Home defense is a crucial cornerstone for anyone living in today’s world, and no matter what the media tries to tell us, we all know that the pen doesn’t always beat the sword. It’s not like you’re going to take the time, or risk trying to talk yourself out of a life or death scenario, when you have a legitimate way out. That “way out” comes in multiple calibers, but for the sake of common sense we’ll boil it down to the top three.
You might be thinking, “Why just those three? What about .22LR, .380 ACP, .357 Magnum?”. The answer is simple, our “top three” calibers are the three most readily available sidearm calibers on the market. Yes, .22LR is (by the numbers) the most common caliber sold, but when SHTF everyone will be buying it out because it’s the cheapest firearm on the market. From a prepper’s standpoint, that takes .22LR right out of the picture. Besides, when it comes to comparing .22LR to the other three calibers, it’s like comparing a small pebble to a large rock.
Now that we’ve boiled it down to three calibers, let’s get into the details of each one, starting with the 9mm. With the cost of 9mm hollow point ammunition averaging $25-$30 for a box of 50, the 9mm is placed within the “affordable” range. Arguably the most popular caliber on the market for standard-sized handguns, the 9mm is used by many law enforcement, and government agencies. The most reliable, and cost-effective way of delivering the 9mm is through the Glock series of handguns. Glocks average $400-$600 depending on the model, and have been a lightweight, durable means of self-defense since 1963.
Next, we’ll get started on the .40 S&W. Weighing an estimated four grams more than the 9mm, you would think the .40 S&W is a “no-brainer” right? Wrong, for what the 9mm lacks in weight, it makes up in muzzle velocity (how fast the round exits the firearm). The .40 S&W averages 980 ft./s, while the 9mm averages 1,248 ft./s. Both calibers cost relatively the same on average, so deciding if the .40 S&W all depends on your preferred method of delivery.
The most popular handgun for this category is (you guessed it) the S&W M&P .40. This particular handgun has a 16-round capacity (15 in the magazine, one in the chamber), and costs between $525-$600. S&W has been around since the 1800’s, and is one of the leaders in firearm sales. With a history of superior firearms, S&W has shown dependability along with durability in stressful situations, making them a top-choice for today’s preppers.
Lastly, we’ll target the .45 ACP. With incredible stopping power, the .45 ACP’s downfall is its muzzle velocity (830 ft./s). This specific caliber, however, doesn’t necessarily rely on its muzzle velocity to deliver stopping-power. The .45 ACP costs a surprising $20-$35 per box of 50 hollow point rounds, making them cost-effective for preppers willing to search the internet for the best deals.
Most handguns capable of shooting .45 ACP rounds only come with magazines that are able to hold 12 rounds on average. The most popular handgun for this caliber is the Beretta PX4 Storm Type F. The Type F is a very durable, cost-efficient ($575-$650), ambidextrous handgun meant for the more serious home defense enthusiasts.
Not everyone really cares about the caliber, but more specifically the gun itself. No worries, because now we’ll get into the handguns to look into, and the ones you should forget about. Most articles you look into will throw a big list of guns at you without really getting into why you should look into them for your best way to defend your castle. Here’s a list of the good (recommended for home defense), the bad (not recommended for home defense), and the plain old ugly (avoid completely for home defense).
- THE GOOD:
- Glock 19 Gen 4
- Sig P226 MK25
- S&W M&P M2.0
- HK VP9
- S&W M&P Shield
- THE BAD:
- Taurus 709 Slim
- Glock 36
- Ruger SR9c
- Desert Eagle .50 Cal
- Revolvers (Don’t worry, we’ll get into why)
- THE UGLY:
- Taurus Judge
- Caracal Model C
- Glock 42
- Remington R51
Now that we’ve established our list, let’s get into why each firearm is in its respective category. There’s good, and bad things about every firearm on this list, but some of these you just can’t overlook the bad. One thing to know before you read this list, there are hundreds of different handguns on the market, but to save you time we narrowed them down.
The Glock 19 Gen 4
Glocks have a history of being completely customizable. Their lightweight, durable polymer frame makes them a favorite amongst homeowners looking for defense. The Glock 19 Gen 4 features a Dual Recoil Spring Assembly that helps reduce the recoil you feel, so you can fire continuous rounds while staying on target. With the standard magazine capacity sitting at 15 (9mm) rounds, the Glock 19 Gen 4 is sure to sustain a light engagement within your home.
The Glock 19 Gen 4 is a striker-operated firearm. This means the striker that hits the firing pin is spring-loaded internally. A benefit of this, is that you don’t have to worry about a harder trigger pull for your first round, or even pulling the hammer back before you fire the first round. A downfall for the Glock platform is that they don’t feature manual safeties. If you do purchase one for home defense, avoid leaving a round in the chamber.
Another feature that’s worth talking about is its reversible enlarged magazine release. This feature easily makes it left, or right hand capable. An ambidextrous handgun can be crucial in certain scenarios if your dominant hand becomes useless (gunshot wound, stab wound, protecting loved ones). Customizability is another factor in home defense. Spending a little extra can get you a tactical light attachment with strobe capabilities to blind your assailant. Finally, the Glock 19 Gen 4 easily makes the “good” list because of its affordability ($525-$575), durability, and survivability.
photo the Sig P226 MK25 via Wikimedia Commons
The Sig P226 MK25
Sig Sauer handguns have been a subject for debate, as well as competition since they really branched out in 1949. Regardless of debate, it’s hard to overlook the P226. This hammer-fired model has been proven in combat by the U.S. Navy Seals. “Hammer-fired” simply means the handgun has a visible hammer located on the rear of the frame. You have the option to squeeze the trigger (with a longer, more-resisted pull) before the hammer is cocked back, or you can manually cock it back before the first round is fired for a lighter trigger squeeze. The MK25 is slightly heavier than its polymer-frame competition, only because it’s made of alloy and steel. Weight however, is hardly a factor when it comes to a few ounces.
Another factor that comes into play with handguns is their balance. Sig Sauer is the leading firearm manufacturer when it comes to efficiency designing and balancing. Balance is crucial for handguns because a properly balanced firearm reduces the recoil felt when firing rapidly. If your home is threatened and you need to use lethal force, you’re hardly ever going to fire just one round.
The MK25 standard steel magazines can hold 15 (9mm) rounds, making it reliable for light engagements. The problem with steel magazines is that they can rust, rendering them useless. You don’t have to worry about the steel components on the firearm itself though, it’s key components are specially coated for corrosion resistance. If you’re a military fanatic, and love the Navy Seals, the MK25 is a great fit for you. Its proven dependability in combat, durability, and magazine capacity lands the Sig P226 MK25 on the “good” list (if you can afford its $1,190 average price).
The S&W M&P M2.0
Smith and Wesson are a very well-known name in the gun industry, and for a good reason. They’re very reliable, and have proven throughout time that they have the best customer-care reviews in the business. Their M&P lineup match the favorability of the brand they come from when it comes to gun enthusiasts. The M2.0 is the manufacturer’s newest striker operated model for M&P line, and they really kept up with their innovative reputation.
The M2.0 features a lightweight, polymer frame that is one of the lightest durable frames on the market for its category (24.7oz). It also has an 18-degree grip angle that helps you achieve natural point of aim. This is extremely important for stressful situations, because when you have milliseconds to react to a threat, any assistance that helps you achieve your natural aim can be the difference between life or death. This handgun also features a high grip to barrel bore axis (the top of your grip is more in line with the barrel), making it more effective for shooting in rapid succession because it reduces how high your barrel will rise with each shot.
The S&W M&P models brag about their customizability, and the M2.0 is no different. It features a picatinny rail system along the bottom of the frame (grooves), to assist with attaching different hardware (laser or light). Each magazine holds 15 (9mm) rounds. While there are other M&P models to choose from for home defense, this model stands out due to its innovation and features. The M2.0 is an outstanding home defense weapon due to its affordability ($575-$625), customizability, durability, and reliability.
photo: The HK VP9 via Wikimedia Commons
The HK VP9
Heckler and Koch firearms have been around since 1949 and have provided weapons to armed forces in the United States, Netherlands, Britain, and Germany. They have designed famous weaponry such as the MP5, and the HK33. They also won over the biggest handgun contract in law enforcement history in 2004, with 65,000 handguns for $26.2 million. With a time-tested manufacturer of firearms, we decided to do some research on the best fit for home defense.
The VP9 features a lightweight polymer frame (25.56oz), with a cold hammer forged polygonal bore. The polygonal bore is an excellent innovation in the world of handguns, because it assists in sealing the propelling gasses behind the bullet as it leaves the chamber. This feature allows the bullet to leave the barrel faster, thus increasing its velocity (how fast the bullet travels). While this feature has been around since the HK P7 series, it’s still used in today’s models, proving its effectiveness. The VP9 also features a picatinny rail system like its competition.
Another interesting feature on the VP9 is its magazine release. Each magazine can hold 10/15 (9mm) rounds. The release is located on the trigger guard on both sides, allowing for ambidextrous use. We’ve established earlier why that is a crucial factor when it comes to home defense firearms, but I’ll reiterate, any gun that allows for ambidextrous use when paired with reliability is a great candidate for home defense handguns. The VP9 has proven to be reliable, durable, and affordable ($650-$750), making it an easy pick for the “good” list.
The S&W M&P Shield
The last handgun on the “good” list is the M&P Shield, but that doesn’t make it the least important. This model is a compact (shorter barrel, smaller size), making it easy to conceal on you, or even in a drawer or secret compartment in your home. With over a million owners, this model is worth considering; let’s break it down.
The M&P Shield has an ultra-lightweight polyester frame (20.8oz), but still packs a serious punch. It comes with two magazines, one smaller 7 (9mm) round to use when you want the magazine flush with the weapon, and another 8 (9mm) round magazine. While it may not have a high capacity, 8 rounds should give you plenty of opportunity to hit your target. The Shield is a striker operated handgun, which helps its concealability for small spaces, since you don’t have to worry about a hammer sticking out.
Smith and Wesson have multiple handguns on the market, but for concealability, affordability ($425-$475), and durability, the M&P Shield is a great fit for those looking for simple home defense. Another great benefit for its small design, is for smaller hands. While most reliable handguns are larger, the compact Shield has a smaller body making it easier to use for people with smaller than average hands like teenagers (with firearms training), and spouses.
That completes the “good” list. Don’t worry, just because your favorite handgun didn’t make the cut for our list, doesn’t mean it’s not great. It simply means we can’t read everyone’s mind, so we put together our own list based off research. Now, to get into the “bad” list. If your favorite handgun ended up on this list, or if your friend (who probably only shoots once a month) keeps telling you to buy a gun off this list, you may want to reconsider your options.
The Taurus 709 Slim
The 709 Slim has a lot of features for a sub-compact 9mm, we’ll give it that. It features a loaded chamber indicator, which tells you when there’s a round in the chamber (or you can just look into the chamber like we have for hundreds of years). It also features the Taurus Security System, which at the turn of a small key will render the gun useless. This system disables the weapon’s ability to fire, or even disengage the safety.
The security system is an absolute nightmare of “what-if’s”, the biggest one being what if you need to reach down into your nightstand to quickly grab your handgun, but realize you need to turn a key to shoot your home intruder. Just like that, you’re dead, because of a key. While the security system is a good idea in theory, it sounds a bit too democratic as far as controlling the safety of a firearm, rather than controlling the safety of the individual firing it.
While the 709 Slim is affordable ($320-$375), you can’t put a price on safety, and reliability in critical situations. If you’re looking for a handgun simply based off price, this model shouldn’t be considered for home defense due to its lack of useful innovation. For most gun enthusiasts, just the name Taurus can send an uneasy chill down their spine.
The Glock 36
While most Glocks are recommended for home defense, this model is on the “bad” list. The Glock 36 model is a .45 caliber, making it appealing to some gun owners. A massive downfall of this model is that it only holds 6 rounds. Anything less than 8 rounds should start to raise red flags for gun owners, especially for home defense. The reason why, is because an inexperienced gun owner is more likely to miss the first 3 shots after 15 feet under stressful conditions.
After those 3 rounds, you only have 3 left. A 45. Caliber packs an incredible punch, at the cost of an incredible kick. It’s not worth risking those last 3 rounds in your magazine, on your precise aim under extreme conditions when SHTF. Perhaps the biggest reason that the Glock 36 is on the “bad” list, is the reoccurring problem when it comes to jams.
The Glock 36 is notorious for ejection problems, meaning the casing fails to leave the chamber after it has fired, making it difficult for the next unfired round to enter. While it’s affordable ($450-$550), the risk of not having enough rounds in a magazine to effectively eliminate the threat isn’t worth your life.
photo: The Ruger SR9c via Wikimedia Commons
The Ruger SR9c
The Ruger models are known for their defects, as well as legitimate safety concerns. As soon as you visit their website, you see “Product Safety Warning and Recall Notice” in bold on the main page. If that doesn’t shoot up red flags about this manufacturer, you should consider using knives for home defense. Another issue with Ruger is their customer service. Quite a few people have had issues with timely responses when sending back a gun that was bought from them because of defects.
The SR9c has had multiple defect issues, the most important one being with the trigger assembly. Many SR9c owners have complained that their trigger won’t reset after a few rounds have been fired through it. This is a major issue because if you miss with the rounds that do fire, then run into the trigger defect issue, you’re SOL because now you must fix your malfunctioning firearm.
While the SR9c is affordable ($550-$575), the overwhelming number of defects isn’t worth risking the protection of your family over. If Ruger comes out with a model that is well balanced, and offers variations for different caliber sizes (and dependable), then maybe we’ll give them another shot. For now, their lack of customer service, as well as a history of faulty weapons, leaves them on the “bad” list.
The Desert Eagle .50 Cal
The Desert Eagle is one of the most popular handguns in the world. It’s been featured on many movies and TV shows, and has gained a reputation for being one of the most powerful handguns on the market. Here’s the issue, while the Desert Eagle is popular for movies, that’s where it belongs. As far as home defense is concerned, a .50 caliber handgun has no place in a household (unless you live in the wilderness and need a high-caliber round to kill a large predatory animal).
If you have your family hiding in one room and you fire a .50 caliber round at your target and miss, you better hope your backdrop isn’t the same room their hiding in. A .50 caliber round can easily penetrate a household wall, so backdrop is extremely important. The round is incredibly loud, and with prolonged firing, can cause deafness without ear protection. When SHTF, who really has time to grab ear protection anyways?
Another concern is cost effectiveness. At anywhere from $1,700-$2,000 for the handgun, and $1.50-$2.25 per round, the Desert Eagle .50 caliber isn’t exactly affordable. You might be thinking “well I only need a box for home defense.”, that may be true, but you also must take into consideration target practice. With any home defense firearm, training is a must. You need to be efficient with your handgun before you can trust yourself in a stressful situation with it.
Now before you wild west fanatics challenge us to a duel, revolvers are only on this list due to their lack of capacity (5 or 6 rounds). While most revolvers are extremely reliable, and durable, they lack ammunition capacity. That key factor alone can cause disastrous consequences when the difference between a few rounds could mean life or death.
We won’t go too in depth with revolvers, but heed caution when looking for revolvers for home defense, solely because of their ammunition capacity.
If you’ve been looking at buying a handgun, and that gun has found its way onto this list, do yourself a favor and forget about it. For every firearm on this list, there is either a major common sense issue, or a safety issue. Take extreme caution if you still want to buy a handgun on this list.
The Taurus Judge
Yes, the famous Judge made its way onto our “ugly” list, but for two very good reasons. The first reason is what we just went over, it’s a revolver. The Judge can use a 2.5/3in 410 shotgun shell, or .45 caliber as a round. That may sound great in theory, however using shotgun shells in a revolver has a very big downfall, the spread.
With only a 3in barrel, the Judge doesn’t offer much for tightening the spread of a shotgun shell. Some users have reported to have a 30in spread at 15 yards, using a standard 3 inch Winchester AA #7-1/2 shot shells, a 15/16 oz. payload. All in all, the Judge just isn’t practical for home defense.
The Caracal Model C
We won’t go too far into detail about the Caracal Model C, solely because most authorized gun retailers don’t sell them anymore. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t sold online, or by private sellers. The issue with the Model C is the trigger assembly, Caracal issued a recall stating “do not load, or fire your pistol” referencing the Model C.
The defect in the trigger assembly makes the weapon prone to firing when it’s dropped. This is a major safety concern, because if your nerves get the best of you when SHTF and you drop it, you could shoot the wrong person. Absolutely stay away from this handgun if safety is a concern for you.
The Glock 42
First, the Glock 42 is a .380 caliber handgun, which isn’t as common as the 9mm, or .40cal. When it comes to prepping, one of your first thoughts when it comes to buying a handgun is the round in which it shoots. If you need to use other resources to find ammunition, your safest bet is the 9mm, or .40cal because of their popularity. More people are bound to have those two types of handgun ammunition, rather than a .380.
Ignoring the caliber size, Glock 42 users have experienced more than average issues with failure to eject rounds. This can be quite a problem when you need to fire multiple rounds in a rapid succession, because you’re basically turning a semi-automatic handgun into a pump-action.
Every time you have a round that fails to eject with a handgun, you need to pull the slide to the rear, and sometimes drop the magazine to let the casing fall out. This creates an unnecessary hassle and could be potentially life-threatening when time is of the essence.
The Remington R51
This handgun is seemingly the nightmare of all modern handguns. Its issues range from firing while loading, loose rear sights, to even burning the firing hand of the shooter due to the slide not properly containing the gasses expelled during shooting. Multiple shooting enthusiasts sent complaints, along with videos of these malfunctions to Remington.
Eventually, Remington recalled their R51 models, but took months to get back to their loyal customers with a solution. By the time a solution was found, many customers switched to different handguns because of it. This poorly put together handgun is the reason why people read articles like this, so we can tell it to you how it is.
This is the most important factor when deciding what handgun will best suit your needs. No matter how “cool” it may look, looks don’t win fights. If you can’t depend on your handgun to operate when you need it to the most, you’re gambling with your life. A lot of dependability also comes with cleanliness. You must keep your handgun clean, otherwise several problems can arise, including your weapon not firing.
You don’t want your handgun breaking into pieces just because you drop it, right? Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but durability is a major factor. If a struggle breaks out to control the firearm between you, and whoever your target is, and it falls to the ground, you don’t want to risk picking it back up and it not firing.
Durability also includes dirt, mud, or any of nature’s elements coming into play when it comes to your handgun. Make sure you do research on what is durable, and what’s not if your handgun isn’t on this list.
From a prepper’s standpoint, compatibility comes into play when you’re looking to buy a handgun, even for home defense. If SHTF and you need to bug out, you want a handgun that uses commonly used ammunition so if you come across an abandoned house, the chances of them having your ammunition are higher.
We hope this list helps with your search to find the ideal home defense handgun for you. Remember, there are other handguns on the market, this is just a list of the more popular choices. Some of these guns were so good, we had to let you know, or so bad that we had to warn you.
Whatever decision you make is up to you, however take these three key factors into consideration when looking for your next home defense weapon.
Like what you read?
Then you're gonna love my free PDF, 20 common survival items, 20 uncommon survival uses for each. That's 400 total uses for these dirt-cheap little items!
Just enter your primary e-mail below to get your link:We will not spam you.
10 thoughts on “The Best Handguns for Home Defense”
This article has a few typos that should’ve been edited. Glock has not been around since 1963. A striker fired handgun dies not have a hammer. The hammer is not “inside” the gun. Striker fired guns have a, striker. Basically a firing pin that is under spring pressure. As opposed to a hammer fired gun where the hammer is under spring pressure and when released, strikes the firing pin. Semi auto handguns with hammers generally are double action which gives the user the option of either firing using the first shot with the long heavy double action, or to cock the hammer and fire first shot with a short light single action. Some of the selections of guns saying they are horrible is taken out of context. For example there is nothing wrong with the glock 36, as a backup or concealed carry gun. Same with the glock 42. Both are good tools, but not the right tool for say a home defense application. The same can be said on the opposite end of the spectrum with the desert eagle. If you live alone in grizzly country, why wouldn’t it be an acceptable home defense handgun?
You are absolutely right, sir. The striker miscommunication is due to me trying to simplify things too much for some readers. I will edit this, as I strive to provide accurate information for my readers. As far as your selections for concealed carry, you are entitled to that opinion, and in my opinion you’re not wrong. This article, however, is for “home defense” not concealed carry. I did not consider grizzly country home defense, thank you for reminding me about the above. Thank you for your input. I will edit my article accordingly.
For your readers who have limited or no direct experience with the different manufacturers and calibers of semi-auto firearms, I wish that you had provided a stronger disclaimer about “The Bad” category. Glock, Ruger and Taurus produce some very fine and/or perfectly adequate and reliable firearms. I own Ruger and Desert Eagle semi-autos in models other than those you claim to be “bad,” and have found them to fulfill the requirements of a self defense weapon in terms of reliability, accuracy, capacity, etc.
Regarding .22 caliber, .380 and .357 Magnum, anyone with common sense has probably already stocked up on ammo, thereby rendering your statement a moot point. Although I wouldn’t consider using my .357 inside my home, I wouldn’t hesitate to use it for self defense elsewhere. Speaking of .22 caliber, I also have a .22 magnum Ruger revolver (with an ample stock of ammo) that is quite capable of stopping an intruder.
Overall, I give your article a weak C- score.
Ben, thank you for your feedback! It seems as though you have plenty of firearms, which is great! However, this article is geared towards people who wish to purchase a weapon for home defense, not EDC. If you wish to receive advise on EDC weapons, I’m sure the list will be different from this one.
As to your “disclaimer” portion, I’m sorry you feel that you were inadequately informed that I don’t recommend the handguns on the “bad” list. Let me inform you personally. I don’t recommend using the handguns on the “bad” list. The reasons why, are stated in each subheading.
As to your caliber comment, your opinion is welcome. However, my professional statement in regards to these still stand. Thank you for your feedback. I will use your input the next time I decide to write another article in regards to handguns for home defense, since handguns are an ever-changing industry.
S&W a good gun? Really! I purchased an MP 9c and It jams every third round. Sent it back to manufacturer 3 times for repair. waiting for them to fix it……it is still there.
I’m sorry that you feel that way about S&W! Though, I am not a representative for them. I merely base my articles off of personal experience (in my military and prior law enforcement service) as well as reviews. Thank you for your input, however, there are four other weapons to choose from.
Hmmmm I have both a S&W shield in 9mm , M&P 45 and a S&W MP 15 with no problems what so ever .All seem to eat any ammo I feed them without complaint. I have multiple S&W revolvers also but we were talking auto’s
EVERYBODY’S A CRITIC…
Write anything about firearm preference and you’d better strap on a flak jacket if you have a comments section available, but good luck finding much positive feedback. I figure I’ll buck the trend and say “I like the list and info!” It’s a nice succinct basic guide with recommendations for people looking for their first good HD handgun. Plus there are “Bad” and “Ugly” lists, which nobody ever writes up. And [for this particular application and target audience] thank you for putting friggin’ revolvers on that list!
The only bone I have to pick—or at least the one I couldn’t let go unremarked—concerns the comment about backdrop/[over-]penetration for the Desert Eagle .50. In a typical house, with nothing but drywall and occasional 2×4 separating loved ones from my lousy aim, I think it’s worthwhile to keep in mind that the ability to penetrate through walls is NOT what separates the .50 from any of the other rounds/firearms mentioned. At least, I think my loved ones would like me to keep that in mind :). The Box O’ Truth [theboxotruth.com] has some nice visual aids for this purpose. I also like this image from drywall vs. 9mm (FMJ? I don’t recall) –> [http://s14544.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/penetration-drywall.jpg].
I know you’re not running a safety course here, but maybe worth an addendum? IMHO, just good practice to remind everyone to maintain proper situational awareness and never forget about anything beyond the target, regardless of caliber.
Thanks for this compilation! I like that you pointed out the good ones and also the bad ones you would least recommend. I personally agree that handguns are the easiest firearms to have for home defense, they’re compact and easy to store.
A low cost handgun that could have made it, is the Smith & Wesson SD9VE, as some folks can’t afford the higher priced handguns out there, and even lower income folks can afford a Hipoint handgun to protect their home, but gun snobs will be against this, I myself own many handguns both revolvers and autos, I own Hipoint handguns, bought them to see how bad they really are, they work fine for me, no FTF,orFTE, shoots any ammo I feed it.Be prepared and ready. Keep your powder dry.