10 Firearms That Changed The Guns Industry

Every firearm manufacturer hopes their newest product will become popular with shooters and hunters. Over the course of the last century, many guns have done just that. But a few firearms go further, changing the face of the shooting industry by revolutionizing gun manufacturing.

This is about more than just sales figures, though; it’s about the introduction of an ingenious concept that’s simply too good for anyone—even competing gun makers—to ignore.

To that end, we’ve compiled a list of 10 of the most important and influential gun designs of the 20th and 21st centuries— firearms that mark an evolutionary step in gun design.

Did your favorite firearm make this list?

Guns that changed the firearm industry

1. Glock G17

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When Austrian engineer Gaston Glock decided to build a prototype firearm in the 1980s, he came to the industry from a far different background—the world of advanced polymers.

His initial launch of the Glock Safe-Action pistol was met with great skepticism; hunters and shooters were still upset that some companies had switched to the use of aluminum instead of steel, and the introduction of a “plastic” handgun seemed a slap in the face of firearms convention.

These guns, it was thought, could slip past metal detectors (not true) and were thought to be “throw-away” guns that wouldn’t last as long as traditional steel guns (also not true). What happened, in fact, was that Glock created a semiautomatic pistol that would forever change the course of handgun history.

The Glock design did catch on, and it caught on in a big way. These guns were lighter and less expensive to manufacture than traditional steel guns, and they proved to be robust and reliable. Today, many other handgun manufacturers are producing polymer-framed striker-fired pistols, and Glock now commands the lion’s share of the law enforcement handgun market.

2. Remington model 700

remington model 700

Remington’s stylish Model 700 broke cover in 1962, and it was really the refined final product that started out with the Model 721 decades before. However, the Model 700 was radically different than other bolt-action rifles at that time.

For starters, it had a cylindrical action, which was less expensive to manufacture and provided outstanding rigidity and accuracy. In addition, Remington developed a push-feed action that used a small C-clip extractor in place of the full-length claw extractor found on Mauser 98s and Winchester Model 70s at that time.

The design allowed for a recessed bolt face that kept the case surrounded by three rings of steel (the ring on the bolt, the barrel, and the receiver). This made the design safe and functional and paved the way for the push-feed target and hunting rifles with cylindrical actions that would follow.

3. Colt 1911

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What can be said about the Colt 1911 that hasn’t already been said? The fact that this design is as popular as it is today, over a century after it broke cover, is telling, and there are still competitive shooters (lots of them, in fact) who step to the line with a 1911 in their holsters.

The M1911 utilized a short recoil operating system that was reliable in even the worst conditions, and that basic design has found its way into many of our more modern firearms. The Colt served duty in U.S. engagements in one form or another from World War I to Vietnam, and there are still some combat units that carry this weapon.

The design has been shrunken to serve as a carry gun by Kimber, Browning, Colt, and other manufacturers, and even the grip safety (which was not something Browning believed needed to be included on the original) has found its way onto modern weapons such as the Springfield XD.

4. Benelli Inertia-Driven Shotguns

benelli inertia driven shotgun

In the 1960s, Italian motorcycle manufacturer Benelli began producing shotguns in Urbino, Italy. That’s nothing new, because Italy is the home of shotgun design.

What was revolutionary about that gun, however, was Benelli’s sleek Inertia-Driven design, which ditched the popular gas-operated systems found in most shotguns in favor of something lighter and more efficient.

There have been other semiauto shotguns manufactured before that didn’t use gas—chief among them, the Browning A5—but the simplicity and durability of the Benelli system were unmatched.

Today, other manufacturers have joined Benelli in producing inertia guns, and hunters and shooters have learned to appreciate the design Benelli says can go 500,000-plus rounds.

5. Browning Superposed

browning superposed

Another Browning design, the Superposed, marked a turning point in U.S. shotgun development.

Browning and other designers had been working on repeating models, both pumps and semiautos, and side-by-sides were still popular. Over/under shotguns were still something of an anomaly, and while they were popular in Europe, they weren’t commonly seen in the United States.

Rumor has it that John Browning began the initial design work in the 1800s, but he didn’t work on the design in earnest until the 1920s. When the first Superposed was released in 1931, it had double triggers, and it was only later that Val Browning perfected his father’s single selective inertia block trigger design (which is commonly found today on over/unders).

The Superposed was made in Belgium, and costs eventually kept it from being the “average man’s gun” that Browning intended it to be, but it ushered in an over/under era that continues to this day.

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6. Colt AR-15/M16

colt ar 15

Eugene Stoner’s gas-operated semiautomatic AR-15 (Armalite Rifle) proved to be robust and reliable—so much so that the U.S. military decided to issue the M16 military version to soldiers fighting in Vietnam.

The original Stoner design continues to serve military duty, but there’s no question that this rifle has had a huge impact on American culture. In recent memory, it has been cussed and discussed and alternatively viewed as the ultimate personal-defense weapon or vilified.

But the AR as we know it (in all its many forms today) is an influential gun, having spawned numerous clones and introducing a whole new generation of shooters to the sport. The design, as previously stated, is robust and effective, and ARs are now being used for military and law enforcement applications, as well as for competition, hunting, and recreational shooting.

In recent years, many companies have added ARs to their lines, and these rifles can be outfitted with a huge variety of aftermarket options.

7. Taurus Judge

taurus judge

It might surprise you to see the Taurus Judge on this list. After all, the gun is barely over a decade old and relies on a double-action design that Taurus did not invent.

However, there’s no question that the Judge has forever altered the handgun landscape. This firearm can fire both .45 Colt and .410 shotshells, and—rightly or wrongly (that’s a debate that could spin off into its own feature)—the ability to load shotshells in a handgun for home defense has created a whole legion of Judge fans.

Ammunition companies are now offering .410 shotshells specifically for revolvers, and other manufacturers have introduced .410 revolvers. In any discussion I have with concealed-carry permit holders, the topic of the Judge comes up; I also know of a handful of people who have purchased this gun as their go-to home-defense weapon.

8. Tikka T3

tikka t3

The Tikka T3 started as a relatively unknown European bolt gun with a rather odd-looking design.

For starters, it used a three-lug bolt with a one-piece receiver that had a minimized ejection port. It was also very affordable to own and, as it turned out, extremely accurate.

Suddenly, the Tikka name was on every shooter’s lips, and this brand ignited the budget rifle wars that are happening today. The three-lug design with a bolt that is the same diameter as the lugs is now commonly seen on other rifles, and MOA accuracy has become the standard.

We have Tikka to thank for all that.

9. Ruger New Model Blackhawk

ruger new model blackhawk

The Ruger Blackhawk was Bill Ruger’s baby, and it was a revolutionary gun in the 1950s—simply because no one could understand why Ruger was building a single action in an era when double actions were king.

But never underestimate the genius of Bill Ruger. He improved upon the original Colt Single Action Army by replacing flat springs with much sturdier coil springs.

But never underestimate the genius of Bill Ruger. He improved upon the original Colt Single Action Army by replacing flat springs with much sturdier coil springs.

10. Mauser Gewehr 98 (M98)

mauser gewehr 98

No discussion of great modern guns is complete without a mention of Peter Paul Mauser’s M98—the German controlled-feed rifle that became a standard military repeater the world over at the beginning of the 20th century.

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The Mauser utilized a large, heavy-duty claw extractor that took a massive bite on the rim of the rifle cartridge and held and controlled the round throughout feeding, extraction, and ejection. Many hunters have touted the design as the most reliable bolt action, and a generation of African professional hunters will carry nothing else.

The Mauser design can be seen today in a number of other rifles with full-length extractors (such as the Winchester Model 70, Kimber 84, CZ 550, Ruger M77 Hawkeye, Montana Rifle Company 1999, and others). And while all these designs have updated the original design, in some ways, the blueprint is much the same. Why? Because it works so well.

Now, Mauser is shipping its own M98s to this country once again, and while they are costly, they are still as effective as they were a century ago.

Suggested prepping learning:

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