Top Four 9mm Duty Pistols: Comparing the Best of The Best

Today, there is a lot of market variety when it comes to duty pistols, so finding the best one can be a bit of a burden. However, Glock, Sig, Springfield Armory, and Smith & Wesson — four of the largest gun manufacturers — have largely dominated the market. While there are plenty of other companies out there making duty weapons, we’ll focus on these big four brands. Each one has had success with its flagship duty weapon, except the Springfield Armory XD line of guns. They’re kind of terrible.

However, Springfield Armory recently released the new Echelon pistol, which I think is going to be a game-changer.

What is a Duty Weapon?

A duty weapon is what a police officer or other member of law enforcement calls their primary, department-issued weapon. But people often use the term for any primary, full-size weapon, even if they are not in law enforcement. People also tend to drift towards those weapons carried by police because of the extensive review process and available gear for them.

With that said, we’ve put together a quick list of the top four duty pistols in 9mm worth considering in the quest for your next weapon. Let’s get into it.

Glock 17

Glock is the father of the modern polymer handgun. When Gaston Glock presented his first model to the world, Americans were not impressed. A “plastic” gun was not what they wanted at the time. Fast forward a few decades and Glock pistols are now used more by law enforcement agencies than any other weapon currently on the market.

The iconic gun took off like wildfire in the civilian market as well. Named from the order of patents filed, the Glock 17 was the first model to pass NATO testing and found its way into the Norwegian Army. The rest, as they say, is history.

Glock 17 handgun.
The Glock 17 is the father of polymer handguns and remains one of the most popular choices for law enforcement. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
There are a lot of great gun companies making quality guns, but Glock set the bar extremely high. Gun exports across the board agree that Glock handguns are among the most reliable in the world. People have thrown them from airplanes, left them in the ocean, and fired more than 200,000 rounds from them. Not surprisingly, they just keep shooting. I like to say Glock is the AK-47 of pistols. Militaries, law enforcement, private security, and millions of citizens all rely on them.

So, why choose Glock?

Besides the fact they are the most used and tested handgun possibly on the planet, the fact that accessories are readily available and affordable is a factor. You can find more holsters, and upgrade parts for a Glock than any other handgun. Not to mention that Glock magazines are compatible with tons of other guns, like pistol-caliber carbines. They’re not the best-looking gun, in my opinion, but they make up for looks in every other area.

Sig Sauer P320

For years, Sig Sauer was almost at the top but always fell short of Glock pistols. Entering the world about the same time as Glock, the P226 was used by many in the law enforcement world. But they just couldn’t compete with Glock. Not to be outdone, however, Sig Sauer won the military contract for a standard issue sidearm with their P320 series. Designated as the M17 with a few modifications, Sig hit a home run with this one.

Sig P320 M17 handgun.
The Sig P320 (and M17 military version) has become a successful handgun. {Photo: Jason Mosher]

An interchangeable trigger control group separates the internals of the gun from the gun frame. This means you can pull out a pin and lift everything out of the grip within seconds. When you hold a P320, it has a distinct 1911 grip angle that makes it comfortable and natural to shoot. The popularity of the P320 soared when the US government gave them the winning bid. While not as popular as the Glock 17/19, Sig’s standard duty-size weapon is not far behind.

You can easily find holsters, sights, and, of course, different sizes and colors of lower frames (grip module). This makes the Sig P320 a great choice for a duty weapon. They have a great trigger and offer 17-round mags, just like Glock. Magazine compatibility is not as high with other guns as Glock, but they are becoming more popular every day. If you choose the P320 as your duty weapon, you won’t be disappointed.

Smith & Wesson M&P

The Military & Police (M&P) line of pistols has been around for a long time. In fact, the first M&P was the legendary Model 10 revolver in 1899. Down the road, the M&P was released as a semi-auto pistol, which led to the current line of M&P handguns offered by Smith & Wesson today. Their newest version, the M2.0, has been successful and is a solid alternative for those wanting something other than a Glock or Sig.

smith and wesson m&p m2.0
The full-size Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0 is available in 9mm, as pictured. (Photo credit: Smith & Wesson)

I think they have a better look at them than Glocks, but that’s a personal perspective. I’ll admit that I don’t shoot as well with an M&P, but many of my buddies do. Just like Glock and Sig, you can find a whole range of sizes in the M&P if you want to stick with the same platform. From duty weapons to compact carry weapons, Smith & Wesson offers a whole line of M&P guns to choose from. Because the M&P has been around for so long, holsters are not hard to find.

Magazine compatibility is very low, however. Companies producing AR-15 or other styles of rifles in pistol calibers tend to use Glock-compatible mags. If mag compatibility is an issue, this may not be the gun for you. But otherwise, the M&P is a great choice of duty weapon. They are comfortable to shoot, and I’ve never had any issues with reliability.

Springfield Armory Echelon

Until recently, Springfield’s duty weapon flagship line was the XD. I’ve never been a fan of the XD because of the tall slide, which made it feel top-heavy to me. In some respects, it was a popular pistol but not a real contender for the military or law enforcement. They made changes to the design a few times and added additional features like the XD-M. Springfield has a large following of the XD, but I think their new handgun will put the XD to rest.

Springfield Echelon handgun.
The new Springfield Echelon is going to give Glock and Sig a run for their money. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
And by news, I’m talking about the Springfield Armory Echelon. While not trying to offend any XD fans, I just didn’t like the XD at all. But I think the Echelon is going to give Glock, Sig, and S&W a run for their money. This full-size duty weapon feels like it has some Hellcat DNA in it, which I like. The Hellcat has been a great success and is a comfortable CCW gun to carry. The Echelon grip reminds me of the Hellcat, but the rest of the gun is a cool blend of everything.

Maybe my eyes are getting old, but I feel like I see a small amount of several other guns in this one. It’s like someone took a Glock, Sig, M&P, XD and smashed them all together. I’m sure that will offend multiple gun brand buffs, but I see what I see! It’s too early to tell how successful the Echelon will be, but I could see this one being a major home run. My time with it has been limited so far, but I love everything about it.

Which one is for you?

As I mentioned above, this was a quick look at each gun, so I didn’t get into the specs of each model. Most of them sell in the same price range, and the specifications are easy to find on each company’s website. There isn’t a bad choice with any of these guns, so I recommend starting with the one that stands out the most and do your homework. Check out the details of that gun on the manufacturer’s website and then hit some gun stores for a closer look. Once you have made your decision, you can start buying holsters and gear for your new gun.

Because the Echelon is new, it may be a short time before too many holsters are available, but give it time. All of these duty weapons (except the Echelon because it’s new) have been tested extensively and proven to be reliable. If none of them stand out by reading and seeing pictures, head to a gun store and ask to hold each one. They all feel a little different, so take your time making this exciting choice and then hit the range for some training with your new duty weapon.

Sheriff Jason Mosher is a law enforcement generalist instructor as well as a firearms and tactical weapons trainer. Jason graduated from the FBI-LEEDA (Law Enforcement Executive Development Association) and serves as a Sheriff for his day job. When he’s not working, he’s on the range, eating steak, or watching Yellowstone.

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