There is no universally best home-defense weapon. The right choice of firearm for you is based on your circumstances and level of experience with firearms. However, there are some considerations that every handgun owner should take into account before purchasing a weapon for home defense.
Home Defense 101
The best home-defense firearms are generally handguns. Handguns — semi-automatic pistols and revolvers — are lightweight, portable, and convenient. A handgun allows you to use your non-dominant hand to manipulate a flashlight, open doors, turn on/off lights, and operate a cellphone.
Training is key
Proper training is critical to the safe and effective handling of firearms. In addition to safety training, you should learn how to use a firearm in practical self-defense. Shooting at stationary targets on a well-lit gun range is necessary to develop the fundamentals of marksmanship.
However, the conditions on a firing range are not always representative of real-world defense situations. You should carry the weapon you intend to use for self-defense, shooting at stationary and moving targets from multiple positions: Standing, kneeling, crouching, and prone.
Your training checklist should also include the following: Weak-hand drills, clearing jams/malfunctions, one-handed shooting, and shooting from behind cover. If you can, seek an experienced firearms instructor or shooting school.
Once you’ve received instruction in the practical defensive use of firearms, you should regularly practice what you’ve learned.
Have a plan to keep your family safe
Home defense requires more forethought than simply purchasing a handgun. You should have a designated safe room that your loved ones can move to during an emergency. It needs to be a room with a single point of entry and a door you can easily barricade.
Every member of your household should know what to do in an emergency. For example, if you have younger and older children, the most senior should be tasked with escorting their younger siblings to the safe room if you or your spouse are unavailable.
Rehearse protocols for contacting the authorities, including how to relay important information to the 911 dispatcher.
Defensive or anti-personnel ammunition must be able to cycle reliably in your firearm. It needs to demonstrate reasonable accuracy at realistic target distances (i.e., under 25 meters) and achieve sufficient penetration to disrupt vital organs and major blood vessels from multiple angles of entry.
The bullet should expand reliably and to a diameter that you regard as satisfactory. Other factors to consider:
Firing a handgun in the dark can produce a blinding muzzle flash, robbing you of your night vision and situational awareness. Low-flash propellants are optimized for short barrels, achieving near-complete powder combustion, thereby minimizing the flash.
Nickel is both corrosion-resistant and reflective, ideal for low-light chamber checks.
In handguns, bullet fragmentation is not generally useful, limiting necessary penetration. By bonding the jacket to the core, ammunition manufacturers ensure the bullet retains its weight and structural integrity.
The Importance of a Proper Fit
The fit of the gun refers to how comfortable it is for you to hold or shoulder. Many concealed carry handguns are designed to be as compact as possible. Unfortunately, a carry pistol may not have a long enough front strap for you to acquire a full firing grip, leaving your little finger unsupported.
This reduces your control of the weapon, which can exacerbate recoil in already-lightweight firearms.
You can achieve a proper fit in a home defense handgun because concealability is less critical. Duty pistols typically have a longer grip frame, increasing magazine capacity providing you with more ammunition. The added weight also reduces muzzle flip.
Regardless of whether you’re a first-time gun owner, an experienced shooter, or a police officer, it is essential you practice safe handling. This includes the strict observance of firearms safety rules. These are:
- All guns are always loaded; even if they are not, treat them as if they are
- Never let the muzzle cover anything that you are not prepared to destroy
- Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target
- Be sure of your target and what is behind it
Safety also refers to one or more mechanical devices on a firearm designed to prevent unintentional discharge. Most modern striker-fired combat handguns have internal or passive safeties. These systems are designed to prevent the striker from being released prematurely or the trigger from being activated unless deliberately pressed.
In single-action-only (SAO) handguns, such as the M1911, there is a manual safety lever that you raise and lower with your thumb. Grip safeties, which form part of the handgun’s backstrap, are compressed when you acquire a full firing grip.
Modern M1911-pattern handguns typically have grip safeties with a memory bump, ensuring activation with less-than-ideal hand placement on the weapon.
Double-action/single-action semi-automatic pistols, such as the SIG Sauer P226, have a decocking lever only. Others, such as the Beretta 92 series, have a manual safety that also decocks the hammer.
Regardless of the type of home defense weapon you select, you need to quickly acquire a sight picture under variable lighting conditions. High-visibility three-dot combat sights are the standard for handguns.
You can also choose fiber-optic sights, which collect and amplify ambient light for increased daytime visibility. For low-light shooting, consider night sights, which typically use tritium inserts. Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, which illuminates the front and rear sights in the dark through radioluminescence.
The sight radius is also an essential factor, referring to the distance between the front and rear sights. The longer the sight radius, the greater the precision when aiming.
Choose the Right Action
In handguns, the action typically refers to the way the trigger functions. In a single-action-only (SAO) handgun, the trigger performs one action: It releases the hammer or striker.
In a double-action-only (DAO) handgun, the trigger performs two actions: It cocks and releases the hammer. Double-action/single-action (DA/SA) handguns allow you to fire either way.
Single-action triggers tend to be shorter and require less pressure. Double-action triggers tend to be longer and heavier, as the trigger action has to cock the hammer, overcoming the resistance of the mainspring.
Ergonomics & Trigger
The trigger and ergonomics of the firearm play a significant role in your comfort and ability to shoot the weapon accurately. Ergonomics refers to how comfortably and efficiently you can hold, manipulate, and fire the weapon.
Can you depress the slide stop, engage and disengage the manual safety or decocking lever (if there is one), depress the magazine catch, and retract the slide? Are these actions comfortable or challenging? The trigger pull should be relatively light and crisp with a short reset. A light trigger doesn’t require significant pressure to activate.
Choose the Best Handgun for Home Defense
There are many firearms to choose from for home defense. This can be overwhelming for first-time gun owners. To help narrow down your search, consider these ten handguns for protecting your home.
1. Glock 19
The Glock 19, introduced in 1988, is the compact variant of the full-size Glock 17 polymer-framed, striker-fired pistol. A favorite among police officers, military personnel, and private citizens on an international scale, the G19 is a highly versatile and reliable handgun suitable for combat and self-defense.
The G19 has a polygonally rifled 4-inch barrel (4.02”), an overall length of 7.36 inches, and a weight (without magazine) of 21.16 ounces.
Chambered in 9×19mm Luger, the G19 is fed from a 15-round magazine, as standard, but can also accept a wide range of 9mm Glock magazines, varying in capacity from 17 to 33 rounds. Featuring Glock’s Safe Action System, the G19 has three passive safeties: Trigger safety, firing-pin safety, and drop safety. These safeties reduce the risk of an accidental discharge.
The standard G19 pistol has a white-dot front sight and a rear sight with a white “U,” but night sights are also available.
2. Smith & Wesson M&P Shield
Smith & Wesson is one of the most well-known brands in American handguns. Today, the Smith & Wesson M&P is one of the most popular semi-automatic pistols on the U.S. market and one of Glock’s primary competitors.
A polymer-framed, striker-fired semi-automatic pistol, the M&P (Military & Police) is reliable and rugged, having demonstrated its capabilities as a law enforcement sidearm.
The Smith & Wesson M&P Shield is the compact concealed carry variant, fed from a 7- or 8-round magazine, depending on caliber.
3. Springfield XD-M Elite 5.25”
The XD-M Elite is the match-grade competition variant of the Springfield Armory XD, hence the designation, and features several performance upgrades compared with the base weapon. These include an optics-ready slide, fiber-optic front sight, and an adjustable rear sight for increased visibility and precision during the day.
The Match Enhanced Trigger Assembly allows for one of the best striker-fired triggers on the market, and the controls are fully ambidextrous. The 22-round magazine provides an ample ammo supply, and the flared magazine well also simplifies magazine changes.
4. CZ 75
The Czech firm, Česká zbrojovka, introduced the CZ 75 (one of the earliest so-called “wonder nines”) in 1975. Chambered in 9mm, the CZ 75 is a DA/SA, hammer-fired, semi-automatic pistol with a 16-round magazine capacity.
Affordably priced, the CZ 75 is a steel-framed handgun in the same price range as some polymer pistols, such as the Glock. The CZ 75 B variant has a firing-pin safety and a manual safety lever, allowing you to carry it cocked and locked.
5. M1911 Platform
The Browning-designed M1911 is a single-action, hammer-fired semi-automatic pistol first adopted by the U.S. Army in the year of its namesake. Despite continuous production for 110 years, the M1911 has shown no signs of slowing down.
Although replaced in active service in 1985, the M1911 has a loyal following among private citizens and remains an excellent choice for self-defense.
Available in various configurations, the pistol is known for its highly ergonomic pistol grip, crisp single-action trigger, and reliable operation. As a full-size pistol, the M1911 has a 5-inch barrel, a weight of approximately 38 ounces, and an overall length of 8.25 inches.
The M1911 also has a grip safety, which you depress with the webbing between your thumb and index finger as you hold the pistol. In newer pistols, the grip safety has a memory bump and an upswept beavertail for improved comfort and consistent activation.
Initially chambered in .45 ACP, M1911-pattern handguns are available in calibers ranging from .22 Long Rifle to .460 Rowland. M1911 pistols typically have a 7- or 8-round magazine in .45 ACP, but this capacity can vary with the caliber.
6. Walther PPQ M2
The Walther PPQ M2 is an evolution of the company’s older P99 semi-automatic pistol. Available in 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP, the PPQ M2 is a polymer-framed, striker-fired handgun that features the company’s Quick Defense Trigger system, which is one of the pistol’s main advantages.
The ergonomic grip and interchangeable backstraps allow you to customize the weapon to suit your hand. You’re also able to activate the slide stop and magazine catch without altering the position of your hand on the pistol.
7. Beretta 92FS
The Beretta 92 series, most notably the 92FS, is a DA/SA, hammer-fired, semi-automatic pistol with an aluminum-alloy frame chambered in 9mm and fed from a 15-round magazine.
The 92FS is the civilian variant of the M9 pistol, which served as the U.S. Army’s official sidearm from 1985 until 2017. The Beretta 92FS has a reputation for functional reliability and accuracy under various adverse conditions, as demonstrated by its service record.
8. SIG Sauer P320-M17
In 2017, SIG Sauer announced that it had won the XM17 Modular Handgun System (MHS) competition and would gradually replace the Beretta pistol with a variant of the P320. The SIG P320-M17 is the commercial variant of the M17 service pistol, meeting the same specifications. The P320-M17 is a striker-fired, semi-automatic handgun chambered in 9mm and fed from a 17-round flush-fit magazine.
The pistol also ships with two 21-round extended magazines for increased firepower. The stainless-steel slide has a coyote-tan PVD coating and an optic cut. The carry-length grip module is available in three sizes, and the pistol has a manual safety catch as standard.
9. Heckler & Koch VP9
The Heckler & Koch VP9 Volkspistole or people’s pistol is a polymer-framed, striker-fired optics-ready handgun designed for law enforcement and military service.
Chambered in 9mm, although a .40-caliber variant is also available, the VP9 is fed from a 15- or 20-round magazine. Featuring a loaded chamber indicator, fins on the rear of the slide for additional traction, ambidextrous controls, and polygonal rifling, the VP9 is a highly versatile weapon.
10. Ruger SP101
If you’d prefer to purchase a wheel gun for home defense, the Ruger SP101 is a ruggedly built DA/SA steel-frame revolver available in several chamberings. However, the most useful cartridges for your purposes are 9mm and .357 Magnum. In .357 Magnum, the SP101 is designed to fire +P loads and .38 Special ammunition.
The SP101 has an external hammer, so you can manually cock the gun to reduce the length and weight of the trigger pull. Since a revolver doesn’t rely on breech or gas pressure to cycle, it is potentially more reliable than a semi-automatic pistol.
The SP101 is available in various barrel lengths and makes an excellent gun for the bedside table.
Caliber: Is Bigger Better?
The caliber denotes the bullet’s diameter or inside of the barrel (i.e., the bore in inches or millimeters). Caliber choice is only one of several factors that affect the terminal wounding performance of ammunition and the practicality of the defensive handgun.
Ammo: Hollow Points or Bust
The type of ammunition you select for self-defense must cycle reliably in your weapon. It should also be reasonably available. Once these criteria are met, you can prioritize other factors.
The ideal bullet type for self-defense is the jacketed hollow point. JHP bullets are designed to expand in soft tissue, increasing the frontal surface area and reducing penetration. The result is an increased wound channel diameter relative to the initial caliber.
Is the .25 Caliber Good for Self Defense?
When fired from a pistol, the .25 ACP cartridge is no more powerful than a rimfire .22 Long Rifle. The primary advantage of the .25 ACP is that its ignition is more reliable. Otherwise, the round is inadequate for either home defense or concealed carry.
In 2015, Lucky Gunner conducted a series of ammunition tests in 10% calibrated ordnance gelatin. In testing four different JHP loads, only one expanded after penetrating four layers of clothing.
The only bullet that consistently met the FBI’s minimum acceptable penetration standard was the 50-grain full metal jacket.
Find the Best Handgun for Home Defense
The decisions you make regarding firearms and ammunition for self-defense are potentially life-changing. For this reason, it’s essential to select the equipment that suits you, and the situation, best.
At IFA Tactical, we supply a wide variety of firearms to suit every application and shooter. Give us a call, and we’ll help you decide which handgun is suitable for you.
Is a handgun enough for home defense?
Depending on your ammunition and shot placement choice, a handgun should be sufficient for most home-defense purposes.
What is the best caliber handgun for self-defense?
There is no single best caliber for home defense. Assuming you have a reliable, accurate firearm chambered in a service cartridge, e.g., 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, the bullet type is more important than the caliber. Most handgun calibers are a compromise between power, controllability, and capacity.
Which is better for home defense 9mm or .45 ACP?
Both the 9mm and .45 ACP cartridges are adequate for home defense. Provided both rounds achieve sufficient penetration, the priority should be expansion potential. Here the .45 ACP has an advantage. The average expanded diameter of many .45-caliber JHP bullets is greater than 9mm loads.
However, there are other factors you should consider, such as reliability in your weapon of choice, controllability, and magazine capacity. You may find that the lighter recoil of the 9mm allows you to fire faster follow-up shots.