We could write whole books on the history and quality of handgun manufacturers, but ain’t no one got time to read that. Instead, we’ll boil this complex and nuanced topic down to a simple handgun brands ranked list that you can see and digest with ease.
For all of the details and a ton of information in a crash course setting, keep reading!
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What Is A Handgun Brands Ranked List?
These are the brands we would recommend the most based on the quality of the pistols, durability, reliability, accuracy, and forward-thinking designs.
Many of these brands have military or LEO contracts, some are used by special forces, and others simply have an outstanding reputation among civilian carriers.
This is a quick and dirty guide for new owners, a broad introduction to the names and logos that you’ll most likely see in your LGS so that you can get a crash course feel for what is out there.
Please Keep In Mind…
This list is by no means perfect. Since each of these brands makes a range of pistols it is impossible to say that X is always better than Y.
Beretta is S-Tier (the best of the best), but I wouldn’t recommend a Beretta Pico over an A-Tier Bersa Thunder.
However, generally speaking, you’re going to be better off with an S-Tier brand over something lower tier.
But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the lower-tier brands. Lower-tier often means less expensive.
The S-Tier Wilson Combat EDC 9 Compact is one of the best CCW guns on the market — but at $4,000 that’s a big chunk of money that won’t make a bad guy any deader than an A-Tier $400 IWI Masada.
For the most part, we’re ignoring cost and value when making this handgun brands ranked list.
(Almost) Everything Is Awesome
Pistol technology really hasn’t moved much in the past… 40 years or 120 years depending on how you look at it.
The Glock Gen 1 was released in 1984, the Beretta 92 in 1976 with the M9 being adopted by the US Army in ’85.
Glock and Beretta 92 series are two of the best pistols you can get even to this day.
John Browning invented the tilting barrel way back in ~1896 and first used it in the Browning M1900. The tilting barrel action is what probably 90%+ of modern handguns use as their action and it’s basically unchanged in the last 100 years.
Because we’ve basically solved how to make pistols for such a long time, most of the handguns you see on the market today are going to be of acceptable quality.
Sure, a Glock might last a lot longer than a Taurus — but both of them are acceptable for the average shooter.
Something Might Be Missing
Lastly, I’ve left off a number of amazing pistol makers because they are too niche or they are just making their version of someone else’s design.
In the world of 1911s there are a number of custom makers that do outstanding work, Nighthawk Custom, STI, and Ed Brown just to name a few. You’ll almost never see these in a store since they are mostly custom orders.
The Glock Gen 3 is a super popular platform that is no longer covered by patents. Due to this, there is a number of brands that simply make their version of the Glock Gen 3, such as Faxon Firearms, Palmetto State Armory, Alpha Wolf, and more.
There is nothing wrong with these brands, but there are simply too many of them to try to list.
If a company is selling a Glock Gen 3 of their own design you can basically assume it’s good to go.
Handgun Brand Tier List
These are some of the best of the best. Multiple militaries and LEO contracts, proven in CCW and combat, these are the brands that are the gold standards and that a huge majority of us will end up with.
If you need a pistol that you can trust for going to war with, pick one of these. They’re at the top of the handgun brands ranked list for a reason.
- Heckler & Koch
- SIG Sauer
- Walther Arms
- Wilson Combat
- Smith & Wesson
Making firearms for over 400 years Beretta is the oldest continuous manufacturer of firearms in the world.
They have some real legends to their name but by far their most successful pistol is the Beretta 92 series.
The 92FS was adopted as the M9 by the US Military in 1985 to replace the M1911A1. Since then, the 92 series has seen a lot of updates with the 92X and M9A3 being the newest in the line.
As a rule, Beretta makes outstanding pistols that you can trust with your life.
The brand that invented the CZ-75 and all of its variations, CZ has been adopted by police units, militaries overseas, and even given NATO approval.
CZ doesn’t mess around with it comes to pistols. The 75 series has spawned a number of versions that focus on everything from duty use to CCW to competition. The Shadow 2 is one of the best competition guns you can buy and is basically a souped-up CZ-75.
One of the first brands to really dive into the optics on pistols market, FN has a long history of making amazing guns.
The FN45 is one of my favorite ever made and I highly recommend it.
FN mostly focuses on duty pistols built for serious operators but also offers some compact versions of their big boy guns.
The brand that every else is judged by, Glock started the plastic revolution in firearms that has redefined how we make pistols.
I like to describe Glock as the pistol that is right for anyone, but wrong for everyone. The largest strength of Glock is their reliability and their ability to be used competently by basically everyone that picks one up.
However, Glock kind of feels like a plastic brick. Rarely is a standard Glock going to be the perfect gun for you. It will be reliable and outlast you, but you might find better ergonomics or features with another brand.
Heckler & Koch
Not as popular these days as they once were, H&K still has made some of the best pistols you can put money on.
The USP was a standard for SOCOM and many other special forces units for decades and is still used in limited numbers to this day.
Generally, H&K is more expensive than other options — but what you get is a modern fighting pistol that won’t let you down.
From the P220 series adopted by the Navy SEALs back in the 90s to the M17 pistol recently adopted by the entire US Military, Sig Sauer has a long and strong history of making some outstanding firearms.
Even in the CCW world, Sig Sauer has stood out with their P365 sub-compact CCW gun. Finding a way to stuff 10+1 9mm in a sub-compact sized pistol changed the game for the entire industry and forced other brands to come out with their own versions, like Springfield, Glock, and Mossberg.
Sig Sauer even makes a great line of 1911 pistols that range from target shooters to duty-grade combat pistols.
Somehow Walther flies under the radar for most people and I don’t know why, because Walther rocks!
The Q5 is one of the best competition pistols on the market, the PPK is the classic 007 spy pistol, and they offer a wide range of great CCW pistols.
If you want something a little uncommon but have a proven track record of being outstanding, take a look at Walther.
One of the leaders in 1911 making, Wilson Combat has some amazing pistols to their name. While built on their 1911s, they also invented the EDC 9. While basically, a modernized 1911 in 9mm, the build quality and craftsmanship put into their guns set them apart from anything else you can buy.
If you want a bespoke pistol for CCW or duty use, Wilson Combat would be my choice.
Just don’t forget your checkbook, most of these guns start at $3,000+.
Smith & Wesson
Mostly known for their revolvers, S&W also makes a great line of pistols that have been wildly accepted by both police and CCW users.
While the M&P isn’t my personal choice of firearm, it’s a highly reliable and proven series that will serve you well.
For a revolver, S&W is basically the only brand that I would trust these days for a quality revolver that I could trust with my life on the line.
Contrary to what many believe, revolvers are not easy to make or mechanically simple. They require a lot of QC and a lot of care to make well. S&W does that and does it at a price that you can swallow.
I would feel safe with any of the brands on this list. For CCW, for duty use, I know that these can be relied on even when the chips are down.
Some of these brands have military adoption contracts, and some of them have just done really well in testing.
All of these are brands you can buy with confidence.
Another unsung hero in the pistol world, Bersa is based in Argentina and makes some great pistols. Mostly known in the USA for their Thunder and Firestorm line of .380 ACP, they also have a great lineup of 9mm pistols in compact and full-size frames.
In fact, their full-size 9mm Thunder 9 are the standard-issue pistols of several federal police units in Argentina.
I carry a Bersa Firestorm as one of my CCW guns and have loved it for several years.
Back in the day Colt used to be a huge name, but now… they’ve lost a lot of glory.
They still make a serviceable 1911 and their production quality has gotten better since their dark days, but they still aren’t the best in the business.
That said, the name alone carries a lot of history and weight seeing as how Colt was the first producer of 1911s.
If you want the classic and made by the classic, Colt is where it is at. But if you want the true best, you need to take a look at Wilson Combat, Nighthawk Custom, Ed Brown, or Dan Wesson.
Canik is made in Turkey and imported to the USA by Century Arms… now if you’ve been around the gun forums in the last 15 years, you might think this is a combination made in hell.
Turkish firearms have a horrible reputation and Century Arms has a dangerously spotty track record.
But really, Turkish firearms are no different than anyone else. They are infamous for their dirt-cheap shotguns, but they also produce a lot of awesome shotguns too. In fact, Winchester and Browning both contract several of their shotgun lines to manufacturers in Turkey now.
Century Arms has a lot of history and their in-house made AKs have the distinction of being more hand grenade than they are AK — but they aren’t making Canik, they just import it.
All of that said — Canik makes some great pistols offering a huge range of features and does so for a very reasonable price.
Maybe not “go to war” pistols, but if you want to get a gamer’s pistol for competition and don’t want to spend 2 months’ rent on it, Canik has options for you.
For competition, home defense, and even CCW — I wouldn’t feel unsafe rocking a Canik.
Say what you want about the Israeli military industrial complex, but they make some great weapons. That can’t be ignored.
From the Tavor to the Masada, these are guns that run and run and run some more.
The Masada is especially in our interests because it’s a very modern combat-style pistol that has all of the features you want and none of the ones you don’t.
Plus, it’s reliable and fairly easy to find.
Mostly known for their .22 LR guns of many shapes and sizes, Ruger makes great pistols that are very reasonably priced.
My favorite is the .22 LR Ruger Wrangler which I highly recommend, if fun points counted this might be at the top of my handgun brands ranked.
If you want a high-end Single Action Army style revolver, Ruger has you covered.
Even for centerfire semi-autos, Ruger has the Security 9, Max 9, and EC9s for you to consider.
All of these are great pistols. For CCW or home defense, these are good to go.
I admit that I’m not actually much of a fan of Springfield pistols, but they are still reliable and good. They just don’t fit my hands well.
The XD line is fantastic and their 1911s are surprisingly good as well.
For duty use, home defense, or CCW you won’t go wrong with a Springfield.
Often ignored by most people, Steyr is an outstanding manufacturer of firearms that you should totally try out if you’re looking for something uncommon.
Based in Austria, Steyr is most well known for the AUG, but their A2 MF pistol is a fantastically modern and proven option. Just hard to find in the USA.
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I wouldn’t highly recommend these brands, but there isn’t much wrong with them either. They are fine, solidly average, just not standing out in any way.
You might have more issues with some of their offerings than others. Honestly, depending who you ask these might well have been A-Tier or C-Tier on someone else’s handgun brands ranked lists.
Bottom line, the Buckmark is a great .22 LR pistol that you can have a lot of fun with.
Browning’s line of 1911-22 in .22 LR is crap. I’ve never seen one run well and I’ve never seen one that didn’t feel like crap.
I love Mossberg shotguns, a LOT. But the MC2c is a very hit-and-miss pistol. For a CCW gun, I want something that is 1,000% reliable and I have no questions about it. Mossberg’s CCW has some real hit-and-miss reviews and the 4 or 5 I’ve shot had a range of results from good to really bad.
If it fits the budget and it is what you can get, go for it. Just be sure to test it before carrying it.
I don’t recommend these brands, one with or two exceptions. Most of their lines are either bad or really bad, but they might have one or two that are worth exploring.
Overall, I would choose something else. But they aren’t the worst options on our handgun brands ranked list.
Well known for their Rhino pistol that is featured in a long list of sci-fi movies and TV shows, the Rhino is cool-looking and pretty fun to shoot.
But it fails. A lot. And when a revolver breaks, it’s broke.
If you gotta have one, go for it. But buy it knowing it is likely a limited-use item.
I love some of the designs that Kel-Tec comes out with. These dudes think way outside of the box and have delivered a number of firearms that are flat-out cool.
I don’t think I would buy one though. Their reputation for quality control and using good materials is not great.
If you want a range toy, look at Kel-Tec. For CCW or home defense, hard pass.
If you want a pretty 1911, Kimber has some great options. But they rust, they are built with MIM parts that break and they are overall very looked down on in the 1911 world as being overpriced, underbuilt, shiny pieces of bad stuff.
This is the best handguns brands list, not the prettiest. No points for pretty in here!
Never buy a Taurus… unless it is a G-series semi-auto pistol. For a long, long time Taurus had one of the worst reputations in the firearm industry for making some truly worthless pieces of junk. But in the last few years, they’ve largely turned that around with their G-series pistols.
From the G1 to the G3, these are good pistols. Not Glock good, but good. I wouldn’t pick one for CCW or home defense, but I know people that have and are happy with them.
If you need your gun to be cheap, this is your option.
Just don’t. You can, but don’t. They’re at the bottom of our handgun brands ranked list for good reason.
Hi-Point are reliable and go bang, but they are clunky and roughly made. If you only have $100 to spend, this is it. But you won’t like it.
I’ve been to a number of CCW and pistol classes and I’ve never seen a SCCY pistol last the whole course. Something always goes wrong. No way I would recommend one.
- Hi-Point Firearms
Here we have it, a handgun ranked list for the major brands out there.
Was there any we missed? What are your thoughts on them? Let me know in the comments.
Until then, if you’re looking for some great articles to help you on the path to gun ownership, take a look at these.