When we think about concealed carry, we definitely have to go with a pistol. But not all the pistols are the same. Some of them definitely are better than others. However, two of the most common competitors are compact pistols and subcompact pistols.
So, What is the difference between a compact pistol and a subcompact pistol?
A subcompact pistol is smaller than a compact pistol in every aspect. You can say a compact pistol is the compact form of a full-size pistol, and a subcompact pistol is the compact form of a compact pistol.
In all honesty, there are no obvious differences between the two. It is all about the size. A smaller pistol is better for concealed carry since it can be stuffed and hidden in almost any pocket or holster perry well.
A subcompact pistol is generally the most obvious candidate for the job. However, when we carry a pistol on a day-to-day basis, it is not just to hide it on us pretty well. We will also need to be able to use it when the time comes.
A compact pistol definitely has the upper arm here. Since the subcompact pistol is smaller, it has pretty hard limitations to cope with. Limitations that a compact pistol does not have to bear. This freedom comes at the cost of concealability. Not a huge deal, though.
Difference Between Compact & Subcompact Pistol
When it comes down to sneaking into one’s pocket, size matters, as I mentioned above, The smaller a pistol is, the more easily you can sneak one into your coat’s pocket. A subcompact pistol is considerably smaller than a compact pistol.
How much smaller, you ask? That depends on the model we are talking about. The Roger American and the Glock are the two famous brands of compact and subcompact pistols.
For example, the Ruger Security-9 compact has a length of 6.52-inches with a barrel length of 3.42-inches. Its width is 1.02-inches, and the height is 4.35-inches.
It weighs about 21.9oz and can hold up to 10 shots on a single column and 15 shots on a double-column magazine, plus the one in the chamber.
On the other hand, the Ruger LC9s, which is a great example of subcompact pistols, has a length and width of 6-inches and 0.9 inches, respectively. The height of the pistol is only 4.5-inches, and it comes with a 3.12-inches barrel.
It weighs about 17.2 oz and is capable of holding seven shots of 9mm Luger, with the option to extend the capacity by two more rounds.
Just by looking at the numbers, it is obvious that the LC9s subcompact pistol is smaller in every aspect than the compact one. One thing to notice is that the height of the two is pretty much the same. But that is so for a different reason. More on it later.
Go Sneaky Or Go Comfortably?
For the most part, this is what it comes down to. On the one hand, the subcompact pistol is considerably sneakier than a compact, but on the other hand, a compact pistol is more comfortable to handle and shoot than a subcompact.
It is actually an aftermath of the difference between their sizes. A full-sized pistol is designed to be comfortable in hand. A compact pistol is smaller than it. Thus, it is not as comfortable.
However, it gets the job done. And a subcompact, being even smaller, will for sure feel different and somewhat unstable, especially if you have a big hand like me.
If we compare the two same pistols from before, it will be easier to understand. The LC9s is smaller in length by about 10%. It is also thinner and weighs less. You can comfortably hide it. However, the barrel of the LC9s is also about 10% shorter. This makes the pistol harder to aim and less accurate overall.
In other words, the subcompact, being smaller, actually relatively uncomfortable to handle. But it is better for concealment. You can even carry some of the smaller ones under the sleeves of your coat. A compact is not as sneaky.
You cannot carry a compact pistol willy-nilly. It will be too obvious in some positions, like in ankle carry or in the pocket of jeans. When the time to actually shoot the gun comes, a compact pistol will be easier to handle and target. Speaking of shooting, it deserves its own section.
What About Shooting?
Well, there is a lot. The two differ in accuracy, recoil, aim, range, magazine size, etc.
It is pretty self-explanatory. The longer barrel a gun has, the more accurate the thing is. It is like the basic knowledge about firearms unless the gun is a real wanky one. Anyway, in between the two, a compact pistol, having a longer barrel, is more accurate at pinning the target.
Inside a subcompact pistol, the bullet gets less barrel length and less time to calibrate and lock on the target. Within a couple of yards, it is not nearly as noticeable. However, once you start shooting at a target a few yards away, it becomes more noticeable.
When shooting single shots, recoil is not a big deal. But when delivering back-to-back shots, recoil does turn into a factor to consider. Because the more recoil a gun has, the more you have to fight it and reacquire the target.
In this sense, a compact pistol is friendlier to handle. The compact pistol, having slightly higher weight, absorbs more energy to counter inertia and create momentum when compared to a subcompact. Thus, a compact pistol has less recoil among the two.
When you do get the time to aim at the target, like at the range, a compact pistol will most likely be the preferable one. It again comes down to the size. The compact pistol, in general, has a bigger body structure. That also includes the grip. The grip of the compact pistol is longer and chunkier than the other one.
As a result, it is closer to the size of an average man, and in turn, is easier to hold and aim. A subcompact pistol, on the flip side, is relatively unstable. Some of the models can barely accommodate three fingers. There’s simply not enough room for the pinky.
Frankly, a compact pistol has a greater range than a subcompact. It is a combination of accuracy and ease of aim. In both sectors, a compact pistol has the upper hand. It is easier to aim and has higher accuracy. So, a shot will travel more distance before accuracy drops enough.
A subcompact pistol shot is comparatively less stable and also harder to aim. As a result, the accuracy will drop drastically over the distance traveled, making the gun almost ineffective beyond a few yards.
- Magazine Size
Previously in the article, I briefly talked about the different magazine sizes. A compact pistol can house either a single column or a double-column magazine, making it more flexible. They can carry somewhere between 10-20 rounds of ammunition, which is a lot, to be honest.
A subcompact pistol, on the other hand, almost always uses a single column magazine that can carry 8-10 rounds. Some models may allow the use of extenders. However, it is still almost half the amount.
Well, that is all I have to say about the two types of pistols. They are more like cousins. They have a lot in common, and in some places, they even overlap. I mean, I am sure one can present a subcompact pistol that is chunkier and heavier than a compact. But it is an exception, not an example.
The differences that I mentioned are by no means all there is to it, but it is close to being all of it. Both of them have their pros and cons and their specific situations to shine in. Do some research and know your gun before committing to either one.