Walther PPK

Picture 1 of 10

The original Walther PP, or Polizeipistole, in German, first appeared in 1935. It was a compact, safe, reliable semi-auto chambered for a light-recoiling cartridge, an ideal gun for personal defense. It also introduced a host of new features that would become commonplace on later guns, including a firing pin block and loaded chamber indicator. It used a blowback operation system, which is used by many small-caliber semi-auto handguns to this day. Although it appeared several decades before the U.S. concealed carry movement, the PP/PPK became a gold standard for pocket semi-auto pistols, and despite 80 years of new designs, there are still plenty of people that carry their Walther every day. Hey, if it works for James Bond…

We trace the lineage of today’s top pistols and revolvers to determine which firearms helped shape our modern conception of what a handgun should be.

There are a wide variety of different handguns on the market today, everything from ultra-compact mini-revolvers to sophisticated semi-auto race guns. But if you look at the DNA of most modern guns, you’ll see that the vast majority trace their lineage back to some common ancestors. Sure, all have different features and specifications, but the history of these great guns is visible in virtually every modern handgun offered for sale today.

Still, it’s hard to pick just 10 firearms that helped shaped our understanding of what a handgun should be. You can trace the history of firearms back for centuries to a time when primitive powder ignited a flash of flame and an idea that would change the history of humankind and the trajectory of the world as we know it. But for our intents and purposes, we’ll stick to guns of the modern smokeless powder era, those from the mid-nineteenth century and forward.

That’s still not a short list, and picking guns that deserve a spot isn’t easy. It’s sometimes hard to judge the influence a gun has on other models; sometimes, it’s a matter of mechanical design, sometimes aesthetics, and sometimes it’s caliber, capacity or some nuance that could easily go unnoticed. So, above are our picks for the 10 most influential handguns of the modern era.


Great Handguns - HGN Training

The Confidence to Defend Yourself

Self defense can be a matter of life and death for your family. Keeping your shooting skills sharp is important to using the best home defense weapon possible when the unexpected occurs. Turn your handgun into the best handgun for home defense with the drills outlined in Handgun Training – Practice Drills for Defensive Shooting. Nothing will give you more peace and security in your own home than the confidence you will hit your target. Learn More

3 COMMENTS

  1. Have owned all except the Glock and the Judge. They are not to my liking but based on sales and the number of competing products it’s hard to argue their impact.

    I would question Mr. Fitzpatrick’s selection of the S&W J-Frame. As far as a small-frame, .38 Special snubbie goes, the influential one is the Colt Detective Special introduced in 1927 and based on the 1908 Colt Police Positive Special. The J-frame is a derivative of the old-1896 Hand Ejector I-frame Smith but it didn’t hit the market until 1950. The I-frame, which was smaller than the J, couldn’t handle the pressure of the .38 Special and the maximum cartridge was the .32 S&W.