Best Concealed Carry Handguns in 2021 thumbnail image

Best Concealed Carry Handguns in 2021

80 Percent Arms   |   Aug 3rd 2021

As the gun industry and market in general hits an understandable slump this summer compared to the previous year, a silver lining here lies in the fact that firearms, namely handguns, are far more in supply than previously during the height of the pandemic. This is likely due to, in part, memories of civil unrest, peaceful protests that became violent and the general state of discord in our country which are all still fresh in people’s memories.

That’s why the demand for a good concealed carry handgun is still high. This brief guide will strictly review only the best 9mm handguns on the market today including hammer and striker fired platforms. Revolvers and handguns that were too bulky or heavy were factors in eliminating guns you may have expected to see on this list.

What is the best concealed carry 9mm handgun?

We should be paying attention to the barrel length of the gun, its unloaded and loaded weight, the width of the pistol’s profile, its magazine capacity, the length or overall size of the pistol grip, ergonomics, what kind of sights does it come with? How easy is it to reload? Is the recoil manageable? How much does its magazines cost? How does the trigger feel? How’s the take up, when does the trigger hit a wall and does the feeling of the trigger resetting after it breaks put a smile on your face?

These are the specifications and questions we ought to be asking ourselves to figure out what we like and what works best for us. But lastly, among all the aforementioned variables we have to find a balance between what we like, what we can afford and what we can legally obtain. (Some handguns are not always available to residents in certain states due to state enforced “handgun rosters.”)

Best Concealed Carry Compact Handguns:

The best compact handguns for CCW are typically around 4.01 inches in barrel length and weigh anywhere between 25 to 35 oz. Compact handguns will usually have double stacked magazines but we are seeing a few newer magazines that are designed for single stack mags to reduce the width and bulkiness of a gun.

Glock 19

glock 19 gen 5

Ah, the Glock 19 — The seminal carry/duty gun; the Honda Civic of the gun world. The G19 (and G17/G34) most likely has the best aftermarket support compared to any other company’s pistol on the market. If you can imagine it, there’s probably been a part made for it or a service available to get your custom modifications done to the gun. It’s nothing much to look at on its own, but during the pandemic it was no doubt one of the most sought after guns for its compact features and world class customizability/reliability (it’s what the Navy Seals use as their sidearm so what else do you need to know?). While this model is often used as a duty gun for police officers all across the globe, it’s probably even more commonly used as a concealed carry gun for civilians.

The barrel length is 4.02” with an overall length of 7.36” and weighs in at 30.16 oz with a loaded magazine and 23.63 oz with an empty mag. It’s the ideal striker fired carry gun for just about anyone but as it comes stock, the trigger feels like a lottery system in terms of how good it feels out of the box, the fingered grooves on the Gen 3 are usually stippled off and the stock sights are almost always exchanged for fiber optics or something with tritium. But, that’s not to say all these issues can’t be rectified.

Once modified, the G19 is a beast to be reckoned with. It’s a bit chunky feeling with its boxy design however, even if you were to never modify it at all, the model is still widely recognized as an industry standard for the best concealed carry gun. N ewer models now come with Trijicon sights and if you can find one we highly recommend the Gen 5 for its updated designs which includes an ambidextrous slide stop release lever, extra serrations in the front of the slide for thumb press checks (if you get the FS model), an enlarged mag release button, no finger grooves and a nice factory stipple to boot. Retail price: $500 - $600 (double it if you’re in California and looking for the Gen 5)<

Glock 48

glock 48

The G48 is one of Glock’s new “slimline” frame pistols which looks similar to other Gen5 features including no finger grooves, a factory stipple, front slide serrations, larger mag release button, but no accessory rail in front of the trigger guard and a single stacked 10 round magazine. Unlike the Gen5 G19, this model does not have an ambi slide stop release lever but the G48’s mag release button can be reversed to face the other way for both right and left handed shooters. With a barrel length of 4.17” and overall length of 7.28” this is definitely a worthy choice for a concealed carry handgun especially if you don’t carry with a tactical light anyways. Since it has a thinner profile than Glocks with double stacked mags, this piece will be that much more comfortable to carry and to conceal. If you can find it, its retail price should range: $500 - $550.

CZ P-01

cz p01

If you’re into hammer guns, this is the first of a few we’ll mention in our recommended list. The CZ P-01 is a highly reliable gun within the CZ 75 family of pistols. The US Army has a “Mean Rounds Between Failure” (MRBF) testing standard and during testing the average number of failures for the P01 was only 7 per 15,000 rounds fired. Featuring a decocker on the left side of the frame, this pistol’s barrel length is only 3.75” and weighs in at 28.1 oz making it a very desirable option for concealed carry.

Having the additional safety stop on the hammer gives some extra peace of mind that you won’t have a negligent discharge and reduces the already low chance of a gun going off in your pants. P-01 magazines come with 10 round capacities but have many aftermarket options which allow for 15 rounds or even more. The P-01 is compatible with P-06 and even the CZ 75 SP-01 magazines which means — while it would look awkward you could technically have a 21 magazine + 1 in the chamber. It also has an accessory rail in case you’re afraid of the dark like me. Retail price starts at $725.

CZ P-07

 

Next up in our line of CZ’s that we love for concealed carry is the CZ P-07. This hammer fired gun is very cool as it had a facelift in 2014 which removed sharp edges and significantly updated the design to be optimal for everyday and all day carry. Its metal slide is paired with a polymer lower frame with adjustable backstraps. Like its predecessor, the P-01, the P-07 also has a decocker but it’s been enlarged and is now ambidextrous. The hammer is skeletonized and the stock trigger feels great (though it feels even better if Canjunize it).

The P-07’s barrel length is also 3.75” (overall length is 7.2”) and it’s slightly lighter than the previous model weighing in at 27.7 oz.If you don’t want the decocker you can swap it out for the interchangeable manual safety instead. While CZ is known for their thinner slides, the P-07’s slide has a unique contoured and serrated edge which makes handling and racking it that much easier. Watch out for that beaver tail when you appendix carry, though, as it can dig into your belly. CZ offers this fine piece with 10 and 15 round mags. Retail price is $535.

CZ P-10C

cz p10c

The CZ P-10C is CZ’s answer to the call for a compact, striker fired pistol (the full size is called the P-10 F). Continuing with CZ’s line of polymer frame pistols, the first thing you notice with the P-10C is its ergonomics. It’s just so comfortable to hold and provides a more natural grip compared to Gen 3 Glocks. This model has an ambidextrous slide stop release lever and features a clean 4.5 lb trigger that comes with a very short and positive reset. It also has interchangeable back straps. Not to worry if you wear gloves in cold weather because the trigger guard is very large providing ample space for gloved fingers to comfortably get to the trigger. It’s definitely slightly larger than other compact options on the market with a barrel length of 4.02” and an overall length of 7.3” but it’s well within the realm of compact concealed carry handguns. The P-10C is a fantastic choice for a ccw gun that you can’t go wrong with in price either. Retail price: $525 - 550.

Staccato C Series

staccato c and staccato c2 2011

You might have previously known this company as STI International (not to be mistaken as the car made by Subaru) but they recently rebranded to Staccato which was originally their line of 2011 style pistols. The C series includes the C and C2 handguns which are an updated 1911 style of handgun, hence the style name 2011 plus, it shoots 9mm luger. Featuring fiber optic sights, a textured grip, accessory rail, ambi manual safety, and a world class trigger — these handguns were made to dominate the competition and any threat you may come across. 

The bull barrel it comes with is 3.9” in length and 7.44” overall length for the C and 7.5” for the C2’s overall length. So the C is a bit shorter and thinner. Owners have reported the C2 to be slightly longer and girthier which fits bigger hands better. The C is 26.6 oz with an empty mag and the C2 is 25 oz in weight. This platform is legendary for its reliability, insane accuracy, speed and how easy it is to shoot well. When it comes to the best concealed carry handgun, the Staccato C and C2 are in a whole different class of performance and price! It also comes with not one, not two but three 16 round magazines. Retails for $1,999 - 2,299.

Walther PPQ M2

walther ppq m2

As far as underdogs go, the Walther PPQ M2 does not get anywhere near the attention that it deserves. Walther recently made a splash with the release of their PDP which is basically a tricked out racegun version of the PPQ but the platform itself really is fantastic and incredibly modular. This striker fired pistol not only looks good, but feels good to hold too. It’s a perfect choice for concealed carry as the barrel length is 4” and the overall length is only 7.1.” With an ambi slide stop release lever, the only safety on this gun is a 3 AUTO system built into the trigger which makes operation of this pistol very simple and straightforward. The slide has serrations for great grip and contact throughout the entire slide and has a circular mag release button that is easy to depress. What people often don’t know is that there is a compact AND a subcompact version of this gun similar to the relationship between a G26 and a G19.

The PPQ M2 subcompact comes with 10 round mags but can take extended mags compatible with the compact version to hold 15 rounds plus 1 in the chamber. The subcompact has a barrel length of 3.5” and an overall length of 6.6”. They use the same trigger and it feels so good with a short take up to the wall, a crisp trigger and short reset that requires no modification. Both versions are highly recommendable for concealed carry. In fact, if you never plan on modifying or getting custom work done to a Glock, just don’t buy it. Get one of these Walthers instead for the same price if not cheaper. For they’re arguably one of the MOST comfortable and ergonomic handguns ever made, it also has a surprisingly low price if you can find it. Retail price: $435 - $650.

80% Arms GST-9 

If you’re looking to build a Gen 3 Glock-style 80 percent pistol then the GST-9 is your gun. Its modularity allows the frame to feel like a Glock 19 with its compact grip and like a Glock 19X with the large grip. The grips are interchangeable and held solidly in place by two pins. So for carrying, obviously the compact grip would make more sense. When the compact grip is installed G19 magazines will sit flush as G17 magazines will sit flush with the large sized grip. 

What’s great about the GST-9 is that the frame comes with an abundant of features that most people do to their factory Glock handguns through custom work services including: serrated and ported slide (if you buy the Wraith slide which comes separately), factory stipple, no finger grooves, a single undercut beneath the trigger guard, textured area at the front of the trigger guard, aggressive gas pedal with stippling and a scalloped area for better access to the mag release button. 

All Glock Gen 1-3 OEM and aftermarket parts are completely compatible with the GST-9 making this the ultimate builder’s choice for a highly personal and customizable concealed carry gun. The build kit will come with the Wraith slide but the jig itself will include all the tools and hardware you need, including the lower parts kit, to complete this 80% pistol into a fully functioning firearm.

Best Concealed Carry Subcompact Handguns:

The best subcompact handguns for CCW will typically have barrel lengths shorter than 3.5 inches and shorter grips than compact sized pistols which makes them significantly easier to appendix carry while concealed without printing much or at all compared to larger handguns. Subcompact magazines can be single and double stacked though we are seeing more double stacked models these days. We’d also hope that a subcompact handgun would be much lighter and below 30 oz with a loaded magazine.

Glock 26

g26 

A staple in any Glock owner’s safe, carried and showcased by many, the Glock 26 is known as the baby Glock. You’ve seen it on the silver screen being wielded by the likes of characters such as the Black Widow and John Wick; the G26 is a fantastic backup and ccw gun for its compatibility with G19 and G17 magazines. The Glock magazine ecosystem is something many other gun manufacturers have modeled their own line of firearms after seeing how much it made sense. Although it’s only a three finger gun (in terms of magwell grip), the G26 has very manageable recoil and can be comfortably held with even the pinky finger as long as a mag extension or a larger magazine size is used. Retail price: $500 - $550.00

Glock 43

g43 

The Glock 43 is very similar to the Glock 26. Its main difference lies in the fact that the G43 uses a single stack magazine. This allows the handgun to be very thin and less bulky, making it extremely concealable and comfortable to appendix carry. If you get the Gen 5 iteration it comes with a factory stipple that is actually quite nice and works well. The standard magazine only houses 6 rounds but the extended magazine’s capacity can take 12 rounds plus 1 in the chamber. Retail price: About $529.99

Glock 43X

g43x

Hybrid designs are quite popular today, which is exactly what the G43X is. It combines the barrel length of a G43 (3.41 inches) with the magwell grip similar to that of a G19. Glock’s trying to not leave anyone out as they account for as many concealed carry needs and situations as possible. Standard Glock mags for G43X hold 10 rounds but there are already aftermarket options out there with a mag capacity of 15 rounds plus 1 in the chamber. Retails about $529.99.

H&K VP9SK

hk vp9 sk

H&K’s VP9SK is the little brother to the VP9, direct competitor to the Walther PPQ; it is a lightweight and ergonomic little subcompact gun specifically designed to be concealed carried. It has a fantastic trigger with a clean reset and HK’s signature mag release button located on the trigger guard. The VP9SK has magazines that can hold 10, 13 and 15 rounds plus 1 in the pipe. Retails, depending on model, anywhere between $634 - $949.

Sig Sauer P365

sig p365 

Sig’s P365 is a great subcompact gun for so many reasons. Some variants come with milled out slides straight from the factory so if you wanted to take advantage of Sig’s line of optics like the Romeo Zero red dot sight, you could! One of the best P365 setups involves getting the cheapest version of the gun along with the newer XL version’s frame. The XL frame will give you a better purchase on that grip and help manage recoil even better than before due to increased length and overall size. If getting the pre-made P365XL (ready to go out of the box) is the cheaper route, then please go ahead and do that. P365’s have 10 rd, 12 rd, and 15 rd magazines. Retail price: $599.99 - 749.99.

Springfield Hellcat

springfield hellcat 

Technically a “micro-compact” pistol, the Springfield Hellcat is a game changer for concealed carry handguns for it being the highest capacity micro-compact 9mm pistol in the world. The pistol is only 1 inch wide and barrel length measures just at 3 inches! The magazine options include an 11+1rd and a 13+1rd extended magazine. Straight from the factory its slide comes with a milled out section ready for you to drop a red dot sight on it and the frame has a very respectable factory stipple as well. Retail price starts at $449.00.

S&W M&P Shield Plus

shield plus 

The M&P Shield Plus is technically the third iteration of the line of “Shield” pistols. They’re easy to carry concealed that’s for sure. But with the first version, the problem a lot of owners ran into was either the slippery grip or the mushy trigger that we don’t really appreciate. The “Plus” upgraded the frame making it slightly longer and giving shooters a better grip and they even improved upon the trigger a bit. Shield Plus mags carry 13+1 rounds. Retail price: About $499.99.

S&W M&P Shield EZ 9MM

shield ez9 

The M&P Shield EZ 9mm is usually seen in the .380 auto option but they carry a 9mm version as well. This model was designed and built for beginners as this striker-fired pistol comes with a pressure grip safety, manual safety, loaded chamber indicator and a slide that is easy to rack. It’s supposed to be a safe and easy platform for beginners to learn on, hence the name. The barrel length is only 3.675” so it is definitely carryable and the magazine capacity is 8+1 rounds. Retail price: Between $439 - $499.99.

Best Concealed Carry Handguns For Beginners

When it comes to the best concealed carry handguns for beginners you need something that is easy to use and without excessive controls, comfortable to use and affordable. That’s largely the striker-fired platforms as most striker-fired pistols do not have even a manual safety due the safety mechanism being built into the trigger. We would not recommend hammer-fired handguns for newbies which may be too much for beginners to pay attention to between the hammer, a decocker, and or manual safety… with a striker fired pistol all the user needs to pay attention to is if the gun is loaded or not and to keep their trigger finger off of the gun if they have no intention of discharging their firearm. 

Among the striker-fired handguns, we’d recommend the compact guns over the subcompact handguns for safety’s sake. It takes a certain level of familiarity with firearms to not only be able to safely handle subcompact pistols but also consistently fire them without too much loss in accuracy when compared to the same person using a compact or full size pistol. With a compact sized handgun, concealed carrying a gun with a longer barrel may not be as comfortable but for the beginner, you want to make sure they’re going to be able to properly utilize their handgun and actually hit the target if ever drawn out of concealment for self-defense. These are, in our opinion, the best concealed carry handguns for beginners:

  • Glock 43X
  • Springfield Hellcat
  • S&W M&P Shield Plus
  • CZ P10C
  • Glock 19
  • Glock 48
  • Walther PPQ M2

Best Concealed Carry Handguns For Women

Our advice for women choosing the best concealed carry handgun for them depends on their level of comfort and experience with guns. The more experience one has, the more they develop their preference and taste. One of the biggest hurdles we see for women and handguns is whether or not they’re able to reliably and consistently rack the slide back. Sure, we want to help women pick something that is comfortable to carry concealed, a handgun that’s not too heavy, and something that has manageable recoil — but if they can’t rack the slide every single time that’s leaving a huge vulnerability on the table for bad guys to take advantage of. 

That being said, it’s possible compact pistols may be a better option for women who are also beginners when it comes to guns and concealed carrying. The reason for that being compact handguns have longer slides which means there is more real estate to grab onto whereas a subcompact handgun’s slide may be more difficult to manipulate with less material to grip. Whether a handgun is a subcompact or compact size; if it’s hammer or striker fired, we want to make sure women are concealed carrying handguns with slides that they can rack without fail. With regard to our list of handguns provided above these are what we think of as the best concealed carry handguns for women:

  • H&K VP9SK
  • Sig Sauer P365 (either normal or XL)
  • S&W M&P Shield EZ
  • Glock 19
  • Glock 26
  • Glock 43X
  • Glock 48
  • Walther PPQ M2