Colt CQBP: The Colt Close Quarters Battle Pistol is the latest evolution of the classic Model 1911. The USMC version M45A1 is a specialized Rail Gun that features a stainless steel slide, frame, and National Match barrel, Cerakote Desert Tan finish, Novak night sights and a solid aluminum trigger. As modern as any handgun in the world, at its core it is still the legendary John M. Browning design adopted by the U.S. military back in 1911.
Beretta 92: The Beretta Model 92 is a DA/SA design that employs an open-slide, short-recoil, delayed-locking-block system to produce a faster cycle time. An ambidextrous safety/decocker makes it flexible for right- or left-handed operators, and the magazine release is also reversible. One of the most accurate full-sized 9mm pistols available, it is the overall design of the 92 that has kept it ranked among the best handguns in the world.
Glock 17: When it was introduced more than 30 years ago, the Glock 17 carried an unprecedented 17 rounds in its magazine. The Glock’s groundbreaking polymer frame reduced susceptibility to corrosion, water damage, severe temperatures and damage from impact. The Glock had another advantage with its then unique Safe Action trigger/safety mechanism. Today many of the Glock’s features are used by other arms-makers, but in the early 1980s this was groundbreaking technology. Glock changed the way handguns are made.
Kimber Tactical II: The Tactical II series is available in five different models and three barrel lengths. These refined, lightweight semi-autos with handcrafted fit, finish and tuned actions are fitted with a premium match-grade trigger, a match-grade barrel, tritium three-dot night sights, an ambidextrous thumb safety, 16-pound recoil spring and full-length guide rod, an aluminum alloy frame (some variants have steel frames) with fine checkering on the frontstrap and under the triggerguard, a checkered flat mainspring housing with integral extended magazine well and a seven-round magazine.
Para Black Ops 14-45: The original Para 1911 increased cartridge capacity from seven rounds to 13 and became one of the most influential firearms designs of the late 20th century. While high-capacity .45 semi-autos are not uncommon today, the latest Black Ops 14-45 (evolved from the original P14-45) features 14+1 capacity. Based on the original P14-45, the Black Ops has a match-grade ramped barrel, black Ionbond finish, ambidextrous thumb safety, skeletonized match-grade trigger, integral accessory rail and VZ Operator G10 grips.
Ruger SR 1911: The 1911 design has inspired countless modern variations and among the very best and most affordable is the Ruger SR 1911. Essentially a Government Model right down to the early-style flat mainspring housing, the Series 70-based SR 1911 offers custom features including an extended beavertail safety, a skeletonized aluminum trigger with overtravel adjustment, skeletonized hammer and 8+1 capacity. The thumb safety, mainspring housing, beavertail safety and slide release are finished in a matte blue/black, contrasting the matte stainless slide and frame.
Sig Sauer P320: The P320 is Sig’s first polymer-framed, striker-fired handgun. The striker-fired DAO design can be equipped with two different trigger systems (one with an integral trigger blade safety) and features a short, crisp trigger pull with a quick, pronounced reset. The entire firing mechanism, frame rails and slide release are contained in a removable module that can be inserted into different-sized frames, which in turn can be fitted with different slides and barrels for four different pistol chamberings: 9mm, .40 S&W, .357 SIG and .45 ACP.
Springfield Professional 1911-A1: Custom built to Springfield Armory’s highest standards, the Professional includes a custom-fit slide, a National Match frame, a custom-fit fully throated match barrel and bushing, a polished feed ramp, a tool-steel match hammer and sear, a fitted speed trigger with a 4.5-pound pull, a lowered and flared ejection port, a checkered flat mainspring housing, a custom beavertail grip safety, an ambidextrous thumb safety, low-mount tritium night sights, a custom magazine well matched to the bevel of the frame and a full carry bevel to round out all edges for a smooth draw.
Smith & Wesson M&P: The polymer-framed, striker-fired M&P series features a Picatinny rail, reversible magazine release, ambidextrous slide stop, optional thumb safety and a contoured slide and frame. The M&P is available in 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP, making it an all-around carry gun for law enforcement, military and civilian use with a capacity of up to 17 rounds in 9mm, barrel lengths up to 5 inches (through the Performance Center) and a remarkable carry weight for the full-size 9mm version of 24 ounces.
Wilson Combat Classic: The Classic is one of the very best handcrafted, original-style 1911s money can buy. A Government-sized model, the Wilson Classic is built on a carbon steel frame with a 30-lpi, high-cut, checkered frontstrap, a contoured magazine well, a high-ride beavertail grip safety, checkered flat mainspring housing, 5-inch carbon steel slide and a hand-fit, match-grade barrel and bushing. The ultimate expression of the original John Browning design, it is as suitable for home defense, personal carry or competition in this century as it was in the last.
Let’s talk about full-size handguns. Throughout the better part of the 20th century, if you wanted to carry a large-caliber, semi-auto handgun or have one with increased capacity there was only one way to go—you had to opt for packing big iron.
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Originally, that meant carrying a Colt Government Model 1911, the original large-frame semi-auto packing a single-stack magazine full of hard-hitting .45 ACP. Even more than a century later, the .45 ACP is still the go-to round when law enforcement and Special Forces need to bring a big gun to the fight.
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When it came to capacity, however, the 1911, at least in its day, only carried seven rounds. Most 9mm semi-autos didn’t fair much better until John M. Browning, who had designed the Model 1911 for Colt, developed the Hi-Power 9mm, which went into production in 1935 with a double-stack magazine that held 13 rounds. This was the highest standard-capacity 9mm until the Beretta Model 92 upped the ante to 15 and Glock trumped it with 17 in 1982. All of these historic designs were originally built for the military and are the foundation for nearly all of today’s modern full-size, compact and subcompact semi-auto pistols.
As it has been noted before, it is difficult to appreciate the present if you do not understand the past. Scroll through the gallery above to learn about 10 formidable full-size handguns.
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