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Published Apr 20, 2022 3:30 PM

If there is a pistol category that has been a driver of development and innovation in recent years, it’s been the micro-9s, which are 9mm pistols smaller than what we would traditionally call subcompact. Their small size makes them ideal for concealed carry applications and thanks to new designs, they have impressive magazine capacity. It’s not uncommon for a micro-9 to hold ten rounds. In addition to compact size and capacity, many offer great ergonomics. These guns are popular for personal defense, everyday carry applications, but many hunters and outdoorsmen and women are discovering the practical application that these handguns have for us as well. The best micro 9mm handguns offer many advantages.

When it comes to the guns we carry in the outdoors, we often get so particular about what we carry that we overlook practical and effective options. To head off any speculation, I won’t suggest that a micro-9 is an ideal or adequate bear defense tool, but it has its place and is often overlooked. There are many applications that don’t really warrant strapping a .454 to your hip or a duty-sized 10mm to your chest, but having some kind of option for protection is almost always a good thing. If you’re going to carry a sidearm while you’re in the woods or mountains, how well and comfortably that handgun fits into what you’re already doing will play a big role in how useful it ends up being. The gun you always carry is more useful than the gun you only sometimes bring along.

The size of the micro-9s is its biggest advantage. Whether in a waistband holster as your “everyday carry,” taking it along on a jog, or tucked behind your bino pouch, these pistols allow you to have a measure of protection with minimal interference. Most folks don’t have to worry about grizzly bears, and even in country thick with black bears, a 9mm loaded with solids like the Buffalo Bore hard cast, Federal Premium Solid Core, or Black Hills Honey Badger loads will penetrate adequately and provide a reasonable option for most defensive needs.

As mentioned, the great thing about this niche of handgun is the great diversity of options available. Here are a few of the best micro 9mm handguns.

Smith & Wesson CSX

Smith and Wesson

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The Smith & Wesson CSX is a departure from the striker-fired Smith & Wesson M&P series and is a hammer-fired pistol with an aluminum frame. In the current field of 9mm micro-compact pistols, the CSX is the tiniest. It comes with two interchangeable textured backstraps, and the otherwise smooth frame has abrasive texturing on the front of the grip as well. Plus, it features ambidextrous controls and safety, and although the safety is low-profile, it’s easily disengaged. It comes with flush and extended magazines with capacity of 10+1 and 12+1 respectively. The CSX has a short-take-up, crisp trigger, and is very comfortable to shoot, even for shooters with larger hands. See the full Smith & Wesson CSX review here.

Smith and Wesson CSX
Even as the smallest micro 9 tested, the S&W CSX is comfortable to shoot. Tanner Denton

Smith & Wesson CSX Specs

  • Caliber: 9mm Luger
  • Capacity: 12+1
  • Construction: Stainless steel slide & barrel, aluminum frame
  • Sights: White Dot
  • Ambidextrous controls

Kimber R7 Mako

Kimber

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The R7 Mako is new territory for Kimber—known for fine 1911-style handguns. This polymer-framed, striker-fired pistol performs as a heavy-hitter in the micro-compact 9mm market. It features a delightfully contoured and textured frame and, notably, a top-covered ejection port. It’s designed from the ground up as a concealed carry pistol. It’s available both in optics-ready format and outfitted with a Crimson Trace CTS-1500 reflex sight. It comes with two high-quality magazines with capacities 11+1 and 13+1 rounds of 9mm. The extended magazine features a nice baseplate rather than a magazine grip sleeve that many other manufacturers use. Recoil feels a little snappy, but all-in-all, it’s a great micro nine and a top contender in the category. See the full Kimber R7 Mako review here.

Kimber R7 Mako Specs

  • Caliber: 9mm Luger
  • Capacity: 13+1
  • Construction: Stainless steel slide, polymer frame
  • Optics Ready
  • Sights: Orange-ring tritium pro night sights
The Kimber R7 Mako
The R7 Mako is a top contender in the micro nine category. Tanner Denton

Smith & Wesson M&P 9 Shield Plus

Smith and Wesson

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The M&P Shield Plus from Smith & Wesson is an updated version of the Shield and Shield 2.0, with increased capacity. Although it doesn’t include a light rail, the grip texture, handling, and ergonomics of the Shield Plus are excellent. In the rapidly developing field of micro-compact pistols, capacity is important, and the 9mm Shield Plus comes with flush and extended magazines with 10+1 and 13+1 capacity respectively. The M&P Shield Plus really shines in its early adoption of the new .30 Super Carry cartridge from Federal. The smaller-diameter cartridge produces similar ballistic performance as the 9mm but with increased capacity. The .30 Super Carry Shield Plus will hold an incredible 13+1 and 16+1 rounds in its flush and extended magazines. 

Smith & Wesson Shield Plus Specs

  • Caliber: 9mm Luger/.30 Super Carry
  • Capacity: 13+1 (9mm), 16 +1 (.30 Super Carry)
  • Construction: Stainless steel slide & barrel, polymer frame
  • Optics ready
  • Sights: Orange-ring tritium night sights

CZ P-10M

The P-10M from CZ is the scaled and slimmed down version of the P-10, specifically to be a competitor in the micro nine market. Simplicity is what the P-10M is all about. It features a handsomely beveled slide, low-profile luminescent sights, and an absence of external controls. The slide stop is internal and can only be disengaged by racking the slide rearward and releasing. There is also no external takedown lever or mechanism, rather a takedown pin that must be drifted out for disassembly. Unlike some other competitors, it features a single-slot accessory rail. Capacity is the P-10M’s weak point. It uses double-to-single-stack magazines that hold 7 rounds each. The CZ P-10M does have one of the slimmest grips available in a micro 9mm, especially at the top. The texturing on the back of the grip feels pretty aggressive, and a little painful, but that could easily be tamed with some sandpaper. It’s a comfortable and accurate pistol to shoot, and very concealable. See the full CZ P-10M review here.

CZ P-10M Specs

  • Caliber: 9mm Luger
  • Capacity: 7+1
  • Construction: Steel frame & barrel, fiber-reinforced polymer frame
  • Internal slide stop
  • Sights: Luminescent white dot

Mossberg MC2sc

Mossberg

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Mossberg jumped into the 9mm pistol market in recent years, and their new MC2sc makes one of the best values in the category. It’s higher capacity than their earlier MC1sc (11/14+1 in the MC2sc vs. 6/7+1 in the MC1sc). The MC2sc also has an accessory rail and comes optics-ready with a cover plate. It features a comfortable grip design and texture, and flat-faced trigger. The beveled slide and white-dot sights present a great and fast-acquiring sight picture, and the gun is very controllable for a micro 9mm. The takedown method of the MC2sc is also unique, in that you can easily remove the striker assembly prior to taking the slide off the frame—a safety feature that can prevent accidental discharges that happen more frequently than they should. It also allows you to easily clean the slide completely. The MC2sc might not lead the pack in any single feature, but it brings a ton of value to the table as a great all-around micro-carry gun. See the full MC2sc review here.

Mossberg MC2sc Specs

  • Caliber: 9mm Luger
  • Capacity: 14+1
  • Construction: 416 stainless steel slide and barrel, polymer frame
  • Optics ready
  • Sights: Steel white-dot

Kimber Micro 9 Triari

Kimber

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If you’re a 1911 fan, Kimber’s Micro 9 series is an attractive option. New to the series, the Triari features stacked cube texturing on the grip and slide, fiber-optic sights, and a 7-round single-stack magazine that extends below the magwell for additional grip real estate. It features classic 1911-type controls, and surprisingly comfortable ergonomics for such a small handgun. Those ergonomics and grip texturing help make the recoil controllable, smooth, and not snappy, even with heavy 147-grain defensive loads. At 6 inches long, and just over an inch thick, it’s an easy pistol to keep tucked away, and pleasant to shoot, even for those with larger hands.

Kimber Micro 9 Triari Specs

  • Caliber: 9mm Luger
  • Capacity: 7+1
  • Construction: Stainless steel slide & barrel, aluminum frame
  • Thumb safety
  • Sights: Green/red fiber optic

Springfield Hellcat RDP

Springfield

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Springfield Armory’s relatively new Hellcat got an upgrade this year, and is now offered in a factory package with Springfield’s proprietary Hex micro red dot sights that co-witness with the pistol’s regular sights. It also has a removable, self-indexing compensator on the muzzle. Though small, the red-dot is intuitive, and quick-acquiring, and the compensator helps keep the muzzle flip from the short barrel down. The grip texture on the Hellcat, which feels a bit like sandpaper, is also a welcome feature for a polymer gun. It’s actually a bi-level texture, so as to not snag on clothing, that grips your skin when pressure is applied—and a firm grip is an absolute necessity on small pistols like this. The pistol comes with two magazines: one that holds 11-rounds, and another that holds an impressive 13-rounds.

Springfield Armory Hellcat RDP Specs

  • Caliber: 9mm Luger
  • Capacity: 13+1
  • Construction: Hammer-forged barrel, polymer frame
  • Optic: Hex Wasp red dot
  • Self-indexing compensator and threaded barrel

Ruger Max-9

Ruger also brings a strong offering to the table with their own high-capacity micro. The Max-9 features a 3.2-inch barrel, is less than an inch wide, and comes with 10- and 12-round magazines, all in a tiny and easy-to-carry package. It’s a striker-fired pistol that also sports great grip texturing, and a bright fiber-optic front sight. The pistol also comes with a removable plate, and is ready to accept a Shield-pattern or JPoint micro red dot sight that can co-witness with the irons.

Ruger Max 9 Specs

  • Caliber: 9mm Luger
  • Capacity: 12+1
  • Construction: Alloy steel slide and barrel, polymer frame
  • Optics ready
  • Tritium fiber optic front sight

Glock 43X

Adding capacity to the Glock 43, the 43X incorporates a 3.41-inch barrel, and slim frame with front and rear cocking serrations. It also features a 10-round magazine, a significant boost over the standard G43’s 6 rounds. You won’t find a lot of frills, but if you’re a fan of Glocks, you know what you’re getting—a reliable pistol that’s ultra-comfortable to carry and shoot.

Glock 43X Specs

  • Caliber: 9mm Luger
  • Capacity: 10+1
  • Construction: Steel slide and barrel, polymer frame
  • Optics ready MOS model available
  • Sights: Standard Glock white dot front, rear square “U”

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Sig P365 XL

Sig Sauer

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Another popular Micro 9 is Sig Sauer’s P365 series, a polymer striker-fired gun that fits nicely into the ultra-compact niche. The P365 XL has an overall length of 6.6 inches and is 1.1 inches wide and sports an impressive 12 +1 round capacity. It also comes optics-ready with day or night sights, and an X-series straight trigger. Its ergonomics offer a great balance between concealability, capacity, and shootability.

Sig P365XL Specs

  • Caliber: 9mm Luger
  • Capacity: 12+1
  • Construction: Stainless steel slide, carbon steel barrel, polymer frame
  • Optics ready
  • Sights: XRay-3 day/night sights

Final Thoughts on the Best Micro 9mm Handguns

It’s not EDC if you don’t carry every day, and in a defensive situation, the gun you have is better than the one you don’t. Although micro 9’s will never be considered the most universally effective handguns, they fill an important niche and are more capable than ever. They bring a continually-increasing level of variety, comfort, shootability, and ammunition capacity, along with fantastic ergonomics. With the increasing options available, the excuses not to stay protected are rapidly diminishing.

FAQs

Q

: What is the best 9mm ammo for self-defense?

The best 9mm self-defense ammo will depend on the individual, their gun, and the application. The most common self-defense loads are designed to expand rapidly and deliver maximum terminal performance without over-penetration. Federal Premium HST, Winchester USA Ready Defense, Browning BXT, and Hornady Critical Duty are all good options. It’s most important to pick a load that functions reliably in your gun and that you can shoot accurately.

Q

: What is the best gun cleaning kit for 9mm?

A great cleaning kit for 9mm is the Otis Professional Pistol Cleaning Kit. It’s a compact and portable pull-through cleaning kit with all the tools to thoroughly clean your 9mm pistol. It includes Pull cables, patches, a brush and carbon picks, as well as a pin punch for disassembly of some handguns. It also includes CLP for cleaning and lubricating, and easily fits in your range bag or anywhere else you might need it.

Q

: What is the best subcompact 9mm?

Because each individual and their application is different, there is no single “best” subcompact 9mm pistol. There are some great options though, and selecting the best one for you will depend on several factors such as how comfortable the gun is for you to shoot, how accurately you can shoot it, and how you plan on carrying the gun.

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