Special Report

25 High-Velocity Handguns, Ranked

According to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the number of firearms manufactured in the U.S. has tripled since 2000. Fueling this years-long gun-buying bonanza has been rising demand for handguns. In 2009, semi-automatic handguns began outselling hunting rifles, underscoring a consumer shift toward guns typically used for personal protection. (This is how many guns people bought in each state so far this year.)

A civilian-firearms market the size of the United States means buyers have a wide selection of revolvers and pistols to choose from. How much punch a handgun delivers is typically measured by the pressure on the bullet the moment the firing pin ignites the powder, measured in the U.S. by pounds per square inch (psi), and the velocity of the bullet as it leaves the muzzle, measured by feet per second.

But gauging the power of a handgun isn’t simply a matter of how much explosive pressure is put on the bullet, or even of the bullet type. Some popular handguns for personal protection have lower pressure than other guns but deliver faster muzzle velocity. For example, the Ruger Wrangler single action revolver using .22 LR ammunition has relatively low chamber pressure of 24,000 psi but its muzzle velocity is 41% faster than that of a Ruger LCP semi-automatic pistol firing a .380 bullet with a chamber pressure of 62,000 psi.  

To compile a ranking of high-velocity handguns, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed a list of some of the most popular handguns in the U.S. as of July 2022 published by American Firearms, a firearms information site. We considered muzzle velocity – the starting speed of the bullet after the gunpowder has been ignited – as the primary criterion for our ranking. Recommended ammunition and price come from American Firearms and from other online sources. (Compare our list with our roster of the 50 most popular guns in the world.)

Click here to see the world’s 25 highest-velocity handguns.

Among the 25 handguns on this list, prices vary widely, from a Sig Sauer P266 for about $2,500 to a Heritage Rough Rider single-action revolver, which can be found for around $100. The most powerful one of all ranked here, the Ruger GP100 double-action revolver – which boasts a muzzle velocity of 1,525 feet per second – sells for about $950.  

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