What is the best polymer 9mm?

Polymer 9s

This week I received my copy of IDPA’s “Tactical Journal” containing a listing of all of the gear used in the IDPA worlds and Massad Ayoob’s newest book Combat Shooting. One thing that struck me as I was flipping through them was the fact that a grand total of 6 shooters at the IDPA worlds shot a Springfield XD series pistol while 142 were shooting Glock’s and 97 were shooting M&P’s, but the gun featured on the cover of Massad’s book was an XD(m)-45 4.5.

I have never been a fan of the XD’s because I think they look goofy, I think they are oversized and I hate that they are made in Croatia. Then there is the way they are sold… “This is like a Glock only safer! They have a chamber loaded indicator, a cocked striker indicator and a grip safety.” While this is all true you should never rely an a mechanical device to see if a firearm is loaded (plus the extractor on just about every model in the class will show you), it is stricker fired so if it is loaded it is cocked and even JMB didn’t want a grip safety on the 1911. (of course there was this too… HS2000)

That said I had posted a thread on the Down Range forums last week asking people to describe the features and benefits they wanted in guns of different classes and decided to do a little analysis to see if I was missing something. Since I like 9mm AND I like polymer pistol frames I decided to do a little objective comparison of a number of common 9mm polymer pistols.

My 1st step was to gather a bunch of data points on pistols I believed to be the set I would consider carrying. I didn’t include Bersa’s or High Point’s or PX4 Storms… well because I didn’t. If you think they should be on there let me know where they end up.

Next I went through each of the parameters and blindly rated them based on the figures listed on chart based on how I feel about the metric for concealed carry. Items in Green is Ideal(+1), Yellow is Desirable (+0.5), Orange is Acceptable (0.0) and Red is Undesirable (-0.5).

Lastly, I tallied them up and then tallied them up again ignoring all of the size factors for Home Defense and then lastly I combined the scores to identify a best 1 gun choice.

The 10 Factor I looked at are…

  • LENGTH – Under 7″ is ideal. Length doesn’t factor into a CCW choice too much, but shorter does aid in concealment some. When it comes to single stacks I think all of the choices are really too big for pocket carry because of the slide length so I marked them all down.
  • HEIGHT – While it isn’t a perfect system I gave anything between 4.75 – 5.25 a green because I believe that range strikes the balance between shoot-ability and conceal-ability. Under that and you have a 2 fingered grip above can be difficult to conceal.
  • WIDTH – This may be the most important factor in convertibility. I find 1.2″ about the upper bound with a hybrid holster.
  • WEIGHT – My upper bound is about 32oz unloaded and all of these met it so it isn’t much of a differentiator for me.
  • CAPACITY – I believe all CCW options should have at least 12+1 with 15+1 or more ideal. That said I think a thin single stack serves a deeper concealment role so I never gave them an orange or red.
  • TRIGGER WEIGHT – I think it gets too heavy after about ~6.5lbs. This really hurts the DA/SA guns, but I think the 1st shot is the most important so I am OK with it.
  • CONSISTENT PULL – Yes you can learn a DA/SA trigger, but I find it be an unnecessary complication. (The four reasons I carry a Glock!)
  • MANUAL SAFETY – For some this is the exact opposite and you may ding the Glock because it lacks a safety. That is fine. Feel free to send me you review and I’ll host it.
  • GRIP SAFETY – I can not think of any redeeming qualities of a grip safety EXCEPT maybe not shooting your horse in the neck when you are reloading. They serve no purpose if you have a good grip and if you are holding your gun in a position with a bad grip, you probably really want it to fire.
  • COUNTRY OF ORIGIN – I prefer things made in the USA but I require a consistent flow of parts.

You are probably thinking hey that does include things like reliability, accuracy, grip angle, comfort, trigger quality, stock sights, cost, IDPA/IPSC classification, color options, et cetera and you are right!

All of these guns should be reliable and accurate, we are living in quite possibly the best time ever for firearm quality and the reliability of the plastic fantastics are right at the top. If by chance you get one that is not (and you are sure it isn’t you) send it back.

Grip angle, comfort and trigger quality don’t matter for most people. If you shoot enough that you have an ingrained grip angle in you natural point of aim, you will adapt to a new one quickly. If you don’t then you probably don’t shoot enough, but unfortunately most shooters don’t.

The trigger quality and sights can be improved on most guns with aftermarket parts or with the help of a gunsmith. But as a word of caution… improved does not mean lightened.

Cost is a limiting factor for most people, but in reality the purchase price of the gun is one of the smaller costs you will face. A new SIG 250 2SUM kit will cost you less than a 1 week training class, less than the ammo that you will shoot at the class, less than you will spend on travel and hotel accommodations while you are there and potentially less than you would have made at work. If you are serious about training with a firearm, the variable costs will greatly outweigh the fixed costs (this is one of the reasons I shoot a 9mm).

Now, for the results… I went into this analysis hoping I would find out something like the worlds best sized/featured polymer 9mm is a CZ. That didn’t happen. World class IDPA shooters and Law Enforcement Agencies are right! Glocks and Smith & Wesson are the best double stack choices and Kahr Arms are the best single stacks for CCW. Additionally there more great choices for home defense because size doesn’t matter so much. Not exactly a bombshell, huh?

Obviously this “test” is highly biased based on what I look for in a carry gun (I carry a G19 or PM9) and you may have different tolerances and preferences that would lead to different results. I would love to hear about them and why I may have completely missed the boat in the comments below.

Update 1/24/2014 – If you would like to read more about the guns people actually carry check out Size Matters… A look at the sizes of CCW guns. We surveyed nearly 1,400 concealed carriers about what they carry and how they train. One of the most fascinating outcomes was how important size was in the decision


  1. says

    As an unabashed CZ fan, I am calling your results biased. Both the P-07 Duty and the RAMI-P have the ability to be carried Cocked and Locked. That gives them a Consistant pull, and it would be a lighter and easier pull than the 'winners'.

    But it is interesting.

    • says

      Why don’t I see CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow, Phantom, Tactical Sports, etc… on the list? The Shadow version or Tactical Sports are considered top of the top by some of the best shooters out there… Can you review them and see how they fit in this table?


  2. says

    I learned some things here. I always assumed the Rugers were thinner than the Glocks. Not so. Hmm.

    I do disagree with your classification of Brazil and the Czech Republic as "other". I think it is now beyond debate that the Czech Republic is a stable country. It is both a member of NATO and the EU.

    As to Brazil, it has the strongest economy in South America and is more stable politically than many European countries.

    Would this have changed the results – probably not. Still…

  3. says

    I like your approach to the analysis. I have slightly different preferences for some of the attributes. And, although I prefer a gun made in the USA, I don't really have any additional aversion to Croatia, Czech, or Brazil over German or Austrian guns.

    Of course this analysis should only be the start. Taking the top 5 or 10 guns and actually testing them at a range would be step 2 for me.

    Great post!

  4. Anonymous says

    I carry Glock 19 or Glock 26. Glock 26 with extended mags (12 rounds) increase the capacity and height scores, moving it way up the list. For me, Glock 26 with extended mag full of Winchester Ranger 127gr +P+ and Crimson Trace is the perfect carry gun. Glock 19 with Crimson Trace and tactical light is the perfect "bedside" handgun.

  5. says

    Not too be too large of a jerk, but congradulations on your ability to pander to your own preferenaces!

    Go figure, you go out to evaluate all the guns on the market by your own prefereances, and you decided the gun you shoot happens to be the best!

    You've just managed to enforce the opinion of every gun fanboy on the internet.

    That said ofcourse I dont personally care for Glocks
    \Agree with the anonymous poster, but I wanted to at least say "Not to be too much of a jerk" first :-)
    \As always doesnt matter what I say, if you like your glock, you like your glock. Just don't try to sell me on it as I have my own issues with them, and remember no single size fits all

  6. says

    @abnormalist – I think you might mixing up the cause and effect. I carry a G19 because when I picked it I believed it best fit my requirements for a carry gun. So the ranges in this analysis were not designed to reinforce my gun choice, but my gun choice was driven by these preferences.

    If you like 9mm polymer pistols, use the data in this chart to figure out what works best for you. If you like revolvers or 45s go through this process, send me the results and I'll post it.

  7. says

    Nice bit of work: more people should do this sort of thing. (It did take a bit to figure out your normalization for the HD score.)

    Note, however, while it is "analytical" (broken down into component parts), it is still subjective, not objective, for several reasons.

    First, the categories chosen are based upon what you value. Additionally, the breakpoints within categories are based upon your desires, not objective criteria. Finally, some of the evaluations themselves are subjective (e.g., I'd've ranked Austria a bit lower, and Brazil & the Czech Republic higher).

    Anyway, well done, and thanks.

  8. says

    @CBI: Keep in mind that the scoring rubric for country of origin is USA/Stable Country/Other Country (as opposed to a build-quality rubric), so I would tend to agree with the author’s assessment.

    Meanwhile, WRT the scoring, since the Ruger SR9c comes with a finger grip extension floor plate for the 10-round magazine and a grip adapter to allow reliable use of the SR9′s 17-round magazine (I understand if you don’t want to consider aftermarket items in your rating, but these come with the pistol), I would adjust your scores as follows:

    * Concealed Carry – from 6.50 to 7.00 (due to increased height provided by the extension floor plate; the undesirable 10+1 limitation remains in effect for CC) or 8.00 (if using the 17-round magazines for CC)

    * Home Defense – from 5.83 to 8.33 (matching the rating of the SR9 when using SR9 17-round magazines)

    * Cumulative – from 12.33 to 15.33 (if using 10-round magazines for CC) or 16.33 (if using the 17-round magazines for CC)

    Overall, I like this attempt to quantify what makes a good CC/HD handgun, though I would like to see how you weighted each attribute.

    Finally, I look forward to seeing how you score the Beretta Nano on this scale (will Italy earn a “Stable” rating for country of origin? Stay tuned! ;-) ).

  9. says

    I looked at it, then looked at it again, then laughed. Out loud.

    I’m not a Glock fanboy, or a Glock hater, but from a statistical standpoint, you’re chart essentially amounts to : The Glock is near perfect (save for being made in Austria), we will then rate everything else based on how far it deviates from the Glock.

    NARROWER IS BETTER for concealment. That’s a pure and simple fact. Yet, you give the Glock a Greenie because it fits into your arbitrary 1.25 criteria, bust the Taurus PT24/7 for being a mere .07 inches wider, YET the Glock has the same width “score” as the Kahr PM9 which is .28 inches thinner??? 4 TIMES the deviation and yet the Glock rates just as well?

    Same thing for height. Somehow, there’s magic in being a 5″ tall gun. Coincidentally, the height of your glock. Any more than 1/4″ taller or shorter is a strike. As John Stossel would say, “give me a break”

    That said, the chart has some value for raw data, but I think you should add three more datapoints.

    Barrel length.
    Ease of accessorizing. (Does it have a light rail, changeable grips, etc)

    • says

      I choose to give EVERYTHING a Great, Good, Acceptable, or Fail score because as I mentioned they are all very good guns. I choose the G19 and PM9 to carry because they best fit the requirements I have for a CCW, the chart would really be a shocker if my choice didn’t make it to the top.
      The Glock 19 is the smallest gun that I get my entire hand on. Anything smaller (M&P 9c) and my pinky hits the gun in an awkward place. I can’t let the gun push it down because of an old injury so if it is shorter than the G19 it needs to be way shorter and if it is longer then it just becomes harder to conceal. As for the width I started with a 1911 in a Milt Sparks VMII and found it was wider than my Glock in a kydex holster, more than 1.25 and even the Glock would be wider than the “standard” 1911 in a leather holster. If I carried OWB I would care how wide it was.
      As for your other 3…

      • Barrel length is a driver of slide length and the velocity difference doesn’t matter to me
      • Sights are very personal and I don’t like the ball in a cup, bar dot, or 3 dot sights so they would all get the same score
      • A good holster manufacturer can made a holster for any of them so the only think I would look at is “does it have a rail,” but since I don’t carry a weapon light, there would be no distinction.

      What would you rank above the Glock, M&P, Sig 250, Walthers and Kahrs?

      • says

        Oh, I realize that sight preferences are a personal thing, but then so is the impact of height and width, due to the differences in people’s hands, especially height in your case. That’s kind of what I was getting at, and you’ve outright acknowledged now.

        I do think there is a great deal of value in “objectively” rating things the way you have. I put objectively in scare quotes, because it isn’t really objective, but it isn’t exactly subjective either. The raw datapoints are objective. A weapon’s length is an objective fact, as is the height or width or capacity, etc. How that interacts with a given user is a subjective thing to that user. Where the sweet spot is for that user is subjective, and how much deviation from the sweet spot matters is also subjective. Each user can be well served to sit down and noodle through these questions, and committing the info to paper (or spreadsheet) can bring clarity.

        If one decides to share one’s process with others, it is very useful to qualify the WHYs upfront. That, as far as I can tell, is what your chart is lacking, although you’ve been completely upfront on sharing when asked. Without that, well, you run the risk of appearing to be little more than a Glock fanboy. Not only does the sharing of WHYs help avoid the fanboy charge (except from the “haters”), but it can help others as they noodle through their own WHYs.

        What would you rank above the Glock, M&P, Sig 250, Walthers and Kahrs?

        I don’t know, I haven’t done my noodling yet. The Glock may end up on top for me, or it might not.

        Grace and peace.

  10. says

    ohhh, my apologies. I see that you did offer some of your reasoning. Due to the vagaries of the web and linking and such, I came across JUST the chart, without any of the supporting info, and that was my starting point.

    • says

      No issues. The whole point of this site is to trigger discussion, learning and critical thinking for me and any readers. Thanks for speaking up and thinking critically; I hope you continue to do so.

  11. Josh says

    So your telling me that you’d rather have a walther pps 7+1 than a springfield xdm 3.8 compact 13+1 or 19+1 with the extended mag as your home defense pistol? all be cause of a grip safety? i dont see what the big deal is about a grip safety. never heard of a 1911 fan complain about it. you must grip the pistol to shoot it accurately, therefor the safety would be disengaged.i think your system is screwed up and completely biased. when you run out of your 8 rounds and extra mag that you cant find in the dark, i’ll disengage my safety by gripping the gun correctly and keep shooting…and shooting

  12. says

    Not really… In this I was looking at a 1 gun option and rated single stacks differently than double stacks for a whole host of reasons. When it comes to the XD’s I am admittedly biased against them and actually started the post by saying so.

    There is nothing I like about them (other than they shoot ok and are generally reliable). I think grip safeties are dumb, even on a 1911 (and I complain about it), and I don’t seen any reason a modern handgun should have them. I also hate the way they are sold in gun stores because I believe it is disingenuous and having a gun made in Croatia that is branded with the name of our nations most famous armory is a travesty.

    If someone is coming through my window I want more bullets, I want them to go where I aim them and I want to ensure they go bang. The XD does all of those things… But so does the Glock, the S&W, the Walther, the Ruger, the Sig, the H&K and the FN, and I think they do it with more honesty.

    The XD itself is fine, but I came up with the scoring system, scored all the guns blindly, and then posted the results hoping the CZ would be at the top. It didn’t happen.

    The “test”/analysis whatever wasn’t biased for or against any particular gun, my my preferences are. Use the data in the chart to score it based on your preferences and see where everything comes out.

  13. Josh says

    If brand names is a problem then you must be biased of certain automakers like ford, chevy, and dodge seeing that most of their vehicles are produced outside of the US, yet they originated here. Branding is part of the American way, unfortunate as it is. People will advertise anything to sell anything.

    If single stack is in a different category then i would have put it on a different chart. Maybe a specific CC chart. because this chart is corrupt comparing those guns. i would take a 19+1 anything before choosing a PPS in a HD situation.

    I just dont see how you justify a gun’s usefullness in certain situations, especially HD, by its height, weight, length, and country of origin. i understand size makes a difference in CC but you cant tell me a walther PPQ ranks higher tha the previously mentioned XDM due to just its country of origin and because it has a grip safety that would be irrelevant if holding the gun correctly.

    I dont hate glocks one bit, but if buying a gun from austria is ok then why is buying a gun from crotia not? i dont see how you have the ability to judge who makes the more quality/reliable gun. And since when is Germany a better place to purchase a gun from? if your so biased for the US then IMHO Germany would be the last place I’d wanna purchase a gun from.

    Bottom line is there is no best gun for any situation. if you prefer glocks and shoot better with them, fine. does that mean you have the upper hand in a situation over a person comfortable with his/her springfield, ruger, etc? No. And i dont see how a chart with numbers can decide which is better due to some safeties, sizes, and origins.

    • says

      It isn’t the brand name, but rather the branding that I have an issue with. For example Justin Moon founded Kahr Arms with money from his father’s cult and named it Kahr to make it sound German, but he is honest about it. Springfield re-branded an existing Croatian gun and draped the american flag over it. It then gets sold to new shooters based on being safer than a Glock because it has a grip safety, chamber loaded indicator and cocked indicator. It is striker fired, if it is loaded, it is cocked unless you manually inserted the round and trusting any indicator is not bright. I vote with my dollars so I won’t buy one and I get to say I don’t like them because I write a blog. Does it make my opinion valid? Only to me.

      As for the SS being in a different chart, I called it out in the text and the scoring and it started out as a carry gun chart so I left it in. I then thought “hey, I have all this data what happens if I ignore size?” and I came up with the HD score.

      As for how this chart can tell you anything about a guns usefulness in certain situations, I look at it like this. Once you have conceded that all of the guns on the chart are reliable and accurate enough to get the job done, the only thing you are left with is capacity, form factor, and manual of arms to make a distinction. For CCW these are all major factors in selecting the right gun because you have to cart it around. Long term parts and service does play into the equation and as a former Socialist country with poor economic stability and no real trade power with the US I can see how that might cause a long term issue. I don’t see those same economic risks with Germany and even Taurus is in a better position with the growth of the south american economies.

      “Bottom line” the best gun for your defense is the one in your hand, assuming it functions and you know how to use it. This chart is merely for comparison purposes and reflects my personal preferences. If you don’t carry your HD gun this exercise might be worthless to you and if your floor plan permits it I would suggest a shotgun.

  14. Josh says

    I will agree to disagree with some of the statements you made. i dont see anything wrong with a little extra safety, but i don not rely on it. As far as the rebranding, at least they have the decency to put “made in crotia” on the gun. whereas dodge/ram exhibits how american its truck is that is mostly made in mexico. i dont see the difference. does that mean a nissan titan is a better truck? not necessarily IMO. i think this is something that is done every day and it is part of the american life. we are trained to think american is the best, so companies advertise with that same mindset to sell. and if you ask anybody i think taurus is close to the bottom of the guns as far as reliability. so i dont think thats comparable.

    either way your last paragraph was nicely put and i agree

  15. tim says

    This chart is nothing more than personal preference. I am not really a big smith and wesson m&p guy. But I couldn’t tell you exactly why. They just did not impress me that well. The top vote getter was the glock 19, which I owned for years, but after shooting the walther ppq I soon realized the glock was no longer needed, but once again this is just my own opinion.The PPQ just seemed like a modern day glock, which was one hell of in improvement.

  16. 91c-20 says

    My first glock was a 19, I own 6. g-21sf, 30, 36, g-17, 19 and 26. I agree the best handgun is the one you have at the time you need it. It doesn’t matter from wherever or by whom. JUST HAVE ONE!!!

    • Joel I. says

      My SP2022 is made in the good old USA…….not sure I buy SA/DA being a disadvantage either but to each his own.

  17. Scott Shelton says

    I love your approach and would like to take your sheet and adjust the scoreing based on my desires as i am currently looking to buy my first handgun. I have seen a ton of reviews on the CZ’s that don’t line up with this. Could I talk you into sending me the sheet to save me some time on re-creating it? I feel the DA/SA is an advantage as well as Manual safety and I would like to add some newer models as well. Thanks in Advance.

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