Recommended Centerfire Handgun Brands

By Chuck Hawks

This article will list revolvers, autoloading pistols, single shot pistols and derringers separately. Many manufacturers of autoloaders do not make revolvers and most do not offer single shot pistols or derringers. The revolver category will be further divided into single action (thumb cocking) and double action (trigger cocking) categories. These recommendations pertain whether a handgun is new or used.

Probably the most important things about any handgun is that it be well made and have been subjected to intensive quality control before it left the factory. Smith & Wesson revolvers, for example, when properly machined, assembled and fitted can be reliable, durable and accurate. The problem is that S&W has had so many gross lapses in quality control over the years that you never know what you are getting, whether you are buying new or used.

A prospective handgun buyer should make a list of possible models and then visit his or her local gun shop and try each. Operate the gun's controls and check for proper function, even with new guns. Dry fire to check the trigger pull. See how it fits your hand. Sometimes grips can be changed for a better fit, especially with revolvers, but sometimes not. There are usually far fewer grip variations possible for autoloaders and single shot pistols.

Over the years I have formed opinions about the various brands and models of centerfire handguns and this is an opinion piece. These recommendations were not handed down to me on a stone tablet. I have not used every brand and model of handgun in the world and particularly not models seldom seen in the U.S. However, I have been an active recreational shooter for my entire adult life and a reasonably well known gun writer for some 15 years and counting. (I was an unknown gun writer for a couple of decades before becoming an "overnight" success!) Consequently, I have come into contact with most of the well established models. Doubtless there are also some perfectly satisfactory brands that are not included here simply because I am not familiar with or have had no experience with them.

Like all shooters I have personal likes and dislikes. These preferences are reflected in my recommendations. Remember, all of the brands listed below are recommended. They are listed in alphabetical order, not by preference. Handguns of most of these brands have been reviewed on Guns and Shooting Online; see the Product Reviews and Handgun Information - Handgun Articles, Comparisons and Reviews index pages to see how they fared.

Single Action Revolvers

  • Colt
  • Freedom Arms
  • Magnum Research
  • North American Arms
  • Ruger

Double Action Revolvers

  • Colt
  • Dan Wesson
  • Ruger

Autoloading Pistols

  • Baikal
  • Beretta
  • Bersa
  • Browning
  • Colt
  • C-Z (C-Z USA)
  • Ed Brown
  • FN (FNH USA)
  • Glock
  • Heckler & Koch (H&K)
  • High Standard
  • Ithaca
  • Kahr
  • Kimber
  • Magnum Research
  • North American Arms
  • Remington
  • Ruger
  • Sig Sauer
  • Springfield Armory
  • Steyr
  • Valtro
  • Walther

Single Shot Pistols

  • MOA
  • Remington
  • Thompson/Center
  • Weatherby


  • American Derringer
  • High Standard

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Copyright 2013, 2016 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.