Best Pistols of the Year

Best Pistols of the Year

Firearms manufacturers, like all companies selling things for sale in a free market, need to come up with new items every year to maintain consumer interest and stir up industry buzz. Sometimes, this is little more than what is known in the auto/motorcycling world as BNG (Bold New Graphics), but sometimes, there are new guns that are really innovative, highly anticipated, and exciting.

We live in the golden age of firearms, and in particular, we are lucky to have so many high-quality, reliable handguns on the market for very low prices (compared to dollar-adjusted costs from previous decades). Here are our pics for some of the best and most interesting pistols that have come out over the last year or are brand new for 2024. Note: this article specifically deals with semi-automatic handguns. If your tastes are more toward the best new revolvers, please check out our previous article.

Beretta 92XI GTS

Beretta 92GTS

The Beretta 92 series is one of the most well-known pistol designs in history, having been adopted by the US military as the M9 pistol in 1985 and starring in pretty much every 1980s-1990s action film, including the Die Hard and Lethal Weapon series. However, although the initial Beretta 92 had a frame-mounted, 1911-style thumb safety, nearly all 92 variants since the early 1980s have been equipped with a slide-mounted, rotary safety/decocker lever which is the source of a lot of frustration and controversy.

Although it is indeed difficult for shooters with shorter thumbs to reach and operate correctly, the primary issue with Beretta’s slide-mounted safety/decocker is that it can inadvertently be actuated during loading or malfunction clearances, disabling the trigger and effectively rendering the pistol inoperable until the safety lever is manually returned to its horizontal position. Not a good thing. Another issue is that the safety function is backward from many Western-designed handguns’ safeties, which are pressed downward with the thumb to allow the pistol to fire. On the Beretta, the lever is pressed down for Safe and UP for Fire. Certainly, any issues can be mitigated through training, but for people who own and shoot several different pistol designs, it’s annoying to have to switch back and forth.

Video: New Beretta 92GTS Gun Review

This video demonstrates the New Beretta 92GTS Gun Review.

Well, this issue is now no longer a problem, thanks to Beretta’s new 92XI GTS. The GTS is based on Beretta’s single-action-only 92XI (or ninety-two eleven… similar to the 1911, get it?) platform, but the GTS is a traditional double-action/single-action (DA/SA) pistol. The key difference is that rather than the typical Model 92 safety/decocker lever being mounted high on the slide, on the GTS, a thumb lever is mounted to the frame. And unlike Beretta’s SAO or competition models with frame-mounted safety levers, the GTS is equipped with a decocking feature, which safely lowers the hammer when the decocking lever is pressed upward. This is a vast improvement in our view, especially for American shooters who are used to thumb safeties that function like the 1911s. The G in the name signifies that the spring-loaded decocker returns to the fire position after actuation rather than remaining in the safety/decock position after the hammer drops. So, the pistol can’t be rendered inoperable by using the decocking lever, unlike the M9 and similar variants. The TS in the name indicates the twin sears required for the safe and proper function of the DA and SA hammer strokes, as well as the safe-decocking feature.

In other features, the 92GTS benefits from all other modern upgrades to the 92X series, including a full picatinny rail under the dust cover for mounting tactical lights and/or lasers, a 1911-esque grip frame angle and profile (though larger, traditionally hand-filling grips are available for people who prefer the previous 92 grips), checkered front- and backstraps, and dovetailed sights for easy adjustment or replacement.

The Beretta 92GTS is available in 10-round, 15-round, or full 18-round capacity configurations, depending on your local firearms laws and magazine restrictions. The MSRP is $1,199 for the Launch Edition with wood grips, a silver-colored frame and barrel, and a black slide, or $899 for the Standard model with black polymer grips and a black finish.

Daniel Defense H9 (Hudson reintroduction)

Daniel Defense H9

The Hudson H9 shook up the handgun world in 2017 due to its very innovative design and promise of excellent shooting characteristics. By moving the recoil system further down in an enlarged dust cover and using a striker-fired ignition system, the designers of the H9 produced a pistol with a 1911-like trigger that had the very low bore axis and flat-shooting characteristics of the most modern combat semi-automatics. Unfortunately, despite a groundbreaking design and lots of promise, the company was unable to produce parts and make repairs in a timely manner, and the original Hudson Firearms Company filed for bankruptcy in 2019.

Enter Daniel Defense. Well-established as a maker of high-end AR-15s, Double-D has branched out in recent years and has released an updated, improved H9, backed by a solid reputation for customer service and quality control. We’re super-pumped about this new pistol, which is an obvious descendant of the original Hudson but with some well-thought-out improvements. The Daniel H9 differs visually from the original with an aggressively undercut trigger guard, a less-blocky dustcover/recoil spring housing, and today’s de rigueur red dot optics mount milled into the top of the slide.

Video: The Daniel Defense H9 - Formerly the Hudson 9

This video demonstrates the The Daniel Defense H9 - Formerly the Hudson 9.

Other than the obvious differences to the previously straight trigger guard, the most obvious visual difference between the old and new H9s is the much-less-bulky dustcover, which doesn’t extend downward equal with the bottom of the trigger guard as previously. This allows any mounted tactical lights to be placed in a more reachable location for the shooter’s fingers or thumbs to actuate switches and allows more traditional-style holsters to be used.

Unlike the original H9, which has a steel frame, the Daniel H9’s frame is made of 7075 Aluminum for light weight and durability. This results in a handgun weighing just 29.6 ounces with an empty magazine inserted. Additionally, the new H9 is exceptionally slim for a full-sized pistol, only 1 inch wide at the slide. Controls are ambidextrous, and the magazine release is reversible depending on user preference. The MSRP is $1,299.

Rost Martin RM1C

Rost Martin RM1C

This new offering isn’t particularly innovative, the Rost Martin RM1C being pretty much a functional copy (internally) of the Gen 3 Glock 19, but with quite a few desirable upgrades for a very competitive MSRP of $459. Based out of Dallas, TX, Rost Martin is a new American firearms company and from what we can determine, their first offering is solid. For that very attractive price, you get a lot of extra goodies and features that would cost you several hundred dollars if you wanted to upgrade your Glock 19 to a similar level. The RM1C may share some design principles with the Glock, but according to the company, no parts interchange between the two platforms.

The RM1C features a 4” hammer-forged barrel with a target crown, aggressive front and rear slide serrations, a fully ambidextrous magazine release, a full 3-slot Picatinny rail, and a smooth, light five-pound trigger pull with a clean break and a short reset. (We haven’t gotten our hands on one yet, but making a nice-feeling striker-fired trigger is achievable these days.) You will also note attractive, glare-reducing serrations along the top of the slide, a laser-stippled grip (including replaceable backstraps), an aggressive trigger guard undercut to prevent the dreaded Glock knuckle, and factory-milled cutouts for an RMR-pattern red dot optic if desired.

The RM1C’s sights are quality items, made of steel, and the dovetail cuts in the slide are compatible with the Springfield XD/XD-M pattern if you wish to swap them out.

Does it take Glock mags? No, but the RM1C will accept CZ’s excellent P10 pattern magazines, though the baseplates are different. For well under $500, and with pretty much all the ergonomic and functional upgrades you could ask for, the RM1C offers a lot to like.

Palmetto State Armory 5.7 Rock

PSA 5.7 Rock

PSA is one of our favorite companies, and they’ve been killing it with quality offerings for very reasonable prices. Their new 5.7 Rock pistol was a bit of a surprise, but then the 5.7x28mm cartridge (initially introduced in the FN P90 personal defense weapon) has been making a serious comeback the past couple of years. While FN’s Five-seveN pistol has historically been fairly difficult to find, and retails for around $1,400, PSA’s 5.7 offering is selling like proverbial hotcakes due to its street price starting under $500, along with its growing track record for reliability.

The 5.7 Rock features an innovative, proprietary delayed-blowback operating system, allowing the pistol to remain very thin and lightweight at 25 ounces empty. PSA’s steel magazines offer lots of capacity (23 rounds+1 in the chamber). The magazine catch is reversible, the sights are quality serrated steel 3-dots, and are Glock-compatible should you desire a change. The Rock is also milled for direct-mounting several popular red dot optics using the RMSC Shield footprint, with included plates for mounting the Trijicon RMR and others. You can even get your 5.7 Rock with a red dot mounted from the factory, which is somewhat rare among handgun makers.

The Rock, like most PSA items, has gotten great reviews and their customer service is known to be stellar if you have any issues.

M&P 5.7

Smith and Wesson M&P 5.7

Smith & Wesson is one of the most storied firearms manufacturers. It occasionally offers something truly new and innovative, such as the new M&P 5.7 pistol.

First, let’s talk about the M&P name. Over the past few years, Smith & Wesson has started calling pretty much every handgun and rifle they make an M&P (which used to stand for Military & Police, back when they first used the name for a revolver in 1899). This is fairly annoying because when you call everything you make an M&P, it no longer distinguishes anything and is confusing.

Regardless, the M&P 5.7 is awesome and features a new operating system that S&W calls Tempo gas operation. Unlike some previous gas-delayed blowback handguns, in the M&P, the barrel’s breech is fully locked within an outer sleeve, and the barrel doesn’t come open until the bullet passes the gas port, safely lowering pressure. Sounds nifty, but the upshot is this is the lowest-recoiling centerfire handgun we’ve ever shot, and this pistol is a heck of a lot of fun.

The very low recoil and good ergonomics are accentuated by an excellent, crisp trigger that actuates an internal hammer (though the pistol looks similar to striker-fired designs). The slide-stop lever is ambidextrous, and the catch that releases the 22-round magazine is reversible. All current models include threaded barrels with thread protectors, and there are SKUs with or without manual thumb safeties in several colors, starting at an MSRP of $699.

Canik Mete MC9

Canik Mete MC9

Canik has built a great reputation for making quality handguns with competitive features at very low prices. Their Mete MC9 is their first entry into the crazy-popular micro-compact 9mm carry pistol market, and it looks to be a good one. Canik is known for making excellent striker-fired triggers, and the MC9 is no exception. You get a 12- and a 15-round magazine, as well as a hard case, cleaning kit, lock, extended floorplate, punch/tool kit, 3 interchangeable backstraps, a magazine loader, manual, and a very nice IWB holster included for the $439 MSRP. The MC9 is also optics-ready and includes quality steel sights.

If a CCW pistol isn’t your bag, check out Canik’s new steel-framed competition gun, the SFx-Rival S, starting at $899.

Dan Wesson DWX

Dan Wesson DWX

Probably one of the most-anticipated handguns to come out over the past couple of years, the Dan Wesson DWX was designed to compete with high-end competition pistols such as the Staccato 2011 line and the CZ Shadow 2. The intent was to create a new pistol with the superior ergonomics of the CZ75/Shadow-type grip frame but add the arguably superior single-action-only trigger feel and function of a top-end 1911/2011. Fans of the DWX had to wait a couple of years for the pistol to finally hit retailers’ shelves, but they are available now in both the full-size (steel-framed) and compact (aluminum-framed) varieties, for the same MSRP of $1,999.

We are fans of both Dan Wesson and CZ (the parent company), and are stoked for the DWX. However, we have three gripes: 1. There’s no optics-ready version yet; 2. The compact model has no picatinny rail; and 3. They use different magazines from each other. The full-size uses the CZ P-10F magazine body, while the compact uses the CZ75 compact magazine body. Kind of annoying, but not a huge deal. Hopefully, we’ll see an optics-ready version before the end of 2024.

Springfield Armory Echelon

Springfield Echelon

Oh, great… yet another striker-fired, polymer-framed service pistol. That’s what we (and pretty much everyone else) thought when Springfield Armory announced their new Echelon 9mm. But after handling and shooting this new pistol, we are happy to report that it won us over. The Echelon has a truly excellent trigger (in a market crammed full of great striker-fired triggers), awesome ergonomics, low felt recoil despite its feathery sub-24-ounce weight, grippy frame texture, superbly functional slide serrations front and rear, and extremely useful U-dot iron sights with a high-viz/tritium insert in the front (3-dot tritium sights are available). The pistol is 100% ambidextrous and comes optics-ready. Plus, it looks frickin’ cool.

Like the SIG P320 series, the Echelon utilizes what Springfield calls a Central Operating Group, which is a stainless-steel chassis that houses the trigger mechanism. It’s self-contained and serialized (meaning that it’s legally THE FIREARM) and can quickly be moved between different grip sizes for extreme modularity. This is very useful for agency armorers who need to configure their pistols for multiple users, as well as people living in more restrictive states and locations where buying another handgun can be a hassle. With the COG system, you can basically play Legos with what is legally a single pistol but have multiple configurations available to you. Each of 3 Echelon grip module sizes can itself be further tailored by swapping out one of the 3 included, interchangeable backstraps.

Video: Video The Truth About The Springfield Echelon: 2000 Round Review & Extreme Conditions Test

This video demonstrates the Truth About The Springfield Echelon.

That’s all well and good, and these features alone would make it a worthy entry to the market. But perhaps the most innovative feature is Springfield’s proprietary optics mounting system (they call it the VIS–Variable Interface System–since everything needs its own acronym these days) that allows mounting of nearly every pistol red dot currently produced without requiring the additional cost or hassle of optics mounting plates. You just configure the self-locking pins into the appropriate holes milled into the slide, and you can direct-mount your favorite optic for a low profile and lower-1/3rd co-witness with the factory sights with the most optics. This is extremely, extremely cool, and we’re guessing other manufacturers will try to figure out a way to rip off this design in the coming months and years. MSRP for the Echelon starts at a very reasonable $679.

Walther PDP steel frame

Walther PDP Steel Frame

Walther’s PDP steel frame series is essentially a premium/competition-level upgrade to their polymer, striker-fired pistol lineup, which is itself intended as the successor to Walther’s excellent and hot-selling PPQ pistols. Walther is known for making exceptional striker-fired triggers, and the PPQ and PDP we’ve tried have truly stellar ones. The machined steel frame of the new line allows for user customization via replaceable grip panels, and the checkered front- and backstraps contribute to excellent grip. All PDPs come optics-ready, but you have to contact Walther and give them your info before they send you a single adapter plate.

The standard PDP is fairly top-heavy for a duty gun, with a thick, chunky, and aggressively serrated slide. As a result, the muzzle flip is a little higher than some other duty pistols. The steel-framed models mitigate this somewhat and bring an additional touch of class and exclusivity to what is already a fairly boutique brand. The PDP steel frame is available in a compact-framed 4” model, a full-size 4.5” model, and a competition-intended 5” model with slide cutouts, an upgraded flat-faced competition trigger, and a useful mag well. The competition model’s MSRP is $1,799, while the rest of the PDP steel line lists for $1,699.

CZ Shadow 2 Compact

CZ Shadow 2 Compact

This is another highly anticipated pistol that CZ fans have been clamoring for for years. The standard Shadow 2 is one of the most popular and winningest competition pistols in USPSA and IDPA competition, and fans of its excellent, smooth double-action trigger, its light, crisp single-action trigger, and it’s awesome ergonomics and reliability have been asking CZ to build a more CCW-worthy version of the pistol. Well, with the announcement of the CZ Shadow 2 Compact, the wait is finally over.

CZ started with the steel-framed, 4.72” barreled, 47-ounce Shadow 2, and cut nearly ¾ of an inch off the barrel and slide, milled the frame from aluminum alloy rather than steel, and cut ¾ of an inch from the grip (which reduces the standard capacity to 15 rounds rather than 18). This results in a much-more-concealable, much lighter (30.7-ounce) but still eminently shootable pistol that can serve in multiple roles. You can shoot it in competition, then carry it home as your CCW pistol, and then use it as your home defense gun if desired. CZ wisely chose to equip all Shadow 2 Compacts with their optics-ready capability so you can mount the red dot of your choice. Additionally, CZ retained a full Picatinny rail below the dust cover for lights or lasers. Perhaps our favorite feature of the CZ Shadow 2 Compact is its excellent, smooth DA/SA trigger, which allows safer reholstering in CCW holsters, particularly appendix carry rigs. You can place your thumb behind the hammer to help prevent it from moving if something gets caught in the trigger when holstering.

At the time of this publication, the Shadow 2 Compact still doesn’t appear on CZUSA’s website, but American Rifleman reported an MSRP of $1,299, which is in line with expectations for this excellent pistol. Street price should settle in around a grand once the fervor dies down a little.

Glock 49

Glock 49

Let’s be honest… There's no real innovation here, but Big Glock takes a long time to try new things. The Glock 49 is essentially a full-size (G17 length) slide and barrel installed on a compact-size (G19 size) frame, something that Glockophiles have been hand-making for decades with a hacksaw (or by mixing and matching the previously released Gen 5 Glock 47 and Glock 19).

The new generation of Glocks has the added benefit of interchangeability between the full-size service pistol upper and the compact frame. This wasn’t possible until the Glock 47 Generation 5 came out, and they continued this interchangeability with the Glock 49. If you’re a Glock fan, you probably already have one because Glock seems to be able to sell any new model they come out with to dedicated followers of the brand. Certainly, the G49 is a quality, reliable pistol. We just wish Glock would start installing functional steel sights on their handguns and maybe take a risk on a new design once in a while.

Keep all your guns secure in a Liberty Safe

So, there you have it, our list of 11 of our favorites among the new pistols this year. If we had our way, we’d own at least one copy of each of these excellent handguns, but regardless of whether you have only one firearm or a few dozen, be sure to keep them secure from fire, theft, and unauthorized access in a quality, US-made gun safe from Liberty. Check out our handgun vaults, too! You can use our interactive online catalog to see all the colors and configurations or use our dealer locator to find a showroom near you.


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