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 sub-compact, and ideal for concealed carry applications. Virtually every major manufacturer now has their own model or models of tiny 9s, and many of them offer capacities that one used to only expect out of full-size handguns. In addition to compact size, many offer great ergonomics, and capacities of 10 to 13 rounds in the magazines. 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.
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.
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. Suggested price, $842; check availability here.
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 2 magazines, one that holds 11-rounds, and another that holds an impressive 13-rounds. Suggested price, $899; check availability here.
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. It’s potentially a great value at $499; check availability here.
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. Suggested price $579; check availability here.
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. Suggested price $550; check availability here.
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. Suggested price $699; check availability here.
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