There are hundreds of compact handguns produced every day, so how do you choose the one that’s right for you? As the firearms industry has grown, manufacturers have become more innovative and listened to feedback from consumers to make pistols that are tailored to your needs. Smaller compact pistols are great for people with smaller hands, for carrying in warmer months when clothing choices change, or for a backup gun.
We’re covering the pros and cons of the most popular compact handguns on the market right now.
The Glock 43 was revolutionary for concealed carriers everywhere. Glock is easily one of the most recognized brands in the world and they’re known for their reliability. Glocks run in rain, snow, deserts, after being dropped in mud, and are virtually indestructible. The Glock 43 was the first single stack 9mm pistol Glock released after the Glock 42 chambered in .380 ACP came out. Because 9mm is the more popular caliber, the sales for this gun took off.
The Glock 43 has a capacity of 6+1 rounds, weighs 20 ounces fully loaded, has a short barrel of 3.41 inches, and the well-known Glock trigger with a built-in safety. The pro that matters is that this pistol is reliable, comfortable, lightweight, and easily concealable.
The con for this pistol is the limited capacity and size of the grip. Even with small hands, it’s easy to lose your grip when the gun recoils. I recommend getting the pinky extension for your magazines to get the full hand on the gun.
While the Glock 43x did not render the Glock 43 useless, it did improve upon the platform and become even more popular. The 43x features a capacity of 10+1 adding 3 more ounces compared to the 43. The upgrade and pro of the 43x is the increase in height on the 43x giving you a much better grip without having to add an extension. The front cocking serrations on the 43x are also a popular new feature.
The con of this model is that it fell a little short of expectations with not enough newness to peak interest. However, if you are interested in the added capacity, it’s still a good ole reliable Glock.
Sig Sauer created a compact handgun that made headlines in the concealed carry competition. Chambered in popular 9mm, this pistol packs a capacity of 10+1 rounds. The barrel length is 3.1 inches with a total weight of 23.6 ounces fully loaded.
There are two main pros to this pistol. Sig Sauer was intentional with making the pistol and magazine longer for a perfect grip on the gun, along with a more textured grip. The other pro is for those just beginning their concealed carry journey, this model handgun can come with a manual safety as an option.
The con of this pistol really came from the negative press upon the release of the gun. Very few guns were recalled and sent back due to slide lockup and a heat treat problem on the striker. Skepticism seemed to keep consumers from trusting the pistol for some time. Those issues were quickly addressed by Sig and fixed in both early models and production moving forward.
The original Smith & Wesson Shield took the market by storm when it came out over 10 years ago. Since then, Smith & Wesson has created a variety of versions of the popular pistol over the years from Performance Center upgrades to the Shield EZ designed with a lightened slide for easy loading. The new Shield Plus is a quality concealed carry pistol that can hold its own amongst its peers. The capacity is 13+1, but one of the best features is the flat face trigger that is on all Plus models. For those with smaller hands or who enjoy a flat trigger, this makes it even easier to reach and pull the trigger back when seconds count.
The other bonus about this gun is the ability to customize it. Through their Performance Center, Smith & Wesson has given consumers the choice of night sights or a white dot, capacity limits (for those states with magazine limits), and to have a thumb safety or not. Got a Shield holster? Good news! It will work on the Plus, too.
Most people who carry concealed probably won't notice it, but some consumers have noticed a gap between the magazine and the magwell opening that doesn't quite sit flush. This could cause pinching of your hand when gripping the pistol.
The original Springfield Hellcat made waves upon rollout. The pistol came out with an optics-ready (OSP) configuration, which had just started becoming popular when it launched. The Hellcat features 11+1 capacity or 13+1 of 9mm ammo with an extended magazine.
The main pro of this pistol is not only the added capacity but also the non-proprietary accessory rail that allows you to mount a light or laser on it. The pistol comes with a reversible magazine release catering to lefties everywhere.
The Hellcat has an oversized slide lock or slide release button. When gripping a small, compact pistol tightly while shooting, it’s easy to put pressure on this button accidentally so the slide can’t lock back when it’s empty. In a fight or flight scenario, this can cause confusion and make it harder to reload.
Springfield one-upped their previous pistol to include a few impressive new features. Red dots are becoming more common on compact handguns and this one includes the HEX micro red dot. Springfield also added a self-indexing compensator that reduces muzzle rise for more accurate follow-up shots. As an optional addition, concealed carriers can include an optional ambidextrous manual safety.
The capacity of this handgun remains the same, and a real pro is if the red dot battery ever fails, you can co-witness the iron sights through the optic so a sight picture will always be there when you need it most.
The downside to this gun is the added weight to the pistol as well as the overall length increase from the compensator. A new holster will be needed with this addition as well.
Remember to try as many compact handguns as you can before purchasing. Only you can pick out a pistol that fits you, your hand size, and your skillset. Stay safe out there!
Kenzie Fitzpatrick is a professional competitive shooter and an active blogger for many firearm websites. As an NRA-certified instructor and National Range Officer Institute Chief Range Officer, Kenzie trains new shooters on basic firearm safety, brings new shooters to competitive shooting, and works major matches across the country. She has a passion for teaching people how to concealed carry and is a positive ambassador for the Second Amendment.
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