As the year comes to a close and the holiday season rounds the corner, it’s nice to sit back and reflect on all the great guns the year had to offer… so, we can plan our holiday shopping list! We don’t always need the latest and greatest, but these fine firearms certainly beg for a voluntary upgrade. From handguns, rifles, and shotguns, these are some of the top firearms brought to light in 2023.
2023 was an excellent year for handguns, with many great new models introduced as well as several exciting remakes.
SIG Sauer has always been a leader in innovation, constantly driving new products to market. This year was no different with several introductions based around its popular P320 and P365 designs. Most notably, the P365 XMACRO has been a smashing hit on the carry gun market. 17+1 rounds of 9mm in a slimline frame with integrated compensator, what more could you ask for? Like with most of its new pistols, the XMACRO also incorporates SIG’s impressive optics mounting system and tritium night sights.
Compensators seemed to be a theme with SIG this year, as several models now feature an enhanced version with compensator. The P320 AXG Legion throws out all the stops in a feature-packed handgun well worth the premium. The highly-regarded alloy AXG frame paired with compensated slide and the Legion package makes for a fast, soft-shooting pistol that fits the hand like no other.
Also in line with the comped theme, the XTen Carry Comp brings shooter’s another long-awaited 10mm carry option. With a 15+1 magazine and compact profile, it’s only a little fatter than a Glock 19 but offers 10mm performance. Whether it’s for self-defense in the streets or woods, you’d be hard-pressed to beat the XTen Carry.
Finally, one of my favorites. SIG reintroduced the XFive based off the classic P226 series near the end of 2022, but we didn’t really start seeing them pop up until 2023. They also added the Legion variation, with an integrated compensator of course, in 2023. These masterpieces command quite a price tag, but they’re some of the finest pistols you can get your hands on.
Smith & Wesson
Smith & Wesson is also pushing the envelope with the introduction of several new Performance Center Models models, such as the M&P10 PC and M&P9 Competitor. Both feature an elongated slide with attractive slide cuts. The 10mm PC incorporates a ported barrel to help tame recoil. This would make a first-rate outdoors sidearm. The M&P9 Competitor utilizes S&W’s new metal frame with polymer grip inserts and, as its name suggests, it’s designed for shooting competitions.
S&W also introduced new M&P models chambered in 5.7×28 and .22 Magnum. In standard S&W fashion, they’re both available with or without a manual thumb safety. The main hallmark of these pistols is the capacity. The M&P 5.7 uses a 22-round mag, while the M&P .22 Mag has a 30-round mag. Both stack up nicely to popular options from competitors.
Further, the Equalizer was announced at the end of 2022 but rocketed in popularity this year. Designed as a carry option for those who may have limited hand strength, the Equalizer takes S&W EZ Rack technology to a more concealable pistol. Just as accurate and reliable as other modern carry options, but with a slide that’s easier to rack for reloads and malfunction clearance, don’t overlook the S&W Equalizer.
FN jumped into the concealed carry market again with the Reflex pistol. This micro 9 competes with competitors such as the P365, Hellcat, and Shield Plus. It also incorporates FN’s legendary quality and durability. The Reflex comes in both black and FDE, and 11- and 15-round magazines.
Beretta finally offered its mainstay in the highly requested variation utilizing a frame-mounted thumb safety and single-action firing mechanism. The 92Xi brings all the advancements from the Vertec series with the improvement of the controls, making it an excellent firearm for both competition and defense.
Beretta revived the popular Cheetah design with the new 80X. This .380 ACP pistol mimics the design of the classic 92 series in a smaller overall footprint for concealed carry. The modern variation features front slide serrations, Vertec-style grip frame, accessory rail, and 13-round magazines.
Lastly, although not a true Beretta, Girsan has introduced a solid clone of the .380 Beretta 86 tip-up barrel model. It’s not as refined as the original Italian piece, but it’s a nice functional recreation for a much better price.
Glock gifted us with the model 47, which was originally developed for U.S. Customs and Border Control. Similar in size to a Glock 17, it features a shortened dust cover to maintain parts compatibility with Gen 5 G19 and G45. I believe this is Glock’s attempt at modularity.
The real excitement from Glock comes from the model 49. The G49 gives Glock shooters what they’ve been begging for for years, a G17 length slide paired with a G19 frame. This gives you the accuracy and ballistics of a full-size pistol with the concealability of a compact.
Wheel gun fans rejoice, because Taurus brought the goods. It’s no secret that red dot optics are gaining in popularity. Optics-ready pistols are incredibly common and are soon becoming the default. Taurus sought to bring the utility of a good red dot to the reliability of a solid revolver with the 856 and 605 Defender T.O.R.O. The 856 being a 6-round .38 Special and the 605 being a 5-shot .357 Magnum, both are excellent carry options.
For something a bit larger, the Executive Grade Judge brings you .45/.410 power in a more refined package built for the distinguished shooter.
Staccato’s new carry model, the CS, was introduced at the end of 2022. Like others, they didn’t really start showing up until the new year. The CS brings all of Staccato’s 2011 quality into a more concealable package.
Rock Island Armory announced the 5.0 pistol, designed for competition. Also available as the enhanced 5.0E, these pistols are constructed with a two-piece, modular alloy frame, RVS recoil system, and low bore axis.
Finally, the Walther P99 is being discontinued and is available for 2023 in its final edition as the “AS” model to highlight the beloved anti-stress trigger.
2023 brought with it some incredible rifles as well…
Most notably, SIG introduced the MCX-Spear. The Spear is similar to a gas-adjustable piston AR-10 rifle but does not feature a buffer tube, which allows the use of a folding stock. Another ergonomic enhancement is the side-folding charging handle, which provides you more leverage without taking your eye off the optic. All of this, along with some other smaller improvements, makes this rifle a high performer in modularity and reliability for the modern shooter.
SIG released the Cross bolt-action rifle for elite hunters and long-range shooters. Featuring a folding stock for easy transport and storage, the Cross is ready to go with you anywhere. Additionally, the rifle weighs in under 6.5 pounds, making it the lightest in its class. The Cross is currently available in .308 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor, and .277 SIG FURY.
Finally, a budget-friendly AR-15 from the esteemed FN. The FN 15 Guardian sports a mid-length gas system, 15-inch M-Lok handguard, and is chambered in 5.56 NATO. FN has chosen to forgo the forward assist in favor of a sleek, snag-free design. This provides you with a rifle that works great out of the box or an excellent foundation to upgrade and customize.
The Henry Homesteader brings a classic feel to a modern solution. PCC’s tend to be very high-speed, low-drag, tactical numbers. The Homesteader turns that on its head with some quality wood and steel. However, the 9mm carbine can still be converted to accept popular Glock, SIG, or S&W pattern pistol magazines. The threaded barrel and Weaver scope mount allow you to further customize the rifle to your needs.
Although it’s currently still a ghost on shelves, IWI released a civilian version of the Carmel Rifle. This semi-auto rifle was originally designed as a next-generation battle rifle. It’s completely ambidextrous and ejection direction as well as the charging handle can easily be swapped in the field. With incredible ergonomics, this short-stroke carbine is one helluva defensive option — if only you could get them. I have no doubt that the situation in Israel will further complicate things.
IWI also released an upgraded version of its Zion-15 rifle as a tribute to the Mk12 Special Purpose Rifle.
Ruger announced the Small Frame Autoloading Rifle, or SFAR in 2023. The SFAR boasts the power of a .308 battle rifle in the size range of a standard .223 AR-15. Handy and sleek, the rifle is still beefed up (in the areas it needs to be to handle the increased power), while being lighter weight than other options.
Smith & Wesson
Finally, Smith & Wesson delivered the FPC, or Folding Pistol Carbine. This 9mm carbine takes some design cues from the KelTec SUB-2000, but comes together as a more refined package. The firearm still folds in half for convenient transport and storage, but incorporates an improved stock with additional magazine storage.
Last but not least, we certainly can’t forget the new scatterguns.
Building off of the reliable A300 platform, the Beretta Ultima Patrol is adapted for home defense use. Oversized controls, extended magazine tube, shortened stock, and multiple accessory mounting options all make this defensive shotgun incredibly hard to beat.
Mossberg added optics-ready 500 and 835 pump-action shotguns to its line. The 590S not only offers the ammunition flexibility to fire 1.75-, 2.75-, and 3-inch shells, it also is pre-cut for a micro red dot sight (MRDS) utilizing the Shield RMSc footprint.
KelTec added a new chambering for the popular KSG shotgun, .410 Bore. With lighter recoil than original versions, this shotgun is compact and easy to handle. The firearm tips the scale at under 5.5 pounds while still giving you a 10-round capacity (5 rounds in each magazine tube).