The Best Modern Combat Proven Handguns, Shotguns, and Rifles

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Arguably, the most important feature of a firearm is to be reliable. We want a firearm that will work as soon as you press the trigger and keep working as you continue to press the trigger. When shopping for a firearm, you want to ensure it’s reliable, so you likely look into gun reviews, YouTube videos, and beyond. What if you want the ultimate test of reliability? To me, that’s a combat-proven firearm. 

Combat Proven Firearms

A firearm that’s withstood the rigors of combat. Combat can be a brutal environment for firearms. Rarely are combat zones hospitable places. They are often sandy deserts, coastal areas, and rainforests. All primed to raise hell on a firearm that’s often being carried by an 18 to 22-year-old whose only experience with firearms might be the rifle in his hands. 

The environments alone are brutal on firearms, not to mention the fact that young troops are notoriously brutal with government equipment. If you gave a PFC in the Marines three bowling balls and locked him in a padded room, he’d lose one, break one, and marry one. When we see firearms that can withstand this abuse and keep functioning, we know we have something special. 

The Modern Standard 

I’d be typing forever if I didn’t limit this to modern firearms. How many Mauser variants would you folks like to read about? I’m keeping it modern. I’m also including guns that are still in production and made by the same companies that made them for the military forces that used them and are in the approximate configuration as their military-issued counterparts. 

Combat Proven Handguns 

Beretta M9 

The good ole M9 replaced the venerable M1911 in 1985 and served the United States military until 2017 as the official sidearm. Admittedly, there are still plenty of M9s still in service right now, but they are on the way out. The Beretta M9 was one of the first widely embraced 9mm duty pistols. It’s most certainly a product of the 1980s with its DA/SA action, all-metal construction, and 15-round magazine. 

3 - The Best Modern Combat Proven Handguns, Shotguns, and Rifles

The M9 was based on the 92FS, which was popular with numerous law enforcement forces. The M9 seems dated these days, but it is, without a doubt, one of the finest fighting pistols ever made. Its unique slide and barrel configuration aids in reliability, and the weapon certainly proved itself in the numerous desert conflicts it found a home in. I even had the privilege to carry one as a machine gunner in the Marine Corps and adored the weapon. 

These days, it does come off as a bit outdated. The M9 doesn’t have optics-ready capability or a rail, but various A1, A3, and A4 incarnations can grant those features. It’s also a thick gun, and I’m not a huge fan of the slide-mounted safety/decocker. Even so, the weapon certainly paid its dues. 

Glock 17/19

I’m combining the Glock 17 and 19 because the biggest difference between the two is a bit of size. Other than grip and barrel length, the guns are identical. The Glock series has been proven by a number of military forces, including the Brits, Australia, France, Germany, and America’s finest warriors in the SOCOM communities. 

The Glock 17 and 19 series are also in use by countless police agencies both domestically and abroad. The series is in its fifth generation at the time, and every generation has served somewhere with someone.

U.S Airforce man shooting pistol
(U.S. Airforce)

In the United States, these guns are in use by Special Mission Units and special operations forces. General Austin Miller famously carried a rather Gucci Glock 17 in Afghanistan. 

The Glock 17 and 19 are 9mm handguns. The 17 is the full-sized variant, and the 19 is the compact model. Both are widely used. The guns are famously the first successful polymer frame, striker-fired guns. The series utilizes an internally simple system that has proven to be very reliable. These guns hardly need any introduction and are still considered to be at the top of the food chain. 

Combat Proven Rifles 

Colt LE6920 

The Colt LE6920 isn’t necessarily used by military forces, but the M4 is. The LE6920 is as close as we can get to the M4 due to the NFA and Hughes Amendment. The LE6920 is the classic name for the firearm, but ever since CZ purchased Colt, these guns are often advertised under the M4 banner. The Colt LE6920 provides a 16-inch barreled, semi-auto-only rifle built to the same specs as the M4. 

U.S. Army man shooting M4
A real M4 isn’t going to happen for most of us. However, the 6920 is built to the same specs as the M4 (US Army)

The M4 series and Colt rifles are well-proven in the United States military. While the age of the M4 and M16 may be coming to an end, it was quite an age. The Colt M4 design has served for 36 years so far and is still the pick of special operations forces. Even amongst some of the most elite forces, the M4 prevails. 

The Colt LE6920 does come with the classic M4 layout. It has a fixed front sight base, old-school plastic handguards, and a collapsing six-position stock. It’s not fancy, but for most shooters, it’s a blank canvas for customization. It’s not like there aren’t literal warehouses worth of options to upgrade the AR-15. The LE6920 provides a well-made, reliable, accurate, and capable rifle that’s most certainly proven itself. 

Remington 700 

When the United States Army and United States Marine Corps wanted to modernize and standardize on a sniper rifle, they both went with the Remington 700. The Army chose the long action, and the Marine Corps went with the short action. Same rifle, different length action. These rifles have remained popular with military forces, although they’ve shifted from rounds like the .308 into rounds like the .300 Winchester Magnum.

United States Marine Corps troops shooting guns on rock
(USMC)

The Remington 700 might also be your dad’s hunting rifle, as it is one of the most mass-produced bolt action rifles…ever. The combat-proven Remington 700 is known for its inherent reliability and ability to operate in nearly any environment without difficulty. As you’d imagine, the accuracy of these rifles is well-proven and perfectly capable of long-range precision fires. 

The Remington 700 series was one of the few weapons to remain in production as Remington was divided and cut into parts and pieces and sold off. The rifle is still quite common and comes in a book’s worth of calibers. The rise in chassis shooting has also granted shooters more precise rifles with greater capabilities than ever before. 

Combat Proven Shotguns 

Benelli M4 

The Benelli M4 series serves as the M1014 Joint Service Shotgun with the United States military. The weapon is young by military standards and was adopted in 1999 after winning the Joint Service Shotgun contract. The Marines famously lead the charge in the program and chase the military’s first standard issue, a semi-auto combat shotgun. 

USMC shooting shotguns
USMC

Getting adopted in 1999 meant the shotgun would get plenty of time to become combat-proven with the Global War on Terror. The M1014 offers users a semi-auto, gas-operated shotgun that makes use of dual pistons to operate the shotgun. This system is self-cleaning and can be run rough and hard in the worst environments possible. That environment includes the dusty streets of Fallujah. 

Benelli sells the M4 as a sporting shotgun and a tactical model. There is even an M1014 model, but due to import laws, the stock is fixed, and capacity is limited to five rounds. Luckily, it’s fairly easy to configure the M4 back to its original configuration. This is one of the most reliable and capable semi-auto shotguns out there, and its price certainly reflects that. 

Mossberg 590

Around the time of the Vietnam War, the American inventory of shotguns was very piecemeal. We had a mix of Ithaca 37s, Model 12s, Remington 870s, and even some older 1897 trench guns still running around. The military wanted to standardize to a degree, and the call went out. Mossberg answered with the Model 500. The military liked it but needed a few things changed. The changes resulted in the Mossberg 590 series. 

3 - The Best Modern Combat Proven Handguns, Shotguns, and Rifles

The Mossberg 590 series is the dedicated tactical variant of the Mossberg 500. These guns feature a redesigned magazine tube system, as well as shorter barrels and capacities ranging from five to eight rounds. The military also uses the 590A1 variants with the heavy-walled barrel and bayonet lugs. These guns have seen combat in offensive operations and have been used for breaching, as well as less lethal riot control duties. 

Since the 1970s, these guns have proven themselves over and over again, including the Army’s brutal MIL-SPEC 3443E protocol. The Mossberg 590 series is widely available in a ton of different configurations these days. Mossberg is more than happy to make these shotguns available to civilians at a rather low price point. These are pump-action shotguns capable of firing up to 3-inch shells. They are a popular choice for home defense.  

The Best of the Best

Do you need a combat-proven firearm? No, there are obviously plenty of options out there that never went to combat and will perform better than these combat-proven options. The military is slow to adopt new firearms and gear, so a lot of these guns may seem out of date. Still, these guns earned a solid reputation, and if you want something you know will work, well, here ya go. 

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  • JJ Karn March 20, 2024, 5:35 pm

    The author lost me at Beretta M9. It would appear that the author has no real field experience with the pistol.

    I was issued an M9 as a replacement for my M1911A1 in 1986, as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division. The pistols were absolutely nothing but problematic. The open top slide that the author claims “aids in reliability” is, in fact, extremely problematic, particularly in sandy environments. Anyone who served at Ft. Bragg knows that most of the drop zones, particularly Sicily DZ, are big sand boxes. We would occasionally jump into one of the closer DZs and road march to the range. The sand from the DZ nearly always got down into the slide rails through the open top slide and rendered the pistol inoperable until it was fully cleaned. We seldom had such problems with the 1911. Additionally, the webbing on the slides on multiple Berettas cracked after some use, again rendering the pistols inoperable. It is, in all possibility, the worst military pistol ever. If you want a steel frame 9mm, get a Browning Hi-Power or a CZ-75. Both are FAR superior platforms. If you prefer tupperware, both Glocks and Springfield XDs are fine choices.

  • Heavyguns31 March 18, 2024, 10:28 am

    You’ll hear a ton of “veterans” say that the m9 was a pile of junk. Untrue. Just because they barely knew which end the bullet came out and didn’t understand the purpose of a cleaning kit doesn’t mean it was a bad gun. I was a USMC machingunner in the desert and also had an m9. No troubles ever. Same after I went to sniper school and was back toting an m40 around the desert, m9 with me then too. I once saw an air force “security” female in a chow line at Anaconda, Balad Iraq with the mag sticking WAY out…I thought it was like a 32 round or something till i got closer…NOPE…that stupid girl just jammed it in the well BACKWARDS….you definitely sleep better at night knowing she was on guard.

    Plus John McClane and Martin Riggs both proved M9’s were the shit back in the day. 🤣

    • Beobear March 18, 2024, 11:40 am

      It’s physically impossible to put the magazine in backwards. You couldn’t do it with sledgehammer, especially in an M9. If it was sticking out that far she likely accidentally hit the mag release and the mag was about to fall out.

      • Heavyguns31 March 18, 2024, 11:59 am

        Wrong. The magwell is a rectangle…the mag is sharply tapered towards the top. She jammed it in backwards. Her “leader” in fact yanked it out and put it in correctly.

        • Beobear March 18, 2024, 12:09 pm

          I know what they look like, I have one right next to me. I see what you mean is she inserted the magazine with the bullets pointing backwards. It sounded like you meant she stuck it in baseplate first but yeah, you’re right, that’s technically backwards too. I kept picturing someone trying to jam a mag in baseplate first lol.

          • Heavyguns31 March 18, 2024, 12:14 pm

            Lol, bingo! I’m doing the same thing sitting here with my duty sig 320. It sticks backwards too lol. I built my wife an AR 9mm, colt style mags cause I have about 40 of em. One day we’re out and she’s complaining the thing jammed. She puts the bullets in backwards. 🤣 but in all fairness that mag is an easier one to confuse. She had it in the right way just primers forward lol. Ok back to work. Have a good day

  • Jim March 18, 2024, 9:47 am

    Colt 1911!

    • D.J. March 18, 2024, 10:58 am

      “ One can lead a horse to water , ……………………. “

      That’s my opinion .

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