The Best Handguns of 2022


More people are buying handguns for personal protection than ever before, making self-defense handguns the best-selling firearms in America right now. But guns cost money and with inflation, money is tight. If you’re one of the thousands of people looking for a new handgun, the last thing you want is to experience buyer’s remorse the first time you take it to the range. We’d like to help prevent that, and it’s why we conducted a test at my home and private range in West Virginia to evaluate as many of the new-for-2022 handguns as we could find.

I use the word “we,” because one shooter cannot provide a practical evaluation of how a group of handguns might appeal or interface with different people. So, to help with the test, I invited Field & Stream senior editor, Matthew Every; trained law enforcement SWAT officer Will McGuire; and graduate of Gunsite Academy’s 250 pistol course Sebastian Mann. This gave us a balanced opinion of experienced shooters, aged from 22 to 57 years. We also needed help with ammunition, targets, and holsters, and without Federal, Buffalo Bore, Thompson Targets, and Galco, our test of the best handguns would not have been possible. 

The 2022 Handgun Winners

How We Test Handguns

Two of our shooters tested every handgun for precision by shooting three, 5-shot groups from a sandbag rest at 10 yards, with at least two different loads. Then, working from holsters, we ran each gun through a series of timed defensive drills. The first was a 6-shot rendition of the El-Prez Drill without a reload. The goal in this drill was to get two hits each on three IPSC-size silhouette targets at 10 yards as fast as possible. This drill allowed us to evaluate how well we could transition between the targets with each handgun while getting fast hits along the way.

Federal provided 9mm HST ammo and it was used to test every 9mm handgun. Sabastian Mann

The second drill was a version of the Failure Drill. Normally, this drill requires double-tapping a torso target at five yards twice, evaluating the effects, and then firing a head shot if needed. We modified the drill to help us better evaluate our interface with each handgun while under pressure, and strived for a par time of 2 seconds. After drawing the gun, we hammered two quick shots to the torso and then—as fast as possible—made a precision shot on a swinging head-plate.

The third drill was my standard evaluation drill when evaluating defensive handguns. Called the Forty-Five Drill, it requires you to draw from the holster and fire five shots into a 5-inch circle at 5 yards in less than 5 seconds. This drill is a great measure of how hard the recoil of a handgun is to control. But at the same time, it requires a shooter to see the sights and deliver fast and accurate hits. It’s a drill where easy-shooting guns with good sights stand out.

How We Score Handguns

We fired a minimum of 200 rounds through each handgun. For those that we wanted to investigate further, that had a stoppage, or that we really enjoyed shooting, we fired two to three times that much. All the drills were scored, and we then awarded points in the following categories:

  • Precision/Accuracy (1-15 points) 
  • Practical Drill Performance (1-15 points) 
  • Suitability for Self-Defense/Carry (1-10 points) 
  • Quality (1-10 points) 
  • Shooting Comfort/Shooter Interface (1-10 points) 
  • Holster Availability (1-5 points) 
  • Reliability (30 points) 
  • Value (1-5 points) 

We added everything up for a possible total of 100.

Shooter holding a handgun.
Every handgun in our test was shot extensively by multiple shooters and with multiple loads. Sabastian Mann

After all this, we discussed the results, argued opinions, and then named the Editors’ Pick for the best handgun of the bunch. We also recognized the handgun that offered the best value, and the revolver we thought was the best of the three tested. And, since this is Field & Stream, where you come to find the best information on hunting, fishing, camping, and survival, we selected what we felt was the best overall handgun for the outdoorsman.

Key Features

  • Price: $3,010
  • Chambering: 9mm Luger
  • Barrel length: 4 inches
  • Weight: 29.3 ounces (unloaded)
  • Trigger: 3.0 pounds
  • Capacity: 15+1

Pros

  • Quality of construction
  • User interface

Cons

The SFX9 from Wilson Combat is essentially an upgraded version of their EDC X9 handgun. The difference is that the SFX9 has a solid frame. The flat-sided frame feels a bit Glockish, but the grip angle is pure 1911. And, like all 1911-style handguns, the SFX9 is a single-action semi-auto outfitted with a manual thumb safety. However, like the EDC X9, the SFX9 does not have a grip safety. The trigger on this pistol was superb, the sights were excellent for fast defensive work, and the action cycled with impeccable smoothness.

We shot this pistol a lot because we liked it. We did experience two failures to feed somewhere after about 450 rounds. That’s when we realized we’d not put a drop of gun oil on the handgun since the test began. After a little gun juice, we put another 200 rounds through the SFX9 without issue.

All involved considered the SFX9 as the most suitable pistol we tested for concealed carry and felt it had the best shooter interface. It also performed the best on all the defensive drills. In terms of construction quality, it tied with the Korth Revolver as the best of the bunch. This is not an inexpensive pistol—it lost almost 5 points because of its price—but once you get it in your hand and put it to the test, you realize why it costs what it does.

Best Value: Taurus GX4 (Score: 88.25) 

Key Features

  • Price: $468
  • Chambering: 9mm Luger
  • Barrel length: 3.06 inches
  • Weight: 18.7 ounces
  • Trigger: 5.5 pounds
  • Capacity: 11+1

Pros

  • Price
  • Modular grip and optics ready

Cons

  • Field-strip requires a screwdriver

If you like the way a Glock looks and feels in your hand, you’ll like the Taurus GX4. It is a polymer-framed, striker-fired pistol, with a passive trigger safety, and a removable slide plate for optics mounting. At only 6 inches long and 4.4 inches high, it is an amazingly compact, and lightweight pistol. However, with its easy-to-see sights, it was very manageable on all the practical drills and scored fourth place overall in that category. Stacked up against all the other handguns in the test, this pistol ranked third, and had a best-of-the-test score of 4.64 points out of 5 on the value scale. We experienced no stoppages with the GX4.

The GX4 has a reversible magazine release and comes with two 11-round magazines with a much-appreciated extended base plate. An additional backstrap is supplied to help you adjust the grip to fit your hand. The slide stop is of minimal proportions to prevent accidental engagement, but is positioned well enough for thumb control if that’s how you like to release the slide. The rear sight is smartly devoid of unnecessary dots and the front sight has a white dot. The pistol disassembles easily enough, but a flat-blade screwdriver is required. This was the one feature our test group did not like.

Key Features

  • Price: $3,699
  • Chambering: 38 Special, 357 Magnum, 9mm Luger
  • Barrel length: 2.75-inch
  • Weight: 33.6
  • Trigger: 7.75 lbs. (double-action) 3.0 lbs. (single-action)
  • Capacity: 6

Pros

  • Incredible trigger
  • Multi-cartridge compatibility

Cons

Upfront it must be acknowledged that this is a fabulous handgun. It tied for quality of construction with the Wilson Combat SFX9, but because it’s a revolver, and because it’s put together so well, it just seemed sort of special. With the single exception of a plain black—hard-to-see—front sight, no one that handled the Korth said it could have been made better. Regarding the sight, the handgun we tested was an early version. All new Carry Specials come with a gold bead front sight. Up against semi-auto pistols, it ranked 9th overall. Had it had the easier to see front sight it would have probably come in several spots higher.

Aside from having the best double and single-action trigger of any revolver anyone in the test group had ever pulled, in a matter of seconds, you can swap the cylinder and convert this gun to fire 9mm Luger. (We tested 9mm Luger, .38 Special, and .357 Magnum loads in the Korth.) Of course, the downside is the price. You could purchase eight Taurus GX4s for the same money. On the other hand, a 6-shot revolver will handle most defensive handgun situations, and there’s some comfort in knowing you’re carrying what might be the best revolver ever made. Its ammo interchangeability, combined with the level of precision the Korth delivered, makes this pistol quite versatile.

Best for Outdoorsmen: Colt Python 3-inch (Score: 84.42)

Key Features

  • Price: $1499.00
  • Chambering: 38 Special/357 Magnum
  • Barrel length: 3 inches
  • Weight: 38 ounces
  • Trigger: 8.5 lbs. (double-action) 5.0 lbs. (single-action)
  • Capacity: 6

Pros

  • Fit and finish
  • Cool factor and style

Cons

  • It only comes in stainless
  • Heavy

For 50 years, many considered the Colt Python the Cadillac of revolvers. Popularized by the 1973 film, “Electra Glide in Blue,” its prices doubled after it was discontinued in 2005. Now reintroduced by Colt, they offer a 6-, 4.25-, and 3-inch version, the last of which is the latest. Our test gun had an impeccable polished stainless finish, nice wood grips, an adjustable rear sight, and an interchangeable front sight. Though a tad large for everyday carry, based on the price and quality, we felt it the best handgun for outdoorsmen who might use it for hunting, trail carry, or just about anything else someone who lives outside might need to do with a handgun.

On the practical drills, the Python outperformed all the revolvers in the test. It received a score of 9 out of 10 in quality of construction and shooter comfort. With light .38 Special loads, it’s ideal for plinking, with quality hollow points it will work for personal protection; and with Buffalo Bore .357 Magnum hardcast loads, it’s suitable for hunting or bear protection. The Python was the heaviest of all the guns tested but there are plenty of good holsters to choose from. Though it was the third most expensive gun we examined, it was without question the most beautiful. And you could buy two Pythons and a lot of ammunition for the price of the Korth.

Key Features

  • Price: $799
  • Barrel length: 3.37 inches 
  • Weight: 19.5 ounces (20.5 ounces with Crimson Trace sight)
  • Trigger: 5.5 pounds
  • Capacity: 10+1 (as tested) 11+1 and 13+1 as advertised.

Pros

  • Available with reflex sight from the factory
  • Decent Trigger

Cons

The Mako functioned flawlessly and delivered the second-best score on precision from the bench. It also received the second-highest score for suitability for concealed carry. We tested the Optics-Installed version which comes with a Crimson Trace CTS-1500 reflex sight and costs $200 more than the standard version, which is also optics ready. Both are fitted with three-dot Tritium sights. The pistol is advertised as coming with an 11-round and a 13-round extended magazine. Ours came with two 10-round magazines, one of which was extended—making the pistol much more comfortable in hand. The trigger pull on our test gun was good for a striker-fired handgun, and it had a very distinct and audible reset.

The Mako’s slide lock is well protected from accidental engagement and easy to reach with the thumb of the shooting hand. The slide lock is also ambidextrous, as is the Mako’s magazine release. Texturing on the full circumference of the grip was about ideal for comfort and retention, and the Mako is very easy to field strip. Most of the testers thought the pistol a bit ugly but that did not negatively impact its performance. However, there is a safety recall on the Mako—our test gun had been serviced. Supposedly this addressed a safety issue with the firing pin block but did nothing to help the pistol’s looks.

Key Features

  • Price: $579.95
  • Chambering: 9mm Luger
  • Barrel length: 4.0 inches
  • Weight: 26.8 ounces
  • Trigger: 4.0 pounds
  • Capacity: 18+1

Pros

  • Price
  • Extremely modular grip
  • Optics-ready

Cons

  • A bit large for concealed carry

What should you expect from a striker-fired, Turkish-made, polymer pistol, that you can pick up for around $500? Based on our testing, a lot. This pistol delivered the best precision from the bench, performed second-best on the defensive drills, and was rated second with regard to shooter interface/shooting comfort. The PX9 is also loaded with features. It’s optics-ready, has an 18+1 capacity, optional flared magazine well, interchangeable grip panels and backstrap, a threaded muzzle, and a fixed rear and fiber optic front sight. It’s also available in black, flat dark earth, or olive, and the slide has a Cerakote finish.

So, with all this going for it, why did it not come out as the best of our test? This is a duty-size pistol; it’s a bit large for concealed carry. It was also supplied with a poorly designed IWB holster. (The PX9 will fit Springfield XD holsters.) The trigger broke at four pounds but had the typical mush of many striker-fired handguns, and out of the 300 plus rounds fired, we had one failure to feed. Still, of the 13 handguns tested, it ranked fourth in value and, though it is a bit big, would make an ideal home defense handgun—especially with its accessory rail for a weapon light. Don’t overlook this gun because of its Turkish construction. It’s a fine pistol.

Key Features

  • Price: $556.00
  • Barrel length: 3.4 inches
  • Weight: 19.5 ounces
  • Trigger: 5.5 pounds
  • Capacity: 11+1 or 14+1

Pros

  • Easy and safe disassembly
  • Optics-ready

Cons

Fed from a double-stack magazine, the MC2sc replaced Mossberg’s MC1sc single-stack magazine-fed, micro 9mm pistol. Surprisingly, the grip on this higher-capacity pistol is only infinitesimally thicker. The pistol ships with an 11- and a 14-round magazine, and is available with white three-dot sights or TruGlo Tritium sights. One version even comes with a cross-bolt safety, and all versions have an optics-ready slide cut. 

The MC2sc was a close second to the Taurus GX4 for the best value award. The Taurus beat it by less than a half-point, which was earned solely by the Taurus’s $88-less suggested retail price. But the Mossberg delivered slightly better precision from the bench, performed slightly better in the practical drills, and is much easier to field strip.

Some shooters did experience a bit of finger pinch between the tip of the trigger and the trigger guard, which did detract from its shooting comfort score. However, the MC2sc was ultra-reliable. One of the things that sets the MC2sc apart from the other Micro 9mm pistols is how safe and easy it is to field strip. You simply lock the slide to the rear, remove the striker plate on the back of the slide, and then pull out the striker. When you release the slide, it comes completely off the pistol, with no need to pull the trigger.

Key Features

  • PRICE: $699.00
  • Chambering: 9mm Luger
  • Barrel length: 4.62 inches
  • Weight: 29.6 ounces
  • Trigger: 5.0 pounds
  • Capacity: 15+1

Pros

  • Elegant and classy appearance
  • Soft shooting

Cons

  • Hammer bite
  • Non-ambidextrous safety

Springfield Armory’s SA-35 is a mostly faithful clone of what is maybe the most prevalent fighting pistol ever made. The primary difference in the SA-35 and now-discontinued Browning HiPower, is that the SA-35 does not have a magazine disconnect safety. It does have a Commander-style hammer, a slightly chamfered mag well, and very good sights. The SA-35 is a very attractive pistol and ranked third in quality of construction in our test. During the first 30 rounds, we did experience a single stove-pipe—failure to fully eject—stoppage. After some lube, it digested the next 200-plus rounds flawlessly. It costs a bit more than the EAA MC P35, and while we’re not sure it’s made any better, it does have an air of sophistication the MC P35 lacks.

Even at five pounds, the trigger on our test gun was nice. Though some reviews claim Springfield fixed the irritating hammer-bite of the HiPower, all our test shooters experienced it. By outsourcing a partially completed frame and slide, Springfield was able to keep costs down on the SA-35 and still meet the “made in America” requirement—it costs about half of a used Browning HiPower in good condition. One of our testers who had never shot a HiPower had trouble with his support thumb engaging the slide lock. This is something to consider but is correctable with training and practice. Springfield-Armory’s SA-35 is a wonderful example of a classic pistol.

Key Features

  • Price: $567.00
  • Chambering: 9mm Luger
  • Barrel length: 4.62
  • Weight: 29.8 ounces
  • Trigger: 5.5 pounds 
  • Capacity: 15+1

Pros

Cons

  • Hammer bite
  • Magazine-disconnect safety

The HiPower is one of the most iconic handguns of all time, and its pivoting trigger, double-stack magazine, and link-less barrel are the foundation for almost every modern semi-automatic handgun. By modern standards, it’s a bit large and heavy for concealed carry, though I carry an original lightweight HiPower almost every day. EAA’s MC P35 is a close copy of the Browning HiPower and includes the magazine disconnect safety—the pistol will not fire without a magazine inserted. Owners often disable this feature to improve the trigger pull. Also, because of the magazine disconnect, the magazines will not drop free. The MC P35’s trigger had some gritty take-up but broke cleanly, and all shooters experienced some hammer bite, which is common with the HiPower. 

During our bench rest precision testing, the Springfield SA-35 performed slightly better, but in the practical drills, the MC P35 and SA-35 performed identically. Since they’re essentially the same pistol, you would expect this, and it somewhat validated our testing protocol. The MC P35 had sufficient sights and the ramped front sight is very holster friendly. It also has an ambidextrous thumb safety. The pistol is manufactured in Turkey by Girsan, and all the shooters were impressed by its quality. However, the black plastic grips and desert tan Cerakote finish—it’s also available in blue/black, and two-tone black and grey—gave the gun a somewhat toyish appearance. The pistol proved to be 100 percent reliable.

Key Features

  • Price: $609.00
  • Barrel length: 3.1 inches
  • Weight: 19.5 ounces
  • Trigger: 5.0 pounds
  • Capacity: 10+1 and 12+1

Pros

  • Compact and concealable
  • Manual thumb safety

Cons

  • Poor trigger
  • Problematic disassembly

For a single-action trigger, the one on our CSX test pistol was bad. It had some mush and take-up. This was very noticeable from the bench but not so much when shot under pressure during the practical drills. During the precision bench rest testing, the CSX only outperformed two of the 13 handguns tested. However, and very surprisingly, during the practical drills, it scored third. 

At only 6.1 inches long, the CSX is a very compact pistol, but it weighs in at 19.5 ounces even with its alloy frame. The pistol ships with a 10- and a 12-round magazine, the slide lock and manual thumb safety are ambidextrous, and it also ships with an extra backstrap to allow for some adjustment to the grip.

We found field stripping the pistol a bit tedious and a drift punch is required to complete the operation. The manual thumb safety could have been a bit larger, which would have made it easier to operate, and oddly, this single-action pistol also has the Glock-like passive safety on its pivoting trigger. The backstrap was easy enough to swap out and a tool for this was even supplied with the pistol. It would have been nice to have a punch supplied as well to help with field stripping. The CSX was utterly reliable and should make a good everyday-carry gun. With a few tweaks, it would be very nice.

Key Features

  • Price: $653.00
  • Chambering: 10mm
  • Barrel length: 3.8 inches
  • Weight: 27 ounces
  • Trigger: 4.5 pounds 
  • Capacity: 11+1

Pros

Cons

  • Harsh recoil
  • Smallish/uncomfortable grip

Our test group was a bit confused about the Springfield Armory XD Elite 3.8 OSP. It tips the scales at only 27 ounces, which is light for a 10mm. The barrel was also only 3.8-inches long, which is short for this cartridge. However, if a compact 11+1 capacity 10mm is what you’re looking for, this is your gun. The question we had was, what would anyone want with a micro-compact 10mm? Recoil was not pleasant, and the flared bottom of the grip did not fit anyone’s hand comfortably. After the 42-round practical drill session fired by each shooter, we all massaged our hands and questioned the concept.

Disregarding the practicality of this pistol, it proved to be very precise from the bench, ranking third in our test for accuracy. Being optics ready, it would have probably performed even better with a mini-reflex sight installed. (For an additional $184 it comes from the factory with a Hex Dragonfly reflex sight.) If you wanted the smallest semi-auto available for defense against big bears, it would also make sense. But that application doesn’t call for a compact and concealable firearm. Oddly enough, Springfield-Armory once offered longer barreled 10mm XD handguns, but all have been discontinued. If, however, you must have a 10mm, and it must be small, look no further.

Key Features

  • Price: $472.63
  • Chambering: 38 Special/357 Magnum
  • Barrel length: 3.0 inches
  • Weight: 23.52 ounces
  • Trigger: 5.25 pounds (single action) 10+ pounds (double action)
  • Capacity: 5

Pros

  • Compact for concealed carry
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Robust recoil
  • Poor trigger

This Brazilian-made revolver ranked as the second-best value in the test. From the bench, it performed just as well as the Colt Python. However, this is a five-shot as opposed to a six-shot revolver, and it’s limited capacity hurt it during the practical drills. However, it was the lightest and easiest to conceal of the three revolvers we examined. Of course, along with that came increased recoil.

One feature we really liked was the orange-outlined Tritium front sight that stood out like a beacon on the target. On the other hand, the trigger pull fooled a couple of the shooters who short-stroked it during speed drills. In the double-action mode, you must pull this trigger like you mean it.

The little 605 did have a comfortable and sculptured Hogue rubber grip and we found the brushed stainless-steel finish attractive. With standard-pressure .38 Special loads, it was comfortable, and with +P .38 Special loads, it was not overly offensive. However, with full-power .357 Magnum loads, it was a handful. Given its size, it did outrank seven of the 13 guns tested with regard to suitability for concealed carry. The single-action trigger pull was a bit stiff and the double-action pull was too heavy for our 10-pound gauge to measure. 

Key Features

  • Price: $561.00
  • Barrel length: 3.2 inches
  • Weight: 20.8 ounces 
  • Trigger: 7 pounds
  • Capacity: 7+1 or 8+1

Pros

  • Comfortable grip
  • Good combat sights

Cons

  • Safety is small and hard to manipulate
  • Sights are not zeroed from the factory

The Stance did not perform well in any of our tests other than reliability. We tested the $561 version with the Viridian laser. The slim grip, which houses the single-stack 7- or 8-round magazines that come with the pistol, is reasonably comfortable. However, the pistol has a distinct top-heavy feel. It got good marks for the nice U-notch rear sight and factory-installed laser, but neither the laser nor the fixed sights were zeroed from the factory.

The Stance does come with an easy-to-swap-out backstrap, but the ambidextrous manual thumb safety was just not large enough for easy operation during fast-draw and when manipulated under the stress of the clock. Also, weighing in at 20.8 ounces, it was one of the heaviest micro 9mms we tested. The slide required substantial force to operate when compared to the other pistols. 

On the plus side, the pistol functioned flawlessly with every load we tried in it. Field stripping the pistol is easy and rotating the takedown lever deactivates the sear, which is an added safety feature. The Stance could save your life, but even at the laser-less price of $479, the Taurus is a better option.



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