The Best Metal Frame Pistols: A Quick List

Isn’t there just something special about a metal-framed handgun? I know that polymer has its place in the market and currently rules the roost. Polymer is great, but metal-frame handguns are like getting a good handshake. The grip design is almost always better with metal. CNC machines and the strength of metal can do a lot more for ergonomics than polymer and injection molding. While good polymer grips exist, the classic metal design is always just a bit better.

Sure, they might be a little heavier, but the weight is worth the juice. 

SIG p226
The P226 Legion is at the top of the image, and the original P226 is at the bottom. (Photo credit: Kat Stevens)

Polymer-framed guns dominate the market, and for many of us, the all-metal market is somewhat small. It’s not super small, but it can be a little tricky if you want a modern, all-metal handgun. Luckily, people like me exist who obsess over metal-frame guns, keep a nice catalog of the latest and greatest metal-frame guns, and reject the world of polymer. How does a metal-framed firearm make it to this list? 

Well, it’s got to be super modern, with all the features and trimming of a modern polymer frame gun, but you know, metal. It needs to be ergonomic, easy to handle, and a weapon that could still be at home in the heavy-use world. This includes competition, concealed carry, and duty use. 

Digging Into All Metal Guns

The world of all metal guns is fairly broad. We’ve gathered five different models of handguns from around the world. We got a mix of everything, from the classics to metal frame models of the latest model handguns. 

CZ Shadow 2 Compact

The CZ Shadow is a great gun that dominates the competitive market. It’s been a contender for decades, but it’s always been fairly large and heavy for anything but competition. CZ took the Shadow 2 to the machine shop and started trimming and cutting where they could to produce the Shadow 2 Compact

CZ Shadow 2 Compact pistol
CZ has announced its newest 9mm pistol, the Shadow 2 Compact. Taking the popular Shadow 2 pistol and putting it in a smaller package, the Shadow 2 Compact has many of the same great features as the original. (Photo: CZ USA)

The barrel is trimmed to 4 inches for an overall length of 7.4 inches. The gun weighs two pounds and is 1.4 inches wide at its widest. It isn’t super small, but it’s a lot smaller than the regular Shadow. The gun still brings all the awesome competition features to the carry market. This includes a super smooth DA/SA trigger system that will make the biggest striker-fired fan convert. 

Tossing an optic on the Shadow 2 Compact isn’t a problem. It’s ready for a diverse set of optics, and a rail makes it easy to add a light, laser, or cup holder. The Shadow 2 Compact packs the genre-defining CZ 75 ergonomics, and it’s a welcome addition to the Shadow 2 lineup. 

Beretta M9A4 

The Beretta M9 is the handgun that introduced me to the love of metal handguns and DA/SA trigger systems. It served its country well but is on the way out. That doesn’t mean Beretta stopped developing the lineup. The latest of the M9 series is the M9A4 series, which is undoubtedly the best one they ever made. With the M9A4, Beretta took things to 11 in terms of making a modern fighting pistol. 

Beretta M9A4 Full Size SHOT Show 2022
Built in the USA, the new M9A4 FS is ideal for any tactical situation, including home and personal defense, tactical competitions, and duty carry. (Photo: Beretta)

The gun maintains the all-metal frame but uses the thinner, more ergonomic Vertec frame. Gone is the combination safety/decocker of the M9, and in its place is the G-style decocker-only device on the slide. That same slide is cut to accommodate whatever optic you want, and it’s the first time the M9 series has hit the red dot world. 

Flip the gun over, and we have a nice, long rail that’s perfect for any modern weapon-mounted light. The M9A4 series delivers an extremely smooth trigger, and Beretta makes use of the Xtreme Trigger System to really shine things up. It’s a brilliant all-metal automatic that shows the M9 still has some fight in it. 

Dan Wesson DWX 

Dan Wesson and CZ sure took their time getting the DWX on the market, but boy, oh boy, did we get a great gun at the end of that wait. The DWX combines two famed and well-respected fighting pistols, the M1911 and the CZ 75. It uses the frame of the CZ-75 with its awesome ergonomics. It’s downright glorious in the way it greets your hand. 

dan wesson dwx
The Dan Wesson DWX is a rugged, well-made double stack. (Photo: Dan Wesson)

The M1911 portion comes from the slide, and the gun ditches the DA/SA system for the classic M1911 single-action design. The M1911 trigger is tough to beat. On the DWX, it’s not just an M1911 trigger. It’s a great M1911 trigger. The design is crisp, and the reset is short but tactile and audible. 

The hybrid of two classic metal frame guns forms one awesome option. A massive rail is tucked under the dust cover, ready for whatever you want to toss on it. Sadly, it’s not optics-ready without a visit to a custom shop. Still, the DWX combines the best features of two proven platforms to make an ergonomic, low-recoiling, and hyper-accurate option for the discerning shooter. 

Sig Sauer AXG 

I said we’d have something for everyone on this list. If you paid attention, so far, everything has a hammer on it. Metal-framed guns and hammer-fired mechanisms go hand in hand. That doesn’t mean striker-fired options aren’t on the table. Sig Sauer hit us with the AXG series to bring a metal frame model of the P320 to the doorsteps of shooters like me who just can’t let go of metal. 

P320AXG Combat complete kit
Each limited edition P320AXG COMBAT pistol includes a Custom Works engraved slide and is delivered in an exclusive Custom Works case with a Custom Works challenge coin and certified custom certificate. (Photo: Sig Sauer)

The AXG now comes in numerous variants, including a pro model, a carry model, and more. It delivers a Legion trigger that’s super smooth, with a fairly light pull and a great reset. Sig Sauer ensures these guns keep the P320’s reputation as a modern option with its optic cut and Picatinny rail system. 

The Sig Sauer AXG delivers an excellent grip texture with removable grip panels and an overall excellent design. The trigger guard is undercut, and a beavertail encourages that high and tight grip you can’t help but love. The AXG is perfect for those who grew up on the modern polymer frame design and appreciate the striker-fired trigger system. 

Taurus 917C

The Taurus 917C isn’t exactly new, but Taurus has brought it back to the forefront after several years. Taurus has experienced a bit of a revival with new leadership improving quality control and refining their designs. The 917C is a compact variant of the famed PT92 series. Why it’s called the 917C is beyond me. The 917C takes the Glock 19X approach to handgun design. 

taurus 917c
Taurus is bringing back the 917C. (Photo: Taurus)

It features a full-length grip with an 18-round magazine but a slightly shorter barrel and slide design. It’s more compact and lighter weight. Taurus still manages to fit a rail onto the weapon that’s perfect for a TLR 7. We get an awesome DA/SA trigger system that I have always been partial to. On top of that, the gun has an ambidextrous frame safety, a reversible magazine release, and big, easy-to-see sights. 

I’m psyched to see the 917C come back to the American market, especially under the new leadership at Taurus. It’s a great budget-friendly all-metal gun that incorporates some modern features to make it stand out. 

A Metal Frame World 

It’s understandable that polymer dominates the current handgun market. It’s easier to work with, lighter, and cheaper, and the flex it provides helps reduce recoil. Still, while polymer dominates, metal-framed automatics will always have a place in gun owners’ hearts. Who can resist the pull of a metal-framed semi-automatic pistol? 

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

Sign Up for Newsletter

Let us know what topics you would be interested:
© 2024 GunMag Warehouse. All Rights Reserved.
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap