Top 18 Full-Size Guns 2014 lead
Top 18 Full-Size Guns From COMBAT HANDGUNS in 2014

When it comes to impressive firepower and great handling characteristics, it is tough to beat a good, full-sized combat pistol. Thanks to the experts at COMBAT HANDGUNS, you now have a sampling of some of the best options available on the market today.

From modern classics based on the battle-proven 1911 to space-age, polymer-framed pistols born in the 21st century, this roundup gives you the info you need to make an informed decision on your next full-sized handgun purchase. Read on to find out more!




By Andy Massimilian

The AAC 1911 is a full-size pistol made from a forged carbon steel slide and cast frame. It is shipped in a sturdy, foam-lined case with slots custom cut for the pistol, magazines, cleaning rod and Ti-RANT .45 suppressor.

The AAC 1911 locking system is the conventional Browning design that uses a swinging link to attach the barrel block to the pistol’s frame via the slide stop pin and the standard recoil spring guide rod that allows disassembly without tools.

Like all Remington 1911 pistols, the AAC 1911 incorporates what many call the “Series 80” firing pin safety, named after what Colt referred to this system as when it first was released. The Series 80 system incorporates a spring-loaded plunger into the slide that prevents the firing pin from moving forward unless the trigger is depressed. The design allows pistols to be carried with a round in the chamber, because dropping the pistol on its muzzle would not move the firing pin forward to strike the primer. The original 1911 design lacked this feature, as do other current production models that use other drop-safe designs.

Most 1911 pistols sold today have many features (extended beavertail grip safety, lowered/flared ejection port, skeletonized trigger, lightened hammer for faster lock time, etc.) that, two decades ago, would have been considered customization. The AAC 1911, however, has all of these and adds some additional touches that have real value for the shooter, especially when running a suppressor.

The fixed sights are high profile to allow a sight picture with the front sight just barely clearing the edge of the Ti-RANT suppressor. These sights are high quality, durable and made of steel, with fine horizontal serrations on the rear edges to reduce glare and lend a crisp image to the shooter. They also have a single white dot on the front and a smaller dot just under the notch on the rear to make them easier to see and align to deliver a quick shot. Unlike many rear sights, there are no sharp edges to cut your hands. The best feature is the shape of the rear sight, which acts as a cocking ledge should an injured operator need to rack the slide one-handed by hooking the sight onto a holster, belt buckle or boot. Adjustment for windage is done by loosening a set screw and drifting the rear sight in its dovetail.

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By Rob Garrett

Cylinder & Slide started with a high-quality OEM aluminum alloy frame. The first modification was to open up the frame window under the grip panels. A steel throat was fitted to the frame for improved reliability and to reduce wear. The magazine well received a deep, but not extreme, bevel, and the frontstrap was cut high for an improved purchase. A Caspian beavertail grip safety and flat mainspring housing were fitted and blended to the frame. The extended thumb safety and checkered slide stop are from Cylinder & Slide. The fire control components are part of the C&S Tactical II kit, and the trigger is a solid, medium-sized unit with a smooth, round face. Finally, the frontstrap and mainspring housing were machine stippled.

The Super Lite’s forged slide received some radical internal machining to reduce weight without compromising the strength or reliability of the pistol. The shop installed a C&S Series 70 extractor and an extended ejector to further enhance the Super Lite’s reliability. A semi-drop-in barrel was throated and recrowned before being fitted to a solid National Match bushing. The ejection port was relieved, and the forward edge received a bullet-nose relief to ensure safe ejection of live rounds. Richard Heinie’s excellent Ultra Low-Mount Ledge sight was selected as the rear sight. The front sight on my test pistol was a plain dovetailed post. Bill Laughridge can change this per customer requests. While tritium is popular, the Super Lite really deserves a gold bead.

The front sides of the slide received Hi Power-style cuts, while the top of the slide was serrated with an arrow-point pattern. A subtle French border defines the matte-finished top of the slide from the highly polished sides. The entire pistol received a medium-carry bevel, and the frame received a silver gray Cerakote finish. The slide was polished with 400-grit paper and given a deep, lustrous blue. The combination is reminiscent of an earlier time. However, no matter how appealing the Super Lite model is, the key feature is the reduction in weight. The majority of the weight reduction came from cuts in the slide. The barrel was also reshaped in critical areas.

When I first received the Super Lite, the slide-to-frame fit was very tight and had a distinct bump as the barrel unlocked from the slide. In talking to Laughridge, he stated that, other than test-firing to confirm zero, the pistol had not been shot. On the range, I broke the Super Lite in with a box of standard 230-grain FMJs. Recoil, while snappy, was manageable as long as I used a proper grip and position.

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By David Bahde

Diamondback Firearms has been building compact and subcompact pistols in .380 ACP and 9mm since 2009. Known for a smooth and crisp trigger, especially in such small pistols, the DB380 and DB9 pistols are favorites among concealed-carry holders. While the company also manufactures an AR pistol (the DB15), its standard pistols are designed for deep concealment—that is, until now.

Diamondback’s latest pistol, the DB FS Nine, is a full-sized, 15+1 9mm pistol packing a ton of features at a reasonable price. The grip is contoured with a “beavertail,” keeping things solid and preventing slide bite, especially for those with large hands. The trigger is smooth with a positive reset measuring at 5.5 pounds. Fixed three-dot sights provide for quick target acquisition. Cocking serrations at the front and rear facilitate reloads and positive control no matter the conditions. A full Mil-Std-1913 Picatinny rail allows for use of lights and other accessories. With a 4.75-inch chrome-moly barrel and a 6.25-inch sight radius, it is easy to shoot accurately. The pistol’s double-stack magazines hold 15 rounds and feature a well-contoured magazine base that is easy to insert and remove.

Striker-fired pistols do not always fit my hands well. My large hands tend to get compressed at the frontstrap, and slide bite is the norm with many. So when pistols like the FS Nine show up for testing, skepticism is the rule. Removing it from its case, it was a pleasant surprise. The grip has more in common with my long-proven hammer-fired weapons than any striker-fired pistol used to date. The few friends and colleagues to whom I handed the gun all indicated it was very comfortable. My hand did not sit as high to the bore, but the beavertail looked to prevent slide bite and promote a more traditional grip angle. Cutting the frontstrap high and relieving the triggerguard provided plenty of room for my hands.

The gun’s controls are similar to those of a Glock, with a single slide stop on the left side. The magazine release is easily accessed. Indentations at the bottom of the mag well allow you to “pull” on the magazine base to ensure it is properly seated. The square triggerguard sits behind a full-length rail with multiple slots. Every light in my inventory went on easily, including several SureFire lights, some Streamlights and a few others. The Melonited, Glock-style sights are made OEM by Ameriglo—a nice touch. The front is bolted on, while the rear uses a dovetail, and both have prominent white dots.

The FS Nine features aggressive serrations at both the front and rear. An external extractor extends about an inch along the slide. There is a loaded-chamber indicator on top of the slide (with the usual hole allowing you to see the brass) as well as a cocking indicator at the rear. When cocked, the striker extends outside the rear of the frame and can be both seen and felt. A drop safety “toggle” is present on the trigger and presses smoothly with a tactile and audible reset. The trigger pull measured 5.7 pounds and was predictable with adequate take-up and little overtravel.

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By Sara Ahrens

European American Armory’s Witness Pavona is a redesign of Tanfoglio’s compact 9mm Witness polymer model. Sharon Lacy of EAA was brought into the redesign effort to assist the Tanfoglio engineers. One of her roles was to gather information during the development phase of the project. Her research included canvasing women’s forums and fielding calls from new and experienced female shooters. Sharon said, “I spoke with women young and old. What were their concerns? What are their needs? The fact is, women have needs so very different from men.”

Sharon explained that, based on her interactions, the questions posed by female shooters centered on the relationship of the firearm to their stature, physical strength and lifestyles. In addition to conducting research, Sharon also played a significant role in the aesthetics and marketing of the Pavona. Sharon explained, “I had a great deal to do with the cosmetics of the firearm, logo and branding…It was the geniuses at Tanfoglio who designed the guns.”

There’s no mistaking that a woman’s touch has been added to the Pavona. It comes in a variety of distinctive colors such as sapphire (royal blue), fandango (light purple), imperial (dark purple) and charcoal (black frame with silver slide). Each color variation features silver glitter within the polymer. The Pavona also comes in black polymer with gold glitter. The Witness Pavona is also available in .380 ACP and .40 S&W. Like the 9mm, the .380 version holds 13+1 rounds. The .40-caliber model holds 9+1.

Besides the color scheme, the main internal change made to the Pavona was the fine-tuning of the hammer and recoil springs. Tanfoglio opted to keep the external hammer intact. The intent behind this is to allow the user to cock the hammer while keeping the safety engaged. Cocking the hammer depresses the spring, which allows for greater ease in manipulating the slide. This improvement will appeal to beginning shooters who have yet to develop hand strength, or to shooters who struggle with hand strength due to arthritis.

An ambidextrous magazine release is an important characteristic. I rarely purchase a handgun that doesn’t incorporate that feature. The ability to place the magazine release to the strong side so that the trigger finger can drop the magazine without the need to reposition the entire firearm is a huge feature for people with smaller hands and shorter reach. Once out of the holster, any and all adjustments affect accuracy; not to mention it is common for some new shooters to unintentionally muzzle other students while looking for the magazine release. A shooter’s ability to change their magazines without changing the direction of the muzzle is something I’m sure we can all appreciate.

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By William Bell

My sample Glock 22 Gen4 came in a plastic carrying case. The case is foam-rubber-lined and includes two magazines, a magazine loader, a cleaning rod and brush, a cable lock, a safety brochure and an owner’s manual. The G22 Gen4 is based on the same medium-sized frame as the G17 9mm and has only 34 component parts, which demonstrates the design’s rugged simplicity. The pistol also features Glock’s legendary striker-fired Safe Action system, which some erroneously refer to as being double-action-only. The service-grade trigger pull is factory set at 5.5 pounds, and other pull weights are available.

The pistol’s grip frame is slender yet it holds a high-capacity, double-column magazine, which on the G22 will hold fifteen .40-caliber cartridges (Glock also offers a 22-round magazine). The Gen4 grip frame is modular, with interchangeable backstraps that can be replaced to better conform to each user’s hand size. A new, rough, wrap-around texture on the front, back and sides of the grip provides increased control in rapid fire and during inclement weather. Internally, there’s a new dual (concentric) recoil spring system that increases the gun’s service life, and another improvement is the enlarged, ambidextrous magazine catch, which can be changed over in seconds for left-handed shooters. Add to this an accessory rail located beneath the dust cover and you have a versatile sidearm for many different roles.

The size of the Glock 22 Gen4, with its 4.48-inch, polygonal-rifled barrel, is just 7.95 inches long overall, 5.43 inches in height and 1.18 inches wide. This makes it a good uniform-carry pistol, but it’s also not out of place for everyday civilian use. Its empty weight is 25.59 ounces, and even fully loaded it weighs just 34.42 ounces—about the same weight as a number of older, larger designs that carry fewer cartridges.

Not only does the durable polymer frame weigh less, it’s also stronger than most metals, requires little maintenance and reduces felt recoil. Another factor in recoil and muzzle-flip reduction is the pistol’s low bore axis. The barrel is positioned a lot closer to the top of the hand, which causes the recoil impulse to push straight backward instead of down and up. The polymer frame, coupled with the surface-hardened steel slide, makes it almost impervious to rust and corrosion.

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By Jim Schaffer

In the realm of full-size combat pistols, one would be hard-pressed to find a model more suitable than the new Glock 41 Gen4 in .45 ACP.

Using a Glock Gen4 frame, with its multiple backstrap system that includes four backstrap sizes, two of them beavertails, a reversible magazine catch, a high-traction texturing that wraps fully around the gripping surface, the G41 Gen4 sports a 5.3-inch barrel. The Glock Safe Action system, with its adjustable trigger-pull weight capability, is included in the design and contributes to the gun’s competition-worthy range results. The extended slide length of 8.31 inches gives users a sight radius right at 7.5 inches, a length that also has a salutatory influence on accuracy. The G41 Gen4 has an outline reminiscent of the earlier “Practical/Tactical” models in 9mm and .40 (the Glock 34 and Glock 35, respectively).

There is an important difference, however—the top of the G42’s slide is solid. This means the barrel and internals are sealed and can stand up to harsher environments (e.g., sand, dirt, mud, etc.). Test firing the new Glock 41 Gen4 resulted in gratifyingly small groups at 25 yards (well under 4 inches). Glock’s dual recoil spring system and the gun’s longer slide aided in handling and control—the G41 Gen4 just seems to “hang” better in the hand(s). The gun’s 13-round standard-capacity magazine is of the Gen4 variety: mag catch cutouts are located on both sides of the magazine, so the gun’s ambidextrous magazine catch will lock the magazine in, no matter the mag catch’s position. With its self-illuminating night sights and cold-hammer-forged barrel with octagonal rifling, there is little doubt that the Glock 41 Gen4 is capable of successfully engaging targets out to 100 yards! I think Clint Smith would say this is a “comforting” Glock.

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By Richard Johnson

The Heckler & Koch VP9 is a descendant of the VP70, which was also known as the Volkspistole, or “people’s pistol.” In many ways, the new handgun deserves the moniker just as much as the old gun ever did. The gun is designed to fit nearly ever shooter’s hand and budget.

HK built the VP9 to be completely ambidextrous. The magazine release and slide release can both be activated from either side of the gun. HK used a lever-type magazine release on the VP9 that is located at the rear of the triggerguard. Right out of the box, both right- and left-handed shooters can drop a mag without the need to have an armorer swap a button from one side of the frame to the other.

Slide-release levers appear on both sides of the gun’s frame. The right-side lever is about 2 inches long, starting under the ejection port and running toward the rear of the gun. Although it is relatively long, I found it did not interfere with any of the operations of the gun. When running drills left-handed, the right-side slide-release lever was easy to activate to both lock the slide back and to release it after loading a magazine.

One of the great features of the Heckler & Koch VP9 that helps make it a gun for all people is the significant amount of grip size customization available to the shooter. The HK VP9 has three different sizes of backstraps, plus three different sizes of grip panels. The grip panels are independent of each other, so a shooter can have a thin one on one side and a thicker one on the other. There are 27 possible variations on grip size right out of the box. I’ve worked with a lot of shooters over the years, and being able to custom fit a pistol to a shooter while on the range is a huge benefit.

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By David Bahde

Sig Sauer’s Elite SAO starts with the aluminum Elite frame. This frame includes a tactical rail and an extended beavertail. More aggressive checkering is found on the front strap, as well as some on the front of the triggerguard. Elite frames will accept the mag well seen on the X-Five Tactical. The SAO is a single-action-only (SAO) model with an ambidextrous safety. Unique to this design is the ability to manipulate the slide with the safety engaged. The Elite P226 frame will accept 15-round factory magazines as well as the 20-round tactical versions.

The slide houses a match-grade, 4.4-inch barrel. Cocking serrations are at both the front and rear. SigLite Night Sights come standard with a ledged rear sight facilitating unconventional magazine changes and malfunction drills. The frame is hardcoat anodized and the slide is coated in Nitron. Two 15-round magazines are provided in a plastic hard case.

While the SigLites are great, my 50+ year-old eyes prefer something a bit brighter, especially for daylight shooting. Trijicon’s HD sights have become my favorites and were installed using my MGW sight mover. Available with either an orange or green front sight, orange is my preference. It contains a tritium insert surrounded by a large photoluminescent-painted doughnut. The rear sight is ledged with tritium inserts, keeping things simple. Hogue’s Chain Link Extreme Series G10 grips were installed for operation in adverse conditions and tactical operations. A RoCo Firearms X-Five-style mag well was added to round out the package.

Most of the testing was completed using a set of Kydex holsters made by NSR Tactical. The company’s Kydex work is excellent, and its delivery time is better than most. Based in Paulden, Arizona, NSR was able to deliver them to me at Gunsite during a 250 Pistol class I was working. NSR provided magazine pouches as well as holsters that accommodate the pistol alone and with a SureFire X300U tactical light. Molded in A-TACS Urban, it matches most of my gear. These holsters have proven to be very well constructed and made from the finest Kydex.

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By David Bahde

Striker-fired polymer pistols are all the rage these days, and for good reason. They offer simplicity of operation, maintenance and manipulation. Never a fan of pistols with decockers, my combat/self-defense pistols are either single actions or striker-fired models. I’ve run a single-action 1911 for decades, so operating the safety is second nature to me. My Sig Sauer P226 SAO (Click Here for a preview of the Sig Sauer P226 SAO) is another favorite of mine, as it has a thumb safety in the same spot. Striker-fired pistols without external safeties are next on my list, especially when training others. They allow new shooters to focus on their grip, sights and trigger, and experienced shooters can just plain shoot.

Polymer striker-fired pistols tend to be more affordable, with build quality ranging from dismal to excellent. Their overall quality has improved over the years, and each new gun seems to get better, or at least meet the needs of more or different shooters. So, seeing Sig Sauer enter the fray was very interesting. At the trade show where I first handled the P320, I noticed that it fit my hand better than most striker-fired pistols, had the best factory trigger to date and allowed for a completely streamlined gun with no external safeties. Sig Sauer’s P320 was designed from the ground up with input from law enforcement. Sig pistols have been used in every aspect of law enforcement and the military for years—mostly the P226/P229 and P220 pistols. For those agencies requiring a decocker, these guns remain favorites. However, some agencies wanted a striker-fired pistol, but with Sig’s level of quality. The company listened, and many of the P320’s features are focused on that market.

Disassembling most striker-fired pistols requires you to press the trigger first to release the striker. In a perfect world, this is not a problem, but any trainer knows that no such world exists. The requirement has resulted in the occasional negligent discharge. The P320 has no such requirement. Lock the slide to the rear, turn the takedown lever and remove the slide. You cannot turn the takedown lever to release the slide with a magazine in the gun (empty or not), making it very difficult for a discharge to occur.

Tabs or other mechanisms on the trigger are forms of drop safeties—most striker-fired pistols need these to pass drop tests. Many shooters, myself included, can find them annoying. You can order a P320 with or without a trigger safety toggle. It will pass a drop test either way. If your agency requires it, or if it makes you feel better, you are covered. For the rest of us, its absence is a plus. Law enforcement can also order it with a thumb safety, another item many states and agencies require. While I would never own a pistol with a magazine-disconnect safety (meaning it won’t fire without a magazine in the pistol), many agencies and shooters require them. Again, the P320 can be ordered either way.

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By Mike Boyle

Out of the box, the M&P is a very capable pistol, boasting superior engineering, accessible controls and three interchangeable backstraps to ensure optimum hand fit. Striker-fired pistols such as the M&P now dominate the law enforcement market and for a very good reason. Their simplified manual of arms and consistent trigger action speeds up the learning curve, and shooters of every aptitude and skill level tend to do just a little bit better than with the double-action/single-action (DA/SA) and double-action-only (DAO) pistols that came before.

While the stock trigger is quite serviceable, I felt we could do just a little bit better. On my Lyman digital trigger scale, the striker tripped at 6 pounds. In reworking the trigger, David Bowie of Bowie Tactical Concepts went with his “S” package, which shortens up overtravel and provides a shorter, more definitive reset. The trigger now breaks at 4.5 pounds, and when combined with the shorter reset, helps me get to the top of my game. Fast, accurate hits now come more easily.

The slide of my M&P has been given a slight radius for a somewhat sleeker look. Like many M&P pistols, my copy was rendered in basic black. The factory Melonite finish on the M&P is indeed hard-wearing but aesthetically normal. The slide of my M&P now wears a Flat Dark Earth finish that has proven extremely durable.

The polymer grip frame, inserts, triggerguard, slide cover and magazine release have been stippled for non-slip contact. As an added bonus, Bowie cut a relief shelf and stippled the area where the support-hand thumb lies against the frame. This allows for even greater control of the pistol during rapid-fire strings. The triggerguard has also been undercut to achieve the highest possible grip.

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By Clair Rees

The first thing I noticed was the gun’s hand-filling, ergonomic grip. It slants rearward 18 degrees, causing the gun to point naturally toward the target when held in a “handshake” grip.

Many autopistols aren’t natural pointers. The trigger fell handily under my index finger, making it easy to control. There’s no interchangeable backstrap, but the grip fit my hand perfectly. It lacks the “blocky” feel common to many other pistols—a big point in its favor. Because the double-action-only (DAO) SD lacks an external safety, the only controls are the trigger, the slide release and the button that drops the magazine from its well. A tapered guard located directly behind the mag release prevents your thumb from inadvertently ejecting the magazine before you’re ready to reload.

The standard magazine holds 14 rounds, and a 10-round magazine is also available. There’s no magazine safety to prevent firing if the magazine isn’t in place. The gun is a striker-fired design, which means there’s no external hammer. The lack of a manual safety makes firing a simple “point-and-shoot” operation. It’s no more difficult or complicated than using a double-action (DA) revolver. One key innovation found on the SD40 VE is the Self-Defense Trigger (SDT). It delivers a smooth, consistent trigger pull, breaking at a crisp 8 pounds. The trigger must be fully reset before you can fire again. As Bill Booth, an S&W sales representative and retired police officer, explained, “This prevents firing if the trigger is inadvertently pulled again before it has a chance to reset.”

“The 8-pound trigger with its SDT feature is specifically designed for shooters who haven’t had a lot of handgun training,” Booth said. “It’s an ideal solution for the non-professional shooter. It helps deliver good accuracy while providing increased confidence.”

Smith & Wesson notes that, “With the introduction of the new SD9 VE and SD40 VE pistols, the company has taken the best features of S&W’s SD and Sigma pistols and evolved them into a new generation of firearms that meet customers’ requirements in terms of both functionality and price.”

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By Will Dabbs MD


The original Smith & Wesson foray into the plastic handgun market, the S&W Sigma, left me clammy. It looked awesome, felt great and was just crazy cheap, but the trigger in particular just made me itch. Then I met the M&P40 and fell in love. S&W’s Military & Police (M&P) tactical handguns are utterly reliable and indestructibly robust. They also come with interchangeable backstraps and the obligatory railed dust cover. The most appealing piece of the M&P design to me, however, is the grip-to-frame angle.

In this regard the M&P nicely approximates the general geometry of the 1911 and, to me at least, points just a little bit better than its popular Austrian cousin. Additionally, with the proper grip insert installed, the M&P feels perfect in my hands. The magazine release is reversible and the striker-fired trigger system simply divine. There is a pivoting safety mechanism built into the trigger itself.

Standard sights on the M&P40 are low profile and snag-free. Tritium inserts are available as options. The stainless slide comes in a black finish (the VTAC model comes in FDE), and with or without a magazine safety. The slide has nifty scalloped serrations that facilitate manipulation in the face of anxiety, sweat or both.

As an added bonus, once you acquaint yourself with the full-sized M&P family, you can spend some time hanging out with the little brother. He’s a fetching piece of work in his own right.


The market is awash in cool .22-caliber pseudo-tactical pistols. Taurus, Ruger, ISSC and Sig all produce handguns chambered in .22 LR that are cute as a button and fun to shoot. The only real problem is that few of them accurately replicate their big-bore brethren. The exception is the Smith & Wesson M&P22.

The greatest strength of the S&W M&P22 is that it is fairly big. Unlike most .22 pistols, the M&P22 is about the same size as the full-bore tactical version. This means that your hands find the controls naturally, and holster drills are literally seamless between the two platforms. Aside from recoil disparity, the simulator is about perfect.

There are some trivial differences. The M&P22 does not have interchangeable backstraps, and it sports a discreet manual thumb safety that its larger sibling typically lacks. Additionally, the small-caliber version is hammer-fired, but the trigger pulls are not terribly dissimilar. The M&P22 sports a 12-round magazine as opposed to the 15-round version for the .40-caliber variant. These few bits of minutiae notwithstanding, the transition between the larger and smaller caliber platforms is flawless.

The smaller sibling actually boasts some unique capabilities. The barrel mounts in the same manner as that of the P22. This means that a cheap thread adaptor lets you drop any commercial .22 suppressor in place and run the gun without earmuffs. There is no better way to introduce a novice to the art of tactical handgunning than to use a suppressed .22 pistol. Additionally, as the rails are standard, your duty-use tactical light fits the smaller version as well. For folks like me who live on a rural farm, nothing attends to agrarian pests like a suppressed M&P22 with a tactical light.

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By David Bahde

The L9-A1 is Steyr’s version of a full-sized service pistol. Using a 4.5-inch barrel puts it in line with many other duty pistols in terms of size and ballistics. It provides what many see as the optimal platform for both duty use and competition. It maintains the low bore axis, contoured grip and grip angle of the M-A1 pistol. Magazine capacity remains at 17 rounds (12 in .40 S&W).

There are two loaded-chamber indicators: a bump on the extractor as well as one at the rear of the slide. A chambered round results in the protrusion of a pin at the back of the slide. It can be seen and felt. A slide stop sits on the left side and the magazine release can be swapped from side to side. Steyr’s integrated locking mechanism (limited access lock) sits next to the take-down lever. Using a supplied key locks the trigger and prevents the weapon from being disassembled. Disassembly requires this key be pushed in while the take-down lever is moved and the slide removed.

The barrel of the Steyr L9-A1 is hammer forged and fully supported. Trapezoidal sights are standard and drift adjustable. Trijicon makes a set of night sights using dots, and Steyr offers a Tri-Lux set of sights that are rectangular. In addition, two 17-round magazines are also provided in a nice plastic case.

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By Chad Thompson

I got the pistol in and opened the all-black polymer case. Inside was the pistol, two magazines and various other items that come with the handgun, including the manual, paperwork, two locks and a couple of keys used to unlock the manual safety child lock on the right side of the pistol. I looked at the M40-A1 before picking it up and was again impressed with the pistol’s aesthetics. The thing is just cool to look at. I remember when the Steyr AUG was the bullpup to have due to its design, and I can see this pistol filling that same bill in the handgun arena. I then picked the pistol up and began my inspection.

The Steyr M40-A1 is a striker-fired, polymer-framed .40-caliber semi-auto with a completely steel slide assembly. It uses the Browning short-recoil method of operation with what is called a linkless design, but it actually does have a partial link attached to the bottom of the barrel. It has an external extractor, and the grip is one of the most comfortable I’ve handled in a while. The bore axis is nice and low, and the pistol points perfectly. The pistol also has a paddle-type safety on the front of the trigger, like so many others of the genre today. The company calls its finish on these pistols Mannox-coated. The two included magazines are constructed of steel, and each holds 12 rounds of .40-caliber ammunition. The two biggest things that I noticed upon initial inspection were the sights and the rail under the slide. The sights are triangular and trapezoidal, and the accessory rail is a nice added feature.

CLICK HERE to read about and watch the video of the Steyr Arms L9-A1 Pistol & AUG M1 Rifle!

The slide of the pistol is marked “Steyr Mannlicher, Austria,” but the frame has the markings of “SAI, Trussville, AL,” which is the importer for this pistol. The last two features I noted and liked were the loaded-chamber indicator and the really comfortable finger grooves in the grip’s front strap. What makes the grip so great is a combination of things. The factors are reduced circumference, the high tang at the top of the backstrap, the angle of the grip, and the extended portion at the bottom of the backstrap, which serves two purposes—it is a small magazine well, aiding in inserting a new magazine rapidly, and it has a hole for a lanyard attachment.

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By Dennis Adler

The Walther PPQ M2 .22 is a 1:1 scale semi-auto that looks, feels and operates exactly the same as the centerfire PPQ M2. Feature for feature, it is identical but in the vastly more affordable .22 rimfire chambering. Like the 9mm and .40 S&W versions, the PPQ M2 .22 has the same ergonomic layout with elongated, ambidextrous slide releases that make operation effortless on the reload. The new .22 also incorporates the M2’s frame-mounted magazine release, which is a notable disconnect from previous models that have incorporated Walther’s triggerguard-mounted ambidextrous magazine release. This was the most notable alteration on the larger-caliber PPQ M2 as compared to the first PPQ series (2011-2012), which employed the P99-type magazine release.

While the new button-style magazine release is not ambidextrous, it is reversible for left-handed use. More significantly, on the PPQ design (caliber notwithstanding) is the change from DA/SA to pre-cocked (single action) operation with Walther’s “Quick Defense” trigger system. A Glock-style trigger incorporating a safety toggle, this design was first seen on the P99 QA, along with the conspicuous absence of both the cocking indicator at the back of the slide and a decocking lever of the P99. This is a tradeoff for the PPQ design across the board and really comes down to a personal choice in features. You give up the option of decocking the gun, the visual and tactile tell at the back of the slide if the action has been cycled and, more importantly, the second-strike capability should a round fail to fire.

On a very strong plus side, you gain an ambidextrous slide release, the integral safety “Quick Defense” trigger system, improved front and rear slide serrations, new grip texturing and a conventional button magazine release. Following the PPQ design, the .22’s grip angle, frame contours, length, width and height are otherwise identical. The gun weighs roughly 3 ounces less, at 21 ounces unloaded, due to its construction, combining an investment-cast zinc alloy frame with an aluminum slide and steel barrel.

Internally, the blowback action of the .22 differs entirely from the 9mm and .40 S&W models by utilizing an evolution of the Walther PPK design with a fixed barrel threaded onto the locking block and frame, combined with a separate guide rod and light recoil spring for ease of chambering and clearing the gun. The trigger pull is also significantly lighter than a PPK/S .22 model’s.

The PPQ .22 has an overall length of 7.2 inches, a height of 5.48 inches, a width of 1.28 inches, a barrel length of 4 inches, a weight of 21 ounces empty, a 12-round magazine capacity, a fixed front sight and a click-adjustable target rear sight. The takedown procedure for fieldstripping the PPQ is the same as used on the P99, P22 and other models in the P99 family, which means this is one of the quickest guns to break down for cleaning. Another plus for the PPQ .22.

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By Dennis Adler

For the legendary German arms-maker, this is not a typical handgun, not even by the standards of the company’s PPQ design, introduced in 2011. The very latest development of Walther’s polymer-framed P99-based semi-autos, the PPQ M2 5-inch, by virtue of its 1-inch-longer barrel and slide, puts it into a category of handguns generally served by Colt and other 1911-style pistols, as well a handful of 5-inch-barreled tactical semi-autos and sporting models, including the polymer-framed Glock 34 and 35.

It does not, however, fall into the category normally associated with Walther’s polymer-framed 9mm semi-autos. For example, the longer 8-inch slide on the PPQ M2 5-inch is ported with six heat-dissipating vents. It has easy-to-operate, elongated, ambidextrous slide releases, adjustable white-dot target sights and a large, round, button-style magazine release. The magazine release is brand new. (Previous polymer-framed Walthers, including the PPQ, have utilized the ambidextrous, triggerguard-mounted magazine release first introduced on the P99.) It is a noteworthy change to the gun’s fundamental design (thus the M2 designation).

Unfortunately, while the new button-style release is reversible for left-handed shooters, it is not truly ambidextrous like the original triggerguard paddle release. According to Walther research, consumers prefer a traditional grip-mounted magazine release. For many who have previously owned and carried P99 models and P99 variations like the 2011 PPQ (M1), it seems like a step backwards.

Differing opinions aside, the new large button release is a well-thought-out design, set beside a deeply relieved surface that makes accessing the release easy and above a ledge that prevents inadvertent activation. It is also easy to operate, with only modest effort required by the strong-hand thumb. Were it ambidextrous, instead of reversible, it would be better. But for those more familiar with Government-sized pistols, the traditional magazine release may actually be an asset.

The striker-fired PPQ M2 utilizes a traditional short-recoil, locked-breech design, incorporating a modified Browning locking system that has the barrel engaging the slide with a single, large lug. The principal difference between previous Walther single-action/double-action (SA/DA) and double-action-only (DAO) models and the PPQ series is the latter’s use of a Glock-type safety incorporated into the trigger mechanism. Walther calls its variation the “Quick Defense” trigger system, which was first seen on the P99 QA.

While most striker-fired semi-automatics using this type of trigger safety are designated as DAO (such as Glocks), in practice they all function as SAs. Once the trigger is pulled, it will not reset unless the gun discharges and the slide cycles through its operation to reset the trigger and partially pre-tension the striker. A true striker-fired DAO or SA/DA (like the Walther P99) will allow the trigger to repeatedly operate without either prerequisite. Thus, the PPQ M2 is technically an SA.

Walther’s implementation in the PPQ M2 of the “Quick Defense” trigger also does away with the P99’s decocking system, which allowed striker-fired Walther models to be decocked with a chambered round and thus carried in a “safe” condition. Walther literally instituted this design in the 1930s with the first hammer-fired 9mm pistol to feature a decocking lever, the P.38. However, unlike the P.38, the P99 and all subsequent models based on its design are striker-fired, and once decocked the first shot must be fired DA.

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By Richard Johnson

The Walther PPX is a full-size, duty-style pistol. Its design makes it perfect for both uniformed law enforcement duties and home defense. It’s large enough to be easily shot and manipulated, but still lightweight and handy.

Weight is minimized through the use of a polymer frame. As a former cop who carried both all-metal and polymer-framed handguns on patrol, I can attest to the fact that plastic guns are much easier on the body to carry. In addition to the lighter weight, they tend to require less maintenance. I can’t count the number of times I had to replace the grip screws on another manufacturer’s pistol due to seemingly unstoppable corrosion.

Walther PPX slides are available in both a matte stainless finish and a black Tenifer finish. The pistol I tested had a matte-stainless-finished slide, which gave the gun an attractive two-tone look. The PPX has a meaty slide, giving the shooter a lot of real estate to use when manipulating it during loading or malfunction drills. Slide serrations on the rear of the slide are deep and offer a lot of purchase when grabbing the slide. There are also shallow serrations on the front of the slide.

The PPX is available in both 9mm and .40 S&W. Both versions share the same external dimensions and come with a 4-inch barrel. The 9mm version can be had with a threaded, 4.6-inch-long barrel for the attachment of a sound suppressor. Walther’s .40 S&W PPX models ship with two 14-round magazines, while the 9mm PPX handguns come with two 16-round magazines.

Unlike other polymer Walther guns, the PPX is a hammer-fired pistol with a consistent trigger pull from shot to shot. The hammer is visible from the exterior, but it does not protrude from the rear of the gun when carried. During the trigger pull, the hammer does come back and extend beyond the rear of the slide slightly. Because of the Walther PPX’s design, it seems highly unlikely that any foreign material would interfere with the hammer movement.

The PPX has three-dot sights, which are typical on many handguns. The front edge of the rear sight is ramped, rather than squared off. Some shooters prefer a ramped front edge to reduce the chances it might snag on clothing during a draw. My preference is having a hard edge on the front of the rear sight. This allows me to use the sight to operate the slide with only one hand in a situation where my second hand is injured or otherwise unavailable. Without that hard edge, the shooter would have to use the ejection port to manipulate the slide. While it will work, using the ejection port can be more difficult than using the rear sight.

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