When assembling a list of top ten military pistols throughout history, a number of combinations could be compiled based on design, cartridge, performance, reliability and/or practicality. Since so many aspects can be taken into account, a definitive top ten list is difficult; however, a number of the pistols listed below would appear on just about anyone’s top ten list of military pistols.
The Armed Forces History Museum in Largo, FL has a number of high quality, non-firing weapons available for purchase in the museum store. These items can also be purchased on-line using the links below:
10. H & K UPS – Heckler & Koch’s UPS (Universal Self-loading Pistol) made this top ten list because of its accuracy and reliability. The pistol’s design was influenced by the Model 1911 pistol. The H&K UPS has a modified Browning-type action and a patented recoil reduction system, which not only lowers the recoil effects on the pistol but also the forces experienced by the shooter.
The control level function on the USP can be moved so either a left or right handed shooter can use the pistol. The trigger firing mode can be easily converted from double-action and single-action modes and double action only mode.
A number of features such as a fiber-reinforced polymer frame, conversion capability to nine trigger firing modes, oversized trigger guard for use with gloves and patented lock-out safety device add to the weapon’s overall appeal.
9. Colt Single Action – The Colt Single Action was in-service from 1873 to 1892. This pistol is a single action revolver designed for the US Government service revolver trials in 1872.
This particular revolver was available in over 30 different calibers and several barrel lengths. The overall appearance of the Colt, however, has remained consistent. Production on this revolver was halted twice, but brought back to meet demands. Though popular with ranchers, lawmen, outlaws, etc., today the models are mainly sought after by collectors and re-enactors.
After three generations and several variants, the Colt Single Action has more than earned its place on the list of top ten pistols.
8. C96 Mauser Broomhandle – The C96 Mauser Broomhandle is a weapon that proved the viability of the semi-automatic pistol in both commercial and military use. The C96 has an integral box magazine located in front of the pistol’s trigger and other design features include its long barrel, the wooden shoulder stock – which can also double as a holster – and its broom handle shaped grip, which is how the pistol earned its nickname ‘Broomhandle’. The C96 had a high-velocity cartridge (7.63 x 25mm) which, when combined with its long barrel and shoulder stock, aided in in the Mauser’s superior range and penetration. The C96 Mauser was produced from 1896 to 1937 and remained in service from 1899 through 1961. After its introduction, the C96 quickly became a favorite among British officers and was used as a military sidearm in a number of conflicts. A number of variants have evolved from the C96, and they have been used in over a dozen countries.
7. Luger 9 mm – A semi-automatic pistol, the Luger 9mm was produced from 1900 to 1945. The Luger’s patented toggle-lock re-coil operation that was widely utilized by the Germans in both WWI and WWII. Though originally introduced with a 7.65 x 21mm Parabellum, the Luger is most noted as being the pistol for which the 9 x 19mm Parabellum cartridge – aka: the 9mm Luger – was developed. The Luger 9mm is still highly prized and sought after by collectors who admire it for its design and its known accuracy. Many of the Lugers from WWI and WWII were taken home by the Allied soldiers and remain in circulation to this day.
6. SIG P226 – This semi-automatic pistol is manufactured in Switzerland and can be chambered for a 9 x 19mm Parabellum, a .40 S&W, .357 SIG and a .22 Long Rifle. It utilizes John Browning’s locked breech, short recoil. A safety design feature of the P226 prevents the firing pin from making contact with a loaded round until the trigger is pulled. This pistol also features a double-action, firing mode which can be attained by simply pulling back the trigger. The P226 also utilizes a higher capacity magazine. The SIG P226 is used by many special operation units throughout the world.
5. Beretta 92F – This Italian designed semi-automatic pistol fires a 9 x 19mm Parabellum. Manufacturing began in 1975 and continues to present day. The original model was produced from 1975 to 1976, but current day production consists of four different designs using four different calibers: 9 x 19mm Parabellum (92 Series), .40 S&W (96 series), 9 x 21mm IMI (98 series) and 7.65mm Luger (98 and 99 series).
The Beretta 92F has been the primary side pistol for the American forces for the past 25 years. This pistol has low recoil, an open slide design – which permits even feeding and discharge of bullets – and is easy to use.
4. Browning Hi-Power – The Browning Hi-Power first went into production in 1935, but manufacturing of this single-action, 9mm semi-automatic pistol continues to present day. This pistol is one of the most widely used military pistols in history. The pistol was based on a design vision of the infamous John M. Browning, who passed away before it was finalized. The Hi-Power is considered by many to be the best single-action 9mm pistol. The Browning Hi-Power is still being used today by many military forces throughout the world. In all, it has been used in over 50 countries.
3. CZ75 – The CZ 75 is a semi-automatic pistol made in the Czech Republic. Introduced in 1975, production on the CZ 75 began in 1976 and has continued since. This all-steel construction pistol features a staggered-column magazine and hammer forged barrel. While it is the most common gun in the Czech Republic, the CZ 75 is admired and used by many due to its quality and versatility. The patent on this CZ 75 protected the pistol’s design in the Czech only. But since the pistol was exported to a number of countries, manufacturer’s abroad who began producing their own version of the CZ 75 pistol.
The CZ-75 is used by law enforcement agencies around the world and is noted for being easy to use, reliable and well-balanced.
2. Glock-17 – This Austrian design, semi-automatic pistol has been in service since 1982. The design took advantage of the previous H&K polymer construction and though first thought of as an odd handgun, the Glock 17 has since become the dominant handgun used by the Austrian and US law enforcement. Glock pistols make up for 65% of the market share of hand guns in the United States. The Glock changed the world of pistols and has become the defining gun of the past 25 years.
1. Colt 1911 A1 – In the 100 years following its introduction, the Colt 1911 has served as a inspiration for most pistol designs. Currently, there are more manufacturers of the M1911 pistol than any other cartridge handgun design at any given time. This single-action and semi-automatic pistol was designed by John Moses Browning. The M1911 and its variants were used in the United States Army from 1911 through 1985. This pistol saw combat in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The Colt M1911 introduced the .45 ACP cartridge and remains a popular choice today among competitive shooters.
A number of exceptional pistols have graced the market since they were first modernized and introduced over 100 years ago. This particular list will undoubtedly be refuted by some, but it would be difficult to dispute the Colt M1911 as the number one choice on this list of top ten military pistols.