A reliable carry gun doesn’t have to break the bank. You can opt to spend extra coin on a beautifully machined and visually stunning wonder gun, but you don’t have to. There are plenty of solid carry guns on the market with street prices well under $600.

Here are a few 9mm compacts that have done well in our testing.

1. Smith & Wesson M&P Shield

While the Smith & Wesson Shield is also available in .40 S&W, I’d choose the 9mm version for two reasons. First, with either the standard or extended magazine, you get one more round (7+1 or 8+1 for the 9mm models). Second, and more importantly, the 9mm version is much easier to control. Empty, this is a 19-ounce gun and physics are physics when it comes to recoil. While most people can fit all three firing-hand fingers on the Shield, it’s still a bit of a handful when using higher-pressure and heavier bullet-weight .40 S&W ammo.

I also like that the Shield is available in a variety of models to fit user preferences. You can order one with or without a manual safety lever according to your comfort level. California- and Massachusetts-compliant models are available, too. You can also order models with factory-installed Crimson Trace Laserguards.

This Alien Gear convertible IWB / OWB holster worked well with the Shield and was shaped to accommodate a Crimson Trace Laserguard.
This Alien Gear convertible IWB / OWB holster worked well with the Shield and was shaped to accommodate a Crimson Trace Laserguard.

I like to carry Speer’s Gold Dot Short Barrel ammunition in this one. The +P 124-grain loads will exceed 1,100 feet per second, and the bonded core projectiles expand reliably. The Alien Gear Cloak Tuck convertible IWB / OWB holster is a great complement.

2. Ruger LC9s Pro

When I first checked out the Ruger LC9 a few years ago, I loved the form factor. It was compact and featured a well-rounded profile that just felt right. I wasn’t nearly so crazy about the controls, mainly the double-action trigger. Don’t get me wrong—I like a good double-action trigger. I just didn’t particularly care for that one.

Ruger fixed all that with the LC9s striker-fired model. It’s more or less a complete redesign of the fire control system. Now it’s a fine-handling little carry gun. The new Pro model has a trigger that’s even more crisp than the LC9s, so it’s up to you to decide on your trigger-weight preference and choose the appropriate striker-fired model.

Weighing just a tad over 17 ounces empty, this carry gun holds seven 9mm rounds in the magazine plus one in the chamber. At 6 inches long and 4.5-inches tall, you can easily conceal this one inside the waistband or in a pocket.

3. Springfield Armory XD-S Essential

The Springfield Armory XD-S is one of my favorite compact carry guns. I own one in 9mm and another in .45 ACP. Both are thin, easy to carry, and allow a full grip using all the fingers.

To me, the standout features are its flat profile, which makes IWB carry a piece of cake and the grip safety. If you like the trigger operation of a striker-fired carry gun but are nervous about inadvertent discharge, then perhaps you’ll appreciate the grip safety feature. Unlike a manually-operated safety like on the Smith & Wesson Shield, this one requires no conscious operation. Just assume a normal firing grip and the grip safety is disengaged. The trigger is crisp, and I’ve found the 9mm to be plenty reliable over thousands of rounds. I shot the heck out of both 9mm and .45 ACP models while writing The Insanely Practical Guide to the Springfield Armory XD-S and grew to love them.

The combination of the thin profile of the XD-S and comfort of the N82 Tactical holster make this pairing easy to carry inside the waistband.
The combination of the thin profile of the XD-S and comfort of the N82 Tactical holster make this pairing easy to carry inside the waistband.

Try this one using an N82 Tactical holster for IWB carry or a Galco Pocket Protector for pants or jacket carry. For ammo, this gun will comfortably handle most anything you like. Currently, I’m carrying Barnes TAC-XPD 115-grain +P ammo. It clocks over 1,000 feet per second from the smaller guns and expansion performance is excellent.

4. Glock 43

The Glock 43 9mm was arguably late to the party, as was its ever-so-slightly smaller sibling, the Glock 42 in .380 ACP. With similar weight and dimension to the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield and Ruger LC9s, it holds one less round, with a capacity of six in the magazine plus one in the chamber.

Like the others here, the Glock 43 is a single stack design. It has lower capacity, but is easy to conceal.
Like the others here, the Glock 43 is a single-stack design. It has lower capacity, but is easy to conceal.

While the price is on the high side, it’s a pleasant gun to shoot. I find it to have a more hand-friendly rounded contour than most larger Glock models and recoil is perfectly manageable. Most people won’t mind shooting this gun for fun, too, and that’s a good thing.

If you’re looking for a slightly more manageable caliber, consider the Glock 42. It’s only slightly smaller overall, owing to the cartridge dimension differences.

I found the Glock 43 comfortable to shoot. Note the more rounded grip profile as compared to larger Glock pistols.
I found the Glock 43 comfortable to shoot. Note the more rounded grip profile as compared to larger Glock pistols.

One thing you can count on with both of these Glocks is the near-infinite choices of compatible holsters and gear. As for ammo, check out the 9mm 77-grain Lead-free ammo from DoubleTap Ammunition. These light-for-caliber bullets are designed specifically to expand and penetrate properly when operating at lower velocity from compact guns. Even when fired from guns with three to three and a half-inch barrels, you’ll get 1,400 feet per second velocity. I’ve tested them with the FBI heavy fabric with ballistic gelatin and observed 10 to 11 inches of penetration and expansion to .65 inches.

There are certainly 9mm handgun options for even less money, but if you prefer a proven brand and large market presence, you can still find reliable options for less than $600 on the street.

Tom McHale is the author of the Insanely Practical Guides book series that guides new and experienced shooters alike in a fun, approachable, and practical way. His books are available in print and eBook format on Amazon.

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19 thoughts on “4 Best 9mm Compact Carry Handguns Under $600

  1. CZ RAMI! 9mm, 10+1 standard capacity with 14 rd backup mag capacity. That and a Hi Point 9mm carbine (around $300.00 new) constitute my “isis welcome kit” which I carry around with me everywhere I go. The RAMI IWB and the carbine in my vehicle. If someone steals the carbine, I file a report and go buy another rather than risking my DDM4v7 in which I have close to $2,000.00. Figure I can use the RAMI and Carbine to fight my way to my real battle weaponry should situation arise.

    At least I’ve got a plan.

  2. Take a look at the Taurus PT111 Millenium G2. Chambered in 9 mm. Comes with 2 12 round magazines. Good ergonomics, and a very comfortable grip. Can be found for less than $250, and currently has a $50 mail in rebate. Also has a lifetime warranty, and comes with a free 1 year NRA membership.

  3. I am a retired police officer who has applied for and armed security guard position.
    This position is with the sheriff’s dept.
    Anyway, part of the application process was being able to shoot.
    The applicants have to shoot with their weapon of choice, which happens to be a Glock 43.
    They give you a few practice rounds.
    Then we had to shoot.
    I could not believe how smooth and the lack of recoil that the pistol functions at..
    I think that that pistol should rate right at the top of the list .
    I have not fired a pistol in over one year and I put most in the X ring.

  4. How about the Walther C C P ? It has a really good grip and their “soft-coil ” system really works , lighter recoil and easier to rack slide !

  5. I carry a Glock 17 everyday, all day and never even notice it’s there. With mag extensions. My mags hold 20 rounds of Cor-Bon 125gr. +P JHP. My advise is carry what you shoot the best and are the most comfortable with. A lot of CHL holders I know shoot other weapons during range time other than their carry gun. Train,Train,Train. Semper Fi.

  6. All nice guns, and all have their applications. I would be comfortable with any of them.

    Of course, my wife and I are both full size carry purists whenever possible. For her, she can carry her Beretta 92 in her concealed carry purse (sorry for all the anti-off body types, there is no possible way she can carry any other way), and I carry my G21 in my Crossbreed IWB with my PF9 as a BUG. The only time I carry a compact is if there is just no practical way to carry a full size.

  7. He left out the sccy cpx pistols which retail at around $300.also the taurus curve 380 and Pt 22 or bursa thunder I think this list could be loger and there are some fantastic pistols for under $600 that he just left out.

  8. I’ll second the sccy.

    In my alien gear holster I forget that it is there.

    Also, you can use S&W 5906 mags with a little mod with your dremel tool(mag catch).

  9. I firmly believe the HK VP9 is the best carry pistol there is and stake my life on it everyday. 9mm, large capacity, medium size, polymer so light weight, and 1/2 the price of other H/K…also, no hammer.

  10. One that has been over-looked that must be considered is the Taurus G2 Millennium in 9mm — totally badass and with the current rebate it rolls in at about $225-$250 — It goes toe to toe with any on this list including the G-43 (which I also own) — totally fabulous grip with abrasive nice inserts. This one is in it’s own league for the money spent.

    1. That’s been my experience as well. It’s also been that way for my Springfields, S&W’s, Sigs, Kimbers and Kahrs, Rugers and FN’s. They’re all putting out very reliable and accurate firearms so it just boils down to personal preference.

  11. I just sold my Shield. Was not for me. But I LOVE my Glock 43. Not a fan of the Springfield. Have seen too many people have too many problems with the grip safety when under stress. And this is stress from a timer during competition – imagine what would happen in a life or death situation.

  12. I paid $540 for my G26, more then a year ago, (June 2015), been my primary carry pistol, I shot the G42, before I purchased the G26, I did not like the grip for some reason. I shoot the G19 in IDPA competitions, which why I guess I settled on the G26. I did purchase a used M&P 40C, then converted it to 9mm, trial phase, before I purchase a new M&P 9C, the shield is appealing based on price. Funny thing about some of the single stacks I have not considered. (G42 and Shield), is the my alternative “go to” carry pistol has always been my Firestar M43, which I think I really don’t want to replace.

  13. My comment isn’t so much about the carry firearms, however I would replace the Ruger with a Walther PPS-LE, it is about the woman in the picture. When she cross-draws she is muzzling everything from where the gun is pointed when she puts her hand on it in her purse, to the point at which it is pointed at the “bad guy”. The picture may make women think that is a safe way to purse carry.

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