Yesterday, RF linked to a Top Ten List of Handguns and asked TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia for their picks. Missing from the original selection and this website’s second guessing: any criteria for making that selection. While many of you explained your choices, I was thinking that your selection process was just as interesting as the actual list. How do you go about choosing the “best” handguns? So here’s my top three criteria for picking a top ten handgun (i.e. what I look for in a handgun). What’s yours?
1. “Legs,” for lack of a better term. Were/are people still carrying it and its clones 25 years after its introduction? 50? 100? Were they still carrying it into combat? There’s no better indicator of greatness than longevity, unless you’re in a Soviet command economy. The Walther PP, Browning 1911, S&W J and K frames, and the Colt SAA score big here. The P-08 Luger and Webley revolver fare almost as well.
2. Ubiquity: did/does it securely occupy a prominent place in the world’s market for handguns? The Colt SAA, Webley, 1911, Walther, Beretta 92, Glock, and Hi-Power have ruled the planet for almost 140 years in terms of huge production numbers and widespread adoption.
Various Soviet designs also flooded the world’s centers of conflict, but these were clones of Browning designs (Tokarev) or Walther patterns (Makarov). The Nagant revolver was built by the millions only because the monolothic Imperial Russian and early Soviet procurement system had no other options.
3. Innovation: it’s not quite true that there is nothing new under the sun, but truly innovative successful handguns are somewhat rare. The Luger, 1911, Hi-Power, P-38, CZ-75, Glock, and the the FN 5.7 are standouts in this category. A rare non-military entry in this category is the Thompson/Center Contender. The Rhino is truly innovative, but it is not yet successful. The XD is truly successful, but it is only an evolutionary design, not revolutionary.
These are only my suggested criteria. What are yours?