Compact vs Subcompact Pistol: What’s the Difference?

Andrew Holding P10 C and PM40_v2

Andrew’s compact CZ P10 C and subcompact Kahr PM40

Learn what makes a pistol compact or subcompact. See how they are similar and different. Decide which one is right for you.

Compact pistols are smaller and lighter than full sized pistols. This makes compact pistols easier to conceal and more comfortable to carry. Subcompact pistols are smaller and lighter than compact pistols. Subcompact pistols can be pocket carried. They have more recoil than compact pistols.

Many subcompact pistols can be comfortably carried in a pocket with or without a holster because of their small size and low weight. I pocket carried without a holster for more than 10 years.

Compact and Subcompact pistols generally have about the same widths. Chambers can only be made so small because they need to contain the pressure from the ammunition.

For example, the compact CZ P10 C and subcompact CZ P10 S have the same width. However, the compact Glock G19 is .04 inches or 3% wider than the subcompact Glock G26.

Compact vs Subcompact Pistols

What do Compact and Subcompact Mean?

There is no established definition for what makes a pistol a compact or subcompact. Handgun manufacturers decide which of their models are compact or subcompact. However, manufacturers seem to roughly agree on the dimensions and magazine capacity for compact and subcompact pistols.

The charts below show the differences between compact and subcompact pistols from Glock, CZ, and Smith and Wesson.

Difference between Glock G19 vs G26

Best Track Record and Lowest Compact Weight

CZ P10 C vs P10 S

Best Trigger and Subcompact Magazine Size

M&P 9 Compact vs Shield

Smallest and Lightest Subcompact

The compact Glock G19, CZ P10 C, and M&P 9 Compact differ very little. They all hold 15+1 rounds. The G19 weighs 2.5 ounces less than the P10 C and 3.5 ounces less than the M&P 9 Compact.

There is also not much difference between the Glock G26, CZ P10 S, and M&P 9 Shield. The P10 S magazine holds the most ammunition, and weighs the most. The M&P 9 Shield magazine holds the least ammunition, and weighs the least. Personally, I would take the additional weight to get more firepower. The M&P 9 Shield is the smallest in every dimension and weighs the least. If size and comfort are your primary concern, then M&P 9 Shield is the pistol for you.

Are Compact and Subcompact Pistols Less Accurate than Full size Pistols?

High quality compacts and subcompact pistols are both very accurate. The barrel length and distance between the front and rear sights do not meaningfully affect practical self-defense shooting. Most defensive shooting requires hitting a target only a few feet away. Compacts and Subcompacts can do this.

Subcompact handguns weigh less than compact guns. As a result, they generally have snappier recoil and more muzzle rise than compact pistols. This makes accurate follow up shoots more difficult and slower. With practice, subcompact pistols can be shot with great accuracy and speed.

Showing Compact and Subcompact Pistol Recoil and Muzzle Rise

Showing Compact and Subcompact Pistol Recoil and Muzzle Rise

Andrew Jordan

I’m a lifelong native of Memphis, TN. Shooting drills especially with 22LR are one of my passions. My concealed carry permit application was submitted on my 21st birthday. The P10C is my EDC pistol. I invented the patented 15 round 5.56 stripper clip. You can also find me on the “Concealed Carry Andrew” Youtube channel.

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