So you've gotten the kitchen pass to buy a new carry pistol and have searched through many reviews to determine the best pistol to buy. If you are like me you have found a lot of reviews but nothing that tells me which one is the most accurate.
After all, a pistol that is the most accurate will help me shoot better at all distances and since it's a carry pistol should be the safest pistol to carry. Right?
Well yes, but the truth is, based on my experience, there isn't a dime's worth of distance in accuracy between all of the carry guns available on the market today. I haven't conducted a big study with all pistols using hundreds of different ammo types and crunched the data to determine if there is one that shoots one tenth of an inch better than the rest because in the whole scheme of what a pistol is designed and used for, it doesn't matter.
Am I saying that a pistols are strictly belly guns designed for use at 5 yards or less? Absolutely not. I enjoy shooting my M&P PC 9L, or my Glock 19 out to 100 yards or more at times and regularly shoot at the 50 yard mark.
But lets face it, shooting at distances where pinpoint accuracy matters....300, 400, 500 yards is not what pistols were designed for and they will never excel at this endeavor. If this is what you want to do, go get a rifle or one of the specialty bolt action pistols that are really just short rifles.
So when looking for the most accurate pistol I would say that we are looking for the best group consistently at a normal pistol range but far enough to show true dispersion. Say..... about 25 yards.
I have been involved in limited pistol accuracy testing over the years using a Ransom Rest that belonged to one of my gun club buddies. I ran into him at the range one day and just for kicks we decided to use this device to test my S&W 9L against a Glock 19 and a Sig P
226 that belonged to some other shooters there. All were 9mm and different ammo was used for the test. Not very scientific but it was entertaining for us.
All of the pistols fired three 5 shot groups at 25 yards, again using different ammo, and all shot 3-4 inch groups on average. Out of a Ransom Rest! Although this wasn't a great statistical sample, there was no significance in the accuracy of any of the pistols.
I searched high and low for good data comparing pistol accuracy at around this distance. *This data compares some of the best pistols in the world, not your typical everyday carry weapons, but it does shed some light on the answer to our question.
The averages are from three 5 shot groups fired by competent, not expert shooters, at 25 yards. The shots were fired with either a sand bag or block rest and the same ammo was used throughout the test. Some human, pistol, and ammo error are still present in this data so take it with a grain of salt but I think it is what you can expect if you have little experience in shooting pistols from a rest.
Average 25 Yard Groups Minus Worst Group
As you can see, most of the groups were relatively close and not significantly different at all. The Sig P226S X5 showed the best group with the Beretta coming up in last place. Does this mean the Sig is more accurate than the Beretta.....it could but more testing like this would have to be done to prove it. It could be that the Sig shooter was just a little more consistent at the time.
Although I have no data to prove it at this time, I would suspect that normal carry pistols would show the same similarity in results, only slightly larger groups than those examined above because they would be of slightly lesser quality. My experience shooting many of these pistols backs that statement up.
My point here is that within the realm of what pistols are used for, even out to 50 yards or further, these differences don't matter that much. If these were rifles that we expected to take out to 1000 yards, then yes, a fraction of an inch up close would mean a great deal. But with pistols, and considering what we use them for, there are much more important characteristics an average shooter should consider when purchasing.
Feel in the hand, concealability, reliability, recoil, location of mag release, mag capacity, trigger pull, and safety are all things I consider to be more important than being able to punch a hole a fraction of an inch closer on paper at 25 yards.
I carry a M&P shield because for me, it meets all of these needs. Is it the most accurate pistol out there, probably not, but it will shock you at how consistently it shoots at 25 yards. Check it out at Cabela's.