Is it good to have a small one? - Review of contemporary micro-compacts
There is a simple saying among everyday gun users: better to have a small pistol in a pocket than a full-size one at home. The times when more than 1kg steel holding 6-8 rounds had to be tied to a belt to carry a gun are gone forever. We live in the age of polymer, modern production technologies, metallurgy and so on. The performance of the old Wonder Nine's can now be squeezed out of the microcompacts, which will not raise the following question for a girl: "You have a gun in your pants, are you so happy to see me?" (Why not both?)
To review wearable pistols, because this is what this text is supposed to be, you have to set some guidelines, because there are currently many options to choose from. Therefore, I will focus on the reliable semi-automatic pistols with a polymer frame, in which the standard magazine holds at least 10 rounds of 9x19 mm ammunition.
Why those particular guidelines? The year is 2021, no one is wearing revolvers anymore that are wide and heavy for what they offer. Likewise, no one wears a .380 ACP anymore, because pocket 9mms have become so diminished that it makes no sense to take away the extra muzzle energy. Again, no one who takes this subject seriously wears micro-compacts with a metal frame, because their weight and capacity contradict the whole concept.
Four guns are left. These are the Glock 43X, the SIG Sauer P365, the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield Plus and the Springfield Armory Hellcat. All of them have appeared on the market in the last 5 years, they are all hammerless pistols with a partially self-cocking trigger mechanism. All of them also make a sensation on the market of weapons for everyday use and outclass solutions that are heavier, have less capacity, are in a smaller caliber, and so on.
The Glock 43X had its premiere at the SHOT Show in 2019. Two models appeared at once, the 43X and the 48. Both are a derivative of the earlier 43 and 42 models (the latter in the .380 ACP). How do they differ from their predecessors? Well, with the capacity and the resulting changes in the frame, and in the case of the G48, also with the slide.
The grip of the pistol was slightly widened, which allowed for a new magazine to be inserted there, which instead of 6 holds 10 rounds of 9x19 mm. This resulted in a kind of combination of the dimensions of the Glock 26 (slide and barrel) with the Glock 19 (grip), all about an inch thick. The Glock 48 is a version with an extended slide and barrel, which is a bit like a flat Glock 19. The grip became more universal, because the one in 43 and 42 was simply microscopic. Nowadays, even a small woman is able to properly press the trigger by applying force straight to back and a peasant with big hands will not lose the short grip between the fingers.
Recently, there is also a version with the original G43X/48 Rail accessory rail, which can be used with two flashlights - the Streamlight TLR-7 SUB and the Surefire XSc. The Streamlight TLR-6 fits the model without a rail, but it has 100 lumens and a weak laser. It's not 2005, so buy the one with the rail if necessary. There is also, of course, the MOS version, i.e. adapted to the attachment of microcollimators, but the really micro ones made for the spacing of the Shield RMSc holes. Therefore we can us either this one, the Holosun 407k or the Trijicon RMR CC. Only the last two are noteworthy on a pistol, which is supposed to save lives if necessary, due to the relatively high resistance to mechanical damage.
I must admit that I am a bit of a Glock fanboy and I do not hide it. And I'll tell you why. For the G43X/48 there are FIFTEEN round capacity Shield Arms magazines available that do not protrude beyond the outline of the weapon. This allows for a miniature package, with a strong flashlight, a reliable collimator, a reliable full grip and the capacity of a Glock 19. It is true that with a waist suit it will not sound like the microscopic Ruger LCP. Well, some compromises have to be made.
"But wait!" - you ask - "After all these additions, this Glock will cost a small fortune?" And the answer is - Yes, that's right.
SIG Sauer P365
The whole boom for microcompacts in the 9mm range with a relatively large magazine capacity began, in fact, with the SIG P365, which made a sensation at the SHOT Show 2018. It was the first model that combined the dimensions of a pistol normally holding 6 or 7 rounds - with two-digit magazine capacity. The magazine with a flat floor plate in the small SIG could hold 10 9x19 mm rounds, and could be extended up to 12. This was achieved by using a "one and a half-stack" magazine, where the cartridges are arranged in a column overlapping with the outline as in a double-row, but only touching two adjacent cartridges as in a single-stack magazine. Anyway, it doesn't matter.
The SIG P365, like any completely new design, was affected by infancy problems. The units from the first few production series broke their firing pins. This was due to the firing pin retracting too slowly into its channel after a shot. As a result of this disadvantage, when unlocking the slide, the firing pin left a characteristic deep scratch in the primer, which eventually led to the tip being chipped. This problem has now been almost completely eliminated by using firing pins made of a different material and hardened in a different way. It is also absent from the P365 XL variant, which is characterized by a slower slide cycle leaving more time for the firing pin to retract.
After several years of development, 5 varieties of this gun are available. The classic P365 Micro-Compact, the P365X RomeoZero with a slightly longer grip than the XL version, a larger magazine capacity and a factory-mounted microcollimator, the aforementioned P365 XL with a longer slide, grip and collimator seat, and its version with a collimator and the RomeoZero name.
Finally, the infamous P365 SAS remains the classic Micro-Compact with all protruding parts and iron sights removed and replaced by a fiber optic MeproLight Bullseye. This is a completely crazy idea, because it makes it difficult to operate the pistol and the sights, embedded deep in the slide, not only obscure the target, they are also highly imprecise and unusable above the range of 5 meters. At such a distance, shooting without any sights is not a problem.
In summary, the base P365 is an extremely popular model that is a pioneer in its category. Proven over the last few years, free from any initial shortcomings, a solid proposition. The disadvantages are a really small grip, uncomfortable for people with large hands. For some, the factory collimator socket in the OR versions may also be a disadvantage, adapted only to the RomeoZero model and requiring the choice of a rear sight or a red dot sight.
It should be mentioned that the original rail is compatible with the Foxtrot365 flashlights made by SIG, the previously mentioned models by Surefire and Streamlight, and one by Crimson Trace and NightStick each. The noteworthy ones remain the same as in the case of the Glock.
S&W M&P9 Shield Plus
Another strong position on the list is the Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield Plus. This is a development version of the extremely popular Shield model, with few but very significant changes. More specifically, one critical and one smaller. We are talking about almost doubling the magazine capacity to 13 rounds of 9x19 mm ammunition. Instead of the seven rounds in the previous model (a flat floor plate magazine). The set includes a flat magazine for 10 rounds and an enlarged magazine for 13 rounds.
Before the aforementioned models appeared, S&W Shield was basically a tycoon in its class. Next to it, the market featured offers from brands such as Kahr (metal frame) or Kel-Tec (virtually no sights and an outrageous trigger). In later years, it was overtaken in popularity by SIG or Glock, but now it returns to favor with a new model.
The trigger has also changed, this time a more comfortable, flat one with a Glock-like safety was used, and not split in half as in the entire M&P series. The rest is basically the same, there are grips in different sizes, aggressive texture known from the M&P9 M2.0, good ergonomics. But in 2021, there is still no base for a collimator, no accessory rail that could be easily fitted there, as proven by competitors.
There is the Performance Center edition that comes with an extended barrel and slide, a Crimson Trace microcollimator and fiber optic sights. Something like the Glock 48 MOS, but without the rail. Both for the standard Shield, as well as for Plus and Plus Performance Center, the only sensible, matching flashlight is the Streamlight TLR-6.
Springfield Armory Hellcat
Finally, we are left with Springfield Armory Hellcat, i.e. the Croatian HS H11 branded with the legendary American name - a polymer microcompact manufactured by HS Produkt (just like the XD/XDm line). It is the newest proposition from the ones presented here, gaining considerable popularity thanks to a good ratio of the offered "features" to its price. The Hellcat offers 11 rounds in a standard magazine and 13 rounds with an enlarged floor plate. In addition, it has a tritium front sight as standard. A big advantage is a mount for a microcollimator - also standard and prepared for the Shield RMSc or similar collimators.
The manufacturer also advertises a new type of grip texturing, which increases its grip, the tighter the hands are clenched. The manipulators are placed on the polymer frame only on the left side, but the magazine release can be switched. Left-handed shooters, however, will have to drop the slide using the "slingshot" method. Oh, and flashlights - the Streamlight TLR-7 SUB and the Surefire XSc fill fit it.
There are eight variants of the Hellcat alone, including models devoid of some features, for legal compliance in certain US states. They do not differ enough to worth a mention. The Hellcat RDP (Rapid Defense Package), i.e. the factory-tuned version, is more interesting. The RDP has a 0.8 inch longer barrel with a thread on which a compensator is mounted. In addition, the mentioned OR socket already has a HEX Wasp red dot (new on the market) or Shield RMSc installed - depending on the variant (there are four). The trigger is also improved. The rest remains the same.
Of course, there are more proposals on the market that fit the above-mentioned criteria, for example the new Taurus GX4. They were not included in this list, because they are too new and it is difficult to say anything else about them (e.g. G4X), or they differ too much in quality or reliability to compare them with those described above. Below I have prepared a table with raw data, giving you an easy comparison of the weapons in question. I also recommend a mathematical comparison by James Reeves from TFB TV about wearable pistols - linked below. Make your own conclusion. I will remain a fan of Glock's "Perfection" for 600 EUR with 1000 EUR of additional stuff.
|---||Height (mm)||Length (mm)||Width (mm)||Weight(g)||Capacity STD||Capacity MAX||Optics Ready version||Version with a rail||Price ~ (EUR)|
|G43X||128||165||28||527||10||15||Tak||Tak||600 - 650|
|P565||109||147||26||500||10||12||Tak||Tak||780 - 900|
|Shield+||117||155||28||572||10||13||Tak||Nie||650 - 760|
|Hellcat||102||152||26||507||11||13||Tak||Tak||570 - 610|