Top 10 Fighting Pistols
January 31, 2017
Every year, all the major players (and most of the minor ones) in the firearms world descend on Las Vegas to display their latest wares. This year, there were several new fighting pistols worth looking at.
Here are our top 10 fighting pistols from SHOT Show 2017. The rankings are, of course, subjective. We hesitate to call them all "duty pistols" because more than just the pistol goes into that description. Things like ease of maintenance, armorer and parts supports, aftermarket support and field-use play a big part when determining if a pistol is truly duty ready. For the sake of this write-up, we're looking at several pistols with no track record, so we'll focus heavily on metrics that we've observed, such as accuracy, ergonomics and reliability.
Glock "M" Series — No, they weren't on display. But yes, they were there — you just had to know who to ask! Here's the deal with the M series of pistols that will probably end up being "Gen 5" after the contract is filled: no finger grooves, RTF-2 texture, built-in flare at the magwell, different barrel, ambidextrous slide stops and, most importantly, a redesigned trigger. I had only 30 seconds to look at it, but it appears as if the trigger improvements that went into the Glock 43 were carried over to the "M." The geometry of several parts looks different, and the firing pin safety plunger is more rectangular than round. When we know more, you will, too. Even with all the unknowns, this pistol's pedigree puts it at the top of the heap.
CZ P-10C — I know it's a pretty high debut, but having shot the pistol extensively, I'm comfortable with its place. The P10C has a better trigger than any other striker gun on the market, and the legendary CZ ergonomics are all there. The gun is also as accurate as most custom 1911s that I've shot, which doesn't hurt. Long-term reliability is unknown, but one of the factory samples I shot had more than 20,000 rounds through it. Aftermarket support is currently lacking, but the P10 fits in most Glock 19 holsters, so that's not as bad as it sounds, $500-$516.
M&P M2.0 — Smith & Wesson wasn't going to just sit on their laurels with the popular M&P series; they made so many improvements that they felt it deserved its own version number. The trigger mechanism has been refined, and the press is smooth and consistent at around 5 pounds, which is a vast improvement over the earlier model's inconsistent triggers. There is also a fast, audible and tactile reset for those that prefer it. The frame texture is so good that at least one custom shop I spoke with said that they don't plan on redoing it, just adding it to other areas on the frame. It also comes with forward cocking serrations, which look great. This variant shoots tighter groups than most of the earlier models I've used, which always raises a pistols stock, $600.
SIG Sauer P320RX Carry Optic — Pistols with optics will be the industry standard within five years, and SIG Sauer has embraced the future. While the P320X Carry is smaller than most fighting pistols, its inclusion of the SIG Sauer Romeo dot sight hits way above its weight class. Smooth trigger, great accuracy and refined ergonomics allow this little gem to consistently knock the 10 ring out of targets out to 30 yards. The ability to switch components, depending on user preference, is not only cool but can also provide a very cost-effective platform for agencies. That's probably a big reason why the U.S. Army just chose a P320 variant as its new modular handgun, $870.
FNS Long slide — While not technically new, these pistols are starting to show up in numbers, hence their inclusion. The FNS Long Slide is not that much longer than most full-sized offerings from other manufacturers, but its 5-inch barrel adds heft at the muzzle end and, combined with the grip angle and bore axis of the pistol, provides a flat shooting package for someone wanting a true full-sized pistol. The trigger is not the best on the list but does smooth out somewhat after several hundred rounds. The grip texture is aggressive, and the pistol is set up intelligently. With its controls working smoothly, this is a solid offering for the full-sized aficionado, $650.
Heckler & Koch VP9 Grey — Yes, the only difference is a new color. But that doesn't matter: The VP9 is a solid gun from a solid manufacturer. Its trigger is among the best in the striker-fired sandbox, but it does suffer from a seriously high bore axis. Considering HK's reputation for quality, I'm surprised that there aren't more of these pistols in police holsters around the country. Price could have something to do with that, but this is a pistol that will last for a full career on the streets. It's built like a damn tank. In shooting, the VP9 doesn't flip like you might think it would based on the bore axis, but it does have a unique recoil impulse. Many in the industry, including Larry Vickers, count this pistol among their favorites, $719.
Ruger American Pistol Compact — Probably the biggest sleeper in this category, the Ruger American is full of features. The wraparound grip module is one of the best solutions in the striker-fired category, changing the width and depth of the grip specs and even allowing the shooter to tune their trigger reach to what's comfortable. The trigger is solid and serviceable, but the unique barrel cam and the lighter-than-average slide help to make the pistol very comfortable to shoot. I haven't seen any of them pushed to obscene round counts yet, but based on the pistols that I've shot, I have no doubt that it will run for a good, long while. I imagine that once people figure out that this isn't their dad's clunky P85, the American will hit everyone's radar. Available with or without a thumb safety and in 9mm or .45, this is a pistol worth taking a long, hard look at, $580.
Hudson Mfg H9 — A striker-fired, high-cap 1911ish pistol? Yes, please! Only 1,150 bucks? Maybe not. I fondled it. I shot it. It's neat — but it's not worth $1,150. As of now, this is a boutique pistol. The trigger is very good, the ergonomics are very good, and it has a steel frame for the curmudgeons in the house. Execution of the pistol is excellent, with top-notch craftsmanship and attention to detail. There is definite promise here, but it's still an expensive striker pistol. Once we start getting field reports, my ears may perk up, but as of now, I'm in wait-and-see mode. MSRP: $1,150.
SilencerCo Maxim 9 — It's not duty proven and, hell, it's not even widely available, but damn. This might be the coolest pistol ever. An integrally suppressed 9mm pistol that uses widely available Glock magazines and sights, as well as being set up from the factory to accept red dot optics. This, my friends, is the future. The suppressor is modular and can be shortened to allow a more compact package utilizing subsonic ammunition or kept full length for use with whatever ammo you want. With the groundswell of support for repealing NFA restrictions, this gem has the possibility of going from niche gun to best-seller in the blink of an eye. I've shot the preproduction version, and it's a sweet shooter; not nearly as unbalanced as its appearance lets on. This is a pistol that can work. MSRP: $1,500.
Colt Combat Unit Rail Gun 1911 — This is America, and it wouldn't be a list without at least one 1911. The CCU is Colt's latest offering in its Rail Gun line, and it has taken quite a few leads from the Colt MARSOC M45 pistol, including the upgraded internals and the two-spring captive recoil spring assembly. The CCU also boasts 25 lines per inch (lpi) checkering on the front strap, an undercut triggerguard and an upswept beavertail, allowing a very high, thumbs forward grip on the pistol. Spec'd out by one of my favorite people in the industry, Ken Hackathorn, the CCU is the culmination of over 100 years of Colt 1911s. It's as modern as a 106-year-old pistol can be and is available in both 9mm and .45, so you can buy both and argue with yourself about which one has that mythical stopping power we've all been reading about for over a century, $1,500.