Micro-9 Montage

Isn’t it amazing how gun makers have managed to shrink the size of pistols while still giving them a surprisingly generous capacity? Many of these tiny pistols hold nearly as many rounds as full-sized pistols designed in the 1980s and 1990s.

Quite a few of these little pistols are approximately the size of a lightweight, 5-shot .38 Special revolver, and they carry two to three times the capacity. As a side note, I’m not saying the little wheel guns are obsolete or inferior; they are just a different animal. I still have and carry a wheel gun on occasion when I’m in the mood for something “different.”

In this article, we’ll take a look at a few different Micro-9mm pistols. Yes, there are other, smaller calibers that pistols have been chambered in, including some of the very models that we’re looking at today. Quite often, it’s the .380 ACP cartridge. But for our purposes here, we want the 9mm because it’s a major caliber, and it outperforms the .380. And, doggone it, people like it!

The intent here is not to give an in-depth review of each platform but rather to outline some choices for people who are curious about a pistol and/or are thinking about purchasing one. Nor is it all-encompassing. There are other choices out there on the market. The ones listed here are those that the author has experience with.

Without further delay, let’s dive into the meat and potatoes of the article. They are listed in no particular order.

Sig P365/365XL

Sig Sauer’s P365 took the nation by storm in 2018 when it was introduced, being one of the first higher-capacity micro-9s to hit the market. It offers a superb grip and a base capacity of 10 rounds, which keeps it very compact. Extended magazines in 12, 15, and 17 rounds are also available. I most often carry mine with the 12-round magazine in place because the tiny bit of extra extension on the grip gives my hand a very comfortable purchase on the grip, and those extra two rounds are welcomed. There is an extension that extends the grip and matches the grip texture, fitting onto the magazine’s base plate, which is shown in the photo below.

Sig's P365XL and P365.
Sig’s P365 series is the cream of the crop as far as Micro-9s are concerned. Here, we have the P365XL on top, which features a slightly longer barrel/slide and grip, giving better accuracy potential and less muzzle flip. The XL feels as though it’s thinner than the standard model (it’s not, though) due to the added length. The standard P365 is underneath. Note the 12-round extended magazine on the standard P365, giving it the same grip length as the XL model. Both are shockingly accurate. Photo: Jim Davis.

Dimensions of the P365 are 5.8 inches overall and 4.3 inches in height, and it has a barrel length of 3.1 inches, so it’s truly compact. It’s one inch thick, making it very slim. Weight is 17.8 ounces, so this one is very light.

Accuracy with this little pistol is surprisingly good, and it’s among the least snappy of the little pistols when actually shooting it. The P365 gets very high marks.


An offshoot is the P365XL, a slightly larger version of the standard P365. How does it compare in dimensions?

The P365XL is 6.6 inches in overall length and 4.8 inches in height, with a 3.7-inch barrel. Weight is 20.7 ounces, so it’s just barely heavier than its little brother. The XL has a standard capacity of 12 rounds. All in all, the XL is only slightly larger than the P365. So, what does one get for the added size and weight?

First, the grip is slightly longer and fits my medium-sized hands to utter perfection. The pistol has a slightly sleeker feel to it because it’s about the same width as the P365, but the extra length and height make it feel somehow slimmer. The slightly longer sight radius, combined with the larger frame and barrel length puts the accuracy of this pistol into another level. At least it did for me when I shot it. From ten yards, if I hadn’t had a couple of fliers, all the bullets would have gone into one large, ragged hole (with open sights), and I wasn’t firing slowly, either.

This one has become my new carry pistol. I still love the P365, but the XL gives better performance, feels better in the hand, and is negligibly larger so as to not be a real detriment, and the trade-off is well worth it. Plus, it carries two more rounds as a standard. All in all, it’s a spectacular winner.

Springfield Armory Hellcat/Hellcat Pro

Springfield Armory’s  Hellcat was introduced in 2019, joining the micro-9 genre. Its dimensions are very similar to Sig’s P365. The overall length is six inches, the height is four inches, and the weight is 18.3 ounces with the magazine inserted. The magazine capacity is 11, 13, 15, and a whopping 17 rounds.

The Hellcat’s grip is great in that those with medium-sized hands can get a good purchase. The stippling is extremely rough, akin to sandpaper, so there will be no slipping of the hands during recoil. On the downside, the texture of the grip is so rough that it can begin shredding clothing when it’s worn concealed. Still, it does its job to a tee, preventing any slipping, even if the shooter’s hands are wet and slippery.

The controls are laid out about as well as any other pistols of the same size and are easy to reach and positive in operation. The hammer-forged barrel is three inches long. Overall, this pistol is very accurate. It is slightly snappy when fired, but then so are the rest that we’re reviewing here today, so it’s on the level.

Springfield Armory Hellcat and Hellcat Pro.
Springfield Armory’s Hellcat on the left is very compact. The Hellcat Pro on the right features a Shield optic and is a slightly larger pistol. Reliability has been 100% with these pistols, and both are accurate. Magazines for the Larger Hellcat Pro (15 and 17 rounds) will fit into the standard Hellcat, which is a great option. The Hellcat on the left is wearing a 13-round extended magazine, which makes the grip fit the author’s hand perfectly and gives a few extra rounds in the pistol. Photo: Jim Davis.

The Hellcat wears the best factory sights of any pistol I’ve shot. The rear has a white-outlined U-notch design, and the front has a tritium dot surrounded by a bright green circle. The sights are highly visible, and the U-notch naturally draws the front sight dot down into it.

My pistol wears a Flat Dark Earth finish that is holding up to a couple of years of constant carry.

Hellcat Pro

Similarly to Sig’s strategy, Springfield came out with a slightly larger version of its little brother, in the Hellcat Pro.

The Hellcat Pro features a 3.7-inch hammer-forged barrel. Its overall length is 6.6 inches, and its height is 4.8 inches. With an empty magazine installed, the pistol weighs 21 ounces. The sights are the same as on the regular Hellcat, though my pistol came with the Shield SMSc red dot sight mounted.

The standard capacity for the Pro is 15 rounds, but 17-round magazines are also available.

On the range, the Hellcat Pro is a marvelous shooter. Its muzzle flip is modest, and follow-up shots are fast. Accuracy is excellent. Because the grip wears the same rough texture as the Hellcat, this pistol will not slip in the hand. It’s large enough to be a serious pistol, but it’s small enough to carry without being uncomfortable. This is an excellent pistol. Mine came with the FDE-colored finish, which has proven to be durable.

FN Reflex

FN released the Reflex in 2023. The standard capacity for this pistol is 11 or 15 rounds. The extended magazine gives a pleasantly full grip, but some may not appreciate that for concealed carry.

The Reflex weighs 18.4 inches, has an overall length of 6.2 inches, and a height of 4.27 inches. The barrel is 3.3 inches long, and the width is one inch thick.

The FN Reflex.
FN’s Reflex has some stellar attributes, including the excellent grip and trigger (it has an internal hammer, which makes the trigger pull outstanding). Unfortunately, there were reliability issues. Photo: Jim Davis.

The Reflex is the only such pistol on the market right now that is single-action-only with an internal hammer. The trigger pull is very nice, light, and crisp. The pistol I tested came with an FDE finish.

At the range, accuracy was excellent, and the muzzle flip was about equal to the other pistols tested. Unfortunately, one of the pistols we tested (there were two total) suffered from multiple stoppages. We just could not get it to run, regardless of what type of ammunition we ran through it. We’re chalking it up to simply being a lemon, but this is very disappointing coming from a company that’s as reputable as FN.

Further enhancing our disappointment is the fact that the pistol’s front sight, which has a tritium dot in the center, did not glow at night. The tritium was completely dead, to the point that there was no hint of a glow.

Overall, I do not recommend this pistol at this time because of its reliability issues. However, if FN raises its quality control standards, that might change.

Glock 43X

Glock’s 43X model is derived from the G43. It uses the same basic slide as the 43, with a 3.41-inch barrel. However, the difference is in the frame and grip. Where the G43 only holds six rounds, the 43X holds ten. The 43X’s grip is the same length as the Glock 19, but it’s much thinner.

The pistol weighs 16.4 ounces, is 6.5 inches long, and is 5.04 inches high. The sights have Glock’s famous “goal post” sight picture, which I really like. What I don’t like is that Glock uses polymer sights on its pistols, while every other manufacturer uses metal sights (Glock, pay attention here!).

Glock's 43X.
Glock’s 43X is still a favorite among the slim 9mm pistols. Although it only holds ten rounds, the slim grip feels good in the hand. Reliability is perfect, as we’d expect from a Glock. Overall, it’s an excellent pistol. Glock magazines are the best in the industry and are cheap and plentiful. Holsters are extremely easy to find as well. Photo: Jim Davis.

Accuracy with the 43X is very good, and the muzzle flip is not bad, likely owing to the fact that it’s among the larger pistols reviewed here. Overall, it’s a pleasant shooter. I’ve carried this pistol quite a bit over the past few years, and it’s a great gun. It’s certainly larger than the tiniest micro-9s here but on par with slightly larger pistols like the Hellcat Pro and P365XL.

Glock is always a solid performer, and this one is no exception. Given the size of its grip, I’d like to see Glock be able to fit some additional rounds into this pistol. I’m aware that there are aftermarket magazines that can take 15 rounds, but I’m an OEM guy and would like to see mags from Glock do that.

Ruger LCP Max

Ruger’s LCP Max is the smallest pistol in our little lineup here today. With a 2.8-inch barrel, the overall length is 5.17 inches. Height is 4.12 inches, and weight is a feathery 10.6 ounces! The slide width is .81 inches. Yeah, this is a pretty tiny pistol.

Ruger's LCP Max.
It sure is tiny! Most of the time, guys don’t like to hear that, but in this case, it’s not an insult. The little LCP Max is seriously concealable while still somehow holding 10 rounds! The factory sights are also quite good for a pistol this small. Photo: Jim Davis.

The grip is black, glass-filled nylon. The front sight is tritium with a white outline, with the rear sight being all black with serrations. The sights are surprisingly useful for such a tiny pistol.

Ruger somehow managed to stuff 10 rounds into this oddly small pistol.

It is relatively snappy when fired and does have muzzle rise. But then there’s no free lunch, and this is one highly concealable pistol.

Final Thoughts

There we have it, several candidates from which to choose your next carry pistol. All are quite concealable. All are controllable when firing, though some are more controllable than others. The little Ruger will prove to be the most challenging to control but far from impossible.

Any one of these pistols will serve you very well, with most being relatively close in price point.

Which are my favorites? I have to say, the Sig P365XL really grabs my fancy because of its feel in the hand and accuracy. Everything about it just screams quality, and it’s balanced perfectly. I really don’t think I could ask for any improvements on this pistol. The standard P365 is right behind it, being slightly more concealable.

A very, very close runner-up is the Hellcat and the Hellcat Pro, both of which are very reliable and accurate. Honestly, the Sigs and the Hellcats are almost neck-and-neck as far as quality and shootability are concerned. They’re just stellar pistols. The Glock 43X gets love, too, and I carry that occasionally as well.

FN’s Reflex is my least favorite pistol on the list here because of the reliability issues we encountered. They simply need better quality control. Had the reliability issues not reared their head, the Reflex would have been up there with the Sigs and Springfields, given the great feel of the grip and accuracy (it’s a very accurate pistol when it functions).

As far as concealment is concerned, the little Ruger would win the contest, as it’s the smallest pistol tested. However, that comes at a price, as it’s also a snappy little thing with some muzzle flip. It’s not the worst pistol I ever shot, but we’re being critical in our review here.

It’s a great time to be alive in the firearms industry! And it will be exciting to see what the manufacturers give us next! If you’re in the market for such a pistol, my recommendation is to hit a range that rents these pistols out and give each one a try before making your decision. But I don’t think you’ll make a mistake by going with any of those that I’ve recommended here.

Jim Davis served in the PA Dept. of Corrections for 16 ½ years as a corrections officer in the State Correctional Institute at Graterford and later at SCI Phoenix. He served on the Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT), several of those years as a sniper, and also the Fire Emergency Response Team (FERT). For 25 years, he was a professional instructor, teaching topics including Defensive Tactics, Riot Control and Tactical Operations, Immediate Responder, and cognitive programs as an adjunct instructor at the DOC Training Academy. He was then promoted to the title of corrections counselor, where he ran a caseload and facilitated cognitive therapy classes to inmates. His total service time was close to 29 years. He was involved in many violent encounters on duty, including incidents of fatalities. He is a dedicated Christian and attributes any skills that he has to the glory of God.

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