One question often asked in the industry is, “what are the best home defense handguns?” The answer depends on a number of things—who is using it, where will it be kept, how often will you practice with it, and a few other points.
Home Defense Handguns: Keep it Simple
The mantra here should be “keep it simple,” so anyone that needs it can use it quickly. If the sole or primary purpose of this handgun is home defense, concealment is certainly less critical. When defending your home against an armed intruder, functionality shootability is key. That means bigger bullets traveling at realistic velocities. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need a hand howitzer, but neither do you need the compromises pocket pistols or small revolvers provide.
Is A Revolver an Option for Home Defense Handguns?
For a revolver, .32 Magnum loadings are probably the minimum acceptable cartridge. Although you could make a case for .22 Magnum and even .22 LR based on specific individual use cases. However, things like .44 Magnum or similar high powered magnums are impractical. Most magnums, including the .357 Magnum, have their drawbacks depending on who is shooting them. While you want the round to penetrate clothing the intruder may be wearing and get to their vital organs, you don’t need it to pass through them and into the next room or through an exterior wall.
Repeat accuracy is critical in the real world, and the magnums present issues after round one for most people. That being said, if you and everyone accessing that magnum revolver is an expert with it, great. However, the truth is most people who use a handgun for home defense are not. Most will shoot that gun very little and put it in the drawer only to be used sparingly. This actually makes a compelling use case for revolvers. While revolvers are difficult to shoot well, they’re also difficult to negligently discharge. Additionally, it’s very easy to visually verify if a revolver is loaded or not.
The Most Common Choice: A 9mm Handgun
That being said, the arena of home defense handguns is ruled by the same sort of guns that lots of people carry: 9mm semi-autos. Now, because this gun doesn’t need to be concealed, it opens up the number of available options considerably. Which is great, because we’re going to let you in on a little secret. We’re living in the golden age of the 9mm semi-automatic handgun. Never before in the history of guns have there been so many reliable, capable, defensive firearm platforms. Here’s a short list of manufacturers and models that would work as home defense handguns:
- Glock: 34, 17, 19, 45 all make great sense in this role
- SIG Sauer: There are like a billion P320 variants at this point, any of the mid or full-sized ones
- Walther: The PDP, the Q4, or lastly the Q5 would all be great
- Beretta: The APX full size, the PX4 Storm, and of course the venerable Beretta 92 series
- HK: The VP9 or P30 would be great
- S&W: Any of the new M&P 2.0 full size guns
- FN: Additionally, the FN 509 series is held in high regard
And that’s just major manufacturers. 9mm pistols have gotten so good that even lower priced options have a great chance of being solid guns.
What You Need on Home Defense Handguns
So instead of recommending an individual brand, instead we’ll take a look at the “must have” features for home defense handguns. First and foremost, it must be capable of accepting a weapon mounted light (WML). This is absolutely non-negotiable, because your home defense gun should have a WML. There are far too many tragedies every year where homeowners fail to positively ID someone in their house and end up shooting their spouse or teenage child. WML could prevent a considerable number of those negligent homicides. How bright should your WML be? As bright as you can get.
After that, a lot of the features become negotiable. Ideally, the “perfect” home defense gun is one that you can shoot effectively, has a good trigger, and a magazine that holds at least 15 rounds. It should have good sights, either high visibility iron sights or a red dot sighting system. Visible lasers, in the form of Crimson Trace grips are a solid option if you have a platform that works well for them.
5 Great Home Defense Handguns
With all that in mind, here are five solid choices for your home defense gun. These are four semi-auto pistols and one revolver.
- Glock 34 MOS – The 34 is the nicest shooting Glock in the lineup. The long barrel and long sight radius make it a great choice. The MOS models are capable of accepting a red dot sight as well.
- Beretta 92 LTT RDO – If you’re not concerned about money, drop your cash on the best version of the Beretta 92 ever made by man. It’s designed by multi-time national champion and Beretta wizard Ernest Langdon. The 92 LTT RDO is the first 90-series to incorporate a red dot sight mount. Additionally, it features all of Langdon’s many improvements to the 90-series.
- HK VP9L OR – This is the optics ready long slide VP9. If you hadn’t figured out, this list is going to be biased towards full size, long slide handguns with red dot sights and rails for mounting lights.
- Springfield Armory Operator – The sole 1911 on the list is the Springfield Armory Operator, which is about the best off-the-shelf 1911 you can buy. These will usually reliably feed JHP ammo, and like most of the guns on the list can accept a weapon mounted light. You just have to accept that you’re losing considerable capacity as compared to the 9mm guns.
- S&W TRR8 – Yes this is a revolver, and yes you can mount a WML on one. It’s also 8 shots, so it has the same capacity as the 1911, but is admittedly a bit bigger and a bit harder to shoot. But it’s cool.
Other options to consider for home defense handguns include safe storage if there are children in the house. These aren’t theft deterrents so much as extra safety measures from little grabby hands. Thinks like the SnapSafe under the bed safe or Hornady’s RFID safes are good choices.
Ammo considerations are something to take into mind as well. Generally speaking, quality JHP is the best choice, like the HST from Federal Premium or Hornady Critical Duty. However, if you opt for a revolver, you might consider using full wadcutters as your defensive ammo.
Regardless of what gun and ammo you select, the bottom line is that you absolutely must be proficient with it. A home defense scenario may require you to make a complex low-percentage shot to save a family member. It’s up to you to make sure your skills are up to the task.