I’ll talk about handguns which, in my opinion, are some of the most highly regarded in the history of firearms. These include both semi-automatic pistols as well as revolvers. Join me as I go back in time to take a look at what, in my opinion, are The Top 8 Most Iconic Handguns of All Time.

8. Glock 17

Introduced in 1982, the Glock 17 is about as old as yours truly, and growing old presents a lot of challenges. In my case, those challenges mostly comprise bad back and carpal tunnel syndrome. In the case of the Glock 17, it’s the trend started by the SIG P365. Gone are the days of carrying full-size handguns as micro compacts with 10 or more rounds in the mag are lording it over all other pistol sizes.

But that doesn’t mean the Glock 17 will go the way of the dodo anytime. In fact, even with the micro-compact wonder-nine craze, Glock purists are raving over the remake of the Austrian military adoption of the Glock 17, the Glock P80. Released by Lipsey’s last year in collaboration with Glock Austria, the P80 is touted as a faithful reproduction of the Glock 17. With all the Glock 19 clones mushrooming everywhere, why bother with this reproduction? 

GLOCK 17 GEN 5 FS 9MM PISTOL, CRUSHED ORCHID/BLACK

I think it’s because of two things: one, there IS a market for it, and two, the Glock 17 is an icon. If you think about it, all Glock pistols look the same — they’re all plain, blocky, utilitarian, and boring. But no Glock pistol deviated from the aesthetic design made standard by Gaston via the Glock 17. Even with all the polymer framed 9mm pistols of today, you can easily distinguish a Glock from its competitors. And this is all thanks to the Glock 17.

7. Walther PPK

James Bond fans are getting fewer and fewer these days, and now that those Hollywood wokesters killed our guy in the last movie, we’ll probably go extinct in the next few decades — but if you’re a James Bond buff, you probably know that he carried a Beretta M418 in the early Ian Fleming novels, and in Dr. No, the first movie adaptation of the novel with the same title in 1962, James initially carried a Beretta M1934. 

Both were replaced by the Walther PPK, which, in the following decades, would become as iconic as James Bond himself. It has many clones, among which are countless Makarov variants, the CZ 70, and the Bersa Thunder 380. 

There are two interesting tidbits about James Bond’s Walther PPK. One, Ian Fleming didn’t really care about guns and was only convinced by another Englishman, Geoffrey Boothroyd, to change Bond’s carry pistol.

WALTHER PPK .380ACP PISTOL, STAINLESS STEEL

Two, the Walther PPK is really only a smaller version of the Walther PP. It has a shorter barrel, a smaller frame, a shorter grip, and a reduced magazine capacity. Since the first James Bond cctor, Sean Connery, stood 6 feet 2 inches, the PPK was too tiny for his ginormous hands, which is why they had him use a full-size Walther PP. So if you think about it, it should be the Walther PP on this list, not the Walther PPK.

6. Beretta 92

One of the most easily recognizable guns in the world, the Beretta 92’s exposed barrel gives it its distinctive look, which adds to its status as an icon. One of the reasons why the Beretta 92 has become so popular over the past few decades is because of its presence in video games. I swear, I can talk about Albert Wesker’s Samurai Edge all day so I won’t get to it. But before there were video games, there were Hollywood action movies.

People in the film industry claim Beretta M92 prop guns are so prevalent they have become so cheap, and a quick Google search corroborates that claim. If you head on over to NewRuleFx.com, a website where life-like movie props are being sold, a lightweight M9 Beretta replica made of foam rubber can be purchased for as little as $20, while ones that can fire 8mm blanks are selling on stage-props-blank-guns.com for just $112 apiece. 

BERETTA 92 ELITE LTT COMPACT 9X19MM PISTOL, BLK

But prior to them becoming popular because of both video games and Hollywood movies, we all know that the Beretta M92 superseded the M1911 as the US Military’s standard issue sidearm in 1985. It was only in 2017 that the US Military switched to the highly modular SIG P320. Even after that, the popularity of the M92 hasn’t diminished. Beretta has 31 different variants under their 90 series while clones like the Taurus 92 and the EAA Regard are still on the market today.

5. CZ 75

The popularity and resulting iconic status, or a seeming lack thereof, of the CZ 75 is a subject of contention among many American handgun enthusiasts. Some believe it’s nowhere near as popular as it should be, others believe it’s fairly popular, just not as popular as Glocks, while a few of the brand’s fervent followers, some frequenting forums and even writing on gun blogs, swear by its popularity and would go so far as to argue that it is the most copied semi automatic pistol design, not the 1911, which I’ll get to later in the topic. 

I can certainly understand why some can make that claim. 

On the screen right now is a diagram uploaded by a GlockTalk Forums user with the handle Dave514

It shows all the existing manufacturers, variants, clones, and derivatives of the CZ 75 so you have an idea how truly iconic this pistol is, not just in the US but in the whole world. 

CZ 75 BD 9MM PISTOL, BLK

But on that claim that the CZ 75 is the most copied, nothing could be farther from the truth. Do a quick Google search using the terms “CZ 75 is the most copied handgun in the world” and the first snippet you’ll see is from CZ’s website itself that clearly reads, quote, “The CZ 75 is the second most copied handgun design ever; surpassed in number of imitations only by the M1911.” Straight from the horse’s mouth. Still, being second only to the M1911 as far as being the most copied design is nothing to scoff at. 

4. Colt Python

I’m sure most of you are tired of hearing that the Colt Python is the Cadillac of revolvers. I can relate. The Korth Combat from the 1980s was considered by wheelgun enthusiasts around the world to be the best .357 Magnum revolvers ever built, and the Manurhin MR 73 was ranked a close second. Newer Korth and Manurhin models are still some of the finest wheel guns in the industry, and even Performance Center Smith & Wesson 686 models will easily outclass any factory Colt Python, old or new. 

But in its hay days, the Colt Python was unrivaled. It was capable of half-inch groups at 50 yards thanks to its super tight tolerances and its match grade barrel that was given Colt’s super secret silver ball treatment. 

And thanks to all the walruses that were skinned and buckets of good old fashioned elbow grease, the Colt Python’s Royal Blue finish was the stuff of legends, something that millennials like myself will probably never see replicated in this lifetime. It’s why old Colt Pythons are still highly sought after by collectors even after the 2020 remake came out.

COLT PYTHON .357 MAG REVOLVER 4.25", STAINLESS - PYTHON-SP4WTS

As a testament to its iconic status, many revolvers on the market have taken design cues from the Colt Python. The full barrel underlug is now prevalent in many of its competitors, while the vented rib can be seen mostly in Taurus revolvers. But that’s not why I included the Colt Python on this list.

When I first became aware of the Colt Python, I was a teenager playing the first Resident Evil game — yeah, Resident Evil! With the lights turned off! I picked it up from that little tiger statue that needs a red jewel in one of its eye sockets. I thought, what a letdown! It took me a whole month to get out of that mansion only to go back in and get a boring revolver. 

But much to my surprise, it consistently decapitates every single zombie in the game. It made me ask myself the big questions. What the hell is the .357 Magnum? How is it able to decapitate zombies? Truth be told, the Colt Python is what started my career as a gun writer. It’s a shame it could only be the 4th on this list. 

3. Colt Single Action Army

The most recognizable and arguably the most American revolver ever built, the Colt Single Action Army, or Colt SAA for short, is now known by many different names: The Equalizer, the Model P, the Frontier, The M1973, the Peacemaker, and the gun that won the west. It was adopted by the US Army as their standard issue sidearm from 1873 to 1892 and has been copied non-stop by companies like Standard Manufacturing, USFA, Great Western Arms, Pietta, Uberti, and Armi San Marco. Why is it number 3 on this list? It’s because of the O.K. Corral shootout.

Considered by many as the most famous gunfight in the history of the American Old West, the shootout at the O.K. Corral occurred on Wednesday, October 26th of 1881. It happened in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, and reportedly only lasted for about thirty seconds, but if you’ve ever been in a gun fight, 30 seconds is like an eternity. 

COLT SINGLE ACTION ARMY SILVER STALLION .45 COLT REVOLVER

The shootout was between a group of lawmen which included the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday, and the Clanton-McLaury gang, members of a loosely organized group of outlaws. Most, if not all of them, used the Colt Single Action Army. When the dust settled, three members of the criminal gang were killed, and the Earp brothers, Doc Holliday, the gun fight, and the revolver they all used would become legends, immortalized time and again Hollywood movies.

And if you’re a Resident Evil fan, you probably know the Colt Single Action Army was a secret weapon for Claire. Sorry but I just had to bring that up.

2. Mauser C96 a.k.a. Broomhandle

Besides being the base gun for Han Solo’s DL44 Blaster and appearing as a playable weapon in one of the best selling video games of the early 2000s, Resident Evil 4 — I swear, this is the last time I’ll mention that damn franchise — the Mauser C96, also known as the Broomhandle, is so much more than just an iconic pistol.

The Second World War wouldn’t have been won by the Allied forces had they been unable to launch the D-Day invasion which ultimately pushed the Nazi German Military forces back to Germany. And the D-Day invasion wouldn’t have happened if England surrendered to the Nazis just like France did in 1940. 

This might be a debatable subject, and you can share your thoughts by commenting, but in my opinion, one of the most important reasons the free world exists today is because England was able to hold on long enough for America to participate in the war to launch the D-Day invasion.

Mauser C96 a.k.a. Broomhandle

And England would have surrendered earlier on had it not been for the leadership of Sir Winston Churchill, who could have died in the Battle of Omdurman in September of 1898 had it not been for his trusty Mauser C96. I won’t get too deep into it because it’ll take hours, but that history bit makes the Mauser C96 one of the most iconic handguns in the world. 

Unfortunately, production ceased in 1937. A Spanish gun manufacturer named Astra built some really good copies under their Model 900 Series, but those too aren’t being made anymore.

1. M1911

And finally, I get to talk about my favorite and what in my opinion is THE most iconic handgun of all time bar none, the 1911. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows about guns, as the 1911 holds the record for being the longest serving standard issue sidearm of the US military. 

As its name suggests, the M1911 was adopted by the US military in 1911. It was only superseded by the Beretta 92 in 1985. Even after then, other sub branches of the military like the US Marine Corps’ MEU and FORECON still carry a greatly improved variant of the 1911 as their standard issue sidearm with the designation M45 MEUSOC.

Also, I mentioned in an earlier section of this topic that the CZ 75 is the second most copied handgun design in the world. That’s because the CZ 75 pistol was released in 1975. As the gun originated in a comm bloc country, its designers, the Koucký brothers, were unable to secure international patents for their design. When some of the pistols were smuggled outside of the country, the design was quickly copied. But that was sometime in the late 1970s. 

By comparison, even though the 1911 didn’t have patent limitations, its patent expired sometime in the 1930s, which means gun manufacturers in the world have been cloning the hell out of it for some 40 years before the CZ 75 could be cloned.

The 1911 has appeared in countless movies and video games and will continue to appear in more, and this handgun is also the only reason why the .45 ACP is still alive today despite the 9mm dominating both military and civilian handgun and ammo markets for decades. The 1911 is SO iconic that it received a redesign to address its greatest limitation: low ammo capacity.

ROCK ISLAND 1911 GI STANDARD FS 9MM PISTOL

In the community, this redesign is commonly referred to as the 2011. It’s a 1911 that has a modular frame made wider to accommodate a double stack magazine, but it uses thinner grip panels to allow for a narrower overall grip profile for a solid purchase. The 2011 is the answer to the high ammo capacity craze started by the Wonder Nines in the 1970s and is now one of the most popular platforms, if not THE most popular, for building race guns for USPSA and IPSC. 

If none of what I just said is enough proof that the 1911 is the most iconic handgun in the world, then I don’t know what else to say.

And that’s all for this topic. I’m sure you believe there are other handguns out there that are even more iconic than the ones on my list. Feel free to let me know what your picks are by commenting down below.

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