FNS-9: Fabrique Nationale, or FN, provides pistols, rifles and machine guns to military forces and law enforcement agencies around the world. The company builds guns to withstand the harshest of conditions, and the striker-fired FNS-9 pistol benefits from that experience. Chambered for the 9mm cartridge, a standard FNS-9 magazine holds 17 rounds while still maintaining a very ergonomic grip. Even though it is a full-sized handgun, the pistol’s overall length is just 7.25 inches and its weight is slightly more than 25 ounces. This made-in-America handgun has an accessory rail up front that allows shooters to easily add a white light or laser. Ambidextrous controls and interchangeable backstraps allow the gun to work better with a wide range of shooters.
Glock 19 Gen4: One of the most popular handguns ever made, the Glock 19 is a 9mm pistol that is large enough to be used as a duty gun yet just compact enough to be carried concealed. In fact, I’ve done both. My second-generation G19 was the first gun I carried in uniform, and it also protected me and my family when off-duty. I’ve since upgraded to the current Gen4 model, but I still have and shoot that original pistol. Why is the gun so popular? Possibly because it ticks the boxes of important features in a defensive pistol for so many people. The design is simple and has proven to be extremely reliable. In stock form, the magazines hold 15 rounds with a frame sized so that even large hands can get a full grip on the gun. Even with a full magazine, the gun is relatively light for its size and balances well in hand.
Heckler & Koch VP9: When Heckler & Koch introduced the striker-fired, polymer-framed pistol in 1970, it had no idea that it was taking the first step in revolutionizing the handgun market. Fast-forward to the 21st century, and HK is again driving the industry forward with VP9 pistol. This duty-sized, striker-fired pistol was ruthlessly tested during its development to ensure it would be worthy of the HK name. Since then, many others have also tested these guns and found them to be accurate and reliable. In my opinion, the trigger on this pistol is one of the best out of the box of any striker-fired handgun. Not content with using just the backstrap to adjust the grip size, the company also made the side panels interchangeable so shooters could customize the trigger reach and grip width. Of special note to left-handed shooters: the VP9 is completely ambidextrous. Slide and magazine release levers are located on both sides of the gun.
Ruger American Pistol: The newest striker-fired duty gun in this bunch, the American Pistol blends the traditionally rugged engineering of Ruger with cutting-edge design. The result is a reliable pistol with reduced recoil that can handle a steady diet of high-pressure, self-defense ammunition. There is a long list of features baked into this pistol that make the gun a pleasure to shoot. To start with, the gun has a barrel cam system that helps to reduce felt recoil and muzzle rise. Additionally, the striker is pre-tensioned so the trigger pull is smooth and light. The steel magazines are nickel-Teflon plated to ensure corrosion resistance and a slick reload. Instead of interchangeable backstraps, the pistol has a modular wraparound grip system that also adjusts the width of the grip to better fill the hand. Both the replaceable grips and the front of the grip frame have a unique texture to provide a sure grasp on the gun.
Sig Sauer P320: Well known for its traditional hammer-fired pistols, Sig Sauer recently jumped into the striker-fired market in a big way with the P320. Similar to the P250 before it, the P320 is a pistol with an internal chassis that can be swapped between any of four different-sized polymer frames to match your needs. A uniformed officer promoted to investigations could take the chassis from the full-sized frame and drop it into the compact frame, for example. The same process allows the shooter to change the grip size and caliber just as easily. In its full-sized form, the P320 has a 4.7-inch barrel and SIGLITE night sights. Four different calibers are available, though the .357 SIG is clearly the zippiest choice. Standard magazines will hold 14 rounds of this bottlenecked cartridge. Unloaded, the pistol weighs just under 30 ounces.
Smith & Wesson M&P40: When striker-fired handguns began to capture the public’s attention, Smith & Wesson appeared to be caught flat-footed. With the M&P series, however, the company quickly made up for lost ground and forced a number of other companies to re-evaluate their own designs. Functional and stylish, the M&P pistols use a polymer frame that is reinforced with a stainless steel chassis. This helps to ensure long-term durability and that the frame can support a light or laser without impairing reliability. The frame allows for interchangeable palm-swell grip sizes that can help shooters of all sizes get a proper trigger reach. The slide stop is ambidextrous, and the magazine release button can be moved to either side of the frame. The standard M&P40 uses 15-round magazines and is equipped with steel Novak three-dot sights. Options for night sights and other customizations are also available from Smith & Wesson.
Smith & Wesson SD40VE: Smith & Wesson’s SD line of pistols is a real sleeper. These striker-fired handguns are aggressively priced and some of the best defensive pistols for the money on the market today. They lack in some of the frills found on more expensive pistols, but these guns do not lack in performance. I’ve found them to be rock-solid reliable with all kinds of ammunition. In fact, I can’t recall a single hiccup with my own SD40VE. One of the things I really like about these guns is they are not trying to be all things to all people. The SD line is designed for personal protection, and the design choices make sense for that purpose. Take, for example, the rear sight. While many brands go with a rear sight with a ramped front edge, the SD40VE has a hard, flat edge that allows the shooter to run the gun with just one hand.
Springfield Armory XDM 4.5″: Even though they’ve been on the market for nearly a decade, Springfield’s XDM pistols still have cutting-edge looks and features. A follow-up to the original—and still very successful—XD line, the XDM pistols offer very good ergonomics, excellent sights and a sterling reputation for performance. In 9mm, the XDM 4.5″ has a standard magazine capacity of 19—yes, 19—rounds, plus one in the chamber. That means, out of the holster, you have 20 rounds on tap before having to pause for a reload. The fiber-optic front sight offers a bright aiming reference across a variety of lighting conditions, and the match-grade barrel helps ensure your rounds go where you aim for them to go. This Springfield Armory pistol also has an interchangeable backstrap, an ambidextrous magazine release and crisp trigger break.
Steyr L9-A1: A full-sized handgun suitable for duty, home defense and recreational use, the L9-A1 is a top quality 9mm pistol that I’ve found to be absolutely reliable with very good accuracy to match. The standard magazine holds 17 rounds, giving it plenty of firepower before a reload is needed. The 4.5-inch, cold-hammer-forged barrel ensures top performance from your defensive ammunition. In my experience, Steyr pistols have very little muzzle flip as compared to their competitors. Holding rounds on target during rapid fire is surprisingly easy. Part of the improved recoil mitigation comes from how high the shooting hand is able to get on the grip. The company’s unique stippling also creates a texture on the grip that helps to lock the hand in place even when sweaty or wet. Combining these features with the company’s use of trapezoidal sights, I’ve found the Steyr design enhances my ability to engage targets quickly.
Walther PPQ M2: Another double-stack 9mm, the striker-fired Walther PPQ M2 is a pistol designed to fit the hand while offering great accuracy and reliability. The polymer frame has multi-directional texturing to anchor the pistol firmly in the hand. On top, three-dot sights help keep you on target. An ambidextrous slide stop and a reversible, push-button magazine release make the gun easy to use for both right- and left-handed shooters. Perhaps one of the most talked about features of the PPQ M2 is its trigger. Called the Quick Defense Trigger, the system offers a 5.6-pound pull with a very short reset. There are many shooters who state this is the best striker-fired trigger on the market. While I will state that trigger feel is very much an individual preference, it’s hard to deny that many people love what Walther has done this gun.
Technology was one of the driving factors for the economic engine of the 1980s. Personal computers found their way into both businesses and homes, communication advances leapt forward with the breakup of the telephone monopoly, and pistols began to displace revolvers as the dominant handgun in duty holsters around the nation. Before it arrived on these shores, few had ever heard of the so-called Austrian-made “plastic gun” that would soon sweep through the law enforcement market.
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The polymer-framed gun from Glock was a technological advancement in design and production that fit the era well. The Glock 17 wasn’t the first striker-fired gun, or even the first handgun to extensively use polymer. But it was the right gun in the right place at the right time. At a time when drug violence was escalating and police departments were looking to give officers more firepower, the G17 offered revolver-like simplicity combined with an unheard of 17+1 capacity. Many departments liked what they saw, and the striker-fired revolution began to burn in earnest.
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After those early days, nearly every major company began developing striker-fired pistols marketed for law enforcement and personal protection. Today, there is a broad selection of high-quality handguns that offer excellent reliability, fantastic ergonomics and standard-capacity magazines that can feed up to 19 rounds. Here’s a look at 10 striker-fired pistols available today.
For more information about the striker-fired pistols featured in the gallery above, please visit the following sites.
Heckler & Koch
Smith & Wesson
For more from author Richard Johnson, visit http://www.gunsholstersandgear.com
This article was originally published in ‘Guns & Weapons for Law Enforcement’ December/January 2017. For information on how to subscribe, please email subscriptions@
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