What’s the Best Handgun? Massad Ayoob Reveals His Picks


What are the greatest handguns in the world? Here’s a note from author Massad Ayoob explaining his reasoning for the choices he made in his new book, Greatest Handguns of the World Volume 2:

A whole lot of chapters scheduled for the first one didn’t make it when we ran out of room. There was an angry thread at www.sigforum.com which took me to task for not mentioning the SIG-Sauer series as among the greatest. Alas, that had been one that wound up on the cutting room floor after Volume I. It is, most certainly, here in Volume II.

Some at www.coltforum.com were shocked that a book with the words “Greatest Handguns” in the title did not include the Colt Single Action Army. When we had to cut some out, we decided to keep a twentieth century focus, so the SAA was deferred to the book we hoped would follow if reader interest warranted…the book you are now reading.

Both of those chapters appeared originally in Dave Brennan’s magazine, The Accurate Rifle. So did several of the other chapters appearing here. The Thompson/Center chapter originally appeared in American Handgunner magazine, and is reprinted here courtesy of editorial director Roy Huntington. Some chapters, including those on the Mauser C96, the Colt Pocket Model, and the .41 Magnum, were written expressly for this book.

Criteria were simple enough: “Did the gun in question ‘make a difference’?” The Colt Peacemaker, “the Gun That Won the West,” obviously qualifies; the qualifications of some others were less obvious. Sometimes, the difference was limited to a relatively narrow field of users, as with the High Standard Supermatic. There were good .22 target pistols before and after it. Yet, the Supermatic ushered in the age of a .22 auto engineered for super accuracy, and equipped with quick change barrels that delivered modularity and flexibility without sacrificing precision grouping capability. (Yes, the S&W Model 41 had that too…but it came later. The High Standard gets the credit for establishing the concept.)

The Colt Pocket Hammerless set the stage for one of the most widely produced genres of handgun the world has ever seen, the flat little .32 and .380 carry autos. The .41 Magnum never met the expectations of popularity that heralded its arrival in 1964…but the reasons why it didn’t make it an important case study in how ebbs and flows in trends and forces outside the gun design room can influence firearm trends and sales. And then, there are handguns such as the Mauser C96, whose effects can reach far, far beyond the world of the handheld firearm.

For an entertaining read about the greatest handguns according to Ayoob, order your copy of Greatest Handguns of the World Volume 2 from the Gun Digest Store today. (Remember to get free standard U.S. shipping on your order by using promo code INSIDEGDB. Promo code fine print: Items which ship directly from the manufacturer do not qualify for free shipping.)

Here’s the list of guns covered in this 2nd volume:

  • Chapter 1: The .41 Magnum
  • Chapter 2: Auto-Caliber Revolvers
  • Chapter 3: The Beretta 92
  • Chapter 4: The Bren Ten
  • Chapter 5: The Browning High Power
  • Chapter 6: Colt Pocket Model
  • Chapter 7: Peacemaker: Colt’s Single Action Army
  • Chapter 8: The High Standard Supermatic
  • Chapter 9: Smith & Wesson .22/32 Kit Gun
  • Chapter 10: The Mauser C96
  • Chapter 11: The Ruger Single-Six
  • Chapter 12: The Sig-Sauer P226
  • Chapter 13: Thompson/Center Single Shots
  • Chapter 14: The Walther Legacy

And if you haven't read the first volume yet, be sure to pick up a copy of the original Greatest Handguns of the World. Guns covered in that book include the 1911, Colt Commander, Colt National Match Pistol, Colt Detective Special, Colt’s Official Police, Colt Python, Colt Woodsman, Glock Pistol, HK, High Standard Sentinel, Luger Pistol, Ruger .22 Auto, Ruger P-Series Semi-Autos, and Smith & Wesson’s Military & Police Revolver, K-22, Chiefs Special, .357 Combat Magnum, Classic Model 27, Highway Patrolman, .44 Magnum, and Landmark Service Pistol.

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