Pistols: Full-size vs. Compact

This guide goes over pistols: full-size vs. compact.

We get a lot of questions asking which is best, and we hope this can help answer some of them for you.

The gun you decide to carry every day or use for training and/or “duty” really comes down to a number of personal decisions and reasonings. Your body type is also going to make a lot of these decisions for you.

We have a lot of experience carrying pistols whether it was for duty, executive protection, or EDC. What we have landed on is carrying a compact for all these roles as we have become big proponents of gear and tools that can perform in multiple roles without sacrificing much in performance from role to role.

Striker-Fired Pistols

Most common among military/LEO (Glocks, Sig P320/M17, S&W M&P, Springfield XDs).

No hammer is present, the firing pin remains under spring tension internally.

  • Slide racked, released forward creates spring-tension
  • Trigger pull releases pin forward to strike cartridge/primer
  • The cycle of operations repeats this process with each round fired


  • Consistent trigger pull (5.5 lbs standard)
  • No external safety
  • Can point and shoot under stress
  • Lighter due to polymer frames


  • No safety – an issue for some
  • Lighter weight = more recoil
  • Trigger discipline high priority at all times **should already be exercised on all weapons**

Hammer-Fired Pistols

Original semi-automatic pistol design (1911s, Beretta M9, Sig P226). 


The hammer manually cocked for the first shot, and will manually rearm/cock after each shot


The hammer can be forward/uncocked and the trigger pull can arm/fire, which will turn into a single action after the first shot and semi-auto operation.


  • External safety
  • Higher trigger pull weight when hammer decocked – “safer” 
  • Lighter trigger pull when single-action initiated
  • Less recoil


  • External safety
  • Higher trigger pull weight when hammer decocked
  • Lighter trigger pull in single-action = NDs
  • Heavier frame for when concealed carrying

Pros of hammer fired can be the cons – it depends on user/comfort level.

Frames- Sizes

Full-size Frame 

  • Glock17/G34 (different caliber models), 1911, Sig P226, M&P40, M9
    • High ammo capacity
    • Longer barrels = more accuracy/range
    • Large pistol grips

Compact Frame

  • G26 (different caliber models), M&P9C, Sig P365, H&K VP9SK
    • Shorter barrels = easier for concealed carry
    • Less accuracy/range
    • Double-stack frames fit full-size mags
    • Mag extensions for a full-handed grip

Sub-Compact Frame

  • G43, M&P Shield, Sig P365x, Springfield Hellcat
    • Shorter barrels + thinner frames
    • Single stack > no full-size mags
    • Popular concealed carry option
    • Many drawdowns due to size
    • Higher recoil
    • Defense (+P) ammo is not made for these

Common Pistol Calibers

Grains = Weight of bullet (projectile) 

+P = bonded/pressurized, higher energy output


  • .45 ACP: Velocity = 890 fp/s @ 230 grain, 1140 fp/s @ 185 grain +P
    • Standard magazine capacity = 8-10 rounds
  • 9mm Luger: Velocity = 1000 fp/s @ 147 grain, 1200 fp/s @ 124 grain +P
    • Standard magazine capacity = 15-17 rounds
  • .40 S&W: Velocity = 1000 fp/s @ 180 grain, 1200 fps @ 135 grain
    • Standard magazine capacity = 13-15 rounds
    • 10 mm cut in half, “snappy round” due to lack of engineering.
  • .380 Auto: Velocity = 980 fp/s @ 95 grain 1000 fp/s @ 90 grain
    • Standard magazine capacity = 6 rounds
    • 9 mm cut in half

Pistol Modifications


RMRs/Red dots

This type of sight allows for faster target acquisition. Is good for longer ranges with a pistol.


3 dot = two in the rear with one front sight post-colorized/glow in the dark.

Smart to replace stock sights. We put Trijicon HDs on all our pistols.


Many newer pistols come factory-stippled/texturized, which helps with grip & retention.


Can upgrade triggers to aftermarket, most stock triggers are good/serviceable.

Flared Magwells

Helps open up magazine wells, and makes for easier/quicker reloads, especially in low-light conditions.

Pistols: Full-size vs. Compact

Final Thoughts

Thanks for making it to the end of this guide! 

If you got some value from this please make sure to like, share, and save it for later. We make these to help give people a baseline when making decisions for their next firearms or gear purchases.

Be sure to read our other guides here!