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Published Nov. 22, 2021

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.

Kimber Micro 9 Triari

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.

Springfield Hellcat RDP

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.

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.

Smith & Wesson M&P 9 Shield 2.0

With the 2.0 version, S&W has given the popular Shield line some updates. Notably, an aggressive grip texture and a cleaner trigger with a short, crisp reset, which aids in speed, control and accuracy. The Shield features a couple different sight options, including tritium night sights. With a 3.1-inch barrel, the M&P 9 Shield 2.0 is very compact. It comes with 7- and 8-round 9mm magazines, and is built with an 18-degree grip angle to encourage a level natural point of aim.

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.

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Sig P365 XL

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.

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.



: 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.


: 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.


: 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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