In the 9th Century, gunpowder was first invented in China. Since then, firearms have been a part of warfare. And the technology of these weapons has continuously improved. The 20th Century saw near-constant innovation, and many of the guns developed are still in use today. Here are the seven most-produced modern firearms in the world.
Colt M1911 – 5,000,000 Produced
In the late 1890s, gun makers looked for an alternative to the revolver. John Browning, then working for Colt, came up with a design for a self-loading or semi-automatic pistol in 1906. Over the next four years, Browning’s design for Colt and a design from Savage arms were pitted against each other and repeatedly adapted. During a final test in 1910, the Browning passed with flying colors and was adopted by the Army in 1911, and was either referred to as the M1911 or the Colt 45.
The firearm first came to prominence in World War 1 when the gun was so popular that production had to be outsourced to the factories of competing manufacturers. The Colt M1911 has since been used in every American war from World War II to Afghanistan, with improvements being continuously made. Modernized Colt 45’s are still carried by U.S. Army Special Forces Units today.
Smith and Wesson Model 10 – 6,000,000 Produced
The Smith and Wesson Model 10 is a revolver first released in 1899. Following its release, large orders were placed both by the U.S. Army and the Navy. The pistol was also wildly popular among police forces. The gun was widely used during World War I.
Following World War I, the Model 10 became standard issue for United States police officers for more than 70 years. The gun was also very popular among civilians as well. During the Second World War, hundreds of thousands of Model 10’s were used by troops. The victory model of the firearm was standard issue for Navy and Marine Corps aircrews. With over 600,000 Model 10 revolvers being produced, it was the most popular handgun of the 20th Century.
Glock Pistol – 6,000,000 Produced
Gaston Glock began working on firearms in 1979 despite having no previous experience with guns. Prior to developing his first pistol, the Austrian had focused on curtain rods and knives. But his first design was a smash hit. The Glock 17 was adopted into service by the Austrian military and police in 1982.
The popular gun soon spread throughout Europe. In 1988, the firearm became a standard NATO-classified sidearm. In 2013, the British Armed Forces replaced the Browning Hi-Power pistol with a 4th Generation Glock 17. And in 2020, the French Armed forces made a 5th Generation Glock 17 their standard. The gun is also popular for home defense and competition shooting.
The Mossberg 500 Series – 10,000,000 Produced
The Mossberg 500 series was first designed by Carl Benson in 1961. The pump-action shotgun became wildly popular with hunters across the United States. Hunters were drawn to the shotgun due to its high quality and low cost. In an effort to keep prices low, Mossberg began making guns for the military and police markets.
The M590 was designed specifically for the military. After a redesign, the M590A1 became the standard-issue shotgun for the United States Military. The shotgun was used in the Gulf War, the Iraq War, and the War in Afghanistan.
IMI Uzi – 10,000,000 Produced
The state of Israel was established in 1948. Shortly thereafter, Israelis began to concentrate on defending themselves. Major Uziel Gal is credited with creating an open-bolt, blowback-operated sub-machine gun. The series of guns were named in honor of his nickname, Uzi. Uzi’s were first adopted by the Israel Defense Forces Special Forces in 1954.
Militaries across the world purchased models of the Uzi for their own armies. And since the gun was so popular, there were also a number of knockoffs. The Uzi has been prominently used in nearly every war since its induction. It has also been a weapon of choice for drug runners and those involved in other illegal activities.
The M-16 15,000,000 Produced
From 1959-to 1964, the M-14 was the standard issue rifle for the U.S. Military, replacing the M-1. By the early 1960s, though, the military thought that the gun could be improved upon. After years of development, the M-16 was adopted in 1964. And shortly afterward, the rifle was being used overseas in Vietnam.
There were issues with the gun at first, as it had a reputation for being unreliable. The jungles of Vietnam were also a specifically harsh environment for a rifle. The kinks were soon worked out, though, and the M-16 became popular not just in the United States military but in forces around the world.
The AK-47 40,000,000 Produced
Mikael Kalashnikov began working on this gas-operated assault rifle in 1945 and finished in 1947, hence the 47 in the name. In 1949, it was adopted by the Soviet Armed Forces and was preferred by the other countries in the Warsaw Pact. The rifle became a global phenomenon owing both to its low production cost and its reliability under harsh circumstances.
In 1974, the Ak-47 was replaced as the standard-issue Soviet rifle by the AK-74. Its legacy lives on, however. Like the Uzi, the AK-47 was popular with criminals, gun runners, and terrorists. It is hard to tell exactly how many AK-47s were produced overall, with estimates ranging from 40,000,000 to 150,000,000.