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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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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