This is a question on the minds of many firearm enthusiasts. In 2022, the most popular handguns among special operations forces were often the most popular models on the market. For military and law enforcement special operations forces, or “operators,” the purpose of a pistol is to serve as a secondary weapon in case the primary rifle is unavailable. This does not mean that a sidearm cannot fill a niche where a long gun is too cumbersome or unnecessary. This list includes the five most widely used pistols among special operations forces worldwide, not just those in the United States. These pistols are favored by special operations forces and firearm enthusiasts around the globe, with their respective countries of origin included.
The Makarov PM is renowned for its simple and reliable design, making it one of the best compact self-defense pistols of its time. It is also popular among Eastern special operations forces, specifically the FSB’s top units. While it may not be highly accurate or lethal at ranges beyond 15-20 meters, it is still a formidable and reliable self-defense weapon.
Izhevsk Mechanical Plant has developed several versions of the PM for the export market and domestic security use, including the IZh-70 and IZh-71 pistols in 9x17mm Browning Short (.380ACP). These models are available in both standard and high-capacity variations. The Baikal-442, a commercial PM in 9x18mm, is also available in standard and high-capacity versions with fixed or adjustable sights.
The Makarov PM is a blowback-operated, double-action pistol made of all-steel construction. It features a manual safety on the left side of the slide, which, when engaged, safely lowers the hammer from the cocked position and locks the hammer, sear, and fall in place. The external hammer can be cocked manually for precise single-action shooting or automatically cocked by the longer, heavier trigger pull in double-action mode. The all-steel magazine holds eight rounds (12 rounds for PMM pistols), and the slide remains open after the last shot is fired, thanks to the slide stop. Today, the gun is still used in many former Soviet countries and is a popular choice among Russia’s Spetsnaz units.
The CZ 75 is a popular and reliable pistol used by many European special forces, particularly law enforcement. It represents a significant advancement in auto pistol design and has had a major influence on service pistol design for the past three decades. Despite its age, the CZ 75 remains one of the best examples of its genre.
The CZ 75 has numerous individual versions that vary in caliber, size, weight, magazine capacity, trigger mechanism operation, safety elements, surface finish, frame material, grip panel types, and other specific modifications and features. The CZ 75 is currently in service with the Czech police (in the form of the compact CZ 75 P-01) and is also used by the Turkish police and various police departments in the United States. Many experts consider the CZ 75 one of the best combat pistols in its class.
Firearm enthusiasts often use the term “ultimate” to describe their favorite weapons. However, if any combat and tactical pistol truly deserve this designation, it is the Beretta 92. The Beretta 92, or M9, is the most widely used pistol in the US Army and is a 9x19mm Parabellum pistol adopted by the United States Armed Forces in 1985. It is based on the Beretta 92FS and offers a variety of tactical features that make it safe, easy to use, and dependable for military personnel and personal defense.
The Glock 19 is a popular choice for a more versatile role due to its reduced dimensions compared to the standard-sized option. Chambered in 9×19 caliber, the Glock 19 has gained widespread acclaim among private and public security agencies worldwide. In addition to being used as a conventional service pistol, it is also suitable for concealed carry or as a backup weapon. The 9mm Safe-Action Pistol has a 15-round magazine capacity and features hexagonal barrel rifling.
Measuring 6.85″ in length and weighing only 29.98 oz when loaded, this gun’s compact design and lightweight make it suitable for concealed carry. It is used by many special forces units worldwide, including the US Navy SEALs, who switched to the Glock in 2015.
The SIG-Sauer P226 is a popular pistol among the special operations forces (SOF) community. It was developed as an improved, high-capacity version of the P220 for the US XM9 trials of 1982-84. Although the P226 nominally passed all of the technical requirements for these trials, it lost to the Beretta 92SB-F based on the overall cost. Despite this, the P226 quickly gained popularity among police, military, security forces, and civilian shooters worldwide. Initially available in 9mm, it was later adapted to .40 S&W and .357 SIG calibers, which are extremely popular in the United States.
The P226 was the first pistol to be chambered for the .357 SIG, a high-velocity, high-penetration 9mm cartridge favored by many American highway patrol services and the US Security Service. Designed for the US Army and carried by US Navy SEALs, Texas Rangers, and other elite military and law enforcement professionals, the SIG-Sauer P226 has earned a reputation as a top-class production pistol and a trusted sidearm for firearms enthusiasts and special operations forces operators worldwide.