Stack Ranking Gun Designation Systems

Keeping up with an ever-increasing number of firearm releases can be difficult. There are lots of names, acronyms, and numbers designating new firearms. The commercial market will never have an official gun designation system we all agree to. However, some do it better than others. Some companies use a simple system to make it easier to tell which gun is which, and some companies are downright confusing. I got to thinking about who does it best and decided to rank several popular companies based on their gun designation systems.

This is in no way a judgment of the guns themselves, just a judgment of how they name their guns. It’s also not all-inclusive, but there are hundreds of gun companies. I decided to use the more popular options and reserve the right to update this article as new guns are released and gun designation systems are updated or changed.

S – Tier – King of Gun Designation System

IWI – IWI uses a very simple series of names to designate their various guns. For example, names like Jericho and Masada are easy to remember and tell apart. Tavor, Carmel, Uzi, and even TS-12 are all simple and easy to recognize. Their gun designation system makes it easy to tell which gun is which.

A – Tier

Ruger – Ruger creates numerous lines of firearms, and each also has a unique name that makes it easy to identify. From the American to the LCP series and back to the famed Mini-14. They tend to name their weapons well. Where they falter is making some names too dang long, like the Ruger American Ranch and New Model Super Blackhawk.

Walther – Walther is another one that has a small line of handguns that’s easy to remember, like PPQ, PPS, PPK, and PDP. Where they falter is inconsistency. Sometimes, it’s all letters. Other times, it’s numbers and letters like the PK380, Q4, and P99.

Magnum Research – Magnum research sticks to a theme, and that theme is Eagle. Outside of the BFR, they really seem to love naming their pistols Eagle to capitalize on the popularity of Desert Eagle. While consistent, it can get confusing which Eagle is which.

KelTec – They named their .380 pistol P3AT, and I’ll give them credit for originality. Most of their guns are named in consistently different ways, but it can get confusing when you have seven different variations of the SU-16.

B Tier

Mossberg – Mossberg’s shotguns are aptly named with an easy-to-follow system. 5XX designations mean pump guns and 9XX designation means semi-autos. Their non-shotgun designations are weak, and I couldn’t tell you their different pistols with a reference brochure.

Beretta – Beretta has recognizable handguns, the 92FS, the Storm, the Nano, the APX, and so on and so forth. Even their tactical shotguns and rifles are well-designed. Their sporting shotguns are where they fall apart with long names and a thousand configurations.

Springfield – Springfield’s gun designation system gets the award for being most improved. I could never tell you which Xd was which, but the Ehcelon, Hellcat, and Hellion all stand out. Their 1911 naming configuration also works quite well. Still, they are plagued by tons of Xd variants I can’t tell apart.

The Echelon is a well thought out 9mm handgun.

Taurus – Taurus has become much better at naming their revolvers and semi-autos. If you say G3, I know what you mean. If you say, Judge, I know what you mean. However, some of their revolver designations get long, like the Taurus 856 Defender TORO.

C Tier

CZ – CZ’s rifle and PCC names are great, but their various models of the CZ 75 with various gun designations can get confusing.

Colt – Colt kills it with their revolvers and M1911s, but their insistence on four-digit codes for their rifles tanks their score.

HK – HK’s naming designation is just okay. It works, but it is seemingly random. This is a USP, this is a P30, and this one is a P2000, why? Who knows.

FN – FN does keep things simple with their rifle designs, but the insistence on having FN in FNP, FNS, and FNX makes it easy to confuse these firearms.

D Tier

Glock – Glock likes to make things consecutive. They simply name the guns in number order, which isn’t terrible but tells you nothing about the gun itself. If you say you want a Glock 40, are you talking about the long slide 10mm or the 40 S&W? What about a Glock 45? Do you want the .45 ACP Glock or the 9mm G45?

S&W – S&W makes the M&P semi-autos easy to tell apart, but their revolvers require a decoder ring. Between the various numbers followed by dashes and more numbers, you have to be a revolver junkie to figure it out. Their AR 15s get a little nuts, too. Like the M&P Sport 2 Optics Ready, is it the only optics-ready model? No, all of their ARs are optics-ready, but it’s specifically designated that way because it lacks a front sight post.

F Tier

FEG – There really aren’t any companies that are truly terrible at designating their firearms. However, I need to have one F tier, and I’m giving it FEG because they once released Hi-Power clones with the gun designation PJK-9HP FP9. That’s way too long and a failure all around.

Gun Designations Could Be Better

I think simple, consistent names work best. Something that tells you what the gun is without getting too long or complicated. It also needs to stand out and be memorable. Your gun designations are very much part of your branding, and they should be well thought out and considered.

Travis Pike
Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.