Top 5 Metal Wondernines

Alex C.
by Alex C.

Wondernines are semi-automatic, high capacity 9mm handguns that truly brought an end to the revolver as a police service pistol in the United States. The term “wondernine” has been used as both a term of endearment and disdain, but the fact of the matter is that they are here to stay. In this video, we explore what we believe are the five best metal framed versions.

Transcription …

– [Voiceover] Hey guys, it’s Alex C. with TFB TV.

The topic of today’s video is going to be the Top Five Metal Wondernines.

A Wondernine is a self-loading 9mm pistol with a double column, high-capacity magazine relative to older designs.

We’re focusing on metal frame pistols in this video because we thought we might do a separate one for combat Tupperware.

First up is the Browning Hi-Power.

The Hi-Power is a pistol that is incredibly popular the world over, and really contributed a lot to the Wondernine concept.

It was practically the only game in town for decades and for a pistol that was introduced in 1935, it was way ahead of its time.

While pistols before the Hi-Power had a double-stacked magazine, like the C96 Broomhandle, if you really want to grasp at straws, and the Savage 1907 had a format of a detachable double column, single-feed mag, the Hi-Power staggered the rounds into two true columns and really turned some heads when it was brought to market.

Having 13 to 15 rounds of 9mm on tap in a simple, reliable pistol led to numerous military contracts, including countries like Australia, Canada, England and Belgium.

All four of which are still using the pistol to this day which is a true testament to how sound the design is.

The Hi-Power is the brainchild of Browning and his protege, Dieudonné Saive, and many think of it as an improved 1911.

However, the pistol isn’t without its haters.

The trigger isn’t anything to write home about.

The magazine disconnect is irritating, the hammer is prone to biting the hell out of your mitts.

But these can all be remedied of course, with some time and money.

Today you can find surplus guns like the one here for about $400, and I had this one refinished to look nice and new, but current production guns from Browning are 800 and up, and seem to sit on store shelves for a while.

It’s as if Browning has not gotten the memo that there is now competition out there and is stuck back in the 50s when they kind of had the market monopolized.

Nevertheless, I’m a big fan of the Hi-Power and I really enjoy shooting them.

They’re wonderful little guns, and my generation certainly seems to overlook them based on the amount of “What’s that?” queries I receive at the range.

Next up, we have a crowd favorite, and Hi-Power descendant, the CZ 75.

This example is actually a Cold War commemorative model and the serial number even starts with CCCP.

Kind of a weird tribute, I thought, especially when most Czechs I’ve met vehemently hate Communism and look at that period of time with disdain.

Anyways, more about the pistol.

The CZ 75 is often mistaken for a Hi-Power at a cursory glance, and it really does have a lot in common with it.

The gun disassembles the same way, has the same barrel-to-slide locking serrations, and the same linkless style tilting barrel.

The most important difference is the arrangement of the frame rails.

External versus internal.

This setup is similar to a SIG P210.

My only real gripe about the CZ 75 is how small the slide actually is.

You have little to grab on to when racking it that it is quite inconvenient, but other than that it’s a really spectacular gun.

The pistols are accurate, easy to shoot and just flat-out well made.

Unlike the Hi-Power, they are capable of being fired in double and single action as well, or carried cocked and locked, depending on the user’s preference.

There really isn’t much I have to say about the CZ 75, other than that it’s reliable as hell, well-constructed, and you can absolutely depend on it.

Its stable of fanboys has every right to champion these factors, and I think an SP 01 variant is in my future.

Damn if they don’t look great and shoot well.

Third, we have the SIG P226, a gun that many people believe to be the best metal 9mm handgun.

I borrowed this gun from a friend and, to be honest, I personally would never buy a SIG pistol not made in either Switzerland or Germany.

Ever since they started making guns in New Hampsire or splitting slide and frame production on opposite sides of the Atlantic, SIG collectors insist that the quality has dropped.

As a collector myself, I would much rather have a P22-series gun stamped “Made in West Germany” but that’s just me.

Regardless, the SIG P226s are truly excellently designed firearms that are priced high, but function well.

They did not innovate in any one specific area or bring much new to the table, but they combine elements of many pistols that simply worked and the result was an extremely brilliant product that has been adopted by many militaries around the world, in at least some capacity.

The SIGs are a bit heavy and bulky, but this of course helps soak up the recoil.

My biggest gripe about the design is the position of the slide release.

On just about every other pistol I own, the slide release is located where the SIG’s decocking lever is.

When I shoot a P226, I find myself frustratingly hitting the decocking lever to bring the slide home until I remember that it’s far back, and in the most inconvenient place possible.

However, I can overlook this because I do like they way they shoot, and I do like that they have a decocking lever in the first place, as opposed to the CZ 75s.

Where the user’s expected to pull the trigger and slowly lower the hammer themselves, which is incredibly unsafe in my opinion.

Although the CZ 75 BDs do have the lever.

So the SIG has a rightful place on the list and damn if they don’t just shoot great.

Fourth, we have a pistol that seems to be very divisive.

The Italian Beretta 92.

This is a 92FS model and the 92 series is noteworthy as having been adopted by the United States Army as the M9.

I’ve talked to numerous servicemen about the M9 and you get a mixed bag of folks who either love or hate the thing.

I’ve heard everything from “Mine GM’d every shot” to “The one I had worked flawlessly”.

Either way, I can say that I’m a fan.

In the 1980s, the Beretta 92 was all the rage.

You could see them in all the big movies of the era including Die Hard, Lethal Weapon and anything John Woo ever touched.

The 92s are a mechanically interesting design with an unusual tilting locking wedge that is similar in form and function to the one found on the common Walther P38.

The non-tilting nature of the barrel allows the 92 to be suppressed without a Nielsen device as well.

So that’s something to keep in mind for you suppressor folks.

The 92 is big, but it fits my hands extremely well and perhaps better than any other pistol.

It is a full-size service pistol so it wasn’t exactly designed for IWB carry.

The five-inch barrel lends itself to extremely good accuracy.

I could shoot a 92 shockingly well and I’ve used this one in competition, and for my CHL qualification, where, without tooting my own horn here, I shot the best group in the class.

The 92 was one of my first self-loading pistols and to this day it’s still one of my favorites.

I can still make it dance, it has 18-round magazines, it’s double-action, has a safety, a decocker, and it’s just plain fun to take to the range.

While the pistols certainly don’t have a minimalist look to them, in fact it’s kind of interesting to see all the odd bits moving about on the outside of the gun, they are very solid and I’d highly recommend you try one if you have the chance.

Lastly, we have the greatest semiautomatic handgun ever made.

The H&K P7 M13.

The P7 series of handguns are fascinating mechanically.

They do not have a locked breach, but rather are gas delayed blowback, whereby a piston below the barrel actually serves to delay the opening of the action.

This is a brilliant system because, say you use more powerful ammo.

Well, more gas works against the piston to delay the opening of the action with appropriate resistance.

For those of you that argue that external safeties are stupid and unnecessary, well, HK has you covered here.

The P7 is without one, but is possessed of a wonderful system to ensure safe operation.

The lever on the front of a P7 must be squeezed to draw the striker to the rear.

At this point the weapon is ready to fire.

Pulling the cocking lever requires 15 lbs of force but keeping it held down requires only two pounds, so as not to tire the user’s hands if a prolonged Ready state is required.

The P7’s lever has also saved the lives of many a good guy.

In fact, there are documented incidents of criminals taking law enforcement officers’ P7s and being unable to fire them, due to being unfamiliar with the cocking mechanism, a mechanism which a trained user operates naturally and with ease while drawing.

The P7s are ridiculously overbuilt as well.

They had a cold hammer forged, polygonally rifled barrel before it was cool.

And they have fluted chambers like a G3 or MP5.

The pistols point very naturally, with a 110-degree grip angle, excellent bore axis, and a slide that is just the right size.

The P7 M13 is the apex of the P7 series, having all the features of the original but with the heel release eliminated, no tools required for disassembly, 13-round magazines, a heat shield under the dust cover, and absolutely unparalleled accuracy and reliability making the P7 M13 the pinnacle of what a 9mm handgun can be.

Well, now that I’ve triggered all the Glock, Springfield, M&P, Walther, FN and Ruger fanboys with that, keep in mind that this list was about metal Wondernines.

I have no bias against plastic frame guns, but I thought that would make for another good video.

Really it’s up to the consumer to decide what you want, and what works best for you.

With that said, big thanks to our ammunition sponsor Ventura Munitions.

Our videos wouldn’t be possible without them so if you need some ammunition, even hard-to-find stuff, check them out.

Also, hitting that Subscribe button would really mean a lot to us, and we would sincerely appreciate it if you would do so.

Thank you very much for watching, and.

Alex C.
Alex C.

Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and Director of TFBTV.

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2 of 121 comments
  • Ciscokid3750 Ciscokid3750 on Apr 20, 2016


  • Ciscokid3750 Ciscokid3750 on Apr 20, 2016

    The High power does not have a bad trigger pull. You can remove the magazine safety that will reduce the trigger pull substantially. As far as hammer bite, I have been shooting them for 50 years and have yet to have hammer bite. The models made after 1994 have cast frames and those made after 1989 had a firing pin safety added that left only 1/16 of an inch of metal at the rear of the slide. The hammer then often cracks the rear of the slide. The barrel extension which helped stabilize the barrel has also been done away with as a cost saving measure.
    The CZ 75/85 has had a design change that has done away with the sliding firing pin stop plate as a cheapening measure. The only thing that holds the firing pin in is a cheap stamped sheet metal roll pin which promptly breaks when you dry fire it. CZ even included a bag full of plasticky snap caps when I purchased my gun so this would not happen when dry firing it. The trigger reach on CZ guns is extremely long in the double action mode and even people with long fingers can barely reach the trigger. In its stock form the trigger pull is gritty as well.
    The Sig P226 has had a slide redesign as the original was made of a sheet metal stamping which often failed, it has now being made of bar stock. It was one of the reasons it was not chosen for the U.S. Military pistol besides the higher cost. The gun is held together with stamped sheet metal roll pins which should be replaced if the gun is ever completely disassembled. Its aluminum frame often exhibits wear even with low round counts which causes accuracy to deteriorate. The new models also have MIM cast parts in them. The main spring hangs naked down in front of the back strap under the plasticky grips. A hard fall could shatter the grips which then could bend or snap off the main spring strut which is made of soft stamped sheet metal. The early German model P220 was originally in 9mm but when it was converted to .45acp it did not have enough room in the frame between the slide and frame to feed cartridges properly. When an ejected round was ejecting out of the chamber it rubbed against the top round still in the magazine often causing jams. Since then the newer models have an interrupter to hold down the top round in the magazine.
    The Beretta has had problems with cracked slides which is no surprise as it was based loosely on the P38 slide which also had the same problem. Supposedly Beretta has since strengthened the slide but time will tell if it was enough to keep this from re-occurring. The Military had to insert steel frame rails in their competition guns to keep the aluminum slide from wearing away rapidly which depleted accuracy.
    The HK P7/13 was a real disaster of a pistol. Its gas system was unreliable when dirty and it was ammo sensitive as it had to have a cartridge loaded with a fast burning powder or the slide would start to open up before the bullet left the barrel. Handloaders found out quickly that even Unique powder which is relatively quick burning would literally beat the gun to death because of premature slide opening. The gas system caused the gun to overheat in as little as one 13 round clip fired on a hot day no matter what ammo you used.. HK even went so far as to put a plasticky shield on the gun to keep one from burnig the hell out of ones fingers. The trigger pull was mushy and difficult to control. The HK had to strengthen its squeeze cocking mechanism because Police often would get a tight grip on the gun when drawing out of the holster which would cock the gun and then they would accidentally fire it off when drawing it thereby shooting themselves. When HK made the mechanism more difficult to squeeze it resulted in one not being able to keep the gun cocked for more than a short period of time. When released it makes a loud clickety clack giving away ones position. The firing pin was also noted for breakage which in Maryland got one officer killed in a firefight. The gun was extremely heavy for its small size and was made largely of stamped sheet metal despite its horrendous price. Except for extreme accuracy the gun had nothing good about it. No wonder HK discontinued it.