In a survival situation, these full-size handguns offer reliable, life-saving firepower for personal protection!
The Beretta M9A1 needs no introduction. The U.S. military began issuing these double-stack-magazine-equipped 9mm pistols in the 1980s. Proven in warfare to be dependable and reliable, the M9A1 sports several features that make it perfect for survival situations, including an aluminum alloy frame, a traditional double-action/single-action (DA/SA) trigger, an “open” slide to reduce weight and a Picatinny rail for mounting accessories. The M9A1 is also known for being a soft-shooter. (beretta.com; 800-962-2658) Specifications: Caliber: 9mm Barrel: 4.9 inches OA Length: 8.5 inches Weight: 33.9 ounces (empty) Grips: Composite Sights: Blade front, adjustable rear Action: DA/SA Finish: Matte black Capacity: 15+1 (17+1, 20+1, 30+1 also available) MSRP: $745
The XM-15 Enhanced Patrolman from Bushmaster Firearms is basically an AR-platform megapistol with either a 7- or 10.5-inch, stainless steel barrel. Chambered for the 5.56mm NATO, it uses mil-spec AR magazines, meaning it can share the same ammo and magazines as your AR rifle. Outfit it with a red dot or reflex sight and this is a megapistol that can lay down some serious firepower. The Barnes Precision free-floating, lightweight quad-rail allows operators to mount lasers and lights. The XM-15 also features a Magpul MOE grip and an enlarged Magpul triggerguard for use with gloves. (bushmaster.com; 800-998-7928) Specifications: Caliber: 5.56mm NATO Barrel: 7 or 10.5 inches OA Length: 23.5-26.75 inches Weight: 4.9-5.5 pounds Grip: Magpul MOE Sights: None Action: Semi-auto Finish: Hardcoat anodized Capacity: 30+1 MSRP: $1228.98
Kahr has a reputation for building small, compact pistols. The CT9 is a full-sized pistol that is user friendly with simplified controls and a double-action-only (DAO) trigger. Built with a single-stack, polymer frame and topped with a stainless steel slide, this pistol is lightweight—only 20.6 ounces empty—and accurate. This is a no-frills weapon built for reliability and performance. The Kahr CT9’s only control, other than the trigger and magazine release button, is the slide stop. (kahr.com; 508-795-3919) Specifications: Caliber: 9mm Barrel: 3.96 inches OA Length: 6.5 inches Weight: 18.5 ounces (empty) Grips: Polymer Sights: White bar-dot Action: DAO Finish: Stainless slide, black frame Capacity: 8+1 MSRP: $369
The 1911 Combat Pistol takes the 1911 platform to another level. The pistol is constructed of high-quality parts that are hand-fitted for reliability and performance. Think of it as a target pistol that is durable enough to compete in the dirt, sand or snow. Featuring low-profile Novak sights, front and rear slide serrations, and a Picatinny accessory rail, the DoubleStar 1911 is rugged enough to protect your life and others in harsh extremes. It uses an eight-round magazine, and the magazine well is beveled for faster reloads. (star15.com; 859-745-1757) Specifications Caliber: .45 ACP Barrel: 5 inches OA Length: 8.75 inches Weight: 39 ounces (empty) Grips: Synthetic Sights: Novak three-dot Action: SA Finish: Ionbond Capacity: 8+1 MSRP: $2,519.99
The Kel-Tec PMR-30’s edge is its magazine capacity of 30 rounds. Add one in the chamber and that is 31 rounds of .22 WMR firepower. While the caliber may not be a bear-killer or man-stopper, the soft-recoiling .22 WMR will allow novice and experienced shooters better accuracy. The PMR-30 is a simple design that uses lightweight polymer and steel to create a pistol that is user friendly. Unloaded, the pistol only weighs 13.6 ounces, so it’s easy to pack and carry for long periods of time. The caliber also has small-game hunting applications. (keltecweapons.com; 321-631-0068) Specifications Caliber: .22 WMR Barrel: 4.3 inches OA Length: 7.9 inches Weight: 13.6 pounds (empty) Grips: Polymer Sights: Fiber optic Action: Semi-auto Finish: Matte black Capacity: 30+1 MSRP: $415
U.S. Marines have relied on 1911 .45 ACP pistols since WWI. The Colt CQBP (Close Quarters Battle Pistol) is a highly enhanced 1911 made for the 21st century. It features Novak three-dot night sights; a 5-inch, stainless steel, National Match barrel; a Picatinny accessory rail; G10 grips and an ambidextrous thumb safety. The pistol’s durable Desert Tan Cerakote finish means it will stand up to harsh abuse and environmental extremes. The CQBP is definitely worthy of your consideration for survival purposes. (colt.com; 800-962-2658) Specifications Caliber: .45 ACP Barrel: 5 inches OA Length: 8.5 inches Weight: 40 ounces (empty) Grips: G10 Composite Sights: Novak Night Sights Action: SA Finish: Desert Tan Cerakote Capacity: 7+1 MSRP: $2,158
The 9E is a low-cost performer based on Ruger’s SR series of pistols. This is essentially a no-frills, 9mm, striker-fired pistol born for performance. The removable backstrap is reversible, so shooters can choose a flat or arched backstrap for a custom fit. The magazine release and thumb safety are ambidextrous. High-visibility, three-dot sights are dovetailed into the slide for fast target acquisitions. The rail allows for the attachment of accessories. The trigger has a safety lever in its face that keeps the gun from discharging unless it is completely depressed. (ruger.com) Specifications Caliber: 9mm Barrel: 4.14 inches OA Length: 7.5 inches Weight: 27.2 ounces (empty) Grips: Glass-filled nylon Sights: Three-dot Action: Striker-fired Finish: Black oxide Capacity: 17+1 MSRP: $429
The Glock 17 Gen4 is chambered in 9mm and has a 17+1 capacity. The Gen4 variant offers an ergonomic grip frame, and it comes with four interchangeable backstraps, allowing users to customize the pistol for a better fit. Made of polymer and steel, the pistol weighs only 25.06 ounces unloaded. The 9mm is certainly controllable, and that is mandatory in survival situations where a handgun might be shared with group members who have less firearms training. Glocks have also been torture tested and proven to work in every type of environment imaginable. They are a benchmark in reliability. (glock.com; 770-432-1202) Specifications Caliber: 9mm Barrel: 4.48 inches OA Length: 7.95 inches Weight: 25.06 ounces (empty) Grips: Polymer Sights: Fixed Action: Safe Action Finish: Black, surface hardened Capacity: 17+1 MSRP: $649-$696
The 22/45 Lite is part of Ruger’s renowned semi-automatic .22 LR pistol series. It features a 1911-style polymer grip frame mated to an aluminum receiver with a stainless steel barrel sleeve. It weighs a mere 23 ounces unloaded. Since it’s chambered in the featherweight .22 LR, you can probably carry much more ammo. The 22/45 Lite also has a threaded barrel that allows for the attachment of a suppressor so you won’t draw attention when you are hunting squirrels in what was once a city park. (ruger.com) Specifications Caliber: .22 LR Barrel: 4.4 inches OA Length: 8.5 inches Weight: 23 ounces (empty) Grips: Laminate or rubber Sights: Ramp front, adjustable rear Action: Single-action Finish: Black or cobalt anodized Capacity: 10+1 MSRP: $499
Based on a beefed-up version of the CZ 75, the Tanfoglio Witness Polymer Full-Size, imported by EAA Corp., uses a polymer frame for reduced weight. The Witness is chambered in a variety of calibers—9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, 38 Super and 10mm. In 9mm, it has a 17+1 capacity. It features a DA/SA trigger, low-profile sights and an integral accessory rail. (eaacorp.com; 321-639-4842) Specifications Caliber: 9mm Barrel: 4.5 inches OA Length: 8.1 inches Weight: 31 ounces (empty) Grips: Polymer Sights: Low profile Action: DA/SA Finish: Matte black Capacity: 17+1 MSRP: $571
This is the pistol adopted by the U.S. Navy SEALs. Several LE agencies also use P226 pistols because they are battle- and street-proven pistols capable of performing in the worst conditions. As with other P226 variants, the MK25 uses a one-piece aluminum alloy frame, a stainless steel slide and a carbon-steel barrel. It is a DA/SA pistol, and the MK25 configuration features upgrades to improve its resistance to saltwater corrosion. The Sig Sauer P226 MK25 is a practical pistol that is durable as well as reliable, and with its 15+1 capacity, it’s certainly ready to protect you and your family after a disaster. (sigsauer.com; 603- 610-3000) Specifications Caliber: 9mm Barrel: 4.4 inches OA Length: 7.7 inches Weight: 34.4 ounces (empty) Grips: Polymer Sights: SIGLITE night Action: DA/SA Finish: Nitron Capacity: 15+1 MSRP: $1,166
The Glock 41 Gen4 offers 13+1 rounds of .45 ACP firepower in a soft-recoiling pistol. As with other Gen4 pistols, it features a dual spring recoil assembly to help lessen the felt recoil. The pistol’s 5.3-inch barrel and longer slide provide a long sight radius so the pistol is easier to shoot accurately. Glock pistols are known for being user friendly, and the G41 Gen4 is no exception. law enforcement SWAT teams are looking into the G41 for the same reasons you should be. (glock.com; 770-432-1202) Specifications Caliber: .45 ACP Barrel: 5.31 inches OA Length: 8.9 inches Weight: 27 ounces (empty) Grips: Polymer Sights: Fixed Action: Safe Action Finish: Black, surface hardened Capacity: 13+1 MSRP: $620
Sig Sauer is currently offering two models of the striker-fired P320—the Full Size and Carry—and users can change their calibers and switch between the grip frames for a better hand fit. Out of the box, the P320 Carry offers a 15-round capacity in 9mm and 13-round capacities in .357 SIG and .40 S&W. This model has a 3.9-inch barrel and weighs only 26 ounces due to the lightweight polymer grip frame. The P320 breaks down quickly without tools. It comes equipped with SIGLITE night sights since danger rarely arrives during the day. (sigsauer.com; 603- 610-3000) Specifications Caliber: 9mm, .357 SIG, .40 S&W Barrel: 3.9 inches OA Length: 7.2 inches Weight: 26 ounces (empty) Grips: Polymer Sights: SIGLITE night Action: Striker-fired Finish: Nitron Capacity: 15+1 (9mm); 13+1 (.357, .40) MSRP: $669-$713
The CZ 85 B is the ambidextrous version of the renowned CZ 75 combat pistol. It features an aluminum alloy frame and a DA/SA trigger—strong foundations for many popular combat pistols. The ergonomics of the CZ 85 B are simply superb, with a comfortable grip shape and texturing. The Omega trigger is a simplified and more robust version of the original trigger system that also allows for easier disassembly. The CZ 85 B also has a 16+1 capacity of 9mm ammo. (cz-usa.com; 800-955-4486) Specifications Caliber: 9mm Barrel: 4.6 inches OA Length: 8.1 inches Weight: 34.1 ounces (empty) Grips: Polymer Sights: Fixed Action: DA/SA Finish: Matte black Capacity: 16+1 MSRP: $628
The M&P9 is a popular full-sized handgun with law enforcement officers and civilians. The Zytel polymer frame comes with three interchangeable backstraps so the pistol can be customized to most hand sizes. The frame is mated to a sculpted slide with a black finish. Utilizing a striker firing system, the M&P9 also has ambidextrous controls so lefties are not at a disadvantage. With low-profile Novak sights, the M&P9 is easy to get on target. (smith-wesson.com; 800-331-0852) Specifications Caliber: 9mm Barrel: 4.25 inches OA Length: 7.63 inches Weight: 24 ounces (empty) Grips: Polymer Sights: Ramp front, Novak rear Action: Striker-fired Finish: Matte black Capacity: 17+1 MSRP: $596
The rimfire S&W Model 22A is a full-sized pistol built with an aluminum alloy frame mated to an alloy-shrouded steel barrel with an integral Weaver-style rail for mounting a red dot or reflex sight. The 22A also features Patridge-type sights. This is a lightweight pistol that is easy to operate and disassemble. A button at the front of the frame removes the barrel for cleaning. It comes with a magazine disconnect safety; if the magazine is removed, the pistol will not fire. In essence, the 22A is a lightweight trail gun suitable for small-game hunting. (smith-wesson.com; 800-331-0852) Specifications Caliber: .22 LR Barrel: 5.5 inches OA Length: 9.5 inches Weight: 35.3 ounces (empty) Grips: Soft Touch Target Sights: Ramp front, adjustable rear Action: SA Finish: Realtree APG Capacity: 10+1 MSRP: $369
If ergonomics, a crisp, striker-fired trigger pull and accuracy are on your short list, then the XDM may find a place in your bug-out bag. This polymer-framed pistol uses interchangeable backstrap inserts to tailor the grip to fit most hand sizes. The aggressive texture on the frame and slide ensure the weapon can be operated in wet environments. With a grip safety and a safety built into the trigger, the XDM is a safe pistol to operate. A loaded-chamber indicator on top of the slide tells the operator if a round is in the chamber. While several Springfield XDM models are available, the 4.5-inch-barreled 9mm variant is the best compromise of firepower and size. (springfield-armory.com; 800-680-6866) Specifications Caliber: 9mm Barrel: 4.5 inches OA Length: 7.6 inches Weight: 29 ounces (empty) Grips: Polymer Sights: Three-dot Action: Striker-fired Finish: Melonite Capacity: 19+1 MSRP: $700
The STI Edge does indeed have an edge in its double-stack magazine, yet it remains similar to other 1911s in size. In .45 ACP, its capacity is 11+1. The Edge is built on STI’s 2011 modular steel frame with a polymer grip and provides all the features of a traditional 1911 platform but with the benefit of a higher-capacity magazine. (stiguns.com; 512-819-0656) Specifications Caliber: .45 ACP Barrel: 5.01 inches OA Length: 8.67 inches Weight: 37.6 ounces (empty) Grips: Polymer Sights: Fixed front, adjustable rear Action: SA Finish: Matte black Capacity: 11+1 MSRP: $2,180
The Taurus Slim 740 is compact, lightweight, easy to conceal and packs .40-caliber stopping power. This striker-fired pistol is technically a single-action/double-action—the first shot will be in single action, as with subsequent shots. But, should the gun fail to fire, the pistol changes to a double-action trigger pull, providing shooters a “second strike” on the chambered round. (taurususa.com; 800-327-3776) Specifications Caliber: .40 S&W Barrel: 3.2 inches OA Length: 6.24 inches Weight: 19 ounces (empty) Grips: Polymer Sights: Three-dot, adjustable Action: DA/SA Finish: Matte black or stainless Capacity: 6+1 MSRP: $503.73
The CQB can be considered the benchmark of 1911 platform design. Wilson Combat modernized the venerable 1911 so the platform delivers the reliability and accuracy required for any scenario. Features include a high-ride beavertail grip safety; a 5-inch, stainless steel, match barrel; and a carbon-steel frame. The pistol is hand-fitted and built to the highest standards. Military and LE operators trust the Wilson Combat CQB when they venture into harm’s way. This is a pistol guaranteed to perform. (wilsoncombat.com; 800-955-4856) Specifications Caliber: 9mm, .38 Super, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, 10mm Barrel: 5 inches OA Length: 8.7 inches Weight: 36.6 ounces (empty) Grips: G10 Starburst Sights: Fiber-optic, Battlesight Action: SA Finish: Armor-Tuff Capacity: 8+1 (.45 ACP), 9+1 (9mm, 38 Super, .40 S&W, 10mm) MSRP: $2,865
Preppers take note: A full-size handgun is a mandatory piece of gear for the inevitable end of the world. A full-size handgun is easier to control, aim and shoot more accurately. Getting a secure, two-handed grip in wet and dry environments means the weapon can be used with greater precision. This means more hits and less wasted ammunition.
A full-size pistol also carries a maximum payload of ammunition. Magazine capacity is important, and higher-capacity magazines allow you to shoot more between reloads. Easy-to- acquire ammunition should be your next criteria in a survival pistol. The .22 LR, 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP are excellent choices because they are the most popular with law enforcement officers and civilians. If members of your family have an aversion to recoil, stick with a light-recoiling .22 LR or a 9mm. If you plan on packing a second gun, make it a larger caliber like a .40 S&W or a .45 ACP. These calibers have more recoil and are better suited for experienced shooters.
- RELATED STORY: 13 CQB Bullpups For Self-Defense
Gear is only valuable if you know how to use it. Train often and train with a purpose. All mechanical equipment can fail, so understand how to clear a jam. Maintenance is important, too. You don’t need to be able to take down a pistol blindfolded, but the ability to field strip and keep a weapon clean and operating can mean the difference between life and death.
A weapon may get wet with saltwater, caked in mud or frozen in ice. You will need to be able to maintain your pistol whatever the conditions. Here are some of the handguns to consider for survival scenarios.
- RELATED STORY: Keep Your Shooting Skills Sharp
- RELATED STORY: 4 Types of Firearms For Your Family’s Emergency Prepper Arsenal
For more information contact:
European American Armory (EAA Corps)
sigsauer.com; 603- 610-300
Smith & Wesson
- RELATED STORY: Long Guns For Ladies: 3 Types of Rifles For the Homestead
- RELATED STORY: Blackpowder Pistols & Revolvers
This article was originally published in SURVIVOR’S EDGE ™ Winter 2015 magazine. Print and Digital Subscriptions available here.
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