Which is the best pistol in the world? Which is the best modern pistol and why? Our Top 10 analysis is based on the combined score of accuracy, reliability, range, penetration, magazine capacity, production numbers, number of users, and some other features.
This list includes only modern pistols, that are currently in service. It does not includes prototypes that are not yet in production, or ageing pistols that are no longer used.
Currently top 10 pistols in the world are these:
1- Glock 17 (Austria)
In 1980 the Austrian army issued a requirement for a new pistol, that would replace the old Walther P-38. Various companies took part in this competition with their designs. These were Steyr GB, Heckler & Koch P7M13, SIG Sauer P220 and P225, Beretta 92S, and the previously unknown Glock 17. Eventually the Glock 17 was selected as a winner and was adopted by the Austrian Army in 1982. It was also adopted by Austrian Police. Full-scale production commenced in 1986. In the following years this new and unusual pistol became one of the most popular handguns due to its advantages and aggressive marketing. It was adopted by numerous military and law enforcement forces from all around the world. Currently this pistol is in service with more than 50 countries. Some copies and clones of this pistol appeared. One of them is a Smith & Wesson Sigma.
The Glock 17 was a clean sheet design. It is not a variation of any previous design. This pistol was developed by a Glock company, headed by Gaston Glock. The Glock 17 proved to be highly successful. At the time of its introduction this pistol was referred as a revolutionary design. Even though it incorporated previously known solutions. This pistol is simple, reliable, lightweight and inexpensive.
This pistol has a simple design with a minimum of parts. There are only 33 parts, including the magazine. This pistol can be disassembled within a minute using just a pin, or nail. Many of the parts are interchangeable between various Glock models. Failures are rear. The Glock 17 is also simple in operation.
Low weight was achieved by making most of the parts, including the frame out of polymer. The only metal parts are barrel, slide and trigger mechanism. Even though this pistol is made of polymer, it operates well within a temperature range from -40°C to +200°C. Also this rugged pistol do not rusts. All metal parts are covered with rustproof coating. The Glock 17 literally revolutionized the firearms market. Today virtually all major handgun manufacturers offer polymer-framed pistols.
The Glock 17 has high muzzle energy and provides good penetration, even with 9x19 mm ammunition.
It is claimed that the barrel of the Glock pistols serves approximately 360 000 shots. It is a really impressive figure, as barrels of other modern and quality pistols last about 40 000 shots.
This semi-automatic pistol is fed from a 17-round double-stack magazine. The magazine is also made of polymer. Extended capacity magazines that hold 19 or 33 rounds are also available. Compact and sub-compact models come with smaller magazines. In some cases magazines are interchangeable between various models.
This pistol has no manual safeties. Instead it uses a patented "safe action" trigger system. An automatic safety is built into the trigger. It blocks the trigger if it is not pulled properly. It eliminates self-action or accidental shots. After each shot the safety lock is reset and turned "on", until the trigger is pushed once more. Another automatic safety does nor permit fire if the barrel is not fully locked.
Most of the Glock family pistols have fixed sights. Only special target models, intended for competitions, have adjustable sights.
Since its introductions the Glock 17 undergone a number of revisions. The first generation pistols were produced between 1986 and 1990 and were chambered for 9x19 mm ammunition. The second generation pistols were produced between 1990 and 1998. These had slightly different frames with textured grips. The second generation introduced new calibers, including 9x22 mm (.375 SIG), 10x22 mm (.40S&W), 10x25 mm (10 mm Auto) and 11.43x23 mm (.45 ACP). The third generation pistols were produced between 1998 and 2010. These pistols were fitted with accessory rail below the barrel, and had some other improvements. Production of the forth generation pistols started in 2010. These have a larger magazine release button, replaceable back straps for better ergonomics, and some minor internal improvements.
After initial success the basic Glock 17, the Glock company developed a large number of models, based on the same basic design. These are chambered in all major pistol calibers. Various models also have different dimensions, barrel length, and magazine capacity. Pistols are available in standard, compact, subcompact, target and other models.
2- SIG Sauer P320 (Germany / Switzerland)
The SIG Sauer P320 pistol was introduced in 2014. It is a further development of the SIG Sauer P250. The pistol was aimed at a possible US Army and Air Force requirement to replace the M9. Eventually it was adopted by the US military as the M17. The SIG Sauer P320 pistol is also being proposed for customers from other countries, law enforcement forces and commercial market. Commercial version of the P320, that has some differences from the military model.
It is a modular multi-caliber pistol. Manufacturer offers conversion kits for this pistol. Caliber conversions are performed simply changing barrels, slides, frames and magazines. All models use the same trigger group. So the same trigger group is easily moved between different sized frames to make full-size, compact or even subcompact pistol. The P320 can be quickly converted to various calibers, including 9x19 mm, .40 S&W, .375 SIG, .380 ACP and .45 ACP.
The P320 is a self-cocking striker-fired pistol with a double-action only trigger. It is a short recoil operated weapon, which fires with the locked breech. It uses the typical SIG Sauer cam-operated barrel.
The slide is made of stainless steel. Frame is made of polymer. This pistol has got no grip backstraps. However developers claim that it will fit for any hand size. Slide hold and release buttons are also ambidextrous.
The P320 is available with a Glock-style trigger safety. A manual frame-mounted thumb safety is available as an option.
A 9x19 mm full-size version of the P320 uses 17-round capacity double-stack magazines. Magazine capacity differs depending on the chambering of the pistol. Versions chambered in .40 S&W and .375 SIG use 14-round capacity magazines. Version chambered in .45 ACP uses 10-round magazines. Magazine release button is reversible.
The SIG Sauer P320 comes with a standard Picatinny-type pistol rail. It accepts all standard tactical accessories, such as flashlights and laser pointers.
This pistol has got 3-dot iron sights. Both front and rear sights can be adjusted for windage and elevation.
This weapon can be field stripped without using any tools.
3- Beretta 92 (Italy)
The Beretta 92 is one of the most popular pistols in the world. It was designed in 1972 in Italy by Carlo Beretta, Giuseppe Mazzetti, and Vittorio Valle. It evolved from the earlier Beretta designs. Initial production commenced in 1975. Until 1976 a total of 5 000 pistols have been produced. Full-scale production began in 1976. It has been exported to a number of countries. Some countries produce this pistol under license. The other countries produce its copies. A variant of the Beretta 92 is a standard issue sidearm in service with the whole US military. Currently the 92 is an out-dated platform, outclassed by most modern pistols. Recently Beretta released a number of new pistols that are more advanced. However the model 92 is still widely used by military and law enforcement forces. Currently the Beretta 92 and its variants are in service with 40 countries. Also despite its age it is still very popular among civilian customers.
The Beretta 92 is chambered for 9x19 mm Parabellum ammunition. It has a short-recoil action. It is more powerful than the earlier Italian pistols that have blowback action. Also the Beretta 92 is accurate, even at long range. Also some people find design of this pistol elegant.
The Beretta 92 has a double-action trigger. However it can be also fired in single-action mode. This pistol has manual safety.
Light alloys were used in the construction of this pistol in order to decrease weight. However it reduced the service life of the pistol. There have been some issues when after 4 000-6 000 shots the slide was breaking and injuring the shooter. The Beretta company was constantly improving design of the Model 92 and most reliability issues have been fixed on later models. Overall this pistol proved to be reliable. Data from Beretta shows, that average reliability of this improved Model 92 pistol is 17 500 rounds without a stoppage.
One of the drawbacks of this pistol that it is bulky and heavy. Some people find it uncomfortable to hold, fire and handle. Also it is difficult to carry this pistol concealed.
This pistol is fed from a double stack magazine, that holds 15 rounds. At the time of its introduction most other pistols had a much smaller single-stack magazines.
Pistol has fixed iron sights. Effective range of fire is about 50 meters.
Numerous modifications and variants of this pistol appeared since its introduction in the mid 1970s. Its production in many variants, chambered for different calibers continues to this day. There are some copies of the Beretta 92, such as Brazilian Taurus PT92, Turkish Yavuz 16. Also this pistol is license-produced in some countries. These are the Egyptian Helwan 920, French PAMAS G1 and M92, or South African Vector Z88.
4- SIG Sauer P226 (Germany / Switzerland)
The SIG Sauer P226 evolved from the previous P220 pistol. It was developed in the 1980s and was mainly aimed at the US military requirement for a new sidearm to replace the venerable Colt M1911 pistols and Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolvers. The US military trials began in 1982 and were completed in 1984. The SIG Sauer P226 was one of the two pistols that nominally passed all of the technical requirements of these trials. However eventually it was outperformed by Italian Beretta 92FS due to lower price. The Beretta 92FS was selected as a winner and adopted by the US military as the M9 in 1985. Even though the SIG Sauer P226 lost this competition it quickly became one of the most popular service pistols. It is in service with more than 30 countries. Currently the P226 is widely used by the military, police and security forces around the world. It is used by the US Coast Guard, Federal Air Marshalls, FBI, Department of Homeland Security and a number of other operators. It is also used by elite forces such as the British SAS. The P226 pistol was used by the US Navy Seals for three decades. This weapon is also popular among civilian shooters. As of 2015 this pistol is still produced in Germany and in the USA.
The SIG Sauer P226 is generally similar to the previous P220 except a slightly different shape and higher capacity double-stack magazine. This pistol has a short recoil system with a locked breech operation.
This pistol was initially available chambered for 9x19 mm Parabellum ammunition. Later other .40 S&W or .357 SIG calibers were introduced. It is worth noting that the P226 was the first pistol chambered for the .357 SIG. It is a 9 mm high velocity round, that offers high penetration.
The P226 comes with double action, or double action only trigger. This pistol has a built-in firing pin safety. There are no manual safeties. There is a decocking lever at the left side of the frame. It is worth noting that double action only version has no decocker.
The P226 is available with standard aluminum, or stainless steel frame. Pistol with 9 mm caliber with aluminum frame weights 870 g, while version with a stainless steel frame is heavier and weights 1 180 g.
The 9x19 mm version of the SIG Sauer P226 uses double stack 15-round capacity magazines. Extended capacity 20-round magazines are also available. Versions chambered in .40 S&W and .357 SIG use 12-round capacity magazines. Magazine release button is reversible.
The P226 proved to be a durable, reliable and well-made weapon. This pistol is available in a number of versions. There are Chinese and Iranian (PC-9 ZOAF) copies of this weapon.
5- CZ-75 (Czech Republic)
The CZ-75 pistol was developed by Koucky brothers at the state-owned Ceska Zbrojovka armed factory in the former Czechoslovakia. This pistol was developed for military use and was aimed purely at export market. Production commenced in 1976. During the first year of production some 2 000 pistols had been made. This rose in subsequent years to over 20 000 pistols, but was still not enough to coupe with the demand. By 2007 more than one million of these pistol have been produced. Its production still continues and it is constantly being improved. It is in service with more than 20 countries and is used by military, police and special operations forces. This pistol was widely copied and cloned. Production license of this pistol has been sold to ITM of Switzerland. Most popular copies of the CZ-75 are the American Springfield P9, Chinese NZ-75, Israeli Jericho 941, Italian Tanfoglio series pistols, Swiss ITM AT-88 and Sphinx 2000, Turkish Sarsilmaz M2000.
The CZ-75 has an appealing design, is reliable, accurate, comfortable to handle and to shoot. It proved to successful and is one of the best pistols in its class.
The CZ-75 is chambered for 9x19 mm Parabellum round. It is worth noting, that army and law enforcement forces of the former Czechoslovakia used the Soviet 7.62x25 and 9x18 mm pistol ammunition. While the 9x19 mm was the standard pistol round in the West. Also there a versions of the CZ-75 chambered for .40 S&W and 9x21 mm IMI ammunition.
This pistol has an all-steel construction. It is a short recoil operated weapon and uses a Browning locking system. It resembles that of the Swiss SIG P210 pistol. Such operating system provides more smooth cycle and better tolerances and results in a greater accuracy.
The basic CZ-75 has a double-action trigger and exposed hammer. However there are several versions of the trigger system, such as single-action, or double-action only. The basic version has a frame mounted safety. Since the late 1980s all CZ-75 series pistols also have an internal firing pin safety. Some models have no manual safety, but fitted with decocker only.
A double-stack magazine holds 16 rounds. Early models of the CZ-75 had 15-round magazines.
This pistol is fitted with simple iron sights. The rear sight is dovetailed into the slide. However there are some models fitted with adjustable rear sights. The CZ-75 is an accurate weapon. Effective range of fire is about 50 meters.
6- Smith & Wesson Military & Police (USA)
The Military & Police pistol was developed by Smith & Wesson company. It first appeared in 2005. As its name suggests it is intended for military and police sales. However it is also available for civilian customers. The "Military & Police" name is a trademark of Smith & Wesson company for the last 80 years or so. Before it was used for the most successful revolver, designed by this company. The Military & Police pistol was adopted by more than 20 countries. However in most countries it is used by law enforcement forces. It is used by numerous US police departments. Military operators are Iraq, Lebanon, Peru and Singapore.
This pistol is chambered for .40 S&W, .375 SIG, .45 ACP and 9x19 mm Parabellum ammunition. The .40 S&W version is mainly used by law enforcement use, while the 9x19 mm is indented for military use.
This pistol has a completely new design. It evolved from a Smith & Wesson Sigma. However it looks differently and none of the parts are interchangeable. Also it has some features of the Smith & Wesson SW99 pistol. The frame is made of polymer. Slide is made from stainless steel. Ergonomics was a key point designing this firearm.
The Military & Police is short recoil operated. It uses Browning-type locking. The pistol has a double-action trigger. The Military & Police is fully ambidextrous. Slide release lever is located on both sides of the frame.
The 9 mm version of the Military & Police is fed from a 17-round magazines. Magazine release button is reversible. The pistol comes with two magazines.
Both front and rear sights are dovetailed into the slide. These can be easily adjusted or replaced by tritium sights for shooting at night. Range of effective fire is about 50 meters.
There is an accessory rail under the barrel. It can be used to mount laser pointer or tactical flachlight.
Grip backstraps are replaceable for improved ergonomics. Each pistol comes with three backstraps of different shapes and sizes. So each shooter can tailor this pistol to suit his hand.
Numerous variants of this pistol exist, including compact versions and target models.
7- FN Five Seven (Belgium)
The Five Seven pistol was designed by a Belgian Fabrique Nationale (FN) company. Sometimes it is designated as the Five-seveN in order to spell initials of the manufacturer. Numbers in the designation of this pistol (5-7) also indicate an unusual 5.7 mm ammunition. The main goal was to develop a handgun with good penetration against body armor, yet with reasonable dimensions, weight and recoil. This pistol was first publicly revealed in 1996. Originally this pistol was available for military and law enforcement sales only. The Five Seven was first adopted in 2000 by Cypriot National Guard. Eventually it became very popular. Currently the Five Seven is in service with military and law enforcement forces in over 20 countries, including United States. A civilian version was introduced in 2004.
This pistol is chambered for newly-developed high-velocity 5.7x28 mm SS190 ammunition. This cartridge was developed by Fabrique Nationale in the late 1980s and was first used on a P90 submachine gun. It resembles a scaled-down standard NATO 5.56x45 mm Remington round. The intermediate 5.7x28 mm round is larger than traditional pistol and submachine gun ammunition, but is smaller comparing than assault rifle ammunition. This round has a very high velocity. The 5.7x28 mm bullet travels twice faster than a 9x19 mm Parabellum bullet. It has enhanced penetration comparing with 9x19 mm round due to its high velocity and sharp bullet. At close range it has impressive penetration and is effective against armor vests, helmets and ballistic glass. The FN advertises, that the Five Seven penetrates a standard CRISAT (kevlar + titanium) vest at a range of 100 meters and PAGST vest at a range of 300 meters. Various rounds are available, including standard, tracer, and round with subsonic bullet speed. The Five Seven is the only handgun chambered for this unique cartridge.
However the cartridge is the only novelty of this pistol. Otherwise it has a traditional design with delayed blowback operation. This weapon has a double-action trigger. So the weapon can be carried with a loaded chamber. There is a version with a single-action only trigger.
There is an ambidextrous safety switch, mounted above the trigger. It also has internal firing pin safety. Early models of the Five Seven had firing pin safety only with no manual safeties. The pistol can be easily dismantled into 4 main parts.
A double-stack magazine of the Five Seven holds 20 rounds. Magazine release button can be reversed from left side of the grip to the right.
The pistol has a simple iron sights. Range of effective fire is up to 100 m.
The grip can be fitted with backstraps of various sizes. So the pistol can be tailored to fit well in almost every hand. There is an accessory rail under the barrel. It can be used to mount tactical flashlights or laser pointers. This pistol is compatible with a sound suppressor. Once fitted with sound suppressor it has to use special bullets with subsonic speed.
8- HK USP (Germany)
The USP or Universal Slebstlade Pistole (universal self-loading pistol) is a product of the German Heckler & Koch company. Development of this pistol began in 1989. It evolved from a Heckler & Koch MK23 pistol. The goal was to develop a new pistol in a number of versions, that could be suitable for civilians, as well as military and police markets. It was aimed at civilian customers in the USA, as well as global military and law enforcement market. Production commenced in 1993. A wide variety of versions have been developed. In 1995 a version of the USP was adopted by the German army as the P8 as the main sidearm. Currently the USP is in service with nearly 20 countries.
The fist version of the USP was chambered in .40 S&W ammunition. At the time it was a relatively new ammunition. However other versions of the USP appeared shortly, chambered in 9x19 mm Parabellum, .45 ACP, and .375 SIG ammunition (USP Compact).
This pistol has a metal reinforced polymer frame and one-piece milled steel slide. All metal parts have a special finish, that provides protection against corrosion and wear. The pistol can be even kept for prolonged periods in salt water.
It is a short-recoil operated weapon. This pistol has a patented recoil reduction system. The USP has a double-action trigger. It can be also in single-action firing sequence. Also there are versions with double-action only trigger. Actually there are nine basic variations of the trigger and safety arrangements. Some of them have a safety lever on the right side. Other are without manual safety, or with decock-only lever. This pistol also has an automatic firing pin safety.
The Heckler & Koch company was that confident with the USP, that gave it a lifetime warranty. Service life of this pistol is around 20 000 shots.
The USP is fed from a double-stack magazine, that holds 15 rounds. Magazine release button is ambidextrous.
This pistol has simple sights that are dovetailed to the slide. The USP is accurate at ranges of up to 50 meters. Maximum range of fire is about 60 meters.
There are a universal mounting groves under the barrel for various accessories, such as tactical flashlight or laser pointer.
9- Beretta PX4 Storm (Italy)
The Beretta PX4 Storm is a further development of the Beretta 8000 Cougar. It is the latest addition to Beretta's line of semi-automatic pistols. It seems that this pistol was designed to compete with the popular Glock 17. This handgun is mainly aimed at law enforcement forces and commercial customers. Its production commenced in 2004. Currently the Beretta PX4 Storm is used by law enforcement forces of at least 11 countries. It is also in service with Venezuelan National Guard.
The PX4 Storm is chambered in 9x19 mm Parabellum ammunition. Also it is chambered in other most popular calibers. There are versions chambered in .40 S&W, .45 ACP and 9x21 mm IMI ammunition.
This Italian pistol is made of most modern high-strength polymer materials. The slide is made of steel. It is a recoil-operated weapon, that fires from the locked breech. Locking system with rotating barrel is similar to that of the Beretta 8000 Cougar. The barrel rotates on recoil and unlocks from the slide. Such design reduces muzzle jump.
It is claimed that the Beretta PX4 is a durable and very reliable weapon. Developers report that this pistol fired well over 150 000 rounds without any part breakages.
The trigger mechanism is similar to that of the Beretta 92 (M9). There are four basic models with various trigger systems. The Type C has a so called "constant action" trigger. It is a sort of double-action only system with less trigger pull weight. The Type D has a double-action only trigger without manual safety. The Type F has conventional double-action trigger with manual safety and decocker. The Type G had conventional double-action trigger with decocker, but lacks manual safety. The Type D and Type F models safety or decocker levers are ambidextrous and located on both sides of the slide. All models have an automatic firing pin block.
The PX4 Storm is fed from a double-stack magazine, that holds 17 rounds. It is in line with capacity of the Glock 17. Beretta produces extended capacity magazine baseplates. Once it is used, capacity is increased to 20 rounds.
This pistol has simple 3-dot iron sights. Effective range of fire is 50 meters with 9x19 mm ammunition and 25 meters with .40 S&W and .45 ACP ammunition.
This pistol has sleek lines. Designers paid a lot of attention to its ergonomics. Grip of the PX4 has a removable backstrap. Backstraps of various shapes and sizes are available. Each pistol comes with three different backstraps. These can be tailored to suit the shooter.
There is an accessory rail under the barrel. It is used to mount laser pointer or tactical flashlight.
10- Walther P99 (Germany)
The Walther P99 pistol was developed for law enforcement forces and civil customers. It was designed in the mid 1990s. Production commenced in 1997. This pistol is currently used by more than 10 countries. It is also license-produced in Poland by Radom factory and in the United States by Smith & Wesson. However in both of cases frames are supplied from Germany.
The Walther P99 has been adopted by the Finish armed forces, Iraqi army, and a number of law enforcement forces and police departments from all around the world.
The Walther P99 is a striker-fired pistol with a polymer frame and a steel slide. At the time of its introduction this pistol had a number of unusual features. It was a step forward for the Walther company.
This pistol was originally chambered in 9x19 mm Parabellum. A .40 S&W version was introduced in 1999.
The P99 is a short-recoil operated weapon. It fires with a locked breech and uses a modified Browning locking system. It proved to be a reliable weapon.
Even though the Walther P99 is a striker-fired pistol, it has unusual trigger mechanism. It operates in a "double-action" mode similar to that of hammer-fired pistols. It can also fire in a "single-action" mode. There is a version of this pistol with "double action only" trigger mechanism. The third version is Walther P99QA or "quick action". It features a partially pre-cocked trigger for a constant trigger pull from the first to last shot.
This pistol has an automatic firing pin block safety. The P99DAO version has a slightly different automatic safety, built into the trigger.
There is a loaded chamber indicator, as well as cocked striker indicator. Another unusual feature of the baseline Walther P99 is a decocking button. It is located on top of the slide. Other pistols typically have a conventional lever on the side. This button is relatively large on the standard P99 as it decocks the striker. The decocking button is much smaller on the P99QA, where it is used only during disassembly. The P99DAO lacks decocking button, as its firing pin is always disconnected.
All controls of the P99 are fully ambidextrous for right- or left-hand operation. Except that the first generation pistols have a slide release only on the left side of the frame.
Magazine capacity of the P99 varies from 8 to 16 rounds, depending from the caliber and version. A full-size version chambered in 9x19 mm is fed from 16-round magazines, while similar version chambered in .40 S&W is fed from 12-round magazines.
This pistol has iron sights. The rear sight post is dovetailed into the slide and is adjustable. The sights have white inserts for firing at night.
The P99 has 3 interchangeable grip backstraps, including small, medium and large. So the shooter can install the backstrap that suits him most.
This weapon has an accessory rail under the barrel and can be fitted with laser pointer, tactical flashlight, or other accessories.