Best 9mm Pistols: The Top 10 Semi-Automatic Handguns [2018]

If you’re reading this article, it’s probably because you’re on the market for a new 9mm pistol.

But at the same time, you may not be sure of what you need to look for in one or which specific make and model is right for you.

If your knowledge of 9mm pistols, or firearms in general, is limited, then you probably have many questions, including but not limited to:

  • Why would you go with a 9mm pistol in the first place?
  • What are some of the best 9mm pistols you can buy?
  • How should you go about choosing a 9mm pistol for you?

Each of these are perfectly valid questions that we are going to answer in this article, so keep on reading and you’ll find out everything you need to know:

Background of the 9mm Luger

The 9x19mm Parabellum round was designed by Georg Luger for the Luger pistol, which was patented in 1898.

The round was then adopted into service by the German Navy in 1904 and subsequently the German Army in 1908.

The popularity of the round increased significantly following World War I, as a number of new pistols and submachine guns were built for the round, with some of the most famous examples being the Walther P38 pistol and the Browning Hi-Power.

Today, the 9mm is the most popular centerfire pistol round in the world, and is also the number one choice of pistol round for military and law enforcement units across the globe.

Why 9mm?

9mm-ammo

First and foremost, why should you go with a 9mm pistol for self-defense and concealed carry?

Why not .380 ACP or .40 S&W or .357 SIG or .45 ACP?

Read more: .380 Vs 9mm: Battle Of Best Self-Defense Ammo

You see, 9mm is the most popular centerfire handgun caliber in the world, and with good reason.

It’s cheap, it’s plentiful, it has low recoil, pistols chambered for it can carry a lot of bullets in the magazine, and it’s also effective as a self-defense caliber so long as you use the right ammunition.

The fact that 9mm is so inexpensive and abundant is alone a good reason to go with the caliber over other options.

Not only is cheaper ammo better for those on a budget, it also means that you can stockpile more of it for disaster train with it more often on the range as well, which means you can become more proficient with your weapon of choice.

There are also currently more semi automatic pistols chambered for 9mm over any other pistol, so you’re number of options is nearly limitless.

In fact, there are some pistols that are only chambered for the 9mm pistols, and not the other way around.

In other words, it’s more likely for a manufacturer to produce a new model of pistol chambered for the 9mm caliber and not any other calibers, but not for a manufacturer to produce a gun chambered for .40 S&W or .45 ACP and not for 9mm.

This isn’t to say that other options like .380 ACP or .40 S&W or .45 ACP are bad options.

Those calibers are certainly very popular and effective for self-defense as well, and they have proven themselves as good calibers over the course of time, but the 9mm is just more cost effective, abundant, and plentiful than any of those other choices.

There’s a solid reason why it is the most popular pistol round not only in the United States, but across the entire world as well.

For this reason, the 9mm is without question the best caliber to go for if you are a beginner, and even experts and professional pistol shooters widely prefer the 9mm caliber over other choices like .40 S&W and .45 ACP.

One more advantage to the 9mm is that recoil is relatively tame, so you can also shoot your handgun more accurately and with faster and more accurate follow up shots as well.

Small .380 pistols can be rather snappy, and recoil can sometimes be a little bit excessive on .40 S&Ws and the .45 ACP autos as well.

In contrast to this, the recoil of 9mm handguns is significantly more mild.

All in all, the benefits of the 9mm caliber for self-defense over other options such as .40 S&W or .45 ACP can be summed up as follows:

  • Abundant and Plentiful
  • Inexpensive and Cost Effective
  • Low Recoil
  • Effective For Self-Defense with the Right Ammunition
  • Reliable
  • It Is Widely Accepted By Professional Shooters

Next, let’s go over ten of the best 9mm semi-automatic pistols that you can buy on the market today.

Top 10 Best 9mm Pistols

Here are the top ten best 9mm pistols that are produced today, divided into categories of full size, compact, and subcompact:

Best Full Size 9mm Pistols

Beretta 92FS

Beretta-92FS

The Beretta 92FS is one of the most recognizable guns ever produced.

Not only has it served as the standard issue sidearm with the United States military since 1985, it has also been featured in more movies than any other semi-automatic handgun.

The 92FS is an all-steel, double action single action pistol with a magazine capacity of 15 rounds, although 17 and 18 round magazines are also available.

The Beretta is most well known for its open slide design, which helps to decrease weight while also supposedly making the gun more reliable.

The fixed barrel, locked breech design of the pistol as well is very similar to the earlier and highly influential Walther P38 pistol and helps aid in accuracy.

One of the downsides to the Beretta is the slide mounted safety, which can be accidentally engaged when racking the slide.

However, a clone of the 92FS called the Taurus PT92 moves the safety lever from the slide to the frame to prevent this issue, and also enables cocked and locked carry unlike the Beretta.

Additional variants of the 92FS include the M9A1, 92A1, and the 92FS Compact.  The M9A1 and 92A1 variants feature rails on the bottom of the frame for adding lights and lasers, which the standard 92FS pistol lacks.

The military variant of the 92FS is called the M9, and the two pistols are almost but not quite identical.

CZ-75

CZ-75-FullSize

The CZ-75 is one of the most popular 9mm pistols ever produced, though its popularity is much greater worldwide than in America.

A single action double action pistol, it was developed in the Czech Republic as an updated version of the highly successful single action only Browning Hi-Power pistol.

The CZ-75 features a locking system very similar to the Hi-Power but also includes features such as a decocker lever and hammer forged barrel.

As an all-steel pistol, the CZ-75 is heavy but this also serves to help tame recoil.

There are many other variants of the CZ-75 produced today as well, not all of which are produced by CZ but are also produced by companies such as Sphinx, Tanfoglio, and EAA.

In many ways, the CZ-75 represents the epitome of what a so-called “Wonder 9” is, or a single action double action all-steel 9mm pistol with a large double stacked magazine capacity.

Glock 17

Glock-17

This list would simply not be complete without the Glock 17.

Which took the firearms industry completely by storm when it was first introduced in the 1980s.

The Glock paved the way for lighter, striker fired, polymer framed handguns, which came to eclipse the all-steel, DA/SA auto wonder nines such as the Beretta 92FS and the CZ75 or even the SIG Sauer P226.

The Glock 17 has a total magazine capacity of 17 rounds plus one in the chamber, which was much higher in comparison to other semi-automatic hand guns at the time as well, which rarely eclipsed fifteen rounds in total capacity at the time.

Today, the vast majority of police departments in the United States carry some sort of Glock as their standard sidearm.

Recently, the fifth generation of the Glock pistol was released, which features improvements such an ambidextrous safety levers, a match target barrel, and an orange follower in the magazines to visually indicate to you that the weapon is empty when the slide is locked back to the rear.

Sig Sauer P226

Sig-Sauer-P226

In the U.S. Army trials of the 1980s to select a new sidearm, the Beretta 92FS and the SIG Sauer P226 went head to head.

The Beretta 92FS was ultimately chosen as Beretta lowered the price of their bid at the last second, but the SIG Sauer P226 was still chosen by the United States Navy Seals.

The compact version of the P226, the P228 and P229, were also adopted by other government forces, including the United States Coastguard (who adopted the .40 caliber P229).

The P226 is an all-steel, double action single action pistol with a capacity of 15 rounds. It features no external safeties and also has a decocker lever on the side of the frame.

Some people prefer the SIG over the Beretta for this reason, as you don’t run the risk of inadvertently engaging the safety while racking the slide.

Recently, the P226 was replaced as the Navy SEAL’s sidearm by the Glock 19, which we’ll talk about soon.

Sig-Sauer-P226
The Sig Sauer P226: Navy’s SEALs’ Gun of Choice

There are many variants of the P226 produced today, and newer models feature improved ergonomics (called E2 grips by SIG Sauer) in contrast to the older units.


Best Compact 9mm Pistols

Glock 19

Glock-19

The Glock 19 is simply a more compact version of the Glock 17, with a shorter slide and barrel and frame.

This reduces the capacity from seventeen rounds to fifteen, though the 19 will still accept the magazines of the 17, and they will simply protrude underneath the butt of the gun.

Extended 33 round magazines are also available.

The Glock 19 is one of the most popular pistols sold in the United States today and is also Glock’s best selling model.

There are many reasons for its immense popularity: its simplicity, reliability, and the vast array of available spare parts and accessories are certainly good reasons.

But another reason that the Glock 19 is so popular is because of how practical it is.

As a compact and lightweight handgun it is easy to conceal carry, and yet it’s large enough to get a full grip over for controllability and also has a large fifteen round capacity.

As with the Glock 17, the Glock 19 was recently updated to the newer Generation 5 version.

Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0 Compact

Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0 Compact

The Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0 Compact was designed to be Smith & Wesson’s answer to the Glock 19.

In 2005, Smith & Wesson unveiled the M&P pistol.

This is their first polymer framed, striker fired pistol after the disaster that was the Sigma series.

The M&P was roughly equivalent in size to the Glock 19 pistol, though Smith & Wesson also produced a compact model of the M&P that was roughly in size to a Glock 26, which we’ll talk about soon.

Nonetheless, American shooters were pining for a Glock 19 sized M&P with the best of both worlds.

Smith & Wesson listened and updated the M&P into the M&P 2.0, which features improved ergonomics over the original M&P.

Smith & Wesson also produced a newer version of the Compact model, which is roughly equivalent in size to the Glock 19 with a 15 round capacity. 

It is therefore small enough to conceal carry while also large enough to fight effectively with with a large magazine capacity for defense.

The M&P 2.0 Compact has emerged as a top competitor to the Glock 19, and also competes with other similarly sized pistols like the Walther PPQ, HK VP9, and the CZ P10C.

Walther PPQ

Walther-PPQ

The Walther PPQ is an evolution of the Walther P99 pistol that was first produced in 1996.

The Walther P99 was unique in that it was a polymer framed and striker fired pistol like the Glock, but it was also a double action/single action pistol with a decocker lever.

The P99 proved to be very popular in Europe, particularly with military and police units, but not so much in the United States among the civilian market.

As a result, in 2011 Walther updated the P99 into the PPQ with improved ergonomics and a single action only trigger like the Glock.

In 2013, they also switched from the paddle magazine release to the push button magazine release to better accommodate American shooters, and the result of these changes was a massive success.

Standard capacity of the Walther PPQ is 15 rounds, though 17 round magazines are also available. It is only slightly larger than the comparable Glock 19, and is therefore classified as being a compact pistol.

The PPQ is most well known for its trigger, which is often regarded as being one of the very best triggers of any striker fired pistol on the market today, as well as its excellent ergonomics that Walther has become very well known for.


Best Sub-compact 9mm Pistols

Glock 26

Glock-26

The Glock 26 is to the Glock 19 as the 19 is to the Glock 17, in that it’s simply a shorter and smaller version.

The Glock 26 has a much shorter frame and barrel than the Glock 19 to make it even easier to conceal carry.

The Glock 26 is still very practical in that it can accept both the 19 and 17 magazines for a larger magazine capacity.

Standard capacity of the 26 is 10 rounds, though 12 round extension magazines are also available.

This is why many people who conceal carry the Glock 26 will often carry the Glock 26 with its normal 10 round magazine, but carry a Glock 19 or Glock 17 magazine as a spare for added firepower.

As with both the Glock 19 and 17, the Glock 26 is a heavily customizable pistol.

The gun is also very easy to shoot despite its smaller size, and with an extension grip on the magazine you should be able to get a full firing grip over the weapon.

Walther PPS M2

PPS-M2

In 2007, Walther released the PPS pistol, which was one of the first successful polymer framed, single stack 9mm handguns.

Today, that market has completely and utterly exploded to include other options such as the Smith & Wesson Shield, Beretta Nano, Taurus PT709, and the Glock 43.

In 2016, Walther updated the PPS into the PPS M2, which features a push button magazine release in contrast to the paddle magazine release of the original PPS, as well as improved ergonomics to more closely match the excellent ergonomics of the PPQ pistol, like we just talked about previously.

The PPS is a very reliable handgun, and is also a more shootable option than either of its main competitors the Smith & Wesson Shield and Glock 43 due to it being a slightly larger and heavier pistol.

In fact, shooting the PPS is very similar to shooting a mid sized to full sized handgun.

Additional features of the PPS include a red striker indicator on the rear of the pistol, as well as a front serrations on the front of the slide, which the original PPS pistol lacked.

Taurus G2C

Taurus-G2C

If you are on the market for a budget but high quality 9mm pistol, one of your best options will be the Taurus G2C pistol.

It can be acquired for only around $200 or less.

The G2C is a development of the already immensely popular Taurus PT111 G2 9mm pistol.

The main difference between the two is that the G2C lacks the internal safety lock of the PT111 G2.

If you are on the market for a budget but high quality 9mm pistol, one of your best options will be the Taurus G2C pistol, which can be acquired for only around $200 or less.

The G2C is a development of the already immensely popular Taurus PT111 G2 9mm pistol.

The main difference between the two is that the G2C lacks the internal safety lock of the PT111 G2.

Many people prefer this feature as it’s possible for the safety lock to accidentally engage on its own, or for one to lose the key while the lock is engaged and when they need to use the pistol to defend themselves with.

In terms of size, the G2C is not much bigger than a Glock 26.

It features a 12 round magazine capacity along with a host of other neat features, including a safety lever on the side, a loaded chamber indicator on the top of the frame, a reversible magazine release, and excellent stippling work on the grip to help keep the pistol secure in your hands even in wet and slippery conditions.

How To Choose the Right 9mm Pistols for Your Needs?

With all of the above ten options, among many others on the market as well, you might be wondering how you should go about choosing the best 9mm pistol for you.

9mm-pistols-size

First, you need to ask yourself what you need a pistol for in the first place.

If you are looking for a gun for range use or for home defense, then you’ll definitely want to go with a full size pistol with a larger magazine capacity and greater controllability.

For concealed carry, you’ll either want to go with a compact or subcompact model.

Subcompact pistols offer the best concealment, but also the lowest magazine capacity (anywhere from 6-10 rounds versus 13-15 rounds for compact models).

This is one reason why compact models such as the Glock 19 or Walther PPQ are so popular, because they offer you a full size grip and high magazine capacity while also being smaller and lighter so they can conceal better on your person.

If you can only afford to buy one pistol right now, a compact model would probably be the best choice for you for those reasons.

In summary, full size 9mm pistols are the best options for range use and home defense, while subcompact pistols are the best choice for concealed carry, and compact pistols offer the best both of both worlds and are therefore the most practical option.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the 9mm round is a highly effective caliber for self-defense and you have a multitude of full size, compact, and subcompact pistol offerings chambered for it.

Any one of the pistols that we have covered here today are a reliable model that will serve you well for self-defense.

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