July 11, 2018

The Price of Handgun Accuracy: How Much to Pay for 3/4s of an Inch?

Dear Gun Tests Editors: Another handgun magazine recently ran an article praising the 25-yard accuracy of a 9mm 1911 Ed Brown CCO pistol ($3,585). It shot 2-inch groups using high performance ammo. Curious about how my used S&W 9mm Shield V1 ($269) with a drop-in stainless-steel barrel ($170) would do, I staged my own comparison test. Using SIG Sauer Elite Performance JHP 124-grain ammo, my Shield shot a 2.75-inch group from the rest. The question I have for you and your readers is this: Is the extra 0.75 inch in accuracy at 25 yards worth the additional $3146? — Calvin

Dear Calvin: Thank you for writing. For most self-defense shooters, the answer is no, it's not worth spending $2500+ to gain three-quarters of an inch at 25 yards. — Todd Woodard

how much is handgun accuracy worth?

Gun Tests Reader Calvin asks a great question: How much is accuracy worth? For most shooters, $2500+ is too much to pay for 3/4-inch-tighter groups at 25 yards.

how much is handgun accuracy worth?

Here’s Gun Tests Reader Calvin’s test rig, a used S&W 9mm Shield V1 ($269) with a drop-in stainless-steel barrel ($170). All-in, $439.

Comments (17)

To pile on: I confess I'm as guilty as the rest, in frequently fooling myself into thinking I will shoot better with a better [$$$] gun. I have given in to that sin so often that I have a safe filled with 'custom', customized and tweaked 1911's, 2011's, revolvers, carry/CCW guns, target model .22's, etc, etc. I can't seem to leave anything 'stock'. I am still the 'little above average' shooter I always have been. The guns didn't magically make me "better'', just made me feel good. I don't think there is a pistol made in the last 100 years that isn't more than accurate enough for any reasonably expected self defense use, as in across a room. All it takes is familiarity with the gun, and practice.

It's a different story with rifles and shotguns.

A more accurate rifle shows results immediately in target practice, but still doesn't make me into a competition winning shooter, not without good training and lots of good practice. Even the worst is probably capable of 'minute of deer' at sensible distance like 25 - 250 yards.

Properly fitted 'customized', shotgun stocks immediately improved my clay bird scores and success in the field compared to off the rack un-fitted ones. It is not like I was missing every shot before, but the improvement with 'better' guns was worth the increased cost, to me. It is a personal choice you get to make.

Posted by: the1911guy | July 25, 2018 5:48 PM    Report this comment

All of my pistols, from the Kimber Custom II TLE 10 mm to the little LCR .327 will shoot OMBG (one minute of bad guy) at ten yards. That's good eneough for me.

Posted by: jwash111 | July 14, 2018 8:07 AM    Report this comment

If you found yourself facing an armed attacker and you were calm (stone cold dead inside) enough to put a sighted shot into a vital organ and you missed by 3/4 inch, well the possibilities are endless. Was it worth the $3000.00 weapon?
I know from experience that I am not calm when people are shooting at me. I'm very alive inside and want to stay that way. We had weapons that fired on full auto. Quantity was far better than the quality of round placement. Given as civilians we are entitled to semi-automatic weapons, we at least can put rounds somewhere in center mass and I think as many as fast as possible. That said a $200.00 pistol will do that just as well as the $3500.00 pistol and when it comes down to our defense of our families or selves, 3/4 of an inch won't mean a hill of beans if you just keep shooting until he's down.

Posted by: Rick503rd | July 14, 2018 12:03 AM    Report this comment

A $9,000,000.00 Pistol with same amount of add on's will never compensate for the adrenalin factor. When someone can simulate that for training then even knowing the Basics become moot.

Posted by: Carl Casino | July 13, 2018 5:23 PM    Report this comment

Curiously, there is a paradox here. If all you want to do is save your life should some ne'er do well come to savage you, just about any pistol or revolver will do. But if you are shooting for "fortune and Glory" then any improvement that is legal under the rules is likely to find favor and damage your pocketbook accordingly. I am as guilty of this as any.

In my PPC days, I carried a S&W M-10 on duty but shot a tricked out m=M-15 with a Bomar Rib, chamfered chambers, a One inch diameter heavy barrel and an action so light I had to shoo flies off the trigger to prevent accidental discharges. I did get better groups at 50 yards.

Posted by: Rintinglen | July 13, 2018 2:07 AM    Report this comment

I have found that a factory Glock is quite accurate with Zev Tech connector, competition spring lit and night sights. Likewise my Series 70 reproduction is more accurate than I can typically shoot. I see no reason for an average shooter to spend hundreds of dollars on custom pistols. Save your money and by ammo. Practice will make you a better shot.

Posted by: Sivispace | July 12, 2018 1:04 PM    Report this comment

Just buy the used handguns the people trade in toward their new high end guns-
You can find like new condition Glock 19's at very reasonable prices-
At 25 yards you can shoot very tight groups from a bone stock Glock-
Like someone else said don't use it for self defense at 25 yards, that's strictly for fun-
Now at 15 yards and in you now have one of the most used self defense pistol out there for a few hundred buck. With the money you saved by not buying a designer pistol, you now have money for a lot of practice ammo.
I found a stock Glock 21 that was never fired for 375.00 and a two tone Glock 43
with ameriglo sights , talon grips and +1 mag extension on two of the three mags.
When you walk in a gun shop go straight to the used ones and look for the deals.

Posted by: Vin | July 12, 2018 12:25 PM    Report this comment

I bought a Lugar, very good overall condition. Expensive, $1800. Very fussy about ammo, jams a lot. Unless I load round nose bullets to +P+ pressure, it will not work at all. BUT, it has class. Gunsmith could not make it better. I have kept it for 25 years. Usually if a gun is this unreliable, I sell it fast. Sometimes you just want it. So I will keep it for plinking at the range.

Posted by: Chris Grodhaus | July 12, 2018 11:56 AM    Report this comment

before anybody questions what is accuracy worth, you can ask is it worth your life? first off for carry purposes, test at 15yds, don't bother with 25. you shoot someone at 25yds, your going to jail. it's well known almost all engagements happen inside that range, so be practical. secondly, your first shot needs to be your absolute best shot as you may not get another.
one argument is if the shooter cannot hold a 2" group then they need all the accuracy they can get. they may have confused 'accuracy' with 'handling', though. if that's the case, they probably have more fundamental problems and should spend the money on some good training with what they have, rather than hopping up the gun.
in my own experience as an instructor and shooter, you don't have to spend a mint to improve gun accuracy. i took my SSP-G34 and installed a 'gunsmith' fit Barsto that literally cut groups in half. to be sure i wasn't hallucinating i had a couple of different people try it back-to-back with both the stock and the new barrel. a pretty good investment for 200$. it still won't hold tighter than my CDP-Caspian.45, though. it produces groups that are maybe 75% tighter than the G34 on it's best day and so that's what i use. carry the highest quality most accurate thing you can afford and handle. it's up to you if you want to trust your life to a 300$ tool or a 2000$, one.
lastly, if you cannot at least hold a 'double-tap' -2" group [minimum] at 15yds, go get the training you need to do so. way too often people think the gun is the issue and they can buy their way to good marksmanship.

Posted by: BenV | July 12, 2018 11:55 AM    Report this comment

Its about wants and not needs. Those who can afford the more expensive pistols, regardless of brand or type will always do that, for ego, bragging rights or true appreciation of a finely crafted device/work of art. Within 20 yards, my Glock 19 and my Shield 9mm or 45 shoots just as well as my Nighthawk, Custom Colts, Less Baers or Ed Brown. At combat ranges it is more about you, grip, trigger pull, stance, fire discipline than it is the individual gun. Those true awesome marksman shoot great groups at distance because of other factors, vision, practice and physical capabilities, not necessarily their handguns. I'd say it is 98% the person, and 2% the gun.

Posted by: Madmax | July 12, 2018 10:52 AM    Report this comment

It's more about pride of ownership than that little bit of accuracy. You can shoot skeet with a Mossberg 500 pump or you can shoot it with a $10,000 custom skeet gun, will you shoot better? Maybe but when you miss, you look good and have NO excuse!

Posted by: Mikie49 | July 12, 2018 10:34 AM    Report this comment

The answer is you don't need to spend much at all.
And if you are buying a pistol that needs a $170 drop-in barrel, you bought the wrong pistol.

Honor Defense has been tested by Gun Tests magazine and is more accurate than big brands.
The pistol features a stainless steel barrel as standard.
No need to go buy more stuff.
The high quality is already built in.

We cant understand why people buy a commodity pistol and then spend extra money to make it sub-average.

Posted by: rameyg1@gmail.com | July 12, 2018 9:57 AM    Report this comment

Inasmuch as most firearms are capable of more accuracy than the person shooting them (not talking about bench rest here) Mr. Woodard's reply is perfect. I have an Ed Brown Executive Target and while I have used it in bulls-eye competition, I really probably purchased it because I just always wanted to own one. It is incredibly well-crafted and to me, a thing of beauty. And thus far 100% reliable. Much like Colonel K's analogy with a car; anything that runs will probably get you there. I just don't believe most owner's purchase an Ed Brown or a Wilson Combat with 0.75" in accuracy as the primary reason.

Posted by: ATP100 | July 12, 2018 9:43 AM    Report this comment

It all depends on the shooter. If you can shoot 1 inch groups, than a high dollar pistol that is capable of that may be worth it. If you are like most shooters they are happy with 4 inch groups and there are a lot of cheaper pistols that will do. I own several guns that cost in the $300 to $700 dollar range that are completely reliable and will work for self-defense. Having said that I just ordered a Wilson Combat EDC X9 just because I wanted one! That one had nothing to do with accuracy, although it will be and excellent shooter, I just wanted it! To each his own.

Posted by: denlars | July 12, 2018 9:31 AM    Report this comment

My bigger concern would be using a $4000 gun for self defense only to have it confiscated if I actually had to use it. A $600 Glock will do the same job and when confiscated won't be a great loss. Keep the Pythons and pricey guns in the safe for range shooting.

Posted by: Twb930s | July 12, 2018 9:27 AM    Report this comment

I shoot 2.5 inch groups standing at the range at 25 yards. Using a Beretta 92FS and a Sig P938. For ammunition, I only purchase for testing, otherwise load my own. Reloading is winter time work, where I will load 2000 or so rounds for the range. I am cheap also, but will purchase a good weapon and supplies for reasonable money. Same for how I buy tools to make furniture in the summer weather.

Posted by: bussardl | July 12, 2018 9:14 AM    Report this comment

It's not about accuracy; it's about desire. Some folks don't mind spending two or three times as much as I would for a car or even a home. The same logic applies to owning firearms. But there is a caveat to this. While I might be unwilling to spend $3K on a single gun, that does not mean I won't spend $3K buying a half dozen of them. Does that make me any more frugal than the guy who purchases a custom 1911?

Posted by: Colonel K | July 12, 2018 8:58 AM    Report this comment

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