6 Best Single-Stack Sub-Compact 9mms [2018]: CCW Ready

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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 4 because they are easier to conceal.

glock 26 vs 19
The much smaller 26 on the left is a good bit more concealable than the 19 on the right….but also comes with fewer rounds on tap, and is a bit harder to shoot accurately.

Who’s right?

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.

Need our recommendations right now? Here is a list for you:

  1. Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield
  2. Sig Sauer P290RS Nitron Sub-Compact
  3. Springfield XD(S)
  4. Glock 43
  5. Walther PPS M2
  6. Ruger LC9S Pro

Table of Contents

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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.

single stack vs double stack magazine
Left: Single Stack, Right: Double Stack.

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.

Glock 26 and XD-S 9mm comparison pic
Glock 26 and XD-S 9mm comparison

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.

Why 9mm?

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.

1. Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield

The Smith and Wesson M&P Shield ($330.00) is an all-around great gun. Its light, smooth, and most people can get their whole hand on the grip. There isn’t a lot more you can ask for.

Great Value (Sub-Compact)
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield

Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield

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.

Specs:

  • .94 wide
  • 3.1-inch barrel
  • 6.1 inches overall
  • 4.6 tall
  • 7+1 and 8+1

2. Sig Sauer P290RS Nitron Sub-Compact

Like a lot of sub-compact carry guns, the Sig Sauer P290RS  ($449.99) has a Dual Action trigger.  Meaning, if you have a light primer strike, you can just pull the trigger again to try and fire the same round. You don’t need to rack the slide like other guns unless it doesn’t fire again.

Very Compact (Single Stack)
Sig Sauer P290RS

Sig Sauer P290RS

Prices accurate at time of writing

You’ll have interchangeable grip inserts so you can size the gun to fit your hand better.  Big hands and a small gun makes for uncomfortable shooting without the proper grip.

The Sig P290RS has a stainless steel slide coated with Nitron resists wear and corrosion.  This will help you keep your gun in good shape for a long time.

Specs:

  • .9 wide
  • 2.9-inch barrel
  • 5.5-inches overall
  • 3.9-inches tall
  • 6 and 8 round mags

3. Springfield XD(S) 3.3

The Springfield XD-S ($479.99) is 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.

Specs:

  • .9 wide
  • 3.3-inch barrel
  • 6.3-inches overall
  • 4.4-inches tall
  • 7+1 or 8+1

4. Glock 43

The Glock 43 ($449.00) is a result of Glock giving into the demand for a single stack 9mm, and oh what a joyous thing it is that they finally did.  The Glock 26 is nice, but it’s wide and heavy compared to offerings from other manufacturers, and the 42 was a big disappointment for those who wanted a 9mm over a .380.

Let me tell you what… they did a good job.  There was a waiting list for this little guy.  The law enforcement officers I know were pumped to have a thinner lighter backup or off-duty weapon. Weight wise, it’s 3.76 ounces lighter than the model 26 unloaded.  That’s near a quarter pound lighter.

That’s about the weight of an average sized apple.

See more in our full review or our hands-on video below:

Specs:

  • 1.02 wide
  • 3.39-inch barrel
  • 6.26-inches overall
  • 4.25-inches tall
  • 6+1

What’s your take on the super-popular G43?

Readers' Ratings

4.95/5 (286)

Your Rating?

5. Walther PPS M2

The Walther PPS M2 ($449.99) is a newer version of the PPS.  It 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.

Specs:

  • 1-inch wide
  • 3.18-inch barrel
  • 6.3-inches overall
  • 4.4-inches tall
  • 6+1

6. Ruger LC9S Pro

Ruger has been making sub-compact guns for a long time, and they do a great job.  One of the first CCW guns I ever fired was an LCP.  The Ruger LC9S Pro ($529.00)  is much updated compared to that little 380 I fired years ago.

What the Ruger gives you that most others don’t is the short trigger pull.  This is the main difference between the LC9 and the LC9s.  The pull that would break after, what seemed like, a mile long pull, is now a quick pull of about ¼ the pull.  You also don’t have to bring the trigger all the way back to the front of the trigger guard like on the LC9.

Specs:

  • .9-inch wide
  • 3.12-inch barrel
  • 6-inches overall
  • 4.5-inches tall
  • 7+1

ruger lc9 size

Ruger LC9s

Conclusion

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.

Something else we try to do is stick with a common caliber.  For example, I use .40 for most of my carry guns.  This way, I can don’t have to have 7 different calibers when it’s time to go to the range.

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.

bulk 9mm
Bulk 9mm is plenty cheap, too.

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.

And if you do go with one for CCW…take a look at USCCA’s CCW Insurance.  I review what you get in terms of civil/criminal defense and other benefits.  Plus how it stacks up against the NRA’s Carry Guard.

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.

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Ray
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Ray

NO Taurus G2c or Taurus pt9111

David, PPT Editor
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Taurus has a very bad reputation for quality control, I would not recommend any of their products.

Robert Cairns
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Robert Cairns

Have you tested the G2? Read any other reviews on the G2?

Steve
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Steve

Walther ccp is another very comfortable single stack

Tim
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Tim

Great article and great discussion!

Bill
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Bill

I love my single stack shield in .45 Cal and it’s only a small fraction larger than the 9mm

jeff g
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jeff g

i don’t think you can go wrong with any one of your picks . i currently have 3 BUG’s in my rotation, XSP, p238 and 642. each one 100%, wanted something in 9mm with a better fit for my large hands..the shield was a perfect fit. i shot my bro n laws before buying, i was very impressed! over a million sold and priced at $299 i see why it is the top seller. this will make a great addition to my EDC;s… g19 gen3 or USPc 45.good honest review!