The trend in handguns has been toward increased capacity. Many revolver designs have even gained a cartridge or two. However, high capacity doesn’t always mean greater efficiency. A smaller grip than is possible with high capacity handguns may make for more comfortable shooting and less stress in trigger reach. There are jurisdictions that limit magazine capacity. While we do not agree with this law and find the restriction onerous and un-American, the law must be respected until we can change it. I am not going to be a test case, and if your head is screwed on correctly, you will not either.
It doesn’t work to download the magazine. The magazine must be a low capacity variant in these jurisdictions. I don’t think I use the word low capacity very often; a less derisive term is standard capacity. Let’s look at some of the most formidable handguns that just happen to be firearms with a capacity of nine rounds or less.
The Springfield 911 .380 ACP is practically an ideal backup. Some will deploy it as a primary firearm. This handgun features a crisp trigger and excellent sights, making for easy hit potential at moderate range. The pistol’s grips allow excellent adhesion and abrasion when firing. The pistol is supplied with a six-shot, flush-fit magazine or seven-shot extended magazine. The pistol has proven reliable and accurate enough for personal defense to 15 yards or so. Loaded with the Hornady 90-grain XTP, this is neat little handgun that is concealable for anyone.
Colt Detective Special
The Colt Detective Special is long out of production but it is a very smooth handgun that is as accurate as most four-inch barrel revolvers. This snubnose .38 Special isn’t a hideout but a formidable carry gun for front line use. Modern loads such as the Hornady Critical Defense 110-grain +P are accurate and give the .38 Special an edge. This is a six-shot revolver scarcely larger than most five-shot revolvers.
Smith and Wesson L Frame Plus
The L frame is a seven-shot six-shooter or wheelgun. The new style action seems a bit faster than the original six-shot revolver. The locktime feels shorter with the seven-shot variant. This three-inch barrel custom shop revolver illustrated is among the best-balanced handguns I have ever owned.
This 686 Plus is reliable in harsh use and very accurate. It exhibits high hit probability and good practical accuracy. From a solid benchrest, I have a fired a five-shot, 1 ¼-inch group with the Hornady Critical Defense 125-grain loading at 25 yards. Accurate, light enough for constant carry, and with .357 Magnum power, this is a great revolver.
Smith and Wesson Model 69 .44 Magnum
Dirty Harry would have to modify his vocabulary to deploy this revolver. “Did I fire four or did I fire five?” doesn’t quite have the right ring. Just the same, the five-shot Model 69 Combat Magnum is a formidable handgun. Virtually the same size and weight as the seven-shot .357 Magnum, the .44 Magnum is a good packing gun for defense against the largest animals. For personal defense and home defense, the piece may be loaded with a .44 Special load such as the Hornady Critical Defense. I have added Hogue grips to make recoil with full power magnum loads bearable.
SIG Emperor Scorpion 10mm
Based on the proven P220 design, the Emperor Scorpion SIG features a steel frame, night sights, smooth double action first shot action, and modern corrosion resistant finish. The P220 10mm is among the most accurate self-loading pistols I have fired. With the Hornady 155-grain XTP at 1,355 fps, this is a formidable defense handgun. I load the 180-grain XTP for use in the wild.
With the 180-grain load, this piece has broken 1.5 inches for a five-shot group at 25 yards consistently. The 10mm is a powerful loading but in this 48 ounce handgun the 10mm is a pleasant handgun to fire. For a heavy-duty handgun that hits hard and is accurate to 100 yards or more, it is hard to beat the SIG Emperor Scorpion 10mm combination.
SIG P220 .45
If you are worried about reliability choose a SIG P series handgun and relax. If you are concerned with stopping power purchase the P220 .45, load it with the Hornady Critical Defense, and practice. The P220 is among the most accurate factory .45 ACP pistols. Recoil is straight back and the S curved grip makes for comfortable shooting. This nine-shooter is proven in service for decades.
Honor Defense Honor Guard
This handgun is among the bright spots in recent introductions. Reliable, sturdy, easy to shoot well, and well made of good material, this single-column magazine 9mm is a straightforward defense gun with good features. The grip treatment is excellent. The extensive cocking serration treatment is good and a bright orange dot front sight makes for excellent hit probability. The pistol is plenty accurate and controllable. Loaded with the Hornady 115-grain Critical Defense loading, the Honor Guard offers a high degree of protection.
Ruger SR1911 .45 Commander
Ruger offers two Commander-size pistols—one with a steel frame and one with an aluminum frame. The steel frame pistol is more comfortable to fire but the lightweight version is lighter on the hip. A lightweight .45 such as this requires more practice but the benefits of a 28-ounce 1911 with a high hit probability and real wound potential are worth the effort. This is an eight-shot .45 with high hit probability and reasonable accuracy. I don’t load +P ammunition. The 980 fps Hornady 185-grain Critical Defense load is ideal.
Smith and Wesson Military and Police .38 Special
The .38 Special M&P has been called the Model Ten since 1957. This revolver features excellent balance. It is the ‘Gunfighters Gun of the Twentieth Century’ according to the late Tom Ferguson. It is reliable in harsh conditions and with modern ammunition offers good wound potential. This is the most powerful handgun most shooters that practice on a bi yearly basis are able to use well.
Some of the finest handguns in the world are what we term low capacity. I don’t let it bother me. While the high capacity pistols are comforting in certain situations the standard capacity handgun is a great choice for most of us.
What is your top performing “low capacity” handgun? Share your answer in the comment section.