September 21, 2022
Handgun competitions are great fun, but there’s also a practical side to these competitions. The more adept you are with your firearm, the higher you’ll finish in each match, but you’re also building the pistol skills you’ll need should you ever find yourself in a violent encounter. If you’re in the market for a new semiauto for United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) or International Defense Pistol Association matches, here are some great guns for these competitions.
Depending on which organization and class you compete in. there are rules that govern what accessories can and cannot be used in competition. In IDPA’s Back-Up Gun (BUG) class semiautos must have barrels less than 3.8-inches and have a maximum of five rounds in the chamber, which is an entirely different gun than you’ll be shooting in open class USPSA matches, for example. Regardless of which class you’re competing in there’s a gun on this list for you. Here’s a look at our favorite competition 9mms.
Springfield Armory DS Prodigy
The long-awaited double-stack 9mm 1911 Prodigy has arrived, and it’s everything we’d hoped. The modular polymer grip module and forged steel frame can endure the rigors of competition, and these pistols come with the Agency Optics System (AOS) with billet steel plates for mounting reflex optics (a Hex Dragonfly base is included, but other bases are available). The slide is made from forged carbon steel and features front and rear slide serrations and a Black Cerakote finish. Each fun comes with a Match-grade forged stainless steel bull barrel in lengths of 4.25 or 5-inches, and you can choose models with iron sights and an AOS optic mounting system or a package gun with a pre-mounted Hex Dragonfly optic. Capacity is 17 rounds for the flush fit magazine, 20 for the extended mag and there’s even a 26-round extended option. The trigger is crisp and clean, perfect for making center x shots, and the wraparound Adaptive Grip Texture offers superb control and comfort.
MSRP: $1,499 - $1,699
Ruger American Pistol Competition
The largest member of the American Pistol clan, the Competition model comes with five-inch stainless steel competition barrel with a black nitride finish and a 1:16 twist. The slide is ported and wears a durable black nitride finish, and atop it you’ll find a fiber optic front sight and black adjustable rear sight. There’s also a cutout in the slide that allows for direct mounting of most popular reflex optics. Magazine capacity is an impressive 17 rounds, and despite weighing just 34 ounces recoil is manageable thanks to a specialized barrel cam design that distributes rearward force and a modular wraparound grip design that allows the shooter to select among the included small, medium, and large grip inserts for a perfect fit. The trigger is pre-tensioned for a clean break, and this gun proved to be very accurate when I evaluated it for Handguns magazine. It’s a dependable, American-made competition gun at an affordable price point. Then again, it’s a Ruger, so you probably already expected as much.
CZ 75 SP-01 Competition
I once shot an IDPA match where an out-of-town shooter showed up, borrowed a CZ 75 and a holster that didn’t fit that gun, and placed first out of 112 shooters. Perhaps that anecdote speaks poorly of the level of competition at my local club, but I think it also emphasizes what many competition shooters already know: The CZ 75 is a workhorse that can help you win. The new CZ 75 SP-01 Competition is the latest in a long line of 75 SA/DA competition guns, and like other SP-01 versions it features that include aluminum grips and extended base pads that allow these guns to hold an impressive 21 rounds in the magazine. The competition hammer has a lightened spring and that allows for a crisp 7.5 pound DA and 3.5 pound SA trigger pull. The cold hammer-forged barrel measures 4.6-inches long and overall weight is 41.3-ounces, which is more than most Government 1911s. The benefit of the added weight is a pistol that stays planted and transitions from target to target smoothly and swiftly. The fiber optic front sight is easy to pick up, and you certainly won’t miss the bright red or blue of the grips and magazine extension.
Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P9 2.0
Smith & Wesson has spent decades perfecting their M&P line, and over time the company has refined these guns into serious competition weapons. And, no surprise, you’ll see a lot of M&Ps on the hips of competition shooters. These guns feature a barrel length of 5-inches and come with what is perhaps the most comfortable modular grip in this class. The ported slide cuts weight and, frankly, it looks cool. The striker-fired design is reliable, takedown is easy, and the trigger is very good. These guns come with an Armornite nitride finish on the barrels and so they stand up well to the rigors of competition, and reliability has proven outstanding. The feed ramp is smooth and polished, the metal magazines run most competition ammo (even the lighter loads) with authority, and the combination of a well-designed grip, relatively low bore axis, and great balance allow you to shoot quickly and accurately and transition effectively between targets.
Wilson Combat WCP320
It would be impossible to develop a list of the best competition pistols without adding at least one by Bill Wilson. Wilson was a superb competitive shooter and one of the co-founders of the IDPA, and there are very few of his custom handguns that don’t make ideal competition handguns. I’m choosing the WCP320. It’s based SIG Sauer’s P320 semiauto striker-fired platform (you know, the one adopted by the military as their new service weapon) with the full Wilson treatment that includes a Wilson Combat P320 Carry Grip Module with Starburst grips, X-TAC pattern machining on the Slide, slide serrations, and slide stop, Wilson Combat rear battlesight with red fiber optic front sight, and an X-Full Size Steel Trigger that is very clean and crisp. Two 17-round mags come standard, and the beveled mag well makes fast reloads a sure thing. The P320 is a superb match gun in its own right, but getting a full-treatment 320 from that’s been run through the Wilson Combat custom shop makes this an outstanding value in competition guns.
Stoeger STR-9S Combat Semiauto Pistol
The STR-9S Combat Pistol might just be the best-kept secret in competition shooting. This striker-fired semiauto offers a good trigger, very comfortable grip with three interchangeable backstraps and a beveled magazine well, and it’s ready to accept an optic or a muzzle device. The controls are large enough to manipulate effectively, and I’m a big fan of the aggressive front and rear slide serrations. A 20-round magazine is standard (10 rounders are also available) and three metal magazines come with each gun. Adjustable sights are also standard equipment, and the green fiber optic front sight is very easy to see even in poor light. A beefy extractor ensures that these guns keep running, and based on my experience with this and other STR-9 pistols I wouldn’t be surprised to see these guns start turning up in the winner’s circle and shocking shooters who paid twice as much for their gun.