Looking Back: Greatest Guns of 2011. Where Are They Now?

Picture shows a Kel-Tec KSG shotgun.

Very early 2012, the experts at Cheaper Than Dirt! listed what they thought were the greatest guns of 2011. Usually the greatest guns of any year are ones newest to the market. Like fashion, gun nuts follow gun trends and when something new comes along, especially if it is innovative or cool looking we all jump on the bandwagon. Remember the Taurus Judge phenomenon four or five years ago?

Every year we anticipate the firearms that make their début at SHOT Show, however not all of them will win over the hearts of gun owners across America. Even though we did not make a list of our favorite guns of 2012, it was an exciting year. We got crazy zombie guns and gear, the Mossberg Flex system, the Remington VersaMax, the Springfield XD-S, the Ruger American rifle and new AR-15s from Colt, DPMS and LWRC. AR-15s dominated 2012. Brand new gun owners, gun collectors and seasoned owners alike rushed into the black rifle market in 2012.

SHOT Show 2013 was disappointing, there was very little innovation and most manufacturers just released upgraded or new calibers on old guns. 2013 was not a stellar year for new guns, however not all was completely wasted. We did get the IWI Tavor. The “in” thing for 2013 seemed to be smaller and easy to conceal sub-compact 9mm pocket pistols due to the rising number of people buying guns for self-defense.

Sometimes our favorite guns are old guns newly discovered, inherited guns, or ones we don’t actually own. When I stumbled across this old blog and read what I thought were my favorite guns of 2011, I had to chuckle—where are these guns now? Are they still my favorite? Let’s look and see.

What I thought: Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22

Now: Is my S&W M&P 15-22 still one of the greatest rifles of 2011? Definitely! In the two years I have owned it, it has served me well. I’ve added accessories to it, such as a red dot sight and sling swivels. I run it dirty all the time and it never lets me down. I have introduced newbies to shooting with this rifle and made some of my non-shooter friends exclaim, “I love this gun and I think need one!”

What I thought: Bushmaster M4A3 Semi-AutoRifle .223 Rem/5.56 NATO

Now: I may have loved the Bushmaster in 2011, but after two years of exploring the world of the black rifle, the Bushmaster is not on my list of firearms to own. With hundreds of companies making AR-15s now, there is no reason to run right to Bushmaster. Personally, I think building your own from parts is the way to go.

What I thought: Kel-Tec KSG

Now: There was no disputing the Kel-Tec KSGs demand and popularity. I’m over it. No one could get their hands on one, now however, Gun Broker has plenty listed, some even under $1,000. The AR-15-looking RAAC MKA-1919-xn 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun has currently caught my eye. If you want a bullpup, look into 2013’s SHOT Show IWI Tavor—a .223 Remington bullpup semi-auto with excellent ergonomics.

What I thought: Mossberg Chainsaw

Now: I was right. You can’t go wrong with a Mossberg Model 500 pump-action shotgun. However, the Mossberg Chainsaw is ridiculous, looks silly and, let’s be real here, not practical at all. Even though I still love zombies, the hype and fascination is clearly over. Designed to be able to shoot from the hip (I’m not really sure why—to look cool maybe), the Chainsaw is surprisingly still listed on Mossberg’s website. Does that mean people are still buying it? For 2013, function trumps looks. For a shotgun, the Mossberg 500, plain and simple is the way to go.

What I thought: Smith & Wesson Bodyguard

Now: The S&W Bodyguard did not end up so great after all. I learned my lesson buying the .38 Special revolver. I only shot it a few times, it hurt me and I ended up selling it. I hated it so much. In the last two years, I have focused more on learning and becoming proficient on semi-autos rather than revolvers. I used to rely too heavily on the reliability of a revolver. Though I still love my S&W Model 51, a semi-auto is now my go-to self-defense gun. 2012 brought us the S&W Shield and the Bodyguard was quickly forgotten.

What I Thought: GLOCK 17

Now: Without a doubt, the GLOCK 17 one of the best semi-automatic handguns of 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014… and actually forevermore.

What I Thought: Ruger Mark III

Now: Plenty of full-sized semi-auto rimfire pistols came out since 2011. Do I like them more than the Ruger Mark III? No, I don’t. Do I have any interest in purchasing one? Not at all. I do see the merits of one for competition, shooting leagues, newbies and practice, but I am saving my money for bigger things. I reviewed the S&W M&P .22 and liked it. However, I still like the Ruger Mark III better. Classics are classics for a reason.

What I Thought: Ruger LCP

Now: Even though the Ruger LCP remains popular and is incredibly affordable… eh. I’m so over the teeny .380 ACP pistol craze. This year I like the Bersa Thunder if I had to choose any of them. But I chose not to. After shooting so many of these little .380s and hating most of them, my next thing is trying the concealable 9mms.

What I Thought: Colt’s Classic Remake 1877 Bulldog Gatling Gun and Mini Gun

Now: I will always love the Gatling Gun, but as far as unobtainable guns go, I’d go first to the Thompson. In 2012, I got to shoot a fully-automatic UZI and Thompson. Thompson tops out my list as one of the greatest guns of all time, not just for 2012 and 2013. As far as the mini gun goes, I still giggle every time I hear one.

A lot of hype surrounds the big names when they release a new gun. However, something that sounds great in a press release or a nice new shiny model might feel great in the hand in the gun shop, but a year later, do the guns live up to the hype? Did you buy into any of the aforementioned guns? What happened a year later? Tell us about it in the comment section.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (20)

  1. Article was predictable, for the most part. If you can afford the S&W 15-22, then there us no reason not to own one – it’s simply the best combination of quality, affordibility, usefullness, versatility, and just plain old fun there is in the gun world!
    When it comes to either self-defense pistol or range pistol, there is just too much variety of ones’ needs & products available to ever have a single “right answer”. My carry gun is a Sig P938 and my range gun is a Sig 226 (MK25). That combination is defendable as the “best” for sure, however it may not be right for the next 50 people that read this comment. Does that make them wrong? Does that make me wrong? No, what it means is that we live in the best time ever for quality and selection of guns!
    Don’t buy cheap stuff if you plan on it having a 1% chance of ever being needed to protect your life, and take what you read or hear as advice – not gospel. As long as you have a quality firearm that meets your requirements and you are proficient with it, then you have the “right answer”. It is that simple!

  2. I’m so glad I didn’t buy the Ruger LCP. My son did and he hated it. I fired it and hated it, too. I traded my SR9C for a Ruger LC9. Much lighter, smaller and is wonderful in every way. It’s a winner. I also bought a Taurus P145PRO, 45ACP for some carry firepower. Love that gun, too. Situation demands which pistol I carry and where. Most of the time it’s the LC9. I don’t own many different calibers. This is to keep reloading simpler and easier. 308, 223, 45ACP, 9MM, and some 22’s. Oh, almost forgot about the fantastic Remington 1100 12ga. Gotta lock ’em up to keep ’em.

  3. Purchasing Firearms are like purchasing a Sound System in many ways. The majority of us go and listen to various systems and will choose that which sounds best to our ear. It may not be the most expensive, the “best” manufacture Of the month, the biggest or have the most flash BUT it sounds better than anything else to OUR INDIVIDUAL EARS! We are also willing to pay the cost for that single advantage. Why then should choosing and the purchasing a firearm be any different? If your just buying a “show an tell, look what I have” firearm by all means back that up with a world renowned custom maker of Firearms at a price that few can or will pay. However, if you are like the vast majority of us and what your looking for is a “working” firearm i.e.; hunting, target fun, protection, daily carry, on the job, and so forth then a little research, a few tryouts, some range time, are in order. Don’t find out after the fact that, . . . it hurts,. . isn’t as accurate as you were looking for, . . Jams, . . Difficult to carry, . . Or any other of a 100 things that don’t work for YOU. Define your needs and requirements , research what on the market that fit them, test as many as you can and seek out opinions of hose who have used them, make your purchase in the best informed manner possible. It does not have to be a “well known” manufacture!!!! There are many, many excellent smaller producers of firearms out here who may have exactly what your looking for at a price that may surprise you. Empower yourself with information and hands on experience, save yourself the headache later! JIMINGA #17 hits center mass with both dictums. After you find the one that “fits” both you and your needs …..practice, practice, practice , then practice some more. Whatever firearm, for whatever needs or requirements, regardless of how often it my be used should be or come as close to being as automatic mussel memory as you can condition yourself for. You don’t want to fumble around when reaction time may be short and is at a premium! Pete sends…

  4. To dougb #14:

    Two well worn dictums of gun ownership are: “shoot it before you buy it” and “practice with your carry gun”. The wife and I learned that value of both after buying a Bersa Thunder .380 for her. It was small and fit her hand well, an ideal gun for a woman. But then we took it to the range and discovered how much punishment it caused to her hand. So much so she didn’t want to shoot it or practice with it. The idea that one can “learn” to shoot a carry gun and seldom, if ever, practice with it flies in the face of every trainer in existence.

    As a result, we spent lots of time at the range renting guns until she found a gun that better suited her and was enjoyable to practice with (a Ruger SP101 with a trigger job that she now carries). I traded the Bersa for an old Mossberg .410 shotgun and never looked back.

    Always, always practice with your carry/defensive gun.

  5. Hooray!
    Somebody has actually recognized the Bersa Thunder as a good gun!
    It is MORE than a ‘good’ gun, it is a GREAT gun!
    As an Instructor, it is my ‘go-to’ recommendation for someone’s first semi-auto. And they consistently love it…
    Yes, some think a .380 is a ‘mouse’ caliber – But that good old “9MM Short” still has it’s place.
    Look at it this way. If YOU were a bad guy and someone was shooting a .380 at you, would you change your mind about you activity that brought on the shooting at you?

  6. Yeah, agree with the comments above about following the crowd.

    I noticed the author made a couple of references to the Tavor… I’m wondering how long that that trend will last? Yes it definitely has the “tacticool” appeal and is a battle proven weapon. Still, it’s not exactly a new idea (Steyr AUG) and considering the cost of admission for this rifle, those same funds can go towards some really top quality hardware. The appeal being that it is unique and rather exclusive right now.

    Interesting though that the Mossberg Chainsaw is being shot down by the author on exactly those grounds. I mean it’s basically a Mossberg Cruiser with a handle that allows it to be racked from the top. Price is not that much more than a regular Cruiser, and the funky handle can always be removed.

    My point being is that both of the above weapons (along with the KSG) are essentially novelty items, and that really is their selling point… It’s the “KEWL” factor. Neither one would be a “practical” choice for a HD/SD weapon for respective different reasons, though either could be made to work without a doubt. The main appeal is going to be towards collectors and those looking for a unique range toy.

  7. I’ve read the previous comments with interest. I own a Taurus TCP which is quite similar to the Ruger LCP. Yes, it does hurt when I fire it but as noted by others here, it is not a range gun. I have fired it enough to break it in and to know that I can hit my target where I would need to at a reasonable self defense distance. I chose this gun because it fits neatly into my pocket or the wife’s purse. I’m not a large person so have difficulty concealing a larger gun. As for the pain of firing it, not an issue. If I really had to use it for defensive purposes, I doubt I would feel the pain until it was all over. Hopefully the bad guy would be in much more pain by then.
    I also have a Windham Weaponry MPC. A gentleman at my local range mentioned it to me when I was looking for an AR 15 platform rifle. They have been in business for just over 2 years so I had not heard of them. The company was started by Mr. Richard Dyke, the gentleman who owned Bushmaster Firearms before it’s sale to Freedom Group. Sometime after the sale, Freedom group closed the Bushmaster plant,laid off most of the workers and moved production to NY state.
    Mr. Dyke subsequently started Windham Weaponry in the same buildings in Windham, MA. that the Bushmaster was made in and hired most of the same people who had worked there building Bushmasters. So,is the Windham Weaponry rifle sort of a Bushmaster in disguise? Don’t know.
    I do know that mine is extremely accurate (better than I am) an reliable and, in my opinion, just as good as the big name rifles. Workmanship and fit and finish is excellent. A real plus was I didn’t have to mortgage the house and give up my first born to own it as it was less expensive by hundreds of dollars compared to the big names.

  8. Hey RPK,
    Well stated! Its a glut out there and the majority will make there decision on how much they can afford and its cool factor. Only those who have a reason to carry everyday either for their own or others defense and in some cases offense or who value the finer details of a platform look beyond “Tactcool” (great term by the way) to the real world realities and needs. I was trying to remember the Norinco 1911 just the other day and couldn’t connect the dots. Senior moment perhaps. I agree with you comment in its concern, a solid platform and reliable performer. Buy what catches your eye and what your wallet can survive. While you still may do so freely.
    Knowledge is Power, Power is Freedom . . . Pete sends…

  9. I actually own three of the guns you mentioned including the Bushmaster AR which is still the best complete AR platform made and I built my own 300 Blackout so you can do both. I purchased the Bersa Thunder when most people hadn’t heard of it as well as the S&W 15-22. I have to say though you lost me when you said you had your eye on the 1919 AR Style Shotgun? I am always surprised to still see them being pushed by various dealers and they will eventually fade away with the vendor having to donate or give the last of them away. I am a long time Saiga Owner and cannot imagine buying the 1919 instead or at all for that matter and from the sale numbers and the amount used in 3 gun many others agree. If you have your eye on that weapon that says allot on what drives your decision making on what makes a weapon worth buying and shooting. That said I know of allot of cool looking and very cheap air soft rifles, take a look.

  10. To each his own. There are SO MANY weapons manufacturers now, it is a buyer’s market. CORE15 makes a superb AR-15 platform. Taurus also makes some good .380, 9mm and .40 Caliber small frame handguns. The H&R Pardner Protector is a solid performer, as well. If you have a Norinco Model 1911, it too, is a beast of a semi-automatic handgun besides being reliable. Folks, we could go on and on and on. Many weapons are impulse buys or bought as being Tacticool. They really have no realistic purpose, but if you want it, can afford it and are able to legally own it…Then by all means, BUY IT! Blessings to all those who support and defend the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution.

  11. The KSG even though it’s over priced (not saying its junk!) And hard to find in general (kel tec is work8ng on that)
    It one hell of a great platform! Even better than the UTG (IVE shot both) one great thing the KSG does is it will cycle the 1 inch mini shells! That gives it a carry load out of 28 shells! If you can’t clear your home of all intruders with that then it’s time for the white flag!

  12. Like the button-down Oxford shirt, some things are never truly “In Vogue” and, as such, are never definitively “out of style”. But, when you base your tastes on such mundane principles as data, facts, and statistics… you find that, suddenly your tastes change. Just as a shirt made from thick coarse fabric resists wrinkles, absorbs buckets of perspiration, and holds the shape of its collar because of its two fairy buttons… certain, non-trendy guns serve their owners well.

    There is a minimum amount of energy needed to incapacitate an adversary, as well as a minimum amount of penetration. This is borne out by FBI and military studies. FBI statistics show that about three shots are required, and that 85% of shots fired hit nothing meaningful… the math multiplies up to 20 rounds… justifying a standard capacity magazine holding as close to 20 rounds as possible. Time for follow-up shots is also a meaningful variable. Practice, and the cost of ammunition to do so are also important.

    There is a reason why those military forces that do not use 9mm, use a Soviet Block equivalent to the 9mm.

    If you truly believe that you need a gun to protect your life, or someone else’s life, price should not even fall into the equation; forego a few movies, trips to the bar, or new gizmos… and buy what you believe to be the best product, based on the data collected from unbiased, objective testing… not popularity… remember, McDonald’s is the world’s most successful restaurant company… but, do they make the best food?

    At 6’1″ tall, and 200 lbs, I carry a full-size 9mm pistol with 16 rounds of high-velocity, plugged, SJHP’s. I won’t tell you what brand and model, because, if you do the homework, you’ll buy the same one… but, it isn’t a Glock.

  13. A prime example of following the crowd. The objective merits of any of these guns has not changed in the intervening two years, only the whimsy of the author as his opinions are influenced by trendiness. Timeless quality and proven effectiveness along side personal taste govern my firearms purchases. Sure taste changes with time and experience, but that is distinctly different from being lead about by the nose by the newest and latest trends.

  14. I have a S&W Bodyguard .380. I love it. I haven’t shot it that much, but as stated in other comments, this is a carry weapon not a range weapon. It does have a long trigger pull, but the double-action, hidden hammer makes it perfect for concealed carry. I also like the double action because if you have a light strike or a misfire, you can pull the trigger again and hopefully the cartrige will fire the second time. With single action semis, if it doesn’t shoot you have to rack a new load. Time is of the essence in a self-defense situation and a second trigger pull is much quicker than have to pull the slide. This gun is designed for up-close protection, within feet of an attacker. .380 may not have the stopping power of a .40, .44 or .45, but it will get you out of trouble.

  15. Your mistake was thinking a small, carry piece was equal to a range gun. The Bodyguard was never meant to be anything more than a belly gun and the grip design is mainly for smaller hands i.e. a woman’s hands. My daughter bought one and none of my family has these horrible problems you describe. But of course all we did was shoot it enough to be able to hit the target and learn how to work the gun well. If we want something comfortable to shoot we use a normal size handgun. Derringers were never comfortable to shoot either but they’re still around after 150 years and more. Comparing it to target gun levels of shooting is just not fair. It wasn’t meant for that. My wife has a Ruger LCP. It isn’t all the comfortable either. But it’s a top seller. My daughter has long fingers which makes getting a good grip on a semi-auto slide and pulling it back tough for her. She looked at several semi-autos then settled on a revolver, the Bodyguard revolver, and she’s perfectly happy with it. Does it hurt to shoot it? Yes, it hurts some. All small guns hurt some IMO. But it isn’t that much different than the very popular LCP. I wouldn’t want to run 500 rounds through either on a day at the range. It fires a fairly powerful round from a very small and light weapon. How could it not hurt some?

  16. I have 2 of these [Mossberg 500]. One is for general overall use the other sets beside the bed. I have 2 bbl. One is just as long as the mags for in house use( makes swing, corners much easier to negotiate) and the other is 18″ for car carry.

    The house weapon has a hand sizes lever pump and side holster for extra ammo plus a guard on bbl. Most of all that is for appearance, of course.

    In my opinion,this shotgun, for the money, is the best overall you can buy. It has similar action as Rem. 870 and loads with ease. Also, for in house use, I can not imagine anything but a shotgun for protection! Point and shoot! Even if you miss, (highly doubtful they get away unscathed)the noise, and damage caused. Last but not least, the proverbial sound of a round being ‘jacked’ into the chamber is going to deter most felons for further activity.

  17. Still not a Glock fan but do understand the following they have.The Springfield XD’s.remain my everyday, go to, favorites. AR Shooter has a point, the 1911 has and is the iconic bar by which many gauge all auto pistols. It deserves a line at least or a side bar just for that fact alone I think. As the 1911 is to auto pistols so is the Thompson to the sub-gun family tree. I would suggest that at your first opportunity that you try an M3, .45APC, “Greasegun”. This was the answer to the need for more sub-guns in the field in WW2 as they couldn’t make the Thompson fast enough or in large enough quantity. Produced for under $50 USD per unit, it was stamped steel with the barrel being the only machined part. The early suppressed version was very stable, cyclic was restively low and fired from an open bolt position. My first experience with the M3 was in SEA where I acquired one from a captured arms catch. I carried it thru two tours there. Was an excellent CQC weapon, easy to maintain and would eat any .45 APC munitions feed it. I wish I had brought it home with me. If wishes were horses . . .

  18. I know EVERYONE makes a 1911. But, don’t you think a AMERICAN ICON deserves at least a side bar ? One example might be a SPRINGFIELD RANGE MASTER ! Yes I own one ! ! !

  19. I carry a 12 year old Glock 17 and have never seriously considered anything else…ugly and reliable, just like me.

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