What Makes a Good Competition Handgun?

Heading to Competition? Here’s What to Look for In a Handgun

Are you looking to get into a firearms competition, such as 3-Gun? You will need competition-level guns, such as a handgun built for speed and accuracy. While there are many firearms made to be ready from the factory for competition, there are features you should look for if you are trying to cut down on times while getting closer to the center of the target. Note that these features often significantly increase gun values, and competition-ready guns can be very expensive. Whether you are buying a gun or having custom work done, here is what to look for in a competition handgun.

Ruger American Pro Competition handgun 9MM 5" Barrel /17+1/ Ruger Pro 9MM
Ruger American Pro Competition 9MM 5″ Barrel /17+1/ Ruger Pro 9MM

Light Trigger

The first thing you need is a light trigger. Competition guns typically have a trigger between 2-4 pounds. This makes it easier and faster to pull the trigger, helping you get more shots in during the time limit. If the handgun does not come with a light trigger weight, this is typically easy to modify.

Flared Magwell

A flared magwell widens the magwell hole, making it easier to slide the magazine into the well and helping to guide the mag in. This makes it much faster to load and requires less attention, helping you shave down time on actions that are not shooting. These precious seconds count during competition, especially where reloads are required as part of the competition.

Longer Slide

Handguns with longer slides, such as the Glock 35, serve multiple purposes. First, if optics are not allowed, it gives you a longer plane on which to put the iron sights, and the more distance between the sights, the more accurate you can be. However, this adds weight, which is a double-sided sword. It lessens recoil, but the slide takes longer to cycle.

Accelerator Cuts

Do you want the advantage of a longer plane for iron sights but the faster cycling of a shorter slide? Accelerator cuts shave off metal or make holes in the slide, making it lighter. With the same spring meant for a heavier slide, the action will cycle faster.

High-Quality Barrel

A match-grade barrel is typically a barrel with tighter tolerances for your selected handgun. It is likely thicker and heavier, possibly made from different materials from a stock barrel or treated differently. All this adds up to a more accurate barrel. However, you should have the barrel custom-made, as many manufacturers do not have a set tolerance for specific barrels.


If optics are allowed in your competition, be sure to get a handgun with a slide milled for your specific optic. It may be an option from the factory, or you may need a gunsmith or second-hand slide. If optics are not allowed, you may be able to use iron sights, including fiber optic sights.

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