The Most Reliable Handgun – Is There Such A Thing?

What is the most reliable handgun in the world? With modern technology and the use of new sophisticated polymers, handguns are not only getting lighter but also more reliable. So we look at the pistols that are used by most military and law enforcement agencies across the world as they would be the most used and thus provide an insight into which gun is the most reliable handgun out there.

Beretta 92

Beretta 92The first handgun on our list of the most reliable handguns is the Beretta 92. In his article on, Scott W. Wagner states that the Beretta 92 is the most reliable semi-auto on earth! The Beretta 92 is a semi-automatic pistol designed and manufactured by Beretta of Italy. The model 92 was designed in 1972 and production of many variants in different calibers continues today. The US Armed Forces replaced the Model 1911A1 .45 ACP pistol in 1985 with the military spec Beretta 92F, the M9. The Beretta 92’s open slide design ensures smooth feeding and ejection of ammunition and allows easy clearing of obstructions. The hard-chromed barrel bore reduces barrel wear and protects it from corrosion. The falling locking block design provides good accuracy and operability with suppressors due to the in-line travel of the barrel.

There are some criticisms of Beretta 92 though, namely that it is heavy, it is big and that its 9mm caliber is not enough.


M1911To say the John Browning-designed 1911 is an iconic weapon is a bit of an understatement, having served the US military from 1911 to 1986! The M1911 is a single-action, semi-automatic, magazine-fed, recoil-operated pistol chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge. It was first used in later stages of the Philippine-American War, and was widely used in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. In total, the U.S. procured around 2.7 million M1911 and M1911A1 pistols in military contracts during its service life, before being replaced by the Beretta M9 (the military version of the Beretta 92).

Browning’s basic M1911 design has seen very little change throughout its production life. The basic principle of the pistol is recoil operation. As the expanding combustion gases force the bullet down the barrel, they give reverse momentum to the slide and barrel which are locked together during this portion of the firing cycle. After the bullet has left the barrel, the slide and barrel continue rearward a short distance.

Of course, this is by now an old design. Newer designs are available that are lighter and made from modern materials that will enhance durability.

SIG Sauer P220

SIG Sauer P220What would a list of the most reliable handgun options be without a Swiss made gun on it? When you think about the Swiss, precision made items come to mind. In fact, it was designed by the Swiss and is built by the Germans! The SIG Sauer P220 is a semi-automatic pistol made by SIG Sauer. Designed in Switzerland by what was then SIG Arms AG, it is manufactured in Eckernförde, Germany, by subsidiary J.P. Sauer und Sohn GmbH. It uses the Browning linkless cam short recoil action of self-loading with a double-action/single-action (DA/SA) trigger mechanism. On firing, the slide and barrel are locked together until, after a few millimeters of rearward movement, the barrel is cammed down at the rear after the pressure has dropped enough when the bullet has departed the barrel, whereupon the slide completes the rearward stroke ejecting the spent cartridge. The recoil spring then propels the slide forwards, stripping a round from the magazine, and in the last few millimeters of forward movement, the barrel is cammed upwards at the rear, locking the slide and barrel together again. The slide of the P220 series is a heavy-gauge sheet metal stamping with a welded-on nose section incorporating an internal barrel bushing. The breech block portion is a machined insert attached to the slide by means of a roll pin visible from either side. The frame is of forged alloy with a hard-anodized coating.

Heckler & Koch USP

Heckler & Koch USPHeckler & Koch provides firearms for many military and paramilitary units, like the Special Air Service, U.S. Navy SEALs, Delta Force, FBI HRT, the German KSK and GSG 9 and many other counter-terrorist and hostage rescue teams. The USP (Universelle Selbstladepistole or “universal self-loading pistol”) is a semi-automatic pistol developed in Germany by Heckler & Koch as a replacement for the P7 series of handguns. The USP is a pistol with a mechanically locked breech using the short recoil method of operation. This rather conventional lock-up system has a large rectangular lug over the barrel’s chamber that rides into and engages the ejection port cut-out in the slide. For enhanced reliability in high-dust environments, the locking surface on the front top of the barrel’s locking lug is tapered with a forward slope. This tapered surface produces a camming action which assists in positive lock-up in the presence of heavy fouling and debris. In this way, the USP shares many design features with the M1911 pistol, although apparently updated for easier operation. One of the most significant features of the USP is the mechanical recoil reduction system. This system is incorporated into the recoil spring assembly, located below the barrel and consists of a heavy, captive coil spring around the guide rod. Designed primarily to buffer the slide and barrel and reduce recoil effects on the pistol components, the system also lowers the recoil forces felt by the shooter up to 30%. The USP recoil reduction system is insensitive to ammunition types and does not require adjustment or maintenance. Using this same recoil reduction system, one of the related H&K Mk 23 .45 ACP pistols fired more than 30,000 high pressure +P cartridges and 6,000 proof loads without damage or excessive wear to any major components. Abuse and function-testing of USPs have seen more than 20,000 rounds of .40 S&W fired without a component failure. Milspec environmental tests were conducted in high and low temperatures, in mud, immersed in water and in salt spray. In one particular test, a bullet was deliberately lodged in the barrel and another bullet was fired to clear the obstruction. The barrel was successfully cleared with only minor structural deformation and continued to produce consistent groups when test fired for accuracy.

What Do You Think – What Is The Most Reliable Handgun?

Above we talked about what guns we think are the most reliable handgun options, however we know there will be a lot of different opinions out there. So, if you have some thoughts on what you think the most reliable handgun is please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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