While each NRA Woman will choose the self-defense pistol that’s right for her circumstances, there’s no question that the 9 mm semi-automatic (largely striker-fired) is leading the charge as the most popular choice for many. Today’s options in this category can boggle the mind. Where there once was a dearth in pistols for everyday carry or home defense that women felt comfortable operating, there is now a bountiful supply with friendly features such as easily racked slides, softer recoil and magazines that won’t ruin a manicure. Many manufacturers who stepped in to successfully fill this void are now on their second and third generation models. In fact there are so many models with features that have universal appeal, it’s fair to say the line between what makes for a “good gun for women” gets blurrier, as many of them are equally popular among men. This list below of some new (or new-ish) guns is by no means exhaustive, but if you’re in the market for a well-priced, easy-to-operate 9 mm semi-automatic, this is a good place to start.
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield EZ
In 2018 Smith & Wesson introduced one of the most favorably reviewed new semi-automatic pistols of the year, the M&P380 Shield EZ. The pistol was lauded for its overall ease of use thanks to features such as an easily racked slide and finger-friendly magazines. Suddenly an entire demographic of shooters—those who previously found it a challenge to manipulate a slide, including many women—were back in the semi-automatic game. In fact, the pistol was the clear favorite in the Third Annual Ladies Pistol Project, edging out one of the world’s most popular handguns, the Glock 19, in a lineup of 26 handguns tested by 68 women. Skeptics challenged whether the company could produce an equally easy-to-operate pistol in a larger defensive caliber such as 9 mm Luger without a massive size differentiation. In early 2020, S&W put that notion to rest with the M&P9 Shield EZ. However, despite sacrificing a few ounces in the weight category, size increased negligibly. Overall length for the 8-round 9 mm is 6.86" with a 3.67" barrel, and height is 4.98", pretty close to the .380. Trigger reach is the same for both at 2.69”. Most importantly, S&W expanded its reach within the concealed-carry community with a 9mm semi-automatic that operates as easily as its .380 ACP predecessor. MSRP: $479. Note: Both models are now available in Performance Center models. Smith-Wesson.com
There’s something to be said for being fashionably late to a party, as was the case when America’s oldest family-owned gun maker, Mossberg, re-entered the semi-automatic pistol market in 2019 after a century without a handgun in its lineup. While its introduction was a surprise, the instant success of—and attention to—the MC1sc subcompact striker-fired 9mm was not. The unique Safe Takedown System, superior ergonomics and choices of slide finishes and sight options gave us plenty to talk about. I sent hundreds of rounds downrange at Gunsite with eight women shortly after the MC1sc was introduced, and concluded about the only thing Mossberg could do to improve on it would be to offer a little more in the way of magazine capacity, which was capped at 7+1. In 2020 came the debut of the Mossberg MC2c—an equally feature-rich compact 9 mm offered in five configurations, but with a 13-round capacity (15 with extended magazine) thanks to its slim-grip double-stack magazines. A 3.9” barrel and overall length of 7.1”, 1.10” slim width; 4.90” height and 21-oz. weight puts the pistol in excellent contention for a defensive pistol. I fired this impressive pistol at SHOT Show 2020, and can’t wait to put it through a full test. MSRP: $490. Mossberg.com.
NRA Publications editors have already extolled the Springfield Hellcat so frequently that it’s hard to believe the 11+1-round capacity (13+1 with extended mag) micro pistol has been on the market for only a year. In its short life, it has already been awarded the 2020 Golden Bullseye for “Handgun of the Year” by American Rifleman, and was just announced in a Flat Dark Earth variant for those who prefer it to the original black Melonite finish. In the current tete-a-tete for the highest-round micro concealed-carry pistols, the Hellcat, with one extra round than its closest class competition, leads the pack by a nose—er, cartridge. As it has been described, “... the gun is an animal, and it’s bred to fight. It’s equipped with the latest technology, and its design meets my needs as an armed citizen. It’s small and light enough to carry and keep on me—always—and it’s potent enough to save my life if necessary." Pistol weight is 18.3 oz.; frame width is 1.08” (0.98” barrel). Standard sights are luminescent yellow front and white U-notch rear. MSRP is $579. And what of the name? As explained by Executive Editor Wendy LaFever, “If you're not familiar, "hellcat" is an archaic slur used to describe 'an ill-tempered woman,' but you're sure to be familiar with the fact that 'well-behaved' women rarely make history (and may not be all that good at defending themselves) ... .” Springfield-Armory.com.
We barely had a chance to test the full-size Taurus G3, introduced in 2019, when we were caught by surprise with the recent announcement of the G3c compact model. And what a pleasant surprise it was. Tested and evaluated by contributor B. Gil Horman, the pistol "features improvements to the slide, sights and controls that concealed carry practitioners have been waiting for." Among the "8 Reasons to Check Out the Taurus G3c" are a 12+1 magazine capacity, ideal size, all-steel Glock-compatible sights, an upgraded trigger, a comfortable grip and an easy-to-operate slide (which seems to be a common theme among 2020 concealed carry 9 mm pistols). The pistol is also among the most affordable of the new nines. Horman continues: "... the company will be offering additional frame and slide colors down the road along with 15- and 17-round magazines. With its upgrades and an MSRP of $305.74, the G3c is well positioned to compete with popular concealed-carry 9 mm pistols that cost more at real-world prices that fit most budgets." TaurusUSA.com.
SIG Sauer P365XL
The SIG Sauer P365 was the pistol that ignited the current 9 mm micro pistol one-upmanship in gun makers’ attempts to pack just one more round in the magazine. Five, six or seven rounds were just not enough. The ability for such a small pistol to capably hold 10+1 rounds thanks to SIG’s unique stagger-stack magazine was revolutionary for its time—and that was just two years ago! In fact, the P365 Nitron Micro-Compact was the hottest new semi-automatic pistol in its introductory year of 2018, with an encore performance in 2019 (according to Gunbroker.com). The pistol did not disappoint in our 2018 Ladies Pistol Project, placing fifth overall. Some, however (including me) love all the features about the P365, but prefer a slightly larger pistol still suited for daily carry. Apparently I was not alone, and SIG listened, responding in 2019 with the P365XL. This new model increased overall dimensions just enough to make it that much comfortable to hold on to during extensive range practice. Mag capacity increased to 12+1 and 15+1, and arrived optics-ready for SIG’s Electro-Optics ROMEOZero. The original P365 will always hold its title of the first micro pistol capable of double-digit round capacity, but it’s nice they’ve acknowledged room for growth, literally. SigSauer.com.
Ruger Security-9 Compact
We are still awaiting range time with the compact version of the Ruger Security-9, on our radar since its 2019 introduction. We might be a little biased though, as the Ruger Security-9 found such universal favor among the 68 women who tested it during the 2018 Ladies Pistol Project. Margins were so close in the rankings that it technically could have been called a tie for third place with several other pistols. The ladies determined it to be well-balanced, easy to operate and pleasant to shoot, so how could we not be excited about 10+1 round compact model? It appears that Ruger has built in features that have already proven to be appreciated by female shooters, including a short, crisp trigger pull accompanied by the positive reset of a single action, as well an easy-racking slide—a quality that ranks high on any shooter’s idea of a pistol you want to take to the range often. Multiple sight options are available, and takedown for cleaning requires no special tools. The teal model shown here—a Talo Distributor Exclusive—is reminiscent of the NRA Women logo, so how could we not be partial? We can’t wait to check it out in the coming weeks. MSRP: Starting at $379. Ruger.com.
Stoeger STR-9 Compact
Stoeger—best known for its semi-automatic, over-under and side-by-side shotguns—brought out its first polymer 9 mm pistol in 2019. The Stoeger STR-9 has since drawn a lot of comparisons to the Glock 19, with its trigger blade safety and similar lock-up/take down and overall dimensions. We’ve since had a little range time with the full-size 9 mm polymer pistol, and can attest to its crisp trigger reset, comfortable grip and minimal recoil. The company has now added a 3.8” barrel compact model into the mix (10+1 and 13+1 magazines), offered with the same options as its full-size sibling: three backstraps, a three-slot accessory rail and white, 3-dot sights. MSRP starts at $329 for the basic model; the optics-ready model starts at $399. Add Tritium sights and two magazines and the package prices out at $449. StoegerIndustries.com.
Glock 43x and Glock 48
Technically these two Glocks turn this into a list of 10, but the two are so closely related it's difficult to talk about one without the other. When the 9 mm Glock single-stack subcompact Slimline G43 came along several years ago, many questioned, “What took them so long!?” Yet despite its concealable size, its short grip frame gave some individuals with larger hands pause to consider it their ideal carry choice; others still found size limitations in concealing the beloved G19 compact. For a best-of-all-worlds response, take a look at Glock's Silver Slimline series, which includes the G43X and the G48. The G43X sports the same slide length and frame thickness as the original G43, with a lengthened grip frame to accept a 10-round single-stack magazine. The slide is treated with a matte silver nPVD for a two-tone finish, and a set of slide serrations have been added near the muzzle. The difference between the G43X and the G48 is the length, which has been extended in the 48 to that of a Glock 19—6.85”. Other features found on both pistols include a match-grade Glock Marksman Barrel (GMB), built-in beavertail, reversible magazine catch and three-sight configuration including standard, Glock Night Sights and Ameriglo Bold options. The Silver Slimline models have an MSRP starting at $580. Glock.com
Walther CCP M2
When it was introduced in 2014, the Walther CCP 9 mm semi-automatic pistol received high praise from users for its excellent ergonomics and shootability, which can be partly attributed to the CCP's trademark Softcoil gas-delayed blowback system. Ease of use and comfort aside, a common complaint about the CCP was that many found it difficult to field strip and clean. Walther's latest iteration of the Concealed Carry Pistol—the CCP M2—seems to have resolved that issue, having incorporated a tool-free takedown mechanism in the rear of the slide, which is now being emulated by other manufacturers in the 9 mm market. You know what they say about imitation being the best form of flattery, and we agree—the CCP M2 has much to offer in the way of imitable qualities, and the women who tested the CCP in all three American Rifleman Ladies Pistol Project studies graded it among their favorite pistols. MSRP: $469 WaltherArms.com.