‘The Single Best Handgun Ever Made’

OK, this is possibly the mother of all flame-worthy post topics. And for that very reason, we’d never presume to designate one handgun as the best ever. Or would we?

The choices are daunting, to say the least. Revolvers, semi-automatics, single-action, double-action, DA/SA. Stainless steel or polymer frame. American, German (Austrian?). And then there are the calibers. OMG…the calibers.

For a pronouncement like that, we’d defer to someone with far more time and experience dealing with handguns, both inside and out. Shooting them as well as working on them. Everything from GLOCK to Beretta. From Smith & Wesson to Colt to Ruger, SIG SAUER, Walther, infinity and beyond.

Which is why we’re comfortable presenting the following opinion on the subject from frequent commenter and ballistic polymath, Dyspeptic Gunsmith.

He left the this under Logan’s review of the Colt 1911 Government 80 series pistol:

I met a Marine vet who served in SEA during the late 60’s. Upon hearing that I was a gunsmith, he asked me a very direct question:

“What, in your opinion, is the single best handgun ever made?”

Taking note of his USMC awards and pictures on the wall of his law office, I replied: “There are many good pistol designs out there, but I have to give my vote to the 1911.”

Turns out that was the correct answer. 😉

It also came out that he volunteered in Vietnam to go down into tunnels after Charles with nothing but a flashlight, a 1911, and some magazines. He said that when he needed it, the 1911 never failed him. As far as he was concerned, there will never be a better handgun – because when he needed it most, the 1911 was there, it worked, and it settled “disagreements” quickly.

We’ll leave it to you to decide if that was DP’s honest opinion of the best handgun ever made or whether he was telling the Marine what he thought he wanted to hear.

Either way, a solid case can be — and has been, repeatedly — made for John Moses Browning’s all-American mesiterwerk single-action semi-automatic pistol as the single greatest handgun ever designed (do we even need to specify that it’s the original .45 ACP?). Still. Over a century later.

We’ll let you take it from here.

comments

  1. avatar dph says:

    The one your carrying.

    1. avatar dph says:

      “you’re”
      Dammit where’s that stinking edit button?

        1. I can live with “Personal Preference” than (i.e. M1911A1) w/.460 Rowland ammo…

        2. avatar Grant. says:

          Funny, the 1911 and the P7 are my two favorite handguns.

          Following close behind are the FNX-45, S&W Model 29, CZ SP-01, HK45, HK Mk23, HKP30, etc. All are quality beyond measure 😉

    2. avatar arc says:

      I know for sure the best ISN’T the M9 Beretta.
      “handgun” could also mean pistol with brace… so maybe something in 300AAC?

      G19 is the best for me because its cheap, works, and I hit my targets with it. 9MM is small enough to carry a lot of bullets and big enough to not be a mouse gun.

  2. avatar AlanInFL says:

    I’m still waiting for the Glock 1911.

    But in all fairness, 1911 are good pistol to carry.

    1. avatar Pm says:

      Its called the hudson h9

      1. avatar B.D. says:

        If the rail was higher and allowed a light to be mounted. Yes. Until then… 2011.

      2. avatar One 48 on order says:

        It’s the 48 (if you’re a Commander).

    2. avatar B.D. says:

      The 2011.

      1. avatar JK says:

        What?? No. I shoot one in USPSA and it’s a mighty fine comp gun. But the mags are extremely finicky and from gun to gun they tend to be very particular about OAL. Not the best gun ever made. They are fun but anything but reliable.

    3. avatar Dude says:

      Still waiting for the Glock 6.5 Creedmoor.

  3. And the Best Manufacturer that produced the Colt’s M1911A1 was the Singer Sewing Machine Company…

    1. avatar Randy says:

      … if you could ever afford one of these! I like my little stainless Detonics .45 Combat Master, great quality (the early Seattle based ones).

      1. I already have two, both “Singers”. Don’t need a third…

    2. avatar Bill says:

      Do you own a singer only 500 were made ?my 1911 that I carry has saved my life in the service and at home I have many different models from different manufacturers I take them totally apart and finish them to my taste,but never did a thing to my military 1911 and it always worked

      1. I bought mine in the Mid ’80’s! Am I planning to sell any one of them, NO. And I suspect and unfired one would fetch a better price than a fired one. To me there a piece of History and I own Two Pieces of the history…

  4. avatar Drew says:

    1911 and 92 fs. Tie. Both winners. However, there are so many great guns now.

  5. avatar Mark Brockway says:

    Glock 17

  6. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    Wrong. The Single Action Army is clearly the best handgun ever made. I have a SAA in .44 magnum – try that with a 1911!

    1. WHAT! Not the 6.5 Creedmoor Pistol…

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        Well Magnum research builds a SAA in .45/70, so the Creepmoor could easily be done.

        1. How about a 6.5 Creedmoor Kurz (i.e. 6.5×284 Norma) Pistol

    2. avatar MouseGun says:

      I’d argue that the Ruger Black Hawk is the best; takes everything about the SAA and makes everything about it better. Better factory system sights, better metallurgy, better tolerances, modern calibers, etc.

      1. avatar Old Air Force says:

        +1

      2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        And the Vaquero.

        1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          In the early 1890s Colt came out with adjustable sights.

      3. avatar RGP says:

        Agreed. With a single action Ruger in .44 magnum or .45 Colt you’re set for anything from grasshoppers to moose…

        1. avatar Hoyden says:

          Uberti El Patron CMS. Lower hammer than the SAA/Ruger. 4 clicks on the hammer, carry with 5.

  7. avatar jwm says:

    I do not always agree with DG’s opinions. But I’m inclined to believe he’s never told anybody anything cause he believed that was what they wanted to hear.

    I don’t believe I’ve ever disagreed with his technical expertise.

    Now, for the best handgun. Without a doubt it is the G19. K frame. Ruger Blackhawk. Luger. 1911. Python. Sig 226. P38. Browning Hi Power. Colt Woodsman. Detective Special……

    See how easy it is to come up with the best hand gun. Good thing you didn’t ask a tough question. Like best caliber.

    1. avatar No one of consequence says:

      Thundercougarfalconboomer.

      1. avatar Adub says:

        Goes well when I wear my Lightspeed briefs…

      2. avatar Danny338 says:

        LOL, I loved that. It’s almost a futurama reference.

    2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      My criteria for my assessment with this gentleman was this:

      There is no other pistol extant of which I’m aware which has served a military that actually uses pistols as front-line weapons through two world wars, Korea, Vietnam, and a bunch of other conflicts. There is no other pistol of which I’m aware that has been in the hands of as many men, in as many different combat areas, operating under as many varied conditions, as the 1911. None.

      When this gentleman needed a weapon to take underground, in (as he described it) the “wet mud tunnels” of Vietnam, he took a 1911. The pistol he took underground had already seen a terrific amount of use – it was “well loved” as he put it. Yet it functioned every time he needed it.

      There is no other pistol design in the world of which I’m aware that can lay claim to that sort of longevity and widespread use. The CZ-75 is an excellent design – but it is a latecomer to the field, coming along in 1975. The Hi Power is an excellent design – but it hasn’t seen as much use in as many varied conditions as the 1911, and it too came along later.

      Add to this that the original 1911 can be detail-stripped with no other tool than a .45 ACP case rim… and we have a pretty clever design as well as a durable one. Darn few pistols can be detail-stripped with no tools.

      The 1911, IMO, is one of two monuments to JMB’s career as a firearms designer. The other is the M2 machine gun, which is still laying down Uncle Sam’s hate and discontent, 90 years later.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        All the 1911’s I saw in the service were ‘well loved’. I believe some of them rattled even when they were laying flat on a table. But they went bang. Every time. But that M2. That thing was breath taking in what it could do.

        With all the things he gave us I have great respect for JMB.

        P.S. The Colt Woodsman was one of his, wasn’t it?

        1. avatar Walter says:

          1911 pulled my fat out of the fire on more than one occasion. As to mama duece my favorite was the quad 50 or as one crew called theirs The Widow Maker.

        2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          When I review the history of belt-fed/crew-served weapons, there’s (again) no weapon so versatile, used in so many applications (infantry, mechanized land forces, air gunnery in fighters/choppers and on ships large and small) to as great an effect, across as many decades, as the M2.

          We taxpayers have gotten our full value out of weapons like the M2.

        3. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          Sorry, forgot to answer your Woodsman question, and we still don’t have “edit” capability.

          The Colt Woodsman… JMB had a fair part in the design, but it wasn’t a Browning-alone design. There were other engineers and machinists inside Colt that helped in the design of this little pistol. The Woodsman pistol changed a bit in the three generations of the pistol.

          I guess I would call the Woodsman a “design directly influenced by JMB.”

          They’re nice .22 pistols, and (of course, like everything else with a prancing pony on it) quite collectible.

        4. avatar jwm says:

          Thanx, DG. I know they were more common in my youth and I took them for granted.

          Walter. I never encountered the 4 gun M2 set up. Most of the ones I saw were mounted on m113’s.

          What’s better than one M2? Four M2’s.

        5. avatar Geoff "Mess with the bull, get the horns" PR says:

          “What’s better than one M2? Four M2’s.”

          There’s a 3-barrel Gatling version of the .50 BMG, the GAU 19B 50 Cal Gatling Gun.

          Looks like it could put a world-o-hurt on someone :

        6. avatar LarryinTX says:

          JWM, I’ll go ya one better than a quad-M2. How about 2 M2s mounted in the front of a jet, usually activated while 50 feet in the air going 450 knots (520 mph)? And best of all, it was *training*, they never saw combat, nobody was shooting back in New Mexico! And the airplane was so old and leaky you could smell the gunsmoke in the cockpit, it was sublime!

        7. Don’t you mean M3’s? M2’s were rather slow firing at jet speeds…

      2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        Dang it! With all this 1911 talk now I feel the need to pack a 1911 on my belt and try that for a few weeks.

        I will say this, I LOVE the feel of a 1911 grip.

      3. avatar Erik Weisz says:

        The CZ-75, (which, as an improvement on the 1911 and HiPower, is inarguably the absolute undisputed best handgun ever made) can also be detail stripped with no tools – the latest AccuShadow doesn’t even require a bushing wrench. The only shortcoming of the CZ-75 is it doesn’t come in 10mm, though you can re-chamber a 9mm barrel for .357sig and stick it in a .40 slide and even still use any standard mags.
        The only thing that may unseat the CZ is the Lauga Alien, but that price tho…

      4. avatar Don Nelson says:

        USMC also. Needed one twice, worked both times. 1911A1 Gov’t Model.

  8. avatar Gadsden says:

    I’d put the 1911 at the top of the semi autos. But I’d put some revolvers above the 1911. I’m sure many will say that belongs to a certain snake series Colt. And they’re probably right. My personal favorite though, is a S&W 629 .44 mag. It’s all around my favorite gun to shoot. I’d like to give an Anaconda a try through if I had the chance.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      Single best ever? Colt Python, hands down. And if that tunnel rat had access to one, he’d have left the 1911 aboveground.

  9. avatar California Richard says:

    But does it come 8n 6.5 Creedmore?

    1. avatar Kevin says:

      Yeah, those 6.5 Creedmoor jokes just keep getting funnier and funnier.

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        What?!? You’d rather go back to .300AAC Blackout jokes?

  10. avatar Kendahl says:

    1911 platform, definitely. .45ACP, not necessarily. The platform is available in many calibers. Pick the one you like.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      I think later this year, I’m going to see if I can put together a Commander-sized 1911 in 9×23 Winchester. It would be like a semi-auto with the power of a .357.

    2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      I’m kind of partial (being a .357 revolver guy) to the 10mm in 1911s. But I’m a little surprised by the lack of .40S&W 1911s. The recoil has to be far more manageable than in a 26 ounce piece of plastic and with 5″ of barrel most loads should generate upwards of 500ft/lbs of energy, which tops all but the hottest +p+ .45 loads. I don’t think the .40 would be considered the least bit ‘snappy’ in a 1911.

      1. avatar Specialist38 says:

        I agree. I have only seen a couple of 40 cal 1911s.

        I guess it’s kind of like the days when a 9mm Govt model or Commander was cheaper than a 45 cause no one was buying them (60s and 70s).

        I guess folks think if your going with 1911 size, it must be a 45.

      2. avatar Danny338 says:

        I’ve seen more 1911s in .38 Super than .40 S&W. I like the resurgence of the 10mm and picked up a Sig 1911 in that last year. But can’t you shoot the .40 S&W in the 10mm? The .40 is just a shortened 10mm after all. Or is the bullet too far back from the lands/grooves? Not that anyone should need to. Anyone that has a 10mm just has to make or buy 10mm ammo that is loaded light and they are shooting the same velocities as the .40S&W. There is a lot of 10mm out there like that. I really like the idea of the .45 super in the 1911 and think I will get an inexpensive one later this year to modify for that.

        1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          .40 and 10 headspace on the case mouth, so if you tried to shoot the .40 in a 10 it would just slide into the chamber too deep for the firing pin to reach the primer. It works with revolver cartridges because they headspace on the rim.

        2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          On second thought, I’ve heard of people shooting .40 in 10mm Glocks, because the case is held by the extractor and I’ve heard that’s really hard on it.

        3. avatar b725 says:

          Among my 1911’s I have an STI in .40. I got it when the agency I worked for began to allow 1911’s for carry, with a caveat it had to be a .40 since that was the ammo they required you to carry. I thought since they offered the ammo for free for practice and carry, why not. Since it was designed more as target gun, the tolerances are tight and it’s finicky with ammo, I never really carried it for duty. It’s about as accurate of a gun I’ve ever owned. My carry is a Ruger 1911 Commander now that I’m retired.

    3. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      How does that work — 1911 pistols in other calibers? Do you just purchase a different barrel, recoil spring, and magazine for the new caliber and install them in your original .45 ACP 1911 frame? Or do you need a purpose built 1911 frame for the different caliber barrel, recoil spring, and magazine?

      And where do you purchase 1911 magazines in calibers other than .45 ACP? How do you even refer to such magazines for Internet searches?

      If it is nothing more than purchasing a different caliber barrel, recoil spring, and magazine, I would be all over that. I am thinking that a 1911 chambered in .38 Super or 10mm auto would be pretty amazing. (I would probably opt for 100 auto.)

      1. avatar No_Ones_Home says:

        Yes & No. (Though I’m definitely no expert when it comes to 1911’s)

        I own a Rock Island Ultra FS in 9mm. When I was looking at it in a LGS, they also had the .45 and 10mm versions of it too. The guns were all the same size and length. The barrels were all the same diameter just the bores where different for the cartridges they shot. We swapped the magazines in-n-out and they all fit into each other too. So from that standpoint, I’d say you are correct in that one could just swap the barrels, recoil springs, & magazines and (I’m guessing) they would run. I’m guessing that may be true across other manufactures particular lines/series/models of their 1911’s

        That said, I don’t know if all manufactures make all their parts (barrel diameter, barrel bushing, slide, etc…) to exactly the same specs. My guess is that there is a lot of variances when it comes to stuff. When it comes to the nicer-end of 1911’s (I’d say Dan Wesson and up), a lot of manufacturers list their parts as being “hand fitted”. So I doubt just swapping out parts would be the best for one’s gun. Rock Island, with their conversion kit to shoot the 22 TCM cartridge in a 1911, explicitly state on their website in capital letters, “REGISTERED GUN SMITH FIT AND FINISH REQUIRED.”

        As for 1911 magazines, most of the gun-centric major on-line retailers have them from various manufactures in .45, 9mm, and 10mm. If looking for one in a more esoteric caliber, they’ll obliviously be harder (and possibly more expensive) to come by.

      2. avatar son of alan says:

        New slide (with all internals ), recoil spring, barrel, magazine. Also the ejector needs to replaced on the grip frame. A bit of a pain because it’s pinned.

      3. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        Depending on what “new” round we’re talking about, you could be doing only a different barrel, spring, magazine… or you could be into a new frame, new slide, new barrel, spring, extractor (possibly), new magazine(s), and more.

        1911 frames, slides, barrels, etc can be had from a variety of sources now. STI, Caspian, Ed brown, Les Baer, Wilson, Palmetto, Fusion, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc. I can’t possibly list all the sources of frames/slides/barrels/springs/magazines/doodads here. I’d be here all night, slaving away over the keyboard. Then there are the outfits that specialize in small, but important parts for the 1911 – outfits like Cylinder and Slide, Ed Brown, etc.

        Let’s put it this way: Brownells’ catalog is organized according to popularity. The guns with the “most stuff” available get pushed further to the front of the Brownells catalog.

        As you might suspect, when you open the Brownells catalog, you’re immediately in the AR_15 section, which goes on for quite some number of pages.

        After you’re done with the AR-15 stuff, then you’re into 1911 stuff – for not quite as many pages, but it is still impressive. For those wishing to examine their options, I’d recommend getting on Brownells website or ordering their catalog and seeing what they stock. NB, Brownells doesn’t stock all the available parts/frames/slides/etc in the market. There’s a fair bit of 1911 stuff that Brownells doesn’t stock – yet.

        “Building” a 1911 is usually a bit more involved than knocking together an AR. Most 1911 slide/frame fit-ups require some hand work to get them to come together. Some slide/frame manufactures can do this for you, for a charge. To do this yourself, you need either a mill and some custom cutters, or you can use a 1911 slide groove file (also available through Brownells), and then you could probably use some lapping compound. Along the way, you’d need some measurement instruments, and some of them are a tad spendy. eg, the Starrett can seam micrometer is one such bauble which is useful for getting your slide grooves and frame rails as uniform as possible in fit-up. This mic is over $200 new, and it has few applications other than this in gunsmithing.

        Most people don’t have a Bridgeport-type mill laying around, so the reasonably priced alternative is to use a special hand file for the job. Well… this is certainly less expensive than a Bridgeport-style mill, but most people don’t know how to drive a hand file. If I had people in a class for a week, I could begin to teach them how to drive a hand file. It is both a physical (physical as in “proper body position” “proper sensing of what you’re doing”) and technical skill (files, properly used, are precision cutting instruments).

        Another way to go about this in learning is to buy a 1911 GI parts kit from an outfit like Sarco, which will be much less expensive than most of the aftermarket slide/frame makers’ products. Now you can learn how to bring a 1911 together a bit more cheaply.

        In all cases, I cannot recommend the Kuhnhausen book on 1911’s strongly enough for beginners. Kuhnhausen’s books on Colt, S&W and Ruger revolvers are must-owns if you’re going to work on wheelguns, and his book on Mausers is essential if you want to customize a Mauser. Kuhnhausen also has books on the Remington 870, and several other guns. I have all of these in my library, and they get used on a regular basis. One of my reasons for strongly recommending the Kuhnhausen is their clearly rendered engineering drawings. Many books use photos, which can be unclear/fuzzy, and some books try to reproduce original engineering drawings, which used to be on far larger paper than the size of the pages in typical books. The results are dreadful, in many cases.

        The Kuhnhausen books don’t do this. They took the effort of using a CAD program to draw up very professional drawings of essential issues in the firearms they cover, and these drawings are clear, detailed, often well dimensioned, etc.

        There are other sources of 1911 information as well, basically “all over the place.”

        1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          I am thinking of converting a 1911 chambered in .45 ACP to 10mm. I imagine that I could use the same slide, extractor, etc. and get away with only having to replace the barrel, recoil spring, and magazine. Does this sound correct?

        2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          Give me a couple of weeks to do some homework before giving you an answer. I don’t want to give you wrong info that would lead to unnecessary expenditures on your part.

  11. avatar billy-bob says:

    Obrez moist nugget.

  12. avatar ChanceMcCall says:

    Different guns for different tasks.

    I truly love the 1911 and I carried a Commander LW until Detonics came out with their Combat Master which is a sort of highly improved 1911. However, the all-day carry weight was something that needed improvement so now I’m carrying a SA XDs just because of the weight.

  13. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    Ruger P89. I prefer a hammer fired gun. I hated the Beretta when I was in the Army.

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      I had one back in the 80s. Much later I had a P95 and a Beretta 92. I once placed the slides on my kitchen scale and despite the inch shorter barrel the P95 slide weighed in about an ounce and a half more than the Beretta. If anything I think the P95 was more accurate, but that Beretta pointed like a pistol half it’s weight. IMHO, you can’t go wrong with either a P series Ruger or a 92 Beretta.

  14. avatar Swarf says:

    The CZ-75. It is the final form of the 1911, via the Hi Power.

    1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      sort of. anyhow, i vote thusly.

    2. avatar M1Lou says:

      I second the CZ. My favorite of all CZs has been the P01. It’s accurate, can hold as many rounds as the 75 using a 75 mag, can be concealed fairly easily and I can use it for almost any purpose. Plus it was only around $440 when I bought it new.

      1. avatar napresto says:

        I love me some 1911, but my CZ75 is basically “cheat mode” for pistol shooting, at least for me. I do appreciably better with it than with any other handgun… faster, more accurate, better follow up shots. 9mm plus heavy steel frame plus ergonomic grip plus tight slide fit makes for noticeably better shooting for me.

        To be fair, I am what I would consider to be a “good,” but by no means ” exceptional,” handgun shot, so the improvement might be noticeable to me just because I have a semi-large standard deviation in my usual performance that the CZ just seems to tidy up for me. Anyway its always fun to shoot.

        Even so, for its stature on the world stage, I do like the 1911 choice for “best.”

  15. avatar whitey says:

    The best gun ever made: Sig P210 made in Switzerland

    Cheers from… Switzerland 🙂

    1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      larvatus prodeo

    2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      The originals are indeed very nice.

      If we put a S&W Model 52 up against an original P210, I don’t know which would win in the accuracy department. That said, at least here in the US, you can buy a Model 52 with less money than an original P210.

  16. avatar Broke_It says:

    We are a country awash in guns. Why on earth would you only call one the best? The best is being able to switch up depending on my attire, location, and mood. It turns out the magic was in all of us this whole time!

    1. avatar No Way! ...WAY!! says:

      Ha !!

      “There is NO secret ingredient in the Secret Ingredient Noodle Soup…!”
      -Kung Fu Panda

  17. avatar merlin says:

    The Single Best Handgun Ever Made ?
    everyone knows it is a ruger redhawk 5.5 inch barrel in .45 colt.
    next question.

    1. avatar Mr. Nebby says:

      It gets my vote as well.

  18. avatar Terrance says:

    One of the best handguns, straight out of the box, my s+w 686 357… six inch stainless

    1. avatar Truckman says:

      that was one sweet shooting or at least the one I had in nickel was

  19. avatar mb says:

    Browning Hi Power & Colt Paterson , just an opinion, they were both game changers, copied by competitors, and manufactured a long time.

  20. avatar possum says:

    I really do like a 1911 and brag on them a lot. Occasionally I ask myself this, ” Okay possum, you only get one, just one handgun, and that’s it for everything, just one. Now pick” …. That Marine tunnel rat, wonder what kinda of magazines he brought with him down those holes? Playboy with Jane Fonda? Chu hoi

  21. avatar Jay in Florida says:

    I have tried and carried 7 different new plastic fantastic pistols in the past 6 months.
    Back on my belt is the 1911.
    G-ds best gun design.
    Next is my 2nd oldest gun I bought.
    My Hi-Power.

  22. avatar Kenshinwulf says:

    Glock21 Gen 3.

      1. avatar Flying Fish says:

        Make it in 6.5 Creedmoor, then maybe.

        1. One problem! It doesn’t exist!! It’s an Artist conception of a Glock Revolver made up by “DeviantART”…

  23. avatar Rocketman Padfield says:

    1. 1911A1
    2. S&W 25 in 45acp
    3. Virginia Dragoon in 44 mag.
    4. S&W 28 in 357 mag.

  24. avatar Duane says:

    I have apox. 3 dozen hand guns.

    I am still looking for the best SINGLE handgun,

    There isn’t one because there are so many differing uses for a hand gun.

  25. avatar Robman says:

    I would never declare a single handgun to be the best ever. There are too many uses for a handgun, and one designed to do them all would probably have to make too many compromises, leaving one wanting in any particular role.

    Offhand, I can think of at least seven distinct roles for handguns.

    – target shooting, rimfire

    – target shooting, centerfire

    – small game hunting

    – medium/large game hunting

    – concealed carry

    – police sidearm

    – military sidearm

    Now, one handgun or another might cover two or three of these nicely, but no way could one model do all of them.

    I would say the best military sidearm ever was and is the M1911 in .45 ACP. It is also a damn good centerfire target pistol, but there is a lot of competition in that category (e.g., Sig P210).

    That’s my two cents on this.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      For the record, I agree with you, if we’re broadening the criteria.

      I didn’t specify my criterion (singular) for my answer to our local Marine-turned-lawyer when Dan decided to turn my comment into an article here at TTAG. I expanded on my criterion above. It comes down to the history of the 1911.

  26. avatar Rob says:

    The 1911 isn’t even the single best single stack .45acp.
    In no way is it the single best handgun. Fudds get out.

    1. avatar Jack Crow says:

      Um, trolls go with them? How can you possibly back that statement up?

    2. avatar Flying Fish says:

      Have you ever handled anything but Tupperware, have you ever handled a (real) 1911 or revolver, or anything made of steel for that matter, blued, case hardened, etc? I doubt it, but I am not a Fudd nor is everyone who disagrees with you.
      In fact I am in the negotiations for a real Russian SKS. If California could have invented an “assault” (it is not, but that is a topic for another day) rifle this is it. I am just trying to see how I can rearrange the M4s in my safe to fit a new rifle.

      1. avatar Rob says:

        I have handled plenty of non-poly guns. Most of my handguns are metal frame Sigs, although I do own a 1911, and a G17.
        The 1911 was innovative at it’s inception. It was outclassed by the Hi-Power 20 years later.
        It’s a fun collectors piece, nothing more.

        1. To you maybe, but not to me…

  27. avatar Cruzo1981 says:

    G19X

  28. avatar Timothy Toroian says:

    The 1911 fits my hand better than any other handgun I’ve held. I do want one in 9 mm, though.

  29. avatar Specialist38 says:

    DZ must need some Mid-Month clicks and comments.

    I don’t think it exists (the best gun).

    We pick our favorites and there are many phenomenal designs and copies out there.

    The cap and ball Colts were game changers but were not the first revolvers.

    Smith and Wesson eclipsed Colt with the Rollin White patent for cartridges and then Colt took the lead with SAA.

    And the the S&W K frame in 1899. Then the 1911. Etc.

    We tend to forget all the other designs and technology that were acquired and put into those designs we consider revolutionary.

    We know JMB was Star Trek smart and industrious. Smith and Wesson had a solid design for everyman (Model 10, the G19 of that time) and WWIi catapulted them from near bankruptcy to a leader in civilian and LEO arms.

    Bill Ruger was not innovative in new designs but in visualizing modern manufacturing to make old designs affordable to more people.

    And the biggest cog in the machine driving firearm innovation is the American gun-buying public. Without us, most gun makers would be stagnate as Cold War Russia.

    So there is no best gun….just good designs put to use for good effect.

    Cue music….

  30. avatar B.D. says:

    Why do people act like the 1911 has not been reinvented. The 2011 literally makes that gun a collectors item.

  31. avatar strych9 says:

    The one I’m going to buy next.

    At least that’s what I tell my wife…

  32. avatar GeorgiaBob says:

    Sorry for being obstructionist in my opinion, but the single greatest handgun ever made has to be the Colt SAA. There simply is no room to argue. What other handgun still today does the job as well as the Colt “Peacemaker?” It “won” the Old West, and it still works today.

    The Colt single action revolver was first built in the 1870s and continues to be built – and used today. Admittedly, part of it’s allure is that it is the first fully functional “modern handgun.” But the real truth is, the Colt SAA has been built in more than 30 different calibers, and dozens of different forms, because it is a very, very good handgun. The best of it’s day in 1875. And still a credible threat to those who would do evil, but see the Colt in a peace officer’s holster.

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      If you break into my house tonight the first indication of the gravity of your error will be a 180gr. SJHP zipping along at ~1650fps out of the barrel of my Blackhawk (2006 anniversary model). If you can take 6 of those and keep coming, don’t worry, I’ve got plenty of other guns to shoot you with.

      No other handgun has ever been as interesting to look at from every different angle imaginable.

      While certainly slow to reload, if we went back to the ‘wild west’ where everyone carried a SAA the violent crime rate would be reduced to near zero.

    2. avatar Specialist38 says:

      While the model P (SAA, Frontier Six Shooter) is a great design and continues to serve well today…..Smith and Wesson had the first cartidge revolvers although they were small framed.

      The army adopted the S&W model 3 in 1870 or so. Colt tried for that contract in 1872 with their first cartridge revolver, the 1872 Open Top. They were denied and told to,come back with a more robust and powerful revolver….hence the 1873 model P.

      The army preferred the Colt as it was easier to top reload a revolver that was not empty. The S&W ejected all rounds on opening. The S&W was also more finely fitted and prone to seizing when dirty.

      They also liked the 45 round and forced Smith to chamber the American in 45, which gave us the Schofield revolver.

      So it wasnt the first, it was the most successful in our view. S&W, Adam’s, Remington, Merwin and Hulbert revolvers all had their fans back in the day. Since the military carried them model P,, it kept strong sales,for decades.

  33. avatar Curtis in IL says:

    That Marine vet apparently never fired a Browning Hi-Power (with the magazine disconnect removed, and night sights installed, and an extended safety lever).

    If you love JMB, then a JMB gun (sort of) loaded with 13+1 rounds of 9×19 whoop-ass should be your nirvana.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      The detailed history of the Hi Power is a bit more complicated than “it was JMB’s last gun design.” While we know that while JMB started it, he didn’t finish it, and there were several important changes made after his passing by FN’s senior engineer(s).

      Look at my criterion above. The Hi Power hasn’t been through as much, for as long, as the 1911.

      1. avatar Specialist38 says:

        True dat.

        And , the HP was designed to meet specific criteria, just like the 1911.

        The crtieria had changed so the weapon was different. Not better, just different.

        I like the CZ better than the HP. I never cared for the safety feel, and damned sure didn’t like the mag safety.

        I did shoot a custom HP with more snickety safety and the mag disconnect removed. It was very comfortable and fun to shoot. Just cost a month salary.

      2. avatar Curtis in IL says:

        From what I have read, it was actually Dieudonné Saive at Fabrique Nationale who came up with the double stack magazine for the Hi-Power, which is the main reason I would favor it over the 1911.

        Also of note – Since the patent on the 1911 had been sold to Colt, Browning couldn’t just copy the 1911 design in developing the Hi-Power. He had to come up with new ideas.

  34. avatar Truckman says:

    I can honestly say my favorite handgun is the one I happen to be carrying at the time or using to many different ones out there to pick just one when I get my hands on one it’s hard to turn loose of it heck I still have a old raven 26 cal that still works as good as they ever did not saying a lot my favorite plinker over the years for shooting coke cans is a old Western Auto 9 shot DA revolver but like I say whatever I have on at the time is my favorite and it will be somewhere between a 22 to a 44 mag or 45acp

  35. avatar WhiteDevil says:

    Who’s Charles and why were you searching for him with a gun and a flashlight in a tunnel?

    1. avatar ROBERT Powell says:

      white devil, what school did you go to and did you sleep throughthe history class? the viet cong were two-legged gophers, they had tunnels in viet-nam that held thousands of troops, hospitals and command centers . the tunnel-rats used a 1911 and a flashlight and tons of big balls to go down into the holes to flush out the v.c. there were booby-traps snakes as wells tunnel guards to deal with. they tried sawed-off shotguns [very bad idea] uzi’s no knock-down, the 1911 was the toy of the day by all the concerned..

      1. avatar WhiteDevil says:

        Yawn. They were called Charlie, not, Charles. Let’s see if you can piece it together from there. Meant as a joke due to the obvious, or not so obvious apparently, misspelling.

  36. avatar Widdler says:

    I went through a revolver phase, then steel frame semi autos. Moved on to poly frames and stayed there for a while, now I’m back to steel semi again. I’m sure revolvers will come back into the mix soon enough, no way I could pick just one. That being said, a 1911 always seems to sneek it’s way in the range bag for some reason. Must be a weird subconscious thing, it happens with my AK all the time to.

  37. avatar Scooter says:

    May not be a good fit for everyone, and I love my SR1911 and my CZ75, but I have good capacity and have never had any issue with my 5906 and other S&W 3rd gens.

  38. avatar Nathan says:

    I’m not someone who chases goblins down into their dungeons, but the one gun that always makes me feel like I’m prepared is my S&W 19-2; 6 rounds of versatility fits my bill (and it’s so pretty!)

  39. avatar Flying Fish says:

    Colt 1911 end of discussion.

    1. avatar Flying Fish says:

      PS, a vintage one Colt 1911 or a Series 70, even Colt is atoning for its sins of the Series 80. Preferably blued.

  40. avatar Survivordude1090 says:

    Sig p226
    Change my mind.

    1. avatar Flying Fish says:

      Second choice, and would not try to change your mind.

  41. avatar Houden says:

    Hi-Point

    said no one EVER

  42. avatar JD says:

    The 1911 in this day and age, is no longer a relevant fighting gun. If the Glock was around during the ‘nam days, that’s what guys would’ve carried into tunnels.

    1. avatar Just Sayin says:

      “The 1911 in this day and age, is no longer a relevant fighting gun.”

      Ah, courteous social discourse. The very life blood of humanity.
      We agree to disagree then.
      As I see it, the ONLY irrelevant weapon in a gun fight is having anything other than a gun.
      And even then, those hand size metal mini pineapple looking devices that go *b-o-o-m* can sure settle things quickly.

    2. avatar possum says:

      . Those tunnel rats tried everything, from .22-.30 carbine, most gravitated back to the 1911. Champion 9mm all you want, it’s a two shot doer at most.

  43. avatar Andrew Lias says:

    Jennings Man. Jennings 9.

    Seriously though, there’s so many great firearms.I don’t have to commit to one, and therefore I probably won’t. If I could only have one, it would be a 4″ .357 magnum either an L or N frame in all probability.

  44. avatar Wally1 says:

    So the title asks the question: Best handgun ever made? I noticed it did not specify pistol, therefore it’s really simple: Colt SAA, then colt 1911 and finally the Glock 17. Kind of a toss up between the three. For the 21st century, so far my opinion would be the Glock, simple and ultimately reliable. Yea, it’s an opinion.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      Seems like you are discussing with yourself the most important handgun ever made, which was not the question.

  45. avatar Ferret427 says:

    HK P7M8

  46. avatar Tom RKBA says:

    S&W Model 27 … The first gun in 357 Magnum
    S&W Model 29 … First 44 Magnum
    S&W Model 19 … An optimized police gun
    1911 for obvious reasons
    Glock 17 for obvious reasons
    HK USP … whichever the SPECOPS uses
    Colt Python
    Colt Single Action Army

    “Best”? It probably depends upon context and preference.

  47. avatar Just Sayin says:

    The loaded one you have when the situation dictates the NEED for a gun.

  48. avatar possum says:

    I was pretty steely back in the 70’s, but I’d get the shakes if I had to crawl in a hole playing hide and seek. I couldn’t do it , those tunnel rats were something else, scary bad Men. Better to sit up top and eat crackers, yup yup.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      I’m with you. I did some really scary shit in Viet Nam, but if anyone had suggested that to me, I’d have run screaming for my mommy!

  49. avatar Geoff "Mess with the bull, get the horns" PR says:

    “It also came out that he volunteered in Vietnam to go down into tunnels after Charles with nothing but a flashlight, a 1911, and some magazines.”

    The It also came out that he volunteered in Vietnam to go down into tunnels after Charles with nothing but a flashlight, a 1911, and some magazines.”

    The tunnel rats.

    Men with balls so big, a heavy-lift helicopter couldn’t hoist ’em.

    And there were some that actually liked it so much, they volunteered for that duty?

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      He said he volunteered when the need arose – more than once. Much more than once, from what he said.

      As you said, he clanked when he walked.

      You’d never know it today – he’s a heck of a nice, reserved gentleman lawyer – but for his USMC history on the wall of his office.

  50. avatar jwtaylor says:

    This specific one. Best ever. Still what I judge all others against, and so far, have found all others lacking.
    https://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2015/06/jon-wayne-taylor/gun-review-bills-custom-automatics-master-grade-1911/

  51. avatar Pmac says:

    There is no “best” handgun. Firearms are tools. You don’t drive a screw with a hammer. You don’t drive a nail with a ratchet. Pick what you like best for the job. Me? Self defense. I carried a 1911 professionally for nearly 25 years. Pointed it at many a felon. Don’t know if it was the pistol, or my demeanor, but when I told them I would kill them I guess they believed me. They all surrendered. Outdoors? Smith 6″ 629, 4″ Mountain Gun, 6″ stainless Python, Ruger 5 1/2″ bull barrel MK II, stainless Smith 4″ Kit Gun. Deep cover? Smith 442 and I will wear your ass put with it across the room. Got a few 9mms that I like, but don’t do much with. Except the HK P7M8. Got a Beretta 92 I wouldn’t carry to take out the trash. Anyway, pick the weapon that suits the job.

  52. avatar Kman says:

    I haven’t owned that white whale yet, but of the handguns I’ve owned…
    Browning Hi Power
    S&W 686 6inch
    Glock 19
    All excellent for different reasons.

    1. avatar Pmac says:

      Really like an early 6″ 686.

  53. avatar GS650G says:

    I’ve fired plenty of 1911 pistols from different manufacturers and I don’t care for the platform. I guess that makes me the only one who won’t ever own one.

  54. avatar viking3863827 says:

    25 caliber Chekhov

  55. avatar TheOtherDavid says:

    My vote: 1911. And I don’t even own one (yet). And I’m not voting on the “if I could go to war with one gun” criteria. I’m voting for it because it works reliably and effectively for its intended purpose, and I can’t think of any other mechanical device produced for so long, in such great numbers, used by so many, that beyond using different construction materials is so fundamentally unchanged from the original a century ago.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      “I can’t think of any other mechanical device produced for so long, in such great numbers, used by so many, that beyond using different construction materials is so fundamentally unchanged from the original a century ago.”

      Neither could I, and I’ll wager I’ve seen the insides of more handguns than more people on TTAG. I’ll also add that there aren’t any other handgun designs I know of that have been made by as many different companies as the 1911, nor for as long.

      The 1911 might not be the “best handgun designed,” but in the terms you and I are talking, it has a track record far, far in excess of every other handgun extant.

  56. avatar Gregolas says:

    I agree. Colt 1911 in .45 acp.
    BUT, after another 40 years have passed, the Glock 19.

    1. avatar Blkojo says:

      B-I-N-G-O

  57. avatar Hoyden says:

    Registered Magnum anyone?

    1. The .460 Roland, an .45ACP with attitude…

  58. avatar NJ2AZ says:

    Gotta vote for the Wildey Magnum. The gun that took down The Giggler.

    THE GIGGLER, MAN

  59. avatar Lowell says:

    The 1911? No. The 2011 is better than the 1911 and so far no 2011 manufacturer uses an external extractor(no tuning required) so it’s a few steps forward and a big one back. The 1911 trigger is possibly the best ever introduced in a handgun. The rest of the gun fails a mud test and is expensive to manufacture with a lot of hand fitting often required. The 1911 also includes ergonomically located manual safeties that actually work unlike a Glock because a trigger-mounted safety is not a safety, it’s a lawyer trick, and the negligent discharge rate spikes in PD’s that switch to them is a testament to that.

    It’s not the Glock 19, because the M&P 2.0 and CZ P10C both beat it straight out of the box by addressing all the long standing complaints people had about Glock pistols like the grip angle and absolutely terrible factory trigger. However, the gun was designed to be cheap to produce, and sets the bar in that regard, which is a perfectly valid category. The cheaper a gun is the more of them go out into the world, after all.

    So is the Hudson H9 the BEST gun out there by combing the best of both types of guns? Don’t know, but I feel a tremendous urge to start building 2011s. Not sure if I’ll start with an 80% or just jump straight to my own CNC.

  60. avatar Cea says:

    S&W 952-2 Long slide!
    No question!👌🏻

  61. avatar Vlad Tepes says:

    The best handgun ever made is one that works when you need it and one that you carry every day because it is comfortable for you to carry. I have seen a 12 year old boy lay low a big buck deer with a .22 l.r. and an inexperienced older hunter poorly hit a deer with a .12 ga shotgun which did not stop or slow down the deer even for an instant. In other words skill with a weapon counts for way more than what caliber it is or how many shots it holds.

  62. avatar Oscar Cannington says:

    The best handgun is the Smith & Wesson Model 60-4.

    1. IF I’m looking at buy a Revolver, it would probably be either the S&W 500 or the Colt “Python”…

  63. avatar Joshua Samuels says:

    H&K USP

    I like the USP45 best, you might choose the USP40 or USP9, but I doubt you’ll ever convince me there’s a better pistol, overall.

    P7M8 or P7M13 maybe you could make a strong argument.

    But the USP’s the handgun for me.

  64. avatar Mark says:

    Depends on the purpose. For personal defense in any situation I would have to give the nod to the Series 70 and prior 1911. Carried in Condition 1 it is hard to argue against. If I were hunting large, dangerous animals I would probably go with a 10mm (also good for the above) or a large caliber, double action revolver as a back up tool. The Rugers and assorted other single action wheelguns are outstanding but there is no real reason not to have a double action wheelgun in the woods UNLESS one is looking for handgun only, long range shots which would probably be better suited by at least a 6.5″ barrel, Contender or something similar.
    Just my $.02 and worth exactly what you have paid for it.

  65. I like .45 caliber revolvers, so here are three:
    1) Smith & Wesson Governor. I know this is controversial because some people think it’s just a 6-round version of the Taurus Judge, but it’s an amazingly accurate as well as versatile gun, so don’t knock it until you’ve fired it! It can hold six rounds, mix-and-match, of .45 Colt, .45 ACP, and .410 shotgun shells! Lightweight scandium-alloy frame, comfortable recoil-reducing rubber grip, tritium night sights, and surpisingly accurate for its size and caliber. You might not expect great accuracy from a 2″ barreled gun that can fire a mixture of .45 Colt, .45 ACP, and .410 shotgun rounds, but it is amazingly accurate, as I can consistently hit the target with it at 75 feet (25 yards), even though I’m only an average shooter at best.

    2) Ruger Redhawk MODEL NUMBER: 5050, which can fire .45 Colt, .45 Colt +P (including the famous “Ruger-only” loads that would blow up any lesser gun), and also .45 ACP using moon clips (moon clips only needed for .45 ACP). And if you want soft-shooting rounds, you could always shoot .45 Colt Cowboy loads or even .45 Schofield.

    3) Ruger Vaquero Bisley in .45 Colt. The Bisley version has a lower hammer spur (for easier one-handed cocking) and a better grip. It’s great looking (polished stainless steel and faux ivory grips), accurate, and easy to shoot. Unlike the Redhawk and Governor, the Vaquero Bisley is single-action-only because it’s a cowboy gun, but its classic looks make up for that, and it’s perfect for Cowboy Action Shooting. It’s basically an improved version of the Colt Single Action Army, with a transfer-bar that lets you safely carry it with six rounds in the cylinder.
    They also make the Vaquero Bisley in .357 Magnum, but I prefer the .45 Colt (and the .357 version is a little too heavy, IMHO, due to smaller holes bored in the barrel and cylinder but the same external dimensions).

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      S&W Model 25 or 625. They came in .45 Colt and .45 ACP. I prefer mine in .45 Colt.

  66. avatar raptor jesus says:

    I’ve had an awful lot of 1911s. And every single one of them has had a malfunction at some point.
    I’ve also noticed at competitions the guys with 1911s tend to be clearing malfunctions in 1911s more than other pistols (regardless of price point).

    I love 1911s. I love them. But to say they’re the most dependable, reliable pistol out there . . . . well, I wouldn’t trust my life to one.

    1. avatar merlin says:

      i’ve owned hundreds of guns … including glocks and ak’s … and none of them have never had a malfunction.
      mechanical devices malfunction periodically … it is the nature of mechanical devices.
      electronic devices as well.

  67. The Beretta 92 is the GOAT, never had a malfunction, never had anyone limpwrist it into a malfunction, never had it stovepipe and it chews up +p and +p+ rounds with little issue. ACCURATE right out of the box! Just my .02 cents. ~ Senior Chief

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email