Key Point: If you are looking for a good weapon, here are some of your options. We explain why these ones make the cut.
(Here we present several of our most popular handgun profiles as one combined post for your reading pleasure. These appeared seperately in 2017 and 2018.)
5 Best Glock Handguns on the Market
The Glock 17 handgun shook up the gun industry in a big way. Gaston Glock’s polymer pistol masterpiece, with its emphasis on ruggedness and reliability, swept the military and law-enforcement world and conquered the civilian market. Slowly, the company has introduced new handguns, all based on the original design, to compete in virtually every niche of the handgun market, from large-bore semiautomatics to discreet concealed carry. Here are five of Gaston Glock’s best designs.
The handgun that started it all, Gaston Glock’s first handgun was originally designed to win a contract to supply the Austrian Army with handguns. It is a remarkable piece of engineering for someone who had only studied, but never designed, handguns of his own. The polymer lower receiver reduced the handgun’s weight where metal was unnecessary while keeping a traditional all-steel frame. The G17 can stand up to a wide array of physical abuse, including being run over by a car and frozen in ice, as well as dust and other environmental factors while remaining completely reliable. The Glock’s seventeen-round magazine had the highest ammunition capacity of any commercially available pistol of its time.
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One of the first Glock variants, the Glock 21, was simply the original Glock 17 scaled up to accept the .45 ACP round. The result was a high-capacity .45 pistol, something that wasn’t exactly common. The Glock 21 could carry thirteen .45 ACP rounds while the standard .45 pistol, the Colt 1911A1, could carry seven or eight. The use of weight-reducing polymers was particularly useful in the G21, as it offset the weight of a magazine full of .45 rounds. The introduction of the Glock 21 early in the company’s line proved that Glock understood many American shooters were skeptical of what they considered the relatively low-powered nine-millimeter round, and that the basic design could scale up to accommodate more powerful, higher recoil ammunition.
The Glock 17 was a very popular handgun but, designed for military service, it was a bit larger than what many enthusiasts, concealed-carry wearers and home-defense users wanted. The result was the Glock 19. The Glock 19 was designed as a compact version of the Glock 17, approximately half an inch shorter than the G17 in overall length, height and barrel length. Ammunition capacity was decreased only slightly, to a still-respectable fifteen rounds. The G19, while not designed as a service pistol, has attracted a military following, with Navy SEALs and U.S. Army Rangers choosing it as their standard sidearm. A modified Glock 19, the 19X, was submitted to the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System competition.
Designed as a subcompact carry pistol, the G43 is Glock’s first “single stack” handgun, featuring a thin magazine carrying six nine-millimeter rounds in a single vertical column. The G43 is one of the smallest pistols in the subcompact category, just 6.26 inches long and four and a quarter inches high. The pistol is just one inch thick, and loaded weighs just 22.36 ounces. This combination of small size and light weight makes the Glock 43 exceptionally easy to conceal on one’s person. While the relatively small ammunition capacity is a bit unusual for a Glock, concealed carry pistols in general are strictly defensive firearms and the low round count is a tradeoff.
In Glock’s entire inventory of handguns, there is one gun not available for sale in the United States to regular gun owners. This particular gun, the Glock 18, has a selector switch located on the slide that allows for two modes: traditional semiautomatic fire and fully automatic fire. The Glock 18 is a Glock 17 full-size pistol with the ability to fire at rates of up to 1,200 rounds per minute. In addition to seventeen-round magazines, Glock also manufactures thirty-three-round magazines that fit in the magazine well of most nine-millimeter Glocks, and would be particularly useful in the G18. Saddam Hussein had a Glock 18C, a version with a built-in compensator to deal with the recoil of fully automatic fire, on him when he was captured by U.S. forces in December 2003. The gun was later presented to former president George W. Bush as a war trophy.
Meet the 5 Best Smith & Wesson Handguns Ever Made
Smith & Wesson is one of the oldest, and most storied names in American firearms. Founded in the 1800s, the company specialized in revolvers and guns such as the No.3 and Schofield became synonymous with the Old West. Although Smith & Wesson is best known for its handguns,the company now makes guns of all stripes, from revolvers to pistols to their own version of the AR-15 rifle. Here are five of the storied company’s best contemporary offerings.
Smith & Wesson 686
Smith & Wesson categorizes its revolvers using a system of letters, with the so-called “L” frames set in the middle between small and large caliber guns. One of the most popular “L frames” is the Smith & Wesson 686 .357 Magnum. The 686 is capable of shooting both high powered .357 Magnum and lighter .38 Special ammunition. This gives shooters the option of training on .38 Special until they know the ins and outs of the revolver and then stepping up to the more lethal .357 Magnum when they feel comfortable.
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The 686 has a four-inch barrel, an overall length of 9.6 inches, and weighs two and a half pounds. It also adjustable sights, a satin stainless steel finish, double action firing system and a six or seven round cylinder.
Smith & Wesson Model 29
The Smith & Wesson Model 29 was one of the first revolvers chambered for the powerful .44 Magnum round. A blued, six cylinder revolver with wooden grips and a classic style, the Model 29 became particularly popular after its use in the “Dirty Harry” series of films. The Model 29 is an all-steel handgun with heft, all the better to soak up the punishing level of recoil a user experiences when fired. Barrel length ranged from four to ten inches. The powerful .44 Magnum cartridge was particularly popular with gun enthusiasts and hunters who stalked dangerous prey. Discontinued in 1999, Model 29 was recently put back into production.
Smith & Wesson Model 442 Pro Series
In Smith & Wesson’s lettering system the smallest revolvers use the so-called “J frame,” and one of the smallest revolvers of all is the Model 442 Pro Series. Designed as a concealed carry revolver, the 442 is chambered in .38 Special and can handle more powerful, higher pressure +P rounds. The revolver frame is made of aluminum alloy to reduce overall weight with the cylinder itself made of carbon steel and barrel made of stainless steel. The 442’s cylinder holds five rounds, resulting in a narrower pistol that is easier to carry concealed. The revolver is double action only, meaning a single pull with both advance the cylinder to fresh round and release the firing pin, firing the gun. The 442 lacks a hammer, allowing for a smoother draw from under clothing.
Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0
Smith & Wesson’s successful “wonder nine” pistol, the M&P followed in the footsteps of the Glock to produce a highly effective, high capacity polymer frame pistol. The Military & Police Model, currently in version 2.0, has a low bore axis, which the manufacturer claims reduces muzzle climb and allows the shooter to get sights back on target faster. The M&P 2.0 incorporates a five-inch stainless steel barrel into a pistol with an overall length of eight inches. The double action pistol is available in nine millimeter and .40 Smith & Wesson, with the 9mm version sporting a seventeen round magazine plus one in the chamber, for a total of eighteen rounds. The pistol also features an optional loaded chamber indicator and optional thumb safety. Somewhat unique among pistols it comes with four different palmswell grip inserts for maximum ergonomic comfort.
Smith & Wesson 1911A1
The patent on John Moses Browning’s 1911 handgun design ran out long ago, and nearly all gun companies now manufacture their own versions of this iconic handgun. Smith & Wesson is no exception, producing its own S&W1911 E-Series pistols. The pistols are generally true to the final version of the 1911A1, with the exception of stainless steel barrels, skeletonized hammers, and in some cases an accessory rail for the mounting of lights and lasers. The company makes both full-size Government and smaller Commander handguns, the latter with a barrel three quarters of an inch shorter than the five-inch Government barrel and a slightly shorter slide. Commanders also feature bobtailed mainspring housings and aggressive checkering to help the shooter stay on target. The 1911 E-Series is generally true enough to form to satisfy 1911 purists.