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High-end Centerfire Pistol Buyer's Guide

Discussion in 'General Firearms Forum' started by bac1023, Apr 18, 2010.

  1. bac1023

    bac1023

    103,933
    3,418
    Sep 26, 2004
    PA
    Introduction


    I’ve decided to write this work as a follow up of sorts to the long standing 1911 Buyer’s Guide. This guide will be a bit more focused in its target audience, however. It is aimed at the discriminating customer who wants that special pistol or two in his or her collection and is pondering the differences of each model.

    What qualifies as high end and exotic? That’s a good question and probably means different things to different people. To me, its not so much about price and rarity (though many of these are expensive and/or rare). No, that’s not the determining factor in my eyes. What it means to me, first and foremost, is build quality, parts quality, and execution. Its also about performance, meaning inherent mechanical accuracy, trigger quality, ergonomics, etc. Likewise, there are many expensive pistols that I would not call high end and there are many rare pistols that are far more obscure than they are truly exotic.

    I mentioned that this guide would be focused in its approach. I will further illustrate that by explaining what is not going to be included. Yes, there will be some omissions in order to keep us referring to apples and not oranges. As I review the three big groups of handguns that won’t be included, I hope to still capture your interest in the guns that will be discussed.

    The biggest void will be 1911s. While I realize high end 1911s are extremely popular on this forum and many others, I feel its generally a different customer and sometimes even a separate mindset. To keep this guide focused in one area, the M1911 will not be included.

    Secondly, it will not include any rimfire pistols. While there are many high end rimfires on the current and used handgun market, I’m not going to use this effort to discuss them. I say this for two reasons. First, I don’t feel they’re an apples to apples comparison to centerfire pistols. Secondly, I simply don’t own a large enough variety to make writting a comprehensive guide feasible. Unfortunately, rimfire fans will have to look elsewhere for information.

    My third omission will be polymer. After careful consideration, I just don’t feel they belong in this guide. Make no mistake, there are some very capable, high quality polymer pistols available and I’m fortunate enough to own several. However, this guide is focused on tight build tolerances, intricate designs, and old world build quality. Again, in keeping this guide focused, plastic frames need not apply.

    So what will be included? We will be discussing metal framed pistols of superior quality from many different manufactures. These manufacturers will range from large, well known companies like Sig and Smith & Wesson to small, boutique companies that you may or may not have heard of, to everything in between. In some cases, I own more than one of each model discussed. In those cases, I will drill down and discuss the differences within the variants themselves. In addition to describing each model, I will include some very basic specifications and detailed pictures. The models discussed here will range from purpose built target pistols, race/competition pistols, and some service/self defense pistols. Like the 1911 Guide, I will only be discussing guns that I own and have personal experience with. Likewise, this guide will not be all-encompassing, but limited to my collection and personal experience. On the flip side, I feel I own the lion’s share of what is available to those who share my passion for firearms of this nature and have most designs at least basically represented. In addition, I will add to the guide as a acquire more qualifying handguns.

    After a bit of debate with myself on the structure of this work, I have decided to categorize the pistols based on country of origin and then by manufacturer. These pistols will not be grouped based on caliber. I will also not be using a rating system of any sort. We are discussing the finest, most capable pistols in the world and any attempt to superficially rate them on a scale would be an exercise in hair splitting. I will simply describe the pistols, discuss their attributes, and list my preferences.

    Without further ado, we will go with the countries in alphabetical order and start with Austria. :cool:









    Austria

    Obviously, the largest and most well known handgun manufacturer in Austria is Glock. As I mentioned above, Glock will not be included. I will be discussing two models and three pistols here, one from Steyr and two Ultramatics.





    Steyr GB

    Steyr has been around since the 19th century, but got heavily into producing firearms in the 20th century. After WWII, Steyr manufactured mostly hunting rifles. In the mid 1970‘s, Steyr tried their hand at producing a modern handgun. The Steyr GB is a high quality pistol that was developed in the mid 1970s, but was not produced by Steyr themselves until the early 1980‘s. Production lastly only until about 1988 and after just 15-20,000 pistols were manufactured. Much of the reason for the downfall of the GB was the Glock 17, which was chosen by the Austrian Army over the Steyr in 1985. The Glock was more reliable and much less expensive to build.

    The design of the GB is very interesting. The official description is that of a gas retarded blow back. There is a small chamber located inside the slide towards the muzzle of the barrel. There is a tiny hole in the barrel that allows gas to escape when the pistol is fired. The pressure of this gas fills the chamber and slows the slide down a bit and reduces felt recoil. As a result of this and the 35oz weight, the GB is one of the more pleasant 9mm pistols to shoot. Being a blowback pistol, the GB’s barrel is fixed. That feature, coupled with the long sight radius, are what prompted me to include the GB in this thread. A fixed barrel of 5 3/8" is certainly going to give a pistol good inherent accuracy and that is exactly what the GB possesses.

    The Steyr GB is large pistol. The grip frame is tall and wide and the slide is long. As mentioned above, the GB’s unloaded weight is about 35oz. While that seems hefty, its actually rather light for steel framed pistol of this size. The relatively light weight is mainly do to the thickness of the steel used. Much like the Browning Hi Power, the Steyr GB’s frame is thin, though I have not heard of durability issues caused by this. I will also note that the GB’s trigger guard is plastic. Field stripping the Steyr is not difficult and can be accomplished in a matter of seconds. Due to its design, the GB can get dirty quickly and is not a pistol you would want to fire thousands of round through without cleaning it. Finding them isn’t too difficult. Its not a gun that’s going to be sitting in your local shop, but there are usually a few on Gunbroker on any given day.

    As for my impressions of the pistol, I think its interesting. Its not exactly a gun I grab often to take tot he range, so I don’t have thousands or even hundreds of rounds of trigger time with it. I shot it a few times not long after I bought it several years ago and its basically been sitting ever since. My hands are fairly small, so this big grip frame feels less than ideal for me. I do remember the accuracy being quite good, but the GB is let down a bit by its trigger. The DA trigger is heavy. The SA trigger is decent, but certainly well below average within the group being discussed here. Of course, this is not a target pistol. The GB was solely intended for service and self defense. I find the its futuristic style appealing.

    Frame: Carbon steel
    Slide: Carbon steel
    Unloaded weight: 35oz
    Configuration: Double stack, DA/SA
    Caliber: 9mm Luger
    Barrel length: 5 3/8"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $800-$1400


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    Wolf Ultramatic (SV and LV)

    Well, its a thrill to get to discuss one of my absolute favorite models to shoot in all the land. The Wolf Ultramatic was designed and produced back in the 1990‘s. Prices 20 years ago were in the $2000 range, so the pistol was not cheap to purchase. Its an immensely complicated design was not cheap to produce and, apparently, it did not prove as reliable under all conditions as the company had hoped. These issues led to financial hard times and the eventual downfall of the Ultramatic. The leftover parts were thrown together and then sold at a blowout price through CDNN some years back, though these pistols were marked “Do not fire". I’m not exactly sure how many pistols were built in total, but Ultramatics are not easy to find. As far as I know, the company’s name was Ultramatic. Wolf helped finance the struggling company late in its life, hence the name is stamped on the later guns.

    The design is as interesting as it is unconventional. The Ultramatic incorporates a bolt rather than a slide. This bolt is what moves during cycling. Everything else stands still, including the fixed barrel. These design feature, combined with the Ultramatic’s very heavy weight, make the pistol feel incredibly stable when firing. Its a bit hard to describe on paper, but it makes the Ultramatic one of my top three favorite range pistols. Once you factor in very crisp and light triggers with no creep and a fixed barrel, you have a gun that is all but impossible to miss with. The grip and ergonomics suit me perfectly and the Ultramatic points very naturally for me. While I’m hesitant to call any one pistol or model my absolute favorite shooter, the Ultramatics are the guns I bring to the range most often. I guess you can take that any way you choose, but these pistols are terrific, in my opinion.

    I have two of these outstanding pistols in my collection and while they were available in multiple calibers, both of mine are chambered in my favorite round, the 9mm Luger. More specifically, I own an Ultramatic SV (shorter barrel) and an LV (longer barrel). As for reliability, I feel fortunate to have two extremely well running examples. I’ve owned my SV for a few years and its been running 100% from the first round I put through it. I picked up the LV more recently and experienced a few ejection issues at first, but it improved the more I shot and cleaned it. The last couple range trips have seen the LV run flawless with any ammo I’ve put through it, including a few hollow points. I can’t say I trust it as much as the SV yet, but its certainly earning my trust more and more and time goes by and the round count goes up.

    As far as build quality is concerned, the Ultramatic is one of the most solid pistols I’ve ever seen. These are hefty guns. The SV weighs in at 47oz empty. The longer LV is over 50oz empty. Field stripping them is a challenge at first, but gets much easier after some practice. I enjoy cleaning these pistols because they are such a marvel of engineering. The design of the bolt and upper assembly is one of the most intricate mechanisms I’ve seen in all of modern handgunning. Yes, I’m very high on these two pistols. While prices are starting to creep up, they are still fantastic bargains for the quality and capability they offer. I highly recommend hunting one down if you have the patience.


    Frame: Carbon steel
    Slide: Carbon steel
    Unloaded weight: 47oz (SV), 50oz (LV)
    Configuration: Double stack, SAO
    Caliber: 9mm Luger
    Barrel length: 4 1/2" (SV), 5 1/2" (LV)
    Approximate 2015 prices: $800-$1300


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    Steyr GB, Wolf Ultramatic SV, Wolf Ultramatic LV



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    Belgium

    I have a grand total of one Belgian pistol that I feel qualifies for this guide. While this country produced some beautiful handguns over the years, there’s not much that I would classify as high end centerfire offerings.





    Browning Hi Power GP Competition


    As the name would suggest, the GP Competition was FN’s competition focused Hi Power. It debuted in 1980 and featured a long 6“ barrel with a barrel weight, adjustable sights, Pachmyer grips, and a much enhanced trigger. Unfortunately, the GP Competition also featured an ugly greenish-gray parkerized finish, which undoubtedly cost FN some sales during its brief production. The Browning Hi Power is one of my favorite pistols of all time, so naturally I have a fondness for this specialized version.

    The GP Competition is a much better shooting gun than a standard stock Hi Power could ever dream of being. The longer sight radius helps improve the shooter’s accuracy and the Pachmyer grips, while not pretty to look at, feel great in hand. As mentioned above, the trigger is much improved over a regular Browning Hi Power. While the magazine disconnect is still present, it is not attached to the trigger and, likewise, does not ruin the trigger pull. The trigger itself is fairly light with a bit of take up and a very clean break. This pistol points very naturally for me and I have been quite impressed with its accuracy.

    I’m not sure how many of these FN built, but I know its production run was within the 1980‘s. I don’t believe it was ever pumped out in great numbers. I think its less than stellar appearance really hurt retail sales, especially when a standard Browning Hi Power is such a beautiful weapon. This particular example dates from 1987. In the serial number, the “245“ designates a sporting model and the “PR” stands for 87. The GP Competition can be found on Gunbroker with regular frequency, though they do not pop up nearly as often as they used to. This is definitely a pistol I recommend. No, its not as glamorous or as photogenic as some others in this guide, but it certainly performs at a high level.


    Frame: Carbon steel
    Slide: Carbon steel
    Unloaded weight: 36oz
    Configuration: Double stack, SAO
    Caliber: 9mm Luger
    Barrel length: 6"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $1000-$1500


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    Last edited: Aug 13, 2015
    Bruce M and boilergonzo like this.
  2. bac1023

    bac1023

    103,933
    3,418
    Sep 26, 2004
    PA
    Czech Republic

    I will be discussing two Czech pistols here. Obviously, both of them were manufactured by CZ or Ceska Zbrojovka.




    CZ 75 Champion

    The design of the CZ 75 is one of the most copied in history for good reason. The ergonomics are among the best in the industry. The slide inside the frame setup was borrowed from the Sig P210 and helps keeps the slide to frame fitting tight. This, in turn, has helped the CZ 75 be one of the most accurate combat pistols in its price range.

    The CZ 75 Champion was CZ’s top of the line pistol during its production years. It is a purpose built SAO race gun using the standard CZ 75 frame and one of the best triggers in existence. The parts fitting of the Champion exceeded that of the standard model by a wide margin. The pistol features a standard 4.5“ CZ 75 barrel, but has a four chamber compensator (earlier versions had three chambers) on the end to help keep the muzzle down during rapid firing. From an ergonomic standpoint, the CZ 75 Champion is top notch. The only minor complaint I have about the standard CZ 75's ergos is the somewhat long reach to the trigger for a person with smaller hands. The SAO trigger of the Champion eliminates that. More so, the rubber wrap around grips feel perfect to me and the beavertail is also a nice addition. The Champion also features an ambi safety and an adjustable rear sight.

    In my opinion, the CZ 75 Champion ranks as one of the best shooting pistols in the world. The trigger takes a bit to get used to as it has only one millimeter of take up and absolutely no creep at all. Couple that with an adjustable trigger that’s set at a weight of under two pounds from the factory, and you have a gun that can easily be fired before you’re ready to. Basically, the instant you put pressure of any kind on the trigger, the Champion will fire. When it fires, you will be delighted with the soft recoil and incredible accuracy. The only circumstance that holds this gun back from possibly being my favorite shooter is the caliber. Its 40S&W and its my least favorite service caliber by a very wide margin. Supposedly, this gun was produced in 9mm, but I’ve never seen one for sale. The Champion has been discontinued for a number of years and they don’t come up for sale often. When they do, its always 40S&W. The color scheme is always this nickel frame on a matte blued slide.

    Having said all that and despite the caliber, my CZ 75 Champion is truly outstanding. The 40S&W version is a soft shooter. I can only imagine how great it would be in 9mm. I highly recommend buying one if it pops up for sale in any caliber. I know I check for them on Gunbroker with some frequency and try to alert potential buyers on the rare occasion I see one. My gun was built in 2002.

    Frame: Carbon steel
    Slide: Carbon steel
    Unloaded weight: 41oz
    Configuration: Double stack, SAO
    Caliber: 40S&W
    Barrel length: 4 1/2"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $1400-$1800

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    CZ 75 Tactical Sport

    Next I’ll discuss the CZ 75 Tactical Sport or “TS” for short. Despite the name, this pistol does not use the CZ 75 frame. This is a larger and beefier handgun weighing in at just over 45oz empty. The Tactical Sport comes with a 5“ barrel and is specifically geared towards IPSC competition. The gun also comes nicely equipped with an ambi safety, checkering on the front strap, back strap, and trigger guard, and nicely checkered wood grips. The standard rear sights are the non-adjustable “hook” style for easy slide racking. Yes, the Tactical Sport is ready to race straight from the box.

    This pistol has the distinction of being the first firearm I’ve discussed so far that’s still being produced. They are available from CZ-USA and can also be had from the CZ Custom shop with some options. My gun has the red fiber optic front sight, while the standard TS comes with a black front sight. They can also be had with adjustable sights and steel triggers from the custom shop. Available calibers are 9mm and 40S&W. After stating my sentiment on the latter, my gun is most definitely chambered in the former. The Tactical Sport is a very high capacity pistol, holding 20+1 rounds of 9mm Luger. The trigger is just about there with the CZ 75 Champion, though being plastic, it doesn’t feel quite as crisp. Of course, its adjustable in the same way, so I’m sure it can be improved a bit. Either way, its still an outstanding trigger. The frame is carbon steel with some sort of speckled silver Teflon coating. The slide is a nice semi glossy bluing.

    As far as complaints are concerned, there aren’t many. For me, the large frame, while nicely contoured, ruins some of the CZ 75‘s stellar ergonomics. In my opinion, the Champion’s ergos are just about perfect. I don’t quite feel the same way about the Tactical Sport. Of course, someone with larger hands may not find the big grip frame to be any drawback at all. The second small gripe is the plastic trigger. I find it inexcusable on a gun of this price and capability. While it can be easily switched out, it shouldn’t be there in the first place. Even my $400 polymer CZ P09 has a steel trigger. That being said, the TS remains one of the best values in a higher end pistol on the market. Its accuracy is awesome and on par with some pistols over double its selling price. If you want the best “bang for the buck”, look no further. This pistol is a winner.

    Frame: Carbon steel
    Slide: Carbon steel
    Unloaded weight: 45oz
    Configuration: Double stack, SAO
    Caliber: 9mm Luger
    Barrel length: 5"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $1100-$1300


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    CZ 75 Tactical Sport, CZ 75 Champion


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    Germany

    Not surprisingly, this country will have the most entries in the guide. You will see several from Heckler & Koch, Sig, and Walther, as well as a couple boutique manufacturers. Yes, some of the finest handguns in history were built in this country. We will be discussing a total of eleven here.





    Heckler & Koch P7M8

    The HK P7M8 has long been known as one of the most accurate service pistols ever built. It debuted in the early to mid 1980‘s and was a successor of sorts to the earlier P7 PSP. As the name would suggest, the P7M8 holds 8 rounds of 9mm in its single stack magazine. The P7‘s design is somewhat similar to the Steyr GB in that’s its a fixed barrel, gas delayed blowback. There is a small hole in the barrel to catch escaping gas in a piston under the barrel. The pressure from the escaping gas acts upon the piston to “break” the slide during recoil. Obviously, a straight blowback 9mm would not be overly pleasant to shoot. As it stands, the gas delayed system does its job well.

    The P7M8 is a slim and fairly small pistol. However, with its all steel construction still manages to weigh in at 30oz. The polygonal rifled, fixed barrel is 4“. It is a striker fired gun with a unique squeeze cocker which definitely takes time to get used to. The trigger pull itself is very good. Its not like some of the SAO target pistols in this guide, but certainly nice for what it is. The bore axis of the P7M8 is among the lowest around. The plane of the barrel is basically resting on top of the shooter's hands in a thumbs-forward, two handed grip, making this handgun extremely easy to point and control. The grips are an attractive looking stippled black plastic and there is also a rough texture on the squeeze cocker and back strap that make the gun very comfortable in hand. Most of the P7M8 pistols came with a matte bluing from the factory.

    My impressions of this model are quite positive. I’ve always liked the design and admired the workmanship and quality that HK put into them. While I wouldn’t call it a range or target pistol, they do perform very well. The fixed barrel, ergonomics, trigger, and bore axis make the P7M8 a breeze to shoot accurately. I’m not going to fully recommend the gun, as many people are not familiar or comfortable with the squeeze cocking system. However, once you get used to it, you’ll see that the P7M8 is one of the safest pistols around. It also may be the most accurate deep concealed carry piece ever built.

    Frame: Carbon steel
    Slide: Carbon steel
    Unloaded weight: 30oz
    Configuration: Single stack, striker-fire
    Caliber: 9mm Luger
    Barrel length: 4"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $2000-$3000

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    Last edited: Aug 7, 2015
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  3. bac1023

    bac1023

    103,933
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    Sep 26, 2004
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    Heckler & Koch P7M10

    I’m going to speak briefly about another of the P7 series I happen to have in my collection. This is the much embattled P7M10 that was HK’s first foray into the 40S&W world during the early 1990's. I included it in the guide due to its good performance and high quality. Unfortunately, this was clearly a gun that was rushed to market when the then-new 40S&W was introduced. Gone are nearly all the qualities that make the P7M8 such a pure carry pistol. The slimness and short slide, with a low bore axis were replaced with the needlessly thick and tall slide and a fat, double stack frame. The P7M10 weighs in at a whopping 43oz empty. Once loaded with 11 rounds of 165gr 40S&W ammo, you have a very thick and heavy carry pistol. While the barrel remains low, the slide incorporates a ton of thick steel above it, which sort of defeats the purpose of the low bore axis. The most common finish was the matte nickel you see on mine.

    If there are any saving qualities of the P7M10, its the build quality and accuracy. It shares the P7M8's design and also has a fixed 4“ barrel and good striker-fire trigger. Despite its good qualities, I’m not real sure this gun has a purpose. Its not much of a target gun and its too heavy and thick to make a good carry gun. From an aesthetics standpoint, its bulky and clumsy looking. Its not a gun I recommend to others and I very rarely shoot it. However, for the Heckler & Koch collector they are desirable and, likewise, bring good money at auction.

    Frame: Carbon steel
    Slide: Carbon steel
    Unloaded weight: 43oz
    Configuration: Double stack, striker-fire
    Caliber: 40S&W
    Barrel length: 4"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $2500-$3500


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    Heckler & Koch P9S Sport

    Well, I talked about a clunker in the P7M10. Now I get to talk about my all-time favorite HK pistol. The P9S Sport is the sporting version of the excellent P9S. The HK P9 has been around a long time, dating back to 1970. The steel slide and frame were made of stamped sheet metal and polymer was used to wrap the frame and form the trigger guard. The design was that of an intricate roller delayed blowback, similar to the system used for the company’s G3 assault rifle. The barrel was fixed and it not move during cycling, making the P9S an inherently accurate pistol. The standard P9S is a DA/SA pistol. Ergonomically speaking, the pistol is only let down by a long reach to the trigger.

    The Sport model was equipped with a trigger block that only allowed the pistol to be fired in single action mode. The pull was lightened as well, making the Sport quite the shooter. The barrel is extended to 5.5“, which is a full 1.5“ longer than a standard P9S barrel. A barrel weight is attached at the end to help stabilize the gun by adding some heft to the fairly lightweight design. The Sport set also comes with the large wooden target stocks, as well as a set of standard grips and a standard slide and barrel.

    While the stamped slide and frame of the gun aren’t the best quality components around, the internals of the P9S series are heavy duty. The barrel is thick and the components are overbuilt for 9mm in typical HK fashion. The adjustable sights are easy to see and this is one of the most accurate pistols I own. The trigger pull is great, though the take up and reset are a bit longer than ideal. Finding these pistols nowadays is not easy and they command big money when they do actually pop up. I wouldn’t recommend one just to have a great range pistol. There are several others that give the same performance for a lot less money. However, if you love HKs and want the best target pistol they ever built, this is the way to go.

    Frame: Carbon steel
    Slide: Carbon steel
    Unloaded weight: 43oz
    Configuration: Single stack, SAO
    Caliber: 9mm Luger
    Barrel length: 5 1/2"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $3000-$4000

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    Korriphila HSP 701

    Moving on from HK, we now have a unique roller blowback from the mid 1980's. The Korriphila HSP 701 was the brainchild of master gun smith Edgar Budischowsky and built in Heidelberg, Germany on a very limited basis. Construction and manufacturing of this pistol were done without regard to cost and purchase prices were upwards of $2000 some 30 years ago, making it a pistol that was ordered only by a select few. From what I’ve been able to ascertain, the original configuration of the HSP 701 was that of a DA/SA 45ACP with a 4“ barrel. Its intended purpose was self defense. After the first batch of pistols was complete, the Korriphila was offered in an assortment of calibers and also a barrel length of 5“. Budischowsky even offered a SAO version of the pistol, in which the cocking mechanism was disconnected. This turned the defensive-oriented 701 into more of a range/target pistol.

    The design of the gun is that of a roller delayed blowback. The barrel is fixed to the frame. All parts are cut from blocks of steel and then meticulously hand fitted together. Its honestly the best combination of parts quality and build quality I’ve ever seen on a self-loading pistol. There is absolutely no play or movement anywhere. Shaking the pistol side to side with the action open or shut reveals no sound whatsoever, making it feel like one solid piece of steel. Its the tightest pistol I own. Grips are checkered walnut. The front strap, back strap, and trigger guard feature extremely fine cross hatching to help keep a secure grip on the gun. The Korriphila is a heavy weight, complex pistol. Even the 4“ model is nearly 40oz empty.

    My particular example is an early model from 1984, serial number 0023. In fact, its of the first delivery series of the pistols from Budischowsky's shop. Its of the original configuration and has the blued slide and frame. The DA trigger pull is firm, but very short. The single action pull is also a bit firm, but has next to zero take up and no creep at all. The reset is short. All in all, the trigger on this gun is outstanding. The Korriphila is a serious pistol designed for amazing accuracy, reliability, and longevity. Its most definitely one of the finest pistols I’ve even seen or handled and I think you can see that in the pictures. Due to the prices and extreme rarity, its hard for me to recommend it to others. However, to the hard core collector who wants the absolute finest from Germany or perhaps the finest in the world, this is the gun for you.

    Frame: Carbon steel
    Slide: Carbon steel
    Unloaded weight: 39oz
    Configuration: Single stack, DA/SA
    Caliber: 45ACP
    Barrel length: 4"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $8000-$10,000


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    Korth Auto

    Continuing in alphabetical order, next up is Korth. Many of you may have heard this company’s name, as they are still in business today. Korth is known for producing some of the world’s finest revolvers from the 1970 through the present. Once Willi Korth got on his feet and established in the revolver world, he tested his hand at designing a semi auto in the mid 1980's. By 1987, the first autos were built. Like the Korriphila above, the Korth was built whether much regard to cost. All parts are cut from solid steel billets. Nothing is cast or even forged into shape. This resulted in a supremely well crafted firearm with very few equals in terms of quality and fit and finish.
    As are some other pistols in this guide, the Korth is extremely rare. Less than 300 were ever built and I doubt there are many in this country. The design is that of a falling block. However, unlike some others that use this system, such as the Walther P38 or Beretta 92, the Korth positioned the falling block near the muzzle. Willi Korth wasn’t one to design simple firearms and the Korth Auto was no exception. Its a big, heavy pistol with many parts, but the field stripping of the gun is easy. The Korth was available in a few different calibers, but I believe most of the early models were 9mm.

    My example is number 122 and was built in 1989, possibly by Willi Korth himself. It has the early Mauser extractor. Once Korth couldn’t source those parts any longer, they went with an in-house extractor which worked well, but didn’t look as nice. My impression of the gun is one of admiration. Its one of the finest firearms I ever held in my hand. The level of refinement and fit and finish are off the charts. Like the Korriphila, even the roll marking is perfectly done. The grips are finely checkered wood with a tastefully done wood insert on the back strap. The trigger is not as good as the Korriphila. The DA pull is about the same weight, but considerably longer than the Korriphila’s trigger. The SA pull is also about the same weight as the Korriphila, but its just not as crisp and also has a bit more take up than its German rival. Once again, I can’t recommend the gun due to its stratospheric price tag and scarcity. That being said, the collector of exotic handguns who wants it all probably should consider finding one at some point.

    Frame: Carbon steel
    Slide: Carbon steel
    Unloaded weight: 43oz
    Configuration: Single stack, DA/SA
    Caliber: 9mm Luger
    Barrel length: 4"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $8000-$10,000


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    Last edited: Aug 13, 2015
  4. bac1023

    bac1023

    103,933
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    Sep 26, 2004
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    Sig P210 Legend Target

    Next, we will discuss our first Sig Sauer in the thread. This is the very beautiful German version of the P210. As many reading this probably know, the Sig P210 originated from and was built in Switzerland for many decades. Swiss production was discontinued in the early to mid 2000‘s, only to see the pistol be rejuvenated in Germany about five years later. We will discuss the Swiss P210 later in the guide. For now, the German P210 (dubbed the Legend) will be the subject. The Legend was made in a few different configurations. These included the standard model, the Target, which included adjustable sights and a couple other enhancements, and the Super Target, which was a long slide target model with as easier to operate 1911-style thumb safety. The Legend models offered some substantial improvements over the older Swiss guns. These include a beavertail, front strap checkering (on the target models), a repositioned mag release, and an easier to operate safety. The Legend does not have the Swiss gun’s magazine disconnect safety, which some may also look at as an improvement. I’ll talk about the P210‘s fantastic design in the Switzerland section.

    My impressions of this gun are extremely positive. While it doesn’t have that Swiss hand built feel to it, as a pure shooter, I think I like it better than any of my Swiss versions. I find the trigger to be even better than my Swiss sporting P210's, which says a great deal. The palm swell wood grips fill my hands better than the grips on my older models. The safety is easier to operate and I prefer the lower position of the rear sight, which is nicely blended into the slide. The Legend also uses the heavy frame, which was only used on the Swiss guns towards the end of their production. Finally, the Legends have the beautiful Nitron finish on them, which just looks outstanding and is very fitting on a gun like this. The slide and frame are cut from solid blocks of steel and are of outstanding quality.

    The P210 is one of the most accurate centerfire pistols ever built. The low bore axis and trigger position are superb, in my opinion. The only ergonomic quibble I have about the P210 is the position of the safety. Of course, for target use, that’s basically a mute point. I find the P210 Legend Target makes shooting accurately very effortless. Its a beautiful and classy handgun to look at with the performance to match. I highly recommend getting one of these, as they are now no longer on Sig’s website and prices will start to rise. Sig did an terrific job resurrecting the P210 with the Legend models. I find them one of the very best new production guns on the market today. Its very high quality with outstanding attention to detail.

    Frame: Carbon steel
    Slide: Carbon steel
    Unloaded weight: 38oz
    Configuration: Single stack, SAO
    Caliber: 9mm Luger
    Barrel length: 4 3/4"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $2500



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    Sig P220 Sport

    We will continue with another Sig and discuss the P220 Sport. The Sport models were built starting in the late 1990's and continued until the original X Series pistols debuted in the mid 2000‘s. Like the X Series, the Sport models were completely built in Germany with a good deal of hand labor. The frames and slides were stainless steel. While I own the P220 version, Sig also produced a P226 Sport and a P229 Sport, both of which I hope to acquire at some point.

    This pistol has a big aluminum compensator bolted to the frame to help balance out the weight and reduce recoil. The slide stop, decocker, and mag release are all extended in comparison to a standard Sig P220. The DA trigger is a bit lighter and smoother. The SA trigger eliminates the creep on a standard P220 trigger and is also lighter. Fine checkering adorns the front strap and feels great in hand. The sights are adjustable and give an excellent picture on target. The long sight radius aids accuracy. The barrel length is 5.5" without including the compensator. Weight is a very hefty 46oz empty. No, this is not your typical P220.

    Personally, I really like these Sport pistols. From a build quality standpoint, they are on par with the later X Series guns, though the triggers don’t quite compare to the adjustable SAO trigger of a top of the line X Five L1. The P220 Sport is a tight fitted pistol with fantastic attention to detail. As many people know, the standard P220 is an accurate gun and this special model is even more so. Prices are starting to creep up into the $2000 range these days and should continue to steadily rise. If you’re in the market for one, now is the time.

    Frame: Stainless Steel
    Slide: Stainless Steel
    Unloaded weight: 46oz
    Configuration: Single stack, DA/SA
    Caliber: 45ACP
    Barrel length: 5 1/2"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $1500-$2000



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    Sig P226 X Five L1

    The last Sig I’m including in this guide is the outstanding X Five. This pistol debuted in the mid 2000‘s to rave reviews. The X Series was Sig’s successor to the Sport Series that we discussed above. Sig built many versions of the X Series guns, which included a base model, a lightweight model, a competition model, a couple long slide models, and some specialty models. All of these variants were built in Germany, mostly by hand. The quality and refinement far exceeds that of a standard P Series Sig.

    The example we’re reviewing here is one of the top of the line variants, called the P226 Level 1. It came complete with all the bells and whistles. Features include and an adjustable single action trigger, which is factory set at about 2lbs, an ambi 1911-style thumb safety, a magwell, beautiful Nill grips, an extended mag release, a beavertail, and fine checkering on the front strap and trigger guard. This is a big, heavy pistol, with a thick, robust barrel and a long dust cover. Empty weight is 46oz. The satin stainless finish is beautiful to look at and perfectly done.

    I’ve owned mine since 2007, when I bought it new. It was my favorite range gun for many years. With all my recent editions, I don’t put the amount of rounds through it that I once did, but it remains one of my most accurate pistols. I’ve actually grouped this pistol at 100 yards from a rest. Build quality is the best you’ll see from Sig Sauer and right on par with the P210 Legend. Like any Sig P226, the bore axis of this pistol is high. However, with its immense weight, there is no muzzle flip and its extremely pleasant to shoot. The trigger is one of the very best in my collection, with zero creep and a precise, lightweight pull. Mine is chambered in 9mm, but they were also available in 40S&W. Its one of the best target guns on the market today and certainly one of the finest still in production. This is a pistol that I very highly recommend and have done so for many years. I believe a person could have one of these as their only range gun and be completely happy.

    Frame: Stainless Steel
    Slide: Stainless Steel
    Unloaded weight: 46oz
    Configuration: Double stack, SAO
    Caliber: 9mm Luger
    Barrel length: 5"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $2000-$3000



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    Last edited: Aug 13, 2015
  5. bac1023

    bac1023

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    Walther P88

    Next up are the best centerfire pistols from Walther, which is the legendary P88 series. In my opinion, these are the only pistols Walther built that could earn a spot in this thread. The Walther P88 was in development for quite some time and was finally launched in 1988. Unlike past Walthers, the P88 was the first to use a Browning design. Walther entered the P88 in the US Army trials against the Beretta 92F, Sig P226, and a couple others. Ironically, the Beretta, which uses a Walther design, won the trial. One of the elements working against the P88 was the great cost. In 1988, this pistol cost over $1000 on the commercial market, which was a tremendous sum for a service pistol in those days. Walther could never compete with Beretta on price and I don’t believe it would have been seriously considered regardless of the test results.

    Where did all this leave the P88? That’s a good question. The pistol offered outstanding accuracy and a great trigger, but it was not a target pistol. As a service pistol it was just too expensive for most people to desire to tote around all day. As a result, the Walther P88 never fully caught on and never saw big production. While it was produced for eight years, only about 10,000 pistols were built, making the P88 somewhat rare. Due to its outstanding accuracy and built quality, value has risen a bit in recent years. During that production, the Walther P88 underwent several minor changes, so it was always evolving. Finally, in the mid 1990‘s, P88 production ceased altogether in favor of the P88 Compact. There’s always been a bit of mystique surrounding this Walther over the years.

    My particular example is a first year gun, stamped “II” for 1988. Some visual differences over later P88‘s are on the slide. The front sight is dovetailed in instead of staked on. The rear sight is taller and the slide top is rounded. The slide of the P88 is finished in a semi glossy bluing, which looks great. Controls are completely ambidextrous, which was ahead of its time for the day. The front strap, back strap, and the front of the trigger guard are all nicely serrated. The grips are a nice looking checkered black plastic.

    My impressions of the P88 have always been good and this has long been my favorite Walther series. The grip can be a bit on the large side for those with small to medium hands, but I don’t find that it hinders my ability to shoot the pistol well. The DA trigger pull is heavy, but smooth. The SA pull is light with only a small amount of take up and very little creep. I’ve always loved the P88's aesthetics. I think its a beautiful pistol that is very “German” in appearance. With the money they command today, there are certainly better pure target pistols on the market. However, the P88 is a must have for Walther collectors and aficionados. While its far from a first rate collectable, the P88 is certainly a gun that will continue to rise in value steadily over time. They are finally commanding more money now than they did new back in the late 1980's and I don’t see them looking back.


    Frame: Aluminum
    Slide: Carbon Steel
    Unloaded weight: 31oz
    Configuration: Double stack, DA/SA
    Caliber: 9mm Luger
    Barrel length: 4"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $1200-$1800


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    Walther P88 Compact

    This pistol debuted in the early to mid 1990‘s and in some ways was an improvement over the earlier P88. With the introduction of this pistol, Walther tried to reduce some production costs and also reduce the size of the pistol’s grip. Both of which were two of the biggest criticisms leveled at the full size P88 over the years of its production.

    The P88 Compact is not just a smaller version of the same gun. Its a different pistol altogether, with slide mounted controls and a slightly slimmer feel. Like its big brother, the Compact features the nicely done serrations on the front strap, back strap, and trigger guard. All controls are ambidextrous. The trigger itself is very similar in weight and feel of the larger P88 in both DA and SA modes. The finish is identical to the standard gun. This pistol is not nearly as common as the standard P88 and, likewise, doesn't come up for sale as often. Used prices are very similar to the P88.

    My impressions of the gun are great. It fits my hand better than the full size gun and, in my experience, shoots just as well. I never bench tested both of them together, but I don’t see why accuracy would be much different, if any. The P88 Compact’s barrel is only an eighth of an inch shorter, meaning a similar sight radius. My particular example was built in 1995 and sports some beautiful Nill stippled wood grips that the previous owner added. If you have smaller hands, such as I do, I recommend this gun over the standard P88. If you’re a collector, I think the classic P88 would serve you better in that regard. Both are great German pistols.


    Frame: Aluminum
    Slide: Carbon Steel
    Unloaded weight: 29oz
    Configuration: Double stack, DA/SA
    Caliber: 9mm Luger
    Barrel length: 3 7/8"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $1200-$1600



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    Walther P88 Competition

    The final Walther and also the final German pistol I’m going to include in the guide is the P88 Competition. This, along with the P88 Champion, get my vote as the best pistols Walther ever built. The P88 Competition was produced for a couple of years only during the mid 1990‘s and was never actively imported into the United States, making them very difficult to find.

    This pistol is based on the P88 Compact, but has one distinct difference. The difference is the outstanding SAO trigger in place of the DA/SA trigger. This is not a double action trigger that’s merely neutered to only fire in single action mode, but instead its an entirely different trigger system. Other than that, the P88 Competition is identical to the P88 Compact as far as size, weight, and control layout. Unfortunately, the design of the safety was not changed or adapted for a SAO pistol, making the P88 Competition almost useless as a carry gun. The safety merely blocks the firing pin and doesn’t lock the trigger. This means you could only carry it with the hammer down and safety on or without a round chambered. Neither of which lends itself to practicality or good defense.

    Of course, its not intended as a carry pistol, despite its smallish size. This is an outstanding shooter with a trigger among the best in this guide. I find it quite accurate and very comfortable in hand. To differentiate the gun from a standard P88 Compact, Walther gave the Competition a bright nickel finish on some of the small parts. While I generally don’t like that sort of color scheme, I think it works well on this pistol and makes it stand out from the standard P88 models. It also comes with a fine set of stippled Nill grips. I already mentioned the trigger, which is light and extremely crisp with no creep, and helps the shooter make the most out of the gun’s ability. Finding one in your local shop is not something that is going to happen, but I wholeheartedly recommend one of these if you should see one pop up on Gunbroker. I would say they pop up for sale about once per year on average.


    Frame: Aluminum
    Slide: Carbon Steel
    Unloaded weight: 29oz
    Configuration: Double stack, SAO
    Caliber: 9mm Luger
    Barrel length: 3 7/8"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $2000-$2400



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    Walther P88 Competition, Walther P88 compact, Walther P88, HK P7M8, HK P7M10, HK P9S Sport, Korriphila HSP 701, Korth Auto, Sig P210 Legend, Sig P226 X Five L1, Sig P220 Sport


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    Last edited: Aug 7, 2015
  6. bac1023

    bac1023

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    Sep 26, 2004
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    Italy

    The Italians built some very exotic and elegant pistols over the years. We will be discussing quite a few of them here. Unfortunately, everything you see from Italy in this guide is no longer being produced and everything here ranges from rare to almost non-existent on the used market. Still, these beauties represent some of the most exotic and best shooting pistols in history.









    Benelli B76

    This pistol is the most common that you’ll see from Italy in this guide, although that’s not to say that its something you’re going to ever see at your local shop. Benelli introduced this pistol in the late 1970‘s in the hopes it would be heavily used in Europe for service. Unfortunately, it was a little behind the times, as it was heavy and only held 8 rounds in the magazine. This resulted in a limited number being built and a relatively short production life. There were several variations of the B76, to include the B77 in 32ACP, the B80 in 30 Luger, and the B82 in 9mm Ultra. There are also a few sporting versions of this pistol, which took advantage of the design’s great accuracy.

    The Benelli B76 is a rather unique pistol and uses what Benelli called an “inertia lock”, which was a lever-delayed blowback system. The barrel is fixed and its very inherently accurate as a result. Construction of the gun is solid and quality is quite good. As mentioned, its not a lightweight pistol, weighing in at 35oz unloaded. The internal parts are hard chromed, along with the trigger and hammer. The grip angle mimics a Luger and works great for me. It also lends itself to an extremely low bore axis. The front strap and back strap are serrated and when combined with the nicely checkered wood grips, the purchase on the gun is secure. The finish is a nice, even matte bluing. The B76 does have a few quirks. The safety is awkward to engage (which doesn’t much matter on a range pistol) and the field stripping of the gun is tedious and not something I particularly enjoy doing. Probably my biggest issue with the B76 is the slide bite that is bound to happen. I don’t have large hands, but I still a hard time avoiding the slide hitting my right thumb in a standard thumbs forward grip. The gun will draw blood after a few mags if you're not careful.

    Having said all that, my overall impression of the B76 is positive. It earned a spot in this guide due to its high quality and accuracy. The grip angle is perfect for me and I find it has no muzzle flip whatsoever. The fixed barrel really shows its advantages at the range and the Benelli does not disappoint. I love the exotic look of the pistol, with all of its angles. It looks distinctly Italian, in my eyes. I always recommend this gun despite its shortcomings. The Benelli B76 has a certain charm to it that’s hard to put into words. While prices are starting to climb, the B76 can still be had for a reasonable sum and, considering the quality, they offer an outstanding value.


    Frame: Carbon steel
    Slide: Carbon Steel
    Unloaded weight: 35oz
    Configuration: Single stack, DA/SA
    Caliber: 9mm Luger
    Barrel length: 4 1/4"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $800-$1400




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    Benelli B77

    This is just a short entry on a 32ACP “version” of the B76. The Benelli B77 was just that. The gun looks identical externally, but lacks the 9mm’s lever-delayed blowback system and employs what is essentially a straight blowback design. Obviously with the 32ACP’s much lower pressure and energy output, changes had to be made to enable the weapon to function properly. The B77 is built to the same great quality level and accuracy is outstanding. Of course, the same quirks also plague this Benelli.

    I actually like the B77 more than the B76. The 32ACP is so pleasant to shoot in a 35oz pistol and follow up shots are a breeze. The problem is that the pistol is exceedingly rare, so finding one is difficult. I’ve only ever seen a couple on Gunbroker over the years and just recently one sold for quite a sum of money. While a 35oz, full size 32ACP probably won’t appeal to very many, its one I highly recommend because its just so fun and rewarding to shoot.


    Frame: Carbon steel
    Slide: Carbon Steel
    Unloaded weight: 35oz
    Configuration: Single stack, DA/SA
    Caliber: 32 ACP
    Barrel length: 4 1/4"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $800-$1400



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    Benelli MP3S

    The last Benelli I’m going to discuss was their top of the line center fire handgun, called the MP3S. This was a single action only variant of the “B” series guns and were mainly built for bullseye competition. These are very high quality pistols and feature some outstanding precision and hand craftsmanship. They are the best work Benelli ever put into a handgun, in my opinion.

    As you may imagine, the MP3S is very rare. I’m not sure how many were made, but I’m guessing a few hundred. Most of those were chambered in the bullsye-geared 32 Wadcutter, but they were also offered in 9mm Luger. The finish is upgraded over the standard guns to a high polish lustrous bluing, which is fitting for a handgun of such elegance and beauty. The MP3S features a 5.5“ fixed barrel with a weight attached to the end for stability with a one handed grip and bullseye stance. The sights are big and fully adjustable and the trigger is light and crisp with very little initial take up. This is a large, all steel pistol, so its not light. Unloaded weight is 42oz.

    I really like this Benelli. It looks incredibly exotic and is a joy to shoot. The weak 32 Wadcutter round is a pleasure to shoot and it consistently hits were its aimed. Its a highly specialized, purpose built pistol, so the caliber makes sense. However, I wouldn’t mind picking up a 9mm version at some point as well. 9mm is much easier to find and less expensive to shoot. While these guns tend to fetch a little more money then your standard B76, they can still be had at a decent price in the rare even they pop up for sale. If you find one, don’t hesitate to buy it.


    Frame: Carbon steel
    Slide: Carbon Steel
    Unloaded weight: 42oz
    Configuration: Single stack, SAO
    Caliber: 32 Wadcutter
    Barrel length: 5 1/2"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $1500-$2000



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    Beretta Steel I


    The first and only Beretta I’m going to discuss in this guide is my 2005 Beretta Steel I. This pistol was built for two years only (2004 and 2005). Beretta introduced the gun as a special, high end version of the 92 and 96, meant mostly for range use. As with many other Berettas, the Steel I uses the tried and true falling block locking system, similar to a Walther P38 and P5.

    The Beretta Steel I features a steel frame and Vertec grip. They also all had a frame mounted thumb safety. Many of them, including mine, also featured a SAO trigger. The finish on the pistol is some sort of nickel Teflon combination, which looks great and is very evenly done. This pistol is built to some high quality standards and I feel its a huge step up from the standard Beretta service guns. The black plastic grips are well checkered and the front and back strap are serrated, giving the shooter a secure grip on the pistol. This is a solid handgun. Weighing in at 43oz unloaded, its considerably heavier than most full size Government 1911s. The Steel I was available in 9mm and 40S&W, mine being the latter. Unfortunately, prices have really risen drastically in the last couple of years.

    My overall impressions of the gun are good. I find it unique and very well made. The extra craftsmanship Beretta put into this pistol is clearly evident, which is why its listed in this guide. The safety is easy to operate. While the Steel I is much tighter, it still retains most of the standard pistol’s smoothness. The sights are rather small and non adjustable, but they work well enough. While I realize its not everyone’s favorite, the Vertec grip frame works well for me. I have two complaints about the Steel I, the first being functional and the other purely aesthetic. The Steel I’s trigger is less than ideal. Its far too heavy and makes precision target shooting difficult. I have no idea why Beretta would fit such a heavy trigger on a SAO pistol, but that’s where this gun is at. I would say without measuring, that its almost as heavy as an unmodified Browning Hi Power. While it can be lightened with some work, in stock form it partially ruins an otherwise outstanding handgun. My second complaint is regarding the unsightly warning stamped largely across the right side of the slide. On a lesser pistol, I wouldn’t give it a second thought, but it doesn’t belong on this one. If you can live with that and the trigger, the Steel I is a must have for the Beretta collector. However, be ready for some high asking prices, especially for the 9mm version.


    Frame: Carbon steel
    Slide: Carbon Steel
    Unloaded weight: 43oz
    Configuration: Double stack, SAO
    Caliber: 40S&W
    Barrel length: 4 5/8"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $2500-$3500



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  7. bac1023

    bac1023

    103,933
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    Sep 26, 2004
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    Bernardelli Practical VB


    Next up on our list of super exotic Italian weapons is this rare competition-bred pistol from Bernardelli. The Practical VB was built in the early to mid 1990's for a few years and was Bernardelli’s SAO sporting version of their DA/SA service pistol of the day, the P One. The VB was available with a wide array of options and could basically be custom ordered by the buyer. Options included different style triggers, different beavertails, and different compensators, different safeties, different slide stops, and different magazines releases. Bernardelli also offered a Practical VB Elite, which came standard with the biggest compensator, the largest controls, and some really goofy slide cuts that I don’t care for.

    What you see here is a Practical VB that was bought by the previous owner at the 1992 SHOT show when it was introduced. Bernardelli was sure to spec it out with all the bells and whistles to include the extended beavertail, extended slide stop, extended thumb safety, enlarged mag release, and a larger multi-chamber compensator. This model also has the optional hard chrome finish and optional factory drilling for optics. Standard Practical VB attire includes large adjustable target sights, a big magazine funnel, and checkering on the front strap, back strap, and trigger guard. The grips are black plastic, which are carried over from the P One, but work well. The barrel is fairly long at 5.5". On my pistol, the compensator protrudes another full inch past that, making quite a long pistol. The Practical VB was supposedly available in 9mm, 40S&W, and 9x21. Unfortunately, mine is chambered in 40S&W, which I don’t care for. However, I guess it makes sense given the gun’s intended purpose back in the day. This was a unicorn pistol of mine for many years, due to its extreme rarity in the United States. There weren’t all that many built in the first place, so the numbers and availability are dwindling in Europe as well. This is not an easy gun to find by any means.

    I personally love the the Practical VB and its wild and racy looks. Its a fun gun to shoot, despite being chambered in one of my least favorite rounds. I found accuracy to be impressive and recoil very minimal. The trigger is good, but not great. However, its a good deal better then the Beretta’s trigger above. The ergonomics are great and it reminds me of a 1911 quite a bit. The grip frame is relatively thin, despite being double stack, and the pistol is thin through the slide as well. Build quality is solid, but not quite on par with most of the other Italian firearms listed here. I would call the quality and fitting good, while most of the others listed here from this country are great to exceptional. That does little to dampen my spirits about the Practical VB. I love the rarity and I love the way it shoots. This pistol just screams “cool factor”. If you can find one, I recommend picking one up. They are one of the most affordable pistols in the guide.


    Frame: Carbon steel
    Slide: Carbon Steel
    Unloaded weight: 39oz
    Configuration: Double stack, SAO
    Caliber: 40S&W
    Barrel length: 5 1/2"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $800-$1200



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    Delta AR Top Gun



    This next entry into the Italian armada, is the ultra-exotic Delta AR Top gun. These guns were designed in the mid 1990‘s by two Italian men. Production started in 1998 and continued until the mid 2000's. They were built in extremely limited numbers. I’d be surprised if more than 150-200 were ever made and most of those are in the hands of collectors overseas. Due to extreme rarity, its not something you’re ever going to see locally. As time goes on, the likelihood of ever seeing one will become that much slimmer. I’m not fully clear on its intended purpose, other than being a single action target pistol. The Delta did win pistol of the year in one 1998 publication in Europe shortly after its introduction. It also underwent several changes over the years of its production from that point forward. The Top Gun was available in 9mm, 40S&W, and 45ACP, with mine being the 45 version.

    These pistols are entirely hand built with great care and the quality reflects that.. As you can see, it has a wild look to it and that’s mostly due to the big curvy trigger guard. The design uses the same roller locking system that the old CZ 52 used. Those familiar with the CZ 52 probably noticed some similarities immediately. Internally they look remarkably similar. The Delta is just built to extreme high standards of quality while the CZ 52 is very crude by comparison. My pistol is from the first year of production and uses a top eject, while later versions switched to side ejection. Controls are completely ambidextrous, to include the slide stop, thumb safety, and mag release. The trigger is fully adjustable in every which way. It actually has four different adjustment screws. The back of the slide is finely checkered at what appears to be at least 40 lines per inch. The frame of mine is aluminum with a carbon steel slide. The finish is a matte nickel with polished nickel flats. The wood grips are nicely checkered and meet in the back. Both the front strap and the top of the slide are neatly serrated. The beavertail does a great job making the pistol comfortable in hand. The adjustable rear sights are large and give a fine picture on target. The barrel is an even 5" in length. In the extreme rare event one of these pops up for sale, they don’t sell for cheap, with prices approaching the $4000 range.

    My overall impressions of the Top Gun are good, but its not without its flaws. First and foremost, the build quality is outstanding, both internally and externally. Its a very tightly built pistol. Its really a gem in that regard. I love its aesthetics that just scream exotica. Its the only pistol I own that is completely symmetrical on both sides. Save for a barely noticeable cut out on the left side of the slide for the thumb safety, this pistol is perfectly symmetrical with all controls, take down levers, grip screws, etc. Even the main roll markings are identical on both sides. I find that incredibly cool, since its so rare to see. At the range, I found the gun perfectly reliable with ball ammo and quite accurate. My complaint about the Top Gun is the ejection pattern, which tends to throw brass into the shooter’s face when shooting offhand. As I mentioned, the Top Gun was a pistol that evolved during its production. I have a first year model that has the top ejection. I don’t think that was around long due to this brass to face issue. Most of these pistols had an ejection port on the side. While that takes away the pistol’s perfect symmetry I just spoke of, it does solve the problem. Since parts can not be replaced and I’m not going to shoot the pistol much to begin with, the top eject is fine. I like the extra rarity it gives the gun (as if its not rare enough already) and I love the look. The top eject does not hurt the ejection reliability, as it has functioned perfectly. My other complaint is the aluminum frame, which makes the gun a bit top heavy, due to the thick and heavy slide. I think a gun of this quality should be all steel to begin with and the extra weight would also improve the balance and reduce the felt recoil. Later models did have steel frames, which was part of the evolution the gun went through. What I have is a beautiful and rare first year version of a very exotic pistol. Since its not a gun I intend to shoot a bunch, I’m very happy with it. If I were to recommend one of these to another shooter, I would tell them to find a later gun with the steel frame and side eject port. The last thing I’ll mention is the trigger. Much like a Series 80 Colt 1911, the trigger’s first order of business is the firing pin safety, which definitely affects the crispness of the break. Despite the fact that it is adjustable every way imaginable, it just can’t compete with the triggers of some other pistols in this guide. The bottom line is that the Top Gun is an extremely well made gun and a bit unlike anything else I own. Its not much of a shooter for me, so I can live with its shortcomings. While its no slouch at the range, its a gun I'd rather just gaze at and admire. This is one of the rarest pistols in the guide.


    Frame: Aluminum
    Slide: Carbon Steel
    Unloaded weight: 35oz
    Configuration: Double stack, SAO
    Caliber: 45ACP
    Barrel length: 5"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $3000-$4000



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    Pardini GT9


    Now I’m moving to one of my all time favorite shooters. The Pardini GT9 was introduced back in the late 1990‘s/early 2000‘s and is still being built at the time of this writing. Production was always limited, so they’re very slim on the used market and I’m not sure about new production availability either. Pardini is much more known for their rimfire competition pistols. However, their centerfire pistols are outstanding. There is also a GT40 and a GT45 available for those who prefer a different caliber. For those who prefer a different color scheme, there are others to choose from.

    The Pardini GT9 is a competition-bred pistol in every way. The swept back grip angle keeps the bore axis extremely low. The low profile adjustable sights complement the grip angle perfectly. The beavertail allows a high grip and coupled with the trigger reach, give the shooter about the closest thing to perfect ergonomics I’ve ever witnessed. The large, easy to reach, and perfectly weighted ambidextrous thumb safety is among the best in my entire collection. The grips themselves are simple thin wood panels with some nicely done cross hatch checkering. The front and back strap are checkered and the trigger guard and trigger itself are both nicely serrated. The design of the GT9 is straight forward and not really unusual in any way. One notable aspect of the design is that the slide rides inside the frame, much like a Sig P210 or CZ 75. The dustcover runs the entire length of the pistol and the frame rails reach all the way out to the very end of the barrel on my example, which undoubtedly aides accuracy. The current production models don’t have dustcovers quite as long for whatever reason, but mine was built back in 2002. Field stripping the GT9 is very easy, making it an exotic pistol that is simple to clean and maintain, which is a bonus because many of them aren't. The frame is aluminum, but thick and heavy duty. Everything about the GT9 is overbuilt, including the thick, heavy barrel. The pistol weighs in at 38oz.

    My impression of the GT9 is probably clear already. This gun is truly outstanding. The trigger is fully adjustable and quite possibly the best in this guide. There is a small amount of take up and it then breaks with about 2lbs of pressure and no creep at all. The ergonomics are among the best in the business. The controls are perfect and the build quality is just amazing. I would say accuracy is as good as any pistol in this guide. Its so easy to perform well with this pistol that it almost feels like cheating. All that being said, possibly the best aspect of the GT9 is one I have yet to mention. The gun is literally the smoothest and slickest pistol I ever owned or shot. The slide to frame fit is like glass. The controls are precise, yet very smooth. The magazine falls freely. When firing the GT9, you can’t even feel the slide move at all. This is a pistol in which all parts and aspects work together in perfect harmony. As mentioned, even the breakdown for cleaning is effortless. This gun is in my top five or possibly even my top three favorite shooters, which says a great deal in this company. Its about as close to perfection as it gets and I struggle to find any fault with it whatsoever. I wholeheartedly recommend it to others and have been for many years.


    Frame: Aluminum
    Slide: Carbon Steel
    Unloaded weight: 38oz
    Configuration: Double stack, SAO
    Caliber: 9mm
    Barrel length: 5"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $2000-$3000



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    Tanfoglio Witness Limited


    The last entry for Italy comes in the way of this SAO competition pistol from Tanfoglio. As many probably know, this pistol uses the tried and true CZ 75 design. Tanfoglio made a number of different models over the years, to include some very basic service models all the way up to some expensive full blown race pistols. The Limited is one of the higher end models, hence its entry into this guide. These were available in a wide array of calibers, this one being 38 Super.

    This pistol is standard with all the bells and whistles you would expect on an IPSC ready handgun. Features include an extended safety, an extended mag release, a beavertail, a large mag funnel, and adjustable target sights. The front strap and back strap of the limited are also nicely checkered and the frame is factory drilled for optics. Being a CZ clone, the ergonomics are superb and the gun is easy to shoot well. The trigger is crisp and light. Without measuring, it appears to break between 3 and 4lbs. This pistol is not unlike the earlier discussed CZ 75 Tactical Sport. They both have the same flavor and feel similar in hand. They are virtually the same size, though oddly the Limited’s barrel is a quarter inch shorter. This is no lightweight and weighs in at a hefty 45oz empty. The finish is hard chrome.

    I think its a decent pistol, but not nice as the CZ. Likewise, quality is probably the lowest of the Italian pistols in this guide. Obviously, that’s all relative, because the Limited is certainly a good quality pistol. Its just among some very tough company. As mentioned, ergonomics are outstanding. I actually like the grip a bit better than the CZ Tactical Sport. I haven’t shot this gun in quite a while, but accuracy was always good. The only real complaint I have about the pistol is the very awkward thumb safety. Its large, but the shape of it is not conducive to easy operation. It also doesn’t have that precise, positive feel that many others do in this guide. As a range pistol, its not a big deal for me, but its definitely worth mentioning. Overall, I feel its a very good gun, but I can’t recommend it over the similarly priced CZ Tactical Sport.


    Frame: Carbon steel
    Slide: Carbon Steel
    Unloaded weight: 45oz
    Configuration: Double stack, SAO
    Caliber: 38 super
    Barrel length: 5"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $800-$1200



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    Benelli B77, Benelli B76, Benelli MP3S, Delta AR Top Gun, Beretta Steel I, Pardini GT9, Bernardelli Practical VB, Tanfoglio Limited


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    Last edited: Aug 7, 2015
  8. bac1023

    bac1023

    103,933
    3,418
    Sep 26, 2004
    PA
    Switzerland

    As many would probably guess, Swiss handguns are all but synonymous with high end and/or exotic. The country is known for outstanding craftsmanship and precision building inside and outside the firearms industry.





    ASAI One Pro

    With that being said, we are starting off with a pistol that is borderline. I was on the fence for a while deciding whether or not to include it in this guide. Obviously, I decided to in the end. The ASAI One Pro was built for a short period of time in the late 1990‘s. ASAI stands for Advanced Small Arms Industries and they were imported by Magnum Research in very limited numbers. All the models imported were 45ACP, I believe.

    This pistol’s basic design is that of a CZ75, though its not an exact clone. The One Pro is a much beefier and heavier pistol, weighing in at a full 40oz empty. Quality is very good, but certainly not on par with the other Swiss pistols in this guide. The finish is a smooth grayish coating that looks nice. The grips are black plastic and the front strap and back strap are stippled. One of the One Pro’s best features is the outstanding double action trigger, which is incredibly light and smooth. Its almost too light for defensive purposes, despite the long pull. The SA trigger is also very light, but suffers from excessive creep. The thumb safety is simply a decocker on the One Pro. Ergonomically speaking, the this handgun is good, though balance is not as nice as the thinner, lighter CZ75, in my opinion. Not surprisingly, the One Pro is an accurate pistol, which is typical for the design.

    I’ve had this one for over two years at the time of this writing and shot it once. For whatever reason, I can’t get the pistol apart to clean it. It is supposed to disassemble the same way as a CZ75, of course, but try as I might, the I can’t get the slide stop to budge. In talking to another owner, I’m not alone with this dilemma. If I could clean the gun, I’d obviously shoot it more and have a better opinion of it. Its a soft shooter despite being 45ACP and having a fairly high bore axis. As it stands, we have a high quality, all steel, heavy duty Swiss pistol that I can’t recommend to others. I will update this guide if and when that situation changes, as I’m determined to find a solution.


    Frame: Carbon steel
    Slide: Carbon steel
    Unloaded weight: 40oz
    Configuration: Double stack, DA/SA
    Caliber: 45ACP
    Barrel length: 3 3/4"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $800-$1200




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    Sig P210-1

    If there was ever a pistol that embodied the best of post war, European craftsmanship, its this Swiss gem. The Sig P210 has been around since the late 1940's and was actually the only handgun Sig ever built before partnering with Sauer of Germany in the early 1970's. This gun was a military and service pistol that doubled as a target pistol due to its incredible inherent accuracy and build quality. Once its military and service careers were over, the P210 became exclusively a target pistol. In my opinion, the Sig P210 combines quality, accuracy, and military/service pedigree like no other pistol ever built. The parts are of very high quality. While the design is rather slim, the pistol is extremely tough and durable, made to withstand thousands of rounds of NATO spec 9mm. The slide and frame are machined out of solid steel blocks, making production quite expensive and eventually leading to its replacement. The P210‘s service life in the Swiss Military lasted from the late 1940‘s when it replaced the Luger until 1975 when it was replaced by the first Sig Sauer pistol, the P220.

    The P210 is heavily based on a design by Charles Petter. However, in the P210, the slide rides inside the frame and is fit with a high degree of precision and rigidity, which aids accuracy. I find the hand position when shooting the pistol to be excellent. The grip is comfortable and the grip angle is near perfect. The bore axis is quite low. The controls are a bit difficult to operate, especially if you aren’t used to it. The mag release is on the heel of the grip frame and they tend to be very stiff. The safety is difficult to reach without altering your grip and its also stiff. While these factors remind you how well built and heavy duty the P210 is, they can detract a bit from the allure of the gun if you intend to use it for anything other than the range.

    My personal collection of Swiss Sig P210s consists of three models. The first variant I’m going to discuss is the P210-1, which is the commercial version of the military pistol. It has the military trigger and sights, but is equipped with nice wood grips and a beautiful polished blue finish. Just picking up the gun and you know you’re looking at old world Swiss firearm's quality at its absolute finest. The sights are small and the SAO trigger has some take up. The break is heavier than the target P210s, but certainly not bad. As eluded to above, the gun is not without some faults. While I love the shooting position, the hammer can bite those with larger hands. Also, the ergonomics of the controls leave much to be desired. Still, all that is part of the pistol’s charm in my eyes.

    My overall opinion of the P210-1 is one of great admiration. The gun you see here was built in 1954 and just exudes quality in spades. The magazine alone is built better than many pistols, even many good pistols I own. If I want to shoot a P210 at the range, the -1 is generally not what I’m reaching for, since the target models are much better for that purpose. I bought this one more as an object of my desire than I did as an actual shooter. It performs well at the range, but can’t quite match the modern P210s. Its akin to a vintage 1950's Ferrari up against a modern day model.


    Frame: Carbon steel
    Slide: Carbon steel
    Unloaded weight: 34oz
    Configuration: Single stack, SAO
    Caliber: 9mm Luger
    Barrel length: 4 3/4"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $3000-$4000



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    Sig P210-6

    I’ll now discuss one of the sporting variants of the P210. The -6 model featured a much improved target trigger and, most of the time, it was equipped with larger adjustable sights. The front strap was serrated and the wood grips were generally supplied by Nill of Germany. The later P210-6 models were even equipped with a heavier frame to add balance and stability.

    My personal collection includes two examples of the P210-6. The first is an early 1990's example with the standard frame and standard military sights. The second was built about 10 years later and was basically the culmination of Swiss Sig P210 development. It has is has all the bells and whistles to include the heavy frame and adjustable sights. The trigger on the -6 model is far superior to that of the military or early commercial models, with a much shorter, lighter, and crisper pull.

    In my opinion, this is the model to buy if you’re looking for a Swiss P210 to shoot at the range. Either the -6 or the longer barreled -5 are much better range pistols than the mil-spec variants. The P210-6 is undoubtedly one of the world’s most accurate handguns and they ship with text targets with 6-shot groups, 50 meter groups of 2“ or less. I’ve seen test targets under an inch and a half.

    In conclusion, I’ll say that the P210 is a must have for anyone with interest in high end European pistols. I find the aesthetics beautiful and the build quality is immediately evident the first time you pick one up. Take it apart and marvel at its parts fitting. While the Legend has a few advantages, mentioned earlier in the guide, I feel the Swiss models are the embodiment of old world quality and craftsmanship. While the old P210-1 is beautiful, I will recommend getting one with larger, target style adjustable sights, which will help you take full advantage of the pistol’s stellar accuracy capabilities. Unlike many other pistols in this thread, the P210 is one that can be found without too much trouble.


    Frame: Carbon steel
    Slide: Carbon steel
    Unloaded weight: 34oz - 38oz (depending on standard or heavy frame)
    Configuration: Single stack, SAO
    Caliber: 9mm Luger
    Barrel length: 4 3/4"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $3000 - $4000



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    Last edited: Aug 7, 2015
  9. bac1023

    bac1023

    103,933
    3,418
    Sep 26, 2004
    PA
    Sphinx AT2000S

    Despite the incredible quality level and history of the Sig P210, I think the Sphinx 2000 series are my favorite Swiss pistols. They have not been built since the 1990‘s, but there’s just something special about them, in my opinion. I own two of the series and the first one we’re going to discuss is the standard full size AT2000S.

    The AT2000S is a CZ 75 clone built to extremely high standards of quality. The materials, parts fitting, and refinement are stellar and they really embody fine Swiss firearms craftsmanship. The AT2000S features an ambidextrous safety and slide release, and red dot combat style sights. The front strap and back strap are finely checkered. The black grips are a made of a tacky rubber-like material called neoprene, which are also checkered and feel great in hand. The pistol is very tight and well machined. In typical CZ 75 fashion, the ergonomics are superb. These guns were finished a variety of ways. Mine has the optional Palladium plating on the slide, but most of them have the classic blued slide, which also looks great. The frame is stainless steel. The AT2000S also came all blued with a carbon steel frame, but those are very few and far between. The trigger is DA/SA, but has none of the creep of the CZ 75. Its very crisp and precise.

    I highly recommend this pistol, as you may have already guessed. They are the finest pistols ever to use the already excellent CZ design. Unfortunately, they are exceedingly difficult to find these days, even on Gunbroker. When they do pop up, they are bringing big money. There is also a 3000 Series of pistols which look a bit different, but are built to the same high quality levels. The attention to detail on these guns is at a super high level.


    Frame: Stainless steel
    Slide: Carbon steel
    Unloaded weight: 37oz
    Configuration: Double stack, DA/SA
    Caliber: 9mm
    Barrel length: 4 1/2"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $2000-$3000



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    Sphinx Competitor

    The Sphinx Competitor is a race oriented pistol built on the AT2000 platform. Its main difference is the extended barrel and the compensator. The sights are also different with a Bo-Mar rear adjustable sight and a dovetailed front sight. For those that would rather use optics, the Competitor is factory drilled and also comes with a mount. Other than the tapped holes, the frame is identical to the AT2000S, to include the front and back strap checkering and it wears the same black neoprene grips. The slide on the Competitor is the classic Sphinx bluing, which is smooth, evenly done, and looks great. The slide on the Competitor does not feature the serrations of the AT2000S, but rather some checkering at the very back, which is fairly easy to grasp. The trigger is identical to the AT2000S, though Sphinx did have a SAO variant in the 2000 Series.

    Once again, I highly recommend this pistol. It is a very accurate pistol and extremely soft shooting, due to its heavy, 41oz weight and compensator. The ergonomics are superb, just like the AT2000S. The large sights make it easy to pick up the target. Field stripping this pistol takes slightly longer than the AT2000S, because you have to unscrew the finely threaded compensator before removing the barrel. The Competitor is nearly impossible to find, so I really have no reference for the price on today’s market. I made an educated guess at what I think they would bring today, which is about the same as the standard gun.


    Frame: Stainless steel
    Slide: Carbon steel
    Unloaded weight: 41oz
    Configuration: Double stack, DA/SA
    Caliber: 9mm
    Approximate 2015 prices: $2000-$3000



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    ASAI One Pro, Sig P210-6 HF, Sig P210-6, Sig P210-1, Sphinx AT2000S, Sphinx Competitor


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    Last edited: Aug 8, 2015
  10. bac1023

    bac1023

    103,933
    3,418
    Sep 26, 2004
    PA
    USA

    Since this guide contains no 1911s or rimfies, the only pistols built in the USA that I feel warrant being included are the older high end Smith & Wessons, mostly from the Performance Center. I’m not sure any other non-1911 autos built in the States really qualify (at least out of the models I own).





    Smith & Wesson 52


    This will be the only Smith & Wesson pistol I speak of that was not built in the Performance Center. The 52 was, in fact, the company’s top of the line bullseye pistol built long before the Performance Center was around. It was introduced in the early 1960‘s as a match pistol based on the Model 39 service gun. It has little use outside bullseye competition and range plinking. The caliber is 38 Special WC, which is certainly not something to use for anything but punching perfectly round holes in paper.

    The gun itself is built to high standards of quality. Both the frame and sides of the slide are carbon steel with a high polish blued finish. The top and back of the slide use a matte bluing to reduce glare. The backstrap is checkered, while the front strap is serrated. The grips are finely checkered walnut and look very attractive on the gun. The adjustable sights are large in typical bullseye style. The safety merely blocks the firing pin and doesn’t lock the trigger, making it all but useless other than dry firing drills. The Smith & Wesson 52 was one of the most accurate handguns of its day and still holds up extremely well to today’s most accurate semi-autos. They did not leave the factory unless they could produce a 5-shot 50 yard group of 2“ of less. That’s quite impressive indeed. The unique barrel bushing and high grade barrel contribute to this outstanding accuracy. Being a bullseye pistol, the barrel is 5" in length. Being a large, all steel pistol, the weight is a hefty 40oz empty. In true bullseye fashion, the magazine holds just five rounds.

    My example is a 52-2 from the 1970‘s, that differs slightly from the original with an upgraded trigger and extractor. I’ve always had a liking for the 52, partially for being the granddaddy of one of my favorite 9mms, but also for being a great pistol itself. Obviously, finding ammo is not easy or overly cheap, but the gun is extremely soft shooting and very easy to shoot accurately. I guess its difficult for me to fully recommend the gun because its so specialized and limited. However, if you can get past that, the 52 is a beautiful classic pistol and certainly one of the finest centerfire handguns Smith & Wesson ever built.


    Frame: Carbon steel
    Slide: Carbon steel
    Unloaded weight: 40oz
    Configuration: Single stack, SAO
    Caliber: 38 Special WC
    Barrel length: 5"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $1000-$1500



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    Smith & Wesson 845

    The next pistol I’ll discuss is the first ever Performance Center handgun and a pistol that can be somewhat difficult to find today. It was called the 845 and was the company’s first high end 45ACP. The 845 is somewhat similar to the company’s earlier 45ACP target pistol, the 745. Despite having a 745 in my collection, I didn’t feel it deserved a spot in this guide. However, the 845 was a huge upgrade in terms of build quality and accuracy potential.

    The 845 was a full stainless pistol with rather plain looks. The model number was never stamped anywhere on the gun after the very first run of them and I actually like that about it. The single stack magazine holds 8 rounds of 45ACP. The SAO trigger is outstanding and not far off the 52's bullseye trigger above. The wraparound plastic grips do little for the pistol's aesthetics, but allow for good traction. The front strap is nicely checkered. The mag release is slightly oversize and easy to reach. The safety is identical to the 52's safety and does not lock the hammer. This makes the 845 very difficult to use for anything other than target shooting. As with all of the older Performance Center pistols, the 845 uses the Briley bushing at the muzzle to keep everything locked down tightly and the pistol shooting as accurately as possible. The rear sight is a Bo-Mar adjustable and works great.

    I absolutely love the 845. Along with the 945, it is the most accurate non-1911 I own and very well may be as accurate as any of my 1911s. I shoots extremely well and handles the round nicely. The grip angle is a bit more upright than a 1911, but its close. The build quality is incredible and I like the understated looks. It looks very similar to an ordinary 3rd Gen Smith & Wesson auto, but has performance way off the charts. My one complaint is the thin grip. I’m not a huge fan of thin 1911 grips and the wraparound grips of the 845 are just as slim. I prefer a slightly thicker grip when shooting. However, this doesn’t stop the 845 from being one of my most accurate pistols at the range. I highly recommend one of these gems. They are not easy to find, but definitely not as rare as some other pistols in this guide.


    Frame: Stainless steel
    Slide: Stainless steel
    Unloaded weight: 41oz
    Configuration: Single stack, SAO
    Caliber: 45ACP
    Barrel length: 5"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $1500-$2000



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    Smith & Wesson 945

    The Performance Center 945 is about as close as Smith & Wesson came to offering a 1911 before they just broke down and started building them. Having said that, it shares many similarities to the 845. They use the same magazine and have the same grip angle. In fact, the frame and slide started as identical parts, but have different metal work and machining. They both weigh the same at 41oz empty. They also both use identical slide stops and mag releases. Finally, they both share the same Briley bushing and barrel and have identical setups at the muzzle. Of course, they both possess the same outstanding build quality and accuracy as well.

    The 945 comes into its own once the 1911-style parts and setup get blended into the awesome 845 platform. The 945 is essentially a cross between an 845 and a 1911. Its uses a 1911-style ambidextrous thumb safety and grip safety. The 3-hole trigger is reminiscent of an enhanced 1911 as well. The main spring housing and front strap are both checkered. The pattern on the 945's slide looks a little odd, but works great for getting a secure grip on the gun for racking. The 945 uses a Wilson Combat rear sight, which is outstanding. The dovetailed front sight is identical to the 845's front sight. The trigger is just as crisp and light as the 845‘s trigger, but, like a 1911, it does not pivot. The thin checkered wood grips look great on the pistol.

    My opinion of the 945 is that its probably a better pistol than the 845, due to practicality. The 945 can be carried cocked and locked just like a 1911. I find the accuracy to be outstanding and on par with the 845 as one of the best shooters in my collection. I prefer the 845's classy looks over the more tactical looks of the 945, but there’s no denying the 945's advantage in usefulness. Once again, the grips are a little thin for me, just like thin 1911 grips. I highly recommend this gun to anyone who loves 1911s or just high end pistols in general. The 945 is that crossover gun that will appeal to both groups. Unlike the 845, these pistols are much easier to find. While they haven’t been built in some years, there are also an assortment on Gunbroker.


    Frame: Stainless steel
    Slide: Stainless steel
    Unloaded weight: 41oz
    Configuration: Single stack, SAO
    Caliber: 45ACP
    Barrel length: 5"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $1500-$2000



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    Last edited: Aug 11, 2015
  11. bac1023

    bac1023

    103,933
    3,418
    Sep 26, 2004
    PA
    Smith & Wesson 952-1

    This guide is almost over, but its not complete until I get a chance to talk about another one of my all time favorite 9mms. The Smith & Wesson 952 is a high performance, high quality 9mm target pistol based on the previously mentioned 52 bullseye gun. As with all the Performance Center pistols I’m speaking of, this gun was discontinued a few years back after less than 10 years of limited production. The 952 came blued (952 and 952-1) and stainless (952-2). The stainless model is the most common, because it was built for a longer period of time. There was also a long slide version of the 952-2. This first entry is going to discuss the 5" 952-1.

    The 952 features strikingly good looks (in my opinion) and the performance to match. The single stack magazine holds 9 rounds of 9mm. The trigger is identical to the 845 and works very well. The 952 comes with a Wilson Combat adjustable rear sight, which is terrific. The grips are checkered walnut and, unlike the 845 and 945, are not the thin type. The 952 gives the shooter more more to hold onto when firing it. The slide is serrated in the rear portion, but features no front serrations and has a clean look as a result. The 952-1 has a slab slide, while most of the stainless models have a step slide. The one negative of the 952 is that it uses the same useless “safety” of the 52 and 845, so it can’t be carried cocked and locked or effectively carried at all. Thankfully, we aren’t discussing carry guns in this guide. One puzzling feature of the 952 is the added grip safety, starting with the -1 model. I don’t like or dislike it, but I see no reason for it on a gun that is not designed for carry. Of course, the 952 shares the same Briley bushing setup of the other Performance Center autos and reaps the same rewards.

    I’ve basically already expressed my opinion on the 952, but its one of my all time favorite pistols. I like the way it points and feels in hand. I love the way it shoots and its always been one of my best performers. I find it a sleek and classy looking handgun, especially with the blued finish. Build quality and refinement are as good as just about any other entry in this guide. The 952-1 was only built for one year, so they aren’t as easy to find as the stainless models. I very highly recommend a 952 of any variation. Prices have really been climbing of late, more so than any other Performance Center pistol. I feel its for good reason. Every year they get more expensive and harder to find, so get one before long.


    Frame: Carbon steel
    Slide: Carbon steel
    Unloaded weight: 40oz
    Configuration: Single stack, SAO
    Caliber: 9mm Luger
    Barrel length: 5"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $2500-$3000



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    Smith & Wesson 952-2 Long slide

    This is the 6“ version of the stainless 952-2. It was built in limited numbers to help shooters take full advantage of the gun’s accuracy potential. The extra inch of sight radius can really make a difference. Other than the obvious difference of length, this 952 differs from the model above in some other ways. The slide on this model is scalloped, which gives it a totally different look. The wavy slide serrations are unique to the long slide model and I think they look nice. The grips on this model are stippled instead of checkered, which was typical of later production 952-2 pistols. The stainless finish is polished on the flats and matte everywhere else, giving the gun an attractive two tone look.

    Having already given my opinion on the 952-1, this is more of the same. Its an outstanding target pistol, capable of shooting with any handgun in this guide. I prefer the balanced looks of the 5" variety, but the long slide is much more rare and has an exotic flair to it. The problem is that these guns tend to bring some very big dollars on the used market these days. They are the most valuable of the old Performance Center pistols. Its hard for me to recommend a long slide at today’s prices, but if you happen to stumble over a good deal, don’t hesitate to grab it. Otherwise, a standard 5" 952 should serve you well.


    Frame: Stainless steel
    Slide: Stainless steel
    Unloaded weight: 41oz
    Configuration: Single stack, SAO
    Caliber: 9mm Luger
    Barrel length: 6"
    Approximate 2015 prices: $4000-$6000



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    Smith & Wesson Comp 40

    This pistol was a special run competition pistol built in the early days of Performance Center exclusively for Lew Horton distribution back in the 1990‘s. It is essentially built on a 4006 frame and slide, with some slightly different machining and a different finish. The Bar-Sto Match barrel is extended past the slide and a compensator is extended further still. The Comp 40 features the outstanding build quality of the Performance Center and is plenty accurate thanks in part to the Briley bushing and some very tight build tolerances throughout its construction. The DA trigger is lighter and smoother than a standard 4006. The Comp 40 features front strap serrations, an oversize mag release, and fixed, combat style sights. The finish is polished stainless on the side flats with a matte finish everywhere else. The Comp 40 also features the slide mounted decocker of a standard 3rd gen Smith & Wesson auto.

    I’ve always liked this pistol, though not being a 40S&W fan, I don’t shoot the round all that much. It handles very well at the range. The 41oz empty weight and the compensator make the gun very soft shooting, even in this snappy caliber. The issue with the comp 40 is finding one. By sheer numbers alone, it may well be the rarest pistol in this guide. From what I understand, the total production may have been less than 150 pistols. Of course, out of those 150, I’m sure most of them are in this country, unlike some others discussed here. Still, its not something you’re ever going to see at your corner gun shop. The Comp 40 is definitely a fun pistol to shoot, especially for fans of the 40S&W.


    Frame: Stainless steel
    Slide: Stainless steel
    Unloaded weight: 41oz
    Configuration: Double stack, DA/SA
    Caliber: 40S&W
    Barrel length: 4 5/8“
    Approximate 2015 prices: $1500-$2000



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    945, Comp 40, 845, 52-2, 952-1, 952-2 Long slide


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    Conclusion

    In closing, I would first just like to thank everyone for taking the time to read this work. I fully realize only the very slim minority of pistol fans collect and/or shoot these type of firearms. However, I felt it would be helpful for those who may have some extra cash laying around and want to treat themselves to something nice. For the few of you who enjoy collecting these guns as much I do, I hope this guide may help you with your next purchase.

    This work is in no way all inclusive and I plan to add others as I acquire them, so please stay tuned.

    If anyone has a question, please feel free to post it or send me a PM. :cool:
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2015
    GOOFA likes this.
  12. raven11

    raven11

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    Jan 27, 2009
    Illinois
    tagged for future reference, thanks for taking the time to write the review
     
  13. ronin.45

    ronin.45

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    1,006
    Apr 24, 2008
    NE OHIO
    Great comparison Bac. I do love that Pardini.

    I've wanted an X-5 since they were introduced.
     
  14. BOGE

    BOGE Millennium Member

    4,622
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    Mar 21, 1999
    Where do you live Bac and when do you go on vacation? :whistling:



    :supergrin::rofl: Nice presentation. Very nicely & tastefully done. :wavey:
     
  15. moeman

    moeman

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    Feb 15, 2004
    So CA
    Very interesting! Thanks!!!

    So when you came up w/ the numbers for the trigger how did you go about it... Feel plus trigger gauge??

    e.g. for a gun w/ a trigger of "5" in this setting could it be a "8" in a home defense setting and vice versa?

    I know I would not want a 2-3 lb trigger in my nightstand gun.

    BTW: The biggest surprise to me is that the SIG 210 was rated so low. I trust your evaluation, not calling you out. I've only read about them.

    Could you make a list form the above of the gens that can also fill the home defense role. eg I have a P7M8 and while ts not my go to gun I would have no problem trusting it for self defense. I also have a revolver that is great for the range but due to its light trigger I never would use it for self defense.
     
  16. bac1023

    bac1023

    103,933
    3,418
    Sep 26, 2004
    PA

    Sure moeman.

    The trigger rating was done only by my preference, weight, and feel. They all have good triggers, but for the range, I prefer SAO with a light, crisp break. The CZ Champion, X-Five, Pardini, and the PC Smiths have the best, in my opinion.

    As for the P210, its an old military pistol desin being compared to a bunch of modern target/competition guns. The small sights also hurt its accuracy, so one rating can affect another. Now, there are P210s with larger target sights, mine isn't one of them.

    Based strictly on quality, the P210 is second to none. Its a legend for good reason.

    As for home defense, I wouldn't use the big, bulky pistols like the X-Five, Pardini, Mark 23, or Tanfoglio. I also wouldn't use compensated pistols, such as the Champion or Competitor. The S&W 52 is out because of the ammo it fires. All others would do fine as an HD weapon.

    Hope this helps.






    .
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2010
  17. Jim B in CO

    Jim B in CO

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    Jan 11, 2005
    Great thread and a lot of really good info. Thanks for taking the time to post it. :thumbsup:
     
  18. Chonny

    Chonny

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    Mar 30, 2010
    Edmond, OK
    Absolutely great thread. Sig X-Five. Mmm.
     
  19. sk65

    sk65

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    Feb 6, 2005
    s.e. michigan
    Excellent job! I'm not surprised you put my favorite (X-Five) on the top of the list.
     
  20. Doc226

    Doc226 Smart Ass Doc

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    Apr 25, 2007
    Rhode Island