All three of the best-selling handguns in history stand out from the crowd and are here to stay for decades.
Modern version of the historic Colt M1911 pistol
Gun control proponents lament the high number of firearms sold in the United States, but a savvy investor would see this as proof of a lucrative market and a superior product. Almost 11 million Americans bought their first firearms during the global new coronavirus pandemic. Even now, sales are higher than before the outbreak, and no single category has seen a considerable increase.
While some still favor large-framed revolvers, polymer-framed pistols have remained popular recently. But the three best-selling guns ever made are in a league of their own.
John Browning created several notable works, but the M1911 is often considered his masterpiece. The Special Forces continued to employ the M1911A1 more than a century after becoming the U.S. Military Forces’ primary sidearm.
The short recoil technique used by Browning in this design has been widely imitated, making it his most famous firearm. The M1911, one of the most popular semi-automatic pistols, was manufactured for civilian use between 1911 and 1985.
The Walther PP (Polizeipisole) and its variants, such as the PPK (Polizeipistole Kriminal), have likewise been best-sellers worldwide, despite being launched over a quarter century after the M1911. This blowback-operated semi-automatic handgun was initially designed for police use. Still, its many useful safety features, such as an automated hammer block, a combined safety/de-cocker, and a loaded chamber indicator, helped it find widespread acceptance among civilian shooters.
During World War II, German officers frequently carried the PPK; Adolf Hitler even used one to end his own life. Yet, the gun’s notoriety skyrocketed as it became synonymous with the fictional British secret agent James Bond. Bond only fired the gun a handful of times in the movies, but it was nevertheless seen in recent films like 2016’s No Time to Die. Similar to Bond’s favorite vodka martini, it’s easy to see why this one keeps causing a stir in the weapons industry.
To date, it is expected that sales will exceed $5 million.
Time is on the side of the most popular handgun ever made. The Smith & Wesson Model 10 was first introduced in 1899 and rapidly became popular among law enforcement agencies and citizens.
It was designed to fire the M1892.38 Long Colt U.S. Service Cartridge, which performed adequately in testing but was ineffective during the Moro Insurrection in the Philippines (1901–1913). The “Juramentado” swordsmen of the Moro typically donned leather armor and engaged in a type of suicide attack, knowing full well that they would likely not survive. Someone said that U.S. soldiers were killed in hand-to-hand combat, while a Moro warrior was found dead after being shot many times. Because of this, the United States military upgraded to a more practical version. 45 automatic pistol carbine and the M1911 handgun.
American, British, and French troops all utilized pistols extensively during WWI. As a result, it became the standard issue sidearm for law enforcement for decades, and citizens also found it to be a reliable personal defense handgun (albeit few likely needed to stop a Juramentado!).
More than 6 million units have reportedly been sold thus far.
Springfield Armory M1911-A1. Image Credit: Industry Handout.
Image: Creative Commons.