I frequently get emails asking, “What is the best handgun for personal protection?” My answer is simple: The best handgun for self defense is the one you have with you.
Guns used 2.5 million times a year in self-defense. Law-abiding citizens use guns to defend themselves against criminals as many as 2.5 million times every year — or about 6,850 times a day. 1 This means that each year, firearms are used more than 80 times more often to protect the lives of honest citizens than to take lives.
Of the 2.5 million times citizens use their guns to defend themselves every year, the overwhelming majority merely brandish their gun to scare off their attackers. An armed citizen kills or wounds an attacker Less than 8% of the time that they produce a firearm in a self defense situation.
So any gun is better than no gun. Get training. Get your concealed carry permit and get a handgun that you will never leave home without. If you’re not going to carry the gun, it’s not going to do you or your loved ones any good.
I suggest installing a simple but secure gun vault lock box in your vehicle to store your handgun before entering any”gun free zones”.
If you are a first time gun buyer, do some research. There are tons of excellent personal defense handguns available for $400-$500. Price will vary depending on where you live and what retail outlets are in your area. If you live in an area that has Academy Sports and Outdoors, check them out for good selection and very competitive prices. Bud’s Online has a good reputation with some of the most competitive prices found. But keep in mind that the gun will have to be shipped to an FFL for processing. The FFL transfer fee usually runs between $24-50 for online transfers.
We live in the golden age of handguns. If you are overwhelmed and just can’t decide, I’m comfortable recommending a Glock Model 19 9mm. safe action pistol (any generation) as your first handgun. It’s a versatile handgun that comes with two standard 15 round magazines in most states. It’s a mid-size handgun, which is technically a compact model that falls between the full size Glock 17 and sub-compact Glock 26.
Any Striker fired pistols similar to the Glock 19 would make a good choice for a self defense handgun. I recommend that every gun owner have a striker fired 9mm handgun in their inventory. Glock striker fired handguns are similar to Smith and Wesson M&P pistols , Springfield XD pistols , the Ruger SR9 series and my new favorite compact 9mm handgun, the Walther PPQ .
If you are looking for a concealed carry revolver, check out the Ruger LCR line up.
I prefer the fire power of a semi-auto pistol for self defense, but there is no denying the simplicity and reliability of revolver. If you are on a budget, check out the improved Taurus revolver line up.
I didn’t mention Sig Sauer, also known as Sig Arms, which is an excellent firearms manufacturer. There used to be two kinds of gun guys, either Glock guys or Sig guys. Basically, it was a “striker fire” or “hammer fire” preference. Today, many gun owners own both Sig and Glock handguns along with many other manufacturers, including Beretta . As I mentioned earlier, we are living in the Golden Age of Handguns.
Sig Sauer makes excellent premium firearms . I’ve found that a striker fired pistol is usually the best choice for shooters with limited training and experience. But if you are a traditionalist, who wants a hammer fired handgun, you may want to check out Sig Sauer. The most popular premium models, start around $700. Sig is now manufacturing an entry line of hammer fired pistols ( P250’s & SP2022 models). I don’t have any experience with those models. I’ve seen them in north Texas Academy Sports and Outdoors for $430/$460.
I don’t recommend single action, 1911 style pistols as primary self defense “fighting” pistols for new shooters and those with limited shooting experience. However, 1911’s are still great guns. The original Model 1911 was invented by John Browning in 1911. They are as popular as ever, more than 100 years after being introduced as the classic American .45ACP pistol. Every American gun owner should consider adding a modern 1911 to their firearms inventory.
I enjoy shooting modern 1911 pistols, which are some of the most accurate pistols you will find. But 1911 style single action pistols require more training and care than revolvers and safe action striker fired pistols.
I don’t recommend buying a cheap semi-auto pistols. Any firearm that comes with only a one year limited warranty is junk. Sig Sauer, Glock, Ruger, Springfield, S&W, Beretta, Walther all offer Limited Lifetime Warranties that cover just about anything that goes wrong with your firearm. All of these major manufacturers have excellent customer service and will fix the problem should your gun have one or develop one in the future. Guns are machines and like any machine they can break.
If you buy a gun from Academy Sports and Outdoors, they wills ship it back to the manufacturer for warranty work at no cost to you. Most of the manufacturers will send you a pre-paid shipping label for warranty repair if you contact their customer service.
You need to train and practice with your handgun. A concealed carry handgun class is not sufficient training for new and inexperienced shooters.
If you decide to join the growing group of licensed concealed carry handgun permit holders, who carry a firearm for self defense, I recommend that you:
1.) Beef up your ammo reserves. “A lot more rounds are being exchanged in today’s gunfights than in the past. Carry more ammo. Consider having both a primary and a backup gun. I can’t express how quickly your firearm will go empty when you’re shooting for real. There’s no worse feeling than pulling the trigger and hearing it go ‘click’.”
2.) Practice head shots. “When you fire multiple ‘lethal’ rounds into an attacker and he keeps going, you don’t have the luxury of waiting 20 or 40 more seconds for him to die while he can still shoot at you. Don’t waste time arguing the relative merits of various calibers. No handgun rounds have reliable stopping power with body shots. Pick the round you can shoot best and practice shooting at the assailant’s head.