Developed in 1902 by Georg Luger, the 9x19mm Parabellum cartridge can brag about being over 100 years old and more successful now than at any other time. Tested by the U.S. Army at the Springfield Arsenal in 1903, the round was actually adopted by the German Navy in 1904 and by the German Army in 1906. The U.S. Army - in 1911 - adopted the .45ACP. Given the plethora of 9mm weapons available, how widely the round is used, and how often I've carried a handgun in this caliber across the span of the last two and a half decades, I thought it would be enjoyable to look back at the weapons and which options I still have available today. Bear in mind I'm not going to list every 9mm handgun made - only the ones I can put my hands on within ten feet of me as I type - or used to own.
And before I get too far into this, let me assure you I'm not going to debate the .45ACP vs 9mm (or .40S&W for that matter). Here's why: if you're using modern hollow point bullet designs I'm just not sure there's a significant enough difference in terminal ballistics to argue about. I believe that shot placement matters more than hole size. Moving on...
Sig Sauer P226
I'm going to start out with the Sig Sauer P226 only because it's the first 9mm that I ever carried on a daily basis. In 1987 the police agency I was working for decided that the issued 6" Colt Trooper .357 Magnum revolvers were a bit outdated. It didn't help that not a single officer was carrying the issued revolver; each of us had gone out and purchased a 4" .38 or .357. So the agency decided to switch to the 9mm and went through an evaluation process to select one. The winner was the Sig Sauer P226.
The basics about the Sig:
Trigger Pull: 10 pound double action, 4.5 pound single action
Length: 7.7" (per Sig's website)
Barrel length: 4.4"
Sight Radius: 6.3"
When I went to the armorer school for Sig in 1988 (they were still in Virginia back then) I learned to like the P226 design even more. Sure, there was a couple of roll pins to deal with, but the gun - by and large - was fairly simple and highly reliable. During our selection process all officers who shot the Sig found it more comfortable than the other pistol options and most had no trouble qualifying with it as well as, if not better than, they did with their revolvers.
When I left the agency I had to give up my Sig and I haven't had a P226 in my armory since then - but that will be rectified shortly (I'm waiting for the paperwork to clear the state's folks now).
Heckler & Koch P7
While I was working for that agency and carrying the Sig P226 on duty, my off-duty gun - for awhile - was an H&K P7. The photo above right shows a P7M13 but mine was what eventually became the P7M8. Mine was so old that it still had the European style magazine release at the heel of the grip. The P7 is essentially a recoil-operated firearm with several unique features. The most obvious is the lever located on the front of the grip that pivots at the bottom. This lever performs a multitude of functions that most pistol aficionados expect other controls for. Double action trigger? Not to be found here. Squeezing the lever cocks the weapon. Single action trigger? Once the weapon is squeeze-cocked, that's what you have, but if you haven't loaded the action by squeezing the lever in, the trigger is a dead piece of pivoting metal that accomplishes nothing. Decocking lever? Not to be found. If the weapon is cocked it's because you've squeezed in the lever to load the action. To decock the weapon, simply loosen your grip to release the lever.
One of the most interesting features of the weapon, but one that isn't noticeable until you field-strip it, is the gas-retarded operation. My pistol came with tritium three-dot night sights and I was surprised to measure a six-inch sight radios (distance between sights) on the pistol. As compact as it appears, I was expecting the sight radius to be reduced. Not so. As a comparison, The Beretta M9 (92FS) and Glock mid-sized 9mm/.40 caliber pistols have approximately the same sight radius, the difference being 1/8 of an inch or less.