The first thing a new buyer needs to consider before stepping into a store is who will use the handgun. Obviously you, the buyer, are the primary user (unless it’s a straw purchase and if so, that’s illegal and you could wind up in prison), but what about when you’re not at home and your spouse needs to defend themselves?
If they are an avid shooter who is familiar with a wide variety of weapons, buy anything and they’ll adapt. On the other hand, if your spouse finds firearms and their loud dangerous nature frightening, they are less likely to train. Meaning, you need something simple and reliable, like a revolver.
While it doesn’t carry much ammo, your body will quit long before the Ruger GP100 will (Photo by Jim Grant)
Before you run to the store to buy the smallest revolver in the biggest caliber, think about the difference between an assault rifle — a real one with the happy switch, not the buzz word used by politicians — and a heavy machine gun. An assault rifle works well in a defensive situation, easily suppressing a fire team of four guys, but an M2 .50 caliber HMG can keep a platoon at bay.
If the HMG is vastly better, why doesn’t every soldier carry one? Weight — they are far too heavy for one person to carry. In addition to being a crew-served weapon, think of your home defense weapon selection accordingly. It doesn’t matter if you choose a 6-pound pistol for home defense since 99 percent of the time it will sit dormant on your nightstand. In the same way the weight of the Ma Deuce doesn’t matter when its used as a fixed weapon, your home defense setup can weigh as much as you can comfortably lift.
With that in mind you should choose a weapon with the greatest power and capacity that you and your spouse can handle. This means you can buy a revolver that is too large for concealed carry, giving you the advantage of reduced recoil due to the weapon’s heft or an all-steel semi-automatic pistol with a magazine that doubles its weight. Additionally, stash as many spare reloads for your big six-gun as you can afford next to it.
The S&W 442 is a great carry gun, but there are better options for bedside blasters. (Photo by Jim Grant)
Maybe your spouse has their own weapon and you’re picking one up for yourself. First major question: “Do you carry?” If the answer is yes, the question becomes, “Do you train often?”
If you are proficient with your carry gun you may want to buy a similar firearm that those skill will translate to. In other words, if your daily carry weapon is a Glock 27 subcompact 9mm, an excellent home defense companion would be the Glock 17 or 34. These full-sized pistols use identical controls to the G27 with the added benefit of reduced recoil and increased magazine capacity.
However, if you carry something like an LC9 or a S&W 442, you should buy something totally different, if your budget allows. These guns are not ideal home defense weapons. They both have very limited ammo capacity, are difficult to aim, suffer from substantial recoil and have less effective terminal ballistics than full-sized pistols in 9mm Parabellum or greater.
If this home defense pistol is your first gun and you have limited knowledge or experience firing a weapon, I have three very important words for you: metal, nine and 15. If the pistol you purchase is made completely of metal, (grips notwithstanding) chambered in 9mm Parabellum or greater and holds at least 15 rounds of ammo you will have an effective, easy to shoot pistol that will get the job done if you do your part.
I take back my earlier statement, this is the ultimate HD pistol. 20 quiet rounds of get out of my house (Photo by Jim Grant)
But this article isn’t about simply getting the job done, it’s about the ultimate home defense pistol. If you want something that can stop 99 percent of home invasion scenarios, while being man-portable and in this case, shot with one hand, you’re going to have to take an unconventional approach to pistol setup.
First you’ll have to find a good platform to build your mechanical guard dog. Something that can hold between 20 and 30 rounds of ammo in factory magazines ensures copious firepower in an ultra-reliable package. Don’t try and reason that ProMag makes a 50-round drum for your 1911, we both know ProMag magazines are never as reliable as original factory ones.
You should limit your selection to military weapons in military caliber (or greater). While most modern designs are reliable, battle-proven ones have already been beta tested in the best way possible, grunt use. With these parameters in mind, selection is limited to three pistols: Beretta 92, SIG P226 and Glock 17/19.
All three designs have 20+ round factory magazines available and feature an accessory rail. The next thing you’ll want to pick up are a pair of night-sights. All three pistols have them available, but they are expensive. Once you have your night-sight-equipped, light-strapped, extended magazine pistol the only thing you have left to do is train. None of these designs have their extended magazines fit flush with the grip, which can make maneuvering the pistol awkward for the uninitiated.
You’ll have to weigh out the pros and cons of whichever pistol you use to hold down the fort. Just make sure that you can effectively use the pistol you decide on. Your life may not be the only one that depends on it.
The Glock G45 and S&W M&P are two of the most popular handguns on the market today. There's a reason for this. They’re both fantastic guns. But is one better than the other? Technically, no. But personally, yes. Let's find out.