Asking the title question in a room full of gun enthusiasts is likely to spur a lively debate with little agreement. The title of the best 9mm handgun is not very specific as to what it is best at, so I will give my choices for the best 9mm handgun with my rationale.
Table of Contents
To be included on this list, a pistol had to meet several criteria:
- History of production and use (not be fresh on the market)
- Track record of reliability
- Military pedigree
Why these criteria? Because you cannot call something the best if it has not proven it. Secondly, it takes time and rough use to reveal flaws in firearm design. Now that we have our criteria let us look at the contenders. Disclaimer: some personal bias will show since I have used many of the pistols mentioned below.
This Swiss sewing machine is both expensive and very well made. The 210 was the official military sidearm of Switzerland from 1949 to 1975 and Denmark from 1950 onward, with some possibly still in service. Sig Sauer’s 210 is essentially a match-grade handgun issued for military use. SIG USA still sells a target model 210 in addition to a carry model.
The 210 is a trim handgun and a joy to shoot. Capacity is 8+1 from a single stack magazine. Owners have told me the only times they cried with this pistol were on the day they bought it (prices run $1400-$8000) and the day they sold it (usually not by choice).
I consider the Glock 19 the perfect size for a 9mm handgun. It is not too big and not too small. The barrel is long enough for accurate shots, and the magazine capacity is decent, yet the total package is still concealable. Glock has a well-known reputation for reliability, and the model 19 is currently fielded by a mind-boggling number of military and police agencies worldwide.
The last gift of John Moses Browning, the Hi-Power (aka the P-35), was finished and perfected by the engineers at Fabrique Nationale (FN) in Belgium. Having served in nearly every conflict since 1935 and used by over 50 militaries, the Hi-Power has an undisputed reputation as a combat sidearm. It was the original wonder9 with its 13-round capacity and trim profile. Hi-Powers have been sought out by quiet professionals, despots, and other discerning users since the pistols introduction. My Great-Grandfather’s Hi-Power was the first real handgun I ever fired, and I am just a bit partial to them.
As an interesting aside, FEG in Hungary produced a perfect copy of the Hi-Power during the Soviet years. They were a hot seller on the export market, especially to Iraq, where the Hi-Power was a favorite of Saddam Hussein. To get around embargos on weapons from communist bloc countries, FEG marked the slides identical to an FN Hi-Power. I have one of these pistols, and unless you are an expert with FN serial numbers, you cannot tell that it was produced by FEG.
An outgrowth of the venerable CZ-75 (itself an outgrowth of the Hi-Power), the CZ P-09 is a large handgun designed for combat. Despite its size, the P-09 does not feel heavy in the hand, thanks to its polymer frame. The design weighs 10 ounces less than the all-steel CZ-75. Magazines fit flush while still holding 19 rounds, providing more ammo on tap than any other flush magazine design.
I had the opportunity to shoot a P-09 a couple of years ago during a NATO cross-training event, and it was (and still is) the smoothest pistol I have ever shot. The P-09 has seen limited military adoption, and was almost entered in the Modular Handgun System trials conducted by the U.S. military. CZ ultimately chose not to enter the trials. If they had, I believe the P-09 would have been a serious contender.
Sig Sauer 226
Developed for the 1984 U.S. military pistol trials, the 226 was only rejected due to the cost of its magazines and spare parts compared to the Beretta M9. Despite this, the 226 was adopted by the Navy Seals and the compact version (the 228), was chosen by the Army Criminal Investigative Division (CID). The 226 is a robust all-metal handgun with a 15-round magazine capacity, external hammer, and a de-cocker in place of safety. Since 1984 many military and police organizations worldwide have adopted the Sig 226, including the British Army and the Royal Thai Army.
A friend of mine bought one of these after turning 21, and we could never get it to jam. The 226 was very accurate as well. We used to shoot at milk jugs at a hundred yards with it and connected more often than not.
Sig Sauer M17
I had to include the US Army’s newest service pistol. I was previously a devout fan of the M9, but the M17 stole my allegiance after the first magazine at the range. There was almost no muzzle rise, and the recovery time between shots was instantaneous. The external safety is a nice touch on this striker-fired pistol, and the trigger is superb.
The M17 boasts a seventeen or twenty-one-round magazine capacity, depending on the magazine selected. The slide also comes machined for optics from the factory. For most soldiers that feature will matter little, but it is a nice touch.
So, what is the best 9mm handgun? That is decided by personal preference regarding weight, magazine capacity, or action type. Several of my friends are Glock devotees and would vote for the model 19. In my opinion, the best 9mm handgun is the Browning Hi-Power. However, the Sig M17 is winning me over. Time will tell if it unseats my favorite pistol.
Any of the weapons mentioned here will serve well as a combat sidearm or a home defense pistol. Try a couple at the range if you can, you will not be disappointed.