What is the best single-stack handgun?

What is the best single-stack handgun?

Written by Mark Buff , GunZee founder and CEO.

Single-stack handguns are slim and lightweight–qualities that concealed carriers look for in an EDC companion. They offer less ammunition per mag than their double-stack counterparts, but the tradeoff of capacity for concealability is one that many are willing to make.

Quick links:

What is a single stack?

Sig Sauer P238

Glock 48

Smith & Wesson Shield

Kimber Micro 9

Beretta Nano

Ruger LC9s

Kahr CW380

What to look for?

There are many great single-stack models on the concealed carry market today. Let’s find out which one works best for you!

If you wear your single stack in an IWB KYDEX holster, get our triple-layered memory foam holster pad to enjoy seamless concealed carry.

What is a single stack?

Single-stack magazines align rounds in a single vertical column within the magazine. This creates a slimmer grip profile optimized for micro and subcompact pistols or classic 1911-style handguns, unlike wider double-stack magazines that stagger ammo in two offset columns for more capacity.

While single-stacks sacrifice ammunition capacity—typically under 10 rounds—their grip size prioritizes easy concealability and handling over firepower. For shooters who value a slender, comfortable profile suitable for EDC, this trade-off is often worthwhile.

Let’s highlight some of the best single-stack concealed carry guns to find the best option for you.

Sig Sauer P238

Features

Details

Capacity 

6+1

Caliber

.380 Auto

Barrel length

2.7”

Overall length

5.5”

Weight (unloaded)

15.2 oz


The P238 is Sig Sauer’s semi-automatic pistol. This all-metal micro-compact pistol combines an aluminum frame with a stainless slide. It retains hallmark 1911 traits like the single-action trigger and manual thumb safety, along with slim double diamond grips.

With a weight of a bit over 15 ounces unloaded, the P238 handles recoil well given its petite size. Signature Siglite night sights and a crisp SA trigger promote excellent accuracy. A fixed, metal magazine release sits along the left grip panel.

Despite a capacity capped at 6 rounds of .380 ACP, the P238's slim, lightweight metal build masters deep concealment. This mini firearm best suits those who favor an all-steel micro-compact frame over polymer alternatives for discreet carry.

Glock 48

Glock 48

Glock 48. Image source: https://us.glock.com/en/pistols/g48-us

Features

Details

Capacity 

10+1

Caliber

9mm

Barrel length

4.17”

Overall length

7.28”

Weight (unloaded)

20.74 oz


The Glock 48 is a very popular single-stack 9mm pistol. With its slim frame, 10+1 round magazine capacity, and compact 4-inch barrel, it balances concealability with shootability. It shares the same slim frame as the 43X but features an extended barrel and sight radius for enhanced accuracy in comparison to the smaller model. 

The firm grip accommodates a full 3-finger hold while keeping the pistol balanced and manageable. Reliable Glock performance makes the 48 an excellent choice, but it is important to note that the longer slide prints slightly more than smaller models.

Smith & Wesson M&P Shield

Features

Details

Capacity 

7+1

Caliber

9mm

Barrel length

3.1”

Overall length

6.1”

Weight (unloaded)

18 oz


As one of the thinnest single-stack 9mm pistols available, the M&P Shield serves as an optimized concealed carry pistol that does not sacrifice shootability. Measuring under 1 inch wide, this polymer-framed pistol manages recoil pretty well thanks to its aggressive grip texture that promotes control and natural sight picture.

The crisp trigger break enhances practical accuracy, while straightforward white dot sights clear quickly between shots. The slide release allows for fast actions when you reload by easily holding the slide open after you fire the last round. The magazine also drops out smoothly when you push the button to quickly change mags.

The flush-fitting magazines hide discreetly, while the 8-round extended magazine adds capacity without impacting concealment. A 3.1-inch barrel strikes a versatile balance of size and velocity. The good accuracy is partly because of the smooth, polished feed ramp. The feed ramp helps the gun work reliably with different hollow point ammunition.

Kimber Micro 9

Kimber Micro 9

Kimber Micro 9.

Image source: https://www.kimberamerica.com/micro-9-esv-two-tone-mc-tp

Features

Details

Capacity 

6+1

Caliber

9mm

Barrel length

2.75”

Overall length

5.6”

Weight (unloaded)

15.6 oz


The Kimber Micro 9 measures just 5.6 inches long and weighs under 16 ounces unloaded, it delivers 7+1 rounds of 9mm stopping power. Like most Kimber firearms, a polished feed ramp promotes reliability with an array of defensive loads. A durable stainless steel slide tops off the lightweight aluminum frame.

Accuracy and handling shine thanks to Kimber’s renowned manufacturing. A crisp, clean single-action trigger break makes precise shots easy at close distances. Attention to machining detail and quality control yields match-grade precision from the short 2.75-inch barrel.

The Micro 9 is a great single-stack 9mm for shooters with small hands, as well as those who insist on mild recoil combined with enough power for concealed carry or home protection. Textured rosewood grips soak up recoil for fast follow-up shots. 

Beretta Nano

Features

Details

Capacity 

6+1

Caliber

9mm

Barrel length

3.07”

Overall length

5.6”

Weight (unloaded)

19.8 oz


The Beretta Nano is a compact, striker-fired pistol that was designed specifically for concealed carry use. First introduced in 2011, the Nano features a slim polymer frame with a stainless steel slide for a lightweight and easily concealable package. 

The Nano is crafted from a strong yet lightweight “technopolymer” and uses a stainless slide with a corrosion-resistant Pronox finish. The low profile sights and smooth contours reduce the potential to snag during the draw. The pistol features a unique serialized internal chassis that users can switch between grip frames with interchangeable backstraps to customize color schemes and grip sizes.

With concealed carry in mind, Beretta focused on streamlining the Nano. There is no external manual slide lock or release lever to complicate the slim frame. An internal striker firing system with passive safety features enhances the clean, snag-free profile.

A low bore axis helps mitigate felt recoil for accurate follow-up shots under stress. The long trigger pull does not lend itself to particularly accurate rapid shooting.

The sights are adequate for defensive shooting, but an upgrade would make for better ranged and practice shooting. The lack of a slide lock means there is no way to easily lock the slide back if needed.

“Amazingly accurate for such a little gun, “ says this YouTube commenter about his Nano.

YouTube commenter loves his Beretta Nano—What is the best single-stack handgun

 

Ruger LC9s

Features

Details

Capacity 

7+1

Caliber

9mm

Barrel length

3.12”

Overall length

6”

Weight (unloaded)

17.2 oz


Ruger engineered the LC9s pistol with an improved striker-fired trigger to enhance an already solid concealed carry gun. The durable polymer frame keeps weight down while soaking up felt recoil for rapid follow-up shots aided by the textured grip.

The treated feed ramp and barrel help ensure the gun works reliably with different types of 9mm self-defense ammunition. A 7+1 flush fit magazine provides ample capacity in such a compact package. The long trigger promotes accuracy while a fixed front sight and adjustable rear notch provide reliable aim for defensive shooting.

The LC9s features a bladed trigger safety to prevent discharge if dropped. The slide lock after the last round holds open for faster reloads. The magazine disconnect safety allows the removal of the magazine with a round still chambered while blocking firing.

An integrated trigger lock rendered inoperable by an accompanying key comes standard for compliance with state laws. Backstraps of varying sizes accommodate different hand shapes for improved control.

Kahr CW380

Features

Details

Capacity 

6+1

Caliber

.380 ACP

Barrel length

2.58”

Overall length

4.88”

Weight (unloaded)

11.4 oz


The Kahr CW380 is a micro-compact .380 ACP pistol. Kahr Arms, a company that specializes in concealable pistols, designed the snag-free CW380 pistol to pack enough punch for emergency self-defense, despite its slim and compact size.

The CW380 features a durable polymer frame with either a stainless or blackened slide finish. Textured areas on the grip offer a secure hold during firing, while a long, smooth trigger pull prevents unintentional discharge.

Sights function well enough for short-distance defensive use, though aftermarket night sights can expand usability. The long smooth trigger allows for confident carry but sacrifices performance shooting. 

The CW380 has no external thumb safety or protruding levers to complicate the slim frame. A unique “safe cam” action passively blocks the hammer from forward movement unless the trigger is fully pulled to help prevent accidental firing.

This YouTube commenter loves his CW380. “This gun with a Desantis Superfly in the pocket holster is lovely,” he noted.

ouTube commenter loves his CW380—What is the best single-stack handgun

Buy our holster pad and get the best of the EDC of your Kahr CW380.

What to look for in a single-stack gun?

There are several key factors to keep in mind when choosing your single-stack handgun. Focus on the following:

  • Size and dimensions. Look for compact dimensions such as length, height, width, and weight that allow the pistol to disappear under clothing yet still permit a solid firing grip.
  • Magazine capacity. Prioritize options providing the highest ammo capacity in a flush magazine that properly fits the frame size.
  • Trigger qualities. A crisp, smooth pull without creep promotes accuracy through a clean break. Many striker-fired guns excel here.
  • Sights. Distinct sights like night sights or fiber optics improve visibility. Low-profile sights also help avoid snags when drawing from concealment.
  • Ergonomics. Proper texture and contours should perfectly fit the user's hand for enhanced control and comfort during repeated shooting.
  • Reliability. Only consider pistols with an excellent track record feeding different ammunition types. Durable construction and protective finishes also boost dependability.
  • Accuracy. Self-defense scenarios require consistent accuracy inside typical 3-10-yard engagement distances. Match-grade barrels offer precision shooting beyond this standard.

What is the best single-stack 9mm full-size pistol?

For shooters wanting a full-sized pistol and solid 9mm performance in a slim single-stack package, there are some great options. 

  • CZ 75 SP-01. All-steel frame 9mm that balances phenomenal ergonomics with accuracy and an 18+1 capacity. Forged barrel and slide enhance precision shootability.
  • Walther P99 AS. Polymer-framed 9mm focused on ergonomics and a smooth trigger pull. Slimmer yet fits most hands well. Also offers great practical accuracy.
  • CZ P-01. Alloy-framed 9mm CZ based on the 75. Compact yet still fits the hand wonderfully and softens recoil for accurate rapid shooting.
  • HK VP9. Striker-fired alternative with a fiber-reinforced polymer frame provides lightweight durability. Customizable backstraps and side panels allow tailoring the grip to fit any hand size, while ambidextrous controls enhance usability. 
  • Sig P320 X5. Polymer-framed Sig that emphasizes tunable modularity and competition-centric features for precision.

About GunZee

At GunZee, we’re dedicated to making concealed carry as comfortable as possible. No need to tolerate uncomfortable KYDEX holsters that dig into your waist. That's why we created our memory foam holster pad to enhance the comfort of daily carry for all body types.

Our holster padding conforms perfectly to your body's natural contours for supreme comfort. Once you try it, you'll wonder how you ever carried without it.

Caring for your trusted everyday carry piece is also super important. Our foolproof handgun cleaning kits help keep your pistol in flawless working order. We also offer an all-in-one universal gun cleaning kit that expertly covers cleaning needs for pistols, rifles, and shotguns—everything the responsible gun owner needs to maintain their firearm collection.

Single stack FAQ

Is a single stack of 9mm enough?

Single-stack 9mm pistols can be good for some people, but others see them as not nearly enough. For example, the Glock 48 offers a 10+1 capacity which is more than enough for some shooters. Others may find this capacity too low. 

It all comes down to your priorities and the tradeoffs you are willing to make when choosing the right handgun. For those who are ready to sacrifice capacity for concealability, a single stack 9mm is a good choice.

Who makes single stack 9mms?

Many major manufacturers offer single-stack 9mm defensive pistols, including:

  • SIG Sauer (P365 and P938 models)
  • Smith & Wesson (SW Shield and CSX micro-9s)
  • Springfield Armory (911 and Hellcat subcompacts)
  • Glock (slim 43/43X 9mms)
  • Ruger (LC9S and Max-9 pistols)
  • Kahr Arms (CW9 series)
  • CZ (RAMI 2075 and 75 Compact variants)
  • Kel-Tec (P11 and others)

There are also classic metal-framed choices on the market from 1911 makers.

Which Glock .45 Auto is a single-stack gun?

The Glock 36 Slimline is the only .45 ACP Glock single-stack handgun. Introduced in the late 1990s, the G36 uses a single-stack magazine with 6 round capacity. The slim polymer frame has a reduced circumference compared to the wider double-stack pistols. The slender profile aids carry comfort and concealment. No other current Glock .45 ACP production models utilize a single stack magazine configuration.

Does Sig make a single stack 9mm?

Sig Sauer makes several popular single-stack 9mms. 

  • The P238 is among the smallest 9mm single stacks at just 5.5" overall length and weighing barely over 15 ounces unloaded.
  • The P938 gains a bit more velocity from its 3" barrel while retaining a super slim profile.
  • The P225 is an older metal-frame Sig 9mm model with an 8+1 round capacity. Originally designed in the 1970s for police and military use.

Does Beretta make a single stack 9mm?

Beretta offers a few single-stack concealed carry 9mm options for shooters wanting that slim Beretta quality.

  • The Beretta Nano stands out as an ultra-compact 9mm with a low-profile ambidextrous slide release. It carries 6+1 rounds in the flush magazine.
  • Beretta also makes the slim, lightweight Pico which serves up 6+1 rounds of 9mm in a minuscule package.
  • For the ultimate in deep concealment, the Beretta Bobcat in 9mm provides 7+1 rounds in an all-metal frame just over 1” wide. 

What Glock models are single stack?

The Glock 36, 42, 43, 43X, and 48 are all single-stack Glock pistol models. Single stacks have a narrower grip and only hold a single column of rounds in the magazine, usually 6-10 depending on the model. This makes them easier to conceal and carry compared to double-stack models.

What is better for self-defense: single stack or double stack?

Both single and double-stack pistols can serve self-defense needs well. Double stacks hold more ammunition, which is advantageous for high-stress situations. Single stacks conceal better and allow precise shot placement to neutralize threats quickly. As with most comparisons, needs and tradeoffs differ based on the individual's ability and shooting preferences.

About the author: Mark Buff is the founder and CEO of GunZee. He is an ardent firearms enthusiast and has been carrying concealed for more than 15 years. He created GunZee to solve his own problem: that of uncomfortable KYDEX holsters. His patented GunZee memory foam holster pad makes inside-the-waistband carry super comfortable.

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