World War II (WWII) was an extremely complex conflict. It was also a time in which nobody had the luxury to browse online for a reliable CZ 75 SP 01 or Glock from the comfort of their home. Newly shifting borders and theaters of war resulted in a hodgepodge of officially issued, adopted, and captured handguns. However, some of those handguns proved to be so reliable and high-quality, both Allied and Axis powers used them whenever possible.
Users: France, Germany, and more
The Ruby M1914 is a very international handgun. Primarily produced in Spain for use in World War I (WWI) by the French military, they found their way to multiple belligerents in WWII’s European theater. Nicknamed “the trench-sweeper” in WWI and based on the Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless, these reliable, intuitive little pistols were also high-capacity for the time, carrying 9+1.
Users: U.S.A., U.K., Canada, China, Germany, and more
The famed handgun we know and love as the Colt 1911 was, of course, the Colt M1911 in WWI and WWII. The Colt M1911 ranks among the era’s most highly-acclaimed handguns. It shares that ranking with other illustrious handguns employed by both sides, like the lesser-known but likewise renowned Polish Radom Vis 35 and the FN/Browning Hi-Power. Like the Hi-Power, the Colt M1911 was carried by anyone who could get their hands on one in WWII.
Users: France, Germany
France’s SACM 1935A is a surprisingly obscure and extremely underrated handgun. This French military pistol was issued to the French army in small numbers before invading Germans captured the production facility and began making their own. The SACM 1935 is exceptionally ergonomic, accurate, and reliable. SIG Sauer purchased its design as the basis for the legendary icon, the SIG P210.
Users: China, U.S.S.R., Germany, and more
The only revolver on the list, the Russian Nagant M1895, features an innovative, proprietary “gas-seal” system. When cocked, there is no gap between the cylinder and barrel. That boosted muzzle velocity and range, also allowing for suppression—almost unheard of among revolvers. The Nagant M1895 is also notorious for being incredibly tough and abuse-resistant. All of that solidified its popularity on both sides of WWII.
Users: Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Japan, and more
In addition to being the handgun responsible for starting WWI, the FN Model 1910 remained one of the most highly-regarded European civilian and military pistols for decades. Along with its higher-capacity, extended-body military variant sibling, the FN Model 1922, the FN Model 1910 was prized by soldiers in any uniform.
Better still, every one of these handguns remains available to this day. If you’re interested in a piece of living history, browse an online gun marketplace like GunBroker.com for the opportunity. Find the right seller, someone more into modern firearms than historical ones, and they can even prove to be relatively cheap guns. Good luck!
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