An ongoing political debate has pitted former friends bitterly against one another. Each camp has its candidate, and its loyalists stand firmly behind it.
I am not referring to this past presidential election; rather, I am talking about the ongoing battle between Glock fans and 1911 devotees.
In truth, I think all but the most jaded shooters can agree that both of these guns have their good points. But perhaps the problem is that we are missing the bigger picture: Despite the praises lauded on these two pistols, there are some other very good, reliable, affordable handguns that have their own following in the shooting world.
Here’s a look at seven outstanding semiautos that deserve more attention than they receive.
I’ll do my best to get through this rundown without a single James Bond reference.
My first experience with the PPQ came, fittingly, in Ulm, Germany, at the Walther factory. This brand has an underground shooting range where Walther tests its guns. One of the bays has a large screen at which you can fire at simulated moving targets with live ammunition while a computer tallies your score.
The PPQ I used for this course impressed me with its superb balance, excellent trigger and wonderful grip. Like all modern Walthers, the PPQ was subjected to a 15,000-round torture test and drop-testing, and it’s good to know that these guns are safe and reliable.
The guns are built in Germany using Walther’s modern CNC machines, so tolerances are tight, and this gun is smooth. The trigger reset is very short, which allows for fast follow-ups, and the grip design is one of the best on any handgun. Like the Glock, it’s a striker-fired polymer pistol, and in 9mm, it has a magazine capacity of 15 rounds. Every secret agent should be so well armed (darn—I almost made it!).
The M&P here stands for “military and police.” Even so, this gun also has a huge fan base among civilian shooters. It follows the current trend of polymer-framed/striker-fired guns, but the M&P guns are loaded with features; and options abound when purchasing one of these guns.
You can choose 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP or even a .22 LR (a great trainer if you own a larger gun); plus, you can have it with or without a threaded barrel, a manual safety or laser sights. There are various frame colors offered, and there are also compact models for concealed carry.
Grip geometry on this gun is excellent, and the low bore axis and decent trigger make follow-up shots a breeze—ideal for competition and defensive shooting. All the M&Ps I have shot were accurate and reliable, and breakdown is simple. The new 2.0, released in early 2017, improves upon the original, including the trigger. In a world in which shooters want options, the M&P line never fails to impress.
Okay, I’m sneaking two gun families in here for the price of one. That’s fair, I think, because the 75 and the P-Series guns are both too good not to make this list.
The 75 uses a short-recoil design and has all-stainless construction. There were several variants of this pistol available at one time or another, but most are DA/SA.
One key feature of the 75 is that the slide rides inside the rails, rather than outside, as on most guns. This allows for a low bore axis, tight fit and secure barrel lockup, making this pistol extremely accurate. More recently, CZ gave shooters its Polymer series (or P-Series) of guns, which now includes the P-07, P-09 and the new P-10 C. Both the 07 and 09 are DA/SA guns that benefit from the Omega Trigger System—certainly one of the best triggers in that class.
The new P-10 C is a compact striker-fi red gun, but it’s built to the same exacting standards that make all the CZ guns too good to ignore. There’s an obvious reason CZ guns are gaining a fast and loyal following in this country.
MSRP: Varies (CZ 75 Compact pictured above: $544); (P-07: $510, black); (P-10 C: $499, black)
Like the Smith & Wesson M&P line, the XD Series of firearms has grown tremendously over the last several years. There are lots of options with regard to caliber, frame size and color, finish and barrel length, and you can even choose from double or single stack (XD-S). The XDs are polymerframed, striker-fired guns, and like so many other guns in this category, they have a safety built into the trigger.
But one feature that sets these guns apart is the incorporation of a grip safety similar to that on a 1911. This adds a sense of security when carrying this gun, and there are shooters I know who carry a Springfield just because of this addition. I continue to wonder which of the other major firearms manufacturers will be the first to add this type of safety to their own striker-fired guns.
However, the safety design is far from the only reason to own a Springfield XD. These guns are reliably built, the sights are functional, the grip texture keeps the gun planted (although it might be aggressive for some), and the balance is excellent in both the single- and double-stack models.
MSRP: $508 (XD base model)
It seems that everything Ruger stamps with the “American” name is bound to be a best-seller. Ruger’s American centerfire rifle is an unprecedented hit.
The rimfire American offers perhaps the best accuracy/value combo in small-caliber rifles, and there’s now a striker-fired semiauto pistol that bears this patriotic nomenclature.
Ruger didn’t reinvent the polymer pistol, but rather refined it, offering three caliber options, compact and full-sized variants, and the option for a manual safety. Takedown is fast and easy, with no trigger pull required, and the trigger is one of the best in this class, featuring a very short pull and positive reset.
These guns also come standard with a set of Novak LoMount 3-dot sights—a nice addition.
The P226 is a double-stack version of the P220 that utilizes a modified version of the popular short recoil-operated design. It’s an SA/ DA gun chambered in popular centerfire cartridges, as well as .22 LR, and the less-known .357 SIG cartridge—itself a formidable and easy-feeding round.
A whole host of SIG P226 variants have spawned a number of offspring, with the numeric designations P228 and P229. Although the number of polymer striker-fi red pistols continues to expand, there are still plenty of law enforcement and military personal who strap on a 226 when they’re ready for action—including Special Forces. That says something about the SIG’s build quality and reliability.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention SIG’s striker-fi red P320, which is actually modular in its design. Shooters can change caliber and frame size—something really revolutionary in that class. Plus, earlier this year, the U.S. Army announced that the P320 was the MHS winner … and therefore, it is the successor to the Beretta M9.
MSRP: $1,087 (P226 Nitron, full size); P320: $679
The Browning Hi-Power’s design is often attributed to John Browning. In actuality, he didn’t complete the design before his death, and the gun was completed by Belgian gun designer Dieudonné Saive of FN in the 1930s. It featured an all-steel, single-action design with a double-stack 9mm magazine (thus, the rather confusing name. It would actually make more sense if it were called the Hi-Capacity, although that moniker is less catchy, and the change will never occur). It utilizes a short recoil-operated system that Browning perfected.
These guns have been used in conflicts around the world, from Latin America to Zimbabwe, and there are still a number of old Hi-Powers floating around the most remote corners of the globe. There’s a great deal to love about this gun: It’s accurate, dependable and hearkens back to an era before the use of the word, “polymer,” was synonymous with handgun design. It’s also easier to break down and maintain than a 1911, if that sort of thing matters to you.
Part of the reason the Hi-Power hasn’t received the undying love ushered upon Browning’s more famous auto pistol design is that at its inception, the 9mm ammo was not nearly as effective as the stuff available today. With modern loads, though, the Hi-Power is a defensive weapon par excellence.
MSRP: $1,120 (Standard model)
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the June 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.