Compact vs. Subcompact Pistols: What Makes the Two Different?

Are you looking to purchase a new Glock, Sig Sauer, or other branded pistol? In the world of firearms, particularly for those keen on concealed carry, the terms “compact” and “subcompact” are frequently encountered. So, what differentiates a compact vs. subcompact pistol? 

Let’s start with the basics (we’ll get into performance later). Compact pistols are reduced versions of full-size models, offering a balanced approach to size and functionality. On the other hand, subcompact pistols prioritize maximum concealability, often at the expense of some features found in their larger counterparts. Consider the smaller firearms you may find in a woman’s purse, for example. 

Now, both options are great for concealed carry. Which one is right for you, though? In this blog, we’ll compare and contrast compact vs. subcompact pistols and discuss how Zaffiri Precision’s selection of aftermarket parts can help you put a personal touch on your new firearm.

Comparing Compact vs. Subcompact Guns

This blog wouldn’t be a thing if we didn’t look at the specs and performance differences. So, let’s not waste any time.


They say size matters, and well, in the case of compact vs. subcompact pistols, it sort of does. Sorry guys. Compact pistols, while smaller than their full-sized counterparts, often retain a grip and profile that’s conducive to steady aim and a firm handhold. In contrast, subcompacts are designed to be as discreet as possible, resulting in significantly reduced dimensions. This often means shorter barrel lengths, making them easier to conceal but potentially affecting accuracy at longer distances. It all comes down to what you prefer as the owner. 

Intended Purpose

Now, when we’re looking at compact vs. subcompact pistols, a big deciding factor in someone’s decision to purchase is what they’ll need the firearm for. Compact pistols offer a middle ground, making them suitable for a range of purposes, from home defense to occasional concealed carry. Their slightly larger frame often means better accuracy and easier handling, especially for those who may have larger hands. Subcompacts, with their primary design focus on concealment, are the go-to choice for everyday concealed carry, especially in settings where discretion is paramount. So, compact firearms may be better for those looking to mix concealed carry with a bit of time at the shooting range, while subcompact guns may be better for those looking for a backup firearm in case of any need for self-defense.


No matter the intended purpose, we can all agree that a compact vs. subcompact pistol’s shootability is important, right? Ergonomics play a crucial role in how a gun feels and behaves during shooting. Compacts, with their slightly larger grips, tend to offer a better shooting experience for many, providing stability and reducing perceived recoil. On the other hand, the reduced size and weight of subcompacts can make them more challenging to handle, especially for novice shooters or those with larger hands. Subcompact firearms may also be very thick in comparison with their overall size, which can provide further performance issues depending on the build of the shooter.


If you’ve read this far, you may be wondering if there’s anything that subcompacts do better vs. compact guns. Well, fear not. In the realm of concealability, the subcompacts do stand out. Their reduced frame and slim profiles make them ideal for deep concealment methods, pocket carry, or even ankle holsters. Compacts, while concealable with the right gear and clothing, might print more noticeably than subcompacts, making them slightly less discreet. This can be a major factor if you’re out in public and feel threatened in any way.

Price Point

The price of a compact vs. subcompact pistol will vary depending on a number of factors, including brand, features, materials, and the seller. Compact vs. subcompact 9mm guns, such as the Glock 19 and 26 models, may not vary that much in price, if at all. Because there is no hard rule in the firearms industry about price, it is important to first establish and budget and then do the proper research to make sure you find the right model for your needs.

Customizing Your Compact and Subcompact Pistols

If you’ve recently purchased a Glock or Sig Sauer compact or subcompact pistol and want to ensure it stands out from the crowd, our selection of high-quality aftermarket, including barrels, slides, compensators, and more, can take the look and feel of your firearm to the next level. All of our parts are 100% Made in America at our facility in Largo, FL. And the best part? Any non-serialized parts can be shipped directly to your door. To learn more about our products or connect with our team, contact us today.


Is subcompact better than compact?

When analyzing compact vs. subcompact pistols, it all comes down to what you prefer. A subcompact firearm will be better than a compact firearm if you’re looking for a high level of concealability, for example.

Is subcompact smaller than compact?

Yes. Subcompact pistols will be smaller than their compact counterparts, offering a higher element of concealability.

What makes a pistol subcompact?

A subcompact pistol is a small-sized handgun designed for concealed carry. It typically has a shorter barrel and grip, resulting in reduced ammunition capacity compared to compact or full-size counterparts.

Is a Glock 19 compact or subcompact?A Glock 19 is considered a compact pistol vs. a subcompact. While it’s smaller than the full-sized Glock 17, it’s larger than the subcompact Glock 26. The Glock 19 strikes a balance between size and capacity, making it popular for both duty and concealed carry purposes.