The 5 Favorite Guns That I First Shot in 2023

During 2023, I had the opportunity to shoot a lot of different guns for the first time. Some were new to the market, and some were just new to me. They ranged from the excellent Sig Cross rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor (pictured below) to the diminutive and, in my opinion, dangerous, Taurus PT22. It was tough to pick out my 5 favorite guns that I first shot in 2023, but here is what I ended up with, in no particular order:

Sig Cross rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor

Smith & Wesson Folding Pistol Carbine (FPC)

I had a couple of occasions to shoot the excellent Smith & Wesson FPC. This handy little gun gives you a rifle-length barrel in a package that folds in half for easy storage. My first session with the gun was about 200 rounds, using “iron” sights. The gun ran flawlessly and, once I zeroed it, was very accurate. It was pleasant and soft shooting. The handling characteristics were good. The second session I shot was with a suppressor and a red dot. Even with the suppressor, the gun ran flawlessly. My wife also shot it and found it to be just as easy for her to handle. Overall, the gun seems like a winner and gets a thumbs-up from me. To read a more in-depth discussion of the FPC, click here. It easily made my 5 favorite guns that I first shot in 2023.

Smith & Wesson Folding Pistol Carbine

Springfield Armory Echelon

I did an in-depth review of the Echelon recently. To say that I liked the gun would be an understatement. I was not a fan of Springfield Armory, but this gun changed my mind. It has some of the best ergonomics I’ve seen on a stock gun under $1k. It shoots great, has been completely reliable, and is a very accurate gun. For the past few years, I have used a Canik TP9 SA for new shooters as their first full-sized handgun because the gun shoots so easily. The Springfield Echelon may be taking over that role. Whether you are an experienced shooter or new to the sport, I would recommend trying out the Echelon. It is definitely one of my 5 favorite guns that I first shot in 2023.

Springfield Armory Echelon

Palmetto State Armory Dagger

I haven’t written a review of the Palmetto State Armory Dagger yet, simply because I haven’t shot it enough. But the rounds I have put through it have been very promising. The Dagger is a clone of the Gen 3 Glock 19. Many of its parts are interchangeable with the Glock. But there are a few things that Palmetto State Armory did to the Dagger that is better than the Glock. One of the biggest upgrades is using steel sights, not polymer ones. It’s no secret that Glock sights can be fragile, and PSA addressed that problem head-on. The other thing they did was to not have an optics system like the Glock MOS system. Instead, they made the Dagger with either an RMR pattern optics cut or the Docter pattern. Mine uses the RMR pattern, giving me the ability to direct mount a variety of optics at a variety of price points.

Palmetto State Armory Dagger

The biggest gripes I see in the internet groups are about the trigger. It is similar to the first-generation M&P pistols. Personally, I’m not a big trigger snob and I don’t have any difficulty shooting the gun well. It’s much better than the trigger on the Beretta APX A1 Carry. If I were planning to use this gun as an everyday carry gun or for competition, I’d probably shop for new triggers. But for a gun to just use on the range or to have as a backup to the backup, I’m going to leave it alone. I got mine for $249, which is absurdly low for an optics-ready gun with a threaded barrel that shoots accurately and, so far, reliably. More to come.

Sig Sauer P320 Max

A little earlier this year, I got my factory certification as a Sig P320 Armorer. From plain Jane 320 Nitron to the X5 Legion to the X5 DH3, I’ve shot a lot of different models of the 320 platform. One of my 5 favorite guns that I first shot in 2023 was the P320 Max. This full-size X-frame pistol is optimized for competition, specifically in the Carry Optics division. While I don’t actively compete, I can appreciate how well this gun shot.

Sig P320 Max

This pistol is designed by Sig pro shooter Max Michel and uses the Sig Romeo 3 Max red dot. It shot excellently. I shot it alongside the 320 Spectre Comp. The Spectre comp was a nice gun, but I’d pick the 320 Max 10 out of 10 times. The Romeo 3 Max sight has a huge window and was ridiculously easy to acquire. The version I shot was the 3 MOA dot and you have to appreciate being able to put 4 of 5 shots into a ragged hole as soon as you pick up the gun. If you’re considering competing or just want an excellent home defense gun, the P320 Max is a good choice to look at.

Ruger Security 380

I’ve been a fan of Ruger firearms for a long time, but Ruger Security 380 surprised even me. This sub-compact 380 shoots like a much bigger gun. It is accurate, soft shooting, and has been reliable so far. It became my wife’s everyday carry gun, replacing her Glock 43. One of the biggest reasons for the switch was how pleasant this gun was to shoot. She not only shoots it better, but enjoys shooting it more, so she shoots more often. It has good ergonomics, good sights, and a pretty decent trigger. It also bumps up her ammo capacity. For anyone with grip strength issues, this gun is a winner and, in my opinion, a much better choice than the Smith & Wesson 380 EZ.

Ruger Security 380

The longer review of the Ruger Security 380 is here. I highly recommend trying this gun out. It will probably surprise you as much as it surprised me.

Honorable Mention: Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P R8 revolver

This is a unique entry. I did not get to shoot a lot of rounds through the R8, but the limited amount of shooting I did with it was awesome. I got to shoot it at the Grand Opening of the new Smith & Wesson plant and HQ in Maryville, TN.

The Performance Center M&P R8 is an 8-shot .357 magnum revolver that is built on the N frame, the same frame as the .44 magnum made famous in the Dirty Harry movies. They tune the trigger and the action, making them smoother than production guns. The big frame is made of Scandium and could have easily been one of my 5 favorite guns that I first shot in 2023

Shooting it was like shooting a laser beam. I have experience shooting revolvers (and it is different than shooting autos), so it wasn’t unusual for me. My wife, however, doesn’t have a ton of revolver experience. She was immediately making hit after hit on the dueling tree at 15 yards. That is a testament to how easy to shoot this gun truly is. I don’t have a good picture of the gun, but you can read and see more here.

There are Many More

There are many more guns I’d love to talk about. My first shots review of the Canik SFx Rival is online. The Smith & Wesson FPC wasn’t the only pistol-caliber carbine I tried this year. The Sig MPX PCC was an excellent shooting gun….but those, and others, will just have to wait for another list.

Have you shot any of these? What did you think? Or what is on your list of stuff you need to try? Let us know in the comments below.

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