Get the Drop

These hot new competition pistols provide an edge when the clock is ticking.

Get the Drop

After a slowdown during the Covid pandemic, shooting competitions are back on track and flourishing again across the country. Handgun competitions are particularly hot, with opportunities ranging from USPSA and ISCA to Steel Challenge and 3-Gun competitions.

Like most competitors in any sport, handgun competition shooters are always looking for an edge. But before choosing one, a customer has to put some time and thought into exactly what game is on the agenda to pick the right gun for the application.

Some of the important things to consider are size (both weight and overall length), firing system (striker or hammer-fired), capacity, sights, holster availability, aftermarket parts availability and optics readiness configuration, to name just a few. Fortunately for those looking for a new competition pistol, a bevy of firearms manufacturers — both large and small — are happy to help meet that demand.

Let’s take a look at five hot new competition pistols that can give competitors the edge they’re looking for. Some of them are even very reasonably priced.

S&W PC M&P 2.0 Competitor

A new player in the striker-fired competition pistol market — and a nice one, at that — is the Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P 2.0 Competitor. While that’s a mouthful to say, it’s also a top-quality pistol well suited to a variety of handgun competitions.

Built off S&W’s M&P 2.0 Metal Series, this striker-fired pistol has most of the competition-specific features serious competitors look for when buying a gun. Having an aluminum frame instead of polymer gives the gun a little more heft to aid in fighting muzzle rise and staying on target for quick double taps. The gun’s 5-inch barrel is enclosed in a steel slide complete with lightening cuts to further help with recoil reduction. Sights include a blacked-out rear with fiber-optic front for easy target acquisition. And, like most competition pistols being made today, the 2.0 Competitor features an optics cut that is able to mate with a variety of red-dot units on the market with the help of different adapter plates.

The pistol’s polymer grip panels offer ample texturing to ensure the gun locks into the hand well, and its flared magazine well lends itself to fast reloads. The trigger is much improved over the old M&P triggers, and the gun ships with four 17-round magazines. The 2.0 competitor is offered in a gray Tungsten finish and a black and gray two-tone model. Best of all, with an MSRP of only $999, the M&P 2.0 Competitor will fit the budget of most match participants.

Sig Sauer P320 AXG Legion

Sig Sauer has also upped its competition game with the P320 AXG Legion, a pistol suitable for competition, recreation and home defense. Sig’s latest offering for its Legionnaires features a mixture of its popular metal AXG frame and the expansion-chamber concept piloted in the P365X Macro Comp. The Fire Control Unit on the pistol uses Sig’s improved flat-faced trigger, offering an improved break for enhanced accuracy.

The AXG frame features well-known X-series design components like an undercut trigger guard for a better grip on the gun. That is further aided by the G-10 grip panels and deep checkering on the front strap. Or course, the gun features an aluminum mag well for easy reloads and a reversible mag release for left-handers.

The AXG Legion has a Picatinny accessory rail for lights, lasers or whatever else competitors might want to mount on their pistols. And one of the best things about the pistol is its ammunition capacity, which can give competitors a few extra shots between reloads. The gun ships with three 21-round magazines.

The pistol also features a two-port expansion chamber milled into the slide in front of the muzzle to help mitigate recoil. Sights are Sig’s top-quality  X-Ray3 day/night sights, and the slide is cut to accommodate the Sig Sauer ROMEO1 Pro and ROMEO 2 red-dot optics, as well as the Leupold DeltaPoint Pro and Trijicon RMR. MSRP is $1,529.

Canik SFX Rival-S

Canik has made a name for itself in the subcompact market with its excellent models designed for concealed carry. The company’s leap into competition pistols is equally impressive while still quite affordable. The SFX Rival-S is an all-steel competition pistol designed to reduce felt recoil and muzzle flip when compared to polymer-framed models. Its overall weight of 42.7 ounces will soak up recoil with the best competition models.

With a 5-inch fluted barrel and overall length of a little over 8 inches, the rival is sized right for competition. Slight cuts on both the top and sides of the slide help with balance, and well-textured aluminum grips ensure competitors can get a good hold on the pistol when shooting a stage. Sights include an adjustable rear with fiber-optic front, and it comes with five optics plates to ensure you can use your favorite micro-dot. It ships with two 18-round magazines that are easy to insert in the generous magazine well while reloading on the clock. The gun also uses Canik’s top-quality 90-degree flat-faced trigger, which is proven to be short and crisp.

Truly a great-looking pistol, the Rival-S is available in black or chrome. With an MSRP of $899, the Canik is the lowest priced pistol in our roundup, despite the fact that the package includes a magazine loader, custom holster, punch and tool kit, and cleaning kit. In the end, its features ensure competitive shooters have all they need to be successful without breaking the bank.


Straying away from the striker-fired trend, CZ’s latest entry into the competition field is the CZ AO1-SD OR. Built by the CZ Custom Shop, this double-action/single-action pistol is an evolution of the company’s Shadow series, and is as functional as it is attractive.

The gun’s steel frame is hammer forged and then blued for a traditional look. Differing from the LD, the SD, which stands for short dust cover, offers a balance that is more in the hand to offer quick target transitions. Combining classic CZ 75 ergonomics with purpose-driven features ideal for competition, it features a deep beavertail, undercut trigger guard, raised 25-lines-per-inch checkering and an internal magazine well.

The pistol sports a 4.7-inch, cold-hammer-forged match bull barrel, the CZC Ghost Competition hammer, CZC short reset disconnector, CZC 85 gunsmith trigger and CZC extended firing pin. And with a manual thumb safety, it can easily be carried cocked and locked in a quality holster. For sighting, the slide features a fiber-optic front sight and low-mount rear, along with an optics cut that works with a variety of red-dot platforms by using different adapter plates. It ships with two 19-round magazines.

The CZ AO1-SD OR isn’t flashy, but it is quite attractive. Be aware that this one might not appeal to your budget-minded customers. With a MSRP of $2,699, it’s not the most expensive pistol in this roundup, but it’s close.

Vudoo Gun Works Priest

For many competitors, the 2011 platform — common nomenclature for a double-stack 1911 — is the Holy Grail of competition handguns. The new Vudoo Priest 2011 in 9mm fits that bill exactly and is an excellent choice for those shooting the Limited Optics class in USPSA matches and also for 3-gun competitors competing in the open division.

The Priest successfully integrates the highly precise and reliable slide and barrel fit found in the Mobius with the familiar functionality and increased capacity of a modern double-stack 1911. Another beauty in the aesthetics department, the Priest’s frame is machined from 4140 steel, nitride treated and then Cerakoted. The grip frame is machined from aluminum and nicely textured to ensure grip. Its 17-2 stainless steel slide is also Cerakoted.

The gun features a 5-inch bull barrel and a tactical flared magazine well. Unlike many competition pistols, the Priest doesn’t come with iron sights. However, along with options for either RMR or DeltaPoint red-dots, it’s also available with a cut that will accept Bomar-style iron sights. The gun is available in many standard, no-cost Cerakote color options. 

The Priest is compatible with STI/SV magazines, giving users the option of 19- or 23-round capacity. It ships with two 19-round magazines. This is another pistol that’s not for those prone to sticker shock. MSRP starts at $3,095, which is still far less than many comparable 2011 competition guns.

Great Additions

For competitive handgun shooters, any of these pistols could help lower their times and raise their scores. And for those who don’t shoot competitively, or who don’t yet, these models can make a great addition to their collection and provide an enjoyable experience at the range.

For those who haven’t waded into the competitive waters yet, there’s no better way to become intimately familiar with a pistol and learn how to use it on a wide variety of targets at various distances. And since pistol games are played while on the clock, there’s the added element of stress that helps prepare handgun shooters for performing under at least some pressure should the need ever arise.


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