Sub-compact v. Compact vs. Micro-compact

Compact v.Subcompact v. Micro Compact

Gone are the days of only having a full-size handgun for daily carry. In fact, the full sized guns are quickly being supplanted as the number one option when purchasing a firearm in general. With the advent of polymer frames three decades ago and modern metallurgy, we now have a plethora of reliable, accurate, higher capacity-for-size guns that come in compact, sub-compact, and micro-compact sizes to choose from. Let’s look at those categories and help you make the right choice for your needs. 


We are going to start big and work down to small. We will also be using the Glock lineup as example of size because they are the most commonly owned or issued handguns on the market, so it’s a good standard for sizing. 

The compact category is just a hair smaller than the full-sized version of the same-style pistol. The full-size Glock 9mm is the 17; the Glock 19 is the compact version and is only slightly shorter in the grip, slide, and barrel. Compact guns are typically the same width as the full-size version and because of this they can often accept the same magazines as their bigger siblings. 

Compact guns are prevalent for all-around use of firearms. If you want a gun for home defense, high-volume range use, and everyday carry, it’s tough to beat a compact-sized gun. Compact guns sit in a nice niche.  They are usually very shootable because they are big enough to handle recoil without being “too snappy”. This sized gun also carries enough rounds to be able to shoot some longer strings at the range without reloading. Their smaller frames make them easier to conceal than full-sized guns. All in all, compact guns are a good compromise, a jack of all trades. 


Sub Compact

Sub compact guns are the class, just smaller than compact guns. Again, they may be the same width and accept the same magazines as their biggest cousin, but they are much smaller in the grip and overall slide/barrel length. And they won’t accept that magazine very well without a grip extension added to it. 

 Sub Compact guns will typically be short enough in the grip that they will not allow a shooter to have every finger on the weapon. Your little finger will usually hang off the grip alone, although extensions can be added to the grip or the magazine.  For an example of a sub-compact gun look at the Glock 26 compared to a 17 and 19. They are all the same width, the 26 is just a really cut-down version of the bigger Glocks. And this is precisely the struggle with a lot of sub-compact guns.

 Some sub-compacts are built from the ground up as their own identity, but usually, a sub compact pistol is a chopped-down version of the compact or full-sized firearm. In the world of sub-compact v. compact a lot of folks just stick to a compact gun because that sub-compact won’t really do anything better other than be slightly easier to conceal. That comes at the price of being harder to shoot, and still being thick for the overall size of the gun. 


Micro Compact

This category is the newest size category when it comes to the most common style of handguns, polymer frames, striker-fired guns. We aren’t talking about a true-to-form pocket pistol like a Ruger LCP 2 so much as the gun that basically started this category, a Sig Sauer P365. The difference really comes in capacity and shootability. 

Micro Compact guns that we are looking at may come chambered for .380 but most will come chambered in 9mm as well. They will all have a double-digit round capacity in 9mm and be much thinner than the other two sizes. The barrel length and grip length will be similar to the sub-compact. Micro Compact v. sub-compact guns really comes down to the overall width and weight of the gun. The Micro compact is thinner and lighter. As we use the Glock example take a look at a Glock 26 and then the Glock 43 X the latter is the Micro Compact. And the 43X is big for a micro-compact. These guns will be a bit “snappy” in 9mm and will likely leave you wanting higher capacity at the range, but they are an absolute joy to carry. That is exactly what they are built for, everyday carry. 

  Subcompact vs compact gun, subcompact vs micro compact gun each size gun has its place. You should probably get one of each! When looking for your new gun you need to decide what its common use will be. Remember whichever you choose, you need to train with it and be comfortable, accurate, and safe. 


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