The overwhelming preference in the current handgun market is for weapons in the 9mm caliber. The reasons for this include high velocity, compact size and high magazine capacity. This is a direct outgrowth of the adoption of the 9mm for duty weapons by military and law enforcement worldwide.
Because of the huge market and large number of available models, this can be great news for anyone shopping for a personal defense weapon.
With all this competition and wide variety, choices abound in style, size and price. Here’s a look at some of the candidates for the best 9mm handgun ever made. If you want to view some of great 9mm’s check out the complete handgun guide here.
Best 9mm Handgun Ever Made – Top 5
1. Sig Sauer P290 (Discontinued)
The P290 is Sig’s entry in the rapidly expanding market for medium-bore compact guns intended for concealed carry. This is a small pistol with a polymer frame and stainless steel slide. It has more heft and weight than similar handguns by other makers, and with such a small gun, the weight helps to make it more controllable when firing the hotter +P rounds it is rated for.
It is a very balanced design, allowing it to point well and stay on target as well as any gun this small can do. There have been some complaints by owners on magazine fit and feed reliability.
Sig offers a small laser that can be mounted in an integral fashion forward of the trigger guard. One interesting option is the ability to replace the side plates on the grip with others of different material such as rubber or wood. It’s important to note that this gun is not legal for sale in either Massachusetts or California.
2. Springfield XD
Springfield’s XD is probably the king of sales in the small carry gun category. The XD line consists of everything from full-sized duty weapons down to the shortest compact carry pistol available.
Compared to the Sig Sauer P290 it is far easier to break down and owners love the gun. It comes with a choice of night sights or plain black ones and they can be replaced with aftermarket offerings. The XD also includes a rail for mounting optics, even on the little 3-inch sub compact gun.
The XD resembles the Glock in overall look, feel and construction, but the geometry differs slightly and many Glock users find that they prefer this difference in the Springfield. Like the Glock, the Springfield XD has a polymer frame and metal slide, and it has developed a reputation for flawless feeding.
These are well-built and substantial guns, but are lighter than the P290 in the sub compact size. This can mean more muzzle rise and more difficulty keeping the gun on target. Springfield offers a nice set of accessories with the gun, making for a great value in the price.
Because Springfield owns the oldest trademarked name for a gun maker in the United States, many will mistakenly claim the gun is American made. Actually, this pistol is manufactured in Croatia by a different company and licensed to Springfield. This is another gun not legal for sale in California and Massachusetts.
3. Sig Sauer P226
This is considered the iconic handgun offered by Sig Sauer and is the gun that built their reputation as a maker of reliable and high quality 9mm guns. The P226 is a favorite of law enforcement and military (including the U.S. Navy Seals), considered easy to acquire a target with and as durable as it gets.
It is very well balanced and is known for reliable operation. All of this comes at a price premium, as much as three times what other guns in this review will cost. A custom version can double even that price.
The P226 is a full-sized duty weapon and is not offered in a compact version. In the Sig Sauer lineup, that place is filled by the P290. Sig offers 25 models of the P226, and with its standard rail system, a seemingly unlimited amount of accessories are available. This gun has multiple safeties, and the hammer when decocked is not in contact with the firing pin. No one can go wrong with the choice of the P226, which is the original standard for a 9mm handgun against which any other must be measured.
4. Glock 17
Glock is the absolute standard for reliability when it comes to a handgun. No other weapon has the reputation for proven operation that the Glock enjoys. These guns will fire every time regardless of the power or quality of the ammunition. The words “Glock Perfection” used in their marketing are derived from perfect performances in reliability trials by military and law enforcement organizations worldwide.
The Glock 17 is the gun that started everything for Glock and astounded the shooting scene, when the Austrian government awarded the contract for their military sidearm to a maker that had never produced a gun before. Owners of Glocks, regardless of model, are among the most loyal that can be found.
The only real disadvantages to the design seem to be in personal preferences concerning the grip feel and the pointing geometry. No one anywhere disputes the reliability, but lots of people think they are ugly and don’t like how they feel. The Springfield XD is a good alternative for these shooters. The Glock has proven to be accurate and well made. It offers excellent value for the midrange price.
5. Beretta 92FS
If there is any one gun that can compete with the Glock and Sig Sauer P226 for the standard measure of what a 9mm should be, it would have to be the Beretta 92FS. This gun replaced the revered Colt M1911 Browning as the standard sidearm for the United States Army. The 92FS has fired as many as 168,000 rounds without a malfunction in reliability trials. The Glock didn’t participate in these trials, so in the shooting community one popular debate is whether the Glock or the Beretta is the most reliable gun. Any buyer of either weapon can rest assured as to the proven exceptional reliability of either gun.
This completely metal handgun is only available as a full size duty weapon available in six models. Heft, size, weight and feel are very similar to the Colt 1911. Field stripping is simple and these guns wear very well. Shooters who own this gun praise its accuracy and its ability to acquire a target when pointing instinctively. Pricing is midway between the Springfield XD and the Sig Sauer P226. That price should be considered an excellent value given this gun’s strong record of military service.
Any of these guns can offer a strong argument to be considered the best 9mm handgun available, with the Glock, P226 and 92FS having the edge in historical data on service usage and reliability.
Tips for Choosing the Best Handgun
Before you purchase any gun, you need to be familiar with the handgun laws of your state governing who can own, possess, carry (in plain view) and carry (concealed) firearms. Ignorance of the law is no excuse when you go to court, and most states do not honor permits issued in other jurisdictions. Additionally, no one should own or carry a firearm until they have been trained in its use, proper maintenance, and safe storage. The best solution is to take a state certified firearms training class before you purchase your gun.
Because there are so many makes, models, and calibers of firearms available, in all price ranges, it is necessary to define what is meant by the term “best”. The best gun is one which fits comfortably in your hand and is suitable for your needs. Below are some handgun uses you might consider:
Reason to for choosing the best handgun
1. Target practice handgun. If your primary person for buying a gun is to become proficient at hitting a target, the weapon of choice would be a .22 caliber pistol with a six or eight inch barrel. The .22 is the smallest caliber of ammunition in common usage, and thus the most affordable if you are going to be firing a lot of rounds. Generally speaking, the longer the barrel, the greater the accuracy. For beginners, .22s have less recoil and are easier to learn to use.
2. Home defense handgun. Practically any pistol will fit the bill. The purpose is to hopefully frighten an intruder without having to shoot. If you have to shoot, experts concur that a larger caliber weapon using hollow point ammunition is the best way to stop an intruder, so a 9 mm or .45 caliber pistol would be a good choice.
3. Concealed weapon handgun. The purpose of carrying a concealed weapon is self defense. Smaller weapons are obviously easier to conceal, and a shorter barrel is harder for an attacker to grab. Over 75 percent of the time, just brandishing a gun will fend off an attacker, but if you must shoot you want the maximum number of rounds with reasonable stopping power. A .380 or 9 mm automatic with a 2 inch barrel would be the best handgun for this purpose.
4. All purpose weapon. When selecting the best handgun for all uses, you must realize that anything that is all purpose, will be less than optimal for a specific use. A reasonably concealable handgun with excellent stopping power but more affordable ammunition would be a 9mm automatic with a 4 inch barrel.
5. Investment. Gun prices usually just go up. What you might want today will cost more next year. Collectible pistols will go up the most, as an investment.