Believe it or not, hammer fired pistols are still relevant in today’s market. While many modern firearms are striker-fired, there is still a demand for traditional hammer-fired guns, particularly people who prefer the feel and trigger pull of a hammer-fired pistol.
Many classic semi auto pistol designs and revolvers continue to be popular among firearms enthusiasts, and some even have updated designs using modern materials and features to meet the demands of today’s market.
But with the advent of polymer framed striker fired pistols spearheaded by Glocks, and just fairly recently, micro nines like the SIG P365 and the Springfield Hellcat, the appeal of most classic hammer fired pistols started dwindling as their disadvantages became more apparent, some of which include:
Complexity: Hammer-fired pistols tend to have more moving parts due to their use of more complex designs, which logically make them less reliable, more difficult to maintain, and more expensive.
Safety concerns: The external hammer of a hammer-fired pistol can pose a safety hazard if the hammer snags on clothing or other objects during the draw.
Ease of use: With Glock popularizing the trigger blade safety and all other pistol manufacturers following suit, manual safeties such as thumb and grip safeties are now seen as problems.
Despite the drawbacks I just mentioned, it’s important to note that there are still people who prefer hammer fired pistols for their traditional feel and the unique shooting experience they offer.
Here are some of the best hammer fired pistols on the market, their pros and cons, and pricing info in case you are interested in purchasing any of them. Without further ado, let’s begin.
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The Beretta M9 is the second longest serving sidearm of the US military. It started service in 1985 and ended in 2017 when the US military adopted the SIG P320. There are many reasons why the US military chose and stuck with the Beretta M9. One is its reliability, as it is known for being dependable and highly durable, even in some of the worst fighting conditions.
One other great thing about it is its ergonomics: it has a comfortable grip and a well-balanced design that makes it easy to handle and aim. It’s also highly accurate, designed from the ground up to be capable of delivering quick and accurate double tap shots at up to 25 yards away, thanks to its well designed sights and trigger mechanism.
But there are a few issues with the Beretta M9 which is why it didn’t make it to the top of this list. One of which is, it is more expensive than some other firearms on the market because of its brand and the pistol’s reputation as a military sidearm.
Another issue with it is, like most hammer fired pistols, it does require more regular cleaning and maintenance to ensure it’ll perform without problems. Also, inexperienced shooters tend to stay away from it due to its noticeable recoil. And lastly, the Beretta M9 only has a 15 round mag capacity, which may sound a lot, but modern pistols similar to it in size can hold upwards of 23 rounds in the mag.
If you’re interested in an M9, as of the making of this topic, the most affordable variant on Beretta’s website has an MSRP of $700 with street prices in the $600 range.
Unlike other pistols on this list, the CZ 75 is not the standard issue sidearm for any military or law enforcement unit in the US — or at least I can’t find relevant info online. But it is a well regarded firearm and the second most copied pistol design in the world, so as far as popularity and influence, it’s not too different from the 1911.
Second only to STI 2011s, competitive shooters usually choose the CZ 75 over other pistol designs due to its DA SA trigger. The heavy DA trigger pull gives the shooter peace of mind while all subsequent single action trigger pulls allow for quick and accurate follow up shots. It also has one of the most comfortable grips of all pistol designs as its grip accommodates a wide range of hand sizes.
The pistol’s low bore axis, which helps reduce felt recoil, and its high-capacity magazine make it an attractive choice for self-defense or competitive shooting. Additionally, the CZ-75 has a long history of service and has been widely adopted by military and law enforcement agencies around the world.
But like any firearm, the CZ-75 has some drawbacks that some shooters might consider as disadvantages. Some of these include its DA/SA trigger which is considered one of its strengths but some shooters find the trigger pull to be heavy or inconsistent; its ammo capacity which, while it does use high capacity mags, is not as high as some of the other modern polymer-framed handguns on the market; and its accessory compatibility — the CZ-75 has a pretty good selection of aftermarket accessories, but they are not as easily interchangeable like those for other firearms.
As for pricing, the CZ-75’s MSRP varies greatly depending on the specific model and configuration. CZ USA’s website shows that the MSRP for CZ-75 is $799, but street prices should be much lower so you should check with your local gunstore or online retailers for any special promo prices.
I’m not aware of any specific military or law enforcement unit in the country that adopted the FNX 45 as its standard issue sidearm. I personally know of a few people in the military and law enforcement who prefer to carry an FNX 45 over any other pistol, but it is not the standard issue sidearm for any particular unit so like most pistols on this list, it doesn’t have clout.
So why is the FNX 45 on this list? Because of a few reasons, the first one is it is a well built pistol that is known for its reliability, even in tough conditions. The second reason is it has great ergonomics with its comfortable grip which makes it easy to handle for a wide range of users.
The third reason is, for a model that wasn’t primarily designed to be a target pistol, it is highly accurate, especially with its good trigger and low recoil. And last but definitely not the least, the FNX 45 has a huge ammo capacity of 15 rounds, which may not sound a lot if you didn’t know that it is chambered for the super fat .45 ACP. cartridge. How FN managed to fit 15 of those bad boys in the mag, who knows?
Now I know some FNX 45 haters will be quick to argue that it has downsides. I hear you, boys. Some owners don’t like it that the FNX 45 is a relatively heavy pistol, because carrying it for too long makes them feel sore. But that’s hardly a downside especially because its weight helps mitigate the .45 ACP’s heavy recoil.
There are also owners who complain that the trigger pull of their particular FNX 45 is much heavier than they would like. And lastly, it is objectively harder to find a holster that fits this pistol compared to any others on this list.
If you want one, FN has the FNX 45 listed with an MSRP of $919, but there is a tactical version with an MSRP of $1,379, which isn’t bad considering it has a few noteworthy upgrades like a threaded barrel for a suppressor, suppressor height sights, and slide cuts for optics.
Like most of the other hammer fired pistols in this topic, the H&K USP is nowhere near as popular as the 1911, the Beretta M9, or the CZ 75. But it made its way to this list because of a few things. One, it’s known for its reliability and durability, which make it a superb choice for self defense or law enforcement use.
Two, it’s highly ergonomic with its comfortable grip and well placed controls which make it easy to handle and operate.
Three, it’s one of the very few pistols with a manual that states it is rated for plus P and plus P plus ammo, with owners attesting that it can even be fed a limited diet of .45 Super rounds without any aftermarket modifications.
And four, while the H&K USP is not the standard issue sidearm for any military or law enforcement unit in the world, some of its earlier versions were made to participate in rigorous tests as part of H&K’s efforts to build a pistol as an entry in the U.S. Special Operations Command or US SOCOM Offensive Handgun Weapon System or OHWS program.
That entry is not the H&K USP but it does share a few similarities, and later it would become one of the US SOCOM’s adopted pistols, a match grade high capacity .45 Auto handgun known as the Mk 23 Mod 0.
As to the H&K USP’s downsides, the first is its heavy weight. It does use a fiber reinforced polymer frame further strengthened by stainless steel inserts in areas most subjected to stress and friction, but compared to the highly prevalent micro nines of our time, it is rather heavy.
On the ammo capacity side of things, the USP’s standard 12 round mag has one round less than the Glock 23 and three rounds less than the FNX 45, which is not a good thing for a full size pistol. And lastly, it is rather expensive with MSRPs ranging from $1,129 to $1,249, which makes it more expensive than other handguns and less accessible to a lot of people.
The SIG Sauer P226 is a standard issue sidearm for several military and law enforcement units, including the United States Navy SEALs and the Texas Rangers.
Unlike SIG’s striker fired pistol lines that are notorious for being prone to accidental discharges, that is, both the SIG P320 and the SIG P365, the SIG P226 is highly reliable, known for its dependability and durability in harsh environments.
It is also capable of high accuracy thanks to its ergonomic grip design and its smooth trigger pull. And it can be configured to fire a variety of calibers, making it suitable for different types of situations.
But the SIG P226 has three downsides. One that is minor and kind of subjective is its recoil. Some owners of the SIG P226 reportedly complain about its heavy recoil, though I can easily dismiss those reports as simple nitpicking. Maybe they’re recoil shy, who knows?
The second is also a minor downside and still somewhat of a nitpick. Like the majority of pistol models in this topic, the SIG P226 is an all metal gun, but it’s not as heavy as some people make it out to be because unlike all steel pistols like the 1911, it uses an aluminum alloy frame and a steel slide which still makes it somewhat light weight.
And the last issue, which is something everyone is concerned about, is its price. The MSRP for the SIG P226 varies greatly depending on the specific model and features, but as of the making of this topic, it ranges anywhere from $1,000-$2,000. Street prices are always lower though so just talk to your local dealer.
Besides being the longest serving standard issue sidearm of the US military from 1911-1985 and being the most cloned pistol in the world, 1911s are considered by many to be the best hammer fired pistol bar none for a lot of reasons:
One, they’re proven to be a reliable weapon in two world wars and countless military and law enforcement operations. Two, they feature crisp and smooth triggers that provide a consistent and predictable break, which does improve accuracy.
Three, because they’ve been around forever, 1911s are highly customizable with a vast array of aftermarket parts and modifications available to suit individual needs and preferences. Four, the 1911 design provides a comfortable grip that fits well in the hand and also has a superb grip angle, both improving control and aim. Five, they’re known for their accuracy due to John Moses Browning’s original design which has a tight barrel to slide fit and a relatively low bore axis.
And six, the 1911 is the most iconic semi automatic pistol and one of the most recognizable guns in the history of firearms owing to its rich history. Older men are reminded of their service to the country, while younger people are reminded of their grandfather or father who taught them how to shoot using a 1911.
But the 1911 isn’t without downsides. For one thing, they are large and heavy, which can make them uncomfortable to carry for extended periods.
Another issue is classic 1911 designs use a single stack magazine with the lowest ammo capacity out of all modern handguns, typically carrying 7-8 rounds of .45 ACP, up to 9 rounds of .40 S&W or 10mm, and up to 10 rounds of 9mm. This has been alleviated in modern 1911 style designs that use double stack magazines such as STI’s 2011s, Springfield’s Prodigy, and 2311s, but those pistols are mechanically NOT 1911s anymore.
And lastly, 1911 pistols require more maintenance than many modern firearms, with regular cleaning and lubrication necessary to keep it functioning properly.
As for pricing, modern single stack 1911s are some of the most expensive on the custom pistols market bar none, particularly ones manufactured by Nighthawk Customs, Wilson Combat, Ed Brown, etc. And don’t even get me started on flagship double stack models made by Atlas Gunworks and the like.
But there’s no shortage of affordable 1911 models on the market, whether you want a single stack or a double stack. Some of the most recognizable players include Taurus, Rock Island Armory, Iver Johnson, Metro Arms, Girsan, Tisas, and Bul Armory. Budget production 1911s can go as low as $500, but the sky’s the limit when it comes to the finest custom double stack 1911 pistols.