Let’s talk about full-size handguns. Throughout the better part of the 20th century, if you wanted to carry a large-caliber, semi-auto handgun or have one with increased capacity there was only one way to go—you had to opt for packing big iron.
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Originally, that meant carrying a Colt Government Model 1911, the original large-frame semi-auto packing a single-stack magazine full of hard-hitting .45 ACP. Even more than a century later, the .45 ACP is still the go-to round when law enforcement and Special Forces need to bring a big gun to the fight.
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When it came to capacity, however, the 1911, at least in its day, only carried seven rounds. Most 9mm semi-autos didn’t fair much better until John M. Browning, who had designed the Model 1911 for Colt, developed the Hi-Power 9mm, which went into production in 1935 with a double-stack magazine that held 13 rounds. This was the highest standard-capacity 9mm until the Beretta Model 92 upped the ante to 15 and Glock trumped it with 17 in 1982. All of these historic designs were originally built for the military and are the foundation for nearly all of today’s modern full-size, compact and subcompact semi-auto pistols.
As it has been noted before, it is difficult to appreciate the present if you do not understand the past. Scroll through the gallery above to learn about 10 formidable full-size handguns.
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This article was published in the 2016 edition of The Best of Combat Handguns. For information on how to subscribe, please email subscriptions@