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9mm Gems

9mm Gems

There are serious aspects of handguns and shooting, from firearm safety to personal defense to gun rights issues. You can bet all of us at Handgunner take those issues seriously. But we still enjoy the hobby side of handguns and handgunning, plinking with .22s, spirited debates over action types and cartridges, admiring classic handguns and studying handgun history. So, it seems, do many of our readers. Here’s part of a message His Editorial Majesty received recently, and asked me to comment on:

“Roy, I have what I consider to be my gems … a Python for the revolvers, an Ed Brown for the 1911s, a Beretta EELL for sporting clays … Now I’m looking for my ‘gem’ of 9mm autos, and having a little trouble identifying one.” -Herb Underwood

Recognizing this is entirely subjective, here’s a list of what I consider “classic” 9mm pistols. The first group of five are those I’m confident should be included. I’ve listed them chronologically. The second group is more subject to debate, but ones I want on my list. Just for fun I’ve also listed what I consider the “RE” (revolver equivalent) on the “classic” scale.

And my personal “classic” favorite? Why, the Browning Hi-Power, by a mile!

The Guns

1. Luger P-08: The first 9mm pistol, it remains one of the most collected, admired, and recognizable of handguns. (RE: Colt Single Action Army)

2. Browning P35: Designed by the great John Browning and his brilliant protégé, Dieudonné Saive. The P35, also called the Hi-Power, was the first high-capacity 9mm and was widely adopted as a military service pistol. Illustrated is a 1958 commercial model. (RE: S&W N-frame .357 Magnum)

3. Walther P-38: The first double-action 9mm, adopted by the German military prior to WWII. Its traditional double-action design with slide-mounted hammer drop/safety has been widely adopted, including on the current US service pistol. (RE: S&W Victory Model)

4.SIG P210: Adopted by the Swiss military in 1949 and still in production, the P210 is perhaps the most accurate, beautifully fitted and finished of all 9mm pistols. (RE: Colt Python)

5. CZ-75: Perhaps the best development of the traditional DA concept, the CZ-75 was introduced with a frame-mounted safety and had the option of either hammer-down or cocked-and-locked carry. Widely adopted as a military pistol and always made to high standards of quality, it has also proven very successful in competition shooting. (RE: S&W 66 Combat Magnum)

6. S&W 39: Not the first American-made 9mm but the first with the DA feature. The originals had a few minor bugs, which were sorted out with the 39-2. Never quite in tune with the times — those who wanted a single-stack pistol wanted it in .45, those who wanted 9s wanted high capacity. Nonetheless, an excellent and visually appealing pistol. (RE: S&W .38 Combat Masterpiece)

7.SIG SAUER P220: First marketed in America as the Browning BDA, the P220 led to SIG’s superlative “200 Series” pistols, of which probably the best known is the high-capacity P226. Other offspring include a fine line of competition models. All are rugged, functional, reliable and accurate. (RE: Ruger GP-100)

8.Beretta 92: Couldn’t leave out America’s service pistol. The 92 uses the same operating and action design as the original P38 but with higher magazine capacity. Commercially there are also target/competition versions, all built with Beretta’s superb quality. (RE: S&W 686)

9.HK P7: With its squeeze-cocking feature and gas-operated design, the P7 is really unique. Always made to high-quality standards, the P7 was expensive and never widely popular, but has a tremendously loyal following among those who actually tried it. Pistol shown has Robar NP3+ finish. (RE: Webley-Fosbery automatic revolver)

10.Springfield Armory EMP: If you like the 1911 design and the 9mm cartridge you’ll like this pistol. It’s scaled around the 9mm cartridge rather than the longer .45 ACP and .38 Super cartridges. Beautifully made and very accurate, the alloy-framed 9mm has a “just right” feel. (RE: Colt Cobra) 11Glock 19: Glock pistols have been around long enough, and have been so tremendously successful; they must be termed at least a “modern” classic. My favorite Glock by far is the 19, a near ideal blend of size, weight and magazine capacity — big enough to shoot well, small enough for concealed carry. (RE: S&W Model 10 4″ .38 Special)
By Dave Anderson

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  1. The most accurate, beautifully fitted and finished of all 9mm pistols are commercial Lugers made between 1902 and 1914. For all its excellence, the SIG P210 is but a runner-up in this regard.

    • werner weissenhofer says:

      … and you should have seen Armand Swenson s High Power s …
      some in various states of completion he had in his trunk while visiting the Bianchi Cup 1979 … : )

  2. Rod Nicolette says:

    Great list of 9mm gems. I was really happy to see you included the CZ75. I have others on the list as well, but to me, there is something about the “feel” of a CZ pistol that is unbeatable. Combine that with an all steel construction, low bore axis, superb fit and finish and it’s like shooting a work of art. Hmmmm… well that might be a bit of hyperbole, but not much! :)

    • I had a friend from Czech Republic (at that time Czechoslovakia) who used to sleep with the CZ 75 in his hand. I tried to convince him to trade it for some other model, but nah, not even the M11. Honestly speaking, it’s one of the most quality built 9mm handguns of all time. It totally deserved to be in this list.

  3. Nicely constructed list! I’ve been a collector of S&W handguns for years, and although my focus has been on vintage revolvers, I wouldn’t consider a Smith collection properly rounded without a Model 39. My “no-dash” 39 is as beautiful to shoot as it is to look at. That said, I would have to agree with the author’s choice of the Browning Hi-Power as a personal favorite “classic.” AND, although I would not presume to edit such a well though out list, I would offer the Kahr K9 as an additional contender for the “Gem List”. With it’s steel frame and striker-fired design, this compact carry gun combines concealability, balance, grip ergonomics, and shootability in a finely executed design that, at least to me, is unsurpassed. (and as for an RE: S&W Model 642.)

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