Today we’re going to talk about the premier 9mm handguns on the market. We’ve previously discussed competition pistols, subcompact pistols, and other specialty firearms, but in this article, I’m going to take a slightly different approach. Here, we’re looking for the best jack of all trades. What handgun can do the most, do it best, and do it for the right price.
Interested in more 9mm related content? Check out these articles from us:
Key Considerations and Uses
Before making any decision to purchase a gun, you first must consider what your intended use is going to be. If you’re looking for a weapon to carry concealed, then you’re not going to want a competition style pistol with a 9 inch slide and a hair trigger. What we’ll do here is take you through some options that can check multiple boxes and perform well in them all. There are as many purposes for a handgun as you can imagine, and there are few people that can afford a specific pistol for each of them. Here are some of the most common reasons that people look for 9mm handguns.
Home defense is statistically the most common reason that anyone purchases a gun. It also fits a wide variety of weapons. Anything from a full frame pistol down to a micro compact or pocket gun can be used for home defense. Your main considerations are reliability, accuracy, and comfort. If you can’t comfortably train with your pistol, then you won’t be proficient with it nor have the muscle memory to fall back on should you ever need to use it in self defense. Another factor here is an easily manipulated safety, you want something that keeps you and your family safe from a negligent discharge or a curious toddler but that also doesn’t impede your ability to use it effectively.
A concealed carry weapon is probably the next biggest category. Again, you’re looking for reliability, accuracy, and a pleasant shooting experience, but you also need to consider your body shape, weapon size for concealment purposes, and hand size when selecting something here. Weight is also an often overlooked consideration for a CCW; you might not see the gun printing through your shirt, but a 15 pound weight half pulling down your pants could get you some unwanted attention.
Target Shooting or Range Gun
A range gun or one used just for target shooting is probably the broadest category I’ll mention. Anything and everything can fit in here. Obviously, you don’t want a gun that’s uncomfortable or painful to shoot, but outside of that, literally anything goes. You can poke holes in paper with a pistol that has a malfunction every other round with the only negative outcome being your annoyance with having to clear it.
Pistols used in various competitions have specific rules about length, caliber, weight, and many other requirements. From a bird’s eye perspective, a quality competition gun will have a long barrel, great balance, good recoil management, quality sights or optics ready, and a flared magazine well. They may also be ported to help with recoil compensation. These handguns are meant to shoot fast, reload faster, and have precision accuracy. Light triggers are the name of the game which differs significantly from most other categories.
Whether you work in law enforcement, armed security, as a range officer, or on a ranch or farm, a duty weapon or work gun fits in a unique niche of its own. Typically openly carried in an outside the waistband holster, this pistol will be exposed to the open air and contaminants much more often than some of the others we’ve discussed. You should look for a reliable gun that can take a fair amount of abuse, is accurate, and does not suffer from excessive malfunctions or reports of manufacturing defects.
Top Ten 9mm Handguns
Sig Sauer P226 MK25
Did you ever want to own the exact pistol issued to Navy SEALS? Look no further. The Sig P226 has been around for decades, and it was developed for a bid to replace all US military issued handguns which it ironically lost to Beretta. The Navy SEALS then decided that they didn’t quite care what the rest of the military did, and they issued the P226 to their service members anyway. Sig still offers a design virtually identical to that produced in 1984 as the P226 Nitron, but the MK25 is exactly what current SEALS are issued today.
Complete with a stamped Navy anchor on the slide, this full-frame pistol features a Picatinny rail system and only three controls: the slide stop lever, decocker, and magazine release. A DA/SA pistol, the P226 MK25 does have a fairly long initial trigger pull and a trigger reset that isn’t quite short either, but this is made up for by some other improvements to the weapon not to mention it’s easily rectified with a $50 trigger kit from Sig themselves. The slide is lightened in this pistol and also integrates the bolt directly into the slide making maintenance easier. All in all, this weapon is 7.7 inches long, 34 ounces unloaded, and comes stock with 15+1 capacity which is upgradeable to 18+1 still flush mounted. The price tag of just over $1,000 may give you some pause, but what else do you own that’s issued to US Navy SEALS?
Glock 19 Gen 5
It wouldn’t be a top 10 list without a Glock making an appearance. The Austrians know how to make reliable guns, and the Gen 5 updated Glocks stay true to their history. These pistols are one of the top duty weapons issued to US law enforcement because they have low malfunction rates, and they can take a beating and still perform. The 4.02 inch barrel and 7.28 inch overall length combine with a width of 1.34 inches to make a comfortable fit for a compact weapon in most hands. Gen 5 saw the removal of the traditional Glock finger grooves which allows for more leeway in finding your own natural grip.
The Glock 19’s standard capacity is 15+1 but that is easily expandable with extended magazine options. Unlike the next entry in the list, the G19’s mag well is funneled and flared to aid in reloading. Ambidextrous slide stop levers and a reversible magazine release make for a much more pleasant experience for our left handed friends. The Glock 19 Gen 5 can be found in the $550-$650 range.
Smith & Wesson M&P9 M2.0 Compact
I selected the compact version of Smith & Wesson’s M&P line in 9mm here for a reason; it’s the most versatile size. With a 4 inch barrel, 7.25 inches in length, 5 inches tall, and weighing just 27 ounces, this compact pistol still notches a 15+1 capacity. Dimension wise, it is almost a carbon copy of the above Glock 19, but it has some significant differences. The M2.0 grip update is glorious; this pistol feels like it’s holding your hand, and the inclusion of four different size back straps mean that you can find the ergonomics that fit your hand the best. The trigger received a huge update as well. Not much slack is present and it breaks at just over 5 pounds.
The trigger may be a major improvement, but it is also heavily curved and this can be cause for awkward or uncomfortable finger placement on the actual trigger. The sights leave something to be desired as well. The bright white three-dot sight is common enough, but it’s nothing to write home about. The ramp-style rear sight also means that getting a quick sight picture can take some practice compared to a more vertical layout. With an MSRP just under $600, these pistols can be found from the low $500s and up.
FN 509 Tactical
The original FN 509 is another pistol that was developed for military trials, and just two years later, FN released the jazzed up tactical version. They lengthened the barrel from 4 inches to 4.5 and added threading to mount a suppressor. The stock sights are iridescent and raised to suppressor height, and the slide is machined to accept micro red dot sights. It comes stock with two 24 round magazines and a 17 round magazine.
At 7.4 inches long and 5.5 tall with the 17 round mag inserted, this isn’t the ideal concealment gun, but the Picatinny rail system and ambidextrous slide stop and magazine release make this a versatile platform that is well worth mentioning. It would find a happy home in any of the above categories of use besides concealed carry, and with a price point of $900, you get a quality, multiple use pistol.
Heckler & Koch P30
Full disclosure, I’m cheating a little bit here. H&K makes 3 entirely different models based on the P30 platform, and each of those models comes with between 4 and 6 variants individually. Full-frame P30, lengthened slide P30L, and the compact P30SK all come stock with no external safety, but one can be added just by looking for the model number with an extra S at the end (P30S, P30LS, and P30SK S respectively).
These variations of the individual models offer different trigger assemblies in DAO, DA/SA, CDA/DA, and CDAO. CDA stands for combat defensive action which allows you to shorten the length and required force of the trigger pull while still operating the weapon in DA. It’s an interesting feature and allows DAO functionality with low weight trigger pulls of up to 5 pounds. These guns are all polymer framed and more ergonomic than stock Glock offerings. Prices vary with the models but are generally in the $600-$800 range.
Beretta 92 FS Brigadier
I couldn’t mention the Sig P226 without bringing up the actual winner of the military contract in question. Beretta’s civilian version of the M9 military-issued 9mm pistol is the 92 FS, and the 92 FS Brigadier provides some modern updates that the dated platform desperately needs. The distinct open slide look is something that you either love or hate, but you can’t deny that these pistols are instantly recognizable as Beretta products from that alone.
The Brigadier model adds slide weight to reduce felt recoil and includes rubberized grips to soften the grip. Outside of that, there haven’t been many changes to the platform in 30 years. That staying power is impressive in its own right, but if you want modern, you need to look elsewhere. The 92 FS is a reliable, solid handgun, and I mean solid. This thing is massive. Precisely 8.4 inches long, 5.4 inches high, and 33.3 ounces unloaded, this is a duty weapon made for abuse and big hands.
Brazilian firearms manufacturer Taurus gets a bad rap when it comes to some firearms elitists, but they are a decent bargain brand that is only getting better with each generation. If you read my subcompact 9mm pistol article, you’ll remember the G3c. This compact pistol is barely bigger than a micro compact but still packs an impressive 12+1 capacity in an unloaded weight of just 22 ounces. If you purchase the TORO option, your firearm will come equipped with an optic ready slide. The best part is that all of this comes in a package with a sub $500 MSRP, and you can easily find them for under $300 or just over that if you want a TORO model.
Walther PPQ M2 4″
Walther has updated their PPQ to the M2 model, and this gun is absolutely worthy of the name. The PPQ comes in a multitude of variants with some fancy options like factory night sights, longer barrels, and more. Swappable back straps allow grip customization, and this pistol measures 7.1 inches with the 4 inch barrel option. A 5.6 pound trigger pull with a travel distance of just 0.4 inches sends your 15+1 stock capacity down range with ease. This platform is comfortable in any arena from home defense, to CCW, or even competition. Base models retail around $550 and run up to the middle $700 region for any of the options.
Glock 43x Gen 5
This Glock is a CCW standout, but it’s 10+1 capacity in a subcompact package combined with the wide range of accessories allows it to fill any role. You can substantially upgrade your capacity with grip extensions, switch out back straps for comfort, and bet your life on the reliability of this Austrian pistol. The 5.6 pound trigger is a breeze, and the integrated trigger safeties provide security in place of a manual thumb safety. For the typical Glock price tag of $550-$600, there are more economical weapons if you’re shopping for something more than just a CCW.
Sig Sauer P320
The P320 has been haunted by lawsuits over reports that it will fire if dropped or otherwise handled without manipulation of the trigger. This is a wildly popular pistol, and it is in use with thousands of law enforcement agencies and the United States military as well. I hesitated to even mention this, but the fact that the military model P320-M17 includes a trigger modification that the military insisted on leads me to believe that there may be some truth behind the rumors. This compact weapon otherwise checks many boxes, and without these safety concerns, would be a close competitor for top overall.
Best Value – Glock 19 Gen 5
I know it’s hard to believe that you would see a Glock in the best value slot, but $550 for a weapon with the customizability that it has and the ability to fill literally every potential use for a 9mm handgun is frankly outstanding. Sure, you can find cheaper, but I doubt you will find matching versatility for that price.
Best Overall – FN 509 Tactical
The nearly $1,000 price tag before optics and accessories is high, but you really do get your money’s worth. It is competition ready out of the box, but it’s also still safe enough for home defense or duty use. That is well worth a few hundred extra dollars for all the options you get here.