Spotlight: Single Stack 9mm Showdown

GetZone
December 18, 2015
0
all4_comparison

Kahr PM9

Rankings

  • Shootability: Third*
  • Size: First
  • Accessories: Second**
    Overall: First
    MSRP: $786
    *Tied with Beretta Nano
    **Tied with SIG SAUER P938
Kahr PM9
Kahr PM9

We Like

The Kahr PM9 scored incredibly high in the “size” category. Small and lightweight, the PM9 is incredibly easy to conceal and, with the right holster, is incredibly comfortable to carry. The trigger pull is long, but at only six pounds is not only relatively light, but also extremely smooth – comparable to a revolver trigger pull.

As far as handling goes, the PM9 is relatively straightforward. The slide lock is easy to access, although the slide can be difficult to lock back for some. This particular difficulty can be overcome with practice, rounds through the gun, and proper technique. The PM9 has no external safety, a perfectly reasonable decision given its long trigger pull, so there is one less step between draw and fire.

While there are not as many accessories available for the PM9 as there are for some of its competitors, Kahr makes finding accessories for their guns quite straightforward. There is a store on their website providing holsters and replacement parts. So while there may not be as much available, it’s actually very easy to find accessories and aftermarket parts for the PM9.

We Don’t Like

The Kahr’s biggest drawback is its expense. With an MSRP of around $786 the Kahr is the second most expensive firearm on our list. For those who are able to carry a slightly larger firearm, the approximately 300-dollar price difference will probably be enough to convince them to opt for the Smith & Wesson Shield over the Kahr. However, that’s not an option for everyone.

The Kahr’s manual also dictates a break-in period, which we found necessary in our testing. After that break-in period the gun ran extremely well, however not everyone is willing to suffer through 250 rounds of stoppages to get a well-running firearm, and many won’t trust a gun that needs that kind of break-in period.

The Kahr’s size, and how easy it is to use, will make it an obvious choice for some. However, the expense and break-in period will turn off a lot of buyers.

The Verdict

The Kahr is an excellent concealed carry gun, although it is on the more expensive side, and is frequently our editor’s top choice for daily carry.

Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9

  • Rankings
  • Shootability: First
  • Size: Fourth
  • Accessories: First
  • Overall: Second
    MSRP: $449
MP Shield
MP Shield

We Like

The Smith & Wesson M&P Shield, in our testing, was the easiest gun of the bunch to shoot, partially due to its size and partially due to the 5.5-pound trigger pull, the lightest of the bunch. This, combined with a good marketing campaign from household name Smith & Wesson, lends itself to the immense popularity of the Shield as a go-to carry gun. On top of this, Smith & Wesson worked closely with many manufacturers to make sure accessories such as lasers, sights, and holsters were widely available upon the gun’s release.

The Shield also has easy-to-use basic controls that make handling simple, even for less-experienced gun owners. Despite this, the way they are set up helps the Shield maintain a sleek profile that some concealed carriers value as a means to diminish printing.

While the Shield scored low in the “size” category, the size may be a blessing to some gun owners. The increased size, which may be a problem for some who are looking for a deep concealment gun, also reduces recoil, makes the gun easier to grip (especially for those with large hands), and gives the Shield the longest sight radius of the group.

We Don’t Like

The size will definitely be a factor for some. For those who are looking for a deep concealment gun, the Shield (may or) may not be the right option. It’s important to be aware of your carry style and the size restrictions that go with it.

The other item on the Shield that not every shooter will like is the external safety. Most striker-fired guns, such as the GLOCK line, don’t have an external safety and a lot of M&P shooters will not be used to having to deactivate it. The demand to keep a slim profile on the gun has also made the safety small and, for some, difficult to reach and flip. This may require users to practice more with the Shield than some of the other options, despite how easy it is to shoot.

The Verdict

The Shield is a great choice for someone who can afford to carry a slightly larger firearm. It’s easy to shoot, easy to handle, and easy to find accessories for.

SIG SAUER P938

  • Shootability: Fourth
  • Size: Third
  • Accessories: Second*
    Overall: Third
  • MSRP: $809 to $838
  • *Tied with Kahr PM9
Sig Sauer P938
Sig Sauer P938

We Like

The SIG SAUER P938 is the descendant of the .380 ACP P238, a favorite pocket gun for many looking for a deep-concealment option. The 1911-style firearms are great for those who compete or spend a majority of their range time working with a 1911 because the controls are the same. Those who are used to flipping a safety on and off, the 1911 grip angle, and the handling of John Moses Browning’s famous platform will find that their skills transfer easily over to the P938.

The trigger, while the heaviest of the lot, giving the P938 its fourth-place rating in shootability, is also a short single-action trigger that some people find preferable to the longer, lighter triggers of the other single-stack 9s. This is entirely a matter of personal preference, and is usually varies based on the shooter’s experiences.

The P938 launched with a splash, and as such there are a lot of accessories available for it. While the collection isn’t quite as extensive as that for the Shield, those choosing the P938 will not have trouble finding a good holster and good sights for it.

We Don’t Like

While the small grip makes the gun more concealable, and isn’t a problem for those with smaller hands, getting a tight hold on the gun may prove an issue for those with larger mitts. With an overall height of 3.9-inches, the shortest of the group, some might find their fingers hanging off the bottom of the gun, even with an extended magazine.

The main drawback of the P938 is the price, ranging between $809 and $838 the 1911-style gun is the most expensive of the firearms we looked at, and one of the highest priced pocket guns on the market. While some will see the gun as a worthwhile investment, it’s not going to fit in everyone’s budget.

The Verdict

The P938 is a great option for anyone familiar with the 1911 platform and used to the controls, or for those who want a shorter trigger pull, and are willing to make the investment.

Beretta Nano

  • Shootability: Third*
  • Size: Third
  • Accessories: Fourth
    Overall: Fourth
  • MSRP: $445
  • *Tied with Kahr PM9
Beretta Nano
Beretta Nano

We Like

The Nano’s low scores in the test could be easily attributed to the fact that the Beretta is the closest you’re going to get to a j-frame without buying a revolver. The long, rolling trigger, much like the PM9, will appeal to the same people who appreciate a smooth revolver trigger.

Also like a j-frame, the Nano is incredibly easy to use at a fundamental level. There is no slide release; so all gun handling requires slide and magazine manipulation, so the same movement is required for loading, unloading, and malfunction clearances. The lack of slide release also gives the Nano a slim and smooth profile, to help reduce printing and to keep the firearm from snagging on clothing.

We Don’t Like

The Beretta Nano is not necessarily difficult to find accessories for, but it definitely lacks the same availability as some of the other single stack 9mms. For those who want to carry it, there definitely will be holsters available, but they may not be exactly the ones they want.

The Nano is also not as small as some of its counterparts, despite the low profile controls. While printing and snagging is definitely reduced by the design, it may not be as easy, or as comfortable, to conceal due to its larger size. Also, the lack of these controls can be frustrating to handle for seasoned gun owners who are used to having a slide lock to work with. While it’s possible to run through all the manipulations, and may be easier for those who are used to it, not having a slide lock means that those working with the gun must insert an empty magazine in order to lock the slide to the rear.

The Verdict

The Nano certainly has some interesting design elements, and is a legitimate option for concealed carry, especially for those who prefer a smooth double action trigger. Users will, however, have to familiarize themselves with the controls and may find it more difficult to conceal due to its size.

compareOriginally published in the January 2014 issue of GunUp the Magazine.