5 Handguns You Should Shoot Before You Die

Singer Mfg. Model 1911A1 Serial Number 1 Semiautomatic Pistol

Continuing on with guns you MUST to shoot before you die, I feel like talking about handguns. There are a few handguns out there, like their rifle counterparts, that are too important or too good to not take the chance and throw some lead down range.


Singer Mfg. Model 1911A1 Serial Number 1 Semiautomatic Pistol
Considered the “Holy Grail” of all Model 1911A1 pistols: the Singer Model 1911A1 Serial Number “1” pistol.

I can’t think of a better place to start than the ever-important 1911—a pistol that has served the U.S. military in one capacity or another since its adoption in 1911. Designed by the legendary firearm savant John Moses Browning, it has been as reliable as a good dog to soldiers, law enforcement officers, and even legally armed citizens for over 100 years. The crisp trigger and short reset of the 1911 is one of the greatest pistol triggers and simply shouldn’t be missed. Never mind the all-too-often reference to the 1911 grip angle that some shooters have proclaimed as “the one.” Though I shoot other pistols a touch better, I myself find the trigger to be pretty good, but your mileage may vary.Click Here to Start Shopping Online at Cheaper Than Dirt

Click here to read more about the 1911.

Beretta 92FS (M9)

Beretta 92FS
THE Beretta M9 (92FS)

Since I started with the 1911, I couldn’t leave the 92FS off the list. Since I first saw Lethal Weapon in the theaters many moons ago, I knew I had to own one of these wonder nines. It has ridden shotgun with thousands of cops, most notably the LAPD, and been the companion of every soldier to serve since the Reagan administration. I love the Beretta 92 in spite of all the people that detest it for whatever misguided reason they may have. Go shoot one that isn’t worn out, and then tell me you hate it. The ergonomics are pretty darned good and it points pretty well. The fact that you can get 18-round flush-fit magazines for it makes for a pretty powerful package.Click Here to Start Shopping Online at Cheaper Than Dirt

Click here to read more about the Beretta 92.

Single Action Revolver in .45 Long Colt

Colt Single Action Army Sheriff's Model Revolver of Legendary Lawman Jeff Milton
Extremely Rare Factory Engraved Colt Single Action Army Sheriff’s Model Revolver of Legendary Lawman Jeff Milton.

How could I leave the revolver that helped win the west off my list? It would have been wrong and I would have applauded the first reader to call me a pudding brain. Shooting a nice replica of a Colt Single Action Army (AKA Peacemaker) is nothing short of a religious experience. The recoil is pleasant, with a gentle push and lift instead of being more snappy like a modern 9mm load or the ever-snappy .40 S&W. The trigger on many of the revolvers is damned near thought operated, offering the holy grail of crisp and light single-action triggers. With the cost of the original well into the couple of thousand-dollar range, it pays to take a look at some of the replicas such as the one from Cimarron—priced attractively at under $600 while still featuring those four distinctive clicks that spell out the word C-O-L-T.Click Here to Start Shopping Online at Cheaper Than Dirt

Click here to read more about the single-action revolver.

.357 Magnum Double-Action Revolver

A Smith & Wesson Model 27 .357 Magnum revolver, first produced in 1935.

I want more than anything to tell you to pick up a Model 19 or Model 27 and put a bunch of wadcutters through it, but I am sadly reminded that those are considered the classic line of revolvers these days. Instead, just about any K-frame Smith and Wesson revolver will do. (Please, for the love of God do not pick up a J-frame revolver in .357 Mag., and then tell me I am a bit slow for recommending a revolver in the powerful .357.) The .357 K-frame was the Glock of its day, being found on the hip of just about every cop on the street. The one-shot stop rate was much higher with these natural pointing firearms. Shoot one coming out of a holster and it is easy to see why. As soon as the pistol clears the holster it feels like an extension the arm, the trigger feels like it is riding on ball bearings until the crisp and predictable break lets one of those 158-grain projectiles fly at the target—striking the A box every time. Not only is it a wonderful shooting experience, but it makes me want to grow a pretty epic mustache.Click Here to Start Shopping Online at Cheaper Than Dirt

Click here to read more about the .357 Magnum cartridge.

Browning Buckmark

All Browning Buck Mark pistols are praised for their ergonomics.
All Browning Buck Mark pistols are praised for their ergonomics.

Being honest with you guys, I wanted to list the Ruger Mark series of pistols here, but Ruger, in its infinite wisdom, has decided it wants to make selling their guns incredibly hard for many retailers. The Browning Buckmark it is instead, still a solid choice, but not my first. Simple .22 pistols like the Buckmark have been used to introduce new shooters to handguns for generations and continue to do so for generations to come—this makes it a must shoot. My little .22 pistol is a constant companion for me when I hit the range. Not only do I shoot it better than any handgun I own, but also it allows me to work on the fundamentals without forking over .30 cents per trigger pull.Click Here to Start Shopping Online at Cheaper Than Dirt

There you have my choices for five handguns you have to shoot. I am sure there will be a part two because narrowing down the “must shoot” firearms is pretty hard. It seems that no matter the category I come up with, there are eight or so guns that I think are equally important and struggle with boiling it down to only five.

If you think I am wrong about one because it is just turrble let me know in the comments what I should I should have chosen and why.

Click here to read “5 Rifles You Should Shoot Before You Die.” Click here to read “5 Shotguns You Should Shoot Before You Die.”

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Comments (106)

  1. First new gun I ever bought was a model 36 Chiefs Special, less than $70.00 as I remember. Found a model 19 S&W in 357 at a local gun show.Guess the first owner didn’t like the kick as it looked like it was hardly used.Put a Hogue Monogrip on it. Shoots great.

  2. For those who asked about the Bren Ten, it is supposed to be re-introduced by an arms company called Vltor located in Tucson, AZ, possibly in 2016, and is said to be an exact remake of the original. If it matches the original, it will be destined to be one of the finest handguns ever made.

  3. A couple more for consideration:

    6. Desert Eagle in 44mag, or 50ae, if you prefer
    7. S&W X-Frames, either the 460 or 500 mags – incidentally, these are still on my to do list…

    1. Actually, the Schofield (correct spelling) full name is: S&W 1875 Schofield Top Break .45 Revolver, and was considered at the time to be more practical and advanced than the iconic Colt Peacemaker. The Peacemaker came into its own when it was produced in .44 caliber so it matched the Winchester and Henry lever-action .44 caliber rifles (an obvious advantage when their handgun and rifle used the same ammo).
      Currently, S&W did it again (more practical & advanced) with their introduction of their M&P series, smooth double-action only, striker fired, adjustable grips, great sights, good ergonomics, and just plain nice (and fun) to shoot in .40 S&W. And for those who appreciate a good subcompact “pocket pistol” the new Sig-Sauer P938 9mm is nothing less than great.
      I have owed or at least shot almost everyone of the handguns listed by those who have commented, and many not listed (ranging from the little Colt Jr. .25 ACP to the awe inspiring .50 cal. and a whole bunch in between) and fully appreciate the wide range of opinions. It would be boring as hell if we all liked exactly the same thing.

    2. My poor spelling do’es not alter the fact that there is no such thing as a .45 Long Colt. And I to have shot a lot of the listed guns and more that aren’t listed from the tiny .17 up to and including the 106 mm recoilless

    3. Mike Edwards. There is in fact a .45 Long Colt or LC. At 11.48x35R, it was called this to differentiate it from the . 45 Schofield, or Smith & Wesson, which is a shorter round, but could be chambered in .45 Colt Pistols.
      Go to buy ammo and ask for .45 Long Colt. A knowing clerk with bring you want you need and in most cases, the box will be marked .45 Long Colt or .45 LC. If you want to ‘fact-check’ go to Wikipedia and look for both .45 Colt (Long Colt) and .45 Schofield, or Smith & Wesson.

    4. Both Dark Angel & Mike Edwards are technically correct. The “.45 Long Colt” was often shortened to just “.45 Colt.” Way back, probably before either of you were born, the ammo companies listed in their ammo listings .45 Long Colt, but sometimes just listing it as .45 Colt…to differeniate it from the shorter .45 Schofield round and the relatively new .45 ACP round. As the popularity of the .45 ACP grew it eventually surpassed both of the other rounds. There was a similar situation with the .38 (i.e., .38 Short and .38 Special). Even the 9mm had a similar situation (i.e., 9mm Parabellum and the 9mm Short aka the .380 Auto, plus there is a 9mm “long”- a submachine gun round). And then there is the 10mm “short” – what Jeff Cooper called the .40 S&W. I remember seeing .45 Long Colt still listed with some ammo companies as late as the 1960’s. These days it is probably very difficult (if not impossible) to find factory loaded .45 Long Colt (or .45 Colt if you prefer), and even more difficult to find factory loaded .45 Schofield. Ammo companies stop making that for which there is little or no demand. The only “old” round still available is the .38-40…and I own one of those too (but I wisely carry a Colt .45 ACP).

    5. Thanks Doc for the clarification. Sounds like you really know your stuff. Did you happen to know Jeff Cooper?

    6. Thanks. Yes, I personally knew Jeff Cooper. I have shot along side him, just the two of us (not part of a class), several times at his Gunsite ranch. I’ve had the privilege of being in his walk-in “vault” and seeing his entire collection, including his “Baby” (a scout rifle) and other fine arms. Fun times!

    7. @ Doc.

      The .45 Colt Short (11.48x35R) made it’s debut in 1872 for the Colt “Peacemaker”. The .45 Schofield (11.5×27.9R) in 1875. And .45 Government/ACP (11.43×22.8R) in 1904…

  4. I own a Taurus. 44 magnum with a ported barrel and the felt recoil is less than that of my 1911 and every bit as accurate.

  5. All great choices! My own bucket list is to shoot every caliber of a classic or other high quality handgun. I own many handguns, but my favorite is my Colt Python, everyone should have a chance to shoot one of them.

  6. I agree that the Single Action Army is clearly a bucket list item, but it doesn’t have to be a .45. I have a Sheriff’s model in .38-.40, which was a very popular caliber. It actually measures.41 caliber and at the time it came out Colt made a rifle in .38-.40 caliber. The cartridges for the pistol and rifle are interchangeable, meaning when you were on the trail, you only needed one size. I have also shot a .45 caliber SSA Sheriff’s model and couldn’t tell the difference – they are both wonderful revolvers to shoot. The only problem is the scarcity and cost of ammo which is why when we shoot, I only let my wife (and myself) shoot it once!

    1. Anguillaboy. Don’t know if you’ve done an internet search for .38-40 ammo, or not. Old West Scrounger carries this ammo. Don’t know the price, but came across the caliber when I was searching for .41 Rimfire. Too, I heard the NORMA was loading ‘exotic’ handgun ammo. You might look there and recently, though I have checked it out, heard the TULA or is that TULLA out of Russia was loading some ‘exotic’ ammo. Try, Cheaper Than Dirt, they have been carrying some ‘Cowboy Action’ ammo. You might find what you need there.

  7. I completely agree with your choice of the 1911. I have 2 1911’s my father brought home from WW2, both made in 1943, 1 Colt and 1 Remington Rand. He had the Remington tuned with adjustable sights and the barrel bushing tightened. Both have fired thousands of rounds still shoot 3 inch groups at 25 yds. And, they have never failed to fire.. jwb

  8. My five for consideration would be:
    1. Colt 1911 (or a 1911 of your choice) in 45acp
    2. Colt Single Action Army in 45LC
    3. S&W Model 29 in 44mag, of course
    4. Colt Python in 357mag
    5. Glock 17 in 9mm (I shoot this better than the Beretta 92FS)

    Truth is, I can think of several more that would be on my list, but I’m holding to the limit of 5.

  9. Nice list. Had a WW II era 1911 Frankenstein gun, loose as a goose but shot OK and I wish I had it back. Regarding the M9, meh. Give me a Springfield, any Springfield. My first handgun was a 4″ Security Six, Ruger’s answer to the K-frame. Still have it after 41 years. Still shoots straight after thousands of rounds (some not so prudent hand loads included). Ruger’s tougher but the K-frame has a superior DA trigger. Some things can’t be improved upon and I’d take an old K or L Smith any day. Wish I had my Model 65-4 back, and my 29. My single actions were the Blackhawk and Super Blackhawk, similar shooting experience but without the history. Again, wish I had ’em back. I’ve got my eye on a Buckmark as the next gun, so I’m glad to see it on your list!
    You young bucks out there- here’s a lesson for you. Don’t sell or trade anything! Get a big gun safe, quit your expensive habits and hobbies, and scrimp and save for that new weapon. But hold on the the old ones. They’ll be classics some day, and so will you.

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