Gear We Use: The Best 9mm Pistols

Gear We Use: The Best 9mm Pistols

The 9mm Luger isn’t a great hunting cartridge. Let’s get that out of the way up front. But it is cheap, easy to shoot, and readily available-all things we value whenever we’re evaluating a caliber. These attributes make it a great training round if you’re looking to start hunting with a handgun. It’s also a legendary self-defense round that’s been adopted by military and law enforcement agencies around the world, and it can be a capable bear defense cartridge in a pinch. So, we polled the MeatEater crew to get their thoughts on the best 9mm pieces on the market.

What We Look for in a Good 9mm Pistol

Since its invention in 1901, the 9mm Luger has become the undisputed king of handgun cartridges. It’s been adopted by NATO as well as non-NATO countries, and it offers an ideal mix of ballistic performance and magazine capacity. That popularity has spawned an enormous number of 9mm handgun options. If you’re trying to wade through the sea of polymer and steel, here are a few criteria to use:

  1. Reliability
  2. Ergonomics
  3. Sights
  4. Cost

The 9mm Pistols We Use

What Makes a Good 9mm Pistol

1. Reliability

If a handgun doesn’t go bang when you pull the trigger, it isn’t much more than an expensive (though attractive) paper weight. Even in a training gun, reliability is always the top concern. You won’t get much practice and you won’t have much fun if you’re constantly clearing jams and fixing malfunctions. Each handgun in our list is known for reliability, whether you’re in the backcountry or at the local guntry club.

2. Ergonomics

“Ergonomics” is just a fancy way of saying “the gun feels comfortable when you hold it.” The shape and texturing of the pistol grip can make a gun feel like an extension of your hand or like a feisty trout trying to make it back into the river. Some handgun models are known for being more ergonomic, but this is largely a matter of personal taste. A gun that feels good in your hands might feel uncomfortable in someone else’s.

3. Sights

A handgun’s sights can make or break a shot. Small, dark, iron sights can be tough to pick out against a dark background, while an electronic red dot can be seen in any light condition. As with ergonomics, the kind of sights you choose will depend on your preferences and intended application. Here are a few options:

White three-dot sights are a classic design and work well enough for a day at the range. Tritium sights glow in the dark, and fiber optic sights pick up ambient light in low-light settings. Adding some color (or a blacked-out rear sight) provides contrast between the front and rear sights and makes it easier to pick up the front sight.

These days, electronic red dots are the pièce de résistance of handgun sights, and they’re great for new and veteran shooters alike. They’re also reliable enough that military and law enforcement units across the country are issuing them to their agents.

4. Cost

The handgun market has come a long way in the last 40-something years. Where previous generations were forced to pick between an expensive 1911 and an even more expensive Hi-Power, handguns today can be had at almost any price point. The handguns in our list mostly occupy the sweet spot between $400 to $700. If you find a handgun from a major manufacturer within that range, you can bet it’s going to function as advertised.

Field notes from the MeatEater Crew

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G19 9mm Pistol
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Glock
1911 9mm Pistol
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P320 XCompact 9mm Pistol
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Sig Sauer
Hi-Power 9mm Pistol
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Browning
P320 Full Size
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Sig Sauer
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