The 10 Best Competition Ready Factory Handguns: Ready to Run – Firearms News


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If you are looking for your first gun with which to start shooting action pistol competitions, whether you’re looking at USPSA, IDPA, or both, all you really need—seriously—is a reliable pistol. You don’t need a dedicated “competition” gun to shoot matches, all you need is something that works, all the time. That said, what makes a good competition gun is something with good sights and a better-than-average trigger pull. After that, it’s whatever features you want the most—aggressive texturing, an oversize magazine well, etc. What’s important is not whether other people say it’s a great gun, but whether you can shoot it well. First, I’d like to point out that these are ten of the best options for various divisions in USPSA and IDPA competition, but I am limiting my choices to factory guns. Custom-built dedicated competition pistols are always the best option, but most people don’t have the time to wait or (more likely) the money to invest. However, these out-of-the-box, competition-ready handguns will serve you well, and there is an option for every budget out there.

Walther PDP Match


Walther’s PDP Match Full-Size is a purpose-built competition gun and gives you everything you need and nothing you don’t at a price that won’t cause your spouse to file for divorce. Walther’s basic PDP (Performance Duty Pistol) is a polymer-framed, striker-fired 9mm that is an improvement and modernization of the PPQ, which it replaced. It is eminently reliable and has one of the best factory trigger pulls of any striker-fired pistol out there. Every PDP is optics-ready. Any model of the PDP would serve you well in USPSA or IDPA, but the full-size Match model is built for competition. It has a longer, 5-inch barrel and the sight radius to match, with lightening cuts in the slide. It has an enhanced trigger pull, aggressive frame checkering, removable mag well, and comes with extended 20-round magazines. There are two versions of this exact pistol, one with the standard polymer frame and one with a steel frame. Except for the frame material, these two 5-inch guns are otherwise identical, and you have to decide if the recoil-absorbing properties of a metal frame is worth the jump up in price from the $1,099 of the polymer gun to the $1,899 of the SF Match. Until you’re B-class in USPSA (Expert in IDPA) or better, I think you’d be better served buying the polymer gun and using the leftover money to buy ammo, but then again, for whatever reason I’ve always shot polymer guns better than metal ones.

Springfield Armory DS Prodigy


While, admittedly, it had a bit of a rocky rollout, there still is no better way to affordably jump into the double-stack 1911 world than with the Springfield Armory DS Prodigy. While the smaller 4.25-inch gun is aimed at the CCW crowd, the full-size 5-inch model seems a perfect choice for competition. This 9mm single-action-only semi-auto is fed by flush 17- or extended 20-round magazines. Like most “2011”-style pistols, the Prodigy features a replaceable polymer grip attached to a steel frame on which the slide rides. The pistol has an optics-ready slide, or it can be bought from the factory with Springfield’s Hex Dragonfly optic. The sights are great as is, and the trigger pulls on these guns are definitely shootable. If at some point you decide to upgrade your Prodigy (they take most standard parts, and Briley Manufacturing offers several packages that include trigger jobs, etc.) you’d still be into the gun for far less money than buying a Staccato or a truly custom competition gun. The iron-sighted Prodigy is just $1,499, and the optic-included model is just $200 more. The pistols come with one flush 17- and one extended 20-round magazine.


Ruger SR1911 Koenig Competition 1911


First up is the Ruger SR1911 Koenig Competition 1911. When I reviewed this 1911 when it first came out, I did a bit of damning with faint praise, and now that I’ve had some time to reconsider, I see that it’s a much better gun than I at first thought. The first professional shooter that I can think of that started shooting 9mm at major matches was Doug Koenig. He professed a willingness to lose more points for non-center hits (shooting a “minor” caliber) for the trade-off of higher capacity and lower recoil. It took a while, but now a lot of competition shooters are running 9mm 1911 single-stacks, and the Ruger gives you everything you need and nothing you don’t at a price below what you’d pay for a true custom 1911, in either 9mm or .45 ACP. The Ruger SR1911 Competition has a stainless-steel frame and slide with black nitride accents. It has a fiber optic insert in the front sight, a fully adjustable BoMar-style rear sight, front and rear slide serrations, a checkered front strap and mainspring housing, and detachable magazine well. It has a great slide-to-frame-to-barrel fit, which is done by hand, and a crisp trigger pull. The 9mm version is $2,849. Ruger doesn’t make these all the time, so if you can find one, snap it up.

Glock 34


The Glock 34 is the granddaddy of plastic, striker-fired guns meant for competition, and it still is a far better choice than most. Glock labeled the 9mm G34 and otherwise identical .40 S&W G35 their Practical/Tactical guns, and with good reason. The G34 stretches the 4.4-inch barrel of the duty-sized G17 to 5.31-inches. This gives you a longer sight radius (if you’re using irons). For most of its life, the G34 has sported a cutout on the top of the slide—this isn’t a port but rather a weight-saving feature. This keeps the top end the same weight as the shorter G17, allowing Glock to use the same recoil system, but less reciprocating weight means less perceived recoil. The Glock has been a hugely popular design because its low bore reduces muzzle rise, so recoil is minimal in spite of its low weight—empty the G34 is just 24 ounces or so. Best of all, this model Glock replaces the standard 5.5-pound connector with a 3.5-pound connector, bringing the trigger pull down to somewhere between 4 to 6 pounds. Still not great, but it’s highly shootable, and the improved trigger systems are available everywhere. Glock mags are plentiful and cheap, and Glocks are THE standard in reliability. G34s are available in Gen 3, 4, and 5 flavors, with standard sights or optics ready. If you want a dedicated competition handgun, the G34 set the standard in USPSA’s Production and IDPA SSP divisions and is a solid choice in Carry Optics. Depending on the generation, you should be able to find this pistol for about $600, and it’s available darn near everywhere pistols are sold.

SIG Sauer P320


If the Glock G34 is the granddaddy of competition pistols, the SIG Sauer P320 is the new generation, sporting improvements in just about every area. There are a gazillion different P320 models, but if you’re looking for a competition gun, I don’t know that there’s a better 320 than the P320MAX, a dedicated competition pistol designed by world champion SIG Sauer shooter Max Michel. The P320MAX sports a tungsten-infused grip module to bring the weight up, thus reducing recoil. It comes with a 6-MOA ROMEO3MAX optic, which has a larger window. The pistol has improved slide serrations, a removable magazine well, a 5-inch bull barrel, and a flat, skeletonized trigger. It comes with four 21-round magazines. Factory trigger pulls on the P320 are consistently better than what you’ll find in Glocks, so even if you’re picky, you may not need to tweak the trigger on your P320. MSRP is $,1599, which is a darn good price considering it comes with an optic and likely all the mags you’ll need.


CZ-USA Shadow 2


If plastic guns aren’t your thing, the CZ Shadow 2 just might be. The CZ 75 is a double-aciton/single-action (DA/SA) 9mm semi-auto, and think of the Shadow 2 as the CZ 75 tweaked into a competition pistol—4.89-inch barrel, full length frame rail, beavertail, undercut trigger guard, improved sights, frame checkering, etc. Flush magazines hold 17 rounds. There are a few different Shadow 2 models, but here I’m specifically talking about the “Black & Blue” model, which comes with blue anodized grip panels and looks sharp. It’s available either with standard sights or optics ready, and I’m pretty sure CZ has dropped the price on the standard model, as currently the CZ Shadow 2 Black & Blue is just $1,099 (the optics-ready model is $1,299). CZ-pattern pistols dominate in many divisions because they are accurate, reliable, have a low bore, and have minimal recoil due to their all-steel construction. Even with the standard factory trigger, their single action trigger pulls are always excellent. 

Staccato XL


I’ve been around long enough to know that Staccato is the new-and-improved, rebranded STI, one of the first “factory custom” houses to offer wide-body 1911s (“2011s”) as standard models. As reinventions go, the birth of Staccato from the ashes of STI has been incredible. Staccato has seen huge success in offering factory pistols that tread the line in price and quality between high-end factory and true custom guns. Most of Staccato’s models seem aimed at the CCW crowd, but their 9mm Staccato XL is a model specifically meant for competition. It uses the same wide-body frame, and is fed by flush 17-round magazines, two of which are included with the pistol. This gun has a long 5.4-inch barrel, which gives you a nicely extended sight radius if you’re running the good iron sights. The pistol is optics ready, and the rear sight sits on a removable plate. The pistol has a bull barrel, front and rear slide serrations, a removable oversize magazine well, and an advertised 2.5-pound trigger pull. The base model of the Staccato XL is $3,599, but as Staccato is a borderline custom shop, you can order custom options for additional $$$—DLC coating on the barrel, engraving, an optic or weaponlight, etc. If you think that’s expensive…well, yes, it is, but if you go to one of the shops building custom competition 1911s (Infinity Firearms, Akai Custom Guns, Atlas Gunworks, etc.) you’re going to pay a lot more.

Smith & Wesson M&P9 Competitor 


New from Smith & Wesson this past year is a dedicated competition version of their proven M&P pistol, the M&P9 Competitor. A lot of shooters, amateurs, and pro have used the S&W M&P pistols at matches to great effect. These polymer-framed pistols have historically been reliable and durable, and the new M2.0 models have improved features, making them more suitable for competition—improved sights and trigger pulls, etc. The M&P9 Competitor from Smith & Wesson’s Performance Center uses their new metal frame to increase the weight and reduce recoil and sports a distinctive gray Cerakote finish. It has a long, 5-inch barrel and a slide with lightening cuts. The front sight has a green fiber optic insert, and the slide is optics ready. The pistol sports the same replaceable backstraps as the polymer-framed gun, a textured polymer front strap insert, and a removable oversize magazine well. The Performance Center is S&W’s in-house skunk works, designing improved parts, and the trigger system on the Competitor is better compared to a standard M&P. The trigger itself sports a flatter face to go along with the lower/crisper trigger pull, and each pistol is supplied with four 17-round magazines. Not bad for an MSRP of $999.

Dan Wesson DWX


Dan Wesson’s full-size DWX is not advertised specifically as a competition handgun, but it seems well-suited to the task. This pistol pairs the trigger system of the 1911 with the barrel lockup and grip/capacity/reliability of a CZ 75. It also looks great, with red anodized grip panels and matching trigger. This all-steel pistol is fed by flush, affordable CZ P-09 19-round magazines. The frame is  ergonomic, with aggressive checkering. The sights are good—a fiber optic front paired with an adjustable rear. The trigger pull is as good as you’d expect out of a 1911. It took Dan Wesson a few years to perfect this design, but it seems worth the wait. MSRP is $1,999.

Shadow Systems DR920P


The Shadow Systems DR920P is changing the game when it comes to “Glock-clone-style” handguns. Shadow Systems is adding all the modern features expected in handguns to a “Glock-style” layout and reliability. The DR920P is a great out-of-the-box competition-ready offering from Shadow Systems. It features an integral compensator, suppressor-height sights, optics-ready slide and a flat-faced trigger. Compatible with Glock-style holsters, the Shadow Systems DR920P is also features an aggressively textured slide and frame, and its match-grade, spiral-fluted 4.48-inch barrel is ideal for competition use. The DR920P uses 17+1 capacity Glock-style magazines and weighs in at 21.5 ounces. With a price tag right around $1,100, the DR920P is an affordable pistol that won’t need any upgrades for competitions. 

If you have any thoughts or comments on this article, we’d love to hear them. Email us at [email protected].

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