Do you have aspirations to win gun competitions like those held by the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA)? You’ll need a competition pistol that blends function, ergonomics, and firepower in a high-quality frame.
Take the Glock 34, for example; it’s hands-down the best gun competitive shooting has seen recently (in my opinion), offering all three of the above characteristics and then some. Of course, there are other high-quality target pistols besides the 34, and that’s what this article reveals. So keep reading to learn about the best competition shooters you can get.
What’s a Competition Pistol?
Competition pistols are firearms designed specifically for hitting targets. These guns offer accuracy you wouldn’t get with other pistols and conform to specific rules that deem how these guns should look and perform. Thus, everything from the pistol’s barrel length to its sights and caliber adhere to set standards.
While it’s not wrong to think that only professional shooters use these guns in competitions, they’re also used in shooting-specific Olympic sports, casual competitions, etc. Meanwhile, the most commonly known competition pistol categories include Olympic pistols, plinking pistols, and action shooting pistols.
Benefits of Using Competition Pistols
Competitive shooting with pistols like the ones on the list below comes with a number of benefits, not least improving the likelihood of clinching you the trophy. Let’s briefly touch on what those are.
Improve Your Marksmanship
When you engage in competitive target shooting, you’re more likely to get an accurate shot when using a competition-specific pistol. As a result, you might notice improvements in your marksmanship, which will give you a nice confidence boost in subsequent competitions.
Become a More Disciplined Gun Owner
If you’re a little sloppy about gun maintenance, owning one of these pistols might correct that. Your competition weapon will be pricier than your run-of-the-mill handgun, so you’ll be more motivated to keep it in good condition and keep it properly locked away in your gun safe.
Recoup Your Investment
As mentioned above, competition firearms don’t come cheap. However, you can use them to enter competitions that offer prize money and possibly recoup your investment many times over while you’re at it.
The 6 Best Competition Pistols in 2022
The competition pistols below offer the very best competitive shooting experience a shooter could possibly want. Let’s learn what makes each one a fantastic choice for target shooting.
1. Glock 34 – Best Overall
Glock is renowned for its firearms, so it’s no surprise that one of its models, the Glock 34, tops my list. This all-rounder 9mm pistol offers competitive shooters everything they’d want in a competition gun, including aesthetics, accuracy, and handling.
With an overall length that stretches 8.8 inches, the Glock 34 provides shooters with a moderately long sight radius, despite its short 5.5-inch extended barrel length (which also keeps recoil under control). This gun excels in the accuracy department because of it.
The 34’s polymer frame keeps it nice and light (25.93 ounces), with a nice textured grip providing a comfortable handle on the gun. Its trigger isn’t the best and feels a little spongy, but its reset is nice, and it has a clean break.
Its reversible magazine caters to righties and lefties alike and holds 17 rounds. You can increase this magazine capacity with extended base pads or Glock’s larger magazines (available as aftermarket purchases).
2. CZ-USA CZ 75 SP-01 – Runner-Up
Czech firearm manufacturer CZ makes two versions of the USA Shadow: version 1, which makes my list, and version 2. As runner-up on this list, the CZ-USA CZ 75 SP-01 is an excellent firearm for competition shooters who value quality and functionality.
The Shadow 1’s frame features a black nitride finish that prevents corrosion. This nitride finish has a poly-coated layer that locks it in, adding to the gun’s weather resistance. Additionally, you can choose from a number of different-colored gun grips, including a blue checkered aluminum grip, an orange version, and a stealthy-grey one.
This gun features fiber optic sights that help to improve accuracy, comes with a trio of 17-round magazines, and has a high beavertail to help with grip.
The main downside to this gun is its weight. The Shadow 1 weighs a whopping 46.5 oz, by far the heaviest pistol on my list. However, since the dust cover (which accounts for the bulk of the gun’s weight) is replaceable, feel free to treat this criticism as a minor gripe.
3. Sig Sauer P320 Max – Best Sights
The Sig Sauer P320 MAX is the result of a collaboration between firearm manufacturer Sig Sauer and Max Michel, who captains the Sig Shooting Team. This pistol modifies an existing Sig Sauer firearm, the beloved P320, with what are easily the best sights on this list.
Let’s get this pistol’s most prominent feature out of the way: the Romeo3MAX mini red dot. This optical sighting system replaces the P320’s iron sights, resulting in a clearer sight picture competitive shooters can appreciate. If the Romeo3Max sight wasn’t enough to assist with accuracy, Sig Sauer’s gun features a 5-inch barrel for precision target shooting.
Aside from the Romeo3Max, this pistol features a grip module infused with X5 Tungsten that provides a comfortable grip and gives the gun some needed weight that reduces recoil. Its frame and barrel are stainless and carbon steel, respectively.
This striker-fired pistol has an overall length of 8.5 inches and weighs a considerable 43.05 oz, which may put off shooters who want something lighter. However, as a Sig product, you can always expect reliability and high-quality.
4. Walther PPQ – Most Affordable Option
Price-conscious competitive shooters take note: as the most affordable gun on this list, the Walther PPQ offers a nice blend of functionality and affordability. To put the icing on the cake, Walther manufactures four caliber variants of this firearm (.22 LR, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, and 9mm), giving you more choice compared to the other guns on this list.
This gun has a Picatinny rail on the bottom of its frame, which you can use to hook up lasers during target practice. Its slide release mechanism is large and ambidextrous, so right and left-handed shooters can operate it with ease.
Admittedly, the PPQ’s trigger pull (5 pounds) is pretty heavy, but that can be a good thing when considering how more likely you are to experience an accidental discharge with a lighter trigger. Regardless, the trigger feels crisp, breaks nicely, and resets quickly.
Regarding the PPQ’s capacity, it can hold 15 rounds. Firing and reloading are quick and painless, thanks to the gun’s familiar frame. If you’ve handled a Glock, you’ll take to the PPQ like a duck to water.
5. EAA Tangfoglio Witness Stock 2 – Best Action Shooting Pistol
If you plan on competing in action shooting competitions, you might want to check out the EAA Tangfoglio Witness Stock 2. This pistol ranked second in popularity with the average competitive shooter at the 2019 USPSA Production Nationals for being the most affordable action shooting pistol.
The Witness Stock 2 features a tasteful chrome finish across its stainless steel frame. However, before you think the said material makes it a heavy gun, think again: with a 42 oz weight, it’s not difficult to carry around. I think it’s one of the sturdiest handgun models you can get for action shooting.
Moreover, this 9mm firearm features nice ergonomics, with an overall 8-inch length that helps to minimize recoil. It’s got a 4.5-inch barrel length and a 9mm caliber. Also, its walnut grip is a nice touch.
If there was one criticism I could level at this gun, it’s how brittle its internal construction seems to be. I don’t think Tanfoglio guns like the Stock 2 were built to have chambers that can withstand high pressures. Unfortunately, that means this gun may succumb to wear and tear much quicker than you’d like.
6. Smith & Wesson Mod 41 – Best-Looking Pistol
Smith & Wesson is known for making quality firearms, and the Smith & Wesson Mod 41 is no exception. This pistol makes my list for being the best looking of the bunch, thanks to a wood slash metal fit and finish that just feels right the moment you pick it up.
However, this pistol isn’t just a pretty face; it also shares a lot in common with 1911 pistols, particularly in the functionality and ergonomics department. This isn’t the lightest gun you’ll get by any means (not with a 41 oz weight), but it works.
The Mod 41’s 5.5-inch steel barrel propels its .22 caliber bullets at appreciable speeds, aided by a snappy trigger weight (2.7 pounds) and quick reset. Moreover, you can adjust the trigger stop as you see fit for a customized shooting experience.
If gun maintenance gives you pause, you’ll be pleased to know the Mod 41’s quick detach barrel makes takedown a breeze. On a related note, you shouldn’t face any difficulty putting the gun back together.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Competition Pistol
So how did the above guns make my list? Well, there are a couple of factors you’ll need to consider when choosing from among the many competitive shooters on the market, and each gun above ticks the boxes below:
Picture the scene: you’re rising the ranks in a competition, and then “boom!” – a gun jam! Can you think of a worse way for your competitive shooting aspirations to crash and burn? You’ll need a reliable target pistol to prevent the above scenario from happening, meaning a gun that feeds well on different ammunition types and is built with high-quality materials.
Therefore, I think you should place reliability high on your list of competition shooting priorities, as it could be the difference between winning a competition and not placing at all.
A gun’s barrel length affects how much recoil it’ll have. As a general rule, target pistols with shorter barrels (four to five inches long) tend to have less recoil.
Since recoil and accuracy are closely interlinked, the less recoil a gun has, the less inaccurate your shots should be. Moreover, reduced recoil means you can have a better grip on the gun while shooting, improving your chances of hitting the target. Therefore, aim for a target pistol with a shorter barrel.
Another factor that determines how accurately your target pistol shoots (aside from the amount of recoil it produces) is the gun’s sights. You’ll want a gun with sights you can easily acquire, which has a longer sight radius and, consequently, which provides a clear sight picture.
Some competitive shooters come with Tritium sights, which work as well during the day as they do in low-light conditions and are adjustable. Ensure your chosen pistol meets the above sight requirements to better guide the bullet to the bullseye.
Competition shooting can be fun. However, it can also be stressful. If you tend to get sweaty palms in tense situations (perhaps as you approach the semi-finals), you wouldn’t want your body’s natural response to pressure to get in the way of your competitive shooting glory.
As such, you’ll need a gun with a good grip. The best target pistols have textured grips that give you a good handle on them even when your palms are sweaty. Thus, your chosen competition-ready pistol should have a moisture-resistant and ergonomic grip.
This roundup should give you a pretty good idea of the best competition pistols have to offer. As mentioned above, competition pistols come in three categories, namely action shooting pistols, plinking pistols, and Olympic pistols, so the pistol you get will depend on the kind of competition you’re entering.
I think the Glock 34 ticks all boxes regarding what competitive shooters should look for in a firearm. It’s got good sights, a nice barrel length, a comfortable grip, and is pretty reliable too. Whatever gun you decide to get, make sure to have fun shooting!