Question from Gun Digest reader Thomas H.:
“With the extensive knowledge of your experienced staff, I would like to ask your opinion. Which tactical rifle (in the U.S.) on the market is the best? Also, the same question as to semi-auto handgun in the 9mm caliber? Top three to five would be great if no consensus can be found on one.”
Editor Kevin Michalowski responds:
“Wow… Tommy, tough question.
“The question you pose is very subjective and comes with the caveat of ‘it depends.'
“What do you require your modern sporting rifle to do? The AR-15 platform has served the longest and has the most options available. Any rifle from a reputable maker will serve you very well. The options are endless.
“Colt now even offers a rifle that will allow you change from 5.56 to 7.62 simply and easily. There is a boatload of information available on the care and feeding of the AR rifle. It is the big dog and everyone follows it.
“The AK-47 variants have their drawbacks, but reliability is not one of them. Also, an ever-growing line of accessories means the venerable Russian rifle will now fit American shooters and shooting styles. The ammo is ubiquitous and cheap. Today you can mount optics, get a stock that is the right length and find magazines of all types for every shooting need.
“The Springfield M-1A or M-14 clones are well know for stopping power and accuracy. They, too, now have available all the aftermarket parts you might need to make the rifle of your dreams.
“Newer styles like the SCAR and P-90 from FNH are solid weapons with excellent records, even if they have fewer followers and aftermarket add-ons.
“Just to keep this short, I will close the rifle portion with a suggestion that you look at some surplus rifles, too. The CETME, STG-58 and any of the clones of the FN-FAL were carried in combat around the globe. While they might not be the most accurate rifles on the market, they are tough as nails, simple to use and maintain and they fire readily available ammunition.
“On the handgun side, I would tell you to choose by feel. Any of the top makers like Glock, Kimber, Smith & Wesson, FNH, H&K, Kahr, Ruger and several others whose names escape me now, make fine 9mm service pistols. Find the one that fits your hand and feels best to you while you shoot.
“If you go shopping for a pistol, somewhere along the line, you will pick up a pistol and say, ‘That feels right.' That is the pistol you should choose. Then you should shoot it often under the training of a reputable combat instructor.”