By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters
No one knows what the future will hold, but given the current place and time, we can prognosticate based on present developments and what that likely means in terms of what comes next. What is the handgun of the future likely to be? What will it be like?
Well, based on the current state of handgun development, there are a few design elements that a person could realistically infer will be on the next generation of pistols.
Since there isn’t going to be a SHOT Show in 2021, we’ll just have to wait for new guns to be released on their own. Given that most gun companies are scrambling to keep up with demand, new product development is probably on the back burner for the moment.
So, just for fun, let us ruminate on what the Handgun Of Tomorrow! is likely to be.
Let’s start with what’s almost certainly going to be the same.
Unless electronic triggers become more prevalent – which is unlikely – chances are that we’re still going to be dealing with the striker-fired mechanism. It is too firmly ensconced in handgun design for there to be any sort of leap forward.
In fact, let’s take it a step further.
The reality is that handgun and indeed all firearm design regarding the actual firing system itself hasn’t basically changed in decades. How many decades depends on how one views it.
Obviously, Glock is the biggest brand in handguns at the moment. However, it’s worth mentioning that the striker firing system was actually invented by John Moses Browning in 1908, first featured on the Colt Model 1908 Vest Pocket pistol.
Of course, Glock didn’t copy Browning’s design wholesale as there are significant differences but the gist of the design – the slide pre-cocks the mechanism, the trigger trips it – is still the same.
Single-action, double-action only and double/single-action mechanisms are likewise no different than they were in the early 20th century, when the single-action semi-auto (Browning again) and DA/SA pistols (the first being the Walther PP, in 1929) were invented.
In other words, unless there’s some great leap forward nothing will probably change in the firing mechanism.
The possible exception is electronic trigger systems. In an electric trigger system, the trigger acts as a switch completing a circuit. Typical designs either actuate a hammer and firing pin electromagnetically, or the current is applied directly to the primer to detonate it.
They’re common in Olympic/ISSF Rapid Fire events but they have only been offered for typical consumer firearms as a curiosity such as the DigiTrigger and a few select guns of which none were commercially successful.
The benefits are an impossibly short trigger press and improved safety, since there’s less reliance on the safety of a mechanical system. So it’s possible that electronic triggers may be part of the next generation of pistol designs.
We can also presume a polymer frame, as they are the norm. That jig has been up for some time, of course, across basically all firearm types, so that shouldn’t be revelatory.
Caliber is probably not going to be a factor. In the past 30 years, only two new pistol calibers have seriously caught on, those being 10mm Auto and .40 S&W. The former remains rather niche and the latter is waning in popularity.
You could mention .357 Sig, but it was a total flash in the pan. Sig Sauer only offers two pistols chambered for it, and they invented it. That tells you something.
5.7mm is interesting as a concept, but what results do exist indicate it is not the improvement over 9x19mm than some of the laity believe it to be.
What, therefore, is the next frontier?
Had one to guess, the next frontier is the integration of all the bits that people add.
It will probably start with fully kitted out pistols from the factory, replete with optic and weapon light.
The next step will be a fully integrated housing that’s part of the slide, as well as a housing for a light aft of the trigger guard. Imagine the Hudson H9, just instead of the recoil assembly, it’s the guts of a TLR-1.
The Achilles’ Heel of red dot optics is durability; every other known issue (battery life, reticle size, etc.) is curable by simply spending more on a better optic, but you can only do so much to keep glass from breaking.
Granted, there are some efforts to improve pistol optics in this regard, such as the Aimpoint Acro and Holosun 509 sights, which have more fully enclosed housings. The next logical step, of course, would be to integrate the housing into the slide.
That would, of course, take some mighty fancy machining.
Another potential frontier is increased modularity, such as with the Laugo Alien pistol.
The Laugo Alien uses a similar piston-delayed recoil system like the H&K P7 and Walther CCP, but where it’s genius lies is the slide assembly which – unlike other pistol slides – is actually a two-piece; the sights lock onto the frame while the slide assembly travels.
This allows fast changes between sighting systems, whether one wants iron sights or an optic. Since the sight block doesn’t reciprocate, you don’t have to worry about losing zero.
However, the Laugo Alien is also a boutique, hand-made pistol meant more for competition shooters with a price tag to match. Shooting one is unlike any other pistol, and I highly recommend it if you ever get the change.
Whether that will translate to a more mass-market design remains to be seen.
However, it is known that competition shooters have had multiple slide setups for years to compete in several divisions of USPSA and other shooting series, such as Rob Leatham’s custom Springfield 1911s.
It’s conceivable that this may filter down to the average consumer.
After all, what starts as a tool for competition often becomes one for more mundane use; cars today have paddle-shifted transmissions, though that technology was first used by Ferrari’s Formula 1 team, winning Nigel Mansell a world championship in the bargain.
Had one to guess, more integrated builds and modularity are probably the next frontier of handgun design, more so than anything else.
Sam Hoober is a Contributing Editor to AlienGearHolsters.com, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit aliengearholsters.com.