Best Pistol of WW2

Discussions on the small arms used by the Axis forces.
jonnyboy369
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Best Pistol of WW2

Post by jonnyboy369 » 12 Sep 2014 11:56

Hello AHF, I was reading the thread about the best submachine gun of the war and I don't honestly personally think there was a good answer. I do however think there was a best pistol. The Browning Hi Power 9mm is my choice. I'm sure some will choose the 1911 .45 ACP, but the .45 vs 9mm debate aside I would like to know if anyone has a choice that would best the Hi Power.

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Poot
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Re: Best Pistol of WW2

Post by Poot » 13 Sep 2014 00:35

My prediction is that this will devolve into personal preferences and national pride...

However, in view of the fact that all combatants at that time used ball ammunition, it only makes sense to use the largest caliber (.45ACP) that a country could support, in order to get the best terminal ballistic results. Most magazines were low capacity, and the 1911, the P.38, the VIS-35, TT-33 and GP-35 were all combat worthy. Combatants didn't get a say in what they were issued, they just used it.

Pistol calibers have come a long way, with there being no significant difference now between the performance results of 9mm, .40 S&W and .45ACP. In any case, a pistol is a TERRIBLE choice for a primary weapon. It is and always has been a secondary weapon.
He who lives by the sword, should train with it frequently.

jonnyboy369
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Re: Best Pistol of WW2

Post by jonnyboy369 » 13 Sep 2014 10:26

I never really thought of the combatants only having ball ammo at the time. That would make the 9mm less effective than today I am sure. The Browning to me seemed like the only handgun with a decent ammo capacity at the time in a decent caliber also. I read that German doctrine considered the pistol a viable combat weapon where other countries considered it only a sidearm. Going into battle with a pistol does seem a pretty bad idea. I kinda feel like I asked a dumb question now but if I had to, that is the only handgun of the time with a high capacity magazine. From photographic and anecdotal evidence it seems like it was a prized weapon on both sides. Come to think of it the photos I remember of it in combat were German machine gunners and British paratroops that must have lost their rifles so they were not these soldiers primary weapons though.

Sid Guttridge
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Re: Best Pistol of WW2

Post by Sid Guttridge » 13 Sep 2014 11:19

I would suggest that the pistol was a token weapon in all conventional military forces in WWII (and arguably always). It tended to symbolize officer status in much the way a sword had previously.

I would therefore propose that in conventional warfare terms there was no "best pistol". They were all pretty useless. At most one is looking for a "best worst" firearm.

One has to ask oneself whether there was any likely recurrent circumstance in conventional warfare in which one might prefer to have been issued with a pistol rather than some alternative weapon. Not much springs to mind.

The pistol was only of some unique value to irregular forces which might require concealable weapons for assassinations. SOE contracted a small Argentine pistol for this purpose. Perhaps it is an unlikely contender? Does anyone recall its name?

Cheers,

Sid.

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JTV
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Re: Best Pistol of WW2

Post by JTV » 13 Sep 2014 15:38

jonnyboy369 wrote:I never really thought of the combatants only having ball ammo at the time. That would make the 9mm less effective than today I am sure.
It is not a matter of time, but the matter of being military fighting a war. International law and treaties (Declaration of St. Petersburg year 1868 plus Hague Conventions of year 1899 and 1907) basically forbid mlitary use of exploding or fragmenting ammunition of less than 37-mm caliber against soldiers on the open (read: not inside building, vehicle or structure of some sort). That is why military pistol, rifle and other small arms ammo is full metal jacket type instead of hollow point even today.
Going into battle with a pistol does seem a pretty bad idea. I kinda feel like I asked a dumb question now but if I had to, that is the only handgun of the time with a high capacity magazine. From photographic and anecdotal evidence it seems like it was a prized weapon on both sides.
During World War 2 most countries were still sending their officers to battle with just a pistol or revolver, but that was just the official way of doing things. At least in here (Finland) infantry platoon leaders and company commanders solved the problem by carrying a submachine gun or rifle in addition of pistol - no matter it was not in official table of equipment or not. Other side of the coin is that during World War 2 typical infantry soldier from grand majority of countries was armed a bolt action rifle - which my modern standards have slow rate of fire and tend to be slow to reload. Hence it should be no surprise that pistols were popular as secondary weapon that a lot of soldiers preferred to carry in addition of rifle.

I would rank FN HP quite likely the best pistol of the era - but only if it came with attachable stock that when needed allowed turning the pistol into a small carbine with effective range much longer than a normal pistol. Otherwise IMO it would a tie in between 1911 and FN HP.

Jarkko

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JTV
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Re: Best Pistol of WW2

Post by JTV » 13 Sep 2014 16:00

Sid Guttridge wrote:One has to ask oneself whether there was any likely recurrent circumstance in conventional warfare in which one might prefer to have been issued with a pistol rather than some alternative weapon. Not much springs to mind.
Pilots, tank crews, snipers (secondary to sniper rifle), machinegunners (as secondary weapon for CQB)...

Jarkko
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LineDoggie
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Re: Best Pistol of WW2

Post by LineDoggie » 13 Sep 2014 16:54

In most european nations the pistol was more a badge of the Officer than a viable weapon for the battlefield.

Some German & Italian Officers carried ridiculously anemic handguns in .25ACP chamberings.

I would think the parameters for "Best Pistol" would include
Ease of maintenance/Field Stripping
Reliability
Training

I personally consider the M1911A1 as best due to being trained on them, having used them in Service competition, Owning several and the .45ACP round. That said the Radom, Hi power, And Nambu 14 rank among the best.

The Luger is sensitive to dirt, the P-38 has an atrocious trigger, the Berettas and PPK's are anemic, the revolvers archaic,
"There are two kinds of people who are staying on this beach: those who are dead and those who are going to die. Now let’s get the hell out of here".
Col. George Taylor, 16th Infantry Regiment, Omaha Beach

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JTV
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Re: Best Pistol of WW2

Post by JTV » 13 Sep 2014 18:37

LineDoggie wrote: Some German & Italian Officers carried ridiculously anemic handguns in .25ACP chamberings.
Might be worth considering that if a senior officer like regimental or division commander or other staff officer finds himself in middle of combat without own infantry presence to do the fighting for him, things have really gone wrong in such scale, that what pistol he has is very low in list of worries.
I would think the parameters for "Best Pistol" would include
Ease of maintenance/Field Stripping
Reliability
Training
I agree to that otherwise, but reliability obviously ranks as 1st priority with ease of basic maintenance coming far behind. As for training, I would leave that one out, it is not the pistols fault or achievement if the soldiers using it were poorly or well trained.

Based to personal experience: (scale: poor - fair - good - excellent)
1911: Good reliability, excellent round, fair sights, good trigger, good ergonomics, fair magazine capacity (7), maintenance easy.
FN HP: Good reliability, good round, poor/fair sights, fair trigger, good ergonomics, excellent magasine capacity (13), maintenance easy.
P-38: Good reliability, good round, good sights, good trigger, fair ergonomics, good magazine capacity (8), maintenance easy.
P-08: Fair reliability, good round, poor sights, good trigger, good ergonomics, good magazine capacity (8), maintenance fair.
L-35: Good reliability, good round, good sights, good trigger, fair ergonomics, good magazine capacity (8), maintenance easy.
M/23 Parabellum (7.65 x 22): Fair reliability, decent round, good trigger, good ergonomics, good magazine capacity (8), maintenance fair.
Mauser m/1895-14 (9 x 19): Fair reliability(?), good round, good trigger, poor ergonomics, excellent capacity but difficult to reload (10), maintenance poor.
TT-33: Good reliability, good round, poor-fair trigger, poor-fair ergonomics, good magazine capacity (8), maintenance decent.
Nagant m/1895: Good reliability, poor round, poor trigger, poor ergonomics, fair capacity (7) with very slow reload, maintenance easy.

Jarkko
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Poot
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Re: Best Pistol of WW2

Post by Poot » 13 Sep 2014 19:16

The limitations of the pistol to CQB environments for all but the most highly trained and capable operators are part of what spurred the development of the US M1 Carbine. It was issued to those whom had received pistols before (see Jarkko's list above), but was also deployed as a primary arm with first line and elite units. It's cartridge is between a pistol cartridge and a full powered rifle cartridge, but definitely NOT in the same class as the classic intermediate cartridges, like the 7.92x33 kurz and the late developed 7.62x39mm.
Pat
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JTV
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Re: Best Pistol of WW2

Post by JTV » 13 Sep 2014 20:19

Poot wrote:The limitations of the pistol to CQB environments for all but the most highly trained and capable operators are part of what spurred the development of the US M1 Carbine.
While this goes somewhat off-topic, I find the reasoning behind that seems bit weird, since there was already an existing and tested equipment concept for that role - namely submachine gun. So, why develop a totally new type of weapon concept instead of developing a better submachine gun?

Pick a weapon for CQB back then:
1. M1 carbine: Semiauto with 15 round magazines and ammunition which gained poor reputation for lack of stopping power.
2. M1928A1 Thompson: Select fire with 20, 30 or 50 round magazines in .45 ACP.
Seems to be rather obvious choice?

Jarkko
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ChristopherPerrien
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Re: Best Pistol of WW2

Post by ChristopherPerrien » 13 Sep 2014 20:25

The 45 ACP stands on its own even today, and the Browning Hi-Power gave birth to the 9 mm craze that has pretty much swept the world.

Both being Brownings and almost identical except for caliber and forced patent design changes, It is easy to say a/the Browning Automatic was the best pistol of WWII and WWI and even still today. :milsmile:

IMO, the 45 "Browning" version is a slightly better shooter, and is slightly more reliable due to single column feed and less parts.

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Poot
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Re: Best Pistol of WW2

Post by Poot » 14 Sep 2014 00:37

Jarkko,
I agree. Sub-guns were distributed at the squad level, not intentionally to personnel assigned to crew served weapons, officers, drivers, et al.

There's a reason the Marine Corps stuck to the idea that 'EVERY Marine is a rifleman.'
Pat
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Re: Best Pistol of WW2

Post by SVaaka » 14 Sep 2014 10:38

Yes only answer is FN GP-1935. Largest magazine, preforms nicely when fired and can use also higher loaded 9mm ammo. Not too many springs to make it unreliable and fantastic grip. No wonder it is most widely used piastol on earth.

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JTV
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Re: Best Pistol of WW2

Post by JTV » 14 Sep 2014 11:37

SVaaka wrote:Yes only answer is FN GP-1935. Largest magazine, preforms nicely when fired and can use also higher loaded 9mm ammo. Not too many springs to make it unreliable and fantastic grip. No wonder it is most widely used piastol on earth.
More likely it was the most widely used pistol on earth. The situation was changed a lot during the last two - three decades with new pistol designs eroding the popularity of GP-35. The ugly fact is that when it comes to manufacturing techniques pistols with steel frames are now old-fashioned because plastic frames are simply so much cheaper and easier to mass-produce.

GP-35 also has its share of less than successful features - these would include:
- Magazine safety feature -> trigger would be much better without it.
- Very small safety switch -> should be bigger for easy use.
- Tangent-sight used in early pistols is quite unncecessary (sight settings up to 500 meters) and provides quite a poor sight picture (both blade and notch are small plus the sight picture is too "tight" for fast aim).

Jarkko

Sid Guttridge
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Re: Best Pistol of WW2

Post by Sid Guttridge » 14 Sep 2014 15:33

Hi JTV,

The pilot's primary weapon was his aircraft. How often, one wonders, were aircrew pistols actually used? If they came down behind their own lines they were unnecessary and if behind the enemy's they were effectively unemployable. Only in cases of fluid ground battle with friendly forces close might they possibly have been of some use, but even then how often were they actually used to advantage when all likely opponents would be better armed?

The primary weapon of tank crews was the tank. Again, one wonders how often were their pistols actually used effectively, olr even at all? Every enemy they were likely to run into would be better armed. In North Africa the crew of a Tiger with a thrown track had to surrender to a Greek jeep!

Again, for snipers it was a secondary weapon.

The Number Twos on crewed machine guns were initially issued with pistols, but even in the under equipped Romanian Army they were later ordered replaced by SMGs.

In none of these cases was a pistol the weapon of choice. At best it was one of last resort, but one rarely used due to adverse circumstances or its inherent limitations.

Cheers,

Sid.

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