Welcome to part #2 in our series of Cheaper Than Dirt articles on Gearing Up! for the new-guy 3-gunner. I will assume you have read “Gearing Up” part #1 and are in possession of a capable yet affordable AR. That’s great; you are one third of the way there! Let’s work on another third, the handgun. While it is widely accepted that the AR is the dominant rifle platform in the world of 3-Gun, when it comes to handguns, there is no clear-cut choice. Since this series of articles is geared toward assembling a good basic 3-Gun collection, we will not spend time discussing the expensive custom or semi-custom production pistols on the market. All of the units below can be had for less than $700.
I will be directing you toward pistols that are most suitable in the Tactical and Tactical Optics divisions, and that generally means a 9mm. It also means each will be capable of carrying 15 or more rounds per magazine. All but a couple of the handguns we will talk about are striker-fired and all but one has a polymer frame. Now let’s get started! FNH-USA has two offerings. One is the FNX-9 and the other is their newest unit the FNS-9. I do not consider self-loading pistols wearing external safeties to be a good choice for the newer, less-experienced 3-Gunner. “By the Rules,” manually operated safeties must be engaged (or pistol empty) whenever they are abandoned on a 3-Gun stage. The penalty for not engaging the safety is a match disqualification (DQ). Though both of these FNH-USA pistols are equipped with manual safeties, I include them because they work, are accurate, easy to shoot, carry lots of rounds and are very affordable. Keep in mind that many, many 3-Gunners get through lots of matches without a dreaded DQ using handguns with manual safeties. You can too.
Springfield Armory has a bunch of pistols well suited the 3-Gun game. From the first generation XD Tactical to the XDM standard to the 5.25 Competition, these pistols are reliable, accurate and affordable. Not to mention that they hold lots and lots of bullets! If I were to campaign for any of these excellent Springfield pistols, it would be the 5.25 Competition. Fitted with a long slide, a match barrel and equipped with an excellent set of adjustable sights including a fiber optic front, this pistol was built to compete! If that isn’t enough, some of the XD / XDM pistols come as a package with a holster, a hard-sided carrying case, magazine pouches and several magazines. All you have to do is add ammo! Smith and Wesson offer the M&P and M&P Pro. A good friend of mine has recently made the move away from the High-End ($$$) custom 2011 pistols to an M&P Pro in 9mm. His rational was simple…he can shoot the M&P as well as he can the 2011 within the context of most 3-Gun events, and can safely abandon the M&P faster with no worry of a DQ due to its internal passive safeties.
It is no secret that I am a BIG fan of Glock pistols, though this was not always the case. My upbringing had me convinced that guns were to be made of steel-and-wood and that was that! Much like a kid “knowing” he does not like broccoli without ever trying it, once I finally gave “Gaston’s Gat” a fair shake, the pragmatist in me overruled. Glocks may not be as good looking or inspire the passion that a hand-built 1911 can, but damn if they don’t work each and every time I pull the trigger! That alone makes these plastic fantastic pistols look pretty good to me! While my personal competition pistol is a Glock G34, don’t overlook the G17 as viable alternative.
While you are shopping make sure you check out the many CZ 75 series pistols and their variants. I would be hard pressed to name a pistol that feels better in the hand than the CZ-75. There’s something about the grip shape that just feels right. Other things that are right about this series of pistols are that they are accurate and affordable. They tend to be the most reliable out of the box in 9mm, and that comes as no surprise as that is the caliber they were engineered around.
Be advised that you’ll find several clones based on the CZ-75 from many different manufacturers, each offering their own combinations and features. I would probably confuse either you or myself trying to explain all the variations available, but I’ll give you a quick idea. There are action types with acronyms like SAO, DAO and SA/DA. Some with hammer drop and non-hammer drop safeties, carry options such as cocked and locked, hammer down safety on, hammer down safety off (yet safe). I’ve seen frames and slides finished in blue, nickel and polycoat. You can go with carbon steel or low maintenance stainless steel. Looking to shave some weight? Grab one with a polymer frame.
While researching the above keep in mind that most every make and model listed has seen the winner’s circle. And what works for me may not be ideal for you. The simple truth is that you cannot buy your way to a win; you just have to pick one and practice!