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What Style Handgun Is the Best Choice for Home Defense?

What Style Handgun Is the Best Choice for Home Defense?

Deciding on the style of handgun that gives you the best handgun for home defense will vary depending on your needs. Home defense handguns differ from your everyday carry because you don't need to concern yourself with the size and profile of your handgun when you do not have to conceal it in person.

Despite this variance, there are three overarching principles that guide any prospective gun owner towards the handgun that will provide ideal home defense. Those three principles are:

  • Handgun Stopping Power
  • Handgun Reliability and Effectiveness
  • The Type and/or Model of Handgun

This guide addresses each of these principles in turn to help steer you towards the handgun that suits your needs and defense preferences.

Home Defense Stopping Power

Some individuals love to propagate that stopping power is a myth. This is not only untrue, it goes against science and hard data. Despite this, even the FBI has gotten in on the act, claiming that handgun stopping power is a myth.

Their rationale is flawed in a number of key ways. First, they claim that the 9mm is superior to heavier rounds because it is easier to use and FBI personnel shoot more accurately with the 9mm. This has nothing to do with stopping power, although it is worth considering when weighing the effectiveness and reliability of your home defense weapon (more on this in a bit).

Worse, the study claimed that there is no difference between damage inflicted with a 9mm and heavier rounds. This is nonsense. A massive handgun like a .50 Desert Eagle will devastate a home attacker if it connects, and it will leave a much larger exit wound than a 9mm, all else being equal. Also, it is interesting to note that even those who believe stopping power is a myth carry around at least a 9mm for home defense, rather than a .22.

At the very least, even the FBI concedes there is a floor to the stopping power debate, or the Bureau would be equipping agents with a .22. More to the point, larger calibers will lead to more damage. There is a reason, after all, why the Marine Corps reissued the beloved 1911 Colt .45 ACP in recent years. The Corps understood that when the lives of service members are on the line, the 9mm is too weak.

So, yes, a heavier caliber pistol does more damage than lesser calibers. Part of the debate hinges on debating the meaning of the term "stopping power". It is true that no pistol will knock down a victim like he's a perp in a 90s action film, regardless of caliber, but well-placed .45 caliber bullets will take down an assailant faster than a smaller caliber, all else being equal.

Of course, all is not equal when it comes to finding the best handgun for home defense. Stopping power is only one consideration in purchasing the best home defense handgun. Being able to handle the weapon reliably and accurately is an equally important factor to keep in mind.

Effective Use of the Firearm Is an Equally Important Consideration

Choosing the right home defense handgun is just as dependent on the shooter as it is the correct gun for the application.

The most powerful handgun in the world is not useful for home defense if you cannot successfully wield it. When choosing a home defense weapon, stopping power is a critically important consideration, but choosing a gun you can handle accurately and reliably is even more important.

Using the .45 vs 9mm analysis once again, a .45 can be expertly wielded by a strong and fit Marine Corps officer, but could the average homeowner wield the weapon with the same accuracy? If not, all the stopping power in the world will not be worth much if the recoil kicks like a mule and the gun is too much to handle.

Finding the best handgun pistol caliber for home defense requires finding the right balance of stopping power and reliable handling. The best way to discern the right weapon for you is to get some hands-on experience with the weapons you are considering. The sweet spot for you may be a .40 caliber, a .38 revolver, a .45 ACP or a semi-automatic 9mm.

The point is, there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to the best home defense handgun. There is, however, an ideal home defense handgun for you, so long as you take the time to find the perfect balancing act between stopping power and accuracy. As a general rule, you are looking to pick out the most powerful cartridge you can handle comfortably and accurately.

Once you deduce the right caliber for your needs, you have narrowed the search significantly. The last piece of the puzzle is the handgun type and model that you are most comfortable with using.

Handgun Types and Models Worthy of Consideration

In general, the types of handguns you will be considering will be either a revolver or a semi-automatic pistol. The debate about which handgun type is best has raged on for years, and each side of the argument has merits. For now, we will simply provide you with the pros and cons of each type of handgun.


One of the unique advantages of a revolver is they can be equipped with powerful buckshot rounds, depending on the model (the Taurus Judge is one notable example). This helps ensure you don't shoot through walls if you have small children and thin walls in the same home.

Reliability and simplicity are some of the most popular reasons why people choose revolvers.

Revolvers are also more reliable than most other pistols, are not picky with regards to ammo and are simple to use. Also, the fact that revolvers take little hand strength to operate makes them a reliable home defense option for those with less grip strength. Just be sure to get a double action revolver since single action revolvers fire too slowly in life or death situations (manual cocking is required before each shot).

Some quality revolvers to consider include:

  • The Taurus Judge
  • Smith and Wesson Model 686 Plus
  • Smith and Wesson .38 Special Revolver
  • Ruger GP100 .357
  • And More


Semi-automatic handguns have their own advantages as well, and they come in a wide range of sizes and calibers depending on your needs. If you question your accuracy at all, having the added ammo capacity and firing benefits of a semi-auto handgun is valuable for home defense purposes.

A good semi-automatic in the hands of an expert can provide increased accuracy that is critical in home defense scenarios, and some handgun enthusiasts prefer a semi-automatic over a revolver for several reasons. For starters, the typical semi-auto often carries two to three times as much ammunition as a similarly sized revolver. Additionally, the typical semi-auto has less recoil, has larger sights and the trigger is easier to manipulate.

Semi-automatic handguns have many benefits for home defense applications.

Semi-autos come in double action, straight single action and striker fired versions depending on your home defense preferences. A double action semi-auto can fully cock the action through a trigger pull. This allows a second strike capability if a cartridge primer fails to fire on the first trigger pull. In home defense scenarios, this failsafe is always worthy of consideration. A double action/single action is a subcategory of the double action that allows the pistol to be carried with the hammer down on a loaded chamber. In other words, the hammer can either be cocked prior to firing or a hard trigger pull can be used to cock the hammer.

Single action handguns are known for lighter and shorter trigger pulls. With these semi-automatic handguns, the hammer is released to discharge the firearm each time the trigger is pulled.

Striker fired pistols differ from single action and double action handguns since those guns rely on cocking the hammer to fire. When you rack the slide with a striker fired handgun, an internal striker is cocked. The only way to de-cock a striker fired handgun, as a result, is to pull the trigger.

Striker fired handguns have gained a lot of popularity in recent years, due to their ease of use and low profile.

Striker fired handguns give you less to think about since there is no manual hammer and the trigger pull is consistent from the first shot to the last. Others prefer the double action/single action hammer fired semi-automatic since it gives the option of cocking the hammer before firing or using the trigger to cock the hammer.

With these semi-automatic classifications in mind, some of the popular semi-automatic handguns for home defense are:

  • The Glock 19 9mm (striker fired)
  • Glock 23 GEN4 .40 (striker fired)
  • H&K USP Full Size Tactical 9 mm (double action/single action)
  • SIG Sauer Tac Ops 1911 .45 ACP (single action)
  • Beretta 92 9mm (double action/single action)

These are just a few of the many great home defense guns that might be ideal for you.

What do you believe is the best handgun for home defense? Let us know in the comments below.

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