3 Popular Single-Stack Pistols for Concealed Carry
Back before Sig Sauer changed the game and made everyone gaga over 11+ rounds in a sub-compact setup with the P365, the hottest thing under the sun was polymer single-stack 9mm pistols for concealed carry. While you can get more rounds in the newest sub-compact double-stack pistols, these older single-stack pistols still have tremendous value for concealed carriers.
I got a couple single-stack 9mm pistols from yesteryear out of the Guns.com Vault to see how they still stack up and if they might be right for you.
I decided to dive into three different single stacks that all have a similar round capacity. I also wanted to make sure that we took a look at widely available options from reputable companies. With those guidelines, I decided to look at the Glock G43, the S&W M&P 9 Shield, and the Ruger LC9s. All three guns are consistently among the most popular single-stack pistols sold on Guns.com, with the Shield and the G43x being among our top 10 best-selling pistols in 2020.
For full transparency, I’m really comparing the Glock and Ruger, which I just recently received from the Guns.com Vault, to the Shield, which has been my carry gun for the last several years. I’m currently in the process of looking for a new carry gun, but the Shield has treated me well over the years. It has been rock-solid reliable and a rather comfortable carry gun. I’ve put thousands of rounds through my Shield, so I certainly know it better. Still, you may be surprised by how it compares to the others listed.
When it comes to capacity, both the Ruger and Shield have a standard capacity of 7+1, while the G43 is 6+1. When I bought my Shield years ago, it came with an extra mag that had an extended capacity of 8+1. The Glock, being from the Guns.com Vault, comes with a Vickers Tactical +2 extension. So it can go to the full 8+1 like the Shield, but it also makes the Glock slightly taller than the Shield.
The shortest barrel length goes to the Shield, while the shortest overall length goes to the LC9s. Because of the smaller capacity, the G43 has the shortest height of all the options. Finally, the lightest of the bunch happens to be the Ruger, with an unloaded weight of 17.2 ounces.
Grip & Texture
Since all of these pistols were designed for IWB concealed carry, they are all lightweight and minimalist in appearance and feel. Both the S&W and the Glock have minimal texturing on the grip. I can now see why we have so many Glocks come into the Guns.com Vault with grip tape or custom stippling. If you’re someone who likes minimal grip texture, then the Glock Gen 5 is for you. However, a Glock might not be for you if you’re looking for something a little more “grippy” to hold on to – unless you want to pay for upgrades.
My Shield doesn’t provide anything much better than the Glock, with only minimal texturing on the back and front of the gun. It’s really a toss-up between the two for me, but I would ideally like more grip texture. I can attest that after long, hot days of training at the range with hundreds of rounds through the Shield, sweaty hands make me wish for something a little more.
The Ruger gives the least amount of purchase area for your grip, but probably has the best grip texture of the three guns. As with everything in concealed carry, there is always a compromise.
The Shield and G43 both fill the hands nicely and leave a little room for the support hand. I get the best two-handed grip with my Shield, followed by the Glock, and the Ruger grip feels a little “crowded.”
Controls and Functionality
Since these are all relatively budget-friendly, entry-level pistols for concealed carry, I didn’t expect anything overly impressive about the controls or functionality. The Glock has the shortest reach to the trigger. Both the G43 and the Shield have very conveniently located mag releases, which are easy to actuate and shoot the mags out. The Ruger … not so much. Not only is Ruger’s mag release button considerably smaller than its counterparts, it’s also a little sticky. It should be noted that this particular Ruger is a brand-new gun, and it is getting a little less sticky as time goes on. But it’s a concern compared to the other two.
The other control of note is the slide stop/slide release. For both the S&W and the Glock, it works fine and is easy enough to use with a single hand. For the Ruger, the slide release is an issue. Make no mistake, the gun locks back fine upon an empty chamber every time. However, the slide release functionality is more or less useless. You’ll need to rack the slide back for the Ruger, unlike the other two.
The G43 has aftermarket night sights on it, since it’s a Certified Used Gun, so it has hands down the best sights of the three right now. I’ve had my Shield so long now that the sights have dulled significantly and an upgrade to the AmeriGlo-style night sights (like the used G43) would be a welcome addition. The LC9s has the standard three-dot white sights, which are smaller than the other two but good enough to get the job done.
Finally, the Shield has a manual safety on it. That is something I wish I wouldn’t have gotten on the gun, but that is another article for a different day. The G43 is the only model without a manual safety.
Just like the functionality and controls, don’t expect to be blown away by any of the triggers in this group. They are all certainly good enough to get the job done for concealed carry with enough training. I would say the Glock had the best trigger for me of the three. There is some mush to get through before the wall with the Glock trigger. But then it’s a firm break and a short trigger reset with a nice tactile feel. That is the biggest advantage of the Glock trigger when compared to the other two triggers.
By comparison, the Shield trigger has mush getting through to the reset, and then the reset point isn’t nearly as tactile as the G43. The LC9s had probably the least favorable reset. It almost has a false reset point right before the actual reset. This would take a lot of training for me to get used to, but I’ve gotten pretty used to my Shield. So there is no reason I wouldn’t be able to do the same with the LC9s.
All three guns have passive trigger safeties built into their design. Despite far fewer hours behind the G43, I actually shot that the best. I think the improved sights and the better feel of the trigger allowed me to shoot it better.
All three of these guns have proven to be extremely popular for personal defense work. With enough training and time behind the gun, any one of these could be a solid concealed carry gun. If I had to pick one today, I would probably choose the G43. It fits my hands nicely, has proven reliability, the controls are easy to use, and I shot it the best. With the addition of the newer night sights, additional third-party accessories available, and a bevy of holster manufacturers, the G43 is an easy model to get started with.
That said, I still love my Shield and will never part with it, mostly because it has sentimental value. Whatever gun you choose for your concealed carry journey, be sure to find a quality instructor and train with your gun. The best concealed carry gun in the world can’t replace hours of training on the range, which is the most valuable gift to give yourself.