The official Lucky Gunner Handgun Test was established in January 2017 as a way to make our defensive firearm reviews more objective and useful. The test itself is a slightly modified version of the Rangemaster Core Handgun Skills test that originated with Tom Givens. It involves nine stages of fire and 40 rounds covering distances from 3 to 25 yards. It’s a well-balanced test that evaluates the critical defensive shooting skills of speed and accuracy, as well as the drawstroke, emergency reload, and strong-hand-only and weak-hand-only shooting. The full course of fire and details of the test protocol can be found in this post.

Keep in mind that the ranking of a gun on this scoreboard should not be implied as a measure of the gun’s overall quality or suitability for defensive use. The scores reflect only one person’s experience with each gun, and some shooters will no doubt have completely different experiences with the same firearms. Additionally, many important attributes of a self-defense firearm are not measured by this test, such as concealability, reliability, caliber, and capacity.

Guns that have been modified from their factory configuration prior to being tested are noted with a *. All other guns were tested in their stock form, although paint may have been applied to the factory sights for increased visibility. Notes about the test guns appear below the scoreboard, including details of any modifications, and a brief explanation of why I think the gun ranked where it did.


Lucky Gunner Handgun Scoreboard

rank model caliber raw time penalties score
1 Wilson/Beretta 92G Compact Carry* 9mm 28.34 6.5 34.84
2 Beretta 92G Vertec 9mm 27.44 7.5 34.94
3 Smith & Wesson M&P9* 9mm 29.63 6 35.63
4 Beretta PX4 Compact* 9mm 30.67 5.5 36.17
5 Smith & Wesson 3953 9mm 31.51 5 36.51
6 Ruger GP100 Match Champion .357 mag** 31.40 5.5 36.90
7 Smith & Wesson Model 66-6* .357 mag** 31.99 5 36.99
8 CZ P07 9mm 32.11 6 38.11
9 Springfield Armory 1911 Loaded .45 ACP 31.27 8.5 39.77
10 Walther PPS M2 9mm 30.48 10 40.48
11 Glock 42 .380 ACP 35.30 7 42.30
12 Ruger Wiley Clapp SP101* .357 mag** 36.18 7.5 43.68
13 Kimber K6s .357 mag** 37.17 7 44.17
14 Glock 43* 9mm 32.60 13 45.60
15 Ruger LCR .357 .357 mag** 39.95 6 45.95
16 Smith & Wesson Model 66-8 .357 mag** 41.37 6.5 47.87

* indicates firearm modified from factory configuration. Details below.
** indicates test was conducted with .38 special ammo.


1. Wilson Combat Beretta 92G Compact Carry

caliber: 9mm
action: DA/SA semi-auto
modifications: Wilson Combat tuned action, Wilson Combat mag guide, slim VZ grips
date tested: January 2017
notes: Full review here. Despite being the “compact” version, I have found I shoot this gun as good or better than any full size handgun. With the slim profile VZ grips, the gun is really the ideal fit for my hands. I also find it very easy to consistently get a full firing grip while the gun is still in the holster, which is critical for repeatable performance. The ergonomics combined with the Wilson Combat action job make it no surprise that this one tops the list.

2. Beretta 92G Vertec

caliber: 9mm
action: DA/SA semi-auto
modifications: Action tuned by Allegheny Gun Works, fiber optic front sight, threaded barrel, slim VZ grips
date tested: January 2017
notes: This is my full size Beretta Franken-gun. It’s got the frame of a 92 Vertec and the slide and barrel from a standard M9 that’s been converted to a “G” de-cock only variant. This was my go-to training gun for 2016 whenever I wasn’t working with a specific gun for a review. I’m honestly not completely sold on the Vertec grip, but I shoot this gun pretty well, and that’s reflected in the scores.

3. Smith & Wesson M&P9

caliber: 9mm
action: striker-fired semi-auto
modifications: Apex Tactical DEAK trigger kit, Ameriglo i-dot sights
date tested: January 2017
notes: I primarily shot M&Ps for five years prior to jumping on the DA/SA bandwagon in 2016. I felt a bit rusty shooting the M&P, but it all came back pretty quickly. The Apex kit makes trigger manipulations a breeze (perhaps a bit too easy, which is one of the reasons I moved to double actions). I nearly shot a clean on this test, but this gun is one of the M&Ps with the notorious accuracy problems, which contributed to a couple of misses at 25 yards.

4. Beretta PX4 Compact

caliber: 9mm
action: DA/SA semi-auto
modifications: Ameriglo CAP sights, D-spring, Beretta competition trigger group, low profile slide release, large mag release
date tested: January 2017
notes: Full review here. This gun started as a standard PX4 Compact, but I’ve applied almost all the same modifications that can now be found on the PX4 Compact Carry variant. I generally shoot this gun as well as any full size, but for some reason, it’s the only pistol that has ever given me consistent problems with trigger freeze (failure to allow the trigger to completely reset, resulting in the trigger being pinned to the rear with no “bang”). When running at full speed on close-range targets, I have to put a bit of conscious effort into allowing the trigger to reset all the way, which cost me a couple of seconds in the overall score.

5. Smith & Wesson Model 3953

caliber: 9mm
action: double action only semi-auto
modifications: none
date tested: January 2017
notes: For those unfamiliar with the old S&W semi-auto model number encryption, the 3953 is a stainless, single stack, double-action only, semi-auto with a capacity of 8+1 rounds of 9mm. It was discontinued along with the rest of the metal-framed S&W autos somewhere around 2010. I worked with this gun for a few weeks as research for an abandoned project that will probably never see the light of day. I quickly found myself warming up to this gun and actually started carrying it when a double stack pistol was too cumbersome. Its loaded weight is roughly the same as many modern double-stack compact pistols, and it’s not much slimmer, either. But for reasons I can’t explain, I have found the 3953 to be easier to conceal and more comfortable to carry than the higher capacity polymer alternatives. The smooth double action trigger makes it feel like shooting a well-tuned 9-shot revolver. I can’t run the trigger as quickly as a DA/SA, but like shooting a revolver, the DA trigger forces me to spend an extra .05 seconds lining up the sights, which is often the difference between a hit and a miss.

6. Ruger GP100 Match Champion

caliber: .357 magnum
action: double action revolver
modifications: none
date tested: April 2017
notes: 
Full review here.

7. Smith & Wesson Model 66-6 3-inch

caliber: .357 magnum
action: double action only revolver
modifications: Apex Tactical spurless hammer, Cylinder and Slide fiber optic front sight, Rough Country adjustable rear sight, Wolff reduced power mainspring, VZ grips, tuned action
date tested: January 2017
notes: 
Full review here. This heavily modified 3-inch K-frame magnum is one of my favorite revolvers ever. It’s got a very smooth action, and sights that are very easy to use. Despite losing a couple of seconds to the semi-autos on a slow reload, I made up some time on the 10, 15, and 25 yard stages where the 66 just seems to pop right onto target. I used the excellent S.L. Variant speed loaders, which drastically reduce the fumble-factor when reloading. With revolvers, all it takes is one shell that doesn’t want to drop into the chamber during the reload to ruin an entire run of the test.

8. CZ P07

caliber: 9mm
action: DA/SA semi-auto
modifications: none
date tested: March 2017

9. Springfield Armory 1911 Loaded

caliber: .45 ACP
action: single action only semi-auto
modifications: none
date tested: January 2017
notes: 1911s are supposed to be easy to shoot, but when you’ve been spoiled on smooth double actions and pick up a 1911 for the first time in years, it’s not so easy. Making matters worse, this gun has a ~7.5 pound trigger — stiff by 1911 standards. This brings up the easily-overlooked issue of trigger weight versus trigger feel. I can shoot a compact 9mm with a 9 pound double action trigger better than a 1911 with a 7.5 pound single action trigger. That might not make much sense if all you take into account is the trigger weight. But personally, I do better with triggers that provide constant tactile feedback. A 1911 trigger doesn’t do that. You take out the slack, and press the trigger until it breaks. That’s not a problem with a 4 pound trigger, but when it’s nearly twice that, I feel like I’m pressing forever with no feedback from the gun to tell me if I’m actually accomplishing anything (keep in mind, this thought-process is all happening in my head in slow motion over the course of tenths of a second). A double action trigger moves as you apply pressure until it hits the break point, so I always have some idea of how close I am to the trigger breaking. For this particular 1911,  I also think better texture on the grips and some texture on the front strap would help me clamp down harder and overcome any trigger control issues.

10. Walther PPS M2

caliber: 9mm
action: striker-fired semi-auto
modifications: none
date tested: June 2017
notes: Full review here.

11. Glock 42

caliber: .380 ACP
action: striker-fired semi-auto
modifications: none
date tested: January 2017
note: Full review here. Like the 1911, factory Glock triggers don’t offer much tactile feedback. This is especially a problem with the Glock 42 and Glock 43 because they weigh next to nothing, so anything other than a perfect trigger press can easily pull shots off target. Of course, if I had been shooting Glocks much lately, I could probably have worked around this challenge, but that has not been the case. By small gun standards, the Glock 42 is actually quite shootable, and I think I could turn in a much better score. I will likely re-shoot this one in the future the next time I work with striker-fired pistols for any extended period of time.

12. Ruger Wiley Clapp SP101

caliber: .357 magnum
action: double action revolver
modifications: Wilson Combat spring kit
date tested: January 2017
notes: Full review here. I am actually pretty happy with how this test went, mostly because I managed not to pick up more than two or three seconds in penalties at 15 and 25 yards — that’s no easy task with a double action snubby. I ran into some issues with the reloads. They seemed to take forever — much slower than the K-frame reloads, mostly because of interference from the rubber grip on the speed loader.

13. Kimber K6s

caliber: .357 magnum
action: double action revolver
modifications: none
date tested: January 2017
notes: Full review here. Like the SP101, I was mostly pleased with the accuracy of the K6s during the test, but the reload really killed the overall time. I’m still waiting on some aftermarket grips and sights to become available for the K6s to find out how much that may affect my performance.

14. Glock 43

caliber: 9mm
action: striker-fired semi-auto
modifications: Trijicon HD night sights
date tested: January 2017
notes: Full review here. All the same issues I had with the Glock 42 apply here, but the trigger on this particular G43 is even stiffer. I eventually got used to it when I was actually reviewing this gun, but that was about a year ago, and I have definitely lost whatever ability I had developed to finesse that trigger. This is another one I would like to re-shoot in the future after spending more time with striker-fired pistols.

15. Ruger LCR .357

caliber: .357 magnum
action: double-action only revolver
modifications: XS Big Dot Front Sight
date tested: July 2017

16. Smith & Wesson Model 66-8 2.75-inch

caliber: .357 magnum
action: double-action revolver
modifications: none
date tested: October 2017
notes: Full review here.