Best Combat Pistol: 2019 Buying Guide & Review

A big topic for a wide market full of great guns. To choose the “best combat pistol” is a daunting challenge. But there are some key points that virtually any shooter would consider pertinent to choosing such a firearm.

It is the intention of this article to define what constitutes a contender for the best combat pistol, and which guns that are available on the broad market are legitimate contenders, and why.

Firstly, the words “combat pistol” generally have a connotation of semi-automatic handguns with a tactical slant and lots of extras. We disagree with this assessment of the market segment. It’s an idea that we feel has been pushed onto a lot of shooters unfairly.

We think that a combat pistol is a handgun that effectively stops a threat and gives a legitimate advantage in a number of ways to the shooter in case of a combat scenario. Capacity is of little import. Looks are not an important feature either. We even think that compact size is not important, though some guns on this list are compact variants, which can be used well for concealed carry combat pistols.

A full-sized firearm, when you are choosing a handgun, simply makes the most sense. If we all had our way: we’d bring a high-powered rifle to a gunfight, not a pistol. The point of this article is to help you navigate the market for the best combat pistols, because you as a shooter have chosen to use that form factor for that task.

So, let’s not try to pigeonhole a description of what a combat handgun is. It is as we stated before “…a handgun that effectively stops a threat and gives a legitimate advantage in a number of ways to the shooter in case of a combat scenario.”

This article will highlight 12 firearms that meet this definition and do so far better than the rest of the field.

The Best Combat Pistols

Heckler & Koch - HK45 Compact Tactical (V3)

Heckler & Koch - HK45 Compact Tactical (V3)

This is a masterful design that draws upon many years of overdelivering in the combat pistol market by Heckler & Koch. The simple interface allows for the shooter to concentrate on what they need to do - hit the target and stop the threat, and yet, it has a lot of features that bring expanded use in different scenarios.

The threaded barrel offers a lot of extra benefit for suppressor users and the sights are excellent.

While it can be considered a bit bulky in the hand, the sizing fits a very wide range of hand sizes, and the comfort of the grip design is high. Ambidextrous mag releases and a large flat faced trigger guard allow easy hand positioning and ease of use for reloading without shifting the palm.

The seamless reliability and durability of the pistol makes it something really special, but the control and size of the gun makes it a truly good battle gun, because it’s like an extension of your hand and for anyone who wants a well balanced gun this is a great option.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 45 ACP
  • Action Type: SA/DA
  • Capacity: 10+1-Round
  • Barrel Length: 4.57"
  • Length: 7.91"
  • Weight: 1.8 lbs

Pros

  • Compact, but not so much that you cannot handle it
  • Ambidextrous paddle style mag releases

Cons

  • Some say it’s fat in the grip width even if it does have customizable grip inserts

This is best for

Shooters with medium or larger hands that love the .45 ACP for defensive needs.


Springfield Armory - XDM OSP

Springfield Armory - XDM OSP

Several of the guns on this list are threaded barrel duty guns that have the ability to easily integrate with a suppressor. Clearly a combat pistol in most normal scenarios will not have a suppressor. But as suppressors become more commonplace across the United States, the option to use one in the middle of the night in a home defense scenario is quite important, where you clearly cannot utilize hearing protection easily.

It’s something that is probably overkill in an everyday use case. The guns themselves however tend to be more geared towards the combat heavy situations when they have high rise sights and threaded barrels. The feature set, for instance on this Springfield Arms XDM OSP is a spectacular set.

The key differentiator is the grip safety when you compare this pistol to the other market leaders. It allows an extra bit of safety in a time-tested design that has been easy for most shooters to utilize. Forward serrations on the slide and a long barrel makes for a very easy to use long sight plane combat pistol which puts you on target with more precision and makes the gun easy to put into battery.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 9mm Luger
  • Action Type: Striker Fired
  • Capacity: 19+1-Round
  • Barrel Length: 4.5"
  • Length: 8"
  • Weight: 2 lbs

Pros

  • 20 rounds of 9mm ammunition
  • More safeties without hindrance compared to other striker fired polymer pistols

Cons

  • It’s geared to the tactical set, so may be unapproachable for some shooters

This is best for

Those who want the 9mm to be suppressed for training or for home defense. Shooters who want a striker fired polymer pistol that has more safety features.


Sig Sauer - P229

Sig Sauer - P229 Legion Handgun

A super comfortable Ergonomic design and a proven Sig architecture means you won’t question your routine to go into first shot. The accuracy and handling of this semi-compact handgun is not indicative of the smaller form factor. For small and medium hands this is a joy to shoot.

Durability for an aluminum framed firearm that is unheard of, thanks to tight tolerances and a PVD coating. The trigger is unbelievably good. The tiny detailing is a cut above the competitors generally. Items such as front strap checkering and a high, but muted beavertail that allows for a high handhold that isn’t awkward.

Even though this is the 9mm variant, the pistol can be had in .357 Sig, which is a particularly high performance round for the size and the build style.

Gorgeous design, proven platform and extreme durability are the hallmarks of the P229.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 9mm Luger
  • Action Type: SA/DA
  • Capacity: 15+1-Round
  • Barrel Length: 3.9"
  • Length: 7.4"
  • Weight: 1.85 lbs

Pros

  • Some of the best ergonomics on the market
  • Smooth, tight tolerances make the gun feel superior in actual use

Cons

  • It’s hard to find a Con with this gun

This is best for

Smaller or medium hands that need a higher handhold but cannot find it in the generic grip frame market. Someone who wants all the features but wants a good-looking gun too. This is one of the best .357 Sig platforms on the market and excels with that round.


Smith & Wesson - 340PD Handgun

Smith & Wesson - 340PD Handgun

This is the best secondary gun on the market bar none. When you need a gun to perform this is the one. You’re getting full power cartridges in a tiny package that can be carried anywhere, and yet, feels great in most hands.

The materials alone make this an interesting candidate with the combination of high strength, low-weight materials and innovative design that is built on the backbone of a proven compact carry gun.

The fact that the reliability and quickness to first shot are hard to match makes this an easy choice for those who want something compact and cannot carry a full-sized gun.

Scandium is a very good mix of strength and weight and allows full-time .357 Magnum use for this tiny revolver. The sights are lacking, but the comfort for the shooter to hold and the niche this gun fills make it a solid choice. You need not compromise on stopping power in order to carry a smaller gun.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 357 Magnum
  • Action Type: Double Action Only
  • Capacity: 5 Round
  • Barrel Length: 1.875"
  • Length: 6.3"
  • Weight: 0.74 lbs

Pros

  • Seriously small, and yet, very capable
  • Intuitive, easy to understand and comfortable
  • Proven design, better materials, high potency in caliber choice

Cons

  • This is not a full-sized gun
  • The sights are not amazing

This is best for

A user who MUST carry a secondary gun. Anyone who understands the potency of the .357 magnum but doesn’t want to shoot a 3 lb. gun.


Ruger - Super Redhawk Alaskan Handgun

Ruger - Alaskan Handgun

Pulling no punches, this is the undisputed champion of stopping power on this list. The giant caliber and massive dimensions of this gun make it a great companion for full-sized shooters who want the biggest bang for their buck in a carry scenario.

Its an accurate, comfortable to shoot gun that, while heavy, is superior in balance. The durable and easy to maintain stainless steel frame and cylinder helps keep this gun working like new and looking good for the long-term. The sights are minimalistic but effective. The robust build quality is a hallmark feature and keeps this gun working under extreme conditions.

6 shots of .44 Magnum is hard to compare with in this list. If you have adequate training and situational awareness, there are few situations you cannot shoot your way out of. The reliability of a revolver, and not just any revolver but the Super Redhawk, cannot be understated.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 44 Magnum
  • Action Type: SA/DA
  • Capacity: 6 Round
  • Barrel Length: 2.5"
  • Length: 7.63"
  • Weight: 2.62 lbs

Pros

  • Beefy, durable and made for longevity
  • Heavy firepower
  • High reliability

Cons

  • May be too small for some given the heavy caliber and the short barrel

This is best for

A dedicated revolver user who doesn’t want mainstream but does want huge stopping power. The home defense user in a rural or remote location.


Beretta M9A3

Beretta M9A3

Having recently been replaced by another pistol for US armed forced use as a sidearm, this is still a very solid choice for all it still offers despite being seen as an outdated gun.

There is nothing outdated about the timeless qualities of this gun. The combat specific design has been proven on just about every battlefield in the past 35 years. It’s been proven through law enforcement use in every state in the Union. It’s got some features that simply overdeliver.

It’s a different iteration comparatively to the original Beretta M9/92, that sits up straighter in the hand and mimics some of the best qualities of the 1911, and still has the traditional safety feature and well-known trigger pull of the Beretta model.

Simple but efficient additions like an accessory rail and a lanyard to keep your pistol on your body in aggressive situations can be crucial in a combat scenario. Night sights, cerakote and a decocker make this a completely well-thought-out pistol and give enhanced usability, enhanced durability, and enhanced safety.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 9mm Luger
  • Action Type: SA/DA
  • Capacity: 17+1 Round
  • Barrel Length: 4.9"
  • Length: 8.5"
  • Weight: 2.2 lbs

Pros

  • A proven design in ACTUAL combat
  • Timeless design
  • Very predictable and consistent

Cons

  • Can handle a lot of shooting but ultimately can have tolerance concerns in extreme round counts

This is best for

Those who enjoy classic lines, and traditional safeties and a long, consistent trigger pull.


Smith & Wesson M&P9 M2.0

Smith & Wesson M&P9 M2.0

A huge bargain for the combat shooter who needs every conceivable capability but doesn’t want to pay for it.

Smith & Wesson broke the mold when they re-worked the M&P into the 2.0 version. It was the single most innovative and progressive play by any major manufacturer in the modern era of combat pistols. They took customer feedback and made something significantly better.

This particular variant becomes the most complete semi-auto model in the extensive range by S&W, with the improvements that come with the 2.0 and with all the features that they showcase.

Big trigger guard, high profile sights and a threaded barrel are all great for combat users, but the lightened slide, deep stippling and well-thought-out mag well make this a dynamo. Easily the best bargain on the combat pistol market.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 9mm Luger
  • Action Type: Striker Fired
  • Capacity: 17+1 Round
  • Barrel Length: 3.1"
  • Length: 6.1"
  • Weight: 1.37 lbs

Pros

  • Superior feature set for the tactical shooter
  • Cohesive design and smooth looks
  • Ridiculously low price

Cons

  • Hard to find fault with this gun, though the trigger, while markedly improved over the original is still not spectacular

This is best for

Any shooter who wants a great value and needs a legitimately tactical pistol.


CZ USA - CZ 75 Shadow TAC II

CZ USA - CZ 75 Shadow TAC II

While it is considered a clone, this clone has sold many millions of copies and has become something of an enigma in the pistol world. It also has some of the more innovative features of the last century built-in and performs admirably.

The accuracy and handling of the pistol is exceptional. The bore axis is naturally lower than most competitors and the full-length sight plane only improves upon the already good accuracy. Furthermore, with the accurizing from factory on this combat pistol, you get a gun that feels tighter than anything you have used from the mainstream and it delivers serious down range hit probability because of this tighter fitment.

A traditional build, the manual safeties and true DA/SA trigger allows you a lot of options. The trigger by the way, is one of the best DA/SA triggers on the planet. It is smooth (on the pull) and springy (on the reset) and breaks crisply.

The gun looks plain on the surface, but the detailing shows the true story. You get things like serrated rear sight, to help with glare and give you additional perch to rack the slide if needed. An extended magazine release helps to avoid palm shift and keep the gun on target. Details like these are the reason this gun is so good relative to peers.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 9mm Luger
  • Action Type: SA/DA
  • Capacity: 18+1 Round
  • Barrel Length: 4.61"
  • Length: 8.15"
  • Weight: 2.4 lbs

Pros

  • A lot of great attention to detail
  • Superior tolerances and fitment
  • Proven history

Cons

  • Pricey

This is best for

A shooter who wants a high hand hold and a low bore axis and a gun that can function in any scenario including just out at the range but is more than capable in any combat scenario too.


Dan Wesson - Bruin

Dan Wesson - Bruin

Yes, this is an expensive 1911; you can get similar quality for less money but you cannot get the power of the 10mm or the attention to detail that Dan Wesson (a CZ USA subsidiary) can offer for the money. This is a true factory custom in a caliber that is proven in combat as a threat stopper, and which is generally hard to produce because the punishing recoil and its adverse effects on frames and springs.

A massive barrel length improves sight plane, adds significant velocity to the already screaming fast 10mm and gives better accuracy in most situations. Paired with excellent sights (tritium + fiber optic), this means you are on target when you need to be, day or night.

The game changer is the ability to harness the power of all the hottest 10mm loads. This longer barrel allows the powder to burn properly and the spin to stabilize which improves ballistics on target and adds significant accuracy and range to the already potent round.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 10mm Auto
  • Action Type: Single Action
  • Capacity: 8+1 Round
  • Barrel Length: 6"
  • Length: 9.7"
  • Weight: 2.75 lbs

Pros

  • Top Tier ballistic performance out of a standard platform gun
  • Built with durability in mind but still made to a tight tolerance specification

Cons

  • Expensive

This is best for

10mm and 1911 enthusiasts. Currently this is the premier 1911 in 10mm on the market, period.


Smith & Wesson 686 Centerfire Revolver

Smith & Wesson 686 Centerfire Revolver

A gun that is more than 30 years old and still finds its way onto every important list of the best handguns perennially. The 7 shot Plus version with sight and grip modifications can essentially be the most effective combat pistol on the market.

Based on the .357 Magnum, this is a potent ballistic contender. But having 7 shots and offering the inherent reliability and consistency of the revolver, this just makes sense as a defensive firearm.

No active safety; a trigger pull that requires legitimate action to be taken in order to fire, and nothing to stop you getting your first shot off, allows a shooter to be fast to action. The varying barrel lengths are all good performers and the durability of the gun means you can beat it up day to day without concerns for reliability.

A ton of aftermarket options for springs, grips, sights and other add-ons or modifications means you have a robust market to help custom tailor this gun to your needs.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 357 Magnum; 38 Special
  • Action Type: SA/DA
  • Capacity: 7 Round
  • Barrel Length: 3"
  • Length: 8.5"
  • Weight: 2.17 lbs

Pros

  • Superior firepower
  • Superior reliability
  • 3+ decades of proven history

Cons

  • No real cons

This is best for

Any new shooter who wants near perfect user experience. Shooters who understand that reliability and quick first shot mean something in combat.


FN - FNX-45 Tactical

FN - FNX-45 Tactical

This is an obvious take on a military style .45 ACP. FN has done a very good job of including all the bells and whistles, even if it made a gun that may even be “feature heavy”.

A load of feature is not always a bad thing though, because it gives the trained shooter more options to fit every situation. In the case of this firearm, the fitment can be changed; it can be used with a suppressor out of the box; there is a legitimate optic option, and a lot more.

A traditional interface with real safeties and easy to understand, intuitive control placement.

16 rounds of .45 ACP is a powerful deterrent to the bad guys. The overall package is a very solid contender in this list even if it isn’t perfect. This is because its proven to be a very reliable, durable and high performance pistol in duty scenarios.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 45 ACP
  • Action Type: SA/DA
  • Capacity: 15+1 Round
  • Barrel Length: 5.3"
  • Length: 7.9"
  • Weight: 2.1 lbs

Pros

  • Big and comprehensive
  • Proven reliable
  • Suppressor capable out of the box

Cons

  • Trigger is only OK
  • It can be a bit top-heavy during reloads and unbalanced during full capacity shooting

This is best for

Shooters with very large hands. People who want to rely on the .45 ACP and need larger capacity. Suppressor fanatics (this is truly a plug and play suppressor pistol).


Glock - G20 G4

Glock - G20 G4

This is the 10mm model 20 showcased, as the caliber is a proven combat pistol cartridge and this is a very good option in the pistol world for combat. The durability of this pistol is second to none in the 10mm market.

That said, ANY GLOCK could fit the bill here. The venerable G17 large frame 9mm has sold hundreds of thousands (millions) of units over the years; comparatively very few are out of service now. This inherent durability and basic interface makes for a gun that simply delivers on promises all the time.

If you need something more compact, the G19 or G23 can offer 9mm or .40 S&W in high capacity but smaller form factors.

The Glock magazines are impeccable. The universality of the design means that most users can handle the pistol. The Glock models are all quick to first shot, safe in just about every situation. The lack of manual safeties and the very good reliability make it a powerhouse in the market segment.

The polygonal rifling ensures good gas seal, good accuracy and a very long life for the barrel. Some Glocks have been torture tested past a half a million rounds in verified testing.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 10mm Auto
  • Action Type: Striker Fired
  • Capacity: 10+1 Round
  • Barrel Length: 4.61"
  • Length: 8.03"
  • Weight: 1.73 lbs

Pros

  • Hard to match history of durability and reliability in difficult situations
  • Generic fitment helps a wide range of shooters use the models well

Cons

  • Hard to find a con at the price point

This is best for

The shooter who wants just a solid option at a fair price.


Conclusion

Whatever you want to define “combat” as, there is a gun for that. The above listed best combat pistols cover a wide range of options for shooters. We defined the best possible solution to “combat” was a full sized gun (though we did list a couple of semi/compact guns) with higher capacity than the status quo; offered superior firepower; and had very good history of durability and reliability.

Compared to the broader market, we would trust any of these listed firearms significantly more than other options if given a real-world combat scenario. We feel confident that these 12 guns are the best combat pistols in the world currently on the market.

2 thoughts on “Best Combat Pistol: 2019 Buying Guide & Review”

Leave a Comment