September 04, 2018
It’s a great year to be a handgun guy. The superb variations of pistols submitted for the military’s recent MHS (modular handgun system) competition are still trickling into the civilian market, and they exhibit cutting-edge features and space-age manufacturing. Plus, since 2017 firearm sales were modest in the complacent aftermath of the 2016 election, companies are innovating aggressively in order to drive sales.
Trends indicate that 2018 is the year of the 10mm cartridge and the AR-15 pistol. Never in my memory has the powerful pistol cartridge been so popular, and never have AR-15 handguns been so popular and prolific.
In fact, so many interesting products vie for inclusion that space is tight. Here is the lowdown on what I think are the most interesting new handgun introductions of 2018.
Armscor XT 22 Magnum
This full-size 1911 is chambered in .22 Magnum. Offering an impressive 14+1 capacity in a standard-circumference grip, it’s arguably the ultimate rimfire for 1911 enthusiasts. A pinned barrel aids accuracy, and the delayed-blowback slide is engineered for reliability. Additional features include skeletonized trigger and hammer, adjustable trigger overtravel stop, extended beavertail safety, and low-profile sights. Weight: 40 ounces. Length: 8.5 inches. Finish: Parkerized. Grip: rubberized panels.
Atlas Gunworks Titan Operator 2011
Based on the company’s Titan competition model, the Operator 9mm is designed for self-defense and duty carry. Featuring an impressive 19+1 capacity, full custom construction, and premium parts, it’s an extraordinary pistol. Springs, function, and trigger weight are tuned for duty-type use and for reliability under the most extreme circumstances. Weight: 37 ounces. Length: 8.75 inches. Finish: DLC Coating. Grip: PT Aluminum.
Auto Ordnance TA5 Thompson Pistol
One of the two handguns that vie for “coolest 2018 handgun introduction,” this awesome .45 ACP pistol comes standard with a 50-round drum magazine. Optional mags include 10- and 30-round sticks and a 100-round drum. Made entirely in the USA, the authentic TA5 Thompson Pistol features a 10.5-inch barrel and walnut grip and fore-end. Weight: 5 lbs., 14 ounces. Length: 23.3 inches. Finish: blued, Parkerized, anodized.
Price: $1,362 to $1,638
Beretta APX Combat, Centennial M9, and 1915
To commemorate the company’s 100-year history making handguns (basically since World War I), Beretta introduced a Centennial version of the Model 1915 pistol, and in respect to the M9’s 30-year run with the U.S. Armed Forces, a commemorative M9. Also, enthusiasts of the M9 design can now purchase the updated M903 pistol version. Probably the most relevant, significant news is the new-in-2017 APX is available in 2018 with a threaded barrel and cut for a red-dot sight atop the slide. Weight: 33 ounces. Length: 8.5 inches. Finish: black nitride. Grip: polymer frame.
Browning Black Label 1911-380 Pro Stainless and Buck Mark
Springboarding off the success of its 85-percent-scale 1911s in .380 ACP, Browning introduced several Pro Stainless versions, ranging from compact to “full” size. Some also feature rails. Beautifully engineered and superbly shootable, these are fantastic scaled-down true 1911s. Weight: 18 ounces. Length: 7.5 inches. Finish: satin stainless, anodized. Grip: G10 composite.
Price: $800 to $830
Also new and interesting from Browning is the Buck Mark Plus Lite suppressor-ready pistol. Featuring traditional Buck Mark accuracy and ergonomics coupled with cutting-edge featherweight construction, the Plus Lite’s barrel is threaded for use with a suppressor. Weight: 35 ounces. Length: 9.5 inches. Finish: anodized. Grip: Ultragrip FX.
Bushmaster AR-15 “Squaredrop” Pistol
Available with barrels ranging from 10 inches down to 7 inches, Bushmaster’s new AR-15 pistol features the now-ubiquitous arm brace and may be purchased in either 5.56 NATO or .300 AAC Blackout. It’s built using premium materials and manufacturing techniques. Length: various. Finish: black anodizing. Grip: various.
CZ-USA P10 C Suppressor Ready and Scorpion Pistol
Savvy shooters are calling the P10 CZ’s best polymer-frame pistol ever. A new P10 C variant in Urban Grey features a barrel threaded for use with a suppressor and extra-tall night sights that enable aiming over the extra bulk of a can. Plus, an extended basepad brings capacity to 17+1. Weight: 26 ounces. Length: 8 inches. Finish: nitride. Grip: polymer frame.
Also of particular interest is the new pistol version of the popular Scorpion EVO 3 S2 micro with telescoping wrist brace. Featuring a faux suppressor on the threaded 4.0-inch barrel, its overall length is just over 16 inches. Four rear aperture sizes are regulated for distances from near to far, and a Picatinny rail enables easy optic mounting. Controls—including the non-reciprocating charging handle—are ambidextrous. Each pistol comes with a 20-round 9mm Luger magazine. Weight: 5.5 pounds. Length: 23.3 inches. Grip: polymer.
Dan Wesson Commander-Size Discretion, Vigil 1911, and Threaded-Barrel Wraith
The single most accurate handgun I’ve ever fired was a full-size Dan Wesson Discretion Model 1911 in 9mm. For 2018 the company has introduced a Discretion Commander. Featuring a threaded barrel, suppressor-compatible sights, ported steel slide, 1913 accessory rail, and custom-quality construction, it’s as fine an all-around defense and duty gun as you’ll ever find. Weight: 41.7 ounces. Length: 8.8 inches. Finish: Duty. Grip: G10 composite.
Other new introductions of note include a 50-year anniversary commemorative 1911 ($2,999); a basic line of value-based 1911s named the Vigil series ($1,289 to $1,397); and the Wraith, a full-size, threaded-barrel pistol with a distressed finish, stippled G10 grips, oversize combat-type mag well, and tall night sights suitable for suppressor use. It’s available in 9mm Luger, 10mm Auto, and .45 ACP for $2,077 to $2,375.
Ed Brown Executive Target, LS10, and ZEV1911
Several very cool line extensions come to us from Ed Brown this year. The Executive Target is an all-stainless gun with classic styling, cut for and fit with a Trijicon RMR sight. It’s available in 9mm Luger, .38 Super, and .45 ACP at $3,880. Also factory-paired with a Trijicon RMR, the new $3,995 LS10 features a 6.0-inch barrel chambered in 10mm and is superb for long-distance pistol shooting or handgun hunting. Other 1911s in the FX1 and Special Forces lines feature fresh colors and onboard Trijicon RMS.
Arguably the most visually interesting is the 9mm ZEV1911, which features ambi controls, racy styling and slide porting, G10 grips, a threaded barrel, tall night sights, onboard RMR, and accessory rail. Weight: 40 ounces. Length, 7.75 inches. Finish: black Gen4. Grip: G10.
FN USA FN 15 and 509
This year the almost-new 509 pistol is available in all-new color variations. However, the real interest lies in the FN 15, FN’s new, short AR-type pistol. Featuring a removable wrist brace, it’s built with a 10.5-inch barrel, carbine-length gas system, and free-float handguard. It’s constructed with FN’s premium parts and manufacturing savvy. Pick 5.56 NATO or .300 Blackout (12-inch barrel). Weight: 5.5 lbs. Finish: anodized & Parkerized. Grip: Magpul.
Glock G19X and Gen5 Models
Ever the leader in polymer-framed, high-capacity fighting pistols, Glock has rolled out the Gen5 line. Gone are the finger grooves in the grip. New is the nDLC finish, touted to be a coating better than Glock’s already-legendary finish. A Glock “Marksman” barrel with updated rifling concepts adds accuracy. The mag well is flared to aid fast reloads. And for the first time, the slide lock is ambidextrous.
Also intriguing is the G19X, which is a Gen5 marriage of the compact G19 slide with an almost-full-size frame. In Coyote color, it offers plenty of grip surface for all support fingers by eliminating the magazine-access cutout in favor of a flared grip. Several different-size grip backstraps come with each pistol, and a lanyard loop is present at the rear of the grip. The new Glock Marksman barrel and night sights are standard, and the nPVD coating shrugs off corrosion. Capacity is 17+1, and each pistol comes with two extended 19-round magazines. Weight: 25 ounces. Length: 7.44 inches.
Heckler & Koch CT Laserguard and Colored Subcompact Models
Touted to offer the advantages of bigger pistols but in a more compact, concealable package, HK’s VP 9 SK is now available in several different color schemes. Featuring a 3.4-inch barrel in 9mm, the VP 9 SK holds 10+1 rounds and weighs 23 ounces. Length: 6.6 inches. Finish: HK Hostile Environment. Grip: polymer frame.
Also of interest is HK’s new VP CT Laserguard model, which pairs a Crimson Trace laser with the popular VP pistol.
Inland Motor Patrol Pistol (M1 Carbine pistol)
This is the other candidate for “coolest pistol introduced in 2018.” Yep, it’s an M1 Carbine turned into a handgun. You know, the kind you might carry in the sidecar of your World War II-vintage motorcycle. The aluminum pistol chassis is made by Sage, the company legendary for its M14 rifle chassis. Even cooler, the Motor Patrol Pistol will accept any AR-type buffer tube and ATF-approved wrist brace. Barrels are 7.5 inches and muzzles are threaded 1/2x28. Each pistol comes with one 10-round magazine and accepts higher-capacity M1 Carbine mags. Weight: 4.5 pounds. Length: 16 inches. Finish: Parkerized/anodized. Grip: ERGO Sure Grip.
Numbered 1 to 1,000, this special series from Kahr Arms honors John “TIG” Tiegen, one of the great patriots who fought in Benghazi. The pistol comes with a 4.0-inch barrel, and it features Kryptek Typhon print on the polymer frame, fore and aft slide serrations, three-dot sights, and black Cerakote finish on the stainless-steel slide, which is engraved with “TIG” and the “Beyond the Battlefield” logo. Chambered in 9mm, it comes with two eight-round magazines. Weight: 20 ounces. Length: 6.5 inches. Grip: polymer frame.
Kimber KHX, Aegis Elite, and K6s Variations
Lots of big news from Kimber this year. An all-new optics-ready line dubbed the KHX family offers Custom (5.0-inch) and Pro (4.0-inch) 1911 models with match-grade barrels, KimPro gray finish, and Hogue G10 grips among other fine features. Price ranges from $1,087 to $1,279. Also new is the Aegis line, a utilitarian family pre-fit with Vortex Venom red-dot sights on 4.0-inch and 5.0-inch models. Additional versions, including a 3.0-inch-barreled Aegis, feature white-dot iron sights. Naturally, barrels are match grade.
Prices range from $1,021 to $1,415
Finally—and my favorites—are several superb line extensions to the K6s revolver line. A beautifully balanced version with a 3.0-inch barrel is perhaps the most aesthetic sixshooter in the line, but the most significant is the K6s CDP. Why? It’s billed as the world’s lightest six-shot .357 Magnum revolver. Weight: 23 ounces. Length: 6.6 inches. Finish: black DLC. Grip: Laminated wood.
Les Baer 5-Inch Premier II 10mm
Expanding on the success of the 6.0-inch 10mm 1911 and the burgeoning popularity of the 10mm cartridge itself, Les Baer added a 5.0-inch 10mm for 2018. It’s an understated pistol with slide serrations fore and aft, fiber-optic front and adjustable rear sights, and finely checkered frontstrap and mainspring housing. Handcrafted using National Match parts, each pistol is guaranteed to shoot 50-yard groups of 3 inches or less. Weight: 36 ounces. Length: 8.5 inches. Finish: blued. Grips: Baer Black Recon.
Nighthawk Custom Agent 2
With perhaps the most aggressively modern styling I’ve seen on a 1911, the Agent 2 is a cutting-edge match-grade combat handgun with all the bells and whistles. Grippy textures, fiber-optic front/ledge-type rear sights, ported steel slide, accessory rail, and flat-faced trigger all make for fast, accurate shooting. Available in 9mm Luger or .45 ACP, it weighs 40 ounces. Length: 8.6 inches. Finish: Battle Worn Cerakote. Grip: Railscales G10.
Remington Double-Stack 1911s and R1 Recon Commander
With the plethora of models introduced this year, Remington could fill every potential 1911 need out there. Big Green now offers everything from light, little R1 1911 Ultralight Executive pistols to aluminum-frame midsize Commanders to long-barreled 10mm hunting powerhouses. Even better, there are new double-stack models that offer massive magazine capacity. It’s worth a long visit to Remington’s website just to see all the new models.
My favorite? The 10mm R1 Hunter FDE. Capitalizing on the current feeding frenzy for long-barreled 10mms, the new 1911 offers a stainless 6.0-inch match-grade barrel, fiber-optic front and adjustable rear sight, ultra-tough PVD DLC finish, G10 grips, and a skeletonized trigger. Slide and frame are also stainless. Capacity: 8+1. Weight: 41 ounces. Length: 9.6 inches.
However, probably the most significant introduction is the R1 1911 Recon Commander, which is a high-capacity fighting pistol with all the bells but no frills. Featuring Trijicon night sights, adjustable trigger, 4.25-inch match-grade barrel, PVD DLC finish, VZ G10 grips, and a rail for a weapon light, it’s all business. Capacity is 15+1 (.45 ACP) and 19+1 (9mm Luger). Weight: 38 ounces. Length: 7.8 inches.
Ruger 7-Shot GP100 and EC9s
Ruger announced several interesting new models for 2018. There’s a new semi-compact polymer-frame 24-ounce Security-9 pistol that contains 15+1 rounds of 9mm goodness and costs only $379 full retail. And 9mm Luger has wedged its way into the ultra-petite EC9s, which fits in a hip pocket, weighs only 17 ounces, and holds 7+1 rounds, all for $299. And then there’s the new 10mm Redhawk double-action revolver? Look up additional specs and peruse several additional new models and line extensions online.
As for a favorite new Ruger handgun, my nod goes to the seven-shot GP100. Available in several iterations with barrel lengths from 2.5 inches to 6.0 inches and weighing from 36 to 44 ounces, these rugged wheelguns ably serve any purpose from trapper gun to personal-protection sidearm. Finish: satin stainless. Length: 8 to 10.4 inches. Grip: rubber with wood panel.
SIG SAUER P365
Engineered to carry like a small-frame single-stack semiauto yet hold more 9mm ammo courtesy of a modified slender double-stack magazine, SIG’s new P365 is touted as the ultimate concealed-carry gun. We’ve heard that before, but in reality, it comes really close. It’s only 1 inch wide, weighs less than 18 ounces, contains 10+1 rounds, and is rated for +P ammo. Plus, an extended 12-round mag is available as an option. SIG’s X-RAY3 night sights are standard. Finish: black Nitron. Length: 5.8 inches.
Smith & Wesson M2.0 Compact, Shield 2.0, and M&P380 Shield EZ
Like other major handgun manufacturers, S&W introduced an amazing array of very cool new models and line extensions in 2018. Arguably the most interesting is the M&P380 Shield EZ, which is designed to be easy to operate and fire for the aged or those with little hand strength. Weighing 18 ounces, it holds 8+1 rounds. Length: 6.7 inches. Finish: Armornite. Grip: polymer frame.
Also worth a look are the new M&P Shield 2.0, which features an improved trigger, more aggressive grip texture, and other refinements (including multiple versions with integrated lasers), and the new M&P 2.0 Compact, which is a slightly scaled-down 15+1-round (9mm) version of S&W’s full-size 17+1-round flagship M&P pistol. The M&P 2.0 Compact features a 4.0-inch barrel and is available in 9mm Luger and .40 S&W. Weight: 24 ounces. Length: 7.3 inches. Finish: Armornite. Grip: polymer frame.
Springfield Armory SAINT AR-15 Pistol, 911 .380 Auto, 6-Inch 10mm TRP, and .45 ACP XD-E
Innovating aggressively, Springfield engineered an exposed-hammer version of the popular XD series dubbed the XD-E. New for 2018 is a .45 ACP version. The compact pistol retails at $568. Also new is a pistol version of the SAINT AR-15. Featuring a 7.5-inch 1:7-twist barrel under an M-LOK handguard and a factory-installed SB Tactical SBX-K forearm brace, it retails at $989.
Riding the 10mm popularity wave, Springfield also introduced a very nice long-slide version of its 1911 TRP with a 6.0-inch match-grade, stainless, precision-fit barrel chambered for the powerhouse cartridge. Fully adjustable tritium night sights make the pistol easy to zero and shoot accurately even in low light. Weight: 45 ounces. Length: 9.6 inches. Finish: Black-T. Grip: G10 Dirty Olive.
Last but perhaps most significant, Springfield brought out the 911, a scaled-down 1911-type compact pistol in .380 ACP. Featuring a 2.7-inch barrel, ambidextrous safety, and night sights, it combines deep concealability with exceptional shootability. It’s also available with factory-installed Viridian green laser grips. Capacity is 6+1 with flush-fit magazine; 7+1 with extended mag. Weight: 12.6 ounces. Length: 5.5 inches. Finish: anodized. Grip: G10.
Price: $599 to $789
Taurus Raging Hunter and 692 Revolver
Seven-shooters seem to be all the rage this year. Taurus’s .357 Magnum double-action Model 692 Tracker offers a feature distinct from the rest: It comes with a second cylinder chambered in 9mm Luger. Available barrel lengths are 3.0 and 6.5 inches. Weight: 35 to 46 ounces.
Also worthy of note is the new Raging Hunter, a six-shot, double-action .44 Magnum revolver with an 8.375-inch, shrouded, tensioned barrel that aids accuracy; adjustable sights; and bi-tone finish. Importantly to hunters, the barrel shroud is topped with a Picatinny rail, making mounting an optic easy. The cylinder features extra-stout fore and aft dual lockup. Weight: 55 ounces. Length: 15.75 inches. Finish: matte blue/stainless. Grip: rubber with cushion inserts.
Walther PPQ SC, PPQ Q4 TAC, and PPS M2
Savvy shooters consider Walther pistols to be some of the most ergonomic available, and the new subcompact PPQ SC is no exception. Featuring a 3.5-inch barrel, it weighs only 21 ounces but holds 10+1 rounds (15+1 with the extended magazine). Length: 6.6 inches. Finish: Tenifer. Grip: polymer frame.
For a full-on competition, home-protection, or zombie invasion gun, the new PPQ Q4 TAC in 9mm offers 17+1 capacity, a 4.6-inch barrel threaded for a suppressor, a slide cutout for mounting a Trijicon RMR or the like, and adjustable high-visibility sights. Weight: 25 ounces. Length: 7.8 inches. Finish: Tenifer. Grip: polymer frame.
Another interesting development is the PPS M2, which is a single-stack 9mm designed for deep carry. Surprisingly comfortable in the hand and through recoil, it’s a sensible choice for everyday carry. Barrel length is 3.18 inches. Capacity is 6+1 rounds with a flush-fit magazine and 7+1 with the extended mag. Three-dot metal sights come standard. Weight: 21 ounces. Length: 6.3 inches. Finish: Tenifer. Grip: polymer frame.