• GTW Author


Handguns are used for competitions, recreational shooting and personal defence in many countries, yet are subject to strict laws and even full-scale bans in others. Nevertheless, the number of people worldwide who own handguns seems to continue growing, making this a key sector not to be ignored. Most dealers seem to hold a good selection of makes, models and types, while some also specialise in a particular sector. In many countries, handguns are a mainstay in firearms sales, with some manufacturers like Smith & Wesson, Colt, Glock, Beretta, Sig Sauer, Ruger and Taurus being household names.


There is a huge variety of handgun types available. The number of different action types alone is amazing.

Semi-automatic pistols have really conquered the market in the last three decades. These semi-automatics, also known as autoloaders, don’t feature a cylinder like revolvers do but use a stacked magazine. Their action automatically loads the next cartridge in the chamber after every shot because of the slide moving backwards and forwards with every subsequent shot. Likewise the hammer is cocked automatically with every shot.

Generally ,here are three types of autoloading actions: single action, double action and striker-fired. With a single-action semi-automatic, like the Colt 1911, you have to manually cock the hammer before firing the first round.

With double action revolvers, such as the Beretta 92, the shooter does not have to cock the hammer manually before taking the first shot but instead only has to pull the trigger. The third type consists of striker-fired autoloading pistols such as the Glock 17.

These are a variation on the double action only concept but do not have an exposed hammer. Instead each trigger pull compresses and releases a spring featuring a striker firing pin.

While pistols haven taken over the role of revolvers as the mainstay of the handgun world, the latter type is still very popular. As the name says, a revolver is based on an action featuring a revolving cylinder with a number of chambers that can each contain individual cartridges.

There are two types of revolver actions, single and double action. With single action revolvers, like the Ruger Blackhawk, the shooter has to cock the hammer manually before every single shot. With double action revolvers, like the Smith & Wesson Model 686, pulling the trigger both cocks the hammer and fires the gun. This makes the trigger pull of double action revolvers longer and heavier than that of single action revolvers.

Double-action revolvers with an exposed hammer can still be manually cocked before each shot, offering the shooter the same light, short trigger pull of single action only revolvers.

Less seen are single shot and bolt action handguns. These do have their merits though such as the capability of shooting rifle cartridges in a handgun in the former and pinpoint accuracy in the latter. The Remington 700 Chassis Pistol is a recent addition to the handgun world and a perfect example of what a bolt action pistol is all about.


The unquestionable best-selling handgun calibre is without doubt the all-time classic 9x21. As a calibre that is readily available, reasonably priced and on top of that has very reasonable recoil, the 9mm has all the desired features to reign supreme. Nearly 40 per cent of handguns sold by the retailers in our survey is a 9mm. The venerable .357 Magnum is nowhere near as popular as the 9mm.

The humble .22LR is economical and pleasant to shoot as recoil is nearly non-existent, making it ideal for everything from training to plinking to precision target shooting, as well as small game hunting and pest control. This rimfire calibre accounted for 12,5 per cent of handgun sales.

Other calibres such as .40 S&W and .45 ACP are well known but far less in demand. Although manufacturers have regularly been trying to launch new calibres on the market, such as for example .357 SIG and a host of others, their impact on the market is marginal at best.


When looking at the guns that are doing well in the market and the new guns that manufacturers release, there is an evident taste for full-size semi-automatic pistols used for target shooting. This is why it will not surprise anyone that, when comparing best-selling types of handguns in terms of volume, retailers claim the target shooting segment comes out on top (with 37.5 per cent) with handguns for self-defence still in second spot (25 per cent) retaining steady sales figures.

In terms of handgun types sold, self-defence pistols, especially mid- to small-size polymer framed versions, remain to stick out. These are the guns people ultimately use for concealed carry, where allowed, and for self-defence purposes.


What is true in other markets, also appears to be true in the handgun market. Sales to lady shots remain as strong as ever. While last year we revealed that the sales to lady shots were up 53 per cent, this year’s survey results show an equally impressive rise of nearly 40 per cent in handgun sales to women. The rest of the respondents in our survey claim sales in the ladies’ market stayed the same.


Although handguns also keep attracting younger buyers, in the last twelve months middle aged buyers between 41 and 55 years of age came out on top. The share of buyers aged 26 to 40 averaged about 25 per cent last year while the over 55 crowd closes the ranks.


In some countries, handguns are seen as a fundamental part of gun ownership, in others, they are banned outright. Who should own them, how should they be used, where and when can they be carried (if at all) – these are all discussed at length by those in power in many, many states or countries.

GTW’s survey reveals that 72 per cent of retailers responding to our survey feel that laws in their country restrict or adversely affect handgun sales.


This year’s survey shows that the market for handgun sales in 2019 has increased for one quarter of retailers who responded. The number of retail outlets saying business was down year- on-year however lessened significantly; with only 12.5 per cent saying business had dropped.

This leaves over 60 per cent of retailers admitting that sales stayed broadly the same. Considering the consolidation of the market on one hand and sheer growth on the other, the outlook of handgun sales is clearly looking bright.

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