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Are Pistol Compensators on You Carry Gun Worth It?

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The setup of your concealed carry pistol plays a direct role in its performance, affecting how it feels, handles, and, more importantly, shoots. While handguns are one of the best tools for personal defense, the sharper recoil impulse can be a challenge to some.  

Since pistols don’t have as many points of contact compared to rifles, the recoil is a little more pronounced and often has a ‘snappy’ feel. However, it can be significantly mitigated when you use the right accessories. 

One of the most effective solutions for recoil control is a pistol compensator. Compensators divert the gasses out the top of the muzzle, reducing the initial snap of recoil when shooting. These muzzle devices yield incredible results, and as such, they’ve become a popular addition for concealed carry pistols.  

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What Does a Compensator Do?  

As we said before, compensators are a type of muzzle device that diverts the gases upward out the top of the muzzle, rather than directly out the front. They’re like barrel ports, but they’re easier to install and don’t require any permanent modification of your slide and barrel. Handgun compensators simply thread on to the end of your barrel and usually have a set screw that keeps them from backing off the barrel.  

While they’re similar to muzzle brakes too, compensators divert the gas in a different direction. Muzzle brakes divert the gas out to the sides, while compensators divert it upwards, which is better for pistol recoil mitigation, though some models incorporate both designs. If you’re on the fence about what’s best, our guide on muzzle brakes vs. compensators goes in-depth on the differences in each muzzle device.  

Despite being a simple and positive upgrade, compensators still have their pros and cons.  

Benefits of Using a Compensator 

The primary benefit of using a pistol compensator is recoil reduction. By having less recoil, it’s much easier to handle muzzle flip and rise when shooting. As a result, it’s generally easier to get back on target after firing, allowing you to make fast and accurate follow up shots.  

Depending on the pistol, you also have a wide variety of options. There’s an incredibly vast aftermarket for handgun parts; just keep in mind that not every pistol model will have compensator options available (most popular options do though).  

While performance outweighs aesthetics, having a nice-looking pistol never hurts. Most compensators are designed to provide better performance while also matching contours of your pistol, maintaining the sleek look of modern pistols.  

Drawbacks of Using Compensators 

Compensators can at times require some modifications before using one. To have one, your pistol needs to have a threaded barrel. Fortunately, threaded barrels can be bought as an aftermarket upgrade and some pistols even come with them pre-installed. Still, as we mentioned with compensator availability, they aren’t always available for every pistol model.  

They can also affect your pistol’s reliability. The majority of modern pistols are recoil operated and since recoil is reduced when using a compensator, the overall reliability of your pistol can take a hit. There isn’t much to worry about when you’re shooting defensive ammunition, as they tend to have more recoil. But, if you’re using lower power training rounds, your pistol may start having malfunctions like stovepiping and failures to eject/feed. Keep in mind that this isn’t always the case for most pistols, but if issues like this occur, you may need to adjust your recoil spring to compensate for the compensator. 

Lastly, anytime you add an accessory that changes the shape and profile of your pistol, it makes it incompatible with standard holsters. Even though some compensators are small, this minute difference is enough to make it so that you need a compensator compatible holster. So, if you plan to run a compensator, it’s best to make sure you have a holster that’s fitted for it before you start using it.  

Best Concealed Carry Handguns with Compensator Compatibility 

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GLOCK 19 and GLOCK 43x/48 

One of the most popular handguns for concealed carry is the GLOCK 19. A 9mm pistol, it has a standard capacity of 15 rounds and is compatible with most hollow-point ammunition. While not usually equipped with a compensator, they can easily be added to the pistol via aftermarket upgrades. One of the most popular is the Radian AFTERBURNER and RAMJET, as it’s a barrel and compensator combo. Other models like the Agency Arms 417 and Zaffiri Precision Blowhole compensators are just a few of the many GLOCK-compatible compensators available. Just remember that they require you to have a threaded barrel. 

If you’re looking for a smaller carry gun, the GLOCK 43x and 48 pistol are a solid choice. Part of GLOCK’s slimline of pistols, both have 10-round capacities and 3.41-inch and 4.17-inch barrels, respectively. Like the GLOCK 19, neither pistol comes standard with a compensated model, but there are aftermarket barrels and compensators for them such as those from Agency Arms and Zaffiri Precision.  

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SIG Sauer P320 and P365 

SIG Sauer’s flagship pistol, the P320 is renowned for its adaptability and modularity. It’s available in multiple configurations and has one of the largest parts aftermarkets available for it. However, out of the available configurations, there are a select few models that come standard with compensators or have ported barrels.  

The P320 AXG Legion comes standard with a ported slide and barrel. Additionally, the P320 Spectre Comp Blackout comes with a compensator pre-installed. Both models are full-size pistols with 17-round capacities, while also coming with extended 21-round mags. While compensated, they aren’t the easiest to conceal. Smaller P320 models are available, but there aren’t any available with compensators, requiring you to get a threaded barrel.  

Next up, the P365 is SIG’s micro-compact line of pistols and are some of the industry’s most popular concealed carry pistols. Despite their smaller size, they use double-stack magazines, giving them 10-, 12-, and 17-round capacities, depending on the model that is. 

The largest model available, the SIG Sauer P365X-Macro, has an added variant that comes with a ported barrel and slide. Even though it’s thinner than the P320 Compact, it boasts an impressive 17-round capacity. The P365X-Macro Comp is the only model that comes with an integral compensator. However, there are SIG Sauer compatible compensators for the standard P365 and P365XL. The Faxon EXOS-525 and the Tyrant Designs P365 Compensator are great options. 

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Smith & Wesson M&P9 2.0 

Smith & Wesson is another popular handgun manufacturer. The Smith & Wesson M&P series of pistols has many excellent options, with the M&P9 being the most popular. Like the P320, it’s available in multiple sizes, with the compact being one of the most sought after for concealed carry. The M&P9 2.0 compact can come with either a 3.6- or 4-inch barrel and has a standard capacity of 15 rounds. Like GLOCK pistols, they don’t come with compensators, however, select models of the M&P9 come with threaded barrels, making installation simple and quick.  

Another solid pick is the S&W Shield Plus. It’s a much smaller pistol that was designed for concealed carry. Like the P365 from SIG, the Shield Plus is another remarkably small pistol with an impressive round-capacity. Depending on the model, it can have either a 3.1- or 4-inch barrel, but it has a larger magazine capacity of 10 to 13 rounds. Like the M&P9, there aren’t any options that are pre-equipped with compensators, but they can be added to them.  

Which is best?  

Deciding which of these is the best handgun for concealed carry is an impossible task, as every individual has differences in preferences. Ultimately, the best pistol is the one that best fits your needs. If you’re on the fence about which one you should get, our best handguns for self-defense article goes in-depth on the various pistol models available.  

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Concealed Carry Considerations 

A common question enthusiasts ask is whether they can conceal a pistol with a compensator. The short answer is yes, but it’s highly dependent on the user, more so than the pistol itself. The main part of the pistol responsible for ‘printing’ (seeing the outline of the pistol through clothes) is the grip, since it sticks out to the side when carrying. The slide, as well as your compensator, are comparatively the easiest to conceal since they fit snugly within the holster.  

Still, depending on your stature and build, the added length provided by a compensator can potentially be uncomfortable to carry. The longer the slide is, the deeper it’s going to sit in your waistband, which can cause discomfort when sitting down or moving. However, by opting for a pistol with a shorter barrel, you can offset the length added by a compensator. In terms of holsters, we mentioned previously that not all holsters are designed to fit compensators, so if yours isn’t compatible with them, you’ll need to upgrade to another one.  

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Compensators do an excellent job of making pistols easier to control when shooting and are an excellent addition to add to your EDC pistol. Though adding one can create some hurdles, pairing it with the right gear and equipment can make jumping over them a straightforward process.  

Remember, before you buy a compensator, it’s crucial that you make sure your pistol is compatible with it. Likewise, it’s important to have a holster that fits the added length and contour of your compensator. If you don’t, you won’t be able to effectively carry with your  

With everything above considered, compensators are worth having on your carry gun, letting you enjoy lower felt recoil and enhanced accuracy. If you’re wanting to know what else you can do to upgrade your pistol, check out our top five accuracy upgrades for pistols article to see what else is possible.