Concealed Carry & Home Defense

Best Defensive Handgun Under $500? Make Mine A CZ P09

Guns and Gear Contributor
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By Michele Rahal, The Shooting Channel

I’m often asked what weapon would I keep on my nightstand, specifically referring to a handgun, because I do keep more than a handgun at the ready. I also have a go-to pistol that occupies that space somewhere close to the nightstand.

However, for the purpose of answering the simple question of what do I use – a CZ P09. Now the follow up question. Why?

I looked long and hard, with a jaundiced eye, at the offerings out there. Here’s my disclaimer, I have owned predominantly 1911’s throughout my life and the comparison took me through a process that wasn’t as simple as it may seem.

The CZ P09 is one of those handguns that seems to fit the bill perfectly as a duty gun, for LEO, and as a formidable nightstand queen.

What’s not to like? It’s affordable, as it can be purchased for under $500. It has the high-capacity that you want in a home defense nightstand weapon. It fits the hand in the same tradition as the fabled CZ 75.

In fact, shooting the CZ 75 was probably my most influential deal point for making the leap to a 9mm weapon from a .45 1911. The famous Col. Jeff Cooper said the CZ 75 was the best 9mm in the world. I didn’t believe him until I tried it. It is, at least for me.

Three different backstops and you WILL find the perfect grip for you, even with smaller hands.

What the 75 didn’t have was the polymer frame and 19 +1 capacity. The CZ P09 does. It also has the grip angle that falls somewhere between a CZ 75 and a 1911. Call it a hybrid, if you will, but with the extra back-straps provided by CZ you’re able to really find your grip and the importance of this cannot be understated when the stress level reaches into the red.


So, having been part of the “If it doesn’t start with a 4 crowd, then it isn’t powerful enough,” I started down the path into the one area of research that all serious shooters and self-defense advocates should. I researched the ballistics and new types of ammunition that take the 9mm into a new territory.

The ballistics of a .45 caliber round compared to a 9mm +P aren’t dramatically different. Ammunition has come a long way in the past decade and the 9mm has benefited greatly from this improvement.

I could have easily justified, in my mind only, purchasing a Para Ordinance Black Ops Recon. It holds 14 + 1 rounds of ass kicking .45 ammunition. Unfortunately, it costs about $1,200 and up.

The CZ P09 holds 20 rounds. Think that through. 20 rounds of high speed defensive ammo for under $500. It was a toss up. Do I spend that much on a single stack .45 when the benefit isn’t that much greater?

The 15 round Para Ordnance Black Ops Recon


I’ve never carried a 1911 that wasn’t ‘Condition One” cocked and locked. On the other hand, was this the setup I wanted for a nightstand weapon? No. I fired several hundred rounds through the CZ and the one thing that kept coming to mind was the length of pull on the trigger.

It’s fairly long and the reset is as well. But isn’t that what you would want in a dimly lit area where just one split second can either take out the invader, or your dog or worse. I don’t want to breath on the trigger of a defensive firearm and have it discharge.

CZ very intelligently provided a solution for this as it ships the weapon in DA/SA mode with a de-cocker, but also provides a single action safety that you, the owner, can switch yourself. Don’t like the long pull Omega Trigger? Change it to single action.

The mental dilemma of worrying about grabbing the weapon, which has been modified into a single action firearm, and having a negligent discharge in the dark due to knocking the safety off was too risky. The Sword of Damocles was in play with this decision.

The Pistol

A pistol that provides virtually all the bells and whistles, is light enough not to need a sling to raise up to aim, holds 20 rounds and eats virtually any ammo you throw at it has to be perfect, right? No such thing. There is a trade off, albeit one that can be overcome. It’s called practice.

Should you choose to keep the CZ P09 in DA/SA with the de-cocker you’re going to have a fairly long pull, a not so clean break and then a bit of a creep back to reset. That sounds bad, it really isn’t.

Mastering this pistol is easy, you practice at the range, you dry fire in order to get used to the take up and you are good to go. On the other hand, you can spend roughly $380.00 to have the entire trigger system re-worked. My understanding is that it’s a brilliant improvement over the stock P09.

But, and it’s a Kardashian size but(t), for the nearly $900.00 to have the perfect P09 you can buy the Heckler and Koch for $700-800 and still have a little left for a mountable light. Well, a fairly inexpensive weapon light. Or, you can step out and go for the Para .45.

The Verdict

It’s simple. The CZ P09 is a helluva deal. Mount a Streamlight 69210 TLR-1s LED Rail Mounted Flashlight with Strobe Function, I did, and you have a formidable and relatively safe ‘Bump in the Night’ pistol.

Spend more than that and I’m going for the Para Black Ops Recon.

It’s the 1911 in me.


Michele Rahal  is the president of Mediavalue, Inc, Unplugged Auto Group, The Shooting Channel and a retired race driver. To visit The Shooting Channel – click here.