Ask Foghorn: What’s the Best Polymer Handgun?


JoshinGA writes:

Im in the market for a new full size polymer gun, probably in a 9mm. What would you recommend for a polymer duty gun? Thanks.

Funny you should ask, I was planning on doing an article on this very topic. Which is why I rang up the manufacturers of the top polymer framed handguns in the United States and asked them all to send me one. So, which is best? . . .

It depends. I know, its a sucky answer. Shut up and let me explain.

It seems like each polymer handgun works best in a different situation. Almost like they were in some sort of cabal, where each manufacturer claimed dominion over a designated section of the market. Thanks to that fact, while it’s possible to point to a single handgun for each use case, finding one that fits all of the categories is rather difficult. So let’s go one by one and maybe I can figure out an answer while I write this up.

Home Defense

For a home defense gun, you’re looking for reliability, capacity, and the ability to add a flashlight. You want something you can plunk on the nightstand or in a easy to access safe, and not necessarily something that’s easy to tote and conceal. So as much as I hate to suggest it, a Glock 17 is the gun to own.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am definitely not a Glock fanboy. I just plain don’t like the way they look and feel. But even I have to admit that when you want a home defense gun, the G17 is about as perfect as it gets.

The Glock 17 was designed from day one to be a duty gun, not a concealed carry gun. The 17 is slightly larger than the 19, which allows a few more rounds to be squeezed into the magazine. And the accessory rail under the barrel means that you can bolt a flashlight on there without a problem (because seeing what you’re shooting at is always a good idea).

Beyond the physical features, the fact of the matter is that Glocks simply do not break. I’ve seen them subjected to everything from thousands of rounds of torture testing to massive drops to even being baked into various pastries and they still work. Reliability is kinda important when that robber kicks in your door, so the Glock line definitely earns some points thanks to its reputation and track record.

Competition Shooting

The same characteristics that make a good home defense gun don’t necessarily make a good competition gun. For example, while the Glock trigger is reliable, its not something that I would use for competition shooting. What would I use, you ask? The Smith & Wesson M&P9.

Big caveat here — I haven’t had the chance to shoot the new FNS-9 Competition Longslide which looks to be worthy of consideration here. And even if I had, recommending it would be a conflict of interest. So, among the handguns I’ve reviewed so far, the S&W M&P9 is the tops.

For me, I’ve found that S&W’s offering not only fits my hand the best, but also shoots the straightest and quickest. And while the factory trigger is pretty good out of the box, thanks to the guys at Apex tactical swapping it out for a much better one, it’s an absolute breeze. So you have an excellent trigger, an accurate gun, and one that looks rather awesome to boot.

Iain Harrison disagrees. According to Iain, the best competition handgun is the Springfield XD. I can see where he’s coming from, but to me the trigger is the dealbreaker on that one.

Concealed Carry

RF is probably expecting to see a picture of his much loved Caracal to pop up here. Nope, not gonna happen. Because while it’s a nice handgun, the fact that his has been out of action for over 100 days due to a design defect is too prejudicial to ignore. No, for this category, we’re going with the S&W M&P Shield.

I was actually about to give this one to the Glock 19, but the width of that double stacked magazine (and thus, the gun) threw it out of contention. Instead, the sleek and slim M&P Shield is my recommendation. It just fits my hand better than any of the other “tiny niney” handguns out there, including the Beretta Nano or whatever that Kahr was that Destinee reviewed for us. Nothing felt as good in the hand – or on the waistband – as the Shield.

The only issue I had with this gun was accuracy. The gun itself is accurate, but in my monster paws, I only really get a really good grouping under 10 yards. It’s still “minute of bad guy” out to 25 yards, but not quite as accurate as some of the others for me. Then again, I have that exact same problem with any of the compact 9mm guns. Which is why I stick to my 1911.

Overall Winner

Now that I have had some time to think it through as I write, I actually might have found a winner. While I paused here for a second, I asked myself “if I could only have one handgun, what would it be?” And to my immense surprise, it’s a Glock 19.

The Glock 19 is one of the most popular firearms in the United States, and for good reason. It’s reliable, rugged and there are spare parts behind every blade of grass. Magazines are available in a dizzying variety, thanks to the fact that the gun not only takes its own 15-round mags but also the G17’s 17-rounders, not to mention the 33-rounders that are available. And as for the size, it’s small enough to fit in my (rather large) pocket, yet large enough to be comfortable firing.

And that’s the reason I bought one — it doesn’t do anything “the best” over the other guns mentioned, but it does everything really well. Combined with the availability of magazines and the reliability of the gun, it’s the clear choice for my bailout bag. Which is where it sits as we speak . . . ready if I ever need it.

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