The Best Budget Competition Pistols

— Travis PikeCADRE Dispatch

The world of action pistol shooting can be an intimidating venture. There are lots of rules and safety concerns, and no one wants to lose! Still, it’s one of the best things you can do to build your skills. You get to see where you stand, and honestly, for me, it was one of the best ways to self-evaluate my skills.

With that in mind, if you want to compete, you might want to look into handguns built for competition. That can get expensive, so let’s talk budget competition pistols. 

What Does Budget Mean, for competition handguns? 

Our budget is less than $1000. You might recoil from that. Yep, it’s a lot of money, but that’s cheap for a competition pistol. The typical average price is around $2,000, with models reaching well above $5,000. An out-of-the-box, budget competition pistol under a grand can be a great bargain.

competition holster and gun
Good competition guns cost lots of money.

Do You Need a Special Competition Handgun? 

You might already have a handgun that’s perfectly suited for competition. A Glock 19 is a great gun, especially for new competitors. It’s not the perfect gun, but it will get you started. Most regular, reliable guns can be competition pistols. There is likely a class your gun fits into. It might be the optimum choice, but it doesn’t mean you’ll place last. 

Rob Leatham USPSA
You can’t become the great one by staying at home. Here, Rob Leatham from Team Safariland competes in the 2015 USPSA Single Stack Nationals.

What is The Best Caliber For Competition? 

That all depends on what type of competition you’d like to compete in. Some guns have different power factors that change the scoring procedure. Some will designate the smallest acceptable caliber, and others may be less restrictive. Outlaw matches might be a total free-for-all-all.

There isn’t necessarily a best caliber for competition, just calibers that are accepted. In general, to get started, 9mm is often a great way to go. It tends to be widely accepted, it’s common, and it’s affordable. 

Glock 34 MOS 

You can probably grab any Glock and find some kind of competitive shoot to enter. The Glock 17 and Glock 19 are great guns and fit in well with the competition world. However, the Glock 34 takes the crown by being the biggest of the bunch. It’s not necessarily more accurate than the standard length Glock 17 slide but it’s easier to shoot accurately due to the longer sight radius. Beyond accuracy, the extra weight and barrel length trim recoil down significantly. 

The Glock 34 is a 9mm Glock and uses the 17’s magazines. Finding slightly extended models, baseplates, and more allows you to add an edge to your gun. The MOS model is the optic’s ready design, which makes it perfect for the Carry Optics division. The new Glock Marksman’s barrel on the Gen 5 models gives you match-grade accuracy. Plus, Glock’s record of reliability can’t be beat. 

glock 34
The Classic Glock 34 is a fantastic way to get into competitive shooting.

The Glock 34 as a whole benefits greatly from the customizable potential of Glock handguns. You can build out your Glock 34 to fit most competition classes outside of backup guns. With the longer barrel, it’s basically a blank canvas for adding extra features, like bigger controls, mag wells, and more.

The Glock 34 is also fairly common and affordable at around $600-ish. It’s a heckuva gun and is a great way to dive into the competition pistol world. 

Walther PDP Pro SD Full Size

Walther built the PDP around the idea of using a red dot. The ergonomics and grip are supposedly built around aiming with a red dot. I’m not sure how much that factors into the gun’s success, but it’s a really sweet shooter. The PDP Pro SD is a great out-of-the-box competition option. 

One trigger pull will make you an addict and you won’t stop thinking about how awesome it is. It’s crisp, smooth, and wonderful. The PDP full-size features a five-inch barrel that stretches it beyond most full-sized guns. This results in a great degree of control over the gun and an excellent sight radius. The stock sights co-witness through most red dots as well. 

Walther PDP Pro SD full-size - competition pistol

Ergonomically, the gun is brilliant. The grip texture is hyper-aggressive and sticks the gun to your hand. The magazine release is roughly the size of a 50-cent piece. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but it’s huge and very easy to reach and engage with. The slide release is large as well — it’s ultra-aggressive with a shelf you could practically stack paint on. 

With the Pro SD Full size, we get several nice features. This includes a threaded barrel to take the gun into open categories with a compensator. A dinner plate-sized magwell has been added for those quick and easy reloads. With an MSRP of around $850, it’s not the cheapest option, but it’s feature-filled. 

Canik SFx Rival-S 

Canik has always offered good pistols at a fair price. As they’ve become more popular, Canik has broken out of the plain Jane pistol mold and gotten into the world of out-of-the-box competition pistols. The SFx Rival-S comes packed to the gills with a wide variety of features for a very fair price.

Canik uses the Walther P99 mechanism as their base, but this is not a DA/SA pistol. The SFx Rival-S uses a simple pre-cocked striker, but that’s about the only simple thing about it.

The SFx Rival-S comes with a five-inch barrel and utilizes an optic-ready design with five plates to accommodate dozens of different optic options. Some strategic cuts have made the slide a little lighter to help reduce recoil, and a ton of aggressive slide serrations made it easy to rack and roll. 

canik sfx rival-s pistol
The Canik series has grown substantially, and the SFx Tival-S gives you a great out-of-the-box option.

The trigger is a straight 90-degree design. Shooters can swap the magazine release with three different-sized options. It comes with an optional magwell for quick reloads and a very Walther-like slide release. The package retails for around $650. 

One thing to keep in mind is the sight and optic setup. Using the optic plates removes the rear sight. If your optic goes down, then your day is over. There are no suppressor height sights, and with an optic, there is no rear sight. 

SIG Sauer P320 XFULL 

SIG’s XSeries brings us a surprisingly nice entry-level competition pistol with the P320 XFULL. This is a full-sized, optic-ready gun with the X Series grip module. The standard XFULL retails for around $650, and if you shop around, you can even find the RXP, which includes a ROMEO1PRO optic for less than a grand. 

The P320 series is comprised of striker-fired, polymer-frame pistols that have successfully secured numerous police contracts as well as the U.S. Military Modular Handgun Contract. SIG has lots and lots of ‘series,’ and the X-Series rates highly. 

Sig P320 xfull
The XFULL is a big gun with great ergonomics, an optic-ready design, and the X-Series grip module. (Photo Credit: Sig Sauer)

The flat-faced trigger provides a nice smooth pull, and crisp, audible, and tactile reset. The X-Series grip frame is a little boxier but allows for a better grip on the gun as well as great recoil displacement. The grip module features a higher undercut on the trigger guard and a solid beavertail at the rear for a nice, comfortable grip that sits nice and high for maximum control. 

The XFULL packs suppressor height sights for when you inevitably add an optic. The full-sized design gives you great control and sight radius. It’s not the fanciest, but for a little more than the Glock 34, you’re getting a number of awesome features. 

Taurus TX22 Competition SCR 

Last but not least, our most affordable option is the Taurus TX22 Competition SCR. SCR stands for Steel Challenge Ready, and that’s exactly where this pistol belongs. Steel Challenge allows the use of .22LR, making the TX22 Competition a great way to slide into the sport without spending a whole ton of money. 

The Competition model comes with a built-in red dot plate that remains stationary as the gun cycles. This makes it easy to track the dot and shoot quick, fast, and in a hurry. If optics aren’t your jam (they really should be), then the sights are adjustable for a nice, precise shot placement. Those sights also co-witness with mounted optics. 

The Taurus TX22-SCR
Looking to get into competition? Then the Steel-Challenge-ready SCR is perfect. (Photo Credit: Taurus)

The SCR model also features an attached compensator to what is already basically zero muzzle rise and reduces it even further. It becomes one of the most controllable pistols out there. The bull barrel in use with the SCR is also a nice touch for high-volume shooting and precision. 

The TX22 series has proven itself to be quite reliable with a ton of different .22LR ammo, including even some of the hotter bulk stuff. If you want to get into Steel Challenge, the TX22 Competition SCR is the perfect beginner gun. Steel Challenge tends to be the perfect beginner shooting competition, so the two go hand in hand. 

Keep Competing 

Competition is a great way to take your shooting skills to a new level. It tests you, applies pressure, and puts you against the clock. The target and timer never lie, and through adversity, you can only get better. A good handgun will take you part of the way, but you’ll need to do the rest! 

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