Many gun buyers new to concealed carry are eager to get out on the firing range. That’s great, but some subcompact guns suited for concealed carry are of limited usefulness for extensive practice. Low ammunition capacity and lack of outside-waistband holster and mag pouch choices mean the owner of the tiny gun may have to sit on the sidelines while his friends participate in a defensive pistol class or weekend match.
What’s more, a limited budget can put the purchase of two guns for these two roles out of the question. What to do? Fortunately, many companies are making guns that bridge the gap between range and everyday carry (EDC). These guns are truly jacks of many trades.
To keep the playing field somewhat level, all choices here are chambered in 9mm. It’s an affordable load that’s readily available in most locations. Due to cartridge size, capacity is generally higher, too, a factor I believe favors both range and self-protection use. Many are available in larger calibers and some are also offered in full-size versions of what’s listed here.
1. Glock 19
This compact, but not really small rendition of the Glock design, has a huge following among those who carry a gun for a living. Extraordinary reliability is its hallmark. With a generous 15-round, double-stack magazine and 4.01-inch barrel, it’s as easy to handle as a full-size range gun. It weighs in at 23.7 ounces unloaded. Glock’s Gen 4 rendition of this gun is more expensive, but the adjustable grips and improved texturing add value compared to past versions. Retail prices are around $550 for the Gen 4 model; sub-$500 for earlier editions.
2. Smith & Wesson M&P compact
Smith & Wesson’s popular design has undergone some updates over the years. Modular grip panels and an improved trigger are good upgrades to the 12+1 capacity striker-fired gun. Its low-profile rear sight on the 3.5-inch barrel serves the purpose of carry. This is one of two guns on the list available with or without a thumb-operated safety. At 21.7 ounces unloaded, it’s handy. Pricing hovers around $500.
3. Springfield Armory XD subcompact
With a three-inch barrel, this is one of the shortest guns on the list, but it’s big on capacity. The XD Subcompact 9mm ships with a 13- and 16-round magazine. Its chunky, 26-ounce frame soaks up recoil from the short barrel. Some prefer the XD line because of the passive safety device at the top of the backstrap. Priced below $450 and with a trigger that’s more forgiving of typical new-shooter mistakes, it makes an ideal starter handgun.
4. Ruger American compact
The folks at Ruger took their time and listened to customer feedback about their own and other brands before scaling down their relatively new, full-size American 9mm to a packable size. Their methodical approach directly benefits the consumer.
Modular grip panels and an optional thumb safety help an owner make it their own. One of the larger guns on this list, the mag packs 17 rounds into a long grip balanced by a 3.55-inch barrel. Depending on options, it’s about 29 ounces unloaded. High-quality Novak three-dot, no-snag sights help make it a joy to shoot. Left-handed shooters could love this, as it is one of two fully ambi pistols on the list. Retail is in the mid- to high $400s.
5. Smith & Wesson SDVE
This is an older model that’s not been updated for some time. It’s earned my respect as I’ve seen two very different students have great success and enjoyment from this dependable pistol. With a 16-round mag and four-inch barrel, it’s not the smallest choice. It’s a modest 22.4 ounces. The SDVE is a very dependable choice for less money at around $390.
6. Heckler & Koch P30
Another ambidextrous choice is HK’s excellent P30. Modern polymer construction and features, combined with HK’s classic double/single action and a 3.85-inch barrel combine to make a packable and accurate shooter. HK’s luminescent sights and excellent trigger contribute to a gun that feels like an upscale choice, assuming the user is committed to the additional practice required to use a DA/SA platform effectively, especially under stress. The 15-round magazine capacity, 27- ounce pistol usually sells for upwards of $800.
7. REX Zero 1CP
This is a new release for the double/single action fans who want seriously solid construction. Made by major military arms producer Arex of Slovenia, the REX Zero 1CP is imported to the US by FIME Group of Las Vegas. It features a safety so it can be carried cocked and locked. The slide stop doubles as a de-cocker. It comes in flat dark earth or black. The grip is rather thick, making the gun a good fit for medium to large hands. It has a 3.85-inch barrel and 15-round mag, and weighs in at 30.4 ounces. Though it’s not a mass-market gun like others listed here, holsters are available as it fits those made for the classic DA/SA Sig Sauer. MSRP is $650; real-world prices should come in at well under $600.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of concealable but range-friendly 9mm handguns. There are many folks who’ll also not consider them concealable for their body type. I’ve chosen them based on their track record as quality, dependable guns for myself and many friends and students.
What would you add to the list? Delete from it? Share your tips in the section below: