Today, we’re going to talk about the 10 best 9mm pistols for competitive shooting and select the overall best 9mm competition pistol on the market. Before we get into our top 10 list, it’s important to understand just what a competition pistol is and how they differ from other pistols such as home defense or concealed carry weapons. A competition pistol is specifically designed for no other purpose than to be as accurate as possible and perform well in a competitive environment. While all guns embrace accuracy as a key component, competition pistols do so almost neurotically, and manufacturers make sacrifices that may otherwise be undesirable for alternate uses.
There are many different types of competitive shooting which will affect the specific pistols and modifications that can be used. For example, Olympic shooting has entirely different requirements than the IPSC which is significantly different from IDPA or USPSA. Sponsoring organizations can set requirements that can include caliber, optics, weight, length, and more. Instead of getting into the minute differences, we’re going to look at overall competition pistols and what you should look for in them instead of the nuances between types of competitions.
Modifications made to standard weapons are designed to manage recoil more effectively for rapid, accurate shooting, decrease reloading time, and allow a good sight picture. As a rule of thumb, a quality competition pistol will have typically have:
- High visibility sights or an optic
- Smooth, lightweight trigger pull
- Short trigger reset
- Flared magazine well
- Weighted grip
A number of competitions restrict some of these options, so you first need to decide what type of shooting you will be doing before selecting and customizing your pistol. Furthermore, I’m only going to be talking about stock manufactured pistols in this article; complete custom weapons are common in competitive shooting, but their price tags can also be astronomical and far out of reach of all but the professional shooter or the independently wealthy.
What Are The Top Ten Best 9mm Competition Pistols?
What is the best 9mm competition pistol? I will give you ten amazing pistols, and tell you which one I would choose if I were in the market for a 9mm competition pistol!
- Smith & Wesson M&P9 M2.0 C.O.R.E. Pro Series 5″
- CZ Shadow 2 OR
- Glock 34 Gen 5 MOS
- Sig Sauer P320 X-Five
- Walther Q5 Match Pro
- STI 2011 Staccato XL – Overall the best 9mm competition pistol that I would pick
- Springfield XD-M Elite 5.25″
- Bersa Thunder 9 Pro XT
- Tanfoglio Witness Elite LTD
- FN 509 LS Edge
How Do The Top Ten 9mm Competition Pistols Compare?
There are some really awesome competition pistols out there, but for this discussion I will cover the ten pistols I think compete for the title of “The Best”!
Smith & Wesson M&P9 M2.0 C.O.R.E. Pro Series 5″
The first entry I’ll talk about is a competition tuned remake of a 9mm stalwart. The M&P Shield 9mm is a shoe in on any 9mm list, but this gun takes it a step further. A 5 inch barrel coupled with a competition optic ready slide dial in the accuracy. A trigger stop sops up the often complained about overtake in the trigger, and this pistol comes equipped with an audible trigger reset courtesy of the S&W Performance Center tuning. Thankfully, this gun is optic ready because its stock three white dot sights are probably the worst of this list, and it will still cost you over $700. There have been multiple complaints of repeated failure to feed and failure to eject malfunctions as well.
CZ Shadow 2 OR
A vast improvement over its first generation namesake, the OR tacked on to this Shadow 2 model stands for optics ready, but the fiber-optic front sight and height adjustable rear sight are more than adequate out of the box. This is a DA/SA model, but CZ does offer a SAO option in the Shadow 2 SA if you don’t mind manually cocking the trigger. An adjustable mag release is probably my favorite option on this offering, so you can customize the feel and placement right out of the box. Ambidextrous thumb safeties also allow flexibility for the shooter, but this steel-frame pistol is heavy weighing in at almost 3 pounds unloaded with a 17+1 capacity still to account for.
Glock 34 Gen 5 MOS
The G34 Gen 5 MOS is a Glock. It shoots like a Glock. It feels like a Glock. Simplicity and reliability are the hallmarks of this brand, and they deliver with flying colors on their competitive shooting platform too. Fully adjustable rear sights sit on the back of a solid slide that is machined to accept micro red dot sights. It comes with two back straps to adjust to your hand and four adapter plates to swap out the slide cap when you mount your desired optic. The improved Gen 5 trigger and ambidextrous slide release round out the new additions here at a price point of around $700.
Sig Sauer P320 X-Five
The same modular capabilities of the standard Sig P320 are present in the X-Five with several added benefits. A stock grip weight, funneled magazine well, and extended slide release improve balance and reload speed, and the X-Five grip features an undercut trigger guard and a high back strap to encourage a high, stable grip while also providing an extended beaver tail for added protection. The P320 has a straight trigger with a firm break at exactly 90 degrees and includes fiber optic front sights and adjustable rear sights. Also included are several swappable grips to find the right fit for your hand.
Walther Q5 Match Pro
Another steel frame pistol joins the crowd with the Walther Q5 Match Pro. Equipped with a fiber optic front sight and fully adjustable rear sight, this striker-fired 9mm pistol eats up the recoil of any load with ease. Its mag well funnel channels your magazine right where it needs to be, and the extended pads on the baseplates ensure you can feel proper seating. The Q5 also features a reversible magazine release for lefties, but some shooters have noticed the longer slide takes more time to cycle with an overall length of 8.7 inches.
STI 2011 Staccato XL
Now we’re getting expensive, but with a $3,300 price tag, you get what you pay for. The Staccato XL is the premier competition pistol manufactured by STI 2011. A light-weight trigger pull at only 2.5 pounds and a long sight radius combine for stellar accuracy, and the flared magazine well can take up to a 26 round extended magazine. However, it only comes with two 17 round magazines and one 20 round. The long slide contains a 5.4 inch barrel for added velocity, but this gun doesn’t suffer from a slow cycle rate. The Staccato has a fiber optic front sight and adjustable rear sight but also comes optic ready.
Springfield XD-M Elite 5.25″
Springfield’s contribution to this list is the XD-M Elite which comes in two barrel lengths. We’ll take a look at the 5.25 inch barrel which provides a solid boost to exit velocity. Paired with the fiber optic front sight and fully adjustable rear target sight, you can adjust to your specific load virtually on the fly for maximum accuracy. The magazine well is flared and extended to speed up your reloads, and the XD-M Elite comes stock with 22 round magazines. The full-length guide rod helps eliminate recoil, and slide cut outs lighten the weight of the 8.3 inch slide for better balance. Despite its size, the polymer frame and lightening cuts keep the weight at 30 ounces unloaded.
Bersa Thunder 9 Pro XT
The Thunder 9 Pro XT is no longer in production, but it can be found second hand and deserves a mention here. The competition cousin of Bersa’s duty weapon option, this pistol will not win any beauty contests, but it has a track record of excellent reliably and top end accuracy. Another gun with fiber optic front sights and adjustable rear, the biggest complaint here seems to be wide range in trigger pulls. Your DA pull will be just over 7.5 pounds, and the following SA pulls will be a fairly light 3.5 pounds. That will take some range time to get used to, but at around $750, this is a competitive gun right out of the box.
Tanfoglio Witness Elite LTD
Tanfoglio guns are widely sought after and for good reason. They are one of the premier brands in the competition circuits, and the Witness Elite LTD in 9mm shows why. An overall length of 9 inches contains a 4.75 inch barrel. It also comes stock with several different weighted recoil springs. Checkered front and back straps help keep your grip solid, and the extended mag well seats 17 round magazines perfectly. Based on the CZ-75 design, there’s no doubt why Tanfoglio firearms have won in virtually every variation of competitive shooting at some point during recent years.
FN 509 LS Edge
FN America’s 509 LS Edge is another complete competition package out of the box. Two back straps for grip comfort, four optics adapter plates, raised fiber optic and rear sights all come standard. These raised sights can then co-witness with a red dot sight of your choosing. A 5 inch barrel with 8.2 inches overall weighs just 31 ounces thanks to lightening cuts in the slide. This pistol also sports a flat face trigger with a 90 degree break and a snappy reset.
Which Pistol Would I Choose?
We covered ten really great pistols – but the question remains, which pistol is the ultimate winner?! Which pistol would I choose if was in the market for a 9mm competition pistol?
STI 2011 Staccato XL
STI 2011 firearms can command the price points that they do for one simple reason – they’re worth it. The lightest trigger of the bunch plus the longest barrel in an optics ready package but still including quality sights is as good as it gets. You get all this in just over two pounds of unloaded weight.