Ultimately, the best handguns for home defense are the ones that you can run best. That’s the primary consideration. Can you shoot it worth a darn? That’s what matters most.
So, what are the best handguns for home protection? That’s more than a little debatable. There are many different attributes that can make a pistol “good” or “bad” in different situations and ultimately, again, the best one to use is the one that you can use best.
Can you run the gun? Are you accurate with it? Then it’s a good choice.
A few things to know before hand, though. First, handguns don’t really have “stopping power.” Elephant rifles do, but handguns generally don’t…though the really scary magnums might come close.
Second, make sure that your home defense gun is loaded with self-defense ammunition. Jacketed hollow points are the standard, but there are others choices like frangible/fragmenting rounds, the old school LSWCHP revolver rounds, jacketed soft points and so on, that are also effective. Just be sure your gun functions well with self-defense ammunition you choose (this is especially important in semi-automatic handguns).
With that said, what are some outstanding choices in a home defense weapon? Let’s go over a few.
One of the most popular handguns on the market is the GLOCK 19. It’s kind of a Goldilocks gun, as it’s large enough for use as a service pistol, but compact and light enough for concealed carry (for some people, anyway).
The G19 is an excellent choice for almost any application including competition shooting, personal protection…though not so much hunting.
The GLOCK 19 is a striker-fired semi-automatic, which – for the total beginner – means it has no external hammer (and no manual safety), and can be fired by merely pulling the trigger. Standard capacity is 15-round magazines, but extended models can be had.
The GLOCK 19 isn’t perfect — no gun is — but it’s extremely reliable and isn’t terrifically expensive.
The Gen4 and Gen5 models will have the best features (depending on preference), as those generations have swappable backstraps for a better fit. The Gen5 models omit finger grooves on the grip and are slightly wider to accommodate a new barrel design (the GLOCK Marksman Barrel) and revised internals.
If you try the GLOCK 19 and it seems a little too big, another wildly popular handgun is the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield series.
The M&P9 Shield is one of the most popular concealed carry handguns on the market today. Since it’s designed for close quarters use, it will do just fine in a home defense role as well as a daily carry gun.
The Shield comes with two magazines, one flush-fit 7-round magazine and an 8-round magazine with an extended base plate. Like the GLOCK, it’s a striker-fired pistol but unlike the GLOCK can be had with a manual safety, which is rather small still usable.
Some people prefer to have a manual safety on their pistol, especially if they have little people in the house. Granted, you can prevent unauthorized access by keeping the pistol secure on your person or in a safe or other storage device, but that’s another discussion for another time.
Smith & Wesson makes a couple of dozen Shield models, so you can get one that’s perfect for you. Different calibers (the Shield is offered in 9mm, .40 S&W and.45 ACP, and there’s a .380 variant) fiber optic sights, night sights, Performance Center models with porting and tuned triggers, even CORE models to accommodate red dot optics.
Some people, however, prefer a bigger gun with more capacity for home protection. A lot of them will have something like a service pistol for home defense, but have a smaller gun for concealed carry, which is certainly a good idea.
What would be some good choices if a person was going to leave their bigger gun at home?
The SIG SAUER P226 is one of the all-time greats. The P226 is a double-action/single-action semi-auto, holding 15+1 of 9mm ammunition.
Unlike the polymer GLOCK 19, the P226 is a metal-framed tank weighing at more than 30 oz unloaded. You will need to learn how to run the double-action trigger, of course, but it isn’t difficult and many shooters greatly prefer it.
The P226 has arguably the most logical control scheme among DA/SA autos, in that a de-cocking lever is placed on the grip just above the magazine release button. This lets the user de-cock the pistol safely (lowering the hammer without striking the firing pin) and carry or store the pistol loaded in case it must be used in a hurry.
The P226 is one of the most popular pistols for police and militaries worldwide, and its reputation has been well-earned.
Like GLOCKs and S&W’s M&P line, SIG makes a number of different versions of the gun, so you can get upgraded models such as the Legion series, tactical models with threaded extended barrels for use with suppressors, night sights, red dot sights…whatever you want.
Expect to pay more for the P226, though, somewhere in the neighborhood of $800 or more for the basic models.
You can also opt for the venerable Beretta 92, also one of the most proven pistol platforms in police and military service. Like the SIG SAUER, the Beretta 92 is a double/single action pistol and the base model likewise uses 15-round magazines, though extended models are available with 17+1 being most common.
There are a number of variants of the 92, which we could spend a year talking about but won’t.
The 92 served as the primary sidearm for the US armed forces for more than 20 years, so it’s a very viable platform. However, the fat grips and slide-mounted de-cocking safety take some training to acclimate to.
If the original 92’s grip size is a problem, consider the Beretta M9A3, which has a thinner grip for smaller-handed shooters.
The good news is that you’ll generally spend less than you would for the SIG P226; the 92FS pistols usually retail for closer to $600.
There is also a bevy of 1911 pistols on the market, ranging from entry-level workhorses to custom guns of exquisite finery and all points in between. Regardless of what any GLOCKaboos like to say, the fact is 1911s are combat-proven and are definitely capable of the task of effective personal protection and home defense. You will find them in .45 ACP, 9mm, .357 SIG and even .380 versions.
However, you need to put in a little time learning the single-action system and operating the manual safety. You should also expect to shell out for some Wilson Combat or other quality magazines, because factory mags can be a crapshoot.
If you find you prefer a striker-fired system to hammer-fired single action or DA/SA platform, many an excellent choice can be had.
The full-size GLOCK 17 is perhaps the most popular police pistol in the United States, and many gun owners who agree have added them to their safe. The G17 is the polymer striker pistol that started it all.
It accepts 17-round magazines standard, and can be accessorized to the ends of the earth. Add night sights or a fiber optic. Attach a light/laser to the rail. Purchase the MOS model and attach a red dot optic. It can be almost all things to all people.
Springfield Armory (I know, I know) makes a few decent pistols (I prefer their 1911s, but that’s just me) but a great choice of home defense gun is the XD(M). TheXD(M) series has some upgraded components, including a “match grade” barrel, even though there’s hardly a universal standard on what “match grade” actually means.
The XD(M) can be had in multiple calibers, including 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP and 10mm. All models come with fiber optic front sights and combat rear ramp sights. You can opt for one of a few different models, including a compact model with 3.8-in barrel for concealed carry, or service-size models with 4.5-inch or 5.25-inch barrel. Threaded-barrel and red-dot-ready models are available too.
It’s the best striker gun that Springfield makes. If you wanted to get into 10mm, it’s a great starting point as well.
Smith & Wesson’s M&P line also includes full-size pistols with 4.25- and 5-inch models in 9mm, .40 and .45 ACP. There are models with or without manual safeties, with upgraded sights and even the full-meal-deal tactical models in the CORE series.
There are also compact versions with 3.6- and 4-inch barrels. The larger pistols start at 17+1 of 9mm, and the compact uses 15-round magazines.
There are DOZENS of individual models of M&P pistol, but suffice to say it’s a very decent full-size striker pistol. Ergonomics are quite comfortable, with the 18-degree grip angle of 1911 pistols, which has made these favorites with many police departments. I could write a short novel about the M&P series just describing them all.
The best striker pistol I am aware of at the moment, however, is the Walther PPQ. In comfortable ergonomics, it is only matched by the H&K VP9. The PPQ is much like the GLOCK 19 in specifications (kinda compact enough for concealed carry, big enough to be a service gun, 4-inch barrel) and has an accessory rail for mounting a laser or light. It’s slightly more expensive than the G19, but not by much.
The party piece of the PPQ, however, is its wonderful trigger, which is hands-down the best of any striker-fired pistol (though I would proffer that the H&K VP9’s is just about as good). The PPQ can also be had in a subcompact variant with a 3.5-inch barrel.
But what about revolvers?
Not everyone prefers semi-automatic pistols, as the manual of arms for revolvers is pretty darned simple. While some argue that they’re outdated, a wheel gun in practiced hands is every bit as deadly as any semi-auto.
If one wanted to make shooting as easy as possible, the standard by which all .38 Special revolvers is judged is without doubt the Smith & Wesson Model 10. The Model 10 has been in production since 1898, beginning life as the Hand Ejector model, later re-branded the Military & Police, and then the Model 10 in the 1950s, which it has been called ever since. Built on Smith’s K-frame, it holds 6 shots of .38 Special.
The Model 10 was THE service gun of the 20th century, serving both militaries and police forces worldwide well into the 1990s. It isn’t much to look at, with a trench sight cut into the top strap and a simple blade sight on the barrel, but a practiced operator can shoot fast and accurate, with quick follow-up shots given the heavy weight (over 30 ounces unloaded) relative to the modest power of .38 Special.
If desired, K and L frames in .357 Magnum are also excellent, including pistols such as Models 19, 586 and 686.
Ruger’s GP100 .357 Magnum revolver is perhaps THE entry-level magnum revolver of the past 30 years. Made from the ground up for that round, it’s built to shoot the hot loads as much as you possibly could. But remember, like any .357, you can also run softer-shooting .38 Specials from it.
Ruger also makes models of the GP100 in .44 Special and 10mm should you prefer a bit more wallop, as well as a number of finishes and configurations. I’m partial to the half-underlug models for aesthetic reasons, but that’s just me.
While they are tanks, they’re also reasonably priced and will last a lifetime with a bit of care.
There are many, MANY more handguns out there that are great for home defense. This list is really just to illustrate some of the more popular models. Feel like some were left out? Feel free to mention them. A few I probably should have mentioned include the CZ 75, Canik TP9, and a bit more about the H&K VP9, but we only have so much room. Sound off in the comments!