We tested 12 compact and micro compact pistols to determine the best carry gun.

A thick veil of fog stood forever in front of me as I cruised down the highway at 6:30 in the morning. A large cup of coffee gave up a column of steam as tribute to the cool mountain air as I nervously checked my six in the rearview mirror. The day began with a vehicle stuffed with 20 pistols and more than 10,000 rounds of 9mm ammunition. We’ve all heard the news stories about the guy caught with an “arsenal” of guns and ammo in his car that later turns out to be a couple of pistols, a rifle and a few hundred rounds. As Jack Nicholson once said, “Wait until they get a load of me.” But how else do you determine the best concealed carry pistols for the year?

Best Concealed Carry Pistols

The first of a couple of days range testing to evaluate 20 compact and full-size pistols for “Ballistic’s Best of 2021” issue had arrived. I was about to meet up with four fellas from different walks of life, with a good bit of gun knowledge and skill. Jamie, David, Addison and Brad have backgrounds in law enforcement, military service, retail gun sales and gunsmithing. Throw one blowhard into the mix (me) and we had five guys with varying perspectives on what’s most important in a quality pistol.

Everyone in the group beamed with excitement, ready to make a party of it. We’re all country boys and, despite the late summer heat, it doesn’t get much better than lots of guns and ammo to shoot. But the first order of business was to set up the grill, bring out the coolers of drinks and survey the steaks, potato salad, corn on the cob, watermelon and, of course, the banana pudding. Then we started off the testing with 12 compact pistols, the subject of this article, offered up by various manufacturers. After inspecting what they were going to shoot, it didn’t take long to notice the trend.

Micro Trend

I do believe that 2021 will go down as the year of the micro-compact pistol. Sig Sauer mainstreamed the concept a few years back with the P365. But this was the first year that almost every major manufacturer had a micro-compact of their own on the market. While there were standard compact offerings from companies like Walther, Lone Wolf and Wilson Combat, it was high-capacity, micro-compact pistols that dominated our landscape as the testing began.

The other trend for the day was that every pistol was chambered in 9mm. If each of us only shot 50 rounds each from the 12 pistols, that would be 3,000 rounds fired for this article. I’ll tell you now we fired a lot more than that during the evaluation. As the reader very well knows, ammo isn’t even close to cheap these days. The only reason we were able to conduct this test so thoroughly was because of the generosity of Remington and Hornady.

Hornady and Remington both stepped up in a huge way and supplied a little over 10,000 rounds of 9mm ammunition for the two pistol articles. Sure, it’s good advertising, but both companies are already household names with shooters and a little plug from me isn’t going to move the needle much. The reps from both companies excitedly supported the project. There were no requests or demands made in trade. They simply asked how much we needed and sent it out in quick fashion. Both companies liked the idea of the extensive testing, wanting a part in informing our readers of the results from our shooting tests.


The nine criteria we used to evaluate each pistol included aesthetics, ergonomics, sights, trigger control, recoil control, reloading ease, accuracy, reliability, and value/price point. We had a rating scale of 1 to 5 for each category using quarter-point increments, mainly to avoid any ties where possible. After that, the ratings submitted by all five evaluators were averaged to calculate a final score for each category.

We judged each pistol on its own merits. We avoided doing direct comparisons as much as possible and we didn’t grade on a curve. Also, while many of the pistols had optics cuts in the slides, some with optics actually installed, we only used the iron sights when possible to have a level playing field for the accuracy results.

Finally, for the value/price point category we set “3” as the baseline. A rating of “3” is not a bad thing. It meant to us that the consumer was getting a product worth every bit of the price. A “4” meant that the package offered more perceived value than the price. A “5” meant that the package was an absolutely outstanding deal. With our testing parameters in place, our expectations calibrated and grins on our faces, we began to light up the range.

Sig Sauer P365X RZ

The SIG Sauer P365X RZ.

First on the block was the company that started the current trend, Sig Sauer. After tremendous success with the P365 and P365 XL, Sig introduced the P365X RZ this year. The “X” model is a hybrid of the P365’s shorter barrel and slide and the P365 XL’s taller frame, which natively hosts 12-round magazines. Everything good about the P365 platform is still good, including the texturing, XRAY-3 night sights, fore and aft cocking serrations, oversized triggerguard, flat-faced trigger and reversible magazine release. The trigger yields up a fairly clean, though not exceedingly crisp, break at an average of 4.75 pounds.

The P365X RZ also includes the company’s proprietary RomeoZero optic that offers either a 3- or 6-MOA red dot and has a battery life of up to 20,000 hours. To maximize battery life, the RomeZero utilizes Sig’s MOTAC system that powers up the dot when motion is detected and shuts the unit off when motion has stopped for a period of time.

The one area where several evaluators gave the P365X a significant ding was the sights, or lack thereof. The P365X RZ does not have a rear sight when the optic is installed. Instead, there is a slight notch in the rear of the RZ’s housing to align the front sight. This solution leaves something to be desired, especially for a defensive pistol when backup sights might be needed. The guys felt like the minimalist notch impacted accuracy, especially at any real distance.

Aside from that, the P365X RZ functioned flawlessly and turned out to be one of the best size-for-capacity pistols on the test bench. The P365X RZ ships with two 12-round magazines in jurisdictions where it’s allowed.

Springfield Hellcat RDP

The Springfield Armory Hellcat RDP semi-auto pistol.

Next up is the Hellcat RDP package that includes a HEX Wasp red-dot unit and a self-indexing compensator. The HEX Wasp features a sturdy housing made from 6061-T6 aluminum and incorporates a 3.5-MOA red dot. With a battery life of over 65,000 hours, the HEX Wasp’s red dot is powered on constantly and uses an auto-dimming feature to adjust dot brightness to ambient conditions. If not your cup of tea, Springfield also offers the Hellcat RDP with the Shield SMSC red-dot unit.

The iron sights are fantastic and the primary reason the Hellcat is one of my favorite stock micro-compacts. There’s a white “U” outline at the rear with a high-visibility yellow sight up front that includes a tritium insert for low-light work. The Hellcat also offers a class-leading capacity of 11+1 rounds with its standard, flush-fitting magazine with an extended 13-round magazine as an option.

The front and rear cocking serrations on the slide are fairly minimal though the texturing on the frame is quite good. It has a sandy, skateboard-tape feel to it and extends to the memory pads at the front of the triggerguard. Like many micro-compacts, the Hellcat has an accessory rail as well as a reversible magazine release.

While at the range, a couple of the guys felt the Hellcat RDP wasn’t exceptionally accurate but that could have just been the ammunition we were using. Each gun has its preference. I’ve had extensive time with the pistol for other articles and have shot one-hole groups with it at 7 and 10 yards, so it’s more than capable of dead-nuts accurate shot placement.

But where I did agree with most of them was on the trigger. It was a bit heavy and just felt stiff. My digital gauge registered the break at an average of 5.75 pounds. While this might be a good break weight for a stock pocket pistol, I just can’t help wishing the break was a bit lighter at around 4.5 pounds. The upside to the Hellcat RDP is that it’s ready out of the box to host a suppressor. Just remove the comp and you’re good to go!

S&W M&P Shield Plus

The S&W M&P Shield Plus semi-auto pistol.

Smith & Wesson jumped into the micro-compact market in 2021 with the M&P Shield Plus. Not exactly a brand new design, the Shield Plus builds on the success of the Shield 2.0 by integrating a few subtle changes. These include an increased magazine capacity of 10+1 rounds with the flush-fitting mag and 13+1 rounds with the extended mag. Additionally, the texturing was tweaked a bit for user comfort. The feel is somewhere between the original Shield and Smith’s M&P 2.0 pistols.

Perhaps the biggest and most important change with the Shield Plus is the trigger. The company did away with the hinged trigger design in favor of a flat-face version and the trigger break was improved as well. Our sample pistol’s trigger broke at an average of 4.4 pounds and it ended up being one of the better triggers of the striker-fired pistols we tested. This was more for the very clean and authoritative snap of the trigger than the pull weight. There was no mushiness or creep, just a very crisp release—for a striker-fired pistol.

The guys weren’t blown away by the white, three-dot sights on the review pistol but they are made from steel and night sights are available as an option. But there were quite a few comments about how pleasant the Shield Plus was to shoot and how controllable it was during fire. There’s just something about the pistol’s size and ergos that makes the Shield Plus easy to shoot.

Aside from those changes, everything else was the same including the hard-wearing Armornite finish and the reversible magazine release. A bonus with the tweaked design is that the Shield Plus will still fit the vast majority of holsters made for the original Shield. And while there’s not a whole lot of glitz and glam about the Shield Plus, it’s easily one of the best micro-compact pistols of the bunch.

Ruger Max 9

The Ruger MAX 9 semi-auto pistol.

There was no chance Ruger was going to be left out of the micro-compact fray, and the company did a whole bunch of things right with the Max 9. Available with or without the manual safety lever, the Max 9 comes standard with a slide cut for optics and a fiber-optic/tritium front sight that’s easily visible in both daylight and low-light conditions. Additionally, the nicely-sized sights co-witness with JPoint or Shield-style micro-red-dot optics. Oh, and the Max 9 also boasts a 10-round capacity for the standard magazine, as well.

The slide and barrel wear a black oxide finish and the mag release is reversible for left-handed shooters. Speaking of which, controls like the magazine release and the slide stop are a little skimpy but Ruger makes up for it with how well the pistol handles during fire and with the really nice trigger pull. The sample unit’s trigger measured an average of 4.75 pounds at the break and the pull was very clean and grit-free.

Though the grip looks a little boxy, it’s extremely comfortable. Every single evaluator lauded the Max 9’s controllability, very impressed with its accuracy. One of our testers, David, was shooting one-hole groups at 7 yards with the pint-sized heater. The only issue we ran into was that the magazine release was small and a little hard to engage, and the 10-round magazine didn’t want to fall free on its own at times. It may have just been an issue with that one particular magazine since there was no problem getting the 12-rounder to pop free.

The Ruger Max 9 brought a lot to the table in regard to features and performance, especially in comparison to other pistols in the test. While it wasn’t the least expensive pistol on the table, there’s no question that it’s action-packed with value and very worthy of being at your side.

Taurus GX4

The Taurus GX4 semi-auto pistol.

The new Taurus GX4 is another micro-compact that checks the value box. It doesn’t bring a lot of bells and whistles to the table but it offers a very competent package at a relatively low price point. The GX4 is a striker-fired offering that comes equipped with two, 11-round magazines where allowed. It includes a flat-faced trigger and a generously sized magazine release for easy engagement, and it also ships with two different backstraps to tweak the fit for the user.

Up top, the slide wears a gas-nitride finish along with front and rear cocking serrations, and the sight package is a fairly minimalist arrangement. The rear sight comes blacked out and serrated, while the front sight features a relatively small white dot. Underneath, the frame has a subtle texturing on the grip and at the front of the triggerguard. Despite all the angles on the frame, the GX4 is still very comfortable in the hand.

The GX4 was absolutely reliable during the range trials, with a few different ammo types thrown in the mix. Addison and David were both impressed with the GX4’s handling and the relatively flat recoil impulse. Addison was particularly impressed with the pistol’s accuracy despite the minimal sight package. The GX4’s trigger wasn’t the best in the world, with the break weight averaging around 6 pounds. But that’s forgivable when considering its MSRP of $392.42.

More than likely, the street price of the GX4 will be right around the $300 mark. Given the pistol’s reliability, accuracy and controllability during fire, it’s the perfect choice for someone on a budget looking for a no-frills pistol that delivers the goods. The GX4 does that in spades and is absolutely worth your attention.


The SCCY DVG-1 RD semi-auto pistol.

Another budget-friendly offering was the SCCY DVG-1 RD, the company’s first striker-fired pistol. Modeled after the CPX form factor, the DVG-1’s new striker-fired operating system significantly improves the user’s shooting experience with a lighter trigger pull than the traditional DAO model. One feature that facilitates this improved experience is the flat trigger that offers a different angle and better leverage for the pull.

The pistol that we received for review was the DVG-1 RD which has a milled slide and a red-dot optic installed. This option adds $100 to the standard model’s $299 MSRP. On its website, SCCY specifies a Crimson Trace CTS 1500 as the installed optic but the pistol we received had another, unknown unit mounted on the slide. While the standard model has a three-dot sight arrangement, the DVG-1 RD simply had a front sight with a notch cut out in the back of the red dot to align with the front sight.

Other upgrades to the DVG-1 RD were front cocking serrations on the slide and a reduced grip circumference for improved comfort and control. The DVG-1 still utilizes SCCY’s Quad Lock barrel system as well as a nitride finish for solid wear and corrosion resistance. It ships with two 10-round magazines.

All of the evaluators were impressed with the 5.6-pound trigger pull, with Brad even noting that it was a “vast improvement” over the DAO model. Despite being slenderer, the grip is still ample enough for a solid grip and recoil control was as good as anything we tried that day. The reliability was also as good as anything else on the line. The biggest ding was the lack of rear sight on the DVG-1 RD. The notch in the red-dot did not offer a good view of the front sight, making shot placement more difficult.

All in all, the DVG-1 is a nice jump forward for SCCY, with both small tweaks and more impactful changes that make it a much better option and a better value for its price. For someone on a more restrictive budget, the DVG-1 is a solid choice and will absolutely get the job done.

Mossberg MC2sc

The Mossberg MC2sc semi-auto pistol.

The latest micro-compact to hit the scene is Mossberg’s MC2sc, and it has a few tricks up its sleeve. Building on the success of the MC1sc, Mossberg bumped the MC2sc’s capacity up to 11+1 rounds and 14+1 rounds with the extended magazine. This was done with only a modest .07-inch increase in the pistol’s width. Another bonus of the MC2sc is the optics-ready slide that will accommodate Shield-pattern footprints and others with adapter plates.

The MC2sc retains the excellent, aggressive grip texturing of the MC1sc as well as the hardy DLC finish on the slide. Substantial serrations at the front and the rear offer easy engagement and manipulation, while the reversible mag release accommodates left-handed shooters. Another holdover from the MC1sc is Mossberg’s Safe Takedown System that allows the user to easily remove the striker for safer disassembly and cleaning.

Of all the pistols in this evaluation, I’d have to say the MC2sc’s trigger is the most Glock-like of the bunch. The trigger has the same “sproingy” feel but it didn’t have the mush and creep I associate with most Glock pistols. The break was authoritative and crisp at an average of 5.25 pounds, and the reset was quite positive with an audible click and a nice little pop to it.

The texturing on the magazine release is the best I’ve felt on any release to date. It felt like my thumb was really grabbing it during engagement. Conversely, the sights were a little pedestrian, being a white, three-dot arrangement, though they were very serviceable. However, Mossberg offer’s Truglo’s Tritium Pro sights as an option.

Accuracy was a high point for most of the evaluators while ease of reloading, trigger control and ergonomics were other points brought up in the discussion. The only modern feature a couple of them felt was missing was an accessory rail, but that sword cuts both ways. The lack of a rail with a laser or light makes the MC2sc even more concealable, but everything’s a trade-off. The MC2sc is a very capable package that’s proven to be accurate and very reliable, and it’s an easy choice to make it part of the carry rotation.

Walther PDP Compact

The Walther PDP Compact semi-auto pistol.

If you’re a fan of the sublime and great ergonomics, then the new Walther PDP Compact might be the perfect choice as your new carry pistol. The PDP Compact has a shorter frame that natively hosts 15-round magazines. It comes in two flavors, one with a 4-inch barrel and another with a 5-inch barrel that doesn’t…well, seem very compact to me. But what do I know? The review unit for this evaluation was the 4-inch version and it has everything you could want in a modern fighting pistol.

An optics-ready slide is standard for all PDP models as are the very aggressive SuperTerrain slide serrations. Other features include a Picatinny rail, a generously sized, American-style magazine release that is reversible for lefties (no, not liberal lefties), and an oversized triggerguard to accommodate gloved hands. Southpaws will also appreciate the ambidextrous slide-stop/release lever that operates just as well on either side. Some pistols with ambi slide releases don’t function as easily on the off side.

The biggest selling points, however, are the PDP’s trigger and the phenomenal grip. The Performance Duty Trigger has a quarter-inch of pre-travel before it hits the wall. Then there’s an extra-crispy, highly satisfying break at an average of 3.75 pounds of pressure according to my Lyman digital gauge. That’s about as good as it gets for a striker-fired pistol. And the grip incorporates the contours from previous generations as well as the texturing from the Q4 SF and Q5 SF models. For me, it’s absolutely perfect, but I suppose it depends on the size of the individual shooter’s hands.

During the range trials, the PDP Compact got high marks for ergos, trigger control, ease of reloading, accuracy and reliability. One or two of the testers felt the pistol was a little flippy during recoil due to the extra mass of the slide, but that did not detract from user comfort or recoil absorption. The biggest ding on the PDP Compact was for the tiny, white-dot sights. Part of the reason for the smaller dots is to make the rear sight adjustable to dial in the user’s preferred load. But they were still small and not very quick to pick up when drawing down on the target.

The PDP Compact offers the complete package, from superior ergonomics to capacity to the ability to accessorize with optics and other accessories. An added bonus is that any PDP slide will fit on any size PDP frame. So, if Walther doesn’t offer the configuration you want, you can build it for yourself.

Zev Z365 Octane

The ZEV Technologies Z365 Octane pistol.

Zev Technologies is all about taking a solid product and making it even better, and that’s just what they did with the Z365 Octane. Using Sig’s P365 platform, the folks at Zev only made a few upgrades, but boy did those upgrades make a difference. The biggest upgrade is the Titanium Gray, custom slide manufactured by Zev. In addition to the visually appealing machining such as the serrations on top and on the sides, there’s an optics-ready slide cut for popular red-dots like the Shield RMSC and the Holosun HS407K. Sig Sauer doesn’t offer that option currently for the P365.

Additionally, Zev threw in a different sight package that features a small fiber-optic pipe up front and a blacked-out and serrated rear sight that stays in place when an optic is installed. Another perk of the custom slide is its reduced weight, which translates to flatter shooting and less muzzle flip, helping the shooter stay on target for follow-up shots. Zev also replaced the factory barrel with the Z365 Pro barrel that sports a DLC finish. Everything else, including the trigger, remained the same.

While these changes may not sound like much, all of the testers commented on how much better the Z365 Octane shot than the P365X RZ we had on hand. Addison and Dave complimented the reduced muzzle flip. Meanwhile, Brad appreciated the improved accuracy of the Z365 Pro barrel. A few of them mentioned that the magazines were stiff and a little tough to load but they were Sig factory magazines, so not really a ding on Zev.

While I concurred with the guys’ opinions about the improved shootability, I had a tough time with the very tiny fiber-optic sight up front. I wish the company would make the fiber-optic piece at least a little bigger to make it easier to pick up quickly. There was a bit of a debate about whether the upgrades were worth the MSRP of $1,154, and the consensus was that Zev should have included an upgraded trigger at that price. However, there was no question that the Z365 Octane was a significant step up from the standard P365 and it’s well worth a look if you want something a little different and you want to squeeze every drop of performance you can out of the P365 platform.

Lone Wolf LTD19 V2

The Lone Wolf LTD19 V2 pistol.

With a more standard-sized compact, Lone Wolf offered up its new LTD19 V2 for review. It’s a sleek and spacy looking pistol with its two-tone appearance, though a solid back version is available. The LTD19 V2 includes unique and very effective cocking serrations at the front of the slide as well as a V-cut up front that allows the barrel to protrude just a bit for a little visual appeal.

The LTD19 V2 is a Glock clone that incorporates the company’s Timberwolf frame that is thinner than a Glock frame for an improved purchase on the pistol. It also boasts a lower weight overall, thanks to the reduced mass of the slide, which allows the pistol to shoot a bit flatter than a standard Glock. At the bottom of the frame, there’s a magwell installed that has a rather abrupt transition from the grip instead of a gentle slope. A couple of guys, including myself, felt like our fingers were a little cramped while shooting.

The guys were impressed with the pistol’s accuracy when the shooting began, but the LTD19 V2 was the only pistol in the group that experienced any malfunctions. It had several failures to feed with both magazines. We couldn’t pin down the exact cause but it could have simply been a one-off issue with this particular pistol. It happens and it’s usually a simple fix.

The sample pistol we received had Lone Wolf’s “Melt” treatment, which is simply a milled slide for red-dot optics. The “Melt” versions have the slide drilled out for the specific red-dot you want to use. This treatment adds $100 to the $699 MSRP for the LTD19 V2 but a cover plate does not come with the “Melt” model. The LTD19 V2 ships with standard Glock sights and two Glock factory magazines

I liked the generously sized, reversible magazine release and the design of the slide stop/release, which was easy to actuate, though not ambidextrous. The trigger was a tad bit heavy at an average of 5.75 pounds for the break, but it was quite crisp for a striker-fired pistol. Overall, the LTD19 is a fairly competent package with some good stuff to like provided the feed issues were an anomaly isolated to this one pistol.

Kimber R7 Mako

The Kimber R7 Mako micro compact.

The absolute surprise of the day was Kimber’s R7 Mako that just came out of left field. You know that look family members give each other when the drunk, off-tune aunt wants to sing Karaoke? That’s the look the guys gave each other when I brought out the R7 Mako, but it didn’t take long to make each of them a believer.

The R7 Mako looks and feels quite a bit like a smaller Glock 26 with its stubby grip and chonky slide. But that’s where the similarities end. It ships with an 11-round magazine as well as an extended 13-round magazine for a slightly longer grip and better purchase for recoil control. The R7 is available either with an optics-ready slide for Shield-pattern red dots or it can be had with a Crimson Trace CT-1500 already installed. It also includes a fantastic set of Truglo Tritium Pro sights that have an orange sight up front with white sights at the rear for a terrific contrast. These sights will co-witness with the Shield-pattern red dots.

The R7 Mako includes a couple of unique features including a rear-mounted lug on the barrel that minimizes the unlock angle to improve reliability and to assist with recoil mitigation. It also has a shrouded ejection port that’s intended to protect a mounted optic as well as minimize the amount of debris that can enter. If that’s not enough goodness for you, the R7 Mako also incorporates fully ambidextrous controls including the magazine release and the slide stop/release. And Kimber tops that off with very grippy texturing that covers almost the entire frame.

The R7 Mako proved an absolute hit with everyone. It had the least amount of felt recoil of all the micro-compacts we shot and the trigger was exceptional. Kimber specifies the trigger at between 5 and 6.75 pounds, but the model we had broke consistently at an average of 3.75 pounds. It felt different than the PDP Compact’s trigger pull but was every bit as good, if not better. Addison even said, “That trigger really sneaks up on you.” There’s barely a millimeter of pre-travel and then the best break I’ve felt on a striker-fired pistol.

For a company that specializes in 1911s, I’m amazed by what Kimber was able to achieve with the R7 Mako. From the capacity to the sights to the texturing to the ambi controls and the handling during fire, Kimber just did everything right with this pistol including the price. Without the optic, the R7 Mako has an MSRP of $599. Considering the street price will be even cheaper than that, it’s chock full of value. Kimber knocked it out of the part with this at-bat, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Wilson Combat SFX9

The Wilson Combat SFX9 semi-auto pistol.

Speaking of doing things right, the folks at Wilson Combat know how to build phenomenal pistols that are exceptionally boring at the same time. You know what I mean? Boringly accurate, boringly reliable, and the list goes on and on. The only thing that isn’t boring is the price. The new SFX9 has an MSRP of $2,895, but the top-tier features of the pistol are legion and the performance is commensurate with the price of admission.

The SFX9 we received was the HC 3.25-inch version, which has a taller frame that takes 15-round magazines. The “SF” series of pistols features a solid frame that has the “grips” integrally machined into the frame itself. This reduces width and adds strength to the overall package.

Other high points include a fluted, conical barrel that sports a recessed crown and a plethora of Wilson’s bulletproof parts such as the hammer, safety and magazine release. The frame incorporates the company’s enhanced-reliability rails as well the proprietary X-Tac treatment on the front and backstraps. The tri-top slide offers 30 LPI serrations on top as well as a DLC finish, carry cuts and a heavy chamfer at the bottom. Throw in Wilson’s Concealment Battle Sight with a fiber-optic front sight and you’re ready to roll.

It was no surprise that the WC SFX9 saw the most use during the testing process. Everyone wanted to keep shooting it again and again. It’s not every day most folks get to shoot a $3K pistol, and one that performs incredibly well to boot. The action was buttery smooth and the trigger was simply superb, breaking at just a hair over 3 pounds. David and Jamie remarked about how accurately the pistol shot and they weren’t wrong. I tested the SFX9 extensively and 0.75-inch groups at 7 yards were the norm for a variety of ammunition types.

Yes, the WC SFX9 HC 3.5 is a little pricey, but the folks at Wilson used all of that headroom wisely to produce a pistol that shoots, operates and handles as good as it looks. If you’ve got the bankroll for it, it’s absolutely worth every penny.

Dinner Conversation

While scarfing down the steak, potato salad, grilled corn on the cob and some banana pudding, we all had a chance to talk things over and compare notes. When the group was asked which one was their favorite micro-compact, Jamie and David chose the Ruger Max 9 while Brad picked the Z365 Octane and Addison selected the GX4. My favorite was the R7 Mako.

When discussing the best pistol to carry concealed in a belt holster, David and Jamie picked the Kimber R7 Mako. Brad and Addison both chose the M&P Shield Plus. My choice was the Walther PDP Compact. It should be noted that almost everyone would rather carry the Wilson SFX9, but the price is prohibitive for most of them. When it came to the best value of the group, considering performance and features, the verdict was unanimous. The nod went to the Ruger Max 9. However, it’s worth pointing out that the R7 Mako is only $40 more (w/no optic), making it a fantastic value as well.

It’s hard to go wrong with almost any pistol that we evaluated. Each one had its strengths and almost none of them had any significant weaknesses. Whether you’re looking for a premium stock pistol, a high-end custom or an accurate and dead-nuts reliable value gun, there’s something at every price point that will absolutely meet your needs.

Unfortunately, there can only be one overall winner, and it was a very close decision. The Kimber R7 Mako is just an incredibly good pistol, even more so with it’s non-optic MSRP of $599. It checked all the boxes that someone could want in a quality carry gun and threw a few extras in for good measure. That’s not just lip service either. After trying it out and weighing it against everything else in the test group, it’s going to be my next purchase.

Despite 2021 being a banner year for micro-compacts, in the end, it was the Wilson Combat SFX9 that took the top spot for the compacts category, and deservedly so. Aside from all the top-tier components and exceptional craftsmanship, the SFX9 has some of those intangible qualities that you recognize when you shoot it but that are hard to describe. The SFX9 is a seamless, synergetic blend of features and performance that is found only in the absolute best pistols of their class. And for the year 2021, it’s also Ballistic’s Best of the compacts category.

This article first ran in the December 2021/January 2022 issue of Ballistic Magazine. Get your copy at OutdoorGroupStore.com.

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