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5 Battle-Tested Handguns That Have Proven Their Worth In Close Combat

Image source: Glock

Image source: Glock

It’s one thing for a handgun to endure the rigors of stress and performance testing in a controlled environment such as a gun range. However, in times of true combat, the environment is rarely controlled.
In fact, it’s usually downright unpredictable.

That’s why I’ll often pick from handguns that have already been proven in battle. Here are five iconic, combat-tested handguns that would make a worthy addition to your own concealed carry or bugout stockpile – because peace of mind is worth its weight in lead.

No. 5 CZ 75

When it comes to combat testing, the CZ 75 is likely the most widely distributed military handgun of them all, having almost the same type of cult loyalty as the AK47 itself. And even though it was developed within the Soviet Bloc back in the day, this gun remains steadfastly in the hands of more than a few elite operators, militaries and law enforcement officers, worldwide.

While there might not necessarily be anything incredibly special about this particular handgun, its 9mm chambering, double-stack magazine, excellent ergonomics and ease-of-manipulation makes it a highly viable option for soldiers.

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No. 4 – 1911 in 45ACP

The 1911 (or M11) has an extremely strong reputation for combat-hardened reliability and sheer lethality. It has been a tried and true American sidearm since – as you might guess – 1911. Even though the aforementioned CZ might beat it on modern distribution quantities, you just can’t sneeze at a handgun that’s been used (and battle-abused) for more than a century.

The 1911 tends to make for a fantastic winter weapon, due to its incredibly sturdy design. In addition, the 45ACP will penetrate targets that could otherwise cause an expansion failure that 9mm hollow points often experience when plowing through multiple layers of winter clothing.

I would bear in mind that if you want a 1911, then be prepared to shell out a good $2,000.  However, you really do get what you pay for when it comes to this all-American handgun.

No. 3 – Sig Sauer P226

This German (now American-made) pistol likely is one of the most famous combat handguns of the bunch. It’s benefitted from the luster of being carried by more than a few folks that regularly depend on this weapon in two-way shooting ranges around the globe: the Sig Sauer P226.  In fact, according to Sig’s website, this pistol was specifically developed for some of the world’s most elite forces:

“Designed for the U.S. Army and carried by U.S. Navy SEALs, Texas Rangers and many other elite military and law enforcement professionals, the SIG SAUER® P226® has earned its place in the highest class of production pistols.”

In fact, the 9mm P226 was on the VERY short list for being selected as the Pentagon’s go-to replacement for the 1911. While the M9 won the bid due to having a lower price, SEALs adopted the P226 as their standard-issue sidearm.

No. 2 – Beretta 92FS

Beretta 92FS

Beretta 92FS

Known by millions of U.S. soldiers as the M9, the Beretta 92FS has been carried into foreign combat zones since it was officially introduced as the M11’s replacement weapon in 1985.  It also has served Italian police forces since 1976 and during those years, the Beretta 92 has been outfitted with a much needed hammer drop safety mechanism.

Due to its higher magazine capacity of 15 rounds, it made sense for the Pentagon to choose the M9 as their new, primary sidearm.

However, the gun has been reported to have reliability issues and was apparently the cause of injuries from glaring design defects:

“The M9 pistol program ran into trouble when in September of 1987 the slide of a civilian model Beretta 92SB pistol fractured at the junction where the locking block mates into the slide. The broken half of the slide flew back at the shooter (a member of the Navy Special Warfare Group) injuring him. (NSIAD-88-213) In January and February of 1988, respectively, two more military model M9 handguns exhibited the same problem, injuring two more shooters from the Navy Special Warfare Group.” [Tim Chandler of SightM1911.com]

Nevertheless, the U.S. military continued issuing the M9 even as late as 2009, as Beretta won yet another five-year contract from the Department of Defense.

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No. 1 – Glock 17/23 Gen4

It’s a brand that countless shooters either love or hate with a passion: Glock.

I put Glock as my top pick for a combat pistol for the simple fact that it’s been proven to be one of the safest handguns in production and is both reliable and durable. According to David Tong of Chuck Hawks, Glock’s global popularity also could be the result of its near-obscene design simplicity by the legendary, Gaston Glock:

Gaston Glock was not originally involved in firearms. He had contracts to supply the Austrian military with entrenching tools and knives that were partially constructed of lightweight polymers. He decided to enter a competition in the early 1980s for a new Austrian service pistol and the rest is history. The G17 went on to become a worldwide favorite among law enforcement due to its light weight, simplicity and durability under extreme use and abuse.

The world’s top brass found tremendous value in the pistol, which comes with fewer than 30 parts to keep track of. In addition, its ergonomics and lightweight design made for a more manageable load out with the most-used calibers by modern militaries and U.S. government agencies. These include the BATFE, the FBI, the DEA, and the U.S. Marshals. The most used Glock models are the 17 (full-sized 9mm) and the 23 Gen4 (compact .40S&W).

When it comes to two-way shooting ranges, I certainly would not feel unprepared if I were running a Glock. Because when I pull that trigger I know the weapon will fire.

Granted, I only listed five handguns. This leaves out quite a few others that are more than worthy of my mention.

If you’ve got a favorite combat handgun that wasn’t mentioned, then feel free to leave a comment on the make and model and why you believe it should have made the list. There are quite a few combat handguns on the market and it would be a shame to have such beauties not receive their own battle-hardened recognition.

What are your favorite combat handguns? Share your suggestions in the section below:

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17 comments

  1. Browning Hi-Powers have been battle tested for years. Used by most of the Police forces in many European countries. At one time probably would have gotten a better deal than Beretta gave them. I have two of them, never had a problem with either of them!

  2. I agree with Mark in his post above. It is difficult to fault the BHP’s reliability, accuracy, and ergonomics in its long history. I keep mine uploaded with Mec-Gar 15 round magazines and have never looked back. I also have had extensive experience with the Glock 19(far superior than the 17 in my personal/professional experience), the 1911,(have multiples), SIG 226, (an excellent pistol) and the CZ-75 which sadly I do not own one. Will have to rectify that sometime. I have never been a “fan” of the .40S&W cartridge itself, since there are plenty of excellent .45 ACP rounds out there that outperform that round, that being said, modern ammo today is far better than the ammunition I had to choose from when I started out in law enforcement in 1976.

  3. You should look at the Soviet TTC from 1933 with the 7.62×25 round. It has the shape of the
    03 Browning and the lockwork style of the M1911 Browning. It served the Soviets from 1933
    past WWII into the 50’s. They did the same sort of thing we did and went to a much weaker
    round. It was used in the Warsaw Pact much longer.
    I have Zastava M57 a current production modernized version of the TTC in 7.62×25. It has a
    nice factory installed hammer blocking safety. The old TTC’s relied upon half cock. There are a lot of surplus TTC’s with various safties fitted to them. The rounds are hot in the 1600 to
    1700fps+ range. The gun is easy to shoot one handed. It is all steel. The rounds only drop
    two inches at 100 feet. The gun can be had at less than $300 new. it is imported by Century arms. PPU civilian ammo is available in FMJ and JHP noncorosive primer reloadable brass cases This is more powerful than the Red Army steel case ones.
    Look up the ballistics. It is more powerful than the normal 9mm, 38spec,45ACP, and
    357 mag rounds.
    The gun is very easy to fieldstrip. If you get any surplus ammo, you need to wash the barrel to get the salts out.
    The M57 has 9 round mags so you can not use cheap surplus TTC mags which are 8.
    The weapon is thin and fits the hand very nice.

  4. Own and appreciate BHP`s and Glocks ,too. Where does the author get the $2000 price tag for a 1911? Sure you can pay that much if you want,but,there are more of Mr. Browning`s design of 1911 available now than ever before, from many good manufacturers , in more variants than ever,the price you pay is up to you.

    • Oh yea, check out a really wild version of a 1911, made by Arsenal Armory,in Italy, it is a double barreled two mirror image variant, with separate mags,hammers, fires both barrels simultaneously , look for shooting great, Gerry Miculec trying out two of them,one in each hand,on youtube. Dont know the price,but expect a big price tag.

    • I have a Gen ONE Glockenspiel 17, that I picked up, used, as a police trade-in, so I have no idea how many rounds were run through it as a service firearm, but I competed in USPSA, shooting MAJOR power factor!
      147 grain LEAD bullets, supposedly a no-no for a Glock, and with equal power as .38 super? Never had any lead in the barrel, never a failure to feed, eject, or ANY failure!
      I ran over 20,000 rounds through this pistol, in competition, firing lead bullets (sometimes Rainier coated bullets, when I could get them), and I’ve run at least another 20,000 rounds through it since retiring it from competition, replacing it with my Kimberly Stainless Target II 1911 .45acp, shooting 200 grain lead, JHP, etc. for another 20,000+ rounds.
      $2000 for a 1911? I doubt anyone could dispute that this pistol isn’t one of the better ones, and I paid less than $1300 for it.
      Both of these pistols, in my opinion, are VERY RELIABLE, and I switch between both, for my everyday carry, so you could say that I trust them with my life!
      By the way, I only use Chip McCormick ‘Shooting Star’ 10-round magazines in my Kimber. 7, or 8 rounds aren’t enough, no matter who you are, or how good.

  5. I seem to have chosen my pistols wisely. My revolvers are Smith & Wessons and Rugers so there’s no argument my revolver choices are bad.

    I have 2 .45 ACP 1911s, a Sig P220 Carry .45 ACP, a Sig P239 .357 SIG (my easily concealed lightweight go-to carry weapon), and an HK.45CT (I needed a threaded barrel pistol for suppressor use), last but not least is a Glock 22 in .40 S&W – hey, I needed a high capacity weapon to keep up with the “Joneses”.

    I do believe I have all the pistol bases covered (except for a suppressed .22).

  6. Odd, but which country has taken the Glock into battle? To be battle tested I would think they would need to have been used in battle in enough numbers to prove themselves. Not knocking Glock, just pointing out the obvious.

    • Bob,

      Many LE departments service glocks. There are actual units in the Army that also service them. I can attest to it personally.

      This is a good list and the comments are great. Usually, comment sections are full of Tactical Timmy’s bashing everything and begging to know why the Hi-Point they just looove weren’t included.

    • Bob,

      I know the Norwegians and Swedes have carried Glocks into combat for many years.

      I would say 80% of my colleagues in SF carried Glocks during deployments. Another 10% carried the Sig 226, and the rest chose 1911s made by several different companies. I took my M9 on my first tour in 03, but asked my parents to send me a Glock 21 within 2 weeks. I carried that same 21 for the next 8 years through 5 more deployments. I put easily 50k rounds through it, and it never let me down. Its saved my life twice. Unfortunately I lost track of it when i was WIA on my last tour. But i have a new 21 protecting what I treasure most: my wife and 2 yr old daughter. There are many great guns out there, but when their lives are on the line, I know that gun will perform as expected no matter the conditions.

  7. 1911? Absolutely. The CZ? Yes indeed, and the 92 well ok. It’s seen its share. The Sig is excellent but I don’t know just how much combat this pkatform has actually seen. I’m not a Glock fan but that has to do with it not being a comfortable handgun for my hands. I suppose it’s a good enough pkatform and I’m sure that by the time they get to Gen 11 or 12. Maybe model 65 or 70 that they may have corrected the issue I find with handling it. Yes, Glock seen combat, and there are many Services that use them but that doesn’t make them on of the best. There are other handguns that are combat proven that have as good or better a reputation, been around awhile and should be mentioned here. Of them the two that come to mind are the Browning Hi-Power , Springfield XD series, and the Jerico by IMI which is a hi end clone of the CZ75. Of those the Baby Desert Eagle Compact is perhaps the best of this branch of the family. Point? There are others that deserve slots here too.
    I suspect that I’m not the only one to have these opinions either but you never know

  8. I like my Springfield mod 2 45. It’s very similar to a Glock but it includes a grip safety. It fits my hands, and it’s fairly accurate at 18 yards. It has much beefier rails than a Glock. I own several guns including a Glock 23, gen 3. I like my Glock too.

    I have owned severall 1911s and I have had numerous problems with them. It could have been that I was limp wristing. 1911s are sensitive to the that.

    I am fairly consistent in moving steel plates around the tree at 18 yards. I am sure there are those among you who can do better with the Springfield mod 2 45 than I.

    I own a 10mm in the 1911 style, made by a company in the Philippines owned by Armscorp but taking it apart is something I don’t have the physical strength to do. As a result, it is not my favorite gun. It is fairly accurate and the recoil isnt all that bad. The shells are very expensive though.

  9. Pete in Alaska

    This list is not even a taste of proven combat handguns.
    One might wish to add
    – Browning Hi-Power 9mm
    – the Springfield XD series …. Both pre. Springfield and post Sprinfield when they became the XD
    – FN has several excellent combat handguns of record
    – the Baby Desert Eagles made by IMI for the IDF and later sold worldwide. Also known as the “Jericho”
    To just suggest a few more besides the list above.
    I’m not a Glock fan as the frame has never been a comfortable fit for me and as many changes as they have made there has been no mod for the frame where the web of the hand meets it. So for me Glock is a none starter on this list. It’s a fine handgun I’m suure. Just not a personal choice.

  10. What about the Sig’s M11 for military? or the P228/P229? I just purchased a M11-A1 and its a tack driver comes with 3 15+1 mag’s and is just as heavy as a G19. SRT trigger,Sig night sights,phosphate internal coating (incase of salt water or water shooting). Oh also its a steel frame and a tack driver.

  11. S&W 1911 Scandium frame 45ACP (Commander)
    Sig 220 (older German Police) 45 ACP
    Browning Hi Power 9mm
    CZ 75 BD 9mm
    CZ P-01 9mm
    M57 Tokorev 7.62×25 (Current)

  12. The Springfield XD mod 2 .45 ACP is a beast! Equipped with the 13 round extended may makes the bad guys sweat! Super accurate for a 3.3 inch barrel length up to 15 yards!

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