There is a definite difference when it comes to compact pistols vs. full size, and most gun enthusiasts agree that size does matter in this case.

Generally, the purpose and how a gun owner intends to use a handgun determines whether a full size or compact pistol is recommended.
Many gun manufacturers make both full size and compact firearm models from which to choose. These brands include:

  • Sig Sauer
  • Glock
  • Smith-Wesson
  • Beretta
  • Colt
  • Ruger

The physical differences between compact and full size pistols are length, width, and weight. However, most handgun users state there are more significant differences between the two than just size – even when made by the same manufacturer.

Compact Pistols

Compact pistols generally have shorter barrel length, weigh less, and feature a shorter grip than their full size counterparts. This compact size often gives them the nickname of “pocket” pistols.

For this reason, compact pistols are often recommended for gun owners who wish to conceal carry. The smaller size and weight of these handguns makes them convenient to holster, conceal, and carry.
In addition, compact pistols are often marketed to women as a means of self-defense. This is due primarily to the fact that some women find it difficult to comfortably grip, hold, and shoot a full size pistol.

Compact pistols are also marketed to women as an optimal choice to fit in a purse.

Compact guns gained a reputation early in their development for being less reliable and powerful than full size handguns. However, when compared to full size pistols, most modern compact models prove to be nearly as capable and accurate.

Therefore, compact pistols are an excellent choice for convenient every-day or conceal carry and for gun owners who wish to utilize more pocket-sized handguns.

Full Size

Full size handguns are often recommended for beginner shooters, as they’re reportedly more stable and accurate than compact pistols.

They also have a longer barrel length and greater weight than compact pistols, which allows for more energy and efficiency when shooting.

Additionally, full size pistols provide a full size grip which reduces recoil and improves gun control for the user. This enhances accuracy and stability.

Full size pistols also generally have larger cartridge capacity than compact models. This can be beneficial when using firearms for home defense. However, full size pistols can be difficult to hide when it comes to conceal carry.

This is because their size limits where and how they’re holstered, thereby increasing visibility and decreasing concealment.

Furthermore, the weight of full size pistols can be problematic for conceal carry gun owners. The average weight of a full size pistol, when loaded, is about 1.5 pounds. Depending on where the user carries their weapon, this weight can cause soreness and inconvenience.

That said, when compared to compact pistols, full size handguns are not only physically larger and heavier, but they’re considered more stable and accurate. This makes full size pistols an excellent choice for novice gun owners to learn and practice shooting, safety, and gun maintenance.


Overall, it’s up to individual gun owners to decide whether compact or full size pistols are appropriate for their needs.

The size of these weapons can make a difference when it comes to quality of shooting as well as ability to conceal carry.

However, it’s recommended gun owners consider the purpose and intent of using a pistol, and practice with different sizes and models to see what fits best.

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