Throwback Thursday: The Top 5 Military Side Arms of All Time

Mauser C96

Recently, Cheaper Than Dirt!’s Shooter’s Log published an article of the Top 5 Combat Rifles, which stirred some lively debate. The slings and arrows were not the only things hurled at yours truly for the choices, but when you have to boil the list down to only five, great guns are often relegated to honorable mention status. Nonetheless, I am a slow learner and greedily accepted the challenge to come up with the Top 5 Combat Side Arms. I also failed. It was just too tempting to talk about a few more so here is my Top 10 Sidearms list instead.


While putting the list together, it was easy to come up with several choices that would not cause anyone to turn up their nose and a few that would squeak by, but that did not fill the list. Nor did it account for the honorable mentions that surely will raise the ire of my peers for their noticeable absence. In first putting together the list and then narrowing it down, a number of factors influenced my decisions including design, battle performance, cartridge, performance, comparable technology of the day and reliability versus practicality. So judge it with a skeptical eye, remember the criteria, and do your worst!

Honorable Mentions


The reliability and accuracy of Heckler & Koch’s USP (Universale Selbstladepistole or “universal self-loading pistol”) earns it an honorable mention and a rightful spot on the list. I am a huge SIG fan and the only pistol I have ever heard of serious law enforcement switching away from SIG was to the USP. Beyond that anecdotal piece of information, the H&K USP shows a strong influence from the venerable 1911. The modified Browning-style action and recoil reduction system enhances accuracy and gets the shooter back on target faster than competitive designs.

The USP’s controls can easily switch to accommodate southpaws. The trigger converts from single action to double action to double-action-only, which gives H&K’s USP some serious versatility. Add it all up and you have a sidearm that features nine trigger firing modes, an oversized trigger guard for use with gloves and patented lockout safety device.

CZ 75

Picture shows a black, steel CZ 75 9mm pistol.
CZ 75

Balance, reliability, quality and versatility are common descriptors you’ll hear when discussing the CZ 75. If the staggered-column magazine does not provide the necessary firepower to get the job, nothing beats the CZ 75’s all-steel construction for pistol-whipping the enemy into submission. Versions of the CZ 75 are made by several different countries and companies, as well as being exported from the Czech Republic to a host of different countries. Even so, I have never heard of a bad version.


Because I do not favor the thought of donning tar and feathers and have a penchant for all of my Glocks, the GLOCK 17 ranks on the list although it may wear an asterisk. First coming into service in 1982, Gaston Glock took a play from H&K’s playbook and rocked the firearms market with dominant polymer construction. The media mainly fed the hype, but despite their worst efforts, Glock’s design proved its worth.

The U.S. military has never made Glock a standard-issue; however, Glock is a favorite of law enforcement and makes up a huge share of the U.S. handgun market. Although some claim the GLOCK 17 has never seen acceptance by a major military force in combat, it has been issued to about a dozen or so military forces including:

Glock17 Gen 4
Glock17 Gen 4
  • Australian Royal Air Force
  • Austrian Armed Forces
  • Finland Defense Forces
  • French Army and Navy
  • Georgia Special Forces
  • Latvian military
  • Lebanese Army
  • Lithuanian Armed Forces
  • Malaysian Armed Forces
  • Military of Montenegro
  • Military of the Netherlands
  • Royal Norwegian Army
  • Polish military
  • Portuguese Marine Corps
  • Republican National Guard
  • Swedish Armed Forces

That is enough to qualify the G17 as a combat pistol although it diminishes its rank somewhat to some. Glock fans, have at it and tell me why I am wrong in the comment section, but remember the focus of the article. I think there is a lot of room for debate as to where this should rank.

Colt Single Action

Colt Bisley Model Single Action Army Revolver
Colt Bisley Model Single Action Army Revolver

Viewed under the optics of the day, the Colt Single Action was a revolution. Although it only saw action from 1873 to 1892, the Colt Single Action was available in over 30 different calibers and several barrel lengths. Today, it is still a highly sought after piece of history among collectors. The Colt’s overall appearance has remained consistent. Although production was halted more than once, demand brought it back time and again. When the military was not the push, lawmen and outlaws were. Perhaps not for sanctioned military conflict, but the Colt Single Action made history in multiple range wars and saloon shootouts.

C96 Mauser Broomhandle

I took a lot of heat for not putting the Mauser on my Top 5 Combat Rifle list, and well… perhaps that was deserved. Not wishing to make that mistake again was the impetus to push this list out to 10 including the honorable mentions. However, the C96 Mauser Broomhandle only ranks as an honorable mention. The C96 Mauser Broomhandle proved the viability of the semiautomatic pistol in both commercial and military use and that is no small feat, perhaps it should be in the Top 5 based on that alone. The C96 utilizes an integral box magazine located in front of the pistol’s trigger and likely inspired other modern rifle designs. Other notable features include the C96’s long barrel and wooden shoulder stock that also doubles as a holster. The namesake broom handle-shaped grip, clearly identifies the C96 as unique, but fortunately not too much of a trendsetter for aesthetics.

The C96 upped the ante with the 7.63 x 25mm cartridge. The cartridge’s potential could be utilized to the fullest when combined with the long barrel and shoulder stock. Together, these features offered a sidearm with superior range, accuracy and penetration potential. The C96 Mauser was produced from 1896 to 1937. It showed serious longevity by remaining in service from the late 1800s through the early 1960s. During its service life, the C96 was highly favored by British officers and used as a military sidearm in numerous conflicts around the globe and in over a dozen countries.

Top 5 Combat Side Arms

Luger 9mm

Luger P08
Luger P08

The Luger is an enigma to me, and given the opportunity, I would leave it off the list altogether. On the other hand, it is so darned iconic and has more than earned its spot on this list. Besides, I cannot really come up with a single reason to not include it!

Although originally designed and introduced for use with the 7.65 x 21mm Parabellum cartridge, the Luger is most noted as being the pistol for introducing the 9 x 19mm Parabellum cartridge. That influence certainly cannot be overlooked or in any way diminished. The Luger 9mm is still highly prized and sought after by collectors who admire it for its design and its known accuracy. Although I started this by wanting to kick it off the list, I am struck with a deep yearning to own one the more I think about it. Perhaps the wife wouldn’t notice if one followed me home? Lugers were highly prized by GIs in WWI and WWII with many finding its way to our shores as war souvenirs. A fortunate few are still in circulation and can be owned for a reasonable price.

SIG P226

SIG M25 Navy Model Impressive Pistol
The SIG M25 Navy Model is an impressive pistol on every count.

Favored by every elite military or police unit around the world at one time or another, the SIG simply lives up to its “To Hell and Back” reputation. The simple fact of it earning the top spot with Navy SEALs is worthy of a place. The SIG 226 is another combat sidearm relying on John Browning’s concepts of a locked breech and short-recoil design. Notable on the P226 is its use of an integral safety that prevents the firing pin from striking the primer unless the trigger is fully engaged. The double-action/single-action offers a blend of safety, accuracy and quick engagement potential. Although the P226 is best know for a steady diet of 9mm, it is also available in .357 SIG, .40 S&W and .22 LR.

Beretta 92FS

Black Beretta 92FS, barrel pointed to the left, on a white background
The Beretta 92FS

Another offering utilizing the 9mm is the U.S. Army’s choice since the late 1980s, the Beretta 92FS. This 92FS features low recoil, an open slide design offering even feeding and discharge of bullets and best of all, it is easy and intuitive to use. The 92FS is not without its critics though. I have heard from more than one vet returning from the sandbox declaring that they would not give a plug nickel for it. While they may have their reasons, the 92FS bested the competition in Army trials and has stood the test of time for over 25 years. The 92FS can currently be found in models designed to shoot the 9 x 19mm Parabellum (92 Series), .40 S&W (96 series), 9 x 21mm IMI (98 series) and 7.65mm Luger (98 and 99 series).

Browning Hi-Power

Browning 75th Anniversary Hi Power with brown grip on a white background
Browning Hi-Power

John Browning and his inspired designs have been mentioned more than once in this article and we are not finished heaping our praises on him. The Browning Hi-Power went into production in 1935, but manufacturing of this single-action, 9mm semi-automatic pistol continues to present day. It was also the first pistol I ever owned, so I feel a connection to the Hi-Power. At the time, all I could afford was an Argentinian model, but once I scraped together a few more dollars, I upgraded to a Belgium model with adjustable sights.

The Browning Hi-Power earns its place as one of the most widely used military pistols in history. Although Browning passed away before the pistol’s design was finalized, Browning’s groundwork produced one of the finest single-actions pistols the world has ever seen or likely will ever see. Almost eight decades later, the Browning Hi-Power is still in use by several military units. In all, the Browning Hi-Power has ridden the hips of over 50 countries’ military units.

Colt 1911 A1

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.

You made it this far, and who wouldn’t say the 1911 pistol deserves the top spot? Over a century of service and I would take the 1911 into combat today—and I wouldn’t be alone. In fact, take a look and do a little homework. I’ll bet you find there are more manufacturers of the 1911 today than at any other time in history.

The 1911 is the brainchild of none other than John Moses Browning. Given the list getting to the top spot and all of the influence Browning has had over other top sidearms would you have been surprised even if you hadn’t already known? The M1911 and its variants were used in the United States Army from 1911 through 1985. However, that paints an incomplete picture because I carried the 1911 while in the U.S. Navy through Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the early 1990s.

The 1911 saw combat in World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Storm and numerous smaller conflicts. The Colt 1911 brought the introduction of the .45 ACP cartridge, which still remains a popular choice among competitive shooters and self-defense enthusiasts. Modern 1911s should have no problem shooting any of the premium self-defense rounds, but good ‘ol round nose ball ammunition has done the trick for over a century and is just as formidable today…

Given the longevity of and dominance of the 1911, Hi-Power, C96 and Luger does not leave much room for others. These guns dominated all of the major conflicts of the last century, but do they tell the tale? What sidearms would you add to the list? Should the ranking be changed?

Share your thoughts of the top combat side arms list 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 (120)

  1. PLEASE stop saying “not” in front of everything because you won’t bother to use words. You said, “not putting the Mauser on my Top 5 Combat Rifle list”. That’s baby-talk.
    I do know how to use the words you need…and that YOUR READERS need.. but I’m not going to spoon-feed them to you. Please do think, then edit your errors out, and you’ll find that people will take you much more seriously.

    It’s not “side arm”. It’s “sidearm”. Period. No, there is no alternative spelling, there’s just a bunch of people who can’t spell. I’ve been reading baseball literature and firearms literature since the 1960s, and this is the first time I’ve ever seen anyond fail to spell the word.
    Look at the for-instance search results in the url internet address at the top of this comment. Even when you give the net the opportunity to provide the wrong spelilng, with two words, it doesn’t.
    Yeah, I do know that Wikipedia offers two versions. Well, some Wikipedia articles are very good, but some Wikipedia articles are written by Joe Schmoes who are sitting around unshaven and in their bathrobes from their Mom’s basements. It’s “sidearm”. Period.

  3. I am surprised the Webley revolver did not make the cut. It certainly has the history and the combat experience to put it on par with the Hi-Power, and well above the Beretta or Sig. The Webley may not be the reason that the sun never set on the British empire, but it was there, nonetheless.

  4. If you like the Century Arms, then you will love the Walther fm which it was copied. The Canik TP9SA has one advantage — more rounds than the P99. I love my P99 — changed the backstrap to the smallest one to fit my hand. It’s one fine handgun and yes, accurate. As my brother says, “IT’s got those three magic words on it, ‘Made in Germany.'”

  5. Did anyone even think to mention the venerable Walther P-38? Why do you think the German Army developed a new pistol after Only 30 Years (P-08)? One of the finest and still to this day well used self protection pieces ever made! I certainly understand the 1911 being #1, but can’t imagine the P-38 not even making the list. Oversight? Absolutely unforgiveable!

  6. Like your firearms articles and common sense and usable advise. Since your an expert in archery how about some articles there for the preppers. Some common sense there for us who have never used one would be interesting and definitely informative, like long bow vs compound vs crossbow.

  7. You match the ordnance to the mission, the circumstances and the restrictions. I’d love to carry my P226 and P229 everywhere, but it’s tough concealing it when I’m a small frame guy and I’ just wearing shorts, especially when carrying concealed while visiting a nearby CCW restricted state.

    BTW, my son was an 0317, then 2112 now a 2102 as he “matures” in his career.

  8. The Broomhandle does not have “aesthetics?” Are you out of your freakin’ mind? How many other pistols were the inspiration for a “Star Wars” movie prop? The Broomhandle defines handgunning’s “Cool Factor.” Certainly much more so than do the Glocks, Berettas and even the 1911s.

    1. @ Jeffrey L. Frischkorn.

      I suspect the “Broomhandle” design was used to RUSH the Product through Production and was the Easiest to Produce in Huge Numbers. Any FOOL can operate a BROOM…

  9. History and popularity are usual basis for selecting favorites. It’s what feels good in your own hands, called the grip. Browning’s Hi Power felt like a square hockey stick in my grip and the Beretta 92FS grip was too large for my large hands (Taurus copy same thing). A 1911 seems to fit most everyone, mine too. Carried one as a survival weapon on helicopter search & rescue missions in the interior of Alaska as a medic in the USAF. No Geneva Convention among brown and black bears, moose and wolves there. I like the feel of the Sig’s in 40 cal, but there is no safety like the 9mm S&W when you can drop the mag and render it useless in need be. Did you even know anyone that could buy a S&W Model 19 Combat Masterpiece, 38Spec, new for $86? One of my Flight Surgeon’s (hunter) gave me the cardinal rule. Shoot accurately and comfortably and that’s your rifle. Don’t be afraid to shoot a pistol with your weak hand. It will surprise you for accuracy as it has no bad habits yet.

    1. Magazine disconnect safeties are stupid. The sig 226 is all around the best gun on the list. The cz75 is second and its history deserves more than honorable mention. I understand the luger, but while an interesting gun, they weren’t reliable. Because this is America, a 1911 is a matter of course, but other than the trigger, everything else about a 1911 is far surpassed by a lot of other guns. Broomhandle (c96) guns are just plain cool. The Hi power is awesome, but the French screwed the design by demanding a magazine disconnect safety.

    2. bought my model 19 from Goodmans Guns for $79 back in 1961 as a rookie st. louis cop. gave it to my grandson this year. Al Goodman loved the cops, and gave us great prices, and back then we were exempt from excise taxes

    3. Paul I bought mine about 10 years later and looks like the price only went up $7 for about the same reason. I’d say we made great deals back then.

      If your semi-auto gets taken away from you in a fierce fight you’ll be glad your S&W had that magazine safety Grant, especially when you are working Airport Security.and they try to beat you up with that alloy frame and 1live round in the chamber Grant. All depends an what and where you pack your piece. They use to make fun of the S&W for having more moving parts, compared to the Sigs. A reliability issue I gathered. I never had a problem with my 15 shot 9mm…don’t expect to either.

  10. In my opinion the 9mm liver is the most influential combat sidearm.
    For not only did it wake up American GIs of WWI to what quality in a pistol was all about , but it introduced world the practicality of a hard hitting round with excellent accuracy and low cost and better yet low recoil and controllability in stressful combat situations.
    Of course I am just a dumb woods hick, who knows that opinions are not worth a plug nickle.

  11. Hard to believe the 1917 revolvers weren’t included, especially since they were used from WWI all the way to the Vietnam war.

  12. Ok. This may ruffle some feathers, but after a year of firing this weapon and roughly 2500 or so rounds thru it flawlessly, I have to nominate the Canik TP9SA. I know its history is shorter than most, and I’m relatively sure its “kill” rate is lower, but a finer weapon, I have never shot. Yeah, its got a polymer frame, and sure its only 9mm (18+1), but its so accurate. Every time I’m at a range, consistently putting rounds on target, someone will ask about it.
    At my bro-in-laws range, there were pistols of various makes and calibers. I seemed to be the only one putting lead on target. Of course, with my military training I figured that they just sucked with handguns. Then came that time of day when we all start shooting other peoples weapons. Quite literally, without exception, every shooter put rounds on paper. This includes 1911 shooters, Glock shooters, everyone. And my Canik cost $300. Needless to say, the next time at his range, three other TP9’s were there. All gobbling down whatever you put thru them, with outstanding accuracy.
    Its my EDC, although a tad large it conceals well. Ohio being an open carry state, I often strap it on just to field the questions.
    Please, if you’ve never handled, or fired one, give it a shot (LOL) pun intended. I’m guessing it’ll be on your list in the future, or better yet, in your hand.
    Thanks for your time.

    1. The canik is a knockoff of a Walther 99. The sa model is a neutered version. The v2 has the cool features of a da/sa striker gun with a decocker. The design is one of a kind. Smith and Wesson and magnum research also made these guns but under contract with walther. They are a bit more expensive, but are almost certainly better guns with a better warranty the the canik. The canik has the edge because it is a bigger gun with a slightly higher capacity. Not a bad purchase. On my list of firearms to buy. But is probably go magnum research for my money. They are cheaper than the Walther and a very reputable company.

  13. The S&W .38Sp M&P. revolver should at least get an honorable mention. It was used by a lot of military and police forces down through the years and is still a viable alternative for self defense

  14. Having owned every one on this list except the Mauser and Luger at one time or another, the SAA, USP, Beretta, and the 1911’s are still in the safe.

  15. I would drop the author’s choices of the Beretta 92 and the Si Ssuer, and replace them with the Colt SAA and the Glock 17.

  16. Pingback: Top hand guns
  17. Hands down, the single most deadly pistol of all time has to be the German Walther Model 2 in .25 ACP. These were the pistols used by Vasili Mikhailovich Blokhin in his nightly executions. He was the official executioner of the NKVD

  18. Thanks for the info. I am glad to know more about the Nagant 1895 pistol. I can’t say it is my favorite, but, it was very affordable ($ is a big deal to me.) And there seemed to be a whole lot of them available.
    I would have to be INSIDE of a barn to have any chance of hitting a barn door with it, but, if I need it for short range, home invasion……it will do the job…..reliably. ..I think.

  19. If you count shooting people at the base of the skull, it can be argued that the Nagant M1895 is the deadliest pistol in history.

    1. @ 2WarAbnVet.

      I disagree, I think the ChiCom’s hold that distinginsion with Broomhandle Mauser C96, that why its list in the “Top 5 Military Sidearms of All-Times.”

    2. I’m thinking of eighty years of murders in the Lubyanka basement, a few thousand in the Katyn Forest, and more thousands of deserters and “shy” soldiers during the Great Patriotic War, for example. That’s a lot of expended 7.62 Nagant ammo.

    3. @ 2WarAbnVet.

      The Chinese Communist Party was formed in July, 1921. Low ball count of estimated National and Communists killed during the Great Chinese Patriotic War. Was between 40,000,000 to 70,000,000 people, and that’s the Minimal Count. Actual number is estimated to be 3-times that number, there weren’t even 210,000,000 Russians living in Russia during their Great Patriotic War of 1917.

    4. @ 2WarAbnVet.

      Unknown, unlike the Nazi’s the ChiCom didn’t keep Meticulous records of their Mass Killing’s. I think they were afraid they might be next looking UP the barrel of the gun, instead looking DOWN the barrel of the gun.

    1. @ Aarnvark.

      The Nagant M1895 Revolver in 7.62x38mmR, saw very little action during WW1, but did see action in the Russian Revolution of 1917. The only other countries to use the Nagant M1895 design. Were Sweden, which used the M1897 in 7.5mm, Norway, which used the M1893 design, and both Poland and Greece, which used the M1895 with 7.72x38mmR. The problem is that Sweden, Norway, Poland and Greece were Neutral Countries during WW1. In which case saw NO action during WW1…

  20. Yes. I just found out that the Marines released an RFP in 2012 and awarded the contract to Colt for its M45A1 CQBP. It is an Indefinite Delivery/indefinite Quantity contract worth $22.5 million to Colt for up to 12,000 M45A1’s

  21. I just got rid of a Model of 1930 Broomhandle Mauser Pistol, with the stock and in a presentation case with accessories. T-G! That machine has so many extra parts that half of the prestige of owning one is the part-count. It brought good money, so I don’t miss it. I’ll buy half a dozen new G17’s with the proceeds.

    1. @ rufus13.

      I was offered an Glock 17, back in 1988 by a Northern Virginia Gun Store owner. He told me it was the wave of the future, and I could get one at the introductory price of just $999.99 USD.

      After holding one for several minutes, my brain told me this is a cheap plastic water pistol, a plastic cap gun, JUNK.

      I left the store with a Brand New Colt M1911 Commander in .45ACP livery. For the Rock Bottom Price of just $249.99 USD. And I never regretted the purchase.

      You can have the Polymer Glock, if you want. I’ll the Steel and Titanium/Scandium ones…

    2. Agreed, I bought a Glock 17 thinking it was the car’s meow. The grips never suited me and I traded it straight across for a Springfield 1911 A1 which suits me perfectly. My new HKvp9 beats the Glock in all categories as well.

    1. The Remington R1 is another of the today’s well executed 1911 clones. It has all the features anyone could want including a threaded Bbl for covert silenced applications. I would recommend the R1 to anyone looking for a high quality 1911-based pistol for home defense, as a duty weapon, or to take into combat in any circumstances.

  22. For what it’s worth on the Marine website they say the issued side arm is the Beretta M9. Seems the U.S. Army began a “bake off” in Jul 2014 to establish the new issue side arm they call the Modular Handgun System MHS. Seems they want a “harder-hitting pistol.” The MHS will be an open caliber competition of the .357 Sig, 40 call S&W, and .45 ACP

    1. Since I’m a Tricare Dental provider I get info email notices from That competition also entertained a new mechanism and maybe an all new caliber possibly one based on an elongated 10mm. Maybe they should look into the Para Ordinance P14 which is a 14 shot hot rodded 1911

    2. While the Para P14.45 is one of my favorite 1911 permutations, and my favorite side arm is indeed a 1911, I have been reading much on the FNH USA, FNX™-45 Tactical which is the successor to the FNP™-45 Tactical, developed for the U.S. Joint Combat Pistol Program. Again, I’m a traditionalist and am not a polymer enthusiast but the writing is on the wall and at a future of primarily polymer weapons is fast approaching. In this case, the only major difference between the P14.45 1911 clone and the FNX™-45 (improved) 1911 pistol that the polymer gun is ~6.7 oz. lighter. I would carry either into combat but those days are gone but for a home protection weapon or as a security guard’s duty weapon, the lighter, higher capacity, holo-site ready, and railed, FNX™-45 would be the better choice for me. In a future not too far off I think the FNX™-45 will certainly be on this list.

    3. I remember when the Para Ordnance 14.45 LDA came out – 14 + 1 with DAO action. I ordered one right away, and even the gunsmith I order it through didn’t realize that you can’t cock it, It fires from the hammer down position on each shot, even if you have just fired it. Two things stand out about it for me: 1) once you get used to the fact that it doesn’t feel like a standard 1911, the trigger is fantastic! Exactly the same everytime. 2) the amount the gun weighs – the all steel construction and the extra rounds make it one of the heaviest around. Little recoil. That was back during the high cap magazine ban, and the most ironic part of the whole purchase was I had to get a ‘certificate’ in order to order the two 14 round mags I was allotted with the weapon, at $75 a pop (circa 2001) and I had to order them from – wait for it – Canada! I still have it today and shoot it regularly, although I switched to a lighter duty weapon long ago. Oh, and picked up 6 more 14 rounds mags much more reasonably!

  23. I think the British Webley and the Soviet Tokarev deserved at least an honorable mention, as both have seen more combat than any pistol on the list with the possible exception of the M1911.

  24. Old slabsides is my favorite(1911) . Browning Hi-Power is next.
    Least favorites are ANY plastic pistol, Beretta 92 ,and CZ.

  25. My top 2 are your top 2 only in reverse order. My first semi-auto handgun was a Browning Hi-Power manufactured in Belgium in 1968. Shot better than ANY gun I have ever owned. Never found any ammo that did not go through it like sh*t through a goose. I sold it in the early 90’s to buy my wife a 25th anniversary ring, which she still wears. I’ve tried to get the guy I sold it to to sell it back it back to me — no luck. I also own a couple Glocks, A Sig and a 1911 along with an old stainless S&W model 60 revolver. The Sig (P938( is my carry gun, but the 1911 is by far my favorite gun to shoot. Now if I could just find another old Belgium Browning at a reasonable price, I’d be a happy camper.

  26. Personally, I would have thought the Walther PP and PPK series would have made the list. While not full size combat sidearms, they, or the many variants derived from them, have seen military service in many countries around the world for much of the 20th century.

  27. @ Chris in Arkansas.

    Problem with GLOCK is, one one country in the world uses it, as their standard side arm. Austria!!! And they haven’t seen Combat Action since WW2.

    1. @ Medic75.

      I wasn’t aware of any Elite Specialized Units that fielded the Glock. I did know about the Glock being as a standard side arm of the Austrian Army. Because I have relative living in Austria. MY BAD…

      That what were he for, to learn from each other and too “PIck Each Others Brains”.

  28. Given the widespread use of body armor these days, I would think anyone contemplating a military sidearm these days would want more power and particularly more penetration than you get with the venerable 45 ACP. In my experience, the 357 SIG is a much better round when you need both penetration and knockdown power. The 10mm is even better, except it requires a larger pistol and is harder to shoot because of the recoil. If I were the Marines and looking for an ultra reliable and lethal pistol, I might be tempted to try a 1911 chambered and optimized for 357 SIG.

  29. The beretta is a piece of shit and should never be mentioned in the same breath with a Sig Sauer. It was pure politics that made it the Army’s sidearm and you won’t meet a soldier alive that has anything good to say about it. No way in hell an open slide design should ever be chosen as a combat firearm. It sucks up dirt and fails in some way when you need it. But I guess the PRICE and not the lives of the soldier using it were what the government was impressed with.

    1. Steven, I couldn’t have said it better myself. I thought that my issued M9 POS would get me killed while in Afghanistan…I think the only reason I carried it was not as a secondary to my rifle, but to throw at the enemy as a last resort. I never once fired it in Afghanistan without multiple failures of some sort. I swore the next time I would bring a personal sidearm, because I would never again trust my life to that POS…

  30. They may have been ugly as a mud fence, but the British did more handgun fighting with their array of Enfield and Webley break-top revolvers than we did with our Colt SAAs.

  31. I love my P228. It’s basically a compact P226 which is the M11 variant basically. In use by the armed forces and other govt offices. I contend the 226/228 and newer 229 is the best handgun platform ever made. I’ll take my alloy frame 228 over any Glock any day. No external safety, DA/SA high capacity and super accurate. Best handgun ever made.

  32. Not sure about positioning on the Top list, but I have a Sig P2022 9 mm and have to say it is the finest side arm I have ever used.

  33. The CZ-52 was about the only battlefield pickup every NATO soldier was told to pick up if found. These have served worldwide with huge success.

    H+K produced the P7M8/13 series that could be found in the holster of elite units worldwide and following on the heels of their VP70 became arguably the first widely adopted super-pistol.

    Do not forget the contribution of that ugly duckling, the Liberator. Some pretty important shots were placed with these sorts of sidearms.

    There were many of us who carrier various Colt pistols in service, with plenty of these little sidearms seeing action.

    1. I say it should have made the list before the 92FS. If i remember my gun trivia rightly, it was the P38 that set the trend for double-action service pistols—which the 92FS was a late-comer to—and the 92FS’s design is largely based on the P38 to begin with. As far as i can tell, the 92FS’s claim to fame is that the Army is stuck with it.

    2. I agree. The P38 is the grandfather of all modern double action decocking pistols. I have one and it’s sweet, my father’s bring back from North Africa, WWII.

  34. I believe the Glock 19 is now the Standard UK Army sidearm replacing the trusty but worn out Hi-Power. And the Marines are using the M-1911 platform for their new CQB pistol, in .45 ACP of course. The U.S. Army is supposedly looking yet gain at their sidearm – will spend millions studying the issue no doubt – the Marines already know what works!

  35. Although not widely used, honorable mention should go to the Sig 210 (Swiss P.49) for accuracy, reliability, and fine craftsmanship.

  36. I have several handguns, from .22 caliber, 9 mm, .40 caliber, and 1911 .45 ACP. Although I could probably stop several attackers with any of the above, if I had to go into a fight, I’ll take my 1911 in 45 ACP FMJ with a high-capacity magazine any day of the week.

  37. No disrespect, but there is simply no way Glock should be “begrudgingly” added to this list. I don’t understand the need to quasi-apologize for its inclusion. 25 years of empirical data are in. Used successfully by more police, militaries and civilians than any handgun on the list, the G17 could arguably be placed even higher. It’s the combat handgun that revitalized the world market. Certainly, it’s inclusion is as well earned, and likely more so, than the P226 (and I even carry a P228, so I’m a fan) and CZ-75, which after 25 years on ranges all over the US, I have yet to even see appear in a single holster. To be blunt, we are well past this with Glocks. The G17 has unquestionably earned its place and I see no need to offer tepid apologies for it. Frankly, after a quarter century of excellent service, I question the intelligence of people who doubt its viability.

    1. You have not seen enough if you haven’t seen the cz75 in a holster. Heck, look at mine. It always has a cz52 or a cz75 in it. And I own a glock and a sig 226. Also, they were not commonly fielded in the us except by civilians. But they DOMINATED the European theater and their service history rivals any other gun on this list.

  38. I’ve got a Sccyfor about 9 10 months now and the CPX2 nice for a concealed weapon lightweight and so for it’s been a great weaponit comes with two magazines which is nice thank you

  39. One of the top 5’s should be the Walker Colt. It was a revolutionary sidearm which was designed for use in the Mexican American war of 1847. It was, however, purchased by individuals and individual units and not provided by the government, a common practice at the time. My understanding is that it was the most powerful handgun in the world for about 110 years, until the introduction of the .44 Mag.

  40. This seems like a good place to post a catastrophic failure I never expected….in a practically new sig mk25 (226). Pistol had about 1000 rounds trough it, all brass case and new production. Always kept clean after training.
    Not long ago, the owner took it out at the range, fired one round, and suffered a broken extractor that, along with its spring, went flying out of the gun. This rendered it useless and would have probably gotten the owner killed in a defensive situation if that first round fired didnt stop the fight. The tap rack bang procedure would have accomplished nothing. The extractor assembly was never messed with before this incident, so what cause it is a huge mystery….but I suspect poor quality metal in the extractor causing the break.
    I always believed in Sigs reputation before, but now, not so much….

    1. Had the same thing happen on the range with a duty 226. Emailed the rep and asked about it. I never received a response, just got a new extractor in the mail from him a few days later…

      Also had a take down lever where the lever just spins and doesn’t turn the barrel piece. They replaced it fast but the confidence is already gone.

    2. My sig 226 was produced just after they switched to milled slides it is a .40cal. It has had 3 other owners that I personally know. And was bought used before that, it has seen many thousands of rounds in my hands alone. Almost everyone I know carries a 226 or 229. They are all flawless. Their reliability history is only rivaled by glock. Sorry you guys had problems, any gun design will have a few stories of catastrophic failure, but the sigs especially the series based on the p226, are overall the best guns to trust your life to. Not saying there aren’t other good guns out there.

  41. I enjoyed the articles on the best military rifles and side arms very much and can’t really argue with any of the assessments findings. Having carried more than one of these weapons in harms way none of them have ever let me down. Were I given the choice, I would be truly confident in any situation carrying a 1911 into combat. In certain circumstances I would also feel very comefortable carrying a couple of S&W revolvers that aren’t on the list; noteably a 4″ .357 Magnum S&W 586 or my current favorite, the 4″, S&W 329PD in .44 Magnum. As for rifles an M16 can’t be beat in most cases but if I had to carry only one rifle for all occasions it would be a bulpup conversion of an M14 which is the perfect weapon for urbanb combat or long range engagements in any theatre of operation.

  42. The only reason the Glock wasn’t considered as the sidearm for the US Military was because one of the conditions is for the gun to be manufactured in the US and Glock wouldn’t release the patents.

    The Sig beat the Beretta during trials, but the Beretta was cheaper.

  43. Missing from the story is the fact that Sig was just a bit late to get a test subject for the military and may very well have been the winner in the search for a replacement to the 1911 had they got one to them before the deadline. Oh the Navy SEALs carry Sig P226 to this day! Grat article!

  44. t
    The Luger is ammo picky if you are feeding it this and that. All of mine work fine on issue FMJ cartridges. Not so fine on civilian defense loads. Mine are reliable. Nevertheless, I would not want it for military service because of its sensitivity to dirt and its time-consuming stripdown for proper cleaning and lubing. Not a great trigger, either.

  45. While I certainly agree with Mr. Browning’s masterpiece in the top spot, but some others would seem questionable. It’s difficult to consider a pistol to be a top military sidearm if it has seldom, or never, been used in any actual conflict.
    I certainly would not dispute the venerable Mauser M96 (used by none other than LT Winston Churchill as early as the Battle of Omdurman, and many others since) but the HK, the Sig, or the POS Beretta have seen little actual action.
    What of the Webley, the Tokarev, or even the Nambu that were battle proven on many fronts, and sometimes in multiple wars?

  46. My all time Fav is the magnum research Desert Eagle .357 Magnum. At almost 5# weight loaded it has very little recoil, and the 6″ fixed barrel gives it very good accuracy. Much better that any other pistol I’ve ever owned. Not so good for concealed carry though.

  47. The best combat pistol is the one you have when you need it, functions flawlessly when needed and puts the target ( enemy) down. My life has been saved by a 1911, S & W Model 60, Browning HP, Sig 226, Colt SAA Buntline and a S & W .38 spl State Police issue wheel gun. I rank them all as tops. The Buntline was a .22WRM, got the job done, it was all I had at the time. I respect every ones opinions based on what the gun they like did for them when needed.

  48. Nothing about the Chinese Type 77? 1.35 billion people (2.2 million active military), the gun has been in use since 1981 for military and police. I have no idea if it’s any good or not. Seems like sheer numbers alone might make it an honorable mention.

    Barretta 92 FS is mich like the m-16. It got better after a couple improvements.

    Everyone’s favorite 1911 is back in full service as the rail gun.

    Good article.

    1. You forgot overpriced and overengineered. But yes a pos. And had a short-lived service history

  49. Advising this list is like the four guys in the bar discussing which is the best pickup truck. The first guy picking the Ford, followed by the second guy with the Chevy. The third guy with his Toyota and the last guy talking up his Dodge pickup. All four having a point to make with anything from the number one selling pickup to the most reliable, the best warranty or the cheapest. After a few rounds of beer and everyone having their say, it boils down to opinion and nothing else.

  50. Very hard to pick just 5, gotta leave some out. CZ75, Glock 17 & Colt SAA all deserve to be in. Beretta M9, U.S. sidearm since 1985, is an important pistol, but in fact not that great of a design.

    1. Agree on CZ75. If all my firearms were laying on the table and I had to grab just one as I ran to trouble, hands down the CZ. That comment even includes my CZ clone Baby Desert Eagle, which because it is polymer just doesn’t quite have the feel of my steel original. I don’t own a Sig, but having shot my buddy’s P320 in 357 Sig, I might consider that one #2, altho not on the list above.

  51. A factoid not mentioned about the CZ75. It is one of the few (only?) DA pistols that can be carried “Condition one”…. loaded chamber with the hammer cocked and locked. ….like a SA auto like 1911. First shot then is the very desirable SA mode. Most DA guns are DA for first-shot and SA for follow-up shots. The CZ75 can function this way too, if desired.

    Also, unlike most DA/SA guns….the saferty is “off” while swiping “down”…another advantage like a SA-only auto.

  52. No Makarov, Tokarev, Enfield revolver, walther P-38, or Nagant revolver? I knew coming into this article it would be a bit biased but seriously the only com-bloc pistol to make it was the CZ-75 as an honorable mention? I have a few 75’s and they are great but the BHP pretty well covers them. I will give you credit for the BHP. Most people forget it even exists when they make lists like this.

    1. @ Ryan.

      Personally, I think the article was title wrong. In this case you have “An Answer Looking For A Question” instead of “A Question Looking to be Answered”.

      Instead of “The Top 5 Military Side Arms of All Times”. It should be “The Top 5 Military Calibers of All Times”. This/That way, you can fit the gun to the caliber instead of the other way around.

      Or in other words Fitting the caliber To the Gun, instead Fitting the Gun To the Caliber”. You have a FINITE amount of Calibers and a NEARLY INFINITE amount of Guns.

  53. I thing the reason the Glock isn’t mentioned, Is because only one army in the world, uses it as their standard side-arm, the Austrian Army. It’s a State-owned, controled company and it simplifies logistics to its Army, NO MIDDLE-MAN.

  54. I would not dispute the long range advantage of the .30 Mauser over the .45 ACP, but I view a pistol as a short range weapon. I have an artillery Luger with a similar stock, and it would not comfort me in anything but close range combat.

    1. @ bill.

      The “Broom-Handle” Mauser was the first mass produced military automatic of the times. It was “State of the Art”. Going in a NEW direction and leaving the OLD behind. It was probably the same way when the first cap & ball revolver made its debut in a ocean of single-shot flint-lock pistols.

    2. I would not disagree with you in a historical sense. I am responding to the OP in the sense of what would I want in combat today.

      If I were to get historical, I would also add the early 1850s S&W .22 short rimfire revolver that used the Rollin White patent. This broke new ground, introducing the bored-through revolver cylinder, making revolvers quickly and easily reloadable, I would say that the first bored-through revolver was as important as the first military semi auto, the Mauser.

    3. @ bill.

      I wholeheartedly agree with you. But, like the first cap & ball paper-cartridge revolver, had one thing in common with the muzzle-loading flint-lock pistol. When WET, both could be used as a club, because their black-powder ammunition were total useless.

    4. Yes, and that little S&W .22 short wasn’t much of a stopper, wet or dry, and wasn’t much of a club either. But the bored-through cylinder led the way to the SAA and all the other revolvers that followed. I guess I would value the little S&W more as a design breakthrough than a pistol I would want to carry in combat. Speaking of small sidearms, it is interesting to note that both US and German general officers often carried .32 autos.

    1. @ scott w.

      Why, not. You evolved from a hand-loaded ball & paper system, which usually didn’t function in damp weather. To a reliable bullet & sealed metal cartridge, which still fired when it rained.

    2. @Scott There is a reason that the Colt M1917 45 ACP isn’t a “combat side arm” The semi rimmed cartridge does not function in a revolver the “half moon extractor is highly unreliable

  55. I would exclude the Luger in favor of the Walther P38. The Luger was all for show and very temperamental. The P38 was the workhorse that was trusted on the battlefield…and everywhere else for that matter. I own a WWII surplus P38 that outshoots many of the “good” guns made today. With that said, I wouldn’t mind having the Luger in the gun safe for show and tell.

    1. @ Mark Ray.

      If your government were awarding medals, and your only two choices were the Medal of Honor (P08) and the Soldiers Medal (P38), which would you take?

  56. “Fruit Basket vs. Supermarket”???

    Your missing the point!!! All theses weapons filled a NICHE at the time when introduced during wartime. Your comparing Civil War era weaponry with the latest 21st century-era small arms weaponry, WHY. During WW2, Nazi Germany had only 4-types of small arms calibers, too worry about. The 9x17mmKurz (Short)/Parabellum, the 9x19mm/Parabellum, the 7.92x33mmKruz/Mauser and the 7.92x57Mauser. The United States, during WW2. Hundreds, if not thousands of calibers-types, too worry about. Because we were not only supping our own Armed Forces, but all the other Allied Armed Forces as well. Form a Quartermasters point of view, at the very least “A Logistics Nightmare” to “A SHIT STORM”. Your evolving from a NON-Standard caliber, used by different nations. To a TRULY standardized caliber, that the world uses. IT’S ABOUT STANDARDIZATION.

    1. Where’s the P-38? Wasn’t that the most popular sidearm of the Nazis? Or the PPK, Hitler’s personal sidearm?

    2. @ William Satmary.

      Out of the two, the Parabellum-Pistole P38 was and still is the most reliable of the two. I think the reason why German and Allied alike gravitated to the Parabellum-Pistole P08 or Luger, was because it wasn’t mass produced like the P38 was. Its like comparing the Duesenberg with the Ford Model T. While the former (P08) were produce by the Hundreds/Year, the later (P38) were produced by the Thousands/Month. If you were a common infantry man of WW2, which gun would you prize more than the other? While the P38 was a standardized hand gun, the P08 Luger was a SYMBOL, IN STATU QUO (“In the status in which”, all others are judged.)

  57. I’m sure I’ll get skewered over this from Glock fans, but, the truth hurts: Glock screwed up with the Gen4 changes when they redesigned the spring that was so bad(jamming) they offered to refit the first Gen4 models.

    I know ’cause I had a Glock 17 Gen4.

    The fact that Glock didn’t catch this flaw in their development, test and QA process is embarassing.

  58. When war starts, my go to sidearm is my Sig 9MM P226 or my .40S\&W P229. No doubt about it. I may love my little 380ACP Glock 42 and Walther PPK as concealed carry, but when the shooting is intense and all pretenses are over it’s a Ferrari I want to shoot with and that’s my Sigs.

    1. @DarthVaderMentor

      I must ask you Why if you want to rely on your Sig 9MM P226 or .40S\&W P229 do you have those other firearms as a concealed carry option. I ONLY carry that which I would in a combat situation. When your LIFE depends on what you carry it only makes sense you carry what you would in combat which in effect you are preparing for combat. You only have one chance at survival and that chance is dependent on your equipment and your ability to effectively employs said equipment

  59. Never owned a Mauser, but have shot a few. Poor grip, poor balance, bulky and the .30 Mauser cartridge is not in the same league as the Parabellum, .45 ACP etc

    1. One can trade off velocity and bullet mass. The .45 ACP uses a heavy slow round, the 7.63×25 bullet (aka .30 Mauser) uses a lighter faster bullet. Both will do the job given proper placement. the .30 Mauser is better for longer range, but the Broomhandle Mauser was reengineered in China to take .45 ACP because the US provided lots of .45ACP to the Chinese.

  60. Despite owning and loving several, I would exclude the Luger from a military listing on account of its low tolerance for dirt, and the need for fussy field stripping to keep it clean and lubed..

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