You will not achieve the best accuracy with a second- or third-rate handgun. Thankfully, there are a number of affordable handguns that still exhibit excellent accuracy.
There are plenty of affordable handguns that are also quite accurate:
- Handgunners have lots of options when it comes to sidearms.
- All are not equal, but many will shoot 2 inches at 25 yards for under $1,000.
- Many accurate and affordable 1911s are being made by popular manufacturers.
- In terms of hard-hitting, accurate revolvers, don’t overlook some of Ruger’s offerings.
The Most Accurate Handguns
When you consider accuracy you must determine first the use to which the handgun will be put.
A few years ago, I read an article describing how a shooter had a custom-grade Browning Hi Power put together with Novak sights and a Bar-Sto barrel — all great additions. Then the writer, obviously given the wrong assignment to cover, fired the piece at 7 yards and voiced the opinion that a defensive handgun would never be used past that distance!
There are competing demands on the handgun, but the worst case scenario is the one that I consider. I may limit my sure kill range when deer hunting to 35 yards with the .45 ACP, but would 50 yards be too much?
The Ruger Blackhawk .44 Magnum will stretch that range to all of 100 yards if I do my part. On the other hand, if you are going to shoot at Camp Perry, the emphasis will be on accuracy and the piece must be more accurate than most any off-the-shelf handgun.
There must also be a balance of power and accuracy. The defensive handgun that isn’t going to be called upon past 7 yards may be the pistol on hand when you have the opportunity to stop an active shooter. It should be accurate enough for the chore and it should fire a powerful cartridge.
A target gun need only cut a hole in paper, but it may have to do so at long range. In a defensive handgun, reliability is a million times more important than anything else. In a competition gun, reliability is less important. The occasional malfunction with a .22 is par for the course.
Modern, affordable handguns have stronger, better steel than ever before and tighter tolerances. Modern Smith and Wesson revolvers have tighter throats than ever, resulting in a reduction of the accuracy problems that once dogged the .45 Auto Rim.
Modern Smith and Wesson revolvers in all calibers are more accurate than any previous revolver from this company. Ergonomics and sights are much better than ever before in all quality handguns. Handguns with tighter tolerances simply last longer.
There isn’t much slip or banging of misfit parts when the pistol fires, resulting in less wear. Accuracy and reliability are better, too.
Today, we have off-the-shelf 1911 handguns that will deliver accuracy of 2 inches at 25 yards with good loads.
Colt, SIG and Springfield 1911s with adjustable sights are available for the serious handgunner. While some experimentation with ammunition is necessary, these handguns are often surprisingly accurate. A modern magnum revolver may be even more accurate.
My personal Ruger GP100 .357 Magnum revolver is the single most accurate handgun I have owned, and I am not alone in this sentiment. The GP 100 has cut a 25-yard group on several occasions of 1 inch or less.
That is an incredible standard and I am certain I cannot shoot up to the capabilities of the handgun on most days, although it appears I have done so on a few occasions.
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The better-quality 1911 handguns are among our most accurate pistols, while Magnum revolvers are often very accurate and more accurate, in my experience, than all but the finest self-loading pistols.
As for my personal testing, I could not fire every handgun and type of ammunition on the market. But chances are, the more quality guns will yield similar performance, as a Springfield Range Officer Target model and a SIG target-sighted 1911 tend to perform similarly. These are among the most useful of all handguns. Reliable, accurate and powerful they convey more than a little emotional attachment.
There are other affordable handguns that I find exceptionally pleasing to shoot and very accurate. The aforementioned classic Browning Hi Power is such a timeless design with many good features. I would not be hesitant to stake my life or a contest on a good specimen of one.
My own Hi Power has been fitted with a Bar-Sto Precision barrel, which made a considerable difference in accuracy. The average Hi Power can be expected to group five rounds of quality ammunition such as the Federal HST into 2.5 inches at 25 yards.
The trigger on the Hi Power is notoriously heavy, although later models are better and early handguns sometimes become much smoother with age.
The Bar-Sto fitted Hi Power will shave an inch off that group given proper fitting and carefully chosen ammunition. The SIG P210 is even more accurate straight from the factory, but very expensive and leaving something to be desired as for the location of its safety and general handling.
The CZ 75 is respected for ruggedness and reliability. And it has a good reputation for accuracy. Although the contest is a tight one, in general the CZ 75 will outshoot the Browning Hi Power. It takes a fine shot to demonstrate this — and benchrest accuracy is theoretical when comparing combat guns — but I had rather have the CZ 75 in a fight than any other 9mm handgun. It is that good and the combination of features is excellent.
If you desire an accurate belt gun that is capable of personal defense at long range in the most demanding circumstances, of taking game and engaging in IDPA and ISPSC matches, the list of suitable, affordable handguns gets pretty short.
I have shot most of the available handguns and find that some are more accurate than others. The accurate handgun should also be capable of using a target load with less recoil than the full power service loads. This is very important in bettering your marksmanship skill.
After a long session with the .45 ACP, recoil sneaks up, giving you sore wrists. A good supply of medium-velocity handloads or target loads makes life easier.
In the revolver, target wadcutters or lead semi-wadcutters (SWC) loads are great practice loads. I recommend a diet of ten practice loads for every one full power service load. Both you and the handgun will last longer with this type of ammunition.
I recommend purchasing quality, yet affordable handguns and spending much more on ammunition. In addition, handloading is mandatory for marksmanship growth.
Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from The Accurate Handgun, available now at GunDigestStore.com