Finding the best handgun for home defense is like finding a great pizza place or a pair of socks you really love, it’s a personal choice that only you can make.
With hundreds of options on the market and gun store counter people trying to sell you their favorite, it can be a hard-fought battle to find what really works for you.
While we can’t tell you what the perfect fit will be, we can give you our top recommendations and the reasons why we would trust our lives to these firearms specifically. Armed with that — you can make an informed decision on your handgun for home defense.
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Is a Handgun a Good Choice for Home Defense?
There are very few things more personal than defending one’s own home. It’s important to be well-prepared for uncertain eventualities and often a gun is the choice of defense.
That is to say, Guns are said to prevent nearly 2.5 million crimes every year in the United States. This ranges from home invasions to grave harm or death.
Every year, firearms prevent 400,000 life-threatening crimes, and according to gunfact.info, 60% of convicts acknowledged avoiding crimes when they knew their chances of encountering an armed individual were high.
With having a weapon at the ready comes the choice of a rifle or a pistol. Both have their benefits and deficits. A rifle, while easy to use and comes in a wide range of sizes, is still considerably larger than handgun options and can cause more extensive unintended damages.
On the other hand, with the right training, practically anyone can wield a pistol with reasonable efficiency – especially at close distances for home defense.
Even if a longarm is the first choice for someone defending their home or business, it’s still a wise idea to have a handgun at the ready. Either one that is an EDC pistol or specific for home defense. Most can be used interchangeably, and it’s going to ultimately be the closest firearm that will be utilized when a need to defend a home.
What To Look For in HD Handgun?
When it comes to pistols, there are a few considerations to take into account. Ultimately, it’s what each individual feels most comfortable and trains with. Some considerations will help someone feel more or less comfortable in using a specific firearm. Some of the biggest considerations are:
For a defensive pistol the caliber is – but also isn’t – important. A hard-hitting caliber usually means it is a successful tool for stopping an individual or animal. But, with larger caliber means less capacity. Even still, no matter which caliber you use, having multiple choices for projectiles means a better ability to compensate for caliber shortcomings with better expansion.
Without a doubt, the 3 most common calibers used for home defense are 45 ACP, 40S&W, and 9mm.
Additionally, each one is an excellent choice and 45 ACP and 9mm are the most common with a high range of different projectile types.
Recently, 10mm has been gaining popularity and is a stretched-out 40 S&W. If you’re not sure what to get — we strongly recommend 9mm.
Type of Action
Striker fire, hammer fire, and single-action are the primary firing types for pistols. The most popular for self-defense is striker fire. There are a variety of reasons for this, but striker fire is by far the most common.
Hammer fire, while popular, is harder to find in compact firearms which may double as an EDC pistol.
To add more confusion, revolvers are also a strong consideration. The actions must be quite reliable, although they do have some significant downsides. They do, however, allow for stronger caliber choices and very short barrels making concealability and firepower a possible mixture.
When Glock was first released, they made the rounds as ‘Combat Tupperware.’
In the ’70s and ’80s, polymer firearms were new and unproven. At this time, it appears that the majority of pistols for home defense are made with polymer frames. While not new, alloy materials and aluminum are finding their way into a considerable number of compact and full-sized frames.
Lastly, steel – stainless and carbon – is still a popular option for large caliber frames or older-style pistols like 1911.
There aren’t many choices when it comes to pistol size. Sub-compact, compact, and full-size are the most common choices. Depending on possible secondary uses, compact seems to be a great all-around size. However, with a larger pistol, there is less felt recoil and more capacity.
Subcompact models are hard to control for a follow-up shot. Revolvers also fall into this mix and have a wide range of barrel length, frame size, and caliber choices which all contribute to the overall size.
In a home-defense pistol, weight appears to be a secondary consideration. Many people are concerned about the strongest action or the high capacity before they think about overall weight. When having a dual use as a conceal carry pistol weight is absolutely a consideration.
It’s surprising how often or how little this is a concern or many shopping for a handgun. But, concealability and lightweight mean sacrificing capacity. There are options out there for many people and some don’t care about capacity as much as general firepower. This is an old debate — as old as 1911.
Best Handguns for Home Defense
Taking a look at all the pros and cons we will focus on the 9mm and 45 ACP as the main home defense pistols. Most likely, the same or similar firearm may also be found in 10mm or 40 S&W if you feel the need.
Our choices are limiting frame size to compact and full-frame pistols/revolvers — sub-compacts are for CCW. Barrel length will remain between 3 – 5 inches for adequate velocity and hollow-point expansion.
1. Springfield Ronin 1911 (and other 1911 types)
This pistol is far from an entry-level finish but still keeps an entry-level price point. Coming in at $849, the Ronin is packed full of features those other competitors may charge extra.
There are two options for frame material: forged stainless or satin aluminum. First, the satin aluminum has a 4.25-inch stainless steel match grade barrel and carbon steel slide which come in at a total of 31 ounces in either 9mm or 45 ACP. Second, its stainless frame has a 5-inch stainless steel match barrel with the same specs as the aluminum but weighs in at 40 ounces. Lastly, a 5-inch barrel does come in either 45 ACP or 10mm.
Those options mean that a user can find whatever design and style they want in their preferred caliber, as long as those calibers are 9mm, 45 ACP, or 10mm.
Plus, the fiber optic tactical sights are a nice touch and an added flair to the two-tone finish. One of the best standout features has to be the laminated wooden grip which adds to the two-tone finish. While this is a hammer-fired pistol, it is single action only.
2. CZ SP-01
CZ has had a long reputation for quality firearms, especially their renowned CZ 75 series.
The 75 never had humble beginnings and had been a go-to pistol for many police and militaries of the world. Building upon the experience of the past they have produced the SP-01; a modernized 75.
The cold hammer-forged barrel is reliable and measures 4.6 inches. The frame is steel that gives added strength while the sights are either night sights or tritium, depending on the year and model. While some people consider this pistol slightly large for home defense, it has more than proven itself for a hammer-fired DA/SA pistol.
Picatinny attachment points on the bottom will allow for some type of accessory depending on personal likes and dislikes. This is a bit higher of a price point coming in at $829 USD, but with excellent craftsmanship and lineage.
3. Beretta 92FS
Beretta has been a long-proven name in the firearms industry. Over 400 years of producing firearms for militaries, police, and civilians.
Moreover, the 92 series – including the M9 – have shown how a large-capacity pistol can handle real-world situations and had been adopted by the US military in the 1980s. Some people love the 92 series, and some people hate it. Either way, there is no denying that in a perfect environment they function flawlessly.
The drawback to the 92 series was the largely exposed barrel which seems to allow dust and sand to enter the slide movement and cause grittiness or binding.
While this isn’t the typical issue inside a home, it is worth noting this experience from first-hand users. Even still, other users had no such difficulties. This hammer-fired SA/DA full-size pistol is different from the previously listed full-size options as it is completely ambidextrous.
In addition, left or ‘correct’ handed users can easily manipulate all the functions of this 9mm pistol with ease. The capacity isn’t bad, however, with 15 round magazines being the standard and 17-19 rounders available. The receiver is made from an aluminum alloy for lightweight handling and even comes in some new configurations for Picatinny rails and attachment systems.
$699 USD for a large frame, DA/SA action, high-capacity pistol seems more than adequate for home defense and end-of-the-world cosplay.
4. Zastava M57/M70
Zastava has been producing pistols for a long time. That said, one of the iconic designs from the cold war was the Tokarev, and Zastava’s Tokarev design is a nice, inexpensive 1911 pistol.
The style goes back to John Browning and is similar in many ways to 1911. What Zastava has done has extended the grip to allow for a 9-round magazine in a steel frame. This pistol comes in both 9mm or 7.62×25 Tokarev and weighs 27.2 – 30 ounces. Not the lightest pistol on the market, but one of the thinnest.
It’s been well known to be an incredibly reliable pistol in many different environments. Developed and employed by the Russians in the 1930s, the original Tokarev (TT-33) has been in nearly every major conflict in Europe and Asia since WWII. Replaced in Russia in the 1950’s it’s still in limited service in Bangladesh and North Korea with occasional police use in China.
While a more antiquated design, it is an inexpensive pistol that can handle a lot of abuse without much loss of function. At $499 USD this is a unique pistol design that is sure to turn heads.
5. G17/G19 and clones
I say clones because other than 1911, it appears that the Glock G17/G19 is one of the most copied handguns currently on the market.
When Polymer 80 began to introduce kits and frames, the G19 Gen 3 was the go-to pistol for amateur builders. At $599 and up the G17/19 is not inexpensive but not overly expensive either. What sets Glock (and clones) apart from all other pistols in this lineup is the sheer volume of aftermarket accessories made to improve user comfort and speed. The original striker-fired polymer frames pistol is still just as strong of a competitor as a service pistol. Now on their 5th generation, the G19 isn’t going anywhere.
Magazines are also easy to find; parts are relatively inexpensive, and magazine extensions are a part of nearly every gun show or industry event. While one of the best-known pistols of all time, the G19 does have some shortcomings as a bulky and sometimes cumbersome pistol.
Only recently have front and rear serrations found their way onto the slide and RMR (optics) mounts are still not found in any Glock pistol in a factory configuration. If you want bare-bones, the stock compact 9mm pistol G19 is the way to go. For a full-frame, stick with a G17. However, with all the additional accessories and third-party parts, a good G19 with optics mount, serrations, crisp triggers, and extended magazines can be built or bought from custom shops.
6. Canik METE
The METE series comes in both full and compact sizes, much like the Glock 17 and 19. Canik’s METE is a considerably better version and due to its affordable price, we like it a lot
Firstly, it comes with optics mounts and upgraded sights. Plus, it has hopped-up triggers, serrated slides, and threaded barrels. Certainly, the METE is not lacking! These pistols were meant for both competition and self-defense.
While having a very vertical pistol geometry may make it difficult to conceal carry, the flared magwell and 18/20 round mags more than compensate for the slightly annoying carry method necessary to stay concealed.
Canik, it appears, has taken the best of the Glock and the CZ to put in an all-in-one pistol for less than it would be from competitors. At $520-$575, it fills the void. Most importantly, they just look bad-ass with their two-tone color scheme and hard lines.
7. CZ P10C
Starting off the striker fire, compact, and polymer frame receivers is the P10C. If this pistol looks familiar, it should.
Because the design appears to borrow heavily from the Glock 19 pistol, in many cases the pistol can share holsters with the G19. However, it’s nothing like a Glock and far from standard.
Consequently, CZ starts the P10 lineup with a tritium sight and has recently switched to a high-quality three-dot sight. The P10C is compact, lightweight comes with several grip extension options, and comes standard with a 15-round magazine – the same size found in many full-frame models.
Usually, the finish work is secondary to the overall function, but CZ seems to take great pride in the overall fit and finish.
For instance, the P10C has a unique slide geometry cutting down on the edge material on each top corner of the slide. The slide also sits deep into the frame which can make the P10C difficult to charge compared to high-sided slides.
That said, it is no harder to use than any other firearm one trains with. With its more upright grip ergonomics, the P10C is easy and comfortable to maneuver. 26 ounces, $525 USD, and a total of 7.3 inches of length make this pistol a worthy option overall.
8. Springfield EMP
My personal favorite is by far the EMP. This pistol is a brilliant styling concept that made it into production. Coming in a 3 inch and 4 inches (Champion) sized the EMP pairs a highly textured alloy frame and forged stainless slide.
A drawback to this specific firearm is the capacity. Being a 1911 style means using single stack magazines. Even in 9mm, the pistol magazine is limited to 9 rounds.
That said, the function, fit, and finish are far beyond even the highest quality 1911s on the market. Some additional features are well worth taking a close look at the EMP lineup. The 4” Champion model also comes with a standard shape frame and a ‘Carry Contour’ variation like a beavertail.
Moreover, the Champion models come with ‘posi-lock checkering’ under the trigger guard for an aggressive grip texture. On the other hand, the Carry Contour (CC) model has a follow-through of checkering on the G10 grip scales – all other scales are made from Cocobolo.
If being ambidextrous is a must, this 1911 has it. It also makes the list with one of the highest price tags at $1104 – $1249 UDS
9. Springfield Hellcat
The smallest firearm in our lineup, the Hellcat. It has made waves in the self-defense world.
This striker-fired polymer pistol is actually a sub-compact frame but breaks barriers and has options closer to compact and even full-sized counterparts. It also finds itself in the middle of the price list at $599 – $799 USD.
This pistol is one of the highest capacity sub-compact pistols holding 11+1 with a flush fit mag or 13+1 with the extended mags. Serrations follow the slide all the way across the sides and top providing more than an adequate gripping surface for slide manipulations.
While not ambidextrous perse, the lack of manual slide or frame safety and reversible mag release means this pistol can be used by nearly anyone. Strong adaptive grip texturing follows the frame grip on each surface and the extended mags. The stick sights are a U-dot configuration.
However, the Hellcat does come in an optics-ready configuration with a milled stock for red dot optics mounting. This is not only a small pistol with a large capacity but one that can give you an easy to acquire sight picture.
10. Smith & Wesson 686 Plus
While not a standard self-defense pistol, the 686 revolvers from Smith and Wesson easily fill the role. Recently, revolvers have been overlooked as a daily carry or self-defense firearm for good reasons. Slower rates of fire, limited capacity, and weight all contribute to some major shortcomings. That doesn’t mean that revolvers can’t fill the role and with proper training, these guns fit the mold.
The 686 Plus is a higher capacity revolver graduating to 7 rounds of 357 Magnum or 38 special. That may not sound beneficial, and it’s not. This would be the lowest capacity of all firearms listed here and a tie with a 45 ACP 1911. However, the round options and projectile choices are far more than any other caliber listed.
Coming in 2.5-7 inches, there are plenty of barrel length choices on the same frame. Shorter barrels obviously mean more concealability but there’s a loss of velocity – which is an afterthought in a home-defense pistol. The entire pistol is made from stainless steel and can feature wood or rubber grips depending on the configuration. Buyer beware, at 37.5 ounces this is one heavy beast.
Plan on spending a good amount on this revolver? $894 – $919 are the standard prices and the lower capacity (6 rounds) comes in at $873 USD.
My Personal Top Recommendation
The Canik METE series wins our choice of best home defense pistol. This pistol has upgrade opportunities at a reasonable price. Optics-ready, upgraded triggers, and threaded barrels for free states really helped to solidify this as a top contender. With the added option of choosing a full size or compact, this lineup gives the user many additional options. Controllability and carry options are easily taken into account according to size and can be weighed by the preference of each individual user.
BONUS OFFER: Get your free shooting range targets to print at home!
Get your free targets to print at home!
And that concludes our top choices for the best handgun for home defense. It’s a good representation of the most available pistols and options worth considering.
There are other brands like SIG, FN, and S&W that may have just as reliable pistols with equivalent options.
No matter what the choice is or what you have experience with, they are your choices for specific reasons which hopefully fall into the categories listed above. Remember, a gun that is comfortable to use and easy to train with is more important than a brand.
That said, each of those pistols shared here is some of the best in the industry.
Anyone who chooses a pistol from this lineup will have a reliable tool for home and personal defense. The best advice that anyone can give you is to take the pistol you have and train with it. No number of accessories and add ons will give you the proficiency of use.
Have fun, train hard, and plan contingencies.