Top Five Guns of 2011

As 2011 winds down, I’d like to talk about some of my favorite guns from this year.

This hasn’t been an easy task for me — I have had a hard time narrowing it down to just five. But here you go.

1) The Springfield Armory Range Officer .45 ACP 1911

springfield armory range officer handgun on wooden table

As it is the 100th anniversary of Mr. Browning’s workhorse, so I have to go with a 1911. While I would like to pay my respects to the work of Colt, Remington, and Ruger, my heart belongs to Springfield Armory’s Range Officer — the smoothest shooting production 1911.

There has been a lot of ink spilled in praise of the Range Officer.  Most of the reviews focus on its potential as a competition gun.  True enough.  But I like the combination of old-school 1911 aesthetics and custom 1911 fit and function. It has the best of both worlds.

2) The Kel-Tec 12 gauge KSG

kel tec ksg on table indoors

Kel-Tec’s bullpup shotgun has to be the most badass weapon to hit the market in 2011.  I’m getting a bit dreamy here.  It’s such a big idea that it has taken the attention of gun lovers across the country. I love Kel-Tec …

Even if there’s something seriously dubious about the gun, I would still give it my vote. The reasons should be obvious.  The dual magazine tubes allow for more ammunition.  The dual tubes allow for a unique mix of types of shot.  The bullpup design makes the gun both legal and lethal.

While every element of the KSG seems familiar, I respect how Kel-Tec has combined them. This is innovation.

3) The Beretta Nano 9mm

the beretta nano handgun sitting on a table indoors

The Beretta Nano is a nice little gun. I’ve been through way too many boxes of .380 and 9mm this year.  The race for who-can-make-the-smallest is, in my opinion, pointless.

Someone at Beretta read my mind.  I was thinking to myself why can’t I have a smallish gun that shoot 9mm, one that’s built like a tank, easy enough to conceal, yet works perfectly—every time? And here she is.  The Nano.

In order for you to understand how much I love the Nano, you should understand where I am coming from. 

If I’m not carrying a S&W Model 60 .357, I’m hiding a Walther PPK, or a Colt Mustang.  But not anymore.  I like the Nano better.

4) The Ruger SP 101

ruger sp101 in a mans hands

The last few years have brought big changes to the revolver market—Smith & Wesson’s Governor, Taurus’s Judges, Chiappa’s ugly old Rhinos—but my favorite revolver of 2011 is a bit more practical—Ruger’s humble .22 LR SP 101.

I know I’m going to get some comments on this one.  But this is my list and I think this is a great gun.  And if you have a bug-out-bag, you should consider the relative merits of the .22 LR revolver.

The SP 101 is modest and way overbuilt.  But that’s what I like about it. This might be the perfect plinking gun.  Unlike the Ruger .22 autos, the SP 101 will take any of the .22 rounds.  So you can shoot with low-noise, shorts, or dirt cheap bulk junk.  And it is 100 percent easier to clean than the Mark III.  But this isn’t a gun I’d clean all that often.  And that is precisely why I like it.

In a world dominated by the gratuitous, the Ruger SP 101 is basic, rugged, and dependable – simply perfect.

5) The Ruger .308 Gunsite Scout.

gunsite scout rifle on a camo jacket in the grass

Speaking of gratuitous.  The subtlety Ruger built into the SP 101 is noticeably absent from this do-it-all gun.  The short barreled Gunsite Scout, chambered in .308 Winchester, is part Model 77, part assault rifle.

There are those who want specialized tools – and this gun isn’t for them.  Its barrel is not long enough for super long range accuracy.  Assault rifle aficionados might grumble about the bolt action.

But the Gunsite Scout is a fun gun.  It has so many different applications and so many possible configurations.  While other guns will do certain jobs better, the Gunsite will do everything well.  And that is really the driving philosophy behind this weapon.  If you can only carry one gun, it better be versatile.

That’s it.  Five.  I’m sad to see the year go, but there will be more surprises next year and I can’t wait to see them.

What are your favorite guns from 2011?

(Cover courtesy of

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