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Handguns

Best Handguns of 2022: A Cutthroat Field

We put the best handguns of the year through their paces at Gunsite Academy

No segment of the firearms industry is more competitive than the market for handguns. Each year shooters are inundated with new offerings. This Darwinian environment is a blessing for those looking to acquire a new blaster. To stand out from the crowd, gun makers have taken to producing feature-rich handguns with good ergonomics at reasonable prices.

For instance, accessory rails are nearly ubiquitous. Most handguns can be modified by interchanging backstraps, switching mag releases from one side to the other, or both. Magazine designs that maximize capacity while maintaining overall dimensions for comfortable concealed carry are the norm. Then there are thoughtful touches, such as slightly flared mag wells, patches of stippling for the support-hand thumb, slide cuts, upgraded sights and other tweaks that are included in many of the best handguns builds.

How We Test

Best handguns review.
New handguns, ready for testing. Tanner Denton

We organized the handgun test into three broad categories: full-, mid-, and micro-sized guns, pitting the various firearms against their peers and the field at large. We shot the guns head-to-head on paper targets at distances from 3 to 15 yards and used them on steel targets from 10 to 25 yards. The steel targets included plate racks, dual Texas stars, pepper poppers and others that gave great feedback on how the guns handled during dynamic drills that required fast shooting, target transitions, movement, and reloading.

The shooting on paper gave us a feel for the guns’ accuracy and reliability as we made a point to run many types of loads through each gun during the evaluation.

How We Grade

The best handguns of 2022.
Award winners from the 2022 handguns test. Tanner Denton

Each handgun is evaluated on nine categories and given a score of 1 to 5 from each judge, except for the accuracy score which is based on the data from shooting at longer distances. We average the scores for each category and use that to determine the ranking and awards. The categories are handling, accuracy, workmanship, aesthetics, ergonomics, meets purpose, versatility, reliability, and value.

The scores then translate to the grades on the report cards for each firearm. Performance consists of the scores from handling, accuracy, ergonomics, and reliability. Design includes workmanship, aesthetics, meets purpose, and versatility. Value stands on its own.

To earn an “Excellent” rating, the average of that score must be 4.5 or higher, a difficult mark to hit. “Very Good” is an average score of 3.5 to 4.5; “Good” is from 2.5 to 3.5; “Fair” is from 1.5 to 2.5; and “Poor” is under 1.5.

Handguns

Best Handguns of 2022: A Cutthroat Field

We put the best handguns of the year through their paces at Gunsite Academy

No segment of the firearms industry is more competitive than the market for handguns. Each year shooters are inundated with new offerings. This Darwinian environment is a blessing for those looking to acquire a new blaster. To stand out from the crowd, gun makers have taken to producing feature-rich handguns with good ergonomics at reasonable prices.

For instance, accessory rails are nearly ubiquitous. Most handguns can be modified by interchanging backstraps, switching mag releases from one side to the other, or both. Magazine designs that maximize capacity while maintaining overall dimensions for comfortable concealed carry are the norm. Then there are thoughtful touches, such as slightly flared mag wells, patches of stippling for the support-hand thumb, slide cuts, upgraded sights and other tweaks that are included in many of the best handguns builds.

How We Test

Best handguns review.
New handguns, ready for testing. Tanner Denton

We organized the handgun test into three broad categories: full-, mid-, and micro-sized guns, pitting the various firearms against their peers and the field at large. We shot the guns head-to-head on paper targets at distances from 3 to 15 yards and used them on steel targets from 10 to 25 yards. The steel targets included plate racks, dual Texas stars, pepper poppers and others that gave great feedback on how the guns handled during dynamic drills that required fast shooting, target transitions, movement, and reloading.

The shooting on paper gave us a feel for the guns’ accuracy and reliability as we made a point to run many types of loads through each gun during the evaluation.

How We Grade

The best handguns of 2022.
Award winners from the 2022 handguns test. Tanner Denton

Each handgun is evaluated on nine categories and given a score of 1 to 5 from each judge, except for the accuracy score which is based on the data from shooting at longer distances. We average the scores for each category and use that to determine the ranking and awards. The categories are handling, accuracy, workmanship, aesthetics, ergonomics, meets purpose, versatility, reliability, and value.

The scores then translate to the grades on the report cards for each firearm. Performance consists of the scores from handling, accuracy, ergonomics, and reliability. Design includes workmanship, aesthetics, meets purpose, and versatility. Value stands on its own.

To earn an “Excellent” rating, the average of that score must be 4.5 or higher, a difficult mark to hit. “Very Good” is an average score of 3.5 to 4.5; “Good” is from 2.5 to 3.5; “Fair” is from 1.5 to 2.5; and “Poor” is under 1.5.

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