SHOT Show is all about the latest and greatest firearms, knives, accessories, and gear. But there’s so much to see that good products sometimes fly under the radar just a bit. Every handgun manufacturer sets out a row, or rows, of pistols and it can be difficult to pick out the hidden gems. So, in the spirit of looking past the obvious, here is our totally subjective list of the top five underrated handguns of SHOT Show 2023, in alphabetical order.
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Beretta 80X Cheetah
The new Beretta Cheetah is a modern upgrade of the classic Beretta 80 Series guns of the 1970s and 1980s. Those were slick little guns that have remained popular, though their design is somewhat dated. The first thing we noticed when handling the Cheetah was the different grip. The old 80 series grips feel very similar to the 92 series guns.
The new 80X Cheetah features a smaller Vertec-style grip, providing better traction than the older models, which sometimes felt a bit slick. The trigger has been upgraded to the X-treme S Double Single, whose reset can be adjusted to a single millimeter. The skeletonized hammer looks cool and offers positive texture.
The front accessory rail adds versatility, and the front and rear cocking serrations make for easier slide manipulation than the older series guns. We were hoping for a 9mm version, but the only available chambering is .380 ACP, which is why we classify it as being underrated. Some folks will hold the chambering against this otherwise excellent new handgun. The 80X Cheetah is available in black or bronze finish.
- Action: Single/Double
- Fire Control: Hammer Fired
- Caliber: .380 ACP
- Capacity: 10+1 or 13+1
- Overall Height: 4.9 inches
- Overall Length: 6.8 Inches
- Overall Width: 1.4 Inches
- Weight (Unloaded): 25 Ounces
Hi-Point JXP 10mm
Hi-Point continues to answer the call for inexpensive firearms that are nonetheless reliable. Their latest offering is the JXP 10mm pistol. The gun features the improved YC9 styling, making it a true “Yeet Cannon,” with a threaded barrel and optics cut. The generous forward accessory rail provides plenty of options and the Glock-style front sights are replaceable.
The gun’s weight isn’t ideal at 49 ounces, but that added heft will tame the 10mm cartridge, making it downright pleasant to shoot. Hi-Point sometimes gets a bad rap, which is why we believe it to be underrated, but their warranty is second to none, and the Hi-Points we’ve owned in the past performed very well indeed. Everyone enjoys the right to self-defense, and quality, affordable options enable some folks to purchase a firearm when they might otherwise be unable to afford one. Hi-Point delivers with the JXP 10mm.
- Caliber: 10mm Auto
- Barrel Length: 5.2 inches
- Overall Length: 8.5 Inches
- Finish: Black Powder Coat
- Weight: 49 Ounces
- Capacity: 10+1; +P rated
Oracle Arms 2311
We checked out the Oracle Arms 2311 for this list on the advice of a knowledgeable friend. “It’s a Staccato killer,” he said. After looking at the gun, we have to agree. The 2311 comes in five models: Compact, Compact Elite, Combat, Combat Elite, and Competition. The modular grip and mag well provide tons of versatility and adaptability and the Sig P320 magazine compatibility ensures ease and affordability of mags.
The 2311 features patented debris clearance channels to keep you firing in any environment. The guns have an external extractor for improved reliability and the 2311 is the first fully ambidextrous double-stack 1911-style platform. The linkless barrel and bushing-free design means you don’t need a tool for disassembly. The guns ship with four interchangeable side plates, giving you optic capability right out of the box. Every 2311 ships with three or five magazines, depending on the model. These guns aren’t exactly inexpensive, but they are considerably less than a Staccato. They may be a bit underrated now, but that likely won’t last long.
- Caliber: 9mm
- Barrel length: 4.25 inches or 5 inches
- Capacity: 15+1; 17+1; 17/21+1; and 21+1, depending on model
Taurus 856 T.O.R.O.
The Model 856 Taurus Optics Ready Option (TORO) revolvers are a response to Taurus customers’ requests, and the company delivered, introducing the Model 856 and 605 revolvers with optics capability right out of the box. The guns accept optics with a Holosun K footprint. We chose the 856 for this list, mainly because of the .38 Special chambering, compared to the 605’s .357 Magnum. ,38 Special is still a very viable self-defense option, especially with +P loads, for which the 856 is rated.
The 856 itself is an upgrade to the proven Model 85 design, expanding the gun’s capacity from five rounds to six. It may not sound like much, but that one round represents a 20% increase. Not small change. The 856 TORO is also very affordable, especially considering what you get. The barrel, frame, and cylinder are stainless steel, and the gun features a target-style trigger for enhanced performance. If you prefer revolvers but want modern sighting solutions, the Taurus 856 TORO might be for you.
- Caliber: .38 Special +P
- Capacity: Six Rounds
- Action: Double/Single
- Barrel length: Three Inches
- Overall Length: 7.5 Inches
- Overall Height: 4.8 inches
- Overall Width: 1.4 Inches
- Overall Weight (Unloaded): 23.5 Ounces
Tisas PX-9 Carry
Tisas is a Turkish company that made its name with quality 1911 pistols. Their PX-9 striker-fired pistol provided quality at an affordable price, and the new PX-9 Carry expands on that success. The new gun, for which specifications were not yet available to us, shortens the PX-9’s 4-inch barrel by an inch or so, but also adds an optics-ready capability. The slide was smooth when we racked it and the trigger was surprisingly good for a gun in its price range.
The PX-9 Carry keeps its older brother’s adjustable grip inserts and 15+1 capacity in 9mm. The gun features an external thumb safety, which some may not like. We really don’t care one way or the other. The flared mag well is nice, making reloads a breeze. We felt that the PX-9 Carry was the best budget carry gun we handled all week. Perhaps you’ll agree.
Our Top 5 But What About Yours?
We admit that this list is absolutely subjective, and there are undoubtedly other handguns that could have made the list. What would you have included? Which one(s) would they replace? Let us know in the comments.