For over a century, the 9mm has been the pistol round of choice for military, law enforcement, and civilians alike. While that means that there are lots of 9mms out there for you to consider for self-defense, it’s hard to figure out which is the best one for you and your needs. We’ve put together a buying guide on the best 9mm pistols for each use case, a rundown on the best 9mm pistol of each brand, and a quick guide to the best type of 9mm ammo to use for each situation.
- Top 9mm Overall Pick
- Best for Concealed Carry
- Best for Home Defense
- Top 9mm Picks from each Brand
- Best Type of Ammo to Use
Let’s get started:
Things to Consider When Buying a 9mm Pistol
While we think it’s hard to declare and winner for “best 9mm pistols” without knowing a little bit more, some basic criteria can be used to figure out what constitutes a good 9mm pistol for you. Here are five we think matter:
1. What’s your purpose?
If you’re law enforcement, for example, what 9mm pistol you’ll end up using might well be dictated by the department, and will likely be a Glock or some similar striker-fired pistol with a double-stack magazine. For us civilians, though, concealed carry might be a lot more likely, so our 9mm is might well be something with a shorter barrel length. Regardless of your purpose, though, it’s more than possible to find a high-quality 9mm pistol.
2. How much are you going to train?
Things like trigger pull, magazine capacity, and sights vary widely between pistols. With that said, your carry gun should be easy for you to use. Some people love their double-action/single-action handguns, but something like that takes a little more dedication in terms of training when compared to the usual polymer-framed guns with a single-action trigger.
3. Where are you going to be using the handgun?
For a lot of us, buying a 9mm will mean considering concealed carry. The best handguns in the world will do you no good sitting in the drawer, so, in terms of concealed carry, a more compact handgun might make a lot more sense. But if you are going to be at home, a large, steel-frame handgun might be just what you want to keep muzzle flip doing if you do end up having to shoot in the dark.
4. Do you have any prior experience?
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel necessarily when it comes to finding a good gun in 9mm Luger. If you’re prior military, law enforcement, or simply have a lot of trigger time on a particular design, it might be wise to stick with that. People who are great with hammer-fired guns would do well to consider one for the concealed carry pistol, for instance.
5. What is available to you?
Again, the best 9mm pistol in the world does you precisely zero good if you can’t get your hands on it. Thus, whether you’re planning on using it for concealed carry or home defense, if there’s limited availability of guns in your area or for your budget, then the best gun might be the 9mm handgun you can pick up at a local shop today.
Top Overall Pick: The Best 9mm Pistol
Glock 17 (Gen. 5)
For us, the best 9mm pistol overall has to be the Glock 17. This series of striker-fired pistols have become the mainstay for militaries and law enforcement for a reason. With a polymer frame, a double-stack magazine, giving it decent magazine capacity, and the sheer availability of parts for the ubiquitous 9mm handgun makes it a standout in its own right. But, let’s look at it in terms of the categories we just suggested.
In terms of our purposes, we’re assuming home defense. Thus, the large magazine capacity and moderate barrel length make the Glock 17 a natural choice. Similarly, with some night sights, it’s a more than capable gun for fighting in low light conditions.
Training used to be a weekly thing for us before ammo prices for even 9mm started to get a little absurd. Now, with a little less time and ammo budget to work with, something familiar, like the striker-fired Glock is one of the best 9mm pistols to put in a drawer and forget about until you need to use it.
Since we’re reading this in terms of self-defense at home, the best 9mm in this situation is one with night sights, a large double-stack magazine, a reasonable trigger pull, and enough barrel length to get the most velocity out of a 9mm Luger. So, again, a full-size striker-fired pistol fits the bill nicely.
As far as familiarity, this is our primary reason for the Glock 17. Once you’ve shot one stock Glock, you’ve shot them all, so our previous time with the trigger pull of a Glock 17 will translate well to a Glock 19 or anything else striker-fired pistol in 9mm.
Availability-wise, the Glock 19 is the Honda Civic of handguns. They’re for sale used everywhere, in conditions ranging from excellent to beat down. Pick one without anything silly done to the polymer frame by a previous owner, and you’re in good shape as all of the other parts can be shipped to your door.
Glock pistols have become the industry standard for police forces, and that’s no accident. Most Glocks are built well and will get the job done in the worst of circumstances. While we think Sig makes more handsome-looking guns, Heckler Koch makes cooler ones, and a single-stack 1911 is a thing of beauty, when things have gone seriously sideways, we want a Glock 17 in our hand.
For nighttime home defense, there is no better addition you can buy for your firearm than a laser/light combo. This has the dual advantage of ensuring you have a clear picture of what/where you are shooting while also blinding the intruder.
Our editor recently added the Streamlight TLR-8G to his Glock 17 and can’t recommend it enough. The light is quite bright at 500 lumens and the green laser makes it incredibly easy to accurately shoot rapid fire without ever having to look down the sights. This light is built to be compatible with many of the guns on this list – not just the Glock 17.
- Well made
- Relatively Affordable
- Light Polymer Frame
- Widely Available
- The stock trigger pull is long
- It is a little bit big for some concealed carry applications
Best Concealed Carry 9mm Pistol
In addition to the specific recommendations we made above for a carry handgun, we also like to think about one final question: will I be willing to carry this gun everywhere I can legally. If the answer is yes, then that’s your handgun. Otherwise, rethink the criteria we listed in the early part of this article and try to find something that fits your size and mission profile a little more closely. For example, I know a friend who is a truly tiny woman, but she took a liking to an HK VP9 at the range one day, and now she carries one in her little clutch every day to her clerical job. Not the choice I would have made, but she’s safer every day and can shoot great groups with it.
For this category, we’re going to break it down into a few subcategories, since the world of concealed carry is a relatively wide one. No one mode of concealed carry will work for everyone, so thinking through the different kinds of pistols that someone might choose for different circumstances is a useful exercise when picking your own pistols.
Best Compact 9mm
Glock 19 (Gen. 5)
We’re going with the Glock 19 for the same reasons we list above for liking the Glock 17 so much. In the wide world of 9mm handguns, sticking with a well-known platform with decent magazine capacity is a good way to go. A Glock 19 is an excellent firearm that is chosen by both civilians and police forces looking for something a little smaller than a full-size Glock or Sig.
Furthermore, the Glock 19 has a standard barrel length short enough to be easily concealed without giving up much velocity. The Glock 19 also has a reasonably simple trigger pull like most striker-fired pistols, which makes it easy and fast to deploy from concealment.
- It’s a Glock 17, but smaller!
- A shorter barrel length will cost you some velocity
Best SubCompact 9mm
Sig Sauer P365
For us, the best subcompact 9mm pistol is the Sig Sauer P365 Nitron. One of our writers has the similar .380 P238 and he is in love with the firearm. This tiny series of Sig firearms are some of the smallest concealed carry guns out there, and they’re also fantastically accurate.
While the single stacked 10+1 round magazines aren’t the largest out there, they are pretty impressive for a subcompact and the single stack of rounds means the magazine and grip feel great in the hand. Compared to equivalent 9mm pistols by other brands such as the Glock 43x, the Sig P365 is quite short and light, making it ideal for concealed carry.
Most models also come with night sights that make them awesome for shooting in adverse conditions. The trigger is also excellent: Sig seems to care deeply about every firearm that goes out of their factories, which is why gun owners the world over have taken to Sig in recent years.
- Excellent Tigger Pull
- Small and Light
- High ammunition capacity for its size
- Shoots very well
- Limited magazine capacity, it is a single stack magazine after all.
- This polymer pistol had some early safety issues
Best Handgun for Women – Concealed Carry 9mm
Sig Sauer P320
We don’t think gender matters a lot when it comes to gun selection. But for women there’s one awesome thing going for them besides not having big egos at the range and thus taking pointers much more gracefully: women often carry a purse. That opens them up to larger handguns, so here we’re recommending a full-size Sig P320.
Sig Sauer is now making these for the U.S. Army, meaning that it’s a quality, accurate 9mm semi-auto pistol that comes with a decent trigger. Put in a pocket holster inside of a purse, and anyone would be happy to have one: no pink marketing nonsense required. The Sig p320 is also more of a platform than any individual firearm. On most guns, the serialized part is the polymer frame: for the Sig P320, it’s the metal chassis upon which the rest of the components can be fitted.
For our tastes, we’d make our Sig P320 the full-size model with the standard-sized frame. After all, if we have a purse with a spare pocket, it only makes sense to throw a big gun in there, and the P320 can certainly become a big gun with a large magazine. Besides having larger capacity magazines, a full size firearm will have the advantage of feeling less recoil.
Sig also makes P320 barrels, grips, and the like that are a lot more compact, making them easier to conceal, for example, on the body. If a lefty wanted to use a Sig P320, for example, there are safeties available right from Sig that will make the P320 friendly for their hands.
All in all, we think Sig hit it out of the park with the P320 as a rugged, all-around platform that will do well, and thus we’d want our partners to be carrying a Sig P320 if they needed a firearm with which to defend themselves.
- It’s passed U.S. Army trials
- If you want, you can put a red dot sight on them
- They’re in use by the military and police, so you’ll have good aftermarket support
- It’s large
- Some people would prefer a grip safety for extra security
- The trigger is a little gritty
Sig also makes a compact version of the P320 for women looking for something a little smaller for body holsters or for smaller purses.
Sig Sauer P320 Compact
Best EDC gun (Everyday Carry)
Sig Sauer P365
At the risk of sounding like Sig Sauer fanboys, we’re going again with the P365 on this one. While early models had some teething issues in terms of ejection, the later ones have become people’s fast favorites, and we see why. It has shockingly little muzzle rise due to a relatively low bore axis, and people love the aftermarket options for fiber-optic front sights.
Best Home Defense Pistol – 9mm
While any defensive shooting is an important one, home defense is, in many ways, the final line of defense. Thus, for home defense guns, we’re going to make sure to stress two points.
First, you may well have to fight in the dark. That means that, for us, night sights are/or a flashlight are an absolute must. We’re not willing to take the chance of errant rounds in our own homes.
Second, it’s entirely possible that someone else, like your partner with no training, might have to use it to defend you or themselves. In a case like that one, we’d want our partner to have something familiar, not an oddball Hechler and Koch VP9 with a giant grip safety that they’ll likely not no how to use.
Glock 17 (Gen. 5)
Thus, we’re keeping it super simple here and recommending, for the same reason we did above, the Glock 17. The striker-fired classic with its generous magazine capacity is one of the most popular 9mm pistols for a reason: it has no secondary safety unlike most of its hammer-fired counterparts and, thus, the single-action trigger can be used by about anyone. A P320 would also be a decent choice for this: there are simply more Glocks in the world at the moment, so the design is the most familiar for most people to own, use, and shoot.
If it were up to us, we’d also add a micro red dot sight, a threaded barrel, and a suppressor to keep the rounds on target, muzzle flask relatively low, and keep us from blinding ourselves with the first round we fire in the dark hallway.
Best 9mm Revolver
Almost every 9mm pistol on the market today is going to be semi-automatic. But, some 9mm handguns are, in fact, revolvers. If you’re looking for a fun piece, or if things like magazine capacity aren’t a concern for you, a revolver might be exactly what you want in your concealed carry pistol. Thus, we’ll recommend two that we think are worth a look if you happen to come across one at the gun store counter.
The Ruger LCR, a modern 9mm revolver with a 5-round magazine (cylinder) is aimed squarely at the subcompact market with a short overall length and its being an extremely concealable 9mm pistol. It’s the smallest one we’d seriously consider carrying, and it’s worth a look.
- It’s both tiny and lightweight while shooting 9mm
- It has a 5 round cylinder, which is less than even the small 7 round magazine you’ll find in something like a Sig P239.
This one is a bit of an oddity, in that the revolver shoots from a barrel that is in line with the bottom cylinder rather than the top. This puts the barrel in line with the wrist of the shooter, reducing muzzle climb substantially. It does have a long overall length, however, so we don’t think we’ll be using one as a concealed carry firearm any time soon.
- It’s among the most unusual 9mm handguns that you’re likely to ever see.
- The barrel placement does make it fun to shoot.
- It’s far too long to be practical as a carry gun in 9mm and is mostly a range toy to us. It’s about as far from the practicality of the Glock 19 as one can get.
Our Top Picks from Leading 9mm Pistol Brands
Do you have a favorite gun brand you swear by? We’ve got you covered. Instead of recommending the best pistol for a category, we’ve done a list of our picks for the best pistols for each individual brand:
Best Beretta 9mm Pistol
We’re going with the M9 / Beretta 92 here. While this 9mm pistol isn’t winning any competitions anymore, it was the pistol trusted by many people who needed their guns to work, so it wins a slot in any discussion about the best 9mm pistols to have been invented. Sure, it’s old, heavy, and big, but all of those things mean cheaper parts and good groups on paper.
We go into a little more depth in the shooting range section for the Beretta 92.
- It’s an accurate 9mm in trained hands.
- The double-action trigger leaves something to be desired.
Best CZ 9mm Pistol
If you took a Browning Hi-Power and spent a decade making it better, you’d have a CZ 75. Having gotten a chance to shoot a nickel-finished CZ 75 once, I’ve been on the lookout for one since. The sights are excellent as is the trigger. If you get the chance, buy one.
- The Cz 75 is a good shooting, well-made handgun and you should try to find one.
- The Cz 75 tends to be overpriced even for its quality.
Best Glock 9mm Pistol
Glock 19 (Gen. 5)
While it was a close one here, we’re going with the Glock 19. Glock makes a wide range of excellent 9mm pistols, but this particular pistol edges out the Glock 17 simply because it’s one of the best 9mm handguns for concealed carry, which is our primary use for a 9mm pistol. A Glock 19 Gen 3 shoots better than its size might lead you to believe, and well worth the money.
- Easy to use under pressure
- Less accurate than its full-size brother, the Glock 17.
Best Kimber 9mm Pistol
Kimber Pro Carry II
Kimber makes expensive guns for people who associate the name with being high quality. I would not personally carry one of their guns, but if I was forced to own one of their pistols in 9mm, it would be the Pro Carry II.
- Featured in John Wick
- Kimbers tend to have a problem jamming
Best Ruger 9mm Pistol
The Ruger EC9s is a no-frills 9mm handgun with a short barrel length aimed at concealed carry and self-defense. It’s not our pick for the best 9mm pistol overall, but they’re widely available and generally reliable. We might not use it as our only gun, but as a firearm that you can conceal just about anywhere, it might make an excellent tuxedo gun or something to think about when a full size handgun is a little too much in terms of bulk or weight.
- Extremely Concealable
- Sights are integral to the slide, reducing the possibility of snags.
- Short barrel length will affect the accuracy
- The Polymer framed gun feels almost too light.
Best Sig Sauer 9mm Pistol
Sig Sauer P320
The new kid on the block, the P320 is getting our nod here. The P320 is the new chosen firearm in many military units, and now we civilian gun owners are getting our hands on them, and we like them a lot. It’s an easy-to-shoot firearm that we’re looking forward to getting more range time with soon. Sig’s been chosen to make arms for the US military these days, so they’re likely to be a major player for years to come in the 9mm space.
- Feels light for a full-size handgun.
- Shoots very well.
- The aftermarket for this handgun is only beginning to grow in a serious way.
Best Smith and Wesson 9mm Pistol
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield
The Smith and Wesson M&P shield is, in effect, their answer to the Glock 43 and the sig p365. As such, it’s a striker-fired 9mm pistol that looks, feels, and shoots about like a Glock. Overall, this S&W 9mm is a good handgun for self-defense.
- It’s more than an adequate handgun for self-defense.
- In the pistol world, being this similar to a Glock without being a Glock means poor aftermarket support.
Best Springfield 9mm Pistol
Springfield Hellcat Micro Compact
Here we have to give the Nod to the Springfield Hellcat Micro Compact. The Hellcat is perfect as a concealed carry handgun. It carries a very impressive 13+1 rounds for its extremely compact size. It’s easy to shoot, has some Picatinny rail slots, and comes out of the factory with an excellent trigger.
- Great super compact concealed carry pistol
- High Capacity for subcompact
- Can be a little difficult to load last few rounds in magazine
Best Taurus 9mm Pistol
Taurus is known for being a manufacturer of affordable pistols, and their 9mm market is no different. Thus, we’re picking the G2C compact, which is, in effect, a copy of the Glock 43 or the sig p365 in terms of concept, design, and capacity.
- It’s a reliable gun that will do well for self-defense.
- We’d rather look around used pistol cases for a Sig p365 or a Glock 43 for the same cost.
Best Walther 9mm Pistol
Even though it’s not that popular in the USA, the Walther PPQ is one of the best firearms out there in 9mm. In fact, if it were more available, we’d consider the Walther PPQ as our top pick. This striker-fired pistol is an excellent gun in terms of the trigger, and the Walther PPQ should be one you look out for in gun cases if you happen to find one out in the wild amidst a sea of Glocks.
- The Walther PPQ is well made and shoots well.
- Good luck finding a Walther PPQ new or used in most of the USA.
Best 9mm for the Shooting Range / Having Fun
Not all guns have to be an ultra-practical choice, and we do love historical firearms. So, for our range toys, which would still make great carry handguns, we’re going to offer three blasts from the past that feature zero tactical features, Picatinny rail sections, or red dot sights.
The Browning Hi-Power is way too big and heavy to make a decent concealed carry gun, but it might be the best 9mm pistol we’ve ever shot in terms of its smooth action and excellent trigger. Designed in an era when the .45 was the most common American pistol round, Browning hit it out of the park with this total classic. The double-action trigger is smooth, and when it resets to single action, the resulting trigger breaks are nice and crisp.
While it’s great to shoot in its own right, the Hi-Power also shows how far 9mm handguns have come, from heavy steel-framed pistols to the new, modular designs like the P320.
- Excellent Double Action Trigger
- One of the best looking handguns in the world
- Magazines are expensive
- It’s a heavy pistol
- The sights were designed a century ago and look like it.
The P08 Luger, a German design dating back to the First World War, is truly a pleasure to shoot. Its single-action trigger, toggle lock, and comparatively ancient design make it an increasingly rare sight at shooting ranges, but if you happen to get the chance, you should absolutely shoot one if you can. Upon shooting it, you’ll find out why this gun was one of the most popular handguns for decades. Its steel frame, low bore axis, and light muzzle flip make it a joy to shoot. We might not want to carry one, but it’s a fun gun for sure.
As a daily gun, we might not trust a P08, even in good working order and with match grade ammunition, but, as a fun gun and an art piece, it’s certainly got a lot of style.
- It’s old school cool for sure
- Toggle locks are hard to maintain.
- Century-old firearms are very expensive to keep running in 2021.
The Beretta 92, also known as the M9 in military circles, is a handgun that has seen law enforcement, military, and civilian use for years. Often you can pick up a surplus one of these steel-framed guns for relatively cheap at gun shows, and if you pick one, you’ll find them to be excellent shooters. The Beretta 92 is a slightly long gun in terms of overall length, and to carry one would be a little bit large and heavy for our tastes, but the beretta m9 is certainly an effective gun today.
Ultimately, the M9 has been replaced in service by the P320, but we see why the M9 has so many fans in the world, it’s an excellent shooter.
- It’s an excellent 9mm semi-automatic handgun that you can find relatively cheaply.
- The single-action trigger is great!
- It’s a large enough handgun that we wouldn’t carry it.
- There does tend to be a lot of muzzle rise on these.
Best 9mm Ammo for Each Use Case
Once you’ve picked from among the best 9mm pistols we’ve recommended here for whatever you need to do with it, it’s time to pick some ammunition.
Be sure when you go to the store that you grab the right type of 9mm ammo. There are a lot of different variations.
Whatever kind of shooting you plan on doing with your pistol, the thing we can’t stress enough is to test your concealed carry ammo in your gun at the range before you start carrying that ammunition in that gun on a daily basis. First and foremost, you need your pistol to work, and ammunition tolerances vary between pistols of the same make. For instance, my friend’s CZ75 would eat about anything he could put in it, but another CZ75 I rented at the range about a year ago refused to run hollow points at all.
Best 9mm Ammo for Self Defense & Concealed Carry
For self defense, the best ammo to use is hollow points. This recommendation comes from two angles. First and foremost, and as ugly as it is, shooting from concealed carry is shooting your pistol with lethal intent. Thus, I want one of the best 9mm pistols shooting the most lethal ammo I can afford to use. Ideally, with a well-placed hollow point, one round should be enough to end the fight.
With today’s shortages, sometimes hollow points are difficult to find unfortunately. But keep an eye on your local Academy or Cabellas and ask the cashier when they get new ammo shipments. You might be able to show up early and get a few boxes before they are gone. Going to nearby smaller towns can also be a good strategy to find ammo that might be sold out in larger cities with higher demand.
Best 9mm Ammo for Home Defense
For home defense, the best ammo to use is hollow points. Similar to concealed carry, home defense shooting with your 9mm pistols is shooting in a life or death situation, so many of the same considerations apply and I recommend good, available hollow points you can afford to practice with. There is, however, one further consideration to shooting 9mm pistols indoors: penetration.
Regardless of your trigger discipline, once a round leaves your gun indoors, it might well embed itself into something you did not intend to do. In a home, this might mean people you love. This is why I recommend hollow points: they tend to shatter on impact with anything, including drywall. This leaves you with a lot less chance of you having used your pistol to accidentally harm someone who did not need to be harmed.
Best 9mm Target / Range Ammo
First and foremost, follow the rules for your local gun range. No one wants to be the dude who gets thrown out for using steel or frangible ammo at an indoor range with big, serious signs to the contrary.
For range shooting, go with the cheapest full metal jacket ammunition that will run in your gun reliably. For me, going to the gun range is about the chance to practice accuracy and trigger discipline in a safe environment, so being able to put as many rounds through my pistols as I can is paramount.
I’ll put one important gun range caveat here: always practice with your carry ammunition as well. You need to not only know how your gun functions in terms of the trigger, but also how it groups with the ammo you intend to carry in a bad situation. So, I always bring a full magazine of my carry ammo with me when I want to shoot my Glock or Sig pistols since those are the ones I concealed carry the most.
Best 9mm Ammo for Competition Shooting
The key thing with gun competitions, especially shooting pistols, is consistency. Thus, I want to train with ammunition that I can afford to shoot a lot of in order to get a feel for the trigger and get my times down as much as possible.
Additionally, making hits saves time. Thus, I want as low recoil from my gun as humanly possible while it still cycles every time without fail.
So for gun competitions, I recommend that people use full metal jacket ammunition that’s cheap, so long as it’s consistent. There’s no point working on trigger control if you switch ammunition for matches and the groups are all over the place.
Instead, get cheap and consistent full metal jacket ammunition that you can afford to run in your pistol, but has low enough recoil so that your Glock pistols, or whatever you plan to shoot, stay close to on target for fast follow-ups should you need them.
There’s a lot to learn and even more to shoot in terms of 9mm semi-automatic pistols. With that said, if you take some time, do your homework, and hit the range regularly, this old but excellent cartridge is likely to yield good results, regardless of the kind of shooting that you intend to do.
Overall, the 9mm is the chosen pistol round of most people and agencies that are serious about handguns, and we expect that to be the case well into the future. It’s a cartridge that has seen a lot of focus and development in the last century, and it’s likely to be popular until there’s some radical change in firearms design. So, if you want a safe bet in your handgun choice, go with a solid 9mm handgun, and we think a Glock 17 is the best overall choice.
If you’re also interested in getting a .22 rifle, check out our article on the best 22 long rifles.
What’s the smallest 9mm pistol?
The smallest 9mm pistol is likely the Bearman 9mm Derringer. But, considering 9mm is meant for much larger guns, we would not necessarily recommend going for a gun that small, and with a single shot, unless you needed to conceal a firearm inside of a pair of underwear for some reason.
How much does a good 9mm pistol cost?
New 9mm pistols typically run around $500. At an estate sale or a gun show, you might be able to get a decent 9mm for under $100. A decent handgun at the used section of a gun store will likely run around $300, which we highly recommend.
Are 9mm guns good for self-defense?
They absolutely are! There’s a reason it has become the globally accepted pistol cartridge, and most decent hollow point loadings are excellent for defensive purposes.
What’s the best 9mm pistol on the market?
We’re going with the Glock 17, but a P365 is no slouch either and we recommend a wide variety of models and brands depending on what you want to accomplish.
What’s the best 9mm pistol of all time?
The best 9mm of all time is probably the Glock design in general, but we’re sure the M9 fans will gladly argue us to death about it.
What’s the best 9mm handgun in 2021?
We’re really excited to see where the P320 goes as a platform, but neither Glock nor CZ are likely to take losing a handgun trial lying down.
They used to use the Sig P226, but we expect them to use that, the P320, M9, and a lot of interesting personal choices for sidearms.
What Do You Think?
Did we miss any of your favorites? Think the list is accurate or think there is one we need to change? Let us know in the comments below!