The firearm industry’s current idea of what a carry gun should be is a gun that weighs around 20 ounces, holds at least ten rounds and is six inches long, an inch wide and four to five inches high. If you’ll permit me to vary an ounce or two here or there and perhaps as much as an inch in length, I’ve identified twenty handguns that fit in this category. I own and have personal experience with 15 of these 20 and I’ll give you my take on them. Don’t ask me to choose a favorite, however. I find myself switching out my carry gun on a regular basis because I enjoy and have an appreciation for quite a few of them.
Some of the guns in this group pre-dated the current micro-nine offerings by several years. Taurus, long a favorite of mine because my first semi-automatic handgun was a Taurus 24/7 DS Pro, which I acquired in 2006 or thereabouts, and I loved that gun. Taurus had a smaller gun dubbed the PT-111 that became the source of some controversy and a class action lawsuit because one customer claimed his went off when he dropped it. The perception I have is that all over the world money-hungry Taurus owners began to throw their guns on to hard surfaces to see if they could get them to go off and out of thousands one or two did which was all it took for a group of lawyers to go after Taurus with a vengeance. Well, Taurus offered up some money in settlement, survived and tweaked the gun. The result was the PT-111 G2, newly named the Millennium G2. It’s a very nice little gun that sports a 12 round magazine and the unique Taurus double-strike capability which enables a shooter to pull the trigger again if for some reason a gun doesn’t fire. I find that feature most helpful for dry-fire practice because you can get additional trigger pulls without having to rack the slide. Although Taurus has since released a G3 and G4 the G2 is still in their lineup and still a great buy with street prices below $250.
I’m going to skip going to the Taurus G3C and G4X right now and bring up another of the early members of what’s being called the micro-nine crowd. The CPX-2 pictured above is the gun that’s in my holster today. I’ve been carrying it for about a week now, though I’ve owned it for several years. Listed here are four SCCY guns— a CPX1, a CPX2 and a CPX1 Red Dot all with a 10+1 capacity. I have all three because I did a feature article a few years ago on SCCY’s color schemes and the company generously provided me with samples for the article. SCCY makes some pretty guns. I have a blue one, a green one, and this one with an attractive camouflage finish. After I wrote about these guns, I sort of passed them by as carry guns because of their 10 lb. double-action trigger pull. That was a mistake, as I found out when I came back to them later. These are fine firearms and worthy of my CCW holster any day of the week. I especially like the one with the camo job.
The big difference between the SCCY CPX-1 and the CPX-2 is the safety. You can get a SCCY with or without a manual safety, your preference. There are those of us who believe a 9-10 lbs. trigger pull is enough of a safety, while others really want to experience the click-on, click-off of a manual safety.
SCCY was one of the first in this class of guns to offer a red dot sight pre-mounted as shown on my blue CPX-2 here. They did a fine job with the Crimson Trace. The holster I use accommodates pistols with a red dot as well as those without, so this is a gun I enjoy carrying, especially when I want to get in some red dot practice.
Since I mentioned the holster, this is a good place to stop and share with you my daily carry holster solution that lets me easily carry any gun in this article or if I want a bigger gun such as a Sig P229, a Taurus G3 full-size, an M&P or a 1911, it works for them as well. Here it is:
This holster works well for me for two reasons: 1) I use it with a genuine heavy leather gun belt and 2) I wear polo shirts with the shirt tail out pretty much year around. If I need to tuck in my shirttail, I have several nice IWB holsters that will work with most of these guns. Texas allows open carry, but I’d rather have my gun hidden so as to be a surprise to the bad guys if I need it.
Like many SCCY followers I was excited when the DVG-1 was announced with a single-action trigger with a target pull of 5.5 lbs. The DVG-1 improves on SCCY’s design in several ways that affect shootability and accuracy. What’s so interesting about SCCY pistols is how well made they are while selling at a much lower price than some of the competition. Don’t make the mistake of thinking of SCCYs as “cheap” guns. Mr. Joe Roebuck, founder of SCCY, is the engineer and designer for these guns and a master at putting out a quality product that is not overpriced.
After the Taurus G3 made such a hit in the mid-size gun department Taurus management probably felt they needed a smaller version of the G3 to stay relevant in the marketplace. So they did the G3C which is a little different than the G2 and inexpensive enough that if you want one you might as well get one. I use my G2 and G3 Compact interchangeably.
The G4X is an entirely different gun. Taurus brags that it’s the best trigger they’ve ever had. It does have a short takeup and a crisp break, but frankly I didn’t see anything wrong with the G2 and G3 trigger. The G4X has a smaller, redesigned grip that makes the gun easier to hold on to. It has Glock compatible sights, which means you can swap out the existing sights for any number of aftermarket sights designed for a Glock. It has an easier takedown method. It’s thinner than the G2 and G3.
Springfield put forth a challenge with the Hellfire, a gun that won accolades near and far due to its double-stack magazine. That first Hellfire had a capacity of 11+1 or 13+1 and was specifically positioned to challenge the single-stack nines from Ruger, S&W and Glock. The Hellfire definitely stirred the market as it was followed by the Shield Plus from S&W, Max 9 from Ruger, G4X from Taurus and P365 from Sig Sauer.
Springfield likes the idea of being a market leader so they sprung the Hellcat Pro on us. This one has a 15+1 capacity and just barely stretches the 20 + 6 + 4 limit. In spite of hearing and reading so much about the Hellcat, I missed out on getting one, but when Springfield launched the Hellcat Pro, I got one and I’m glad I did. Here we have a gun with 15+1 capacity in a flush-fit magazine and though it’s a little longer it’s right in there close to being a 20 oz. gun. The slim-line grip feels great and offers excellent contact and control. There is enough weight in the slide and barrel to reduce muzzle flip. The slide is optics ready, though I haven’t bought the bullet and added a red dot to mine, I probably will in the near future. The existing open sights are great as it is. With front and rear slide serrations I’m able to run the gun pretty well and I certainly feel confident with Springfield’s quality.
S&W’s CSX is an all steel 12+1 package that’s actually lighter weight than most of the polymer framed guns in this group. Some conversation about the gun was that the CS in the name was a throwback to the old, very popular Chief’s Special revolver that was a favorite of police detectives and other undercover cops. When I got a CSX the first thing that struck me was it just felt different, something I attributed to it being an all-steel gun. It’s designed for single-action cocked and locked carry and I find myself feeling comfortable carrying it that way. It makes a good pocket gun, but when I carry it, I put it in the foldaway holster and make it my primary gun for such days. Because of its weight it doesn’t shoot like the small gun it is.
About the same time they released the CSX, S&W joined forces with Federal Ammunition to introduce to us a new caliber and a gun designed for it. The new caliber is 30 Super Carry and it fits somewhere in between .380 and 9mm on the ballistics scale. What’s really cool about it is the reduced diameter of the cartridge allow for more rounds on board. S&W actually modified their Shield Plus to carry 16+1 rounds of 30 Super Carry. That’s impressive in this size gun. The recoil is only slightly reduced from that of a 9mm, but there is a little reduction. I have one of these and I’ve enjoyed shooting it. I’m hoping this will be a caliber that lasts for the additional capacity of nothing else. If James Bond could stop bad guys with a .380 you and I should be able to do it with a 30 Super Carry. I mean it does have “Super” in its name. That has to account for something.
Glock tweaked their single-stack 9mm G43 to work with a 10-round magazine and added an X to the name to get us the Glock in the class of firearms we’re working with. The G43X is classic Glock all the way and if you’re a Glock fan is the one you’ll probably want that’s in this category. I shy away from Glocks just because so many people have them there’s not a ready writer’s market to describe something new and nifty. Glocks are nifty. I’m reminded of that every time I shoot one. The Glock shown in the picture above is my personal firearm, primarily acquired because of the really cool Duracoat® finish put on it by my favorite gunstore owner, Brandon Allred of Kentucky Windage in Hurst, Texas. How does my Glock shoot? Just like a Glock should, excellently.
Back when I said I wasn’t going to pick favorites, I clearly wasn’t thinking about the Sig P365. I’m a Sig fan and this one fits right in there with my expectations and enjoyment of owning a Sig firearm. You may have noticed mine looks a little different than the P365s you see advertised or in use here and there. That’s because I put it in a custom frame built by Wilson Combat. I’m also about to modify it with a short reset Gray Guns trigger. I do tend to carry this one and the Hellcat Pro a little more often than the others, but that’s simply ego. Whenever I go somewhere others are gun people or talking about guns and if the subject comes up “What am I carrying?” I want to be really cool and show off something like a Hellcat Pro, Sig P365X or S&W CSX. What I really should do is show off some of the Taurus or SCCY models because they’re really cool, too. It’s just when anybody and everybody can afford one, they lose some of that upmarket appeal.
Mossberg and Stoeger are two shotgun makers who haven’t traditionally made pistols but have each brought a family of them to market within the past few years. The one shown here from Mossberg is a baby brother (or maybe sister) to the MC2C which is one of my prize possessions. If this smaller version shoots and handles anything like the Mossberg I have, it’s a winner. I’ve not tried one yet, but maybe soon.
Diamondback’s DB9 has been a leader in the small gun arena for years. In fact, when you see the influence the DB9 has on the design of other guns in the market, you can’t help but think of the DB9 as an important component of firearm history. Now Diamondback has upped the ante by offering an extended grip and barrel version that has the kind of capacity we’re looking for in this group of micro nines. One magazine offers 12 rounds and there’s an additional one with 17 rounds. This beats the Shield Plus 30 Carry for capacity in a small gun.
Ruger innovation keeps them as a major influencer of which way the market is going to go. I’m not sure when this little gun hit the market, but it’s based upon an earlier Ruger handgun called the LCP, which I remember as being a hit as a “pocket gun” for many people in the industry. At the time I thought pocket guns were silly, so I didn’t pay much attention to it until students started bringing them to my concealed carry classes to shoot. Frankly, it needed a little help and I see that help in this gun that’s heavier and has a higher capacity. Shooting the Max-9, for me, is a breeze, and carrying it even easier.
When I saw Ruger’s Max-9 I immediately thought of this gun. I have a Security 9C and I love it. it’s an easy to carry, easy to operate, easy to shoot and easy to clean offering from Ruger. Yes, it’s a little longer than 6″ and slightly heavier than 20 oz. but it’s still a diminutive gun that will serve you well whether in your holster or in the nightstand. When you compare the two guns from Ruger up close, you get a good feel for how the designers took the best features from the Security 9C and shrunk them down a bit to make the Max-9.
One day I’ll get my hands on this little gun and it will immediately become a favorite. How do I know? I have a long and pleasant history with the full size B6 and this one looks to be almost the same except for size. If you know the CZ-75, you know the SAR B6 is a faithful clone. I’ve read and seen the reviews on this one and it appears SAR stayed true to form when they shrunk the gun.
So there you have twenty 9mm pistols that are small and easy to hide, but with a capacity of 11 rounds (10+1) or sometimes a lot more. Which one should you buy? All of them, of course. I tend to favor whichever one is in my hand at the moment. I’ve found that I shoot the mid to full size guns better and when I first started shooting these micro-nines, I was frustrated more than pleased at my range results. But I kept at it and got better and better. I firmly believe that any one of these guns would serve me well as a defensive gun. If life continues to treat me well these will stay with me for a long, long time and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some others added. If you have a favorite and good way to justify that favorite, let us know