of the most popular segments of the handgun market these days, but where is a person to start? Which one should you choose? Which is the best and for what purpose?
Obviously, concealed carry is mostly the purpose as the handgun market is heavily weighted towards handguns that make that easier. Thus, a wealth of compact, lightweight subcompact and micro pistols is available to the consumer, many of which are single-stack for their slim lines, easier concealment and carrying. However, there are so many excellent choices of carry gun out there, it’s hard to know where to start.
What single stack guns should a buyer look at?
The best single stack 9mm pistol, of course, is a 1911 in 9mm. My job is done here, and I think we can put this topic to bed.
What? The comments section is indignant?! Fine. Besides, I’m only kidding. There are plenty of other great choices of single-stack 9mm pistol. I just like joking about it because it drives some of you people nuts. Anyway, here are seven excellent choices of slim 9mm pistols for pleasant pistol packin’.
Arguably primus inter pares among the compact single stack pistol set is the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield. First launched in 2012, the Shield 9mm (there’s also .40 and a larger version in .45 ACP) has been lauded for its slim dimensions, light carry weight and pleasant shooting characteristics (reliability and accuracy too). It was recently refreshed as the M2.0 edition (Smith still sells the original version).
The M2.0 has a slightly updated slide, slightly updated grip stippling and a much better trigger, arguably the worst feature on the original model.
The Shield carries 7+1 or 8+1 with an extended magazine, and sports a 3.1-inch barrel. The pistol weighs in at just under 20 oz and has rough dimensions of 6″x5″x1″.
In the base configuration it comes with three-dot white sights, but can be had with fiber optic or night sights for an upcharge. Integrated lasers can be had from the factory as well. A thumb safety is optional, and a plethora of Performance Center models are available too. MSRP is $469 for the base model, but you’ll have no difficulty finding one for $350.
The GLOCK 43 is another top choice in a self-defense concealed carry gun. The Baby Baby GLOCK carries 6+1 of 9mm, with a 3.3-inch barrel. While relatively late to the single stack party, it quickly became one of the CCW pistol go-to guns. While some might say the choice of a GLOCK lacks creativity at this point, the fact is they just work and darn well at that.
Roughly the same size as the M&P9 Shield, though a half-inch shorter, it’s arguably the other standard (along with the Shield) that all single-stack 9mm subcompacts are judged by. Wildly popular with law enforcement and the public alike, you won’t go wrong with a G43.
Springfield, of course, joined the single-stack subcompact party with the XD-S. The XD-S is broadly the same size and specs as the Shield save that the flush-fit magazine carries 7+1 and the extended magazine packs 9+1.
It has heavily knurled grips and something the others in this group lack; a grip safety. While some lament this feature, many appreciate it. A little redundancy in that department never hurts, of course.
The XD-S was given a recent refresh (the original version is still available), as Springfield Armory applied its Mod.2 grip and frame texturing to the XD-S line.
Both can be had with standard three-dot sights or with a fiber optic front sight. The Springfield XDS Mod.2 can also be had with a factory laser, and in tactical gray or a FDE frame. Black or stainless slides are options too.
Different can often be better, and that would certainly describe the Walther PPS M2. The PPS M2 is basically the same size and shape as the three pistols mentioned above, with a carrying capacity of 6-, 7- or 8+1 of 9mm with flush or extended magazines.
What sets it apart is Walther’s superior ergonomic design and excellent factory trigger, which is vastly better than most of the competition. If the above guns are Honda, Toyota and Nissan, this is a Volkswagen Jetta. More smartly designed, and has a feel of quality despite the price tag.
Kahr’s 9mm pistols are sleepers, in that they don’t get much fanfare, but are very solid guns. Kahr only makes single-stack guns in DAO (double action only), with an internal hammer and the requisite long trigger pull. It’s much like a revolver trigger and Kahr takes pains to ensure an impressively smooth trigger pull.
There are several choices of size, ranging from the micro (CM9) to the full-size S, ST and CT series. Every frame size has a budget, mid-shelf and premium model, with stainless steel or polymer frames, so it would take all day to list them here.
The CM9 appears to be the most popular, with a barrel length of 3.1 inches and capacity of 6+1 or 7+1 with an extended magazine. Features are few (they are well-made, but simple) but with some upgrades available such as night sights and a few slide finish options.
Another option that isnt’ the same-old same-old is the SIG SAUER P938. It’s a clone of the Colt Mustang design that’s been scaled up for 9mm. It carries 6+1 or 7+1 with an extended magazine, and has a 3-inch barrel. It comes in a number of finish options and is a little different.
Since the P938 is a micro 1911-pattern pistol, it’s hammer-fired and single-action, unlike the rest of these striker-fired pistols, though it lacks the grip safety. That means you either have to carry Condition One with the thumb safety engaged (cocked and locked) or cock it on the draw by racking the slide. Which one you prefer is up to you.
The budget-minded crowd will also appreciate the Ruger LC9s. The LC9s is part of the LC series (which began life as the LCP in .380). The LC9s, of course, has been scaled-up for the 9mm round.
Broadly the same dimensions as the Shield, Glock 43 and XD-S, the Ruger LC9s features a striker operating system (instead of the LCP’s dismal DAO system) and drift-adjustable sights. Options of frame and slide color abound.
While it’s not feature-packed, and it is something of a budget gun (regularly less than $400; less than $300 on a good day) it’s everything you need, nuthin’ you don’t.