1. Colt 1911 Pistol. Simply the best. A pistol that crosses the ages, disciplines, and is a genuine legend. Every new auto pistol is compared to the Model 1911. It has ergonomics that have become standard. It served for an unprecedented 75+ years as our service automatic. The Model 1911 has served our military with distinction everywhere, from its first operations in Mexico, to the swan song in Desert Storm It can be a police sidearm (It serves as the sidearm of elite SWART and hostage rescue teams), or is a first rate target pistol, or an uber-reliable competition race gun. It Still one of the thinnest and most concealable full size .45s. The Model 1911 also introduced the legendary and most popular .45 ACP cartridge, the best auto pistol cartridge ever devised. It has been successfully cut down to compact and sub compact sizes. It’s been around and can do it all as the best. It’s something to be said that every manufacturer that has the capacity manufactures a Model 1911 pistol in some form. Each year a new manufacturer introduces a M1911 to the market, incredible for a 99 year old design.
2. The M1 Rifle. The greatest battle implement ever devised. The m1 rifles reputation for excellence is second to none. The M1 brought the Axis to its knees and armed many countries in the free world during the early days of the cold war. It was the backbone weapon of the UN forces during the Korean War, and it served in the early days of the Vietnam War. It lasted until the mid 1970s in the hand of the National Guard was routinely seen in the hands of guardsmen during the upheavals of the 1960s. Once released to civilians, the M1 has become a great target rifle and a historical treasure gifted from the greatest generation.
3. The Mauser Model 1898 rifle. The rifle is the progenitor of all modern bolt action rifles. It’s been produced in numbers that exceed even the AK-47. Mauser 98 rifles served everywhere, China to South America, Europe and Africa. Mauser 98s are still seen in trouble spots around the world. It may be the most durable and reliable rifle ever made.
4. The S&W K frame Revolver. The hand gun for everyone, the K frame in its many incarnations was on the belt of nearly every policeman for 6 or 7 decades. A favorite of target shooters and sportsmen, military aviators, federal agents, and ordinary citizens, it was simply known as a Smith & Wesson .38 Special. Reasonably powerful, uncommonly accurate, very durable and reliable, it’s nearly the perfect revolver.
5. The AR-15 Rifle. Some people hate it, some people love it, and everybody fears it. The AR-15 has become Americas’ rifle. A 50 year old space age design that used new design principles and materials. It has evolved into a world beater that is the most modular and accessorized rifle in existence. The AR-15s ergonomics are second to none, even it potential successors have AR-15 style grips and controls. It also introduced the now nearly world standard 5.56 NATO cartridge. Although produced in smaller numbers that its arch rival the AK-47, the AR-15 trumped the enemy when the AK redesigned to become “AR” like, including a new cartridge which approximated the performance of the 5.56.
6. The Winchester Model 12 Shotgun. The first modern pump shotgun it dominated the market for 50 years. It was discontinued because it was too good (and expensive). The Winchester Model 12 embodied the quality of design, materials, and manufacture of a 20th century classic firearm.
7. The S&W N frame Revolver. This is another copout. The N-frame covers great revolvers from the Triple Lock to the new scandium frame PDs, included are such giants as the Model 29 (Dirty Harry anyone?), the 357 Registered Magnum, the Model 1917, the Model 625, 38-44 Outdoorsman, Model 28 Highway Patrolman, and the list goes on. All these great are based on the great lock work and smooth action of the N-frame. It’s the gold standard of revolvers.
8. The M14/M1A rifle. These two are grouped together because they are so much alike. The M14/M1a was the last great American wood and steel battle rifle. It has the best iron sights, trigger pull, and reliability of the 7.62 battle rifles. Its short range power and long range accuracy have made it the choice of people wanting a versatile, powerful rifle. It’s no accident that the M14/M1A dominated service rifle target ranges for decades. Nor is it an accident that 40 years after it was replaced as the U.S. Military’s general issue rifle, the M14 continues to soldier on during the Global War on Terror.
9. The Luger Pistol. The first practical service automatic sized handgun. The Luger was adopted by Switzerland, German and others in fairly short order. The Luger is also the number one war souvenir pistol all time. Remarkably, the Luger continued in Finnish service until the 1980s. It introduced the now world standard 9mm cartridge and the interesting, but seldom seen, 30 Luger.
10. Colt Single Action Army Revolver. The Colt SAA is the benchmark for all other modern revolvers. It is one of the most recognizable handguns in the world. It has nearly perfect balance, good trigger pull, ease of loading and shooting. It has served as the pattern for subsequent single action revolvers. Every new single action is compared to the 1973 Single Action Army, and usually found slightly wanting, in one way or another.