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Accuracy Buff: Best Handguns for Target Shooting

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We all like to ring steel and shoot small groups. This is not just great for your ego at the range, it’s also good for defensive shooting. Indeed, it’s often the archer, not the arrow, but training goes a long way and hardware is no supplement for learning the fundamentals. However, some firearms are more accurate than others and can give you an added edge. I wanted to focus on handguns that could serve in alternative roles as well, rather than specialized bullseye target shooting pistols from companies such as Mateba, Hammerli, and Pardini. With that, here are some of the most accurate handguns ever produced.

Staccato on Gun Bag
The Staccato comes with a nice gun bag for the range.

1911/2011 Platform

For anyone paying attention to the industry, it’s no surprise that the 1911 makes the list. John Browning’s design was revolutionary and still holds weight today. The same goes for modern 2011 adaptations. Given its popularity, there are tons of different examples being produced today by a number of varying manufacturers. Some are better than others, but the overall design makes for good inherent accuracy.

Custom-grade pistols generally achieve the most accuracy, given they often feature hand-fit parts. Production models are still exceptional. Staccato, Wilson CombatSpringfieldDan Wesson, Les Baer, and Nighthawk Custom are some of the best. S&WRuger, and Kimber also make good pistols with solid accuracy.

The single-action trigger with straight-to-the-rear pull makes for the best trigger in the business. It’s light, crisp, and the same every time. The grip angle offers a natural point, and the firearm balances well in the hand. These are just some of the many reasons the 1911/2011 design is still around today.

Paper target showing group size after becoming acclimated to the CZ Shadow 2 pistol
The CZ Shadow is more accurate than most can hold.

CZ Shadow 2/TS2

The CZ Shadow 2 features a unique rail design where the slide rides inside the frame. Based on the well-tested CZ 75B, the pistol is double-action/single-action and incorporates a solid steel frame. Additionally, the pistol features an optics-ready slide for mounting your preferred red dot.

For those who prefer a single-action pistol that is similar to the 1911, the Tactical Sport 2 offers a similar design and features. There are also models from Tanfoglio out of Italy with comparable construction. All are very popular in competition shooting due to their impressive accuracy potential.

The inverted slide rail design works to mitigate recoil by allowing a lower bore axis and higher grip. This provides the shooter with more leverage to keep the sights on target, allowing for incredibly fast follow-up shots.

SIG P210A 9mm handgun with wood grips
The new P210A 9mm is worthy of the name.

SIG P210

The SIG P210 incorporates a similar design to the CZ, where the slide rides inside the frame. In fact, this is the original firearm the others were based on. Both firearms use a similar modified Browning barrel lock-up as well. The single-stack grip frame fits nicely in hand and the single-action trigger breaks like a custom 1911. Being a European design, the P210 is chambered in 9mm.

There are plenty of reports of legendary accuracy from the original Swiss models. SIG has also reproduced the P210 with a modern Target variation that has nice wraparound wooden grips and forward slide serrations. Modern machining has kept these pistols performing well and lowered the cost considerably.

SIG P226 X5 Classic
SIG’s updated X5 is a large chunk of steel that’s an absolute blast to shoot at the range.


The SIG X5 (or X6) is an absolute tank of a firearm with a heavy steel frame that significantly reduces recoil. The original German custom shop guns are some of the finest examples of firearm craftsmanship. They are hand fit and finished for the utmost accuracy and reliability. New production versions are no slouch, especially the Legion model with its integrated compensator. The single-action pistols feature a light, crisp trigger pull with a match-grade barrel.

Geared toward serious competitive shooting, the pistols incorporate a flared magazine well, extended dust cover, and fully-adjustable sights. From the moment you pick one up, you can tell it’s a quality piece.

Smith & Wesson Model 41 Pistol
The Model 41 is ready for your favorite optic or you can use the removable front and adjustable rear iron sights.

S&W Model 41

For the rimfire shooter, Smith & Wesson’s Model 41 is hard to beat. The pistol is offered with both 5.5- and 7-inch precision button-rifled barrels. Both are absolute tack drivers that are perfect for target shooting or small game hunting. Additionally, the switch-barrel design allows both barrels to be interchanged on the same frame.

The Model 41 accepts 10-round .22 mags. An adjustable trigger stop allows shooters to customize and tune their pistol for the perfect trigger pull. The Performance Center option incorporates a micrometer click-adjustable target rear sight with a removable Patridge front sight. Used by national level competitors for acute precision in competition, the Model 41 is considered one of the best .22 target pistols ever manufactured.

Combat Masterpiece revolver
This well-used Combat Masterpiece is still shooting lights out.

S&W Model 17 Masterpiece

If a wheel gun is more your speed, the Model 17 Masterpiece, aka the K-22,  is a rimfire revolver with highly-touted accuracy. Originally introduced in 1931 as the Model 17 Outdoorsman, the K-22 was built on the medium-sized K-Frame. It was updated in 1939 to the “Masterpiece,” when S&W determined it was the best revolver made at the time. Fortunately, S&W has brought back some of its classic line and the Model 17 is on the list.

New production pistols feature all the modern machining and build quality with the classic styling of old-world steel and wood. The 6-inch barrel balances well and provides an extended sight radius conducive to good accuracy.

The Manurhin is built for the utmost accuracy.

Manurhin MR73

The Manurhin .357 Magnum revolver was originally designed for the French Gendarmerie Nationale (GIGN) Special Forces and other specialized police and military units. Available in 3-, 5.25-, and 8-inch variations, these revolvers were hailed for their legendary accuracy and durability. The issued S&W revolvers were having issues holding up to the 150+ daily training rounds of full-power NORMA .357. During GIGN testing, the Manurhin went 170,000 rounds and was still going strong.

The 8-inch model was the most notable, as it was designed for urban sniping. It was outfitted with a bipod and magnified scope to act as a sort of miniature rifle. This allowed operators to fit in a more compact space for cramped city engagements such as terrorist engagements and hostage rescue situations.

Beretta is supposed to be bringing these back. However, I’m still holding my breath (and turning blue). Maybe someday I’ll be reviewing a new production model here.

HK USP Elite
The USP Elite pairs an already dependable design with a longer barrel for improved accuracy.

HK USP Expert/Elite

Supreme accuracy and polymer-frame pistols don’t typically go hand in hand. HK didn’t get the message when it designed the USP. Standard models are reliable and accurate enough for duty use. Expert, Elite, and Tactical models take this a step further by incorporating a rubber O-ring for improved lockup and barrel positioning. Additionally, the USP features adjustable sights to really dial-in the pistol to your preferred loads.

With both .45 ACP and 9mm variations, shooters can take their picks on caliber preference. The USP is one of the most durable and proven designs, so you can be sure you’re getting a pistol that will outlast you.

Walther Q5 SF
Walther’s Q5 SF has a nice futuristic design.

Walther Q5 Steel Frame Match

Walther pulled out all the stops when designing its Q5 Steel Frame Match pistol. The updated pistol builds on the original Q5 design and pairs Walther’s excellent striker-fired trigger with a heavy, recoil-dampening steel frame machined from a solid billet. It has excellent ergonomics with its wrap-around grip panel, extended beavertail, full-length picatinny rail, and recessed slide release. The 9mm pistol features a 5-inch match-grade barrel that’s ported to reduce felt recoil and an optics-ready slide for mounting a red dot.

For the even more discerning accuracy snob, the Pro model is a work of art. This custom shop pistol is truly worthy of some of the highest honors.

Final Thoughts

I shoot a SIG P226 better than other models. My father shoots his Glock the best. Some pistols fit the individual better than others, giving it that X-factor. Your personal accuracy with the firearm is what matters. However, some guns are inherently more accurate than others, giving you a better platform to work off of. If you want the best, it doesn’t get better than any of the handguns on this list.

Article by ALEX COLE


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