4 Best Tactical Pistols [2020 Update]

Today I’m going to show you the best tactical pistol.

In fact:

I’ve hand-tested over 20 handguns alone for this review.

The best part?

I’ve sorted each pistol by use. So whether you’re on a budget or willing to splurge, you’ll find a side-arm that works best for you.

Let’s dive in!

The 4 Best Tactical Pistols

If you’re pressed on time, here’s a quick list of the best tactical pistols:

  1. Colt 1911: Best 9mm Tactical Pistol
  2. Glock 19: Best Service Pistol
  3. FN 5.7: Best Lightweight Pistol
  4. Sig Sauer M17: Best Combat Pistol

1. Colt 1911: Best 9mm Tactical Pistol

Colt’s 1911 is the best tactical 9mm pistol on the market.

A ton of manufacturers have made 1911s in the past, but Colt’s truly is the best.

It offers accuracy, reliability, and high-performance at an affordable price.

What makes Colt’s 1911 special?

Let’s find out.


Accuracy

Colt’s 1911 is very accurate, especially with short/medium distance shooting.

I shot consistently small groups, ranging from 1” – 2.75”. In fact, my overall average was under 2”.

In the front, it features a blue, fiber-optic Novak sight.

The rear Bomer-style sight is adjustable for both elevation and windage.

It’s also snag resistant, so it won’t catch on any clothing.

It is a little less accurate with longer distances (my average group from 20 yards was around 3”).

But, it’s designed for close encounters and gives perfectly acceptable accuracy for this.


Reliable

The Colt 1911 performed well with all FMJ ammo tested.

I had no problems feeding, extracting, or ejecting over 500 FMJ rounds.

This is very important for a tactical pistol.

You’re probably going to be using this for self-defense, and you don’t want any malfunctions in a high-stakes scenario.

While FMJ ammo ran fine, I did have problems using some types of JHP.

Many 1911’s are sensitive when it comes to the type of ammo you use, and this one is no different.

I had some issues with the pistol double-feeding certain JHP rounds, so I stuck with mostly FMJ after that.

If you use the right ammo, you shouldn’t have any issues.


Handling

The grip is very thin and easy to hold tightly.

It’s a G10 checkered blue grip with scalloping.

The steel frame also features 25 LPI checkering on the front and rear.

The fairly aggressive checkering and serrated mainspring housing help enhance your grip, and it also comes standard with a large palm bump to ensure positive activation.

Both the extended thumb safety and the slide stop are easy to manipulate.

The slide stop is easy to insert, which is a bonus you don’t see often.


Trigger

When I first started using the Colt 1911, the trigger pull was around 6 lbs.

Once I broke it in a little bit, this went down to an even 4 lbs.

It’s a smooth, crisp trigger with little take-up and a short reset.

There is no discernable creep or overtravel at all.

Right out of the box, it’s a very good trigger that is perfectly acceptable for both competition and personal use.

It also allows for quick follow-up shots.


Magazine & Reloading

The 1911’s magazines have a capacity of 9+1.

They drop free once the release button is pressed, and so fast reloading is a piece of cake.

The magazine release is both checkered and easy to reach.

Scalloping/grooves on the left side right behind the release makes it easy for right-handed shooters to activate with the thumb of their firing hand.

The magwell is extended, further enabling quick reloading.

For competition use, the ability to reload quickly is very important.

With the Colt 1911, you won’t have any issues as far as loading speed goes.


Length & Weight

Overall, this pistol is 8.5”. The barrel length accounts for 5” of this.

Empty, the gun weighs around 40 oz, about as heavy as a 1 L water bottle.

It’s not very lightweight, but it is a full-size handgun that’s still light enough to conceal easily.


Recoil Management

This handgun features a dual recoil spring system that can last up to 10,000 rounds without needing replacement.

The heavier weight also helps to mitigate recoil and any muzzle flip.

These features combined make for very gentle shooting.

The dual springs make recoil smoother and softer, and less muzzle rise means quicker follow-up shots.

I had no problems whatsoever managing felt recoil with Colt’s 1911.


Ammo Recommendations

As noted, the right ammo means everything with 1911s.

I had very good groupings (under 2”) using Hornady 115-grain Critical Defense FTX rounds.

If you’re looking for something a little less expensive, SIG 115-grain 365 Elite Ball FMJ also gave great results and is optimized especially for short-barreled guns.


Recommended Accessories

There are no accessory rails mounted on this 1911, so that’s a downside if you like to mount lots of lights and other optics.

It’s still important to get a holster if you’re going to be using it for concealed carry or competition.

I got one from Crossbreed Holsters that’s very durable and comfortable.


Colt 1911 Review: Is It Worth It?

At $899, Colt provides a very affordable and desirable 1911.

It gives high-quality performance and is perfect for both competition and self-defense use.

Colt’s 1911 offers numerous desirable features, including:

  • Accuracy
  • Low recoil
  • Easy to use controls

In other words:

It’s a quality pistol at a reasonable price. So if you’re looking for a high quality yet affordable 1911, this one is perfect.


2. Glock 19: Best Service Pistol

Glock is easily one of the most well known names in pistols.

But does the Glock 19 live up to its name?

I wasn’t sure. So I bought the handgun and tested everything from reliability to handling.

Let’s take a look at the results…


Accuracy

At short range, the Glock 19 did as well as you’d expect from a service pistol.

However, at longer distances (upwards of 25 yards) there wound up being a lot of variance in accuracy.

The quality of the ammo had a lot to do with how accurate the firearm was. If you’re looking for significant accuracy at a longer range that still packs a punch, you’d be better off looking into something like a .45 ACP Carbine.


Reliability

The Glock 19 is about as reliable as it gets.

It’s part of what makes it such a common service pistol. Even after running hundreds of rounds through a wide variety of ammo, it jammed only once. This is probably because the loose tolerances used in the pistol’s construction.

The only downside to this is that it could be part of what contributed to the variance in accuracy at long range.

So I guess it just really comes down to which factor is more important to you, and what you intend to use it for most often.


Trigger

The trigger pull on the Glock 19 is not too bad.

Even though it’s heavier than I’d have liked it to be, at 5.5lbs it was fairly smooth.The shape of the trigger guard can be a bit difficult to work with because of its odd shape.

Some recommend shaving down the top and bottom of the junction where the trigger guard meets the grip to make it a little more comfortable to shoot.

But I think the better option here would be to swap out the stock trigger system with an aftermarket one such as the Ghost 3.5 Ultimate Trigger (more on this below).


Magazine & Reloading

The Glock 19 holds a 15 + 1 round magazine and comes with 3 full sized magazines out of the box. The flared magwell made reloading a breeze.

The biggest issue is the cutout they have placed on the front of the magazine well. I’m not sure what the purpose of this was supposed to be — perhaps to aid in releasing a sticky magazine.

But in reality, all it did was consistently pinch my fingers in the gap it creates.


Handling

This gun is remarkably easy to handle and conceal.

One major pro to the design is the Rough Textured Grip they’ve introduced in some of the more recent generations of the model.

For me, it significantly improved my grip. Some may complain that the surface is too rough for those with softer hands, but I found the extra traction to be a huge bonus 🙂


Length & Weight

For the punch this pistol is packing, it’s fairly compact.

The Glock 19 measures in at an overall length of 7.25” with a 4” barrel length and weighs in at just under 24oz with an empty magazine.


Recoil Management

The recoil was more intense than I was expecting.

However, the addition of the dual-recoil spring assembly in the newer generations has helped considerably to reduce the recoil. Any double action pistol is going to have a heavier recoil than a single action.

The added spring assembly not only helps reduce the recoil, but in turn also helps improve shooting accuracy.


Ammo Recommendations

As I mentioned earlier, I saw a significant difference in performance depending on the ammo I used.

Most guns seem to take a liking to certain brands over others.

Hands down the best one I tested that gave the best accuracy and reliability was the Hornady 135gr +P Critical Duty, which managed to get me a spread of 2” at 25 yards.

This was followed closely by the Lehigh Defense 90gr +P Xtreme Defense and the Hornady 124gr +P Critical Duty, both of which had a spread of 2.25”.


Price

The Glock 19 will cost you between $500 – $600. Not bad considering what you’re getting.


Recommended Accessories

Glock is one of the most customizable pistols out there. Hence why it’s one of the best service pistols.

There are some incredible aftermarket products that can be added on to make this gun perform exactly the way you want it to.

Here are the best Glock 19 accessories I’d recommend:

  • Grip/Plug Insert – Remember that pesky little gap I mentioned that kept pinching my fingers? Turns out it was enough of a problem for most shooters that they made a new plug specifically for it. Your pinched fingers will thank you.
  • Trigger System – I recommend the Ghost 3.5 Ultimate Trigger. It’ll lower the trigger pull down to around 2lbs instead of 5.5lbs. Another plus side? It’s self cleaning!

Glock 19 Review: Is It Worth It?

Even though there are some cons to the Glock 19, all in all, I definitely stand behind this pistol. Here’s why:

  • Great close range accuracy
  • Easy handling and concealability
  • Extensive customization options
  • Flared magazine well for easy reloading

For a gun with all these features, especially one backed by the reliability of the Glock name, you’re getting a steal for under $600.


3. FN 5.7: Best Lightweight Pistol

The FN 5.7 is the perfect lightweight pistol.

Though it’s been out for many years, it’s mostly flown under the radar due to its high price and unusual 5.7x28mm cartridge.

This handgun has almost everything you could ask for in a pistol.

But is it worth over $1,000?

Let’s find out.


Accuracy

The FN 5.7 is astoundingly accurate.

My average 5-shot grouping from 25 yards was just 1.7”.

Practical accuracy is great, and it’s easy to hit silhouettes from 100 yards.Way more than acceptable for a service pistol.

Both the front and rear sights are 3-dot, and the rear sight is adjustable for both windage and elevation. This is great for using varied weights of ammo, because you can adjust the sight as needed for peak accuracy.

In fact, the 5.7 is more accurate than most similar pistols — especially at long range.


Reliable

This is a pistol you can completely rely on.

Out of my 500+ rounds fired, I’ve had no failures to feed, no jamming, no malfunctions whatsoever.

NATO testing proves the 5.7’s complete reliability, and there are no known widespread reliability issues.

This is a pistol you can count on in a life or death situation.


Handling

The rounded, checkered polymer grip on this pistol is very wide and long from front to back.

This is due to the longer-than-average ammo needed to fit into the magazine.

The texturing and contouring on the polymer frame provides a comfortable, secure grip. All the controls are within reach with a normal grip.

The grip texturing is very aggressive, so much so that it’ll leave impressions on your hand if you grip it tight enough.

The front and rear slide serrations, as well as the rear “wings”, make the slide very easy to grip, and a one-finger groove below the trigger guard locks your finger into position.

If you have smaller hands, the wide grip might be a bit uncomfortable at first. But, this just takes some getting used to.


Trigger

The trigger pull is a light and consistent 6 lbs.

It’s crisp, clean, and has an almost instantaneous reset with an audible and tactile “click.”

There’s about 0.1” of take-up, and no over-travel whatsoever.

The 5.7 has an excellent trigger, surprisingly excellent for a service pistol, and the combination of softness and a short reset help maintain your shooting accuracy.

The manual safety, however, is a bit unconventional.

It’s an ambidextrous, forward-mounted safety where, if you place your trigger finger higher up on the barrel, you can’t use your left thumb to deactivate the safety.

The best way I’ve found to flip the safety is with your trigger finger.

This is both a pro and a con — it forces trigger discipline, but you don’t want it to hold you up in a serious situation.


Magazine & Reloading

Each full sized magazine holds 20 rounds, and it comes with three in the box.

The magazine release is very fast.

It comes standard on the left side, but can easily be reversed to the right. It’s in a location that allows you to hit it with the middle finger of your dominant hand and release the mag.

It’s very easy and quick to load by hand, due to the same double-stack magazine design used in AR mags.

How do you load it?

From the top, you just push the bullet in until it clicks. Repeat until full.

All the important controls are ambidextrous, so nothing is holding you up in terms of reloading.


Length & Weight

The FN 5.7 is 8.2” overall, and the barrel length is 4.8”.

The best part?

It weighs a mere 23 ounces.

This is slightly lighter than the Glock 17, and about the same weight as a regular basketball. It’s incredibly lightweight and very easy to carry.


Recoil Management

Due to the efficient cartridge and the blowback design, there’s a VERY small amount of recoil with the 5.7.

Muzzle flip is no problem at all, and this little pistol is very controllable.


Ammo Recommendations

5.7x28mm caliber ammo is pretty pricey, and hard to come by. It may be best to order it online.

I’ve had the best results with FN’s SS197SR Sporting Round. However, expect to pay around $30-40 for a box of 50.

If you’re on a budget, you might want to try American Eagle 40-grain Full Metal Jacket.

It’s still on the expensive side, but this one will cost you a little less at $25 for a box of 50.

But be aware: it’s made for practice, not self-defense or match purposes.


Recommended Accessories

The 5.7 has a 1913 Picatinny, under-nose accessory rail that’s perfect for tactical lights and lasers.

That said, here are the best FN 5.7 accessories I’d recommend:

  1. Blade-Tech holster: For easy carry.
  2. Mag Carrier: Since these magazines are pretty big, it’s helpful to have some carriers.
  3. Trijicon HD Night Sights: The standard sights are decent, but these are better for nighttime shooting.
  4. Streamlight 69260 TLR-1 Light: With all the room for optics, why not? This is also great for late night or darker environments.

FN 5.7 Review: Is It Worth It?

The FN 5.7 is a very, very high-quality pistol that is fun and comfortable to shoot, easy to operate, and great for defensive use.

And like the Daniel Defense DDM4 V7P 300, it’s lightweight, accurate, and reliable.

To recap, here are it’s best features:

  • Recoil is nearly non-existent.
  • Magazines are high capacity.
  • Accuracy is amazing.
  • It’s incredibly lightweight.

The downside here is the price.

This pistol retails for around $1,400. That’s pretty darn expensive. The ammo is expensive as well.

But honestly, if your budget allows it, I’d say it’s the perfect splurge purchase.


4. Sig Sauer M17: Best Combat Pistol

Sig Sauer’s M17 is the perfect combat-grade pistol.

In fact:

The U.S. military has adopted it as one of their official service sidearms. And guess what? The civilian version is almost functionally identical to the military version.

It’s accurate, reliable, and very competitively priced.

What can this pistol do for you?

Keep reading to find out.


Accuracy

The civilian version of the M17 has proven to be just as accurate as the military version and produces consistently good groups.

From 25 yards, my average 5-shot group was less than 2 inches.

It comes standard with SIGLITE night sights, which provide an excellent picture. It also includes an optic-ready removable plate in the rear for red-dot use.

The M17 offers very impressive accuracy for a service pistol. You’ll be able to easily hit whatever you’re aiming at.


Reliable

The M17 is durable and reliable, which is a big part of why the U.S. Army uses it.

I’ve shot over 2,000 rounds through mine, and it functions perfectly. No failures to feed, chamber, fire, or eject whatsoever.

Since the civilian version is so similar to the military pistol, reliability and durability are inherent.

You don’t have to clean it often to maintain reliability, and it’ll feed any ammo you give it.


Handling

The modular polymer grip sits on a sharper angle than most polymer pistols and fits the hand well.

The sandpaper-like grip texture is adequate, nothing too aggressive, but definitely noticeable.

The carry-length grip module is available in 3 different sizes to fit the shooter, and all controls are easily accessible from a firing grip.

Both the manual safety and the slide lock are ambidextrous and easy to use.

The M17 also features a removable chassis, allowing the shooter to easily change the grip size without using any tools.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind when it comes to the grip:

There’s a sharp edge on the takedown lever that can rub against your thumb, so you may need to modify your grip to account for this.

It’s also important to grip tightly to prevent the smaller beavertail from working its way under the web of your hand.

Minor inconveniences, but still worth noting.


Trigger

The trigger pull is a reasonable 6.5 lbs.

It’s short and fast with a rapid reset and easy pull. There’s a menial amount of takeup, but not anything to worry about.

The trigger consistently provides great results. No problems to report whatsoever.


Magazine & Reloading

The M17 ships with two 17 round magazines.

The mags are very simple to load and reload, and there’s no lingering when you eject an empty mag.

Magazines fall free and slide in nicely.

Why?

Metal mags in a polymer magazine release faster because they typically slide in and out very well, and the M17 is no exception.

You’ll have no problems reloading quickly when you need to.

Here’s the downside:

The magazine release isn’t ambidextrous.

If you’re left-handed, this might be an issue at first.

However, after a little practice, it’ll work fine.


Length & Weight

The overall length of the M17 is 8”, and the barrel length is 4.7”.

Empty, it weighs under 2 lbs at 29.6 oz.

Unloaded, it weighs about 2 oz less than a loaded Glock 17 or Glock 32.

Think about the weight of a pineapple. That’s how much the M17 weighs.

It’s very lightweight, making it easy to use for both open and concealed carry.


Recoil Management

The pistol’s grip helps mitigate recoil by spreading it across the hand rather than concentrating it in one area.

It doesn’t give much of a kick and is very controllable, even with high-recoil defensive ammo.


Ammo Recommendations

Here’s what I’d recommend using with your M17:

  • Federal 124-grain HST: Great for indoor range shooting and requires less cleaning than other ammo. Plus, it’s lead-free.
  • SIG 115-grain V-Crown: Dependable and predictable, my average grouping was around 1.5” using this.

If you’re on more of a budget, here are a couple of cheaper options:


Recommended Accessories

The M17 comes with a MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny rail, perfect for adding any lights, lasers, or optics you’d like.

I’d recommend:


Sig Sauer M17 Review: Is It Worth It?

The M17 is good enough for the U.S. Army (law enforcement), so it’s certainly adequate for a regular citizen.

It’s a very credible and relatively inexpensive handgun, selling for around $650 at most retailers.

To recap, here’s what you get with the civilian M17:

  • Accuracy
  • Stock night sights
  • Completely reliability
  • Easy operation and maintenance

The company cut no corners while creating the civilian version.

There’s nothing functionally different compared to the military version, and for $650, it’s very competitively priced.


Now It’s Your Turn

I hope you enjoyed my best tactical pistol guide.

So as a recap:

The Colt 1911 is the best 9mm tactical pistol. It offers accuracy, reliability, lower recoil, and high performance.

If you’re on a budget, I’d recommend getting the Glock 19. It’s affordable, accurate, and has a wide range of accessories.

However, if you’re willing to splurge, choose the FN 5.7. It’s lightweight, highly accurate, and reliable.

Lastly, if you’re looking for a solid combat pistol, purchase the Sig Sauer M17. It’s transition from the military to consumer product demonstrates its reliability, accuracy and ease of use.

All 4 of these pistols passed my exhaustive testing (over 500 rounds spent through each one) and proved to be reliable. Just pick one based on your need and budget.

Now I want to turn it over to you:

Which tactical pistol will you choose?

Let me know by leaving a quick comment down below.

Leave a Comment