2015 Tactical Pistols: Small, Light, Tough

Tactical continues its trend into the practical with this year’s offerings in defensive handguns, marked by concealable frames in bigger calibers. Manufacturers are giving shooters the gun they love in a size they can carry.
2015 Tactical Pistols: Small, Light, Tough

The shooting community has enjoyed some great times as of late, and many new products continue to hit the market. And as 2015 hits its stride, newer and better products are hitting the tactical community.

As the black gun world continues to evolve and morph, it has clearly become less “in your face” and more subdued. How are manufacturers responding to shooters’ wants and needs, and is there an overall measurable trend?

There are the obvious staples of the tactical community like the 1911 and, let’s face it, the Glock in whatever caliber you can think of.

Manufacturers have proven time and time again that they can churn out mega-capacity pistols aimed at getting the attention of those who want as many rounds as possible on tap when they’re shooting — an admirable goal that makes sense until the operator is faced with real-world carry situations. Those savvy customers who have come to grips with the challenges of their personal protection needs are now demanding and responding to products that allow them a more committed and comfortable defensive carry experience.

High-capacity pistols are in no danger of losing their attractiveness; quite the contrary. They make sense, especially when an individual is training frequently and for extended periods of time. Larger pistols are generally easier and more comfortable to shoot, and a higher capacity means longer periods of enjoyment when training. It only makes sense that customers would be attracted to this.

But there seems to be some movement toward a scaled-down, slimmer-profile handgun as well.

Although slim is in, not all manufacturers are putting their eggs into one basket. Smaller versions of larger double-stack guns continue to make their way to market and remain popular with shooters as well. Additionally, the 1911 platform may be long in the tooth, but it is also long in its appeal and adaptability. While 9mms and .380s are hot — especially with ever-improving defensive ammo performance — the .45 refuses to go away quietly and is making its way into newer, smaller handguns.

This year features several new offerings in defensive handguns, and manufacturers will be jockeying for position in display cases across the nation.


Kimber dropped several new 1911 models this year. First up is its stainless Micro Raptor, a 1911 chambered in .380. The Stainless Micro Raptor is 5.6 inches long and weighs 13.4 ounces, keeping things small and light. It’s just over an inch wide, and though it is small and very concealable, it sports three-dot Tritium night sights. Sights seem to suffer as guns get smaller, but Kimber keeps it real with the Micro Raptor. It even comes with attractive Zebra wood grips, a feature you might only expect in a much larger version of the 1911.

The Ultra RCPII (LG) is meant for deep concealment while maintaining big-bore superiority. There are several attractive features on the Ultra RCP II, like an ambidextrous thumb safety, Crimson Trace Lasergrips, a trough sight, KimPro II corrosion-resistant finish and a snare-free exterior dubbed “Extreme Melt Treatment.”

The Eclipse (LG) line includes 1911s of varying sizes — all with steel frames and Crimson Trace Lasergrips. The Eclipse Ultra II, Eclipse Pro II and Ultra II are full-, commander- and officer-size .45s. They are optioned identically with slatewood double diamond Crimson Trace Lasergrips, match-grade triggers and barrels, and three-dot green tritium night sights. One just needs to decide which size fits their needs — or better yet, buy them all.

The Desert Warrior TFS is a full-size, no-nonsense, tactically focused 1911. The TFS stands for “threaded for suppression,” a leap that Kimber made in 2014 in response to the huge increase in suppressor usage. TFS guns are offered only from the factory, and barrels will not be sold separately.

The Desert Warrior is built tough with a steel frame and slide and comes with a match-grade, stainless steel barrel which is the norm for Kimber. It also comes with appropriately raised suppressor sights. Dressed in a luscious Dark Darth Kim Pro II coating, it is beyond appealing to the eye. Nearly identical to the Desert Warrior, the Warrior SOC (TFS) adds a two tone Dark Earth and black finish, different grips and a rail mounted Crimson Trace laser.


Glock hits the scene with the hard-hitting G40 Gen4 MOS, or “Modular Optic System.” MOS models have an adapter plate kit and four adapter plates included so shooters can attach the popular red dot of their choice. Tools to attach and remove the plates and optics are included as well. Chambered in 10mm, this long-slide behemoth is intended for fat round enthusiasts and hunters. With tactically minded shooters looking to long-slide handguns, and the rekindled love affair with red dots atop pistols, the new Glock offers a combination of wins.

The G40 Gen 4 MOS configuration has a barrel length of 6.02 inches and an overall length of 9.49 inches. The MOS configuration is available in other calibers as well. The G34, 35 and 41 in MOS configurations sport 5.31-inch barrels chambered in 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP respectively.

Springfield Armory

The Springfield XD is an example of a very successful line of polymer-framed pistols. The lineage continues to diversify with the XD Mod .2 subcompact, with what Springfield has labeled Gripzone texture technology.

Gripzone incorporates different textures designed into the frame, meant to provide the shooter with as much grip as possible on the firearm. There are three of these zones, and each zone employs a specially designed feel where the shooter’s hand makes contact with the frame. Springfield also reduced the frame’s circumference, which should further aid in a good grip. Though this might sound gimmicky, Springfield Armory has put a lot of research and effort into this design to greatly enhance the shooting experience.

The Mod .2 includes enhancements to other parts of the gun such as the sights and rear serrations, as well as a slimmer slide. Technical data is deep on the Mod .2 guns and offers a deeper interaction and conversation with potential buyers. The XD Mod .2 subcompact is offered in a 3-inch-barreled 9mm and .40 S&W and a 3.3-inch .45 ACP.

Springfield’s popular Range Officer gets an extension of sorts with the new Champion edition. Meant for easier concealment, the RO Champion has been fine-tuned to make it smaller and easier to shoot while reducing felt recoil. Inside is a dual spring with full-length guide rod, and it’s topped with a fiber-optic front sight and a low-profile combat rear sight. The frame is lightweight alloy and accommodates a seven-round magazine of .45 ACP; the 9mm holds nine rounds.

On full-size 1911 front, Springfield is offering the 1911 Marine Corps Operator. Few guns can carry the label of defensive handgun like the 1911, and Springfield ups the game by bringing a model built to Marine Corps spec — and making it available and affordable for lovers of the 1911. Features include Picattiny rail to mount various accessories, ambidextrous safety and a larger beavertail grip — features typically reserved for custom 1911s. And Springfield added a new grip texture to the front strap.

Springfield is offering “more” in the 1911 with the 1911 Loaded .45 ACP. It’s another full-size 1911 with all the fixins’ at a reasonable price: extended ambi thumb safety, beavertail grip safety, lightweight delta hammer and extended trigger.

Sig Sauer

Sig’s P320 subcompact is aimed at maximum concealment and maximum firepower. Sig’s unique striker-fired approach utilizes a serialized stainless steel frame that is interchanged between grip modules, slides, fire control groups and barrels. The P320 subcompact 9mm comes with a 12-round magazine and will also accept 15- and 17-round magazines.

Not to be outdone, the .45 ACP gets some love in the P320 Compact. It’s the same modular fire control group as the P320 line, and with the various grip module sizes, owners can set up their guns to feel the way they want them to — only with bigger bullets.

Sig is also going big-bore with the P220 in10mm. It’s a single-stack version with a 5-inch barrel. Apparently Sig has had many requests for a 10mm version of the P220. Though there are four versions, two are focused on the defensive side. The Match Elite Reverse Two-Tone P220 is a DA/SA model with the Elite Beavertail, and it also features front cocking serrations.

The Stainless Elite and Stainless Elite Nitro P220 are single-action-only versions with SIGLITE night sights and front cocking serrations. Two different sets of grips are available with Rosewood versions appearing on the Stainless Elite and black G-10 Piranha grips on the Stainless Elite Nitro.


In 2011, Ruger started producing 1911s. Four years later, Ruger is releasing its SR1911 Lightweight Commander-Style pistol. This lighter-weight offering is targeted squarely at the concealed carry crowd.

The use of new materials results in an aluminum frame that is 7 ounces lighter than the stainless steel gun. The SR1911 Lightweight incorporates a integrated polished titanium feed ramp to improve long-term reliability. Other features include Novak LoMount Carry three-dot sights, a lowered, flared ejection port and even a titanium firing pin.

Ruger also says that each SR1911 gets a precision barrel and bushing. Further improving consistency, these parts are machined from the same piece of bar stock. Other features include those that you would find on custom 1911s, which seems to be the trend: beavertail grip safety, extended thumb safety and a skeletonized trigger and safety.

The LCP was a smash hit for Ruger and gets several updates for 2015. The company added a wider, skeletonized trigger and new sights, including a dovetailed rear and a front sight with a photo luminescent dot. These features should surely improve the usability of the LCP. Ruger has even added a stainless steel guide rod. Coupled with today’s modern .380 ammunition, the LCP should continue to be a good ultra-compact choice.


Though many new handguns are basically upgraded and enhanced versions of existing technology from manufacturers, Salient is releasing its own complete handgun in 2015.

Salient offers top tier products for the discerning customer, and the innovation extends beyond the product itself and into the name: The Salient Blu.

The Blu is available in full-size and compact frames and takes Glock magazines. The Blu dons a match-fit fluted barrel, beautiful front and rear serrations that extend over the top of the frame, and a brass counterweight fit into the backstrap. It comes with either flat or curved triggers as well as a fiber-optic front sight and countless other features, including a cutaway in the top of the slide. I’ve not seen anything like the Blu, and I suspect it will be very popular.

2015 brings in several new choices for defensive handguns, though nothing earth-shattering landed this year. The common threads seem to be an emphasis on getting more gun in a smaller, lighter, easier-to-carry package and shoving more custom options into the 1911.

Though polymer-framed pistols continue to be very popular, the revered 1911 shows no signs of slowing down in its enhancements. Of course these aren’t the only new defensive handguns for 2015, but it’s a decent sampling of what’s out there.

Looks like 2015 might be the year of the 1911.


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.