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Introduction


I’ve decided to write this work as a follow up of sorts to the long standing 1911 Buyer’s Guide. This guide will be a bit more focused in its target audience, however. It is aimed at the discriminating customer who wants that special pistol or two in his or her collection and is pondering the differences of each model.

What qualifies as high end and exotic? That’s a good question and probably means different things to different people. To me, its not so much about price and rarity (though many of these are expensive and/or rare). No, that’s not the determining factor in my eyes. What it means to me, first and foremost, is build quality, parts quality, and execution. Its also about performance, meaning inherent mechanical accuracy, trigger quality, ergonomics, etc. Likewise, there are many expensive pistols that I would not call high end and there are many rare pistols that are far more obscure than they are truly exotic.

I mentioned that this guide would be focused in its approach. I will further illustrate that by explaining what is not going to be included. Yes, there will be some omissions in order to keep us referring to apples and not oranges. As I review the three big groups of handguns that won’t be included, I hope to still capture your interest in the guns that will be discussed.

The biggest void will be 1911s. While I realize high end 1911s are extremely popular on this forum and many others, I feel its generally a different customer and sometimes even a separate mindset. To keep this guide focused in one area, the M1911 will not be included.

Secondly, it will not include any rimfire pistols. While there are many high end rimfires on the current and used handgun market, I’m not going to use this effort to discuss them. I say this for two reasons. First, I don’t feel they’re an apples to apples comparison to centerfire pistols. Secondly, I simply don’t own a large enough variety to make writting a comprehensive guide feasible. Unfortunately, rimfire fans will have to look elsewhere for information.

My third omission will be polymer. After careful consideration, I just don’t feel they belong in this guide. Make no mistake, there are some very capable, high quality polymer pistols available and I’m fortunate enough to own several. However, this guide is focused on tight build tolerances, intricate designs, and old world build quality. Again, in keeping this guide focused, plastic frames need not apply.

So what will be included? We will be discussing metal framed pistols of superior quality from many different manufactures. These manufacturers will range from large, well known companies like Sig and Smith & Wesson to small, boutique companies that you may or may not have heard of, to everything in between. In some cases, I own more than one of each model discussed. In those cases, I will drill down and discuss the differences within the variants themselves. In addition to describing each model, I will include some very basic specifications and detailed pictures. The models discussed here will range from purpose built target pistols, race/competition pistols, and some service/self defense pistols. Like the 1911 Guide, I will only be discussing guns that I own and have personal experience with. Likewise, this guide will not be all-encompassing, but limited to my collection and personal experience. On the flip side, I feel I own the lion’s share of what is available to those who share my passion for firearms of this nature and have most designs at least basically represented. In addition, I will add to the guide as a acquire more qualifying handguns.

After a bit of debate with myself on the structure of this work, I have decided to categorize the pistols based on country of origin and then by manufacturer. These pistols will not be grouped based on caliber. I will also not be using a rating system of any sort. We are discussing the finest, most capable pistols in the world and any attempt to superficially rate them on a scale would be an exercise in hair splitting. I will simply describe the pistols, discuss their attributes, and list my preferences.

Without further ado, we will go with the countries in alphabetical order and start with Austria. :cool:









Austria



Obviously, the largest and most well known handgun manufacturer in Austria is Glock. As I mentioned above, Glock will not be included. I will be discussing two models and three pistols here, one from Steyr and two Ultramatics.





Steyr GB

Steyr has been around since the 19th century, but got heavily into producing firearms in the 20th century. After WWII, Steyr manufactured mostly hunting rifles. In the mid 1970‘s, Steyr tried their hand at producing a modern handgun. The Steyr GB is a high quality pistol that was developed in the mid 1970s, but was not produced by Steyr themselves until the early 1980‘s. Production lastly only until about 1988 and after just 15-20,000 pistols were manufactured. Much of the reason for the downfall of the GB was the Glock 17, which was chosen by the Austrian Army over the Steyr in 1985. The Glock was more reliable and much less expensive to build.

The design of the GB is very interesting. The official description is that of a gas retarded blow back. There is a small chamber located inside the slide towards the muzzle of the barrel. There is a tiny hole in the barrel that allows gas to escape when the pistol is fired. The pressure of this gas fills the chamber and slows the slide down a bit and reduces felt recoil. As a result of this and the 35oz weight, the GB is one of the more pleasant 9mm pistols to shoot. Being a blowback pistol, the GB’s barrel is fixed. That feature, coupled with the long sight radius, are what prompted me to include the GB in this thread. A fixed barrel of 5 3/8" is certainly going to give a pistol good inherent accuracy and that is exactly what the GB possesses.

The Steyr GB is large pistol. The grip frame is tall and wide and the slide is long. As mentioned above, the GB’s unloaded weight is about 35oz. While that seems hefty, its actually rather light for steel framed pistol of this size. The relatively light weight is mainly do to the thickness of the steel used. Much like the Browning Hi Power, the Steyr GB’s frame is thin, though I have not heard of durability issues caused by this. I will also note that the GB’s trigger guard is plastic. Field stripping the Steyr is not difficult and can be accomplished in a matter of seconds. Due to its design, the GB can get dirty quickly and is not a pistol you would want to fire thousands of round through without cleaning it. Finding them isn’t too difficult. Its not a gun that’s going to be sitting in your local shop, but there are usually a few on Gunbroker on any given day.

As for my impressions of the pistol, I think its interesting. Its not exactly a gun I grab often to take tot he range, so I don’t have thousands or even hundreds of rounds of trigger time with it. I shot it a few times not long after I bought it several years ago and its basically been sitting ever since. My hands are fairly small, so this big grip frame feels less than ideal for me. I do remember the accuracy being quite good, but the GB is let down a bit by its trigger. The DA trigger is heavy. The SA trigger is decent, but certainly well below average within the group being discussed here. Of course, this is not a target pistol. The GB was solely intended for service and self defense. I find the its futuristic style appealing.


Frame: Carbon steel
Slide: Carbon steel
Unloaded weight: 35oz
Configuration: Double stack, DA/SA
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel length: 5 3/8"
Approximate 2015 prices: $800-$1400













 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Wolf Ultramatic (SV and LV)

Well, its a thrill to get to discuss one of my absolute favorite models to shoot in all the land. The Wolf Ultramatic was designed and produced back in the 1990‘s. Prices 20 years ago were in the $2000 range, so the pistol was not cheap to purchase. Its an immensely complicated design was not cheap to produce and, apparently, it did not prove as reliable under all conditions as the company had hoped. These issues led to financial hard times and the eventual downfall of the Ultramatic. The leftover parts were thrown together and then sold at a blowout price through CDNN some years back, though these pistols were marked “Do not fire". I’m not exactly sure how many pistols were built in total, but Ultramatics are not easy to find. As far as I know, the company’s name was Ultramatic. Wolf helped finance the struggling company late in its life, hence the name is stamped on the later guns.

The design is as interesting as it is unconventional. The Ultramatic incorporates a bolt rather than a slide. This bolt is what moves during cycling. Everything else stands still, including the fixed barrel. These design feature, combined with the Ultramatic’s very heavy weight, make the pistol feel incredibly stable when firing. Its a bit hard to describe on paper, but it makes the Ultramatic one of my top three favorite range pistols. Once you factor in very crisp and light triggers with no creep and a fixed barrel, you have a gun that is all but impossible to miss with. The grip and ergonomics suit me perfectly and the Ultramatic points very naturally for me. While I’m hesitant to call any one pistol or model my absolute favorite shooter, the Ultramatics are the guns I bring to the range most often. I guess you can take that any way you choose, but these pistols are terrific, in my opinion.

I have two of these outstanding pistols in my collection and while they were available in multiple calibers, both of mine are chambered in my favorite round, the 9mm Luger. More specifically, I own an Ultramatic SV (shorter barrel) and an LV (longer barrel). As for reliability, I feel fortunate to have two extremely well running examples. I’ve owned my SV for a few years and its been running 100% from the first round I put through it. I picked up the LV more recently and experienced a few ejection issues at first, but it improved the more I shot and cleaned it. The last couple range trips have seen the LV run flawless with any ammo I’ve put through it, including a few hollow points. I can’t say I trust it as much as the SV yet, but its certainly earning my trust more and more and time goes by and the round count goes up.

As far as build quality is concerned, the Ultramatic is one of the most solid pistols I’ve ever seen. These are hefty guns. The SV weighs in at 47oz empty. The longer LV is over 50oz empty. Field stripping them is a challenge at first, but gets much easier after some practice. I enjoy cleaning these pistols because they are such a marvel of engineering. The design of the bolt and upper assembly is one of the most intricate mechanisms I’ve seen in all of modern handgunning. Yes, I’m very high on these two pistols. While prices are starting to creep up, they are still fantastic bargains for the quality and capability they offer. I highly recommend hunting one down if you have the patience.


Frame: Carbon steel
Slide: Carbon steel
Unloaded weight: 47oz (SV), 50oz (LV)
Configuration: Double stack, SAO
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel length: 4 1/2" (SV), 5 1/2" (LV)
Approximate 2015 prices: $800-$1300



























Steyr GB, Wolf Ultramatic SV, Wolf Ultramatic LV

 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Belgium



I have a grand total of one Belgian pistol that I feel qualifies for this guide. While this country produced some beautiful handguns over the years, there’s not much that I would classify as high end centerfire offerings.





Browning Hi Power GP Competition

As the name would suggest, the GP Competition was FN’s competition focused Hi Power. It debuted in 1980 and featured a long 6“ barrel with a barrel weight, adjustable sights, Pachmyer grips, and a much enhanced trigger. Unfortunately, the GP Competition also featured an ugly greenish-gray parkerized finish, which undoubtedly cost FN some sales during its brief production. The Browning Hi Power is one of my favorite pistols of all time, so naturally I have a fondness for this specialized version.

The GP Competition is a much better shooting gun than a standard stock Hi Power could ever dream of being. The longer sight radius helps improve the shooter’s accuracy and the Pachmyer grips, while not pretty to look at, feel great in hand. As mentioned above, the trigger is much improved over a regular Browning Hi Power. While the magazine disconnect is still present, it is not attached to the trigger and, likewise, does not ruin the trigger pull. The trigger itself is fairly light with a bit of take up and a very clean break. This pistol points very naturally for me and I have been quite impressed with its accuracy.

I’m not sure how many of these FN built, but I know its production run was within the 1980‘s. I don’t believe it was ever pumped out in great numbers. I think its less than stellar appearance really hurt retail sales, especially when a standard Browning Hi Power is such a beautiful weapon. This particular example dates from 1987. In the serial number, the “245“ designates a sporting model and the “PR” stands for 87. The GP Competition can be found on Gunbroker with regular frequency, though they do not pop up nearly as often as they used to. This is definitely a pistol I recommend. No, its not as glamorous or as photogenic as some others in this guide, but it certainly performs at a high level.


Frame: Carbon steel
Slide: Carbon steel
Unloaded weight: 36oz
Configuration: Double stack, SAO
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel length: 6"
Approximate 2015 prices: $1000-$1500




















 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Czech Republic



I will be discussing two Czech pistols here. Obviously, both of them were manufactured by CZ or Ceska Zbrojovka.




CZ 75 Champion

The design of the CZ 75 is one of the most copied in history for good reason. The ergonomics are among the best in the industry. The slide inside the frame setup was borrowed from the Sig P210 and helps keeps the slide to frame fitting tight. This, in turn, has helped the CZ 75 be one of the most accurate combat pistols in its price range.

The CZ 75 Champion was CZ’s top of the line pistol during its production years. It is a purpose built SAO race gun using the standard CZ 75 frame and one of the best triggers in existence. The parts fitting of the Champion exceeded that of the standard model by a wide margin. The pistol features a standard 4.5“ CZ 75 barrel, but has a four chamber compensator (earlier versions had three chambers) on the end to help keep the muzzle down during rapid firing. From an ergonomic standpoint, the CZ 75 Champion is top notch. The only minor complaint I have about the standard CZ 75's ergos is the somewhat long reach to the trigger for a person with smaller hands. The SAO trigger of the Champion eliminates that. More so, the rubber wrap around grips feel perfect to me and the beavertail is also a nice addition. The Champion also features an ambi safety and an adjustable rear sight.

In my opinion, the CZ 75 Champion ranks as one of the best shooting pistols in the world. The trigger takes a bit to get used to as it has only one millimeter of take up and absolutely no creep at all. Couple that with an adjustable trigger that’s set at a weight of under two pounds from the factory, and you have a gun that can easily be fired before you’re ready to. Basically, the instant you put pressure of any kind on the trigger, the Champion will fire. When it fires, you will be delighted with the soft recoil and incredible accuracy. The only circumstance that holds this gun back from possibly being my favorite shooter is the caliber. Its 40S&W and its my least favorite service caliber by a very wide margin. Supposedly, this gun was produced in 9mm, but I’ve never seen one for sale. The Champion has been discontinued for a number of years and they don’t come up for sale often. When they do, its always 40S&W. The color scheme is always this nickel frame on a matte blued slide.

Having said all that and despite the caliber, my CZ 75 Champion is truly outstanding. The 40S&W version is a soft shooter. I can only imagine how great it would be in 9mm. I highly recommend buying one if it pops up for sale in any caliber. I know I check for them on Gunbroker with some frequency and try to alert potential buyers on the rare occasion I see one. My gun was built in 2002.


Frame: Carbon steel
Slide: Carbon steel
Unloaded weight: 41oz
Configuration: Double stack, SAO
Caliber: 40S&W
Barrel length: 4 1/2"
Approximate 2015 prices: $1400-$1800
























CZ 75 Tactical Sport

Next I’ll discuss the CZ 75 Tactical Sport or “TS” for short. Despite the name, this pistol does not use the CZ 75 frame. This is a larger and beefier handgun weighing in at just over 45oz empty. The Tactical Sport comes with a 5“ barrel and is specifically geared towards IPSC competition. The gun also comes nicely equipped with an ambi safety, checkering on the front strap, back strap, and trigger guard, and nicely checkered wood grips. The standard rear sights are the non-adjustable “hook” style for easy slide racking. Yes, the Tactical Sport is ready to race straight from the box.

This pistol has the distinction of being the first firearm I’ve discussed so far that’s still being produced. They are available from CZ-USA and can also be had from the CZ Custom shop with some options. My gun has the red fiber optic front sight, while the standard TS comes with a black front sight. They can also be had with adjustable sights and steel triggers from the custom shop. Available calibers are 9mm and 40S&W. After stating my sentiment on the latter, my gun is most definitely chambered in the former. The Tactical Sport is a very high capacity pistol, holding 20+1 rounds of 9mm Luger. The trigger is just about there with the CZ 75 Champion, though being plastic, it doesn’t feel quite as crisp. Of course, its adjustable in the same way, so I’m sure it can be improved a bit. Either way, its still an outstanding trigger. The frame is carbon steel with some sort of speckled silver Teflon coating. The slide is a nice semi glossy bluing.

As far as complaints are concerned, there aren’t many. For me, the large frame, while nicely contoured, ruins some of the CZ 75‘s stellar ergonomics. In my opinion, the Champion’s ergos are just about perfect. I don’t quite feel the same way about the Tactical Sport. Of course, someone with larger hands may not find the big grip frame to be any drawback at all. The second small gripe is the plastic trigger. I find it inexcusable on a gun of this price and capability. While it can be easily switched out, it shouldn’t be there in the first place. Even my $400 polymer CZ P09 has a steel trigger. That being said, the TS remains one of the best values in a higher end pistol on the market. Its accuracy is awesome and on par with some pistols over double its selling price. If you want the best “bang for the buck”, look no further. This pistol is a winner.


Frame: Carbon steel
Slide: Carbon steel
Unloaded weight: 45oz
Configuration: Double stack, SAO
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel length: 5"
Approximate 2015 prices: $1100-$1300



















CZ 75 Tactical Sport, CZ 75 Champion

 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
France




Contrary to some popular belief, the French built some incredible handguns over the years, with the Manurhin MR73 revolver being the pride of the country in that regard. While MAB built some solid handguns during their long history, the only autoloader ever built in France that I feel belongs in this guide is what you see below.





MAB PAP F1

MAB stands for Manufacture d’Armes de Bayonne. PAP stands for Pistolet Automatique de Précision. The model number designation is F1. This pistol is the target version of the much, much more common MAB PA-15 and it was built for and used by French shooting teams in the armed forces. The MAB started producing the PA-15 in 1966. The PAP started very shortly thereafter, making it one of the earlier dedicated target pistols chambered in 9x19.

This pistol has a long barrel of just under 6" and a special bushing over the muzzle to keep everything lined up and locked down for the best possible accuracy. The PAP F1 is hefty gun, weighing just over 44oz empty. Like the Steyr GB above, the MAB’s design is that of a delayed blowback. However, the system is completely different. Instead of a gas delayed blowback using a chamber, this pistol uses a rotating barrel lug. MAB put a great deal of work into this gun and it differs from the standard PA-15 in a several ways. The beautiful checkered wood grips are not interchangeable with the PA-15's black plastic grips. The rear sight is adjustable and the front sight is a large blade. The front and back strap are nicely serrated, compared to the smooth steel of the standard pistol. The trigger is adjustable, which is not the case on the PA-15. The biggest difference, of course, is the much longer barrel and added bushing. The build quality of these pistols is just outstanding and they as exotic as just about any pistol in this guide or the rest of my collection.

My overall thoughts on the gun are very positive. Its took me years to finally acquire one of these. They are extremely rare anywhere outside of France, and even then they aren’t easy to come by. MAB didn’t build many of them and they haven’t been produced at all in 30 to 40 years. If you can find one, I wholeheartedly recommend you pick it up, as it could be your only chance to grab one. They literally do not come up for sale in the United States. Having said that, the standard PA-15 is also a high quality, accurate pistol. While not exactly common, you could probably find a few hundred of them for every PAP F1 variant. I think both are beautiful and very capable pistols.


Frame: Carbon steel
Slide: Carbon steel
Unloaded weight: 44oz
Configuration: Double stack, SAO
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel length: 5 7/8"
Approximate 2015 prices: $2000-$3000

































Germany




Not surprisingly, this country will have the most entries in the guide. You will see several from Heckler & Koch, Sig, and Walther, as well as a couple boutique manufacturers. Yes, some of the finest handguns in history were built in this country.





Heckler & Koch P7 PSP

The first German pistol I will discuss is the HK P7 PSP (Police Self-loading Pistol). This was also the first of HK's outstanding P7 Series handguns. As you will read below, the design is that of a fixed barrel, delayed blowback. The delay comes via a gas chamber and piston to dampen the reward movement of the slide during recoil and making the gun more pleasant to shoot.

The PSP, as well as the other P7 Series guns feature HK's best build quality. These are intricately designed and extremely well made handguns. The bore axis is among the lowest of any pistol design and, likewise, I find they point very naturally. The accuracy is on par with many of the dedicated target pistols found in this guide.

While the squeeze cocking action takes some time to get used to, I've always recommended people give these pistols a chance to win them over. They are some of my favorite handguns to own and shoot and I also find them fascinating to look at and field strip. The PSP is the most common and most affordable of the series, making it a great choice as your first.


Frame: Carbon steel
Slide: Carbon steel
Unloaded weight: 30oz
Configuration: Single stack, striker-fire
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel length: 4"
Approximate 2015 prices: $1000-$1500


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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Heckler & Koch P7M8

The HK P7M8 has long been known as one of the most accurate service pistols ever built. It debuted in the early to mid 1980‘s and was a successor of sorts to the earlier P7 PSP. As the name would suggest, the P7M8 holds 8 rounds of 9mm in its single stack magazine. The P7‘s design is somewhat similar to the Steyr GB in that’s its a fixed barrel, gas delayed blowback. There is a small hole in the barrel to catch escaping gas in a piston under the barrel. The pressure from the escaping gas acts upon the piston to “break” the slide during recoil. Obviously, a straight blowback 9mm would not be overly pleasant to shoot. As it stands, the gas delayed system does its job well.

The P7M8 is a slim and fairly small pistol. However, with its all steel construction still manages to weigh in at 30oz. The polygonal rifled, fixed barrel is 4“. It is a striker fired gun with a unique squeeze cocker which definitely takes time to get used to. The trigger pull itself is very good. Its not like some of the SAO target pistols in this guide, but certainly nice for what it is. The bore axis of the P7M8 is among the lowest around. The plane of the barrel is basically resting on top of the shooter's hands in a thumbs-forward, two handed grip, making this handgun extremely easy to point and control. The grips are an attractive looking stippled black plastic and there is also a rough texture on the squeeze cocker and back strap that make the gun very comfortable in hand. Most of the P7M8 pistols came with a matte bluing from the factory.

My impressions of this model are quite positive. I’ve always liked the design and admired the workmanship and quality that HK put into them. While I wouldn’t call it a range or target pistol, they do perform very well. The fixed barrel, ergonomics, trigger, and bore axis make the P7M8 a breeze to shoot accurately. I’m not going to fully recommend the gun, as many people are not familiar or comfortable with the squeeze cocking system. However, once you get used to it, you’ll see that the P7M8 is one of the safest pistols around. It also may be the most accurate deep concealed carry piece ever built.


Frame: Carbon steel
Slide: Carbon steel
Unloaded weight: 30oz
Configuration: Single stack, striker-fire
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel length: 4"
Approximate 2015 prices: $2000-$3000























Heckler & Koch P7M10

I’m going to speak briefly about another of the P7 series I happen to have in my collection. This is the much embattled P7M10 that was HK’s first foray into the 40S&W world during the early 1990's. I included it in the guide due to its good performance and high quality. Unfortunately, this was clearly a gun that was rushed to market when the then-new 40S&W was introduced. Gone are nearly all the qualities that make the P7M8 such a pure carry pistol. The slimness and short slide, with a low bore axis were replaced with the needlessly thick and tall slide and a fat, double stack frame. The P7M10 weighs in at a whopping 43oz empty. Once loaded with 11 rounds of 165gr 40S&W ammo, you have a very thick and heavy carry pistol. While the barrel remains low, the slide incorporates a ton of thick steel above it, which sort of defeats the purpose of the low bore axis. The most common finish was the matte nickel you see on mine.

If there are any saving qualities of the P7M10, its the build quality and accuracy. It shares the P7M8's design and also has a fixed 4“ barrel and good striker-fire trigger. Despite its good qualities, I’m not real sure this gun has a purpose. Its not much of a target gun and its too heavy and thick to make a good carry gun. From an aesthetics standpoint, its bulky and clumsy looking. Its not a gun I recommend to others and I very rarely shoot it. However, for the Heckler & Koch collector they are desirable and, likewise, bring good money at auction.


Frame: Carbon steel
Slide: Carbon steel
Unloaded weight: 43oz
Configuration: Double stack, striker-fire
Caliber: 40S&W
Barrel length: 4"
Approximate 2015 prices: $2500-$3500























Heckler & Koch P7M13


The final P7 Series pistol I will speak about is the legendary P7M13. This pistol has the most mystique of the 9mm P7 Series, in my opinion. It saw some screen time in “Die Hard” and I always wanted one since seeing that movie as a teenager. I thought there was something intensely cool about it.

Like the P7M8, the M13 gives away its capacity in the name. It holds 13+1 rounds of 9mm and is the double stack “version” of the P7M8. They share a very similar appearance, other than the height and thickness. As are all of the P7 pistols, the P7M13 is built with exceptional quality and refinement. The squeeze cocking system is identical to the rest of the series and takes a bit of time to get familiar with. The barrel rifling is polygonal, like the other 9mm P7 pistols.

My overall impressions of the M13 are extremely positive. While I prefer the feel of the single stack variants of the P7, the P7M13 has certain intangibles that raise the “cool factor” of the pistol. Like the others, this model is capable of amazing accuracy. Its just a big large through the grip for those with smaller hands. As expected, the magazines for the M13 are not cheap.


Frame: Carbon steel
Slide: Carbon steel
Unloaded weight: 34oz
Configuration: Double stack, striker-fire
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel length: 4"
approximate 2015 prices: $3000-$3500



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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Heckler & Koch P9S Sport

Well, I talked about a clunker in the P7M10. Now I get to talk about my all-time favorite HK pistol. The P9S Sport is the sporting version of the excellent P9S. The HK P9 has been around a long time, dating back to 1970. The steel slide and frame were made of stamped sheet metal and polymer was used to wrap the frame and form the trigger guard. The design was that of an intricate roller delayed blowback, similar to the system used for the company’s G3 assault rifle. The barrel was fixed and it not move during cycling, making the P9S an inherently accurate pistol. The standard P9S is a DA/SA pistol. Ergonomically speaking, the pistol is only let down by a long reach to the trigger.

The Sport model was equipped with a trigger block that only allowed the pistol to be fired in single action mode. The pull was lightened as well, making the Sport quite the shooter. The barrel is extended to 5.5“, which is a full 1.5“ longer than a standard P9S barrel. A barrel weight is attached at the end to help stabilize the gun by adding some heft to the fairly lightweight design. The Sport set also comes with the large wooden target stocks, as well as a set of standard grips and a standard slide and barrel.

While the stamped slide and frame of the gun aren’t the best quality components around, the internals of the P9S series are heavy duty. The barrel is thick and the components are overbuilt for 9mm in typical HK fashion. The adjustable sights are easy to see and this is one of the most accurate pistols I own. The trigger pull is great, though the take up and reset are a bit longer than ideal. Finding these pistols nowadays is not easy and they command big money when they do actually pop up. I wouldn’t recommend one just to have a great range pistol. There are several others that give the same performance for a lot less money. However, if you love HKs and want the best target pistol they ever built, this is the way to go.


Frame: Carbon steel
Slide: Carbon steel
Unloaded weight: 43oz
Configuration: Single stack, SAO
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel length: 5 1/2"
Approximate 2015 prices: $3000-$4000























Korriphila HSP 701


Moving on from HK, we now have a unique roller blowback from the mid 1980's. The Korriphila HSP 701 was the brainchild of master gun smith Edgar Budischowsky and built in Heidelberg, Germany on a very limited basis. Construction and manufacturing of this pistol were done without regard to cost and purchase prices were upwards of $2000 some 30 years ago, making it a pistol that was ordered only by a select few. From what I’ve been able to ascertain, the original configuration of the HSP 701 was that of a DA/SA 45ACP with a 4“ barrel. Its intended purpose was self defense. After the first batch of pistols was complete, the Korriphila was offered in an assortment of calibers and also a barrel length of 5“. Budischowsky even offered a SAO version of the pistol, in which the cocking mechanism was disconnected. This turned the defensive-oriented 701 into more of a range/target pistol.

The design of the gun is that of a roller delayed blowback. The barrel is fixed to the frame. All parts are cut from blocks of steel and then meticulously hand fitted together. Its honestly the best combination of parts quality and build quality I’ve ever seen on a self-loading pistol. There is absolutely no play or movement anywhere. Shaking the pistol side to side with the action open or shut reveals no sound whatsoever, making it feel like one solid piece of steel. Its the tightest pistol I own. Grips are checkered walnut. The front strap, back strap, and trigger guard feature extremely fine cross hatching to help keep a secure grip on the gun. The Korriphila is a heavy weight, complex pistol. Even the 4“ model is nearly 40oz empty.

My particular example is an early model from 1984, serial number 0023. In fact, its of the first delivery series of the pistols from Budischowsky's shop. Its of the original configuration and has the blued slide and frame. The DA trigger pull is firm, but very short. The single action pull is also a bit firm, but has next to zero take up and no creep at all. The reset is short. All in all, the trigger on this gun is outstanding. The gun’s slide stop doubles as a decocker, which keeps controls to a minimum. The Korriphila is a serious pistol designed for amazing accuracy, reliability, and longevity. Its most definitely one of the finest pistols I’ve even seen or handled and I think you can see that in the pictures. Due to the prices and extreme rarity, its hard for me to recommend it to others. However, to the hard core collector who wants the absolute finest from Germany or perhaps the finest in the world, this is the gun for you.


Frame: Carbon steel
Slide: Carbon steel
Unloaded weight: 39oz
Configuration: Single stack, DA/SA
Caliber: 45ACP
Barrel length: 4"
Approximate 2015 prices: $8000-$10,000













 

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Korth Auto

Continuing in alphabetical order, next up is Korth. Many of you may have heard this company’s name, as they are still in business today. Korth is known for producing some of the world’s finest revolvers from the 1970 through the present. Once Willi Korth got on his feet and established in the revolver world, he tested his hand at designing a semi auto in the mid 1980's. By 1987, the first autos were built. Like the Korriphila above, the Korth was built whether much regard to cost. All parts are cut from solid steel billets. Nothing is cast or even forged into shape. This resulted in a supremely well crafted firearm with very few equals in terms of quality and fit and finish.
As are some other pistols in this guide, the Korth is extremely rare. Less than 300 were ever built and I doubt there are many in this country. The design is that of a falling block. However, unlike some others that use this system, such as the Walther P38 or Beretta 92, the Korth positioned the falling block near the muzzle. Willi Korth wasn’t one to design simple firearms and the Korth Auto was no exception. Its a big, heavy pistol with many parts, but the field stripping of the gun is easy. The Korth was available in a few different calibers, but I believe most of the early models were 9mm.


My example is number 122 and was built in 1989, possibly by Willi Korth himself. It has the early Mauser extractor. Once Korth couldn’t source those parts any longer, they went with an in-house extractor which worked well, but didn’t look as nice. My impression of the gun is one of admiration. Its one of the finest firearms I ever held in my hand. The level of refinement and fit and finish are off the charts. Like the Korriphila, even the roll marking is perfectly done. The grips are finely checkered wood with a tastefully done wood insert on the back strap. The trigger is not as good as the Korriphila. The DA pull is about the same weight, but considerably longer than the Korriphila’s trigger. The SA pull is also about the same weight as the Korriphila, but its just not as crisp and also has a bit more take up than its German rival. Once again, I can’t recommend the gun due to its stratospheric price tag and scarcity. That being said, the collector of exotic handguns who wants it all probably should consider finding one at some point.


Frame: Carbon steel
Slide: Carbon steel
Unloaded weight: 43oz
Configuration: Single stack, DA/SA
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel length: 4"
Approximate 2015 prices: $8000-$10,000























Mauser Sport Parabellum


I’ve decided to keep this entry separate from the Luger P08 section, because I consider it more of a target pistol than anything else. The Mauser Sport Parabellum was built on a very limited basis in the mid 1970‘s. The design is that of a late model Luger, but refined and enhanced for sport and target shooting.

Enhancements include a heavy match barrel, adjustable target sights, and an adjustable match trigger. It also lacks the grip safety that standard 1970‘s Mauser Lugers have. The finish is an extremely nice polished bluing that really dazzles. The balance of the pistol is very good, due in large part to the extra weight of the heavy barrel. The trigger breaks like a glass rod and is nothing like a standard Luger’s mushy trigger. Between the awesome trigger, great balance, and fixed match barrel, this pistol is capable of incredible accuracy.

My opinion of this rare handgun is very positive. However, finding one is almost out of the question. According to my sources, only 80 were built between 1975 and 1976. Being that was over 40 years ago, I’m not sure how many still exist today. Furthermore, they were never imported into the states, so however many are in the country were privately imported. I’m sure I could count how many are in the country on two hands, maybe one.


Frame: Carbon steel
Slide: Carbon steel
Unloaded weight: 37oz
Configuration: Single stack, Striker fired
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel length: 4 1/2"
Approximate 2015 prices: $4000-$6000






















 

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Sig P210 Legend Target

Next, we will discuss our first Sig Sauer in the thread. This is the very beautiful German version of the P210. As many reading this probably know, the Sig P210 originated from and was built in Switzerland for many decades. Swiss production was discontinued in the early to mid 2000‘s, only to see the pistol be rejuvenated in Germany about five years later. We will discuss the Swiss P210 later in the guide. For now, the German P210 (dubbed the Legend) will be the subject. The Legend was made in a few different configurations. These included the standard model, the Target, which included adjustable sights and a couple other enhancements, and the Super Target, which was a long slide target model with as easier to operate 1911-style thumb safety. The Legend models offered some substantial improvements over the older Swiss guns. These include a beavertail, front strap checkering (on the target models), a repositioned mag release, and an easier to operate safety. The Legend does not have the Swiss gun’s magazine disconnect safety, which some may also look at as an improvement. I’ll talk about the P210‘s fantastic design in the Switzerland section.

My impressions of this gun are extremely positive. While it doesn’t have that Swiss hand built feel to it, as a pure shooter, I think I like it better than any of my Swiss versions. I find the trigger to be even better than my Swiss sporting P210's, which says a great deal. The palm swell wood grips fill my hands better than the grips on my older models. The safety is easier to operate and I prefer the lower position of the rear sight, which is nicely blended into the slide. The Legend also uses the heavy frame, which was only used on the Swiss guns towards the end of their production. Finally, the Legends have the beautiful Nitron finish on them, which just looks outstanding and is very fitting on a gun like this. The slide and frame are cut from solid blocks of steel and are of outstanding quality.

The P210 is one of the most accurate centerfire pistols ever built. The low bore axis and trigger position are superb, in my opinion. The only ergonomic quibble I have about the P210 is the position of the safety. Of course, for target use, that’s basically a mute point. I find the P210 Legend Target makes shooting accurately very effortless. Its a beautiful and classy handgun to look at with the performance to match. I highly recommend getting one of these, as they are now no longer on Sig’s website and prices will start to rise. Sig did an terrific job resurrecting the P210 with the Legend models. I find them one of the very best new production guns on the market today. Its very high quality with outstanding attention to detail.


Frame: Carbon steel
Slide: Carbon steel
Unloaded weight: 38oz
Configuration: Single stack, SAO
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel length: 4 3/4"
Approximate 2015 prices: $2500























Sig P220 Sport

We will continue with another Sig and discuss the P220 Sport. The Sport models were built starting in the late 1990's and continued until the original X Series pistols debuted in the mid 2000‘s. Like the X Series, the Sport models were completely built in Germany with a good deal of hand labor. The frames and slides were stainless steel. While I own the P220 version, Sig also produced a P226 Sport and a P229 Sport, both of which I hope to acquire at some point.

This pistol has a big aluminum compensator bolted to the frame to help balance out the weight and reduce recoil. The slide stop, decocker, and mag release are all extended in comparison to a standard Sig P220. The DA trigger is a bit lighter and smoother. The SA trigger eliminates the creep on a standard P220 trigger and is also lighter. Fine checkering adorns the front strap and feels great in hand. The sights are adjustable and give an excellent picture on target. The long sight radius aids accuracy. The barrel length is 5.5" without including the compensator. Weight is a very hefty 46oz empty. No, this is not your typical P220.

Personally, I really like these Sport pistols. From a build quality standpoint, they are on par with the later X Series guns, though the triggers don’t quite compare to the adjustable SAO trigger of a top of the line X Five L1. The P220 Sport is a tight fitted pistol with fantastic attention to detail. As many people know, the standard P220 is an accurate gun and this special model is even more so. Prices are starting to creep up into the $2000 range these days and should continue to steadily rise. If you’re in the market for one, now is the time.


Frame: Stainless Steel
Slide: Stainless Steel
Unloaded weight: 46oz
Configuration: Single stack, DA/SA
Caliber: 45ACP
Barrel length: 5 1/2"
Approximate 2015 prices: $1500-$2000






















 

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Sig P226 Sport

I have finally added the final Sig Sport pistol of the trio to my collection. The P226 Sport is the rarest of the three and my favorite. They were all chambered in 9mm.

The Sig P226 Sport was built from just 2003-2005 on a very limited basis, making them quite hard to find and highly sought after among Sig collectors. This example was built in 2003. I had to pay a premium for this one, but after receiving it, I’m very glad I did. It is quite the pistol. As were all three Sig Sports, this model was built in Germany with a great deal of hand fitting. Build quality is tremendous. Like the other two, the frame is stainless steel. Unlike the P220 and P229 Sport pistols, however, the P226 version features a steel barrel weight instead of the aluminum compensator. This turns an already hefty pistol into a real heavyweight. In fact, its the heaviest pistol in this guide at 52oz empty.

This handgun is just a total dream to shoot and demonstrates outstanding accuracy. If you can find one and have the means, it comes highly recommended by the author.


Frame: Stainless Steel
Slide: Stainless Steel
Unloaded weight: 52oz
Configuration: Single stack, DA/SA
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel length: 5 1/2"
Approximate 2015 prices: $2500-$3000



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Sig P229 Sport

This is a newer entry into the guide. As I mentioned, I hoped to acquire a P226 Sport and P229 Sport in the future. Now I have the P229 Sport, leaving only the P226 version to complete the collection.

The P229 Sport was built during the early to mid 2000‘s. This example is from 2006, which is one of the later models built. They were chambered in 40S&W or 357Sig only, mine being the latter. In fact, this is the only 357Sig in the guide. As mentioned above, the Sport models were built in Germany, mostly by hand. Quality and attention to detail are outstanding. This is a full stainless steel pistol with an aluminum compensator on the business end. It weighs in at a hefty 44oz empty, so you know you have a serious machine when you pick it up.

The P229 Sport has a smaller compensator than the other two Sport models. It features fine serrations on the front strap and trigger guard, as well as fully adjustable three dot target sights. Like the other Sig Sports, the controls are all extended over the standard version of the pistol. The grips are rubber Hogues, which feel comfortable, but look ugly. The magazines have an aluminum base.

Like I said about the P220 Sport, I’m a fan of this series. I like the build quality and the heavy weight. The DA trigger is very smooth and the SA trigger is light and crisp. They are much less common than the newer X Series guns and I like the exclusivity. Having said that, this is the most common of the three and the least expensive, with the P226 being the most rare and most expensive. The P220 Sport splits the difference.


Frame: Stainless Steel
Slide: Stainless Steel
Unloaded weight: 44oz
Configuration: Double stack, DA/SA
Caliber: 357 Sig
Barrel length: 4 3/4"
Approximate 2015 prices: $1000-$1500























Sig P226 X Five L1


The last Sig I’m including in this guide is the outstanding X Five. This pistol debuted in the mid 2000‘s to rave reviews. The X Series was Sig’s successor to the Sport Series that we discussed above. Sig built many versions of the X Series guns, which included a base model, a lightweight model, a competition model, a couple long slide models, and some specialty models. All of these variants were built in Germany, mostly by hand. The quality and refinement far exceeds that of a standard P Series Sig.

The example we’re reviewing here is one of the top of the line variants, called the P226 Level 1. It came complete with all the bells and whistles. Features include and an adjustable single action trigger, which is factory set at about 2lbs, an ambi 1911-style thumb safety, a magwell, beautiful Nill grips, an extended mag release, a beavertail, and fine checkering on the front strap and trigger guard. This is a big, heavy pistol, with a thick, robust barrel and a long dust cover. Empty weight is 46oz. The satin stainless finish is beautiful to look at and perfectly done.

I’ve owned mine since 2007, when I bought it new. It was my favorite range gun for many years. With all my recent editions, I don’t put the amount of rounds through it that I once did, but it remains one of my most accurate pistols. I’ve actually grouped this pistol at 100 yards from a rest. Build quality is the best you’ll see from Sig Sauer and right on par with the P210 Legend. Like any Sig P226, the bore axis of this pistol is high. However, with its immense weight, there is no muzzle flip and its extremely pleasant to shoot. The trigger is one of the very best in my collection, with zero creep and a precise, lightweight pull. Mine is chambered in 9mm, but they were also available in 40S&W. Its one of the best target guns on the market today and certainly one of the finest still in production. This is a pistol that I very highly recommend and have done so for many years. I believe a person could have one of these as their only range gun and be completely happy.


Frame: Stainless Steel
Slide: Stainless Steel
Unloaded weight: 46oz
Configuration: Double stack, SAO
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel length: 5"
Approximate 2015 prices: $2000-$3000













 

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Walther P88

Next up are the best centerfire pistols from Walther, which is the legendary P88 series. In my opinion, these are the only pistols Walther built that could earn a spot in this thread. The Walther P88 was in development for quite some time and was finally launched in 1988. Unlike past Walthers, the P88 was the first to use a Browning design. Walther entered the P88 in the US Army trials against the Beretta 92F, Sig P226, and a couple others. Ironically, the Beretta, which uses a Walther design, won the trial. One of the elements working against the P88 was the great cost. In 1988, this pistol cost over $1000 on the commercial market, which was a tremendous sum for a service pistol in those days. Walther could never compete with Beretta on price and I don’t believe it would have been seriously considered regardless of the test results.

Where did all this leave the P88? That’s a good question. The pistol offered outstanding accuracy and a great trigger, but it was not a target pistol. As a service pistol it was just too expensive for most people to desire to tote around all day. As a result, the Walther P88 never fully caught on and never saw big production. While it was produced for eight years, only about 10,000 pistols were built, making the P88 somewhat rare. Due to its outstanding accuracy and built quality, value has risen a bit in recent years. During that production, the Walther P88 underwent several minor changes, so it was always evolving. Finally, in the mid 1990‘s, P88 production ceased altogether in favor of the P88 Compact. There’s always been a bit of mystique surrounding this Walther over the years.

My particular example is a first year gun, stamped “II” for 1988. Some visual differences over later P88‘s are on the slide. The front sight is dovetailed in instead of staked on. The rear sight is taller and the slide top is rounded. The slide of the P88 is finished in a semi glossy bluing, which looks great. Controls are completely ambidextrous, which was ahead of its time for the day. The front strap, back strap, and the front of the trigger guard are all nicely serrated. The grips are a nice looking checkered black plastic.

My impressions of the P88 have always been good and this has long been my favorite Walther series. The grip can be a bit on the large side for those with small to medium hands, but I don’t find that it hinders my ability to shoot the pistol well. The DA trigger pull is heavy, but smooth. The SA pull is light with only a small amount of take up and very little creep. I’ve always loved the P88's aesthetics. I think its a beautiful pistol that is very “German” in appearance. With the money they command today, there are certainly better pure target pistols on the market. However, the P88 is a must have for Walther collectors and aficionados. While its far from a first rate collectable, the P88 is certainly a gun that will continue to rise in value steadily over time. They are finally commanding more money now than they did new back in the late 1980's and I don’t see them looking back.


Frame: Aluminum
Slide: Carbon Steel
Unloaded weight: 31oz
Configuration: Double stack, DA/SA
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel length: 4"
Approximate 2015 prices: $1200-$1800























Walther P88 Compact

This pistol debuted in the early to mid 1990‘s and in some ways was an improvement over the earlier P88. With the introduction of this pistol, Walther tried to reduce some production costs and also reduce the size of the pistol’s grip. Both of which were two of the biggest criticisms leveled at the full size P88 over the years of its production.

The P88 Compact is not just a smaller version of the same gun. Its a different pistol altogether, with slide mounted controls and a slightly slimmer feel. Like its big brother, the Compact features the nicely done serrations on the front strap, back strap, and trigger guard. All controls are ambidextrous. The trigger itself is very similar in weight and feel of the larger P88 in both DA and SA modes. The finish is identical to the standard gun. This pistol is not nearly as common as the standard P88 and, likewise, doesn't come up for sale as often. Used prices are very similar to the P88.

My impressions of the gun are great. It fits my hand better than the full size gun and, in my experience, shoots just as well. I never bench tested both of them together, but I don’t see why accuracy would be much different, if any. The P88 Compact’s barrel is only an eighth of an inch shorter, meaning a similar sight radius. My particular example was built in 1995 and sports some beautiful Nill stippled wood grips that the previous owner added. If you have smaller hands, such as I do, I recommend this gun over the standard P88. If you’re a collector, I think the classic P88 would serve you better in that regard. Both are great German pistols.


Frame: Aluminum
Slide: Carbon Steel
Unloaded weight: 29oz
Configuration: Double stack, DA/SA
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel length: 3 7/8"
Approximate 2015 prices: $1200-$1600













 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Walther P88 Competition

The final Walther and also the final German pistol I’m going to include in the guide is the P88 Competition. This, along with the P88 Champion, get my vote as the best pistols Walther ever built. The P88 Competition was produced for a couple of years only during the mid 1990‘s and was never actively imported into the United States, making them very difficult to find.

This pistol is based on the P88 Compact, but has one distinct difference. The difference is the outstanding SAO trigger in place of the DA/SA trigger. This is not a double action trigger that’s merely neutered to only fire in single action mode, but instead its an entirely different trigger system. Other than that, the P88 Competition is identical to the P88 Compact as far as size, weight, and control layout. Unfortunately, the design of the safety was not changed or adapted for a SAO pistol, making the P88 Competition almost useless as a carry gun. The safety merely blocks the firing pin and doesn’t lock the trigger. This means you could only carry it with the hammer down and safety on or without a round chambered. Neither of which lends itself to practicality or good defense.

Of course, its not intended as a carry pistol, despite its smallish size. This is an outstanding shooter with a trigger among the best in this guide. I find it quite accurate and very comfortable in hand. To differentiate the gun from a standard P88 Compact, Walther gave the Competition a bright nickel finish on some of the small parts. While I generally don’t like that sort of color scheme, I think it works well on this pistol and makes it stand out from the standard P88 models. It also comes with a fine set of stippled Nill grips. I already mentioned the trigger, which is light and extremely crisp with no creep, and helps the shooter make the most out of the gun’s ability. Finding one in your local shop is not something that is going to happen, but I wholeheartedly recommend one of these if you should see one pop up on Gunbroker. I would say they pop up for sale about once per year on average.


Frame: Aluminum
Slide: Carbon Steel
Unloaded weight: 29oz
Configuration: Double stack, SAO
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel length: 3 7/8"
Approximate 2015 prices: $2000-$2400





















Luger P08

I think I’d be remised if I didn’t include a section on Lugers in the German portion of this guide. Their storied history and level of workmanship alone warrants their inclusion in any discussion of high quality handguns. I’m not going to include prices, because Lugers vary a tremendous amount due to subtle changes or markings, let alone condition.

The Luger design was patented in 1898 by Georg Luger and was based in part on the older Borchardt pistol. It was produced starting in 1900 by DWM (Mauser) in Germany. During that same year, the Luger was adopted by the Swiss for their army and, thus, became the first automatic handgun to ever be adopted by a country for service. Nearly a decade later in 1908, Germany adopted the pistol as well, but in the new 9mm Parabellum caliber. The Luger was also known as the P08 since that time.

The design is rather intricate and interesting. As many readers may know, the Luger uses a toggle link rather than a traditional slide. The barrel is fixed, enhancing the accuracy of the gun. The grip angle keeps the bore axis very low, so the Luger doesn’t exhibit a whole lot of muzzle flip. There is no hammer, so the Luger was one of the earliest striker-fire pistols ever built. The build quality is truly exceptional, with every piece being hand fitted to the gun with extremely tight tolerances. Take one apart and you’ll be amazed at how well they fit together.

The three Lugers pictured here are as follows:

1923 Commercial Stoeger American Eagle made by DWM
1936 Krieghoff Suhl S Code
1940 Mauser banner German Police model


Frame: Carbon steel
Slide: Carbon steel
Unloaded weight: 31oz - 33oz
Configuration: Single stack, Striker-fire
Caliber: 9mm Luger and 30 Luger
Barrel length: 3 3/4" - 3 7/8"































 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Italy



The Italians built some very exotic and elegant pistols over the years. We will be discussing quite a few of them here. Unfortunately, everything you see from Italy in this guide is no longer being produced and everything here ranges from rare to almost non-existent on the used market. Still, these beauties represent some of the most exotic and best shooting pistols in history.









Benelli B76

This pistol is the most common that you’ll see from Italy in this guide, although that’s not to say that its something you’re going to ever see at your local shop. Benelli introduced this pistol in the late 1970‘s in the hopes it would be heavily used in Europe for service. Unfortunately, it was a little behind the times, as it was heavy and only held 8 rounds in the magazine. This resulted in a limited number being built and a relatively short production life. There were several variations of the B76, to include the B77 in 32ACP, the B80 in 30 Luger, and the B82 in 9mm Ultra. There are also a few sporting versions of this pistol, which took advantage of the design’s great accuracy.

The Benelli B76 is a rather unique pistol and uses what Benelli called an “inertia lock”, which was a lever-delayed blowback system. The barrel is fixed and its very inherently accurate as a result. Construction of the gun is solid and quality is quite good. As mentioned, its not a lightweight pistol, weighing in at 35oz unloaded. The internal parts are hard chromed, along with the trigger and hammer. The grip angle mimics a Luger and works great for me. It also lends itself to an extremely low bore axis. The front strap and back strap are serrated and when combined with the nicely checkered wood grips, the purchase on the gun is secure. The finish is a nice, even matte bluing. The B76 does have a few quirks. The safety is awkward to engage (which doesn’t much matter on a range pistol) and the field stripping of the gun is tedious and not something I particularly enjoy doing. Probably my biggest issue with the B76 is the slide bite that is bound to happen. I don’t have large hands, but I still a hard time avoiding the slide hitting my right thumb in a standard thumbs forward grip. The gun will draw blood after a few mags if you're not careful.

Having said all that, my overall impression of the B76 is positive. It earned a spot in this guide due to its high quality and accuracy. The grip angle is perfect for me and I find it has no muzzle flip whatsoever. The fixed barrel really shows its advantages at the range and the Benelli does not disappoint. I love the exotic look of the pistol, with all of its angles. It looks distinctly Italian, in my eyes. I always recommend this gun despite its shortcomings. The Benelli B76 has a certain charm to it that’s hard to put into words. While prices are starting to climb, the B76 can still be had for a reasonable sum and, considering the quality, they offer an outstanding value.


Frame: Carbon steel
Slide: Carbon Steel
Unloaded weight: 35oz
Configuration: Single stack, DA/SA
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel length: 4 1/4"
Approximate 2015 prices: $800-$1400





















Benelli B77

This is just a short entry on a 32ACP “version” of the B76. The Benelli B77 was just that. The gun looks identical externally, but lacks the 9mm’s lever-delayed blowback system and employs what is essentially a straight blowback design. Obviously with the 32ACP’s much lower pressure and energy output, changes had to be made to enable the weapon to function properly. The B77 is built to the same great quality level and accuracy is outstanding. Of course, the same quirks also plague this Benelli.

I actually like the B77 more than the B76. The 32ACP is so pleasant to shoot in a 35oz pistol and follow up shots are a breeze. The problem is that the pistol is exceedingly rare, so finding one is difficult. I’ve only ever seen a couple on Gunbroker over the years and just recently one sold for quite a sum of money. While a 35oz, full size 32ACP probably won’t appeal to very many, its one I highly recommend because its just so fun and rewarding to shoot.


Frame: Carbon steel
Slide: Carbon Steel
Unloaded weight: 35oz
Configuration: Single stack, DA/SA
Caliber: 32 ACP
Barrel length: 4 1/4"
Approximate 2015 prices: $800-$1400













 

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Benelli MP3S

The last Benelli I’m going to discuss was their top of the line center fire handgun, called the MP3S. This was a single action only variant of the “B” series guns and were mainly built for bullseye competition. These are very high quality pistols and feature some outstanding precision and hand craftsmanship. They are the best work Benelli ever put into a handgun, in my opinion.

As you may imagine, the MP3S is very rare. I’m not sure how many were made, but I’m guessing a few hundred. Most of those were chambered in the bullsye-geared 32 Wadcutter, but they were also offered in 9mm Luger. The finish is upgraded over the standard guns to a high polish lustrous bluing, which is fitting for a handgun of such elegance and beauty. The MP3S features a 5.5“ fixed barrel with a weight attached to the end for stability with a one handed grip and bullseye stance. The sights are big and fully adjustable and the trigger is light and crisp with very little initial take up. This is a large, all steel pistol, so its not light. Unloaded weight is 42oz.

I really like this Benelli. It looks incredibly exotic and is a joy to shoot. The weak 32 Wadcutter round is a pleasure to shoot and it consistently hits were its aimed. Its a highly specialized, purpose built pistol, so the caliber makes sense. However, I wouldn’t mind picking up a 9mm version at some point as well. 9mm is much easier to find and less expensive to shoot. While these guns tend to fetch a little more money then your standard B76, they can still be had at a decent price in the rare even they pop up for sale. If you find one, don’t hesitate to buy it.


Frame: Carbon steel
Slide: Carbon Steel
Unloaded weight: 42oz
Configuration: Single stack, SAO
Caliber: 32 Wadcutter
Barrel length: 5 1/2"
Approximate 2015 prices: $1500-$2000























I have added a Benelli MP3S in 9mm Luger to my collection. These is so extremely rare in this country that they could probably be counted with your two hands. It is very similar to the 32 Wadcutter version above, but it utilizes the B76's lever-delayed blowback design. The wadcutter is a straight blowback.

Here we have a very exotic, fixed barrel Italian 9mm with a great single action trigger. What’s not to love?


Frame: Carbon steel
Slide: Carbon Steel
Unloaded weight: 41oz
Configuration: Single stack, SAO
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel length: 5 1/2"
Approximate 2015 prices: $1500-$2000






















Beretta 92 Combat


This is another new addition to the guide. The Beretta 92 Combat is in some ways the ultimate Beretta target pistol. They were produced for a short time around the turn of the Millennium and were never actively imported into the states, making them extremely rare in this country. Its 40S&W sibling, the 96 Combat, was imported in small numbers.

The 92 Combat was Beretta’s 9mm IPSC pistol. They were built for speed and accuracy and came with many racy features such as front slide serrations, coarse checkering on the front and back strap, large adjustable sights, a large mag release button, and magazines with large rubber bases for easy control and protection from free dropping. The Combat also features a finely tuned SAO trigger and an accurizing barrel bushing around the end of the 150mm barrel. The barrel weight at the muzzle helps improve overall balance and handling. The large, frame mounted ambi safety is easy to reach and operate. The thin aluminum grips feature tacky texturing to further improve traction and control. Needless to say, the Combat has all the bells and whistles that a competitive shooter could hope for.

My opinion of this pistol is very positive. Its incredibly rare, which I love, but its also very exotic in appearance. The SAO trigger is much lighter than the heavy trigger on the Steel I below. I would have preferred it have a steel frame, but it still weighs in at 40oz, so its no lightweight. This example was built in 2001 and remains NIB. At the time of this writing, I have yet to get it to the range. I have fired a 96 Combat in the past and was very impressed.


Frame: Aluminum
Slide: Carbon Steel
Unloaded weight: 40oz
Configuration: Double stack, SAO
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel length: 5 7/8“
Approximate 2015 prices: $3000-$3500



















 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Beretta Steel I

The first and only Beretta I’m going to discuss in this guide is my 2005 Beretta Steel I. This pistol was built for two years only (2004 and 2005). Beretta introduced the gun as a special, high end version of the 92 and 96, meant mostly for range use. As with many other Berettas, the Steel I uses the tried and true falling block locking system, similar to a Walther P38 and P5.

The Beretta Steel I features a steel frame and Vertec grip. They also all had a frame mounted thumb safety. Many of them, including mine, also featured a SAO trigger. The finish on the pistol is some sort of nickel Teflon combination, which looks great and is very evenly done. This pistol is built to some high quality standards and I feel its a huge step up from the standard Beretta service guns. The black plastic grips are well checkered and the front and back strap are serrated, giving the shooter a secure grip on the pistol. This is a solid handgun. Weighing in at 43oz unloaded, its considerably heavier than most full size Government 1911s. The Steel I was available in 9mm and 40S&W, mine being the latter. Unfortunately, prices have really risen drastically in the last couple of years.

My overall impressions of the gun are good. I find it unique and very well made. The extra craftsmanship Beretta put into this pistol is clearly evident, which is why its listed in this guide. The safety is easy to operate. While the Steel I is much tighter, it still retains most of the standard pistol’s smoothness. The sights are rather small and non adjustable, but they work well enough. While I realize its not everyone’s favorite, the Vertec grip frame works well for me. I have two complaints about the Steel I, the first being functional and the other purely aesthetic. The Steel I’s trigger is less than ideal. Its far too heavy and makes precision target shooting difficult. I have no idea why Beretta would fit such a heavy trigger on a SAO pistol, but that’s where this gun is at. I would say without measuring, that its almost as heavy as an unmodified Browning Hi Power. While it can be lightened with some work, in stock form it partially ruins an otherwise outstanding handgun. My second complaint is regarding the unsightly warning stamped largely across the right side of the slide. On a lesser pistol, I wouldn’t give it a second thought, but it doesn’t belong on this one. If you can live with that and the trigger, the Steel I is a must have for the Beretta collector. However, be ready for some high asking prices, especially for the 9mm version.


Frame: Carbon steel
Slide: Carbon Steel
Unloaded weight: 43oz
Configuration: Double stack, SAO
Caliber: 40S&W
Barrel length: 4 5/8"
Approximate 2015 prices: $2500-$3500























Bernardelli Practical VB


Next up on our list of super exotic Italian weapons is this rare competition-bred pistol from Bernardelli. The Practical VB was built in the early to mid 1990's for a few years and was Bernardelli’s SAO sporting version of their DA/SA service pistol of the day, the P One. The VB was available with a wide array of options and could basically be custom ordered by the buyer. Options included different style triggers, different beavertails, and different compensators, different safeties, different slide stops, and different magazines releases. Bernardelli also offered a Practical VB Elite, which came standard with the biggest compensator, the largest controls, and some really goofy slide cuts that I don’t care for.

What you see here is a Practical VB that was bought by the previous owner at the 1992 SHOT show when it was introduced. Bernardelli was sure to spec it out with all the bells and whistles to include the extended beavertail, extended slide stop, extended thumb safety, enlarged mag release, and a larger multi-chamber compensator. This model also has the optional hard chrome finish and optional factory drilling for optics. Standard Practical VB attire includes large adjustable target sights, a big magazine funnel, and checkering on the front strap, back strap, and trigger guard. The grips are black plastic, which are carried over from the P One, but work well. The barrel is fairly long at 5.5". On my pistol, the compensator protrudes another full inch past that, making quite a long pistol. The Practical VB was supposedly available in 9mm, 40S&W, and 9x21. Unfortunately, mine is chambered in 40S&W, which I don’t care for. However, I guess it makes sense given the gun’s intended purpose back in the day. This was a unicorn pistol of mine for many years, due to its extreme rarity in the United States. There weren’t all that many built in the first place, so the numbers and availability are dwindling in Europe as well. This is not an easy gun to find by any means.

I personally love the the Practical VB and its wild and racy looks. Its a fun gun to shoot, despite being chambered in one of my least favorite rounds. I found accuracy to be impressive and recoil very minimal. The trigger is good, but not great. However, its a good deal better then the Beretta’s trigger above. The ergonomics are great and it reminds me of a 1911 quite a bit. The grip frame is relatively thin, despite being double stack, and the pistol is thin through the slide as well. Build quality is solid, but not quite on par with most of the other Italian firearms listed here. I would call the quality and fitting good, while most of the others listed here from this country are great to exceptional. That does little to dampen my spirits about the Practical VB. I love the rarity and I love the way it shoots. This pistol just screams “cool factor”. If you can find one, I recommend picking one up. They are one of the most affordable pistols in the guide.


Frame: Carbon steel
Slide: Carbon Steel
Unloaded weight: 39oz
Configuration: Double stack, SAO
Caliber: 40S&W
Barrel length: 5 1/2"
Approximate 2015 prices: $800-$1200












 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Delta AR Top Gun

This next entry into the Italian armada, is the ultra-exotic Delta AR Top gun. These guns were designed in the mid 1990‘s by two Italian men. Production started in 1998 and continued until the mid 2000's. They were built in extremely limited numbers. I’d be surprised if more than 150-200 were ever made and most of those are in the hands of collectors overseas. Due to extreme rarity, its not something you’re ever going to see locally. As time goes on, the likelihood of ever seeing one will become that much slimmer. I’m not fully clear on its intended purpose, other than being a single action target pistol. The Delta did win pistol of the year in one 1998 publication in Europe shortly after its introduction. It also underwent several changes over the years of its production from that point forward. The Top Gun was available in 9mm, 40S&W, and 45ACP, with mine being the 45 version.

These pistols are entirely hand built with great care and the quality reflects that.. As you can see, it has a wild look to it and that’s mostly due to the big curvy trigger guard. The design uses the same roller locking system that the old CZ 52 used. Those familiar with the CZ 52 probably noticed some similarities immediately. Internally they look remarkably similar. The Delta is just built to extreme high standards of quality while the CZ 52 is very crude by comparison. My pistol is from the first year of production and uses a top eject, while later versions switched to side ejection. Controls are completely ambidextrous, to include the slide stop, thumb safety, and mag release. The trigger is fully adjustable in every which way. It actually has four different adjustment screws. The back of the slide is finely checkered at what appears to be at least 40 lines per inch. The frame of mine is aluminum with a carbon steel slide. The finish is a matte nickel with polished nickel flats. The wood grips are nicely checkered and meet in the back. Both the front strap and the top of the slide are neatly serrated. The beavertail does a great job making the pistol comfortable in hand. The adjustable rear sights are large and give a fine picture on target. The barrel is an even 5" in length. In the extreme rare event one of these pops up for sale, they don’t sell for cheap, with prices approaching the $4000 range.

My overall impressions of the Top Gun are good, but its not without its flaws. First and foremost, the build quality is outstanding, both internally and externally. Its a very tightly built pistol. Its really a gem in that regard. I love its aesthetics that just scream exotica. Its the only pistol I own that is completely symmetrical on both sides. Save for a barely noticeable cut out on the left side of the slide for the thumb safety, this pistol is perfectly symmetrical with all controls, take down levers, grip screws, etc. Even the main roll markings are identical on both sides. I find that incredibly cool, since its so rare to see. At the range, I found the gun perfectly reliable with ball ammo and quite accurate. My complaint about the Top Gun is the ejection pattern, which tends to throw brass into the shooter’s face when shooting offhand. As I mentioned, the Top Gun was a pistol that evolved during its production. I have a first year model that has the top ejection. I don’t think that was around long due to this brass to face issue. Most of these pistols had an ejection port on the side. While that takes away the pistol’s perfect symmetry I just spoke of, it does solve the problem. Since parts can not be replaced and I’m not going to shoot the pistol much to begin with, the top eject is fine. I like the extra rarity it gives the gun (as if its not rare enough already) and I love the look. The top eject does not hurt the ejection reliability, as it has functioned perfectly. My other complaint is the aluminum frame, which makes the gun a bit top heavy, due to the thick and heavy slide. I think a gun of this quality should be all steel to begin with and the extra weight would also improve the balance and reduce the felt recoil. Later models did have steel frames, which was part of the evolution the gun went through. What I have is a beautiful and rare first year version of a very exotic pistol. Since its not a gun I intend to shoot a bunch, I’m very happy with it. If I were to recommend one of these to another shooter, I would tell them to find a later gun with the steel frame and side eject port. The last thing I’ll mention is the trigger. Much like a Series 80 Colt 1911, the trigger’s first order of business is the firing pin safety, which definitely affects the crispness of the break. Despite the fact that it is adjustable every way imaginable, it just can’t compete with the triggers of some other pistols in this guide. The bottom line is that the Top Gun is an extremely well made gun and a bit unlike anything else I own. Its not much of a shooter for me, so I can live with its shortcomings. While its no slouch at the range, its a gun I'd rather just gaze at and admire. This is one of the rarest pistols in the guide.


Frame: Aluminum
Slide: Carbon Steel
Unloaded weight: 35oz
Configuration: Double stack, SAO
Caliber: 45ACP
Barrel length: 5"
Approximate 2015 prices: $3500-$4000























I recently added a steel frame blued Delta AR Top Gun to the collection. This one was built in 2003 and is also chambered in 45ACP. Unlike my model above, this Delta has an ejection port on the side of the slide. The thumb safety on this model also has a more positive and study feel to it as compared to my earlier Top Gun. The wood grips are a slight bit thicker as well.

As eluded to above, the steel frame and side ejection greatly improve the gun’s shootability. Recoil is less and there is no tendency to throw brass into the shooter’s face. I’m not a big fan of shooting my aluminum model, but this is one I can spend a good deal of time with at the range.


Frame: Carbon Steel
Slide: Carbon Steel
Unloaded weight: 43oz
Configuration: Double stack, SAO
Caliber: 45ACP
Barrel length: 5"
Approximate 2015 prices: $3500-$4000













 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Pardini GT9


Now I’m moving to one of my all time favorite shooters. The Pardini GT9 was introduced back in the late 1990‘s/early 2000‘s and is still being built at the time of this writing. Production was always limited, so they’re very slim on the used market and I’m not sure about new production availability either. Pardini is much more known for their rimfire competition pistols. However, their centerfire pistols are outstanding. There is also a GT40 and a GT45 available for those who prefer a different caliber. For those who prefer a different color scheme, there are others to choose from.

The Pardini GT9 is a competition-bred pistol in every way. The swept back grip angle keeps the bore axis extremely low. The low profile adjustable sights complement the grip angle perfectly. The beavertail allows a high grip and coupled with the trigger reach, give the shooter about the closest thing to perfect ergonomics I’ve ever witnessed. The large, easy to reach, and perfectly weighted ambidextrous thumb safety is among the best in my entire collection. The grips themselves are simple thin wood panels with some nicely done cross hatch checkering. The front and back strap are checkered and the trigger guard and trigger itself are both nicely serrated. The design of the GT9 is straight forward and not really unusual in any way. One notable aspect of the design is that the slide rides inside the frame, much like a Sig P210 or CZ 75. The dustcover runs the entire length of the pistol and the frame rails reach all the way out to the very end of the barrel on my example, which undoubtedly aides accuracy. The current production models don’t have dustcovers quite as long for whatever reason, but mine was built back in 2002. Field stripping the GT9 is very easy, making it an exotic pistol that is simple to clean and maintain, which is a bonus because many of them aren't. The frame is aluminum, but thick and heavy duty. Everything about the GT9 is overbuilt, including the thick, heavy barrel. The pistol weighs in at 38oz.

My impression of the GT9 is probably clear already. This gun is truly outstanding. The trigger is fully adjustable and quite possibly the best in this guide. There is a small amount of take up and it then breaks with about 2lbs of pressure and no creep at all. The ergonomics are among the best in the business. The controls are perfect and the build quality is just amazing. I would say accuracy is as good as any pistol in this guide. Its so easy to perform well with this pistol that it almost feels like cheating. All that being said, possibly the best aspect of the GT9 is one I have yet to mention. The gun is literally the smoothest and slickest pistol I ever owned or shot. The slide to frame fit is like glass. The controls are precise, yet very smooth. The magazine falls freely. When firing the GT9, you can’t even feel the slide move at all. This is a pistol in which all parts and aspects work together in perfect harmony. As mentioned, even the breakdown for cleaning is effortless. This gun is in my top five or possibly even my top three favorite shooters, which says a great deal in this company. Its about as close to perfection as it gets and I struggle to find any fault with it whatsoever. I wholeheartedly recommend it to others and have been for many years.


Frame: Aluminum
Slide: Carbon Steel
Unloaded weight: 38oz
Configuration: Double stack, SAO
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel length: 5"
Approximate 2015 prices: $2000-$3000























Tanfoglio Witness Limited


The last entry for Italy comes in the way of this SAO competition pistol from Tanfoglio. As many probably know, this pistol uses the tried and true CZ 75 design. Tanfoglio made a number of different models over the years, to include some very basic service models all the way up to some expensive full blown race pistols. The Limited is one of the higher end models, hence its entry into this guide. These were available in a wide array of calibers, this one being 38 Super.

This pistol is standard with all the bells and whistles you would expect on an IPSC ready handgun. Features include an extended safety, an extended mag release, a beavertail, a large mag funnel, and adjustable target sights. The front strap and back strap of the limited are also nicely checkered and the frame is factory drilled for optics. Being a CZ clone, the ergonomics are superb and the gun is easy to shoot well. The trigger is crisp and light. Without measuring, it appears to break between 3 and 4lbs. This pistol is not unlike the earlier discussed CZ 75 Tactical Sport. They both have the same flavor and feel similar in hand. They are virtually the same size, though oddly the Limited’s barrel is a quarter inch shorter. This is no lightweight and weighs in at a hefty 45oz empty. The finish is hard chrome.

I think its a decent pistol, but not nice as the CZ. Likewise, quality is probably the lowest of the Italian pistols in this guide. Obviously, that’s all relative, because the Limited is certainly a good quality pistol. Its just among some very tough company. As mentioned, ergonomics are outstanding. I actually like the grip a bit better than the CZ Tactical Sport. I haven’t shot this gun in quite a while, but accuracy was always good. The only real complaint I have about the pistol is the very awkward thumb safety. Its large, but the shape of it is not conducive to easy operation. It also doesn’t have that precise, positive feel that many others do in this guide. As a range pistol, its not a big deal for me, but its definitely worth mentioning. Overall, I feel its a very good gun, but I can’t recommend it over the similarly priced CZ Tactical Sport.


Frame: Carbon steel
Slide: Carbon Steel
Unloaded weight: 45oz
Configuration: Double stack, SAO
Caliber: 38 super
Barrel length: 5"
Approximate 2015 prices: $800-$1200













 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Switzerland



As many would probably guess, Swiss handguns are all but synonymous with high end and/or exotic. The country is known for outstanding craftsmanship and precision building inside and outside the firearms industry.





ASAI One Pro

With that being said, we are starting off with a pistol that is borderline. I was on the fence for a while deciding whether or not to include it in this guide. Obviously, I decided to in the end. The ASAI One Pro was built for a short period of time in the late 1990‘s. ASAI stands for Advanced Small Arms Industries and they were imported by Magnum Research in very limited numbers. All the models imported were 45ACP, I believe.

This pistol’s basic design is that of a CZ75, though its not an exact clone. The One Pro is a much beefier and heavier pistol, weighing in at a full 40oz empty. Quality is very good, but certainly not on par with the other Swiss pistols in this guide. The finish is a smooth grayish coating that looks nice. The grips are black plastic and the front strap and back strap are stippled. One of the One Pro’s best features is the outstanding double action trigger, which is incredibly light and smooth. Its almost too light for defensive purposes, despite the long pull. The SA trigger is also very light, but suffers from excessive creep. The thumb safety is simply a decocker on the One Pro. Ergonomically speaking, the this handgun is good, though balance is not as nice as the thinner, lighter CZ75, in my opinion. Not surprisingly, the One Pro is an accurate pistol, which is typical for the design.

I’ve had this one for over two years at the time of this writing and shot it once. For whatever reason, I can’t get the pistol apart to clean it. It is supposed to disassemble the same way as a CZ75, of course, but try as I might, the I can’t get the slide stop to budge. In talking to another owner, I’m not alone with this dilemma. If I could clean the gun, I’d obviously shoot it more and have a better opinion of it. Its a soft shooter despite being 45ACP and having a fairly high bore axis. As it stands, we have a high quality, all steel, heavy duty Swiss pistol that I can’t recommend to others. I will update this guide if and when that situation changes, as I’m determined to find a solution.


Frame: Carbon steel
Slide: Carbon steel
Unloaded weight: 40oz
Configuration: Double stack, DA/SA
Caliber: 45ACP
Barrel length: 3 3/4"
Approximate 2015 prices: $800-$1200
























Sig P210-1

If there was ever a pistol that embodied the best of post war, European craftsmanship, its this Swiss gem. The Sig P210 has been around since the late 1940's and was actually the only handgun Sig ever built before partnering with Sauer of Germany in the early 1970's. This gun was a military and service pistol that doubled as a target pistol due to its incredible inherent accuracy and build quality. Once its military and service careers were over, the P210 became exclusively a target pistol. In my opinion, the Sig P210 combines quality, accuracy, and military/service pedigree like no other pistol ever built. The parts are of very high quality. While the design is rather slim, the pistol is extremely tough and durable, made to withstand thousands of rounds of NATO spec 9mm. The slide and frame are machined out of solid steel blocks, making production quite expensive and eventually leading to its replacement. The P210‘s service life in the Swiss Military lasted from the late 1940‘s when it replaced the Luger until 1975 when it was replaced by the first Sig Sauer pistol, the P220.

The P210 is heavily based on a design by Charles Petter. However, in the P210, the slide rides inside the frame and is fit with a high degree of precision and rigidity, which aids accuracy. I find the hand position when shooting the pistol to be excellent. The grip is comfortable and the grip angle is near perfect. The bore axis is quite low. The controls are a bit difficult to operate, especially if you aren’t used to it. The mag release is on the heel of the grip frame and they tend to be very stiff. The safety is difficult to reach without altering your grip and its also stiff. While these factors remind you how well built and heavy duty the P210 is, they can detract a bit from the allure of the gun if you intend to use it for anything other than the range.

My personal collection of Swiss Sig P210s consists of four models. The first variant I’m going to discuss is the P210-1, which is the commercial version of the military pistol. It has the military trigger and sights, but is equipped with nice wood grips and a beautiful polished blue finish. Just picking up the gun and you know you’re looking at old world Swiss firearm's quality at its absolute finest. The sights are small and the SAO trigger has some take up. The break is heavier than the target P210s, but certainly not bad. As eluded to above, the gun is not without some faults. While I love the shooting position, the hammer can bite those with larger hands. Also, the ergonomics of the controls leave much to be desired. Still, all that is part of the pistol’s charm in my eyes.

My overall opinion of the P210-1 is one of great admiration. The gun you see here was built in 1954 and just exudes quality in spades. The magazine alone is built better than many pistols, even many good pistols I own. If I want to shoot a P210 at the range, the -1 is generally not what I’m reaching for, since the target models are much better for that purpose. I bought this one more as an object of my desire than I did as an actual shooter. It performs well at the range, but can’t quite match the modern P210s. Its akin to a vintage 1950's Ferrari up against a modern day model.


Frame: Carbon steel
Slide: Carbon steel
Unloaded weight: 34oz
Configuration: Single stack, SAO
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel length: 4 3/4"
Approximate 2015 prices: $3000-$4000













 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Sig P210-6

I’ll now discuss one of the sporting variants of the P210. The -6 model featured a much improved target trigger and, most of the time, it was equipped with larger adjustable sights. The front strap was serrated and the wood grips were generally supplied by Nill of Germany. The later P210-6 models were even equipped with a heavier frame to add balance and stability.

My personal collection includes three examples of this stellar pistol. The first is an early model from 1967. Its got a forged frame, adjustable target sights, and is without a doubt the nicest P210. I own. The second is from 1993 and has standard military style sights, and the third was built in 2003 and was basically the culmination of Swiss P210 development. It has is has all the bells and whistles to include the heavy frame and adjustable sights. The trigger on the -6 model is far superior to that of the military or early commercial models, with a much shorter, lighter, and crisper pull.

In my opinion, this is the model to buy if you’re looking for a Swiss P210 to shoot at the range. Either the -6 or the longer barreled -5 are much better range pistols than the mil-spec variants. The P210-6 is undoubtedly one of the world’s most accurate handguns and they ship with test targets with 6-shot groups, 50 meter groups of 2" or less. I’ve seen test targets under an inch and a half.

In conclusion, I’ll say that the P210 is a must have for anyone with interest in high end European pistols. I find the aesthetics beautiful and the build quality is immediately evident the first time you pick one up. Take it apart and marvel at its parts fitting. While the Legend has a few advantages, mentioned earlier in the guide, I feel the Swiss models are the embodiment of old world quality and craftsmanship. While the old P210-1 is beautiful, I will recommend getting one with larger, target style adjustable sights, which will help you take full advantage of the pistol’s stellar accuracy capabilities. Unlike many other pistols in this thread, the P210 is one that can be found without too much trouble.


Frame: Carbon steel
Slide: Carbon steel
Unloaded weight: 34oz - 38oz (depending on standard or heavy frame)
Configuration: Single stack, SAO
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel length: 4 3/4"
Approximate 2015 prices: $3000 - $5000






























 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Sphinx AT2000S

Despite the incredible quality level and history of the Sig P210, I think the Sphinx 2000 series are my favorite Swiss pistols. They have not been built since the 1990‘s, but there’s just something special about them, in my opinion. I own two of the series and the first one we’re going to discuss is the standard full size AT2000S.

The AT2000S is a CZ 75 clone built to extremely high standards of quality. The materials, parts fitting, and refinement are stellar and they really embody fine Swiss firearms craftsmanship. The AT2000S features an ambidextrous safety and slide release, and red dot combat style sights. The front strap and back strap are finely checkered. The black grips are a made of a tacky rubber-like material called neoprene, which are also checkered and feel great in hand. The pistol is very tight and well machined. In typical CZ 75 fashion, the ergonomics are superb. These guns were finished a variety of ways. Mine has the optional Palladium plating on the slide, but most of them have the classic blued slide, which also looks great. The frame is stainless steel. The AT2000S also came all blued with a carbon steel frame, but those are very few and far between. The trigger is DA/SA, but has none of the creep of the CZ 75. Its very crisp and precise.

I highly recommend this pistol, as you may have already guessed. They are the finest pistols ever to use the already excellent CZ design. Unfortunately, they are exceedingly difficult to find these days, even on Gunbroker. When they do pop up, they are bringing big money. There is also a 3000 Series of pistols which look a bit different, but are built to the same high quality levels. The attention to detail on these guns is at a super high level.


Frame: Stainless steel
Slide: Carbon steel
Unloaded weight: 37oz
Configuration: Double stack, DA/SA
Caliber: 9mm
Barrel length: 4 1/2"
Approximate 2015 prices: $2000-$3000























Sphinx Competitor

The Sphinx Competitor is a race oriented pistol built on the AT2000 platform. Its main difference is the extended barrel and the compensator. The sights are also different with a Bo-Mar rear adjustable sight and a dovetailed front sight. For those that would rather use optics, the Competitor is factory drilled and also comes with a mount. Other than the tapped holes, the frame is identical to the AT2000S, to include the front and back strap checkering and it wears the same black neoprene grips. The slide on the Competitor is the classic Sphinx bluing, which is smooth, evenly done, and looks great. The slide on the Competitor does not feature the serrations of the AT2000S, but rather some checkering at the very back, which is fairly easy to grasp. The trigger is identical to the AT2000S, though Sphinx did have a SAO variant in the 2000 Series.

Once again, I highly recommend this pistol. It is a very accurate pistol and extremely soft shooting, due to its heavy, 41oz weight and compensator. The ergonomics are superb, just like the AT2000S. The large sights make it easy to pick up the target. Field stripping this pistol takes slightly longer than the AT2000S, because you have to unscrew the finely threaded compensator before removing the barrel. The Competitor is nearly impossible to find, so I really have no reference for the price on today’s market. I made an educated guess at what I think they would bring today, which is about the same as the standard gun.


Frame: Stainless steel
Slide: Carbon steel
Unloaded weight: 41oz
Configuration: Double stack, DA/SA
Caliber: 9mm
Approximate 2015 prices: $2000-$3000













 
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