Perfect Pistols – The Best Semi Autos For Any Occasion

You can never have too many guns. The right gun for the right occasion makes all the difference. From pocket guns to plinkers, this handy guide will expose the best choices on our list.


Ruger LCP

Ruger’s LCP has gained almost universal acceptance as a light and reliable pocket-sized semiauto .380 with a weight of just 9.4 ounces. It’s a truly tiny gun that’s suited to those whose needs don’t allow larger guns. In a recent test, I found it to have excellent accuracy despite the diminutive size and small sights. While the small sights are a compromise in accuracy, they represent a bonus in concealment and provide a smooth outline. ($300,

Smith & Wesson Bodyguard

The Smith & Wesson Bodyguard offers full-sized features in a pocket semi-auto. One of the smallest and lightest guns with last-round slide lock, I particularly appreciate the true double-action only, second-strike capability that allows the shooter to hit the primer a second time in the event of a misfire. ($380, or $450 with laser package,

SIG P938

The SIG P938 is a pocket-sized 9mm that operates just like a 1911. As a true single-action semi-auto, it has an excellent two-stage trigger with the kind of short reset only single-action guns can provide. It’s popular with 1911 fans and is a high-quality gun that’s small enough for serious concealment and has full-sized 9mm power. At 16 ounces, it’s a little heavy for the pocket category, but it is small in profile and width. Since it’s a true single action, I’d advise care in holster choice if you plan to carry in ready condition. ($820,

Kahr CW 380

The Kahr CW 380 is a true striker-fired pocket .380. Kahr is known for having excellent trigger pulls, and really good trigger pulls aren’t the norm in small .380s. At 11.4 ounces and with a slide width of just over .75-inch, it’s certainly a small package. It has the magazine release in the right place and a last-shot slide lock. Though I’m not going to bet on this, I think it’s the smallest and lightest true striker-fired gun in the business. ($420,

Taurus 738 TCP

The Taurus 738 TCP weighs in at just 10.2 ounces and is certainly small enough for pocket use. A while back, a friend brought one to a family cookout and Top Shot’s Chris Cerino just happened to be at the house for a few days. We were all impressed with the trigger and reliability, and were really impressed with the accuracy. At 30 yards, Chris hit an 8-inch plate almost every time. The trigger pull is long, but light and smooth, the sights are small, but adequate on this size of gun. ($355,


Smith & Wesson M&P Shield

On my first look at the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield, I predicted it a winner. Slim of profile, with a great M&P trigger and sights, and offered in both 9mm and .40, the Shield is a powerful contender for concealed carry. The Shield is accurate and easy to shoot in 9mm; it’s accurate and a bit of a biter in .40, but power is an important factor in personal defense. Another feature I like is that it’s available with or without a thumb safety. ($450,

Springfield XDs

The Springfield XDs is a compact version of the excellent Springfield XD series. Made in Croatia, the XDs is one of the few striker-fired guns that utilizes a grip safety and passive safety measures that can be important on guns carried by citizens who don’t have regular firearms training. The XDs had excellent sights, a great trigger and more than adequate power in the .45 ACP version. It also has a lower rail for lights or lasers. I have a friend who served as a federal air marshal, and it’s his favorite carry semi-auto in the 4-inch version. At 21.5 ounces, it’s a slim, lightweight powerhouse. ($600,

Kahr CM 9

At 14 ounces, the Kahr CM 9 is really more in the pocket-pistol range than the compact category, but it’s a very well thought of pistol with a reputation for reliability. Teaching the North Carolina Concealed Carry Certification course, I realize not everyone can handle a 9mm this light. Recoil is considerable, but the 9mm is a much more powerful stopper than the .380. It may be true that fast follow up shots are harder, but the first shot is the most important. High quality sights, and good trigger and 9mm power make the CM9 a great choice. ($460,

Bersa Thunder

OK, so the Bersa Thunder isn’t a tiny dragon powerhouse. In fact, in profile it reminds one of the PPK that James Bond carried. It’s a concealable and reliable pistol in the classic style, and it’s comfortable in the hand, comfortable to shoot and easy to operate. The Thunder is a de-cocker style double/single-action gun with an easy-to-reach and easy-to-use safety. Chambered for the .380 cartridge, which in current loadings nips on the heels of the iconic .38 Special round in power, the Thunder is an easy gun to operate and soft on recoil. For economy and fun, it’s also chambered in .22 Long Rifle. With an alloy frame and steel slide, it still comes in at 20 ounces. ($349,

Glock 26

The 9mm Glock 26 and its brothers, the 27, 29 and 30, in larger calibers, are compact versions of the full-sized semi-autos that brought us into the current era of striker-fired double-stack pistols. With a length of about 6.5 inches and just over 4 inches in height, the 26 presents a small side profile for its 9mm magazine capacity of 10 rounds. Further, the larger Glock magazines also work in the 26, so 15-, 17- and 33-round backup magazines could be carried. At 21.7 ounces loaded, it’s a compact powerhouse. ($650,


Colt Gold Cup 1911

Colt’s Gold Cup 1911 was once the king of .45s. When I got mine in 1970, it was lightly used and came with the original box and test target consisting of a ragged hole shot at 15 yards. This year, Colt has brought the Gold Cup back into the line. The new Gold Cup comes with a round top slide rather than the lightened flat top slide of my old National Match. It also uses the BoMar-style adjustable sight instead of the more fragile Eliason sight of the older model. It’s available in traditional walnut with gold medallion grips, or wrap-around rubber grips. The Gold Cup has always been the Cadillac of the Colts. ($1,180,

Guncrafter CCO

When I got a chance to shoot the Guncrafter CCO, I realized that it’s a full custom, hand-fitted carry 1911. Everything about the CCO exudes a money-is-no-object defensive carry 1911. Attention to detail, as well as finish are apparent in external and internal machined parts. There’s a beveled magazine well, a match-grade trigger that breaks like a glass rod and a serrated flattop slide. Everything on the gun is hand dehorned for ease of carry, putting the CCO in a very exclusive class. Using an officer-sized grip and Commander-sized slide and barrel, it’s compact and slim, but still very manageable with heavy defensive loads due to all-steel construction. If 007 carried a 1911, this would be a great candidate. ($2,800,

Para LDA

Showing at SHOT Show and expected to be on shelves soon is the Para LDA. The LDA uses an operational system that’s entirely different from any other handgun in production. Neither a true double action, nor a striker-fired action, or even an internal hammer system, the Para LDA, which stands for “light double action,” compresses an internal hammer spring with slide stroke. It uses a light spring pressure to cock the external hammer, allowing a very smooth and light, but extended long, double-action trigger pull. Since the LDA has a long trigger pull with a passive grip safety and manual thumb safety, it will probably be the safest of all the 1911s to carry and shoot well. ($1025,

Springfield Armory Range Officer

While many guns get their appeal from modern technical improvements, the Springfield Armory Range Officer endears the shooter with its simplicity. No modular double-stack frame, no full-length guide rod or special barrel bushing, the Range Officer offers a simple low-tech gun with features that make it more comfortable for the shooter, without internal sophistication. It does have an oversized beavertail on the grip safety. That grip safety also has a large bump at the base that makes it easy to engage. There’s a large, easy-to-reach thumb safety and an excellent adjustable match trigger. The excellent accuracy comes from precise fit, and my recent test gun was accurate indeed. That accuracy is easy to utilize through the use of a great set of adjustable sights in the BoMar style. A stainless match barrel and cocobolo grip panels round out the package. ($940,

Remington R1

Remington is not without its own history with the 1911 platform. During the first World War, Remington produced the 1911 Service pistol for our tropps, and almost 100 years later, the company has brought the 1911 back into the line as the popular R1. The all-steel, Commander-sized R1 Carry features a match barrel, tritium front sight, lowered and scalloped ejection port, ambidextrous safety and a nice big bump on the beaver-tailed grip safety. Dehorned for easy carry, it’s not a lightweight at 35 ounces, but the extra weight helps handle the recoil and speeds up repeat shots. It comes with a hard case and two magazines. ($1,300,


Ruger 22/45 Lite

The Ruger 22/45 Lite is the spawn of the iconic Ruger Mark I semi-auto pistol that revolutionized the category. Introduced in 1949 as the Ruger Standard Mark I, with a price of $37.50, the Ruger line of semi-auto pistols has outsold any other design of rimfire semi-auto handguns. Accurate enough for match competition and selling at a lower price than anything even close, the design has gone through a lot of changes. The most recent version, the 22/45 Lite is the same basic gun but modified to better replicate the 1911 and provide a super light and accurate recreational rimfire. The magazine release is now located behind the trigger, the grip angle is less rakish, the sights are adjustable, and the end of the barrel is threaded for a suppressor. ($500,

Colt Gold Cup

The Colt Gold Cup by Umarex is a Walther-made, Colt-licensed version of the 1911 that dominated Camp Perry for so many years. It comes with adjustable sights, a wrap-around rubber grip and a 12-round magazine. The Colt Gold Cup rimfire operates exactly like its centerfire cousin and can provide a great practice gun for those who favor the 1911 series pistols. At 36 ounces, it weighs just an ounce less than the real thing and uses the same holster. There’s also a lower-priced, service-grade version. ($400,

Smith & Wesson M&P Rimfire

S&W’s M&P Rimfire is another faithful version of a full-sized current service firearm and an excellent training gun in its own right. The M&P rimfire replicates the 4-inch M&P and features an adjustable rear sight and a thumb safety. Everything about the rimfire gun functions like the real thing, except the slide is easier to operate. This is a great companion gun for the M&P owner or anyone who wants a reliable plinker. ($420,

SIG 1911 22

My personal favorite of the replica rimfires is the SIG 1911 22. I have a friend who uses one of these guns for practice for USPSA and 3-Gun shooting. It has thousands of rounds through it, and it’s still accurate and reliable. With an excellent magazine that drops like the real thing and Novak-style three-dot sights, it’s a great practice gun right out of the box. One of the best features is the interchangeability of parts with real 1911 pistols. They can be customized to match your regular centerfire handgun complete with sights, thumb and grip safeties and the trigger. ($460,

Walther P22

Walther’s P22 is a compact trainer with big-gun features. It’s a double-action/ single-action gun with an 18-ounce weight that makes it friendly for smaller shooters. The sights are three dot with an adjustable rear. It uses a 10-shot magazine and has a rather unusual magazine release. There’s a thumb safety that allows dropping the hammer without firing the gun, and the P22 has a magazine safety in the European style. There are two interchangeable back straps, and the P22 comes in several variations including a longer-barreled target model. ($400,


Glock 17

It simply wouldn’t make sense to discuss semi-auto pistols without getting the Glock 17 and its counterparts in different calibers into the mix of the discussion. The standard servicestyle Glocks, based on the original Glock 17, probably serve in the holsters of more law enforcement officers than any other pistol. Clock’s original polymer frame and safety action have seen the complement of duplication, but that duplication has been good for the industry. Without argument, the striker-fired polymer Glock has been the most innovative and ground-changing development in pistols since the 1911. Standard Gen 4 versions are available in 9mm, .40, 10mm, 45 ACP, .45 GAP and .357 SIG. ($650,

Smith & Wesson M&P

Introduced in 2005, the Smith & Wesson M&P was an upgrade from the somewhat ill-fated Sigma line. While the Sigma’s were reliable, they left a lot to be desired in the trigger department. The M&P trigger is thought by many to be the best out-of-the-box trigger in the current crop of polymer, striker-fired pistols. Available in different barrel lengths and in 9mm, .40 and .45, and with the option of a thumb safety, the line encompasses almost any service pistol need. ($570,

SIG P226

Designed for entry into the XM9 Ser vice Pistol Trials, the SIG P226 is a more traditional double/single-action pistol than the current rash of striker-fired service guns. The SIG P226 represents just how developed double-action design can be. With a smooth double-action trigger that weighs in at about 7 pounds, and the safety/decocker in a similar position to the 1911, it’s the most modern pistol in SIG’s line. There are many who maintain the P226 should have been awarded the Army contract. Available in 9mm, 357 SIG and .40 calibers. ($1,020,


The FNH FNS is the first striker-fired pistol from FNH. It’s a polymer-framed gun with an ambidextrous safety slide stop and magazine release. There are two interchangeable back straps to allow a better fit, and there’s a bottom rail for mounting lights and lasers. It’s available in standard and long-slide versions in 9mm and .40. The hammer-forged barrel is stainless steel. ($590,

Beretta 92FS

Chosen as the replacement for the 1911 service pistol and taking the job in 1985 as the M9, the civilian Beretta 92FS has had some pretty large shoes to fill, and it’s done a pretty good job. A double/single-action semi-auto with a standard magazine capacity in 9mm of 15 rounds, the Beretta 92FS is accurate and dependable. It has a decocker safety and magazine release that can be switched for left-handed shooters. ($675,


You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}