The Death of the Subcompact – The End of an Era

Could the era of the subcompact be coming to a close? Are there better options out there nowadays?

The SIG P365 changed the entire concealed carry marketplace. In one fell swoop, it effectively ended the reign of both the single stack 9mm and the subcompact pistol. Much has been said about the death of the single stack, but today we are going to talk about subcompact handguns and if they still matter. In today’s world, if you carry a gun that isn’t an inch thin or less and at the same time carries ten rounds, it might be considered obsolete.

That being said, has the deather of the subcompact been greatly exaggerated?

What Do I Mean By Subcompact?

A lot of terms in the gun world are a bit nebulous, so it’s important to define terms before we dive in a bit deeper. Some might consider the P365 a subcompact, but I think most parlance calls the P365 and guns like it micro compacts. Subcompacts are the smallest versions of other, larger guns. Guns like the Glock 26 long defined the subcompact genre.

Companies took their full-sized pistols and cut their grips and barrels down to make a much smaller weapon but didn’t do much more than that. These guns became popular for concealed carry and as backup sidearms for law enforcement. They were small but often still thick and blocky.

They also typically held ten rounds or so, at least when they chambered 9mm. These guns ruled for quite some time, but it seems that the micro compact just does it better.

What the Micro Compact Does Better

I can break this down into one single word, and that word is efficiency. Micro compacts beat back subcompact pistols by offering you a much thinner grip paired with the same standard capacity of a subcompact. They were smaller, thinner, sleeker, and easier to carry. How could the thick subcompact ever hope to keep up?

They couldn’t, and I think we are seeing them slowly slip away in the gun ether without much fanfare or appreciation. With that in mind, what can the subcompact still offer the everyday shooter?

What Does the Subcompact Still Offer?

If you’ve long carried your favorite Glock 26, is it worth upgrading to something like the p365? Well, it might be, but it’s certainly not necessary. The gun community does love the latest and greatest, and there isn’t an issue with that. However, sometimes the juice just really isn’t worth the hundreds of dollars worth of squeeze.

If you’ve already invested in your platform, your holster,s magazines, etc., then it might not be the best switch for you. On top of that, the subcompact still offers a couple of advantages worth noting. The first will be magazines. The subcompact versions of these guns are compatible with the compact and full-sized variants of most guns. Being able to share magazines with another gun can be quite valuable. From a law enforcement perspective, I could see the appeal of carrying a Glock 26 alongside a Glock 17 just for the shared magazine capability.

If you like being high speed, then the larger, thicker slide offers you more mounting space for optics. Sure, mini optics exist, but if you want a full-sized, proven optic like the Trijicon RMR or the Leupold DPP, then you need the slide space to accommodate it, and subcompacts offer that.

Thick grips might make concealment difficult, but those same thick grips help distribute recoil and make the weapon easier to control. When loaded with modern self-defense loads, those thicker grips excel at making the gun easier to control.

Lastly, let’s talk rails. Some micro compacts feature standard Picatinny rail, but most don’t. They are too thin. Subcompacts, on the other hand, can give you all the rail you need for mounting compact lights and other accessories.

Carry On

The subcompact handgun has lost a lot of ground since the advent of the micro compact, but I see it sticking around for some time to come. They might not be dead, but they have certainly fallen off and lost ground. What do you think? Is the subcompact still your go-to? Let us know below.

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Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record-setting 11 months at sea. Travis has trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines, and the Afghan National Army.

He serves as an NRA-certified pistol instructor and pursues a variety of firearms-based hobbies.




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5 thoughts on “The Death of the Subcompact – The End of an Era”

  1. It’s getting crazy with all the tactitard stuff. What’s next, a blender attachment to make daiquiris? It really is driven by marketing to sell more stuff. So now subcompacts are no longer good enough. I can’t wait for the next business driven item that will be a big seller.

  2. The EAA Witness compact.45acp is everyday carry firearm. It’s a little heavy and only 8+1 rounds
    but of all my pistols this is the one I am most accurate with. I also always carry an extra magazine.

    1. I believe all of the “Subs” and “MIcros” have their own space. There are many reasons as to why, but most importantly is the confidence one has in the platform and the ability to use it effectively, no matter what that platform is.

      Most people cannot effectively shoot a micro, not necessarily because of recoil, weight etc., but Sight Radius is often an issue resulting in sub-par accuracy. Being able to point shoot with both eyes open provides an obvious advantage however many people struggle with the concept.

      Each of these platforms have a place in our community and personally I do not believe any one is “better or more outdated” than the other and people should not be “told” what to shoot(no one is doing that here) by instructors.

      Too many times I have observed a first time shooter with “too much gun” out the box. They then develop bad habits that are hard to correct, especially flinching and lack of confidence.

      A poster here uses an EAA Witness as it is what they shoot the most proficiently and that is their go to platform and why not.

      My daughter’s go to platform is an out of the box Glock 19. She has tried just about every Micro out there and has no confidence in them, yes they conceal better but she is Annie Oakly with the 19.

      This does not mean the Micros tested were poor platforms – she found them all more difficult to shoot in a clutch situation.

      I love the fact that the Manufacturer s are providing us with so many new platforms as it gives the new members of our community many better options than those of us with some grey hair had when we joined this community.

      To the Manufacturers Go for it. To new members be grateful that you have so many platforms to choose from.

      Just my $0.02 worth

  3. I could not disagree more with this article for several reasons- not least of which is betrayed by the image of what appears to be the Sig 365X.. I believe the purpose of a concealed carry, called it a EDC or whatever you wish, is essentially for practical concealment, meaning you can actually carry it in a concealed manner. To the point- what is it about the depicted “X” series gun with a Holosun optic (or any mini dot for that matter), threaded barrel, and Streamlight TLR3 which did not add bulk, more edges, or otherwise make it at least somewhat more impractical to concealed carry? Mind you, ‘concealable’ is highly subjective- consider those who live in places in climates where you wear t shirts and shorts versus those who at least always wear a sweater or a light jacket. Ankle holsters, appendix, iwb, there are lots of variables. Your stature and frame gives you some latitude as well as to how well your body can hide this piece. But these are obvious points. To my next point, sadly most people hardly scratch the surface with shooting competencies, and therefore are really putting themselves at an even more inherent disadvantage with smaller grips (less real estate for ham fists to hold onto and then we have recoil management for the amateur), little to nothing for sights (great for deep carry pistols where point/shoot is the idea) which are hard for the beginner who doesn’t know sight picture/alignment, and we haven’t gotten into trigger dynamics yet. I have carried a sub compact as an every day carry, in fact the same gun, since 1994. It offers the perfect balance of sights, grip, reasonable capacity, and most importantly, I have a lot of competency with it. It has nice edges, lies flat, and even if it is slightly wider than some of these newer micros, you have a good balance. It is almost extremely tolerant of sweat and environmental insult, not a speck of rust or patina. The brand or model is not important.

    Everyone wants to run out and buy the smallest gun possible, but why? If you cannot use it effectively what is the point and there is surely an alternative out there. For the record, I have been a firearms instructor nearly 20 years and have, when I felt the need, carried a Glock 41 with a Trijicon RMR as a concealed carry. So, more deeply, it is not that the assertions in this article are wrong, per se, but really not applicable as a whole for most people.

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