What we now call Action Pistol competition was originally known as Practical Pistol. And the concept was simple—develop maximum skills and techniques with commonly available service grade pistols.
The current games, whether USPSA, IPSC, Steel Challenge, IDPA, NRA Action Pistol and others have evolved considerably to include guns that would not meet the original definition of “practical.” But the concept still appeals to many, and it’s alive and well in Production class.
A Production legal semi-automatic handgun must be either striker-fired, double-action or DA/SA (which must start with the hammer down in the DA mode). The maximum weight allowed is 59 ounces, although few semi-automatics reach that. Barrel porting and compensators are not allowed. Sights are restricted to post and notch iron sights, and allowed external modifications are very limited. Internal polishing, throating, and trigger work are allowed, as well as changing to aftermarket sights. Magazine capacity is limited to 10+1 rounds at the BEEP. The minimum caliber is 9mm, and regardless of the caliber all scoring will be in 125 PF Minor; which has made the 9mm the favorite.
With the exception of the allowed magazine capacity these guns are no different than the duty sidearms gracing the holsters of our military and law enforcement folks, or the same guns kept for home protection by many citizens. They remain one of the most popular divisions in USPSA, Steel Challenge, and the equipment rules also make them legal in IDPA Stock Service Pistol (SSP) division. That’s a lot of competitive shooting “bang-for-the-buck” from one pistol. And one doesn’t have to spend a lot of bucks to get that bang. Here are five effective models that won’t wreck the wallet.
Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0 9mm 5-inch Pro Series ($664)
The polymer-frame S&W M&P has become popular among both competitive shooters and those seeking personal protection. The basic design received an upgrade with the M2.0 model. Several models in this line are well-suited to competitive use in Production/SSP, but one that stands out is the M2.0 9mm 5-inch barrel Pro Series.
Like the rest of the 2.0 series the polymer-frame features a steel inner-frame chassis liner. The striker-fired trigger on this model is Performance Center tuned. The stainless steel 5-inch barrel and slide are finished in a black matte Armornite, and the slide features front and rear cocking serrations. The empty weight is 30 ounces, with an overall length of 8.5 inches.
The front sight is dovetailed with a green FO rod, and the rear sight is fully adjustable with two red FO inserts—which can be easily replaced, or blacked out, to suit shooter preference. The gun ships with two 17-round magazines, and others are readily available.
Ruger American Pistol Competition ($579)
This is a new addition to the American Pistol line, and like the others it’s built on a polymer-frame with steel inner chassis liners, a striker-fired trigger with a trigger bar safety, and the metal work is finished in a matte black nitride. Some new features make this 9mm a solid choice for competition.
A 5-inch barrel with a 1:16-inch right-hand twist mates with a fully-adjustable rear sight with a plain black blade and front fiber optic. The slide is ported to reduce weight and provides front and rear cocking serrations. A drilled and tapped slide allows the installation of many popular reflex sights; giving shooters the option of easily shifting back-and-forth between irons and Carry Optics. Ambidextrous slide and magazine releases are standard., and the polymer-frame features front stippling, with three interchangeable backstraps to allow hand fitting. Two 17-round magazines are included, and the empty weight is 34.1 ounces.
CZ-USA 75 SP-01 Tactical ($700)
The CZ 75 was a truly innovative design that allowed the DA/SA design to also be carried “cocked and locked” in the SA mode via a frame-mounted thumb safety. Unfortunately, that can be a drawback in Production/SSP, since the gun must start with the hammer down. And once the slide is racked to load the chamber the only way to drop the hammer is to pull the trigger while manually lowering the hammer. This has resulted in a few AD/DQs when sweaty and excited thumbs slipped.
The SP-01 Tactical model solves that potential drawback by replacing the SA thumb safety with ambidextrous de-cocking levers.
The steel-framed 9mm features a 4.6-inch barrel and weighs in at 40.5 ounces, with an overall length of 8.15 inches and height of 5.79 inches. The double stack 18-round magazine gives it a width of 1.46 inches. The slide has front and rear cocking serrations, along with the SP-01 improvements in checking, beavertail, and black poly coat finish. The sights are fixed tritium night sights, but their dovetail mounting easily allows replacement with aftermarket sights.
Glock G34 Gen5 ($716)
The 9mm G34 was originally introduced as a long-barrel version of the venerable G17. The 5.31-inch barrel provided a longer sight radius, and with an empty weight of 23.12 ounces it was fast handling. It became very popular among Production/SSP shooters. The Gen5 version maintains the original specs, but adds some user-friendly enhancements.
A modular backstrap system allows shooters to achieve a degree of hand-fitting. The reversible magazine catch pleases southpaws. And while the sights remain the familiar Glock polymer white outline rear and white dot front, the rear sight now has a degree of windage and elevation adjustments. To aid shooters in zeroing their loads, two easily interchangeable front sight heights are available.
Walther PPQ Q5 Match ($869.99)
Although the price is a bit steeper than the previously listed models, this feature-packed 9mm has already earned a solid reputation among USPSA Production shooters, as well as Carry Optics competitors.
This polymer-framed pistol features a 5-inch polygonal-rifled barrel. Lightening cut-outs on the Tenifer-finished slide result in a 27-ounce empty weight. Rear cocking serrations combine with the front slide cut-outs to provide front and rear cocking capabilities. The operating action is striker-fired with a trigger bar safety. Ambidextrous extended slide releases are standard. An interchangeable backstrap system allows a degree of individual fitting to the shooter’s hand.
The sights consist of a front FO, with a fully-adjustable rear with a black blade. However, the rear sight has an interesting and useful twist. It sits on an easily removable plate. Taking the rear sight plate off lets one of three provided inserts slip into its place and allows the mounting of many popular reflex sights. This can make the gun quickly shift between Production/SSP and Carry Optics division.
Two models of the PPQ Q5 Match are available. The original M1 features ambidextrous paddle-type magazine releases on the lower part of the trigger guard, while the M2 has a more American-style button behind the trigger guard. Both models ship with 15-round magazines.
It doesn’t take a fat wallet to get into action pistol competition. “Practical” was the concept in the beginning, and it lives on today in the Production/SSP divisions.
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