Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Top 10 Handguns in American Rifleman

I just got my September 2009 issue of American Rifleman, and they’ve done another Top 10 list. If you remember last year around this time AR published their Top 10 infantry rifles and Top 10 hunting rifles. I only reviewed the Top 10 infantry rifle list, as that’s where my expertise lies. However the list wasn’t without controversy with many accusing it of being to American-focused. This time around, they’re picking their “Top 10 Handguns of All Time.” So how’d they do??? Let’s look at the list and find out.

1. The M1911, M1911A1, and variants. Okay – no argument so far. The 1911 is absolutely my favorite sidearm to carry and shoot. Ergonomically it’s spectacular. It’s accurate. It’s rugged. It fires the .45 ACP cartridge. While the basic design is nearly 100 years old, it has really increased in popularity since 1970.

2. Smith & Wesson Hand Ejector Revolvers. At least they’re using broad classes for some of the classic revolvers. This is one of the basic Smith designs that has soldiered on for over a century. Praised for both accuracy, durability, and crisp trigger pull, this is certainly a great firearm. However, two spots, two American guns. Where do we go from here?

3. Glock 17 Pistol. Oh no! The dreaded plastic gun!!! Actually seeing the Glock this high does lend some credibility to the list. The line has long since moved past the 9mm Glock 17 to include firearms in multiple configurations (compact, standard, tactical) and calibers (.40 Smith, .45 ACP, 10mm, and others). Glock changed the game, and while I own more XD’s than Glocks, I don’t think there would be an XD without the Glock having come first.

4. Smith and Wesson Model One Revolver. This one seems to be here for historical reasons – it was really the first modern handgun. I am a little concerned that we’re seeing another Smith on the list already though.

5. Volcanic Volitional Repeater. Say that three times fast! Early semi-automatic. Again, this one seems to be here for historical reasons as a "first."

6. Colt’s Single Action Army Revolver. Okay – yes. This one needs to be on any Top 10 list. Absolutely zero debate. Historically important. Standard issue for the U.S. military from 1873-91. The most famous gun in the American West.

7. Walther PP, PPK, PPK/S Pistols. Bond… James Bond. Walther’s small but elegant sidearm. This one doesn’t make my Top 10 Guns I’d like to own but don’t, but it comes in around #11 or #12.

8. C96 Mauser “Broomhandle” Pistol. This is another one of those oddballs. There seem to be a lot of “firsts” on this list rather than “bests” in my opinion. In AR’s words “it was the first semi-automatic pistol reliable and powerful enough for military service.” That makes it a first, not a best. It’s a neat design, looks cool, and I’d love to own one, but it certainly doesn’t make my Top 10 list.

9. Browning Hi Power Pistol. Similar in some ways to the M1911, this is another classic semi-automatic that has been used extensively the world over. Used by both the Allies as well as the Wehrmacht during World War II, it soldiered on after the war as the primary sidearm of most NATO countries. Again, I think this is another worthy choice for the list.

10. Smith and Wesson Registered Magnum Revolver. This revolver introduced the legendary magnum cartridge to the world. Honestly, I'd put it a bit higher. As immortalized by Dirty Harry:

“I know what you're thinking — "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I've kinda lost track myself. But, being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya, punk?”

While this is the third Smith on the list, I think this one really actually deserves to make a “10 best” list.

So my overall thoughts on the list? Some of them I absolutely agree with, but overall the list is too American (three Smiths???) with too many “firsts” at the expense of some other very good firearms. I would expect the Webley revolver to make a Top 10 list as well as the Luger. Feel free to post your comments!

Until next time!!!


Trevor said...

While on the subject of top tens...your dirty harry quote is the #1 top quote that is Miss-quoted every time.

"Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya, punk?”


"Do YOU feel lucky PUNK, well do you?"

Fingolfen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gordon R. Durand said...

Well my two handguns are on the list, 'cept my SAA is a Taurus in .357, and my PPK is a stainless steel job by S&W. Oh well.

Jeff Cooper has an interesting tidbit on the Mauser in Fighting Handguns:

"The patent on the Military Mauser dates from 1896, but the gun was not marketed until 1898. Sir Winston Churchill, then a subaltern in the 21st Lancers, purchased one of the first examples to appear on the market, and used it with good effect in the cavalry charge at Omduraman. This may actually have been the first blood for the now-famous weapon, as only a couple of months separated its first sales and the battle. Churchill used it instead of his sword because of a sore shoulder, and he used it from the saddle. He fired all 10 rounds in the course of the charge and he claims three kills and a couple of probables. Pretty fair performance for its first time out!"