The most popular concealed-carry and home-defense handgun in America is likely the 9mm self loader. There are service grade and service-size pistols, compacts, and subcompacts available in this chambering, which has gained popularity because of improved bullet function. In this installment, we are firing purpose-designed compact handguns that are derived from service-size handguns. When the Glock 19X was introduced, with its Glock 17 grip and Glock 19 slide, our shooters knew it would be a hot new gun to test, but we did not quite know what to match against it. The editor dubbed it a Commander-size Glock 9mm, so we found a 9mm 1911 Commander to brace against it — the Ruger SR1911 Commander. The SR1911 Commander is, after all, a full-size Government Model pistol with the slide shortened three-quarters of an inch. The Glock 19X is a Glock 17 with a short slide and full-size grip. Bingo.
European compacts generally have both the slide and the butt shortened. One example is the SIG P225A, a short version of the SIG P220 9mm handgun. Today, SIG offers an updated and revamped P225-A1. We added this double-action-first-shot pistol as a counterpoint to the double-action-only and single-action pistols tested. Next, we added a true compact with both a short slide and short frame, the Smith & Wesson M&P9 Compact M2.0. It seemed fitting to match the M2.0 M&P9 against the Glock 19X Gen5 gun.
How We Tested
While firing for accuracy from a solid benchrest position, we used a Bullshooters rest ($55 from Brownells.com). We used two loads during the combat course, firing 50 rounds of each. The first was a handload using the Hornady 115-grain XTP over Titegroup powder for 1150 fps average, a standard load. We also used a combination of the Hornady 124-grain XTP bullet and WW231 powder for 1220 fps average as a +P-rated load. Most shooters will probably deploy a +P load, and the Commander-sized handguns are more suited to these loads than a sub-compact pistol.
Drawing from concealed carry, we fired at intruder-silhouette targets at 5, 7, and 10 yards. We capped the exercise off by firing 15 rounds at the target at 15 yards. We used three loads for benchrest testing. The Black Hills Ammunition 115-grain JHP +P ($15.08 for 20 rounds from TargetSportsUSA.com), the SIG Sauer 124-grain V-Crown JHPs ($15 for 20 rounds from LuckyGunner.com), and the Federal 147-grain HST. ($20 for 50 rounds, also from TargetSportsUSA.com). This covered the three popular bullet weights and a +P load.
|Black Hills 9mm Luger +P 115-gr. JHP D9N820||Glock 19X||Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0||Ruger SR1911||SIG Sauer P225-A1|
|Average velocity||1280 fps||1266 fps||1275 fps||1244 fps|
|Muzzle energy||418 ft.-lbs.||409 ft.-lbs.||415 ft.-lbs.||395 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest group||2.65 in.||2.45 in.||1.90 in.||1 in.|
|Largest group||3.25 in.||2.90 in.||2.60 in.||1.60 in.|
|Average group size||2.95 in.||2.65 in.||2.35 in.||1.30 in.|
|SIG Sauer V-Crown 9mm Luger 124-gr. JHP|
|Average velocity||1202 fps||1180 fps||1194 fps||1167 fps|
|Muzzle energy||397 ft.-lbs.||383 ft.-lbs.||392 ft.-lbs.||374 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest group||2.40 in.||2.25 in.||1.70 in.||1.25 in.|
|Largest group||3 in.||2.70 in.||2.50 in.||1.80 in.|
|Average group size||2.65 in.||2.50 in.||2.10 in.||1.50 in.|
|Federal PremiumHST9mmLugerLE 147-gr. JHP P9HST2|
|Average velocity||1020 fps||1000 fps||1030 fps||978 fps|
|Muzzle energy||339 ft.-lbs.||326 ft.-lbs.||346 ft.-lbs.||312 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest group||2.50 in.||2.20 in.||1.80 in.||1.10 in.|
|Largest group||3.10 in.||2.60 in.||2.40 in.||1.70 in.|
|Average group size||2.75 in.||2.40 in.||2.15 in.||1.40 in.|
For accuracy, we fired five-shot groups at 25 yards. We recorded velocity with a Competition Electronics Chronograph. The first sky screen was set 10 feet from the muzzle. Ammo sources: Black Hills 9mm Luger +P 115-Grain Jacketed Hollow Point D9N820 ($15.08/20 TargetSportsUSA.com), SIG Sauer 124-Grain V-Crown 9mm Luger JHPs ($15/20 from LuckyGunner.com), and Federal HST Law Enforcement 9mm Luger 147-Grain Jacketed Hollow Point P9HST2 ($20/50 from TargetSportsUSA.com).
The results were interesting and informative. While all the pistols have their good points, for us, the race came down to the Glock 19X and the Smith & Wesson Compact M2.0, for reasons we detail below.
Ruger SR1911 Lightweight Commander No. 6722 9mm Luger, $739
GUN TESTS GRADE: B
The Ruger SR1911 9mm handles well and is reliable. Like many 1911 handguns, a modest break-in period resulted in several failures of the slide to go fully forward, but many thousands of rounds later, there have been no problems of any type. For those who like the single-action 1911 cocked-and-locked product, this is a good choice. The pistol was rated down based on magazine capacity and a lack of a light rail.
|ACTION||Locked breech single-action semi auto|
|OVERALL LENGTH||7.75 in.|
|OVERALL HEIGHT||5.45 in.|
|MAX WIDTH||1.5 in.|
|WEIGHT UNLOADED||28 oz.|
|WEIGHT LOADED||34 oz.|
|BARREL||4.25 in. long stainless steel; 1:10 RH twist, 6 grooves|
|MAGAZINE||9-rd. detachable box|
|SLIDE RETRACTION EFFORT||17 lbs.|
|FRAME||Gray anodized aluminum|
|FRAME FRONT STRAP HEIGHT||2.7 in.|
|FRAME BACK STRAP HEIGHT||3 in.|
|GRIP THICKNESS (max)||1.3 in.|
|GRIP CIRCUMFERENCE (max)||5.4 in.|
|SIGHTS||Steel; drift adjustable Novak 3-dot|
|TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT (SA)||5.5 lbs.|
|TRIGGER SPAN (SA)||2.6 in.|
|SAFETY||Manual safety-grip safety|
|MA APPROVED & CERTIFIED||Yes|
This is a recent price from BudsGunShop.com. The Ruger SR1911 is an aluminum-frame Commander-type 1911 with a stainless-steel slide and anodized frame. The frame had an even gray appearance. The Ruger suffered a half dozen documented failures to fully go into battery during the first 50 rounds of ammunition, which is sometimes SOP for the 1911. However, it has fired more than 2,000 rounds of ammunition without fail since. The fit of the frame to the slide and the barrel to the locking lugs and barrel bushing was tight, with a slight lateral play if the frame is held in the hand and the slide flexed on the slide rails. The sights were Novak LoMount units, with the popular three-dot insert. We liked the sights, but this was the only pistol tested without night sights, an important consideration for personal defense. The hammer was a lightweight Commander type. The grip safety properly released its hold on the trigger about halfway into compression. The slide-lock safety was well fitted and positive in operation. Trigger compression was clean after a modest take up and breaks at 5.5 pounds. The pistol featured a welcome improvement to the 1911 pistol. The plunger tube was permanently attached rather than staked on.
The two stainless-steel magazines supplied with the pistol were well made and fit the pistol well. We added two Mec-Gar 9mm magazines to make the test go easier. We elected to draw and fire each pistol on a combat course because this is an important part of concealed-carry use. While a good reserve of ammunition is important, so is an accurate first shot. We also decided to use an inside-the-waistband holster during this drill. We drew from a Wright Leather Works Banshee IWB ($108 from WrightLeatherWorks.com). The raters found the Commander was a fast handgun from leather. Also, it was the thinnest pistol tested and the most comfortable to conceal. Control was excellent, partly due to the low bore axis and partly due to the full-size grip and crisp trigger. However, it was interesting to note that the SIG P225-A1, once we got over the heavy first-shot trigger press, was as capable in rapid fire as the Ruger Commander and perhaps a bit more accurate. We came to the conclusion during this test that the differences between action types and frame size mean more with heavy-caliber handguns than the 9mm, which is one reason the 9mm is so popular. A hard-kicking 40 S&W or 357 SIG will outline the differences in handguns more than the 9mm Luger, we believe.
The Ruger turned in credible groups and was the second most accurate pistol tested, behind the SIG P225-A1. It was also the second most expensive pistol and one of two supplied without night sights. (We added night sights to the Smith & Wesson to bring it on par with the Glock as supplied from the factory, which likewise brought them on par price-wise.) The 1911 requires higher maintenance and a higher standard of training to deploy.
Also, we should note the pistol was originally fitted with standard Ruger plastic grips, but the panels were changed during the first 2000 rounds. The owner, a military-intelligence officer and one of our raters, received the Commander and a set of custom panels from A Woman’s Touch Grips.
These grips, with the military intelligence emblem, are nice additions to the pistol, but they did not affect testing.
Our Team Said: We found little to fault the SR1911 on performance, but grading on the curve, this is a pistol with no light rail and less magazine capacity than the striker-fired handguns, all at a higher price. Also, we would have liked to have checkering, grooves, or stippling on the front strap. The other three handguns had this feature.
SIG Sauer P225-A1 Nitron 225A-9-BSS-C 9mm Luger, $880
GUN TESTS GRADE: B
This pistol carries the highest MSRP of any tested at $1035, but we found the piece for sale at a considerably lower price. The slim grip appeals to many shooters, especially those with small hands. The single-action press is crisp, part of making the SIG a very accurate handgun. What we did not get was a light rail and a high magazine capacity. There was also the problem with the thumb riding the slide lock, preventing the slide from locking on the last shot. This combination resulted in a lower rating.
|ACTION||Locked breech DA/SA semi auto|
|OVERALL LENGTH||6.9 in.|
|OVERALL HEIGHT||5.2 in.|
|MAX WIDTH||1.3 in.|
|WEIGHT UNLOADED||30 oz.|
|WEIGHT LOADED||35 oz.|
|BARREL LENGTH||3.6 in.|
|MAGAZINE||(2) 8-rd. detachable boxes|
|SLIDE||Nitron-finished stainless steel|
|SLIDE RETRACTION EFFORT||16.5 lbs.|
|FRAME FRONT STRAP HEIGHT||2.3 in.|
|FRAME BACK STRAP HEIGHT||3 in.|
|GRIPS||Checkered black G10|
|GRIP THICKNESS (max)||1.25 in.|
|GRIP CIRCUMFERENCE (max)||5.5 in.|
|SIGHT RADIUS||5.7 in.|
|TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT (DA)||14 lbs.|
|TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT (SA)||4.25 lbs.|
|TRIGGER SPAN (DA)||2.8 in.|
|TRIGGER SPAN (SA)||2.5 in.|
|SAFETY||No manual safety|
|MA APPROVED & CERTIFIED||No|
The SIG P225-A1 is a single-column-magazine pistol with a double-action first shot. Please note this isn’t the original P225, which was discontinued a few years ago. The new P225-A1 is a larger handgun that might be best described as a single-column version of the SIG P229 9mm. As with the arrangement of grip and slide on the Glock 19X, some shooters will ask why do they need a single-column 9mm? We’re not saying you do, but the single column magazine allows for a thin and very comfortable grip frame which some shooters prefer.
The SIG featured a double-action first shot with the Short Reset Trigger. This trigger allows better work to be done with the DA pull. The double-action press was a smooth 12.5 pounds. Single-action release ran 4.25 pounds. The single-action press, all raters agreed, was the crispest of any of the test guns. The decocker was located on the left side of the frame and was handy in dropping the hammer safely. The SIG also features a positive firing-pin block. The P225-A1 features a set of tritium SIGLite night sights. They are not quite as high visibility as the Glock or the TruGlo sights we tested, but they work well. The sight picture was good for precise shooting.
We drew from a Jason Winnie J121 IWB holster ($90 from JasonWinnie.com). The grip allows for a smooth, sharp draw. We came on target quickly and pressed the trigger smoothly to the rear. The pistol was accurate to a first-shot hit at 7 yards and more difficult to manage at 10 yards. In rapid single-action targeting, the pistol set a fast, accurate pace as we fired as quickly as we could regain the sights in recoil. Muzzle flip was the greatest of the three pistols due to the higher bore axis of the SIG compared to the other handguns, but recoil was not uncomfortable. The pistol’s grip gives good purchase during firing. Firing from the benchrest firing position, results were likewise excellent. The best group at 25 yards were very good 1.0-inch five-shot efforts with the Black Hills Ammunition +P load. The other loads were accurate as well.
Our Team Said: We liked the SIG P225-A1. There were no failures to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. Accuracy was outstanding. However, the pistol does not have a light rail and was a low-capacity handgun compared to the Smith & Wesson and Glock handguns. Another demerit came during firing. Several of the raters encountered a failure of the slide to lock back on the last round. This was due to the thumb riding the slide lock during firing. This is a common SIG problem not experienced with the other handguns. We rated the pistol down a half grade on this problem. While it is a nice handgun, we feel that the other handguns tested will do the job better for less money.
Glock G19X G5 PX1950703 9mm Luger, $594
GUN TESTS GRADE: A
The Glock 19X has garnered its share of derision, although we cannot quite put our finger on the reason. It is a credible choice with many of the good features of the Generation 5 Glock. The pistol is fast from leather, fast on target, and reliable.
|ACTION||Locked breech Safe Action single-action semi-auto|
|OVERALL LENGTH||7.4 in.|
|OVERALL HEIGHT||5.5 in. w/ flush-fit magazine|
|MAX WIDTH||1.3 in.|
|WEIGHT UNLOADED||24.9 oz.|
|WEIGHT LOADED||31.4 oz.|
|BARREL||4 in. steel GMB; hexagonal rifling, RH 1:9.84 twist|
|MAGAZINES||(1) 17-rd.; (2) 19-rd. detachable boxes|
|SLIDE||G19 steel, coyote-colored nPVD coating|
|SLIDE RETRACTION EFFORT||16 lbs.|
|FRAME||Polymer, lanyard loop|
|FRAME FRONT STRAP HEIGHT||2.4 in.|
|FRAME BACK STRAP HEIGHT||3.4 in.|
|GRIPS||Textured polymer, modular, no finger grooves|
|GRIP THICKNESS (max)||1.3 in.|
|GRIP CIRCUMFERENCE (max)||6.1 in.|
|SIGHTS||Steel Night Sights|
|SIGHT RADIUS||5.9 in.|
|TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT (SA)||5.8 lbs.|
|TRIGGER SPAN (SA)||2.45 in.|
|MA APPROVED & CERTIFIED||No|
This was our price from BudsGunShop.com. The Glock 19X is a mix of the Glock 17 9mm frame and the Glock 19 9mm slide. So we have Glock’s version of the 1911 Commander, a full-size frame and short slide. The pistol is built on the Generation 5 improvements. These include a trigger action that feels different from earlier Glock pistols, with different being better, but difficult to describe. (The Gen5 will not accept aftermarket parts of the previous pistols.) The dust cover differed from earlier handguns, and the takedown lock featured a different spring. The slide lock was ambidextrous. The magazine release may be switched for left-handed users. The pistol was supplied with four grip inserts. There were three supplied magazines, a big plus, we feel. One was a flush-fit 17-round magazine and the others Glock +2 19-round magazines.
We liked the frame texture. In the Generation 5 pistol, the finger grooves have been deleted. The trigger felt better than earlier pistols, but it wasn’t lighter at 5.8 pounds. Take up was tight and reset fast. The pistol also featured the new Glock Marksman barrel, intended to provide better accuracy.
The pistol was finished in a Dark Earth color. While we liked the finish, we saw wear marks around the muzzle and the ejection port after a few weeks of use. The pistol was supplied with Glock night sights. We feel that night sights are a plus in a defensive pistol. The Glock and SIG were issued with night sights, and the Smith & Wesson was easily upgraded. It would be expensive to upgrade the Ruger. We compared the Glock using the Tulster AIWB ($60 from Tulster.com), the JM Custom Kydex IWB Dual Loop ($77 from JMCustomKydex.com), and the $104 Ted Blocker Center of the Back holster (TedBlockerHolsters.com). The COB really showed the superiority of the short slide for concealment, yet, the large handle did not interfere with concealed carry, save with truly thin raters and the appendix position. Also, during the firing test we drew from the JM Custom Kydex holster. We did this to explore any speed advantage of the Glock 19X.
The handgun, like many new handguns, was tested as much against itself as the other pistols. On the firing range, the Glock was fast to a first-shot hit. It was in league with the Smith & Wesson; however, half of the raters found the pistol was not as fast on target or as accurate in rapid fire as the Smith & Wesson. The Ruger beat the Glock to a fast first shot, but the Glock pulled away from the Ruger in sustained fire. The Glock trigger reset was as fast as the 1911, in our perception.
Our Team Said: The Glock was the least accurate handgun tested. However, it gave the Smith & Wesson Military and Police compact a good contest. The Glock’s combat accuracy was good and the absolute accuracy adequate for the task and better than previous Glock 9mm handguns we have tested. The Glock features a light rail and night sights as well as the greatest magazine capacity of any of the handguns tested. The Glock was clearly an effective combat handgun. We rated the Glock 19X down a half grade on the curve on accuracy.
Smith & Wesson M&P9 M2.0 Compact No. 11686 9mm Luger, $476
GUN TESTS GRADE: A
The Smith & Wesson 9mm has several good features, such as a pleasing trigger action and good gripping surface. The M&P 9mm Compact features a rail for mounting a combat light, which two of the other test pistols did not. The Smith & Wesson grip insert and system is superior to the Glock’s, we felt, based on ease of use and coverage of hand size.
|ACTION||Semi auto, locked breech; double action only, striker fire|
|OVERALL LENGTH||7.3 in.|
|OVERALL HEIGHT||4.8 in.|
|MAX WIDTH||1.5 in.|
|WEIGHT UNLOADED||24 oz.|
|WEIGHT LOADED||30.6 oz.|
|BARREL||4 in. long; stainless steel; Armornite finish; 1:10 twist|
|MAGAZINE||(2) 15-rd. detachable box|
|SLIDE RETRACTION EFFORT||14 lbs.|
|FRAME||Embedded stainless-steel chassis, polymer shell; 18-degree grip angle|
|FRAME FRONT STRAP HEIGHT||3 in.|
|FRAME BACK STRAP HEIGHT||2.25 in.|
|GRIPS||Textured polymer, 4 grip inserts|
|GRIP THICKNESS (max)||1.5 in.|
|GRIP CIRCUMFERENCE (max)||6 in.|
|SIGHTS||Steel, white dot front; two white-dot rear|
|TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT (SA)||6 lbs.|
|TRIGGER SPAN (SA)||2.8 in.|
|MA APPROVED & CERTIFIED||No|
This was also a recent price from BudsGunShop.com. The Military & Police Compact M2.0 is Smith & Wesson’s latest improvement on the M&P line of self-loading pistols. This was the 2.0 version with a different trigger action, or at least one tuned from the previous standard. The pistol featured a new grip treatment as well. The 2.0 pistol featured an ambidextrous slide lock and a manual safety that is also ambidextrous. All raters agreed that the grip’s texturing was better than the Glock’s treatment for control during firing. The bore axis of the Smith & Wesson seemed lower. The cocking serrations were nicely done. There were tiny forward cocking serrations that do not seem of much use, but the 2.0 pistol was the only one with cocking serrations in this test. The sights were good combat designs.
The pistol came out of the box with four grip inserts. We liked the lock that holds the grip inserts in place better than the Glock’s pin. It just works well for most users. The Smith & Wesson cost $120 less than the Glock 19X, which doesn’t hurt. However, the Smith & Wesson did not have night sights and the Glock came with a total of three magazines. The Smith & Wesson was supplied with two 15-round magazines.
We used a Galco Stow-And-Go IWB holster ($28.80 from TacticalGear.com) on the firing course, and our shooters found the Smith & Wesson never failed to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. Combat accuracy was excellent. In short order, this turned into a contest between the two polymer-frame striker-fired handguns. The Smith & Wesson performed better in combat accuracy than the Glock, according to the majority of the raters. While one rated the two equal in combat firing, the Smith & Wesson was proven to be more accurate from the benchrest firing position by all of the raters. We liked the handling of the Smith & Wesson better than the Glock, and it outshot the Glock 19X by a noticeable margin. We also liked the addition of a manual safety. This gives the shooter more options, and if you do not like the safety simply ignore it. The 2.0 trigger broke at 6.0 pounds, but as it is often said, it felt lighter. We liked the wide trigger added to the 2.0 pistol, and we liked the reset of the new trigger. We added a set of TruGlo TFX Pro night sights ($98 from BudsGunShop.com) to the Smith & Wesson to bring it up to par with the Glock 19X. We could have spent less on night sights, but these are excellent night sights worth the tariff. With them, we were within $2 of the Glock 19X’s price, but short a magazine.
Our Team Said: The Smith & Wesson’s performance was good enough that we felt justified in naming it a Best Buy. It offered superior handling, a manual safety, better accuracy in both the combat firing and absolute accuracy testing, and a slightly smaller foot print for concealed carry without giving up anything in combat ability.
These four handguns are capable of defending the home and person. Though we believe shot placement means the most, magazine capacity is also good to have, and the Smith & Wesson and Glock outclassed the other handguns in this regard. They also have the ability to mount a combat light. The Glock was delivered with night sights, but it wasn’t expensive or troublesome to add night sights to the Smith & Wesson. If you are one who doesn’t need self luminous iron sights, the Smith & Wesson is an even better deal.
Written and photographed by Robert Campbell, using evaluations from Gun Tests team testers.