What is the best concealed carry gun? This is a subjective question.
You’ll have the 1911 guys who don’t care what the Glock guys say because they only carry a full-sized gun under their bowling shirt.
The Glock guy might say a compact like the 19 Gen 5 because they are easier to conceal.
As I said, it’s subjective, and everyone has a preference.
I like the weight, size, and concealability of a single stack 9mm, and if you’re here, chances are you do too.
Let’s take a look at just what makes a single stack 9mm such a great choice for a concealed carry weapon, and which one of these tiny ninnies is the best choice for you.
Table of Contents
Single Stack Means What Exactly?
A single stack magazine has one row of ammo.
You have a bullet on top of a bullet. A double stack magazine, on the other hand, staggers the rounds essentially making two rows of ammo. The benefit to a double stack magazine is more ammo in the magazine.
The benefit of a single stack magazine is the gun can be thinner overall. The most common double stack sub-compact is the Glock 26.
It holds 10+1 rounds, and the overall width is 1.18 inches. In comparison, a Springfield Armory XD-S holds 7+1 rounds and is .9 inches wide at the grip. That’s a little over a quarter of an inch difference.
I know .28 inches might not seem like a lot, but if you set them side by side, it really is. While you lose 3 rounds, the thinner size makes it easier to hide, an ounce or so lighter, and is more comfortable for some people.
What Makes a Gun a Sub-Compact?
A sub-compact to many people is considered a pocket gun or a backup weapon. Personally, I like the sub-compact size for CCW because they are lighter and easier to carry anywhere.
Sub-compact barrels are typically around 3.25 inches, though some are a little longer, some shorter. The overall length is usually about 6.25 inches, but some with stubby barrels come in at less.
In comparison, the sub-compact XD-S 9mm has a barrel length of 3.3 inches and an overall size of 4.4” high and 6.3” long. The compact XD-M 9mm has a barrel length of 3.8 inches and an overall size of 4.75” high and 6.75” long.
As you can see, there isn’t a huge difference between the compact and sub-compact guns. Other manufacturers have a slightly bigger difference in their sub-compact to compact size. A Glock 26 is 6.41” long, 4.17” tall and a barrel length of 3.42”. The compact Glock 19 is 7.36” long, 4.99” tall and a barrel length of 4.01”; so it’s a little larger.
Some makes of sub-compact concealed carry guns have bigger grips than others. This can be a benefit if you have larger hands or just don’t like your little finger left with no place to rest.
9mm is arguably the most popular caliber for your CCW. It’s powerful, smaller than a .40 or .45 so you can fit more in a magazine, they are slightly lighter, and even some government and law enforcement agencies are transitioning back to 9mm from the .40, and very few agencies carry .45acp for anything but special purpose use.
Alright, let’s get down to the fun stuff…the recommendations. These are the tried and true, battle-tested, single stack, 9mm sub-compacts that should be on anyone’s list when choosing a new CCW.
Best Single Stack 9mm CCW Pistols
1. Sig Sauer P365
Okay, we know — it’s not technically a single-stack. It’s not really a double-stack magazine either though. It’s close enough and it fits within the size of most single-stack guns though so we’ll allow it.
In our experience the P365 family of guns is by far one of the best CCW options on the market.
From the size to the ergonomics to the extra options like the P365 XL with a larger frame and slide to the SAS that is streamlined for pocket carry — the P365 just offers everything.
On top of that you’re getting a 10+1 or a 12+1 or even a 15+1 magazine that packs a lot of firepower into an incredibly small and comfy shooter.
Personally, I love the P365 XL with a micro red dot.
2. Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield
This is an all-around great gun. It’s light, smooth, and most people can get their whole hand on the grip. There isn’t a lot more you can ask for.
It is a little larger than some sub-compact pistols, but it’s not quite a compact, so that’s why it’s on the list. Many small carry guns have a looooong and hard trigger pull. While the theory behind this is safety, in reality, it kinda sucks. I find my finger wants to curl around the trigger as I pull it that far back.
The M&P9 Shield has a nice, smooth, shorter pull. The reset point for the trigger is good and you’ll be able to squeeze off a few rounds pretty fast if you need to.
3. Bersa Firestorm or Thunder
On a cost to quality scale the Bersa punches way above it’s price point. A DA/SA gun with a double-action trigger that feels a bit long but makes up for it with a very crisp single-action.
A manual safety and decocker for the hammer plus 8+1 or 9+1 magazines. Sadly, it also comes standard with a magazine safety — preventing the trigger from actuating anything if a magazine isn’t secured in the gun. This is a “feature” that is very easy to remove if you’re so inclined.
We like the offerings from Bersa and if you’re looking for a budget CCW it’s worth a close look.
4. Springfield XD(S) 3.3
Another gun that has a larger grip so you can get all of your fingers on it. The textured grip also helps you hold onto it easier. With the XD-S, you get a fiber optic front sight for easier target acquisition in lower light.
The serrations on the slide are deep and make it easier to rack, which means you need less grip strength to hold onto the slide. I like this a lot because when you’re in a stressful situation, you might be a little sweaty and shaky and your hand could slip off the slide.
This also makes it an excellent gun for disabled shooters who may have arthritis or another wrist/hand problems that could interfere with racking a slicker slide.
5. Glock 43x
Glock’s answer to the post-P365 world was an upgrade and updated version of their G43, the G43x is basically the same thing but better in a lot of ways.
Giving 10+1 in the standard magazines the G43x also comes with all of the Gen 5 upgrades like a better trigger, barrel, and improved magazine followers.
Other than that though… it’s a Glock. If a Glock is what you want, a Glock is what you’ll get. Now that also opens the doors for a host of modifications and upgrades!
6. Walther PPS M2
A successor to the Walther PPS, the PPS M2 carries over some of the features from the PPS, but it’s thinner and has a different grip texture Walther borrowed from the PPQ models.
You’ll get large white dot sights so you can quickly acquire your target. The thin 1-inch thick frame gives you an easy to conceal gun that’s large enough to fit your whole hand on.
The PPS M2 has front and rear serrations so you can rack the gun easier. You don’t have to rely on your grip strength.
6. Springfield Hellcat
Another not technically single-stack gun, but close enough like the P365. The Springfield Hellcat was the first big release CCW after the P365 made shockwaves and Springfield did an outstanding job on it!
Reliable, cost-effective, 11+1 magazine, and optics ready from the factory — the Hellcat offers a ton of function in a small package.
Something that stood out and impressed us with the Hellcat was how many types of ammo it could run with no problem. Even feeding it horrible steel-cased ammo, it still never had a problem.
While we would NEVER recommend carrying sub-par ammo, it does make training cheaper if you can run the cheap ammo. In times like these, that’s a big deal.
Now that you have a few choices for a sub-compact single stack 9mm, you can start to get into the specifics that are right for you. I was told when I was at the gun store shopping for my first carry gun, that people tend to stick with the first brand they buy. This is somewhat true with the guys I shoot with.
9mm is a great caliber to have. It’s been improved upon over the last few years and has more takedown power than it used to. Plus, if we run into a situation where there is a shortage again, you won’t have to track down 9mm, 45 ACP, 10mm, .40, 380, and whatever else you have. You will just need to dip into your 9mm stockpile as needed.
Choosing a single stack sub-compact is a matter of preference. Finding one that’s comfortable in your hand, that you can shoot accurately, and you are confident carrying in the event you need to use it is the real key.
What’s your choice out of the sub-compact single stack 9mms on the market? Also, don’t forget to take a look at our recommendations for Best Range & Defense 9mm Ammo.