Not every gun owner can comfortably pack a full-sized pistol for everyday carry. Differences in climate, body shape/physical condition, skill level and hand size can all influence what type of pistol is right for them. Below is a collection of compact carry pistols seen at the 2017 SHOT Show that, despite their reduced size, provide a compact yet shootable package in the right hands.
1911-380 Black Label Medallion Pro Compact
Yes, the .380 is considered a marginal caliber by some. But if the choice is a .380 or harsh words, most of us will opt for the much more comforting and effective .380 pistol.
The Browning 1911 .380 features a blackened stainless steel finish with silver brushed polished flats on the slide. The 1911 .380 is an 85 percent scale of the original, ideal for those with small hands or a need for absolute concealment. The sights are steel, your choice of three-dot combat sights or night sights. These come with a composite frame and century-proven 1911 ergonomic controls.
The Medallion Pro Compact is available in two slide lengths; the Compact has a shorter slide that is the equivalent of a Commander-sized pistol. The shorter slide makes for easier carry without reducing the pistol’s capability, $800.
S&W Shield, .45 ACP Ported
The new Smith & Wesson M&P45 Shield is the other extreme of calibers. While compact is good, some do not want to give up the big hammer that the .45 ACP provides. A compact pistol in .45 quickly becomes real work to shoot. Aware of this, S&W made life a little easier by porting the Shield. The two small ports on the barrel vent through matching slide slots to help reduce muzzle flip. You get the thump of the .45 without the recoil and muzzle flip associated with a big bore and a short slide. As a bonus, you get six-plus-one rounds in a flush-fitting magazine or seven-plus-one if you use the compact magazine with an included extension, $610.
Taurus 700 Slim Stainless
The Taurus 700 Slim stainless provides you with seven-plus-one rounds of 9mm, and it comes with a stainless slide and polymer frame. The Slim has a DA/SA trigger system with an external thumb safety, so you have options for your carry mode. The Slim is compact, has soft recoil, is chambered in a useful cartridge, features a rust-resistant construction and has fixed but large-enough and useful sights. All that comes in a small, elegant and easy-to-use package. The only thing that could be done to make it even more appealing is to offer it at an affordable price, and Taurus has had that covered for a long time now. The Slim Stainless has a list price of $317.
STI Hex Tactical 3.0
With a shortened barrel and slide for easier concealment and carry comfort, the STI Hex Tactical is carry with class. The “3.0” is the version number, while the barrel is 3.7-inches long, and the Hex comes with two choices for capacity. You can opt for the aluminum-framed single stack Hex for seven-plus-one rounds in 9mm, or the DS, the double-stack mag model, with a polymer grip frame and 15-plus-one rounds. The choice is yours. You can get the smallest and lightest, or pay a bit more in bulk and double the on-board ammunition capacity. Each version also has the capability of using the full-sized magazines of its type. On the reload, you can have 10 more 9mms for your single-stack or 17 in the standard hi-cap STI magazines.
The Hex refers to the nonslip grip pattern on the slide in lieu of the boring old cocking serrations found on other 1911-pattern pistols, $2,400.
Beretta BU9 Nano
Compact, business-like and no-nonsense, the Nano is a carry pistol that offers a no-frills look with all the frills when it comes to performance. The Nano offers a smooth exterior with no sharp edges. The firing system is the long, easy stroke you want on a striker-fired pistol. It’s easy to get accustomed to, and the capacity is an ultra-compact six-plus-one rounds or, with a petite mag extension, seven-plus-one.
How flat, rounded and smooth is it? There is no external slide stop. The magazine release is reversible, and instead of a Picatinny rail for a light, the Nano has a pair of grab-slots up on the frame, a much more compact system than a sharp-edged rail.
As compact as the Nano is, if you can’t conceal it, you probably should put on more clothing. Beretta has been making firearms for almost five centuries now, and the Nano combines that history with looks and performance that are as modern as tomorrow. $430.
Springfield Armory EMP P19208L
The EMP is a 1911 platform with a difference. Instead of building it full .45 ACP-sized front-to-back, Springfield shortened the frame, magwell, magazine and associated parts down to 9mm length. This makes the EMP well-suited for those with smaller hands. The new model comes with a fiber optic front sight, ambidextrous safety, nine-plus-one-round capacity in 9mm and a forged aluminum frame. The matte-black anodized frame is complemented by the slide with its gloss-black Armory Kote finish. For reliable feeding and long case life, the barrel is fully ramped and the chamber supported, $1,150.
Kimber Micro 9 Desert Tan
When Kimber decides to produce a fully featured compact carry pistol, they pull out all the stops. The Micro 9 Desert Tan (can we just call it the M9DT?) is their exemplary Micro 9, obviously in Desert Tan for the slide and grips, with a matte-black anodized aluminum frame. The slide is coated with Kimpro II, and the grips are Crimson Trace laser grips, with the laser module on the top end of the right-hand grip panel.
The controls are classic 1911, and the frame has a beavertail tang but no grip safety. On top of the slide are low-profile combat sights, three-dot style. Inside the slide, the stainless-steel barrel is ramped and the chamber supported for reliable feeding and case support even with hot, defensive 9mm ammunition. And finally, the Micro 9 Desert Tan comes with two flush-fit six-round magazines and an extended plus-one magazine, $800.
Ruger LC9s Pro
The LC9s is the Ruger compact, single-stack, striker-fired pistol that they first introduced in 2014. For the LC9s Pro, they kept the through-hardened slide, the glass-filled nylon frame, seven-plus-one capacity of 9mm Parabellum and a comfortable no-edges dehorning. The Pro model offers options that quite a few shooters say they want: no thumb safety and no magazine safety. The Pro model has a trigger-mounted safety, and it essentially operates as a magazine-fed revolver. When you need it to fire, you stroke through the trigger pull. When you do not, you leave the trigger alone.
If you feel the need for more than the regular three-dot combat sights, they are easy enough to change to fiber optic or night sights.
Ruger has long offered choices, and the LC9s Pro is another in that long line, $480.
SIG Sauer P938 SAS Micro-compact
SIG Sauer took their already excellent P938 and subjected it to an aggressive de-horning treatment for the SAS. All the usual corners are gone. They’ve been replaced with rounded surfaces that won’t make your hands feel like you’ve been petting a hyperactive kitten. Then they added SIGLITE night sights, and the SAS, with its stainless slide and aluminum frame, was left two-tone. Bare stainless on top and black anodized aluminum below complemented with a stainless slide stop and safeties. Combined with the custom walnut grips, the SAS is perhaps too classy to hide.
Chambered in 9mm, the P938 can be a handful; but if you want compact, light weight and ballistic oomph, that’s the price you have to pay. Last but not least, the SAS gets an ambidextrous thumb safety, so you can readily use it right or left handed. While the P938 is not exactly a scaled-down 1911, the controls are all the same, so any practice you’ve done with a 1911 will easily translate to the P938, $815.
Colt Defender 9mm
If you are going to go 1911, why not go with the original? Colt offers their Defender series, which is the most compact 1911 you can have, with a 3-inch barrel and eight-plus-one capacity in 9mm Parabellum. With a carbon steel slide and stainless steel barrel, plus an aluminum alloy frame, the Defender is a no-nonsense matte black all over. The Defender won’t weigh you down at its easy-to-carry 24 ounces. The G10 grips are nearly indestructible, and the Commander-style hammer and upswept grip safety means comfortable shooting, even with hot 9mm ammunition.
The low-profile combat sights include a tritium front for aiming in low-light conditions.
As a final bonus, while the Defender is a compact pistol, it will work just fine with full-sized magazines. So, while you are carrying the Defender with a compact magazine and holding nine rounds, your reload magazines can be 10 rounds each. A standard daily ensemble means you’ve got 29 rounds of 9mm ammunition, a comforting payload, $950.
The modern consumer of everyday carry pistols demands comfort as well as performance. This quick list of what’s available and currently hot should provide you with more than one to choose from. The next step is up to you. Head to your local gun shop and find the one that is perfect for your hands, carry method and expected needs.