Spend enough time around gun guys and eventually the topic of "if you could only have one" comes up. This can be our conceal carry pistols, hunting rifles, and more. If the title of this article didn't give it away, that question recently popped up for me. After not thinking about this subject for a few years, I was pretty surprised at my answers once I dove into the thought for a couple days. Here are my top five choices if I could only have one handgun.
It's a Glock, what else is there to say? With unparalleled support for parts, accessories, and more, this is the easy choice. I've carried and competed with Glock for years, not because the gun itself is especially stellar, but because it's the Easy Button. Strap on a G19 or G48, and you've got a reasonable number of rounds on board in an incredibly reliable, and easily concealable package. The slimmer piece grants you a little more wiggle room with clothing choice, access to ban states, while still being very capable. Or go with the old standby G19 for a gun that makes the jump from duty to carry without a hitch.
Glock is a boring and predictable choice for a reason.
Smith & Wesson M&P2.0
Over the last few years we've seen the M&P line slip from being the next best thing to a Glock, into a quiet third place behind the SIG Sauer P320. Smith & Wesson's workhorse doesn't do anything special. Since the release of the 2.0 version of the pistol there have been no significant controversies or accolades. Magazines are reasonably priced, most major holster makers support the gun, and you can find a fair few aftermarket parts in terms of sights and triggers.
The P320 is popular, but I'm not a fan for reasons I won't get into here. The M&P 2.0 is basically a Glock but not quite. Aside from the availability of customization options, I don't see much changing for me if I made the transition to Smith & Wesson from Glock, and that's a good thing.
A year ago if you would've suggested I put the 1911 on this list, I would've laughed in your face. I love John Browning's Magum Opus as much as the next guy, but it's far from the most modern gun in my safe. Then things changed. I spent a solid six weeks running my Springfield Operator hard in the fall of 2022. Daily dry practice to the tune of an hour or more, regular range time, and Steel Challenge ate up my free time. Everything culminated with a Halloween IDPA match where I made second place in CDP despite it being only my second competitive outing with the gun. Not once did I run into issues manipulating the safety or other controls. No stoppages, despite the internet's claim of instant death in the streets.
The 1911 offers a few advantages over the typical plastic fantastic. Being a single stack design, the gun is svelte, aiding in comfort and concealment compared to thicker options. The shorter, straight trigger press offers fantastic mechanical advantage, simplifying the shooting process. Aftermarket support is fantastic, though a competent gunsmith is a necessity to ensure proper fit as parts change. While this is a hang up for some, I'm comfortable relying on experts for more intense maintenance, though it is a price we pay for the 1911.
The 1911 not only won two World Wars, but also my heart, and many a gunfight in the hands of civilians and law enforcement. While not as simple as our modern plastic fantastics, it still holds its own, over 100 years later.
Beretta 92 Series
The Beretta 92 series has a special place in my heart, as one of the first handguns I ever shot. Despite this, I haven't always been a fan of the thing, but my mind and heart have come around on them over the past few years. As with the previous selections on this list, the Beretta 92 is an incredibly popular pistol, partially due to it's long term use by the US military. As such, parts and accessories are widely available and largely affordable. Magazines are nearly a dime a dozen, and you can get incredible modifications done through Langdon Tactical and Wilson Combat, transforming them into functional works of art.
The aluminum frame lightens the load on your waistband, and newer Vertec grips help smaller handed shooters when compared to the frames of yesteryear. Centurion and Compact models offer smaller footprints than service pistols to improve concealment. The initial double action trigger press, sometimes called a "thinking trigger" allows the shooter an extra moment before cracking their first shot. Afterwards, the single action press provides shooters incredible precision for follow-up shots. Reliability is fantastic, despite the cries from some troops handed horrendously maintained guns from the armory.
It may lack the special forces pedigree of some DA/SA guns, but Riggs, McClane, and STARS can't be wrong. The Beretta 92 series easily earns a place in my top five.
Taurus 856 Executive Grade
This one is a bit of a curveball for you I'm sure. There are a lot of people who are well outside their comfort zone when handed a revolver, and even more so when shoving one in their waistband. Luckily, I am not one of those people. As a former Taurus hater, I was pretty impressed when I spent some time with the 856 Executive Grade in late 2022. Being roughly equivalent to a K-Frame, it comes in pretty perfect for carry as well as competition or nightstand duty. Having previously reviewed the gun HERE, I won't get into the details of the 856 Executive Grade in this article. That being said, I think that Taurus is my top chioce for a current production revolver that isn't specifically dedicated to competition or hunting.
There are certainly some shortcomings with a wheelgun, capacity being the primary one. However, you do gain the ability to shoot virtually any ammunition in your caliber without worry of impacting reliability. Their low barrier to entry in terms of administrative handling and resilience to neglect makes the revolver a great choice for those who don't regularly practice. Additionally, revolvers are looked at more fondly in the eyes of media and the gun averse than a Glock or other modern pistol. Additionally, grips can be easily changed to accommodate a variety of shooters, and the aftermarket is warming up to Taurus products as their quality has been improving over the past few years.
Despite being the newcomer to the market, I think the future is bright for the Taurus 856 Executive Grade. Based on my experience, I am comfortable putting my life in its hands, and I wouldn't hesitate to give it my recommendation.
These choices may not be the best for everyone and their specific circumstances, but I'd feel comfortable with any of these in my waistband. Of course there are plenty of other quality handguns which didn't make this list. I'd feel just as confident with an HK VP9 or CZ P-07 as I am with the M&P or Beretta, but there are some factors which led to those not being included here.
Is there anything on this list that took you by surprise? Are there any changes that you would make?