What Will Be Trending In 2023?


You can bet on high-capacity, optics-ready pistols, like this one from Staccato,
continuing to lead the handgun market in 2023.

Past is prologue. There may not be any startling changes in the world of the gun and personal-defense market in 2023, but we can extrapolate from what we’ve been dealing with lately. We can’t promise the future, but educated guesses abound — here are some for your consideration. 

Trending Handguns

Microcompacts: Phil Strader and his team at SIG SAUER changed the face of the defensive handgun shelf in your showcases with the P365 just a few short years ago. This little 9mm carries an ample reservoir of ammunition. It’s shootable, with speed of delivery and a potential for achievable accuracy. It can be had with a short magazine for (ugh) 10-round jurisdictions. Service pistol performance in a pocket gun package. 

The P365 instantly inspired clones: Smith & Wesson’s Shield Plus, Springfield Armory’s Hellcat series, GLOCK’s G48 and its “snub-nose version,” the G43X. Taurus and more are on board with similar 9mms in this category. Most dealers are telling me these have become their fastest-selling concealed carry guns. I don’t see this changing in 2023.

1911s: These aren’t just “the pistols that refuse to die.” If anything, they’re more popular than ever. In the upscale price range, look at Wilson Combat’s EDC X9 series. Manufactured without a grip safety, which many shooters have never cared for, these pistols give target-gun accuracy in an acceptably slim and compact format. For something smaller, SIG’s 1911-ish P238 is a tiny .380 that’s eminently shootable. New shooters in particular seem to like the idea of the manual thumb safety on this and its only slightly larger sibling in 9mm, the P938. From Springfield Armory’s Mil-Spec to the various Turkish and Armscor full-size 1911 service pistols, the lower-priced end of the market is serviced, too. (To expand sales: Emphasize the slimness, security of the thumb safety and short, easy trigger pull — all of which are signature features of John Browning’s enduring 1911 design.)

P35s: Springfield Armory’s SA-35 was, in my opinion, the best value of the 2021–2022 new gun crop. It was followed by Girsan’s even less expensive Hi-Power clone, and may have spurred FN to reintroduce their own version. Suffice it to say, the P35 design is making a comeback.

More and more serious pistol packers are seeing the advantages of carrying a second handgun, and the revolver makes sense for those backup duties.


Revolvers’ Enduring Appeal

I’m seeing a distinct uptick in consumer interest in double-action revolvers and these seemingly ancient designs. You might even call them “hipster guns,” in the sense any automobile with a manual transmission is seen by some as a “hipster car” today. 

Revolver buyers these days tend to come from two ends of the bell curve. The DA revolver comes to the new shooter’s hand with the ease of administrative handling that made it so popular for so long as a police service sidearm. They don’t require constant lubrication, there’s no need to worry about lost or misplaced magazines and they withstand neglect better than autoloaders as a general rule.

At that other end of the bell curve, other instructors and I are seeing a definite resurgence of interest in the revolver among serious shooters and gun enthusiasts. Part of it is that “manual transmission” comparison again. It takes a skilled hand to run the trigger, and the speed reload with a wheelgun is a challenge for those who simply take pride in handling firearms well. Perhaps more than anything else, managing a long, relatively heavy trigger stroke for every shot habituates the shooter to distribute his or her trigger pull. As I’ve told students for decades, a double-action revolver will teach them how to get the best possible trigger control with your semi-automatic pistol.

More and more serious pistol packers are seeing the advantages of carrying a second handgun, and the revolver makes sense for those backup duties. One reason for a backup gun is to hand it to a partner who came to the fight unarmed. There won’t be time to give a tutorial on manual safeties or decocking levers. A double-action-only revolver can be handed to anyone who can be trusted with a gun, with much less chance of them screwing up its manual of arms. A hammerless or bobbed-hammer revolver also clears a pocket holster a little faster than most square-backed auto pistols. There are reasons why Colt got back into the double-action revolver business a few years ago, and why Taurus has introduced their Model 856 revolver, even in a time of auto-pistol dominance.

Finally, some pessimists in the gun world have heard President Biden say he wants to ban 9mm pistols and fear the day may come when revolvers are the only handguns still legal to sell. They want to be ready beforehand. Their motivation is understandable.

“For a long time now, the semi-auto carbine has been pushing the shotgun to the back of the gun closet in purchases of home-defense long arms.”


Long Guns

Carbines: For a long time now, the semi-auto carbine has been pushing the shotgun to the back of the gun closet in purchases of home-defense long arms. In my last class where students had their choice of long guns, there was exactly one scattergun among a couple of dozen autoloading carbines. This is one trend that seems to be moving along at full steam. There’s a high likelihood 2023’s political atmosphere will see a renewed effort to ban sales of AR-15s and similar rifles, and as we’ve seen so many times in the past, will bring a surge of “OMG, this is my last chance” buyers.

Shotguns: We have one of those bell curves there, too. There’s strong sentiment on the blue side of the nation to ban all “semi-auto weapons.” I’ve seen an amazing number of auto long-gun shooters investing in a pump shotgun as a “hedge” against an autoloader ban. Whenever there’s another “ban scare,” we see first-time buyers asking to purchase a slide-action scattergun. Perhaps their uncle, the family gun guy, told them it was the simplest and most cost-effective home-defense firearm. Among the experts, meanwhile, there’s a strong drive toward Beretta’s autoloading 1301 series, especially the LTT version from Langdon Tactical Technologies.

Must-Have Accessories

Carry Optics For Handguns: This is another trend that’s been going strong for a while, and it’s growing almost exponentially. I’ve talked with fellow instructors who report a majority of their students are now showing up with red dot sights atop their defensive pistols. New gun buyers in particular tend to think, “The cops know more about this than I do, so I’ll buy what they carry.” 

We’re seeing law enforcement agencies going to optical sights on service pistols in a big way. The nation’s largest county law enforcement agency, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, has approved carry optics for on-duty use. The last FBI agent I saw had a carry optic on his GLOCK. This “follow the cops” element is adding to the proliferation of carry optics in the private sector. Think accordingly when you order your inventory.

Spare Magazines: Keep ’em in stock for the popular models. In times of violent crime increases (particularly mob violence), home defenders and legal gun carriers alike see a potential need for sustained firepower.

So, More Of The Same?

All that having been said, we still don’t know if or when there will be another frenzy of gun-banning attempts, which in turn drive honest people to gun shops. If the above predictions (speculations) sound remarkably like continuations of last year’s trends, it’s because, as Shakespeare wrote in The Tempest, “What’s past is prologue.” 

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