In this test we had a chance to shoot two 9mm pistols that take aim at Glock's throne as the most popular polymer pistol. They are the Taurus PT 111 Millennium Pro and the Smith & Wesson SW99 Compact. Actually, we would classify both of these pistols as subcompact due to their overall dimensions, despite the suffix that follows the SW99's name. However, both of these pistols do offer 10+1 capacity and, like the Glock, striker-fired operation. The Millennium Pro is made in Brazil and imported by Taurus. The SW99 is a design that was developed by Walther of Germany and is now a product of a joint operation with Smith & Wesson.
Each pistol tries to one-up the Glock design, and each other, by offering additional safety systems unique to the current slate of available polymer handguns. It didn't take long to find out if either Taurus or Smith & Wesson had come up with a better mousetrap.
We determine the strengths and weaknesses of Kahr's $600 P9, Springfield's latest XD, $490, and the $640 Glock Model 26.
The 9mm continues to be one of the country's favorite guns, if recent manufacturing data are to be believed. According to the BATF's Annual Firearms Manufacturing and Export Report for 2001, 626,836 pistols were produced (the latest year for which figures are available). Of that sum, 213,378 were in calibers above .380 to 9mm. That's almost 30,000 more for the next-largest caliber segment, guns above 9mm to .50 caliber.
For less than $100, you can change out barrels in the .30 Tokarev pistol and shoot cheaper 9mm ammo. Also, Savage's Model 12VSS sets a new standard for .308 rifles.
We think Ruger's $453 "K" gun takes the P-series pistol another step forward, but HK's $699 USP and Springfield Armory's new $489 XD pistol offer more successful combinations of features.
Surplus pistols occupy a niche in the marketplace that is surprisingly large and varied. Buyers who want a low-priced plinking gun will often consider buying $200 to $300 sidearms because they (a) might not have much money to spend, or (b), they might be interested in some historical aspect of a particular gun, which they nonetheless still want to shoot for fun. But there are pitfalls in finding one that works well enough to keep and further, to enjoy shooting.
We found even the most dynamic duos from Taurus and Smith & Wesson have trouble keeping up with Glock's full-sized GL17 and the Model 26 pocket cannon.
Glock's GL19 fired the first shot in this niche, but the latest volley of Parabellums includes impressive pieces like Steyr's M9, Walther's P99QA, and Intrac's budget HS2000.
Our test of Standard Arms of Nevada's $199 SA9, Kel-Tec's $299 P11 and Taurus' $369 PT111 shows that a little extra money can make a life-or-death difference.
Since statistics are so easily manipulated, well say neither yea nor nay to that purported fact, but we have published some pretty harsh words on budget-priced pistols in the past. For example, our report on the AMT .380 Back Up complained of the pistols lack of any visual means to determine whether or not its cocked, and we revealed that it jammed 20 times during our 300-round test. About AMTs .22 Automag, our bottom line recommendation...
Every year, for at least the last five, the 9mm cartridge and the pistols chambered for it, have led the pack in numbers of units sold in the US. Today, almost a hundred years after its introduction in Europe, we can say the 9mm cartridge is so well entrenched in our own society that it is here to stay.
There are several reasons for its popularity, but not necessarily sound ones. First, the 9mm is a NATO round and has been adopted by our own military. Second, it is a relatively small cartridge and large numbers of them can be loaded into a double-column magazine. Third, when the police left the .38-caliber revolver and opted for the semiauto, they found the moderate-recoiling 9mm made it easy to train large groups of personnel. And, fourth, on the civilian side, some think that the ban on high-capacity magazines will be repealed. Good luck on that one.
One of the biggest trends in 9mm pistols is the polymer frame. When properly engineered, a polymer frame is stronger and around 80 percent lighter than a steel frame. Being molded, they can be made in more intricate shapes with no extra work. The downside is that gunsmiths can't do as much with polymer as they can with steel.
Subcompact pistols, those which are small and light enough to ride in an ankle holster or carry in a large pocket, have been around for several years. Many of these handguns are reduced versions of already existing handguns. Typically, they cost as much as the original or maybe even a little more.
Within the last couple of years, a new kind of subcompact pistol has emerged—which we shall refer to as an SMPD. The SMPD is a subcompact with a moderate price (in the $300 range), a polymer frame and a double-action-only (DAO) trigger. The combination of a low price, polymer construction and a DAO trigger is not accidental. The ease of making a polymer frame and the simplicity of a double-act...