Competitive shooting is a wonderful option for gun enthusiasts of any age. If you’re going to spend time regularly firing your favorite handgun at the range, why not make some connections with great people at competitions? Depending on the type of handgun you already own, you may need to consider upgrading your pistol. You can dig through the massive list of firearms that the USPSA has approved for use in competition, but that list can be a bit overwhelming.
With more than 500 guns on the approved list, we have shrunk the list down to offer you information on our favorite 7 pistols for competitive shooting. Here’s a look at the firearms we recommend for those considering getting into the world of competitive shooting and what makes these pistols some of the best options on the market.
What Makes a Pistol Good for Competition?
Before we delve into the “what” pistols are “good”, let’s take a quick look at the “why.” With thousands of different handgun models available on the market, it would be easy to assume that you can use any of them, if you’re a good marksman. It wouldn’t take long for you to realize that the weapon you choose is just as important as your own ability in a competitive shooting.
If you’re considering dipping your toes in the waters of competitive shooting, you can’t be on the range with a poorly made firearm that doesn’t consistently feed ammunition. The most glaring need in a competition pistol is reliability. The last thing you want to experience in the middle of competition is a gun jam.
You will also notice that many of the pistols we recommend for gun competitions have a barrel that falls in the 4-5 inch range. Shorter barrels typically lead to less recoil which has a direct impact on accuracy. Gun grips and sights are also two incredibly important aspects that first-time competition shooters often overlook.
Choosing a competition pistol is not as simple as grabbing a pistol out of your gun safe. A lot of different considerations have to be made when choosing a good competition pistol.
What is the Best Caliber for Competitive Shooting?
Typically, competitive shooters use 9mm pistols. The biggest reason for this is the cost. 9mm ammunition is among the most affordable caliber on the market which makes it a great option for competition. Furthermore, marksmen are typically very comfortable with a 9mm, as it has become the standard choice of handguns for most gun enthusiasts. Consequently, all 7 guns on our list below are 9mm handguns.
The 7 Best Pistols for Competitive Shooting:
Glock 34 ($700)
The Glock 34 is one of the most accurate handguns on the market, which is no surprise for those who already own a Glock. The overall length on the G34 is just over 8.8 inches with a barrel length of only 5.31 inches. At roughly 5 inches, Glock hit the sweet spot by providing a pistol with a short enough barrel to minimize recoil while still allowing for a long enough barrel to increase the sight radius on the gun. The reversible magazine, which holds 17 rounds is a great feature, especially if you shoot left handed. Finally, at approximately $700 the Glock 34 is a reasonably priced option, especially if this will be your first gun for competitive purposes.
CZ-USA Shadow 1 ($1,600)
More than 17% of competitors at Nationals chose the Shadow 1. With adjustable rear sights and fiber optic front sights, there is no reason for you not to be able to accurately fire the Shadow 1. With an 18 round double stacked magazine and a weight of more than 41 ounces, this is one of the heaviest options on our list. However, since CZ takes so much care to design such comfortable grips, you won’t feel like you are fighting to keep your firearm up. The weight of the Shadow 1 combined with the 4.6 inch barrel helps ensure that recoil is minimal. With the high-quality sights, there is a consistent, accurate shot with every squeeze of the trigger. At a price point just north of $1,600 this certainly isn’t the cheapest option, but it’s a quality firearm that performs exceedingly well at competitions.
CZ-USA Shadow 2 ($1,349)
Being the only company listed more than once on this, the CZ produced two competition-level firearms that we just couldn’t ignore. Roughly 1/3 of the shooters that competed at the 2019 NRA National Competition shot the CZ-USA Shadow 2, making it the most popular gun amongst competition shooters. Between the Shadow 1 and the Shadow 2, more than half of the competitors chose CZ firearms to compete with. The Shadow 2 has a larger frame than the original Shadow model, but not so much that it is cumbersome or difficult to handle. Boasting a 17-round magazine, the Shadow 2 comes standard with fiber optic front sights and HAJO rear sights. The double-action trigger is incredibly smooth to operate and requires little to no reset. With a barrel length of 4.89 inches, the Shadow 2 offers minimal recoil and impressive accuracy. The price certainly reflects the quality ($1,349), but if you’re serious about committing to competitive shooting, the CZ-USA Shadow 2 should definitely be on your short list of options.
Sig Sauer P320 XFive Legion ($899)
The Sig Sauer P320 XFive Legion is an excellent option for a myriad of reasons. The $899 price tag keeps it at the sub-thousand price point which makes it a viable option for many people. This gun also has a variety of magazines options. If you want to use a larger magazine for competition purposes, there is a 17-round option. There is also a 10-round magazines option which stays in compliance with many of the state laws. The XFive Legion has adjustable fiber optic sights which puts you in total control of dialing in your weapon for competition purposes. 9% of the shooters at the USPSA Production Nationals used the XFive Legion . While that is obviously lower than the Shadow 2, there’s still a significant amount of competition shooters who trust the XFive Legion. The XFive Legion weighs 43.5 ounces which allows it to handle recoil well, ensuring that you can consistently make accurate shots. This option has a 5-inch barrel and an ambidextrous slide and safety.
Walther Q5 Match ($849)
Fans of James Bond movies may recognize the Walther brand as the preferred firearm of 007. However, they stunned the firearms industry in 2019 when they rolled out a gun that was specifically designed for competition shooting. The Q5 Match is outfitted with a 5-inch barrel and a Picatinny rail, which allows for an added layer of customization. Speaking of customization options, Walther offers interchangeable backstraps for the Q5 Match which allows you to ensure that you are comfortable with the weapon. With a price tag of roughly $849, the Walther Q5 Match also provides a level of affordability without forfeiting the high-quality that is needed when competing.
EAA Tanfoglio Stock 2 ($1,300)
Tanfoglio guns have been a part of the competitive shooting world since the late 1980s and have remained one of the most preferred options amongst competitive shooters ever since. The Italian made Tanfoglio Stock 2, imported by EAA, was used by 14% of competitors at the 2019 Nationals. With a price just north of $1,300, the Stock 2 is loaded with features that make it one of the most popular options among competition-level marksmen. On the surface, the EAA Tanfoglio Stock 2 is certainly something to look at. The beavertail extension, large magazine release button, and checkered walnut grips make it one of the most aesthetically pleasing options on our list. However, EAA didn’t trade looks for functionality. The 4.5 inch barrel with polygonal rifling helps ensure that this 43 ounce weapon doesn’t lose accuracy due to recoil. With fully adjustable sights and fiber optic rear sights, you are in total control of dialing in this weapon for your next competition.
Smith & Wesson M&P 9 M2.0 ($599)
Having been on the market since 2005, the Smith & Wesson M&P 9 has been a favorite firearm amongst people looking for personal defense options, competition pistols, and it is also popular amongst police officers. The M&P 9 M2.0 is a favorite among competition shooters because it is so lightweight and has a barrel length of only 4.25 inches. As is the case with many of the options we have listed, you can get a 17 round magazine for competition purposes. The price tag of $599 makes this gun the most affordable option on our list. While it may not be the most high-end competition pistol on this list, the price point makes it a great option if you’re just considering entering shooting competitions. With the Smith & Wesson M&P 9 M2.0, you know exactly what you’re getting: a reliable handgun that won’t jam and will consistently hit your target. There isn’t much more a new competitive shooter could ask for.
Holstering During a Shooting Competition
It is important to note that most governing bodies for shooting competitions require that you have your weapon holstered when it is not in use. Due to those regulations, you want to be sure that you have a sturdy, reliable holster. At We The People Holsters, we have a wide variety of IWB and OWB American-made holsters that will fit the firearms we have recommended on this list, as well as many of the other gun options you may consider. Before you enter any competition, be sure to purchase a holster that will allow you to safely tuck your firearm away. Be sure to check out our selection of standard holsters and printed holsters to find the fit and the look that you're searching for in your holster.
These seven options certainly aren’t the only ones that can get the job done in a shooting competition. If you’re considering getting into competitive shooting, take the time to research or even try out the options that are available to you. While a great start would be the pistols we recommended on this list, the most important thing is that you find a firearm that you can shoot safely, consistently, and effectively. Competitive shooting is a great sport filled with wonderful people who are just as dedicated to protecting themselves, their family members and their Second Amendment rights as you are.