This article about the best target pistol isn't going to try to convince you that you have to stick to main market options for target pistols, but we might caution the value of looking to the broad market before you invest in specialty and custom built target pistols.
The benefit of looking for your first (or next) target pistol from within this list, is that you get proven reliability, better pricing and less waiting and time-consuming build-out than you have with a semi or full custom firearm. Again, we won’t try to convince you these are better than what can be had for 5x the money or time for acquisition, but this is a list of the best pistols for target shooting on the broad market that you can buy today.
The style and calibers will vary wildly and these are by no means only meant as dedicated target pistols, but they will serve that purpose well, especially given the difference in pricing schemes between customs and these offerings.
Best Pistols for Target Shooting
Walther P22 Target Pistol
The Walther series of P22 pistols has been a very reliable and accurate group of models since their release. This is a highly accessorized factory variant of the P22 and offers uncommon value for the shooter that desires a simple, multi-use 22 LR pistol that doesn't prioritize accuracy over ease of use of overall capabilities.
This is a no-fuss, easy to maintain and long-lasting pistol that will shoot hundreds of thousands of rounds easily with normal maintenance. The gun is fashioned after the other P-Series pistols by Walther with some notable changes, specifically the elongated sight plane as the "compensator" pushed the front sight considerably further out from the rear sight. The extra length and the near non-existent recoil and muzzle flip of the .22LR means you can get on target and stay in the 10 ring easily.
The lightweight overall build doesn't hurt the accuracy either, so this is an easy to use and easy to stay on target pistol. The ergonomics scheme is prevalent with the interchangeable backstraps and the stippled, grooved grip frame. The Double and single action mechanism allows for easy use in either mechanical operation. The wide array of safeties makes the gun easy to feel confident with by new shooters.
The trigger leaves a bit to be desired, but it's quite nice compared to most polymer striker fired guns.
The barrel is a special piece to the accuracy and legacy of the gun and is made to last many thousands of rounds over many years. This is truly one of the best .22 pistol for target shooting.
- Lightweight and yet, exceptionally accurate
- Amazing barrel
- Huge sight plane with an easy to handle firearm
- Trigger is just OK
Kimber Stainless Target LS Pistol
Barrel fit and sight plane are core features of this target pistol by Kimber and for good reason: they dictate the most important aspects of accuracy from a 1911 style firearm out of all of the modifications that can be made. In the case of this Kimber, the almost exaggerated fit and finish of the barrel and the length of the slide make no attempts to hide their intentions.
The slide isn't comically long like the AMT Hardballer, but it is sufficient to add in a 6 inch barrel and push that front sight out to a very good distance for steady sight acquisition. The high visibility target adjustable iron sights assist in this matter with the heavy additional forward weight added by the elongated dustcover means you get some recoil and muzzle rise mitigation thanks to the extra mass.
42 ounces of pistol doesn't hurt when you want to get back on target fast either, with the extra weight assisting with balance and heft to minimize downtime between shots.
The front barrel fit (bushing) is as good as the rear fitting (lugs, linkage, barrel hood, etc.), which pushes the overall stability and smoothness of the gun to the next level. At the price point, Kimber has outdone themselves for those who want a straightforward, hand fit 1911 at a great price. For under $1000, the accuracy and fitment of the top end are hard to match if you know how to shoot the 1911.
The rest is pretty standard fare, with the exception of the very good trigger work. The beavertail provides a more comfortable perch and the simple finishing techniques highlight the already good looking stainless steel and rosewood color scheme.
- Very good looking
- Freakishly long sight plane for great accuracy
- Very good trigger for the price point
- Overall exceptional value for money in the semi-custom 1911 world
- Too big for most normal carriers meaning this is a bit more of a niche product than it is a multi-purposed one
Springfield Armory XD(M) Target Pistol
Ordinarily the 10mm would never be on a list of target pistols, especially given the fact that this is a barely modified polymer based, striker-fired pistol that anyone could make quick allusions to, as a mainstream non-target gun. But, don't underestimate the 10mm because of its notorious recoil.
The pistol has some definite target improvements, but the caliber is what intrigues us the most about this XS(M). the 10mm is fast. Very fast. Which means it move to target flatly over shorter distances. It is also very easy to fine-tune with all the case length and the myriad options for projectiles. The recoil can be tamed over time by the shooter, and the inherent accuracy of a fast, flat projectile make sense for this gun.
The recoil is also mitigated slightly by the longer barrel, the flexibility of the underlying polymer frame and the overall balance of the gun which is very good thanks to the full cut on the top of the slide and the elongated underlug style dustcover.
The trigger has been worked over slightly to increase the quickness to first shot and the reset for future shots on target. But the sights and the barrel fitment are the core to the accuracy improvements in this model compared to others and peers. The match grade barrel not only enhances tolerances, it is fully supported and offers better breech face fitment than others near the price point. The sights are low-profile considering how adjustable they are, and the high visibility channel makes these easy to use in quick reaction scenarios.
- Seems like a normal duty gun – offers a lot more for the money
- 10mm shoots fast and flat – offers more than just target and competition options
- Great barrel and sights
- Rear grip and trigger safety
- May be too much recoil for some match pistol shooters
Browning - Buck Mark Field/Target Micro Suppressor Ready
Exceptional value is delivered through this .22LR pistol by Browning. That has been a trend with Browning in the past two decades. They offer uncommon value on their small caliber offerings, simply because they dedicate machine time from the same machines as their other larger caliber tooling options, to guns that the broader market might be interested in.
You are getting better fit and finish across the board and Browning offers significant savings relative to many peers on these smaller caliber options, perhaps to keep the brand name alive and well and the market penetration high.
A lot of this value is obvious on the wooden laden rifles in their rimfire collections, but the Buck Mark upper end variants are no strangers to this cause. In a world where the Ruger Mark series of pistols has been dominant for so long, the Buck Mark has always been present, and has also been a volume contender. It's also a well-priced alternative to the Ruger with a more than $100 savings model to model on average.
That says a lot coming from a gun model range that is from one of the most storied franchisees in the gun industry, and from a model range that has been above reproach for a very long time. The Buck Mark is simple and straightforward.
It is also very accurate and built in a way that prioritizes monolithic builds. The top end is built that way; the frame is built that way, both out of aluminum and both on CNC machines instead of being stamped out like other inexpensive 22's.
The gold-plated trigger denotes there is something special about it and it isn't lying. The trigger is perhaps the best in the segment. The threaded barrel can accept a suppressor and comes from factory with a compensator to bring you back on target quickly minimizing any recoil related matters.
- Great fit and finish
- Amazing trigger
- Exceptional price point considering it's a world class small caliber pistol
- Not as durable as some competitors
Sig Sauer - P320 X-Five Optic Ready
There are guns not on this list that take accuracy and tolerance control to a level that is impossible to get in a factory production setting as we know it for firearms. These guns require hand fitting, extraneous machine time and command a huge price tag.
Many of the guns you see on this list are considered mainstream adaptations that are suitable for target shooting and for precision uses, but they are not the highly customized machines you find from boutique producers. Sig Sauer has made it a point over the years to extend the line where precision meets the mainstream.
The X-FIVE series (more contemporary) and the P210 (Classic) are two examples of these extraordinary pistols which have been adopted as target pistols and may be the best examples of factory mainstream target pistols in centerfire configurations. *(the P210 is below)
The P320 X-FIVE is a reimagining of the previous X5 generation which was based on the P226 - an alloy framed pistol. The 320 is the newest flagship model series and the modularity is spectacular compared to older generations of Sig Pistols which were largely seen as semi-customs in iterations like the X5.
The frame is polymer but reinforced with Tungsten powder. This is super innovative and expensive and seems a bit gimmicky until you realize some of the characteristics of tungsten (heavy weight, highly corrosion resistant, super tough and structurally sound). In a polymer competition gun, these characteristics are very important. The extra weight offers good recoil and muzzle flip mitigation, while the polymer offers a still flexible material to some extent which also absorbs some of the recoil. The gun is also tough, which helps in competition.
The tolerances can be made tighter because of the dimensional stability of the tungsten additive. This is important because it allows for better fit of the barrel ramp, the slide rails and the trigger grouping.
High capacity magazines and exceptional sights add to the necessities of competition. This is a match grade competition gun, which will shoot tight groups at the range in whatever capacity it’s put into and will function well as a duty weapon as well.
- Innovative frame design
- Excellent modularity
- Very accurate
- Great ergonomics
- Expensive for a factory mainstream gun
Sig Sauer - P210 Target Pistol
Perhaps one of the most storied and longest lasting models in mainstream pistol manufacturing history. There are a ton of variants and production types, but they are all amazingly accurate, proven in battle, proven on the range and the legend continues with the reintroduction of the P210 from Sig (the gun listed here).
At its heart this is a highly accurized, high precision battle pistol (sidearm) made to the precision old world standards of a Swiss gunmaker. The gun itself was generally considered a commodity as it found use in many battles and was the issued sidearm of at least two military forces during its heyday.
What the general public has always known about the Sig P210 is that it is the Swiss watch of the pistol world. The complexities of the watch world were absent however, and the focal point was on the precision and hand fitting aspects of this concept.
The barrel fit and the slide to frame fit are perhaps the finest to ever be introduced in such a widespread factory offering. You cannot help but drool over the tight tolerances and the exceptional feel of the action of this firearm.
It is also reliable, something that generally doesn’t happen when tolerances are so tight. The durability is good too, because the gun is all steel, and simply designed.
Today’s version features an improved beavertail to help minimize hammer bite; a more tactically minded design implementation (including multiple slide serrations and manual safety enhancements), a new grip design, and fiber optic adjustable target sights.
Two 8-shot magazines rounds out the offering, but this is a firearm which words cannot do justice to, from a precision and target shooting perspective. You have to see it to believe it, it’s that good.
- Unparalleled fit and finish
- Basically a custom pistol
- Exceptional ergonomics
- Historically proven on so many levels
- No CONS
Ruger - Mark IV Target Pistol
The best Ruger pistol in history. That’s a lot to say, considering one of the best-selling pistols in history is the Ruger concealed carry dynamo from a few years back, and the single action revolvers are the new gold standard for mainstream SAA’s.
The Mark IV is the newest iteration of the “Mark” series by Ruger which denotes their .22LR pistol range that has been optimized for target shooting. The gun has been fine tuned and optimized over the years and despite having some safety features that some people may not love, this is the best generation of Ruger target pistols and offer the best bang for the buck of any target pistol ever built by Ruger.
The particular variant listed here is the bull barreled, stainless steel version that is the easiest to maintain, the toughest and most durable, and probably the most accurate for the price point. This is a gun that has thousands of documented pistols with more than 500,000 rounds through the gun without major parts or servicing.
As it comes from factory, this gun is nearly perfect, but it can also be customized exorbitantly, thanks to the huge third-party accessory market. The sights are excellent for target purposes, and the maintenance is minimal, more importantly, the Ruger Mark 4 will eat any ammunition on the market and does particularly well with some of the top target loads in the world, despite having larger bullet flange diameters and case sizing concerns compared to mainstream ammunition
This is likely due to the fantastic magazines; some of the most proven pistol magazines ever produced. It is also helped by the ramp system and the bolt design, which helps feed anything. The barrel offers great balance and a strong rigid platform for delivering good velocity; the 5.5 inches is enough for solid velocities and flat trajectories.
- Proven platform for accuracy, reliability and durability
- So easy to hit what you are aiming at
- Best in class
- No CONS
The mainstream best target pistol is more than what most users would expect it to be. The small optimizations that have coalesced into what we see as “best in class” – those guns showcased in this list – are accurate, easy to maintain and realistic to shoot.
This is a stark contrast to what some might argue are the only true target pistols – those custom, expensive, hard to maintain and hard to shoot reliably, firearms. But the important takeaway is this: quality of life with high accuracy and low to moderate pricing, probably trumps slightly higher accuracy, exponentially higher costs and difficult maintenance regimens.
While we won’t argue that all target pistols that are semi or fully custom aren’t worth the money, we can definitively state that the guns on this list are exceptional performers which will all impress any discerning, burgeoning, or veteran target shooter, without stinging the wallet.