I was recently asked what a good home defense firearm, in particular a handgun. Of course I answer the question but my nature often eludes what the person asking is looking for I think. I have this method of suggestion that I use that attempts to take out all personal opinions and thus my answer is something like, “You need to go to the gun store and try them out for your self.” I go on to point out that more popular manufacturers who often times recieve military and police contracts have to meet fairly high standards when producing a firearm. And trying it out for yourself is good advice in my opinion because if I suggest you get a full size Springfield 45 but my hands are pretty big and that weapon would fit fine for me whereas someone else might say the gun is much to large. This is something to take into account, especially if a household uses one pistol. I encourage that all members of a household who are given the responsibility of using a firearm become comfortable and well educated about the firearm and safe handling.
But to the information. Here are some articles to read and kind of get a general feel for buying a pistol:
After reading some of these sources (which I recommend) you will get a varying amount of opinions. My first instinct to the question “What is the best home defense hangun?” was honestly a revolver. Something along the lines of a .357 Magnum but nothing bigger. The problem is that revolvers are usually heavier and harder to control. I think for an inexperienced user, the revolver is best. But not everyone likes revolvers so then you have to shift your thinking to semi-automatic pistols. Although 9mm pistols are popular, I shy from them. People willing to break into houses aren’t always going to respond to the 9mm caliber bullet. Especially when hopped up on crack. Being cold around here people wear layers of clothes and it could potentially slow a bullet down. These are both reasons something with higher velocity and energy are desireable and where the .40 S&W shines. The .45 is slower but has a lot of energy. The 9mm is fast but much less energy. This is my main argument for the .40 S&W round and honestly, you can see it from reading all the arguments in all the pages. Another benefit of the .40 S&W is that its relatively cheap. The .357 Sig is amazing in that it pretty much duplicates the traditional .357 round but the rounds for it add up quickly.
Sticking to .40 S&W, pretty much all the major and respected manufacturers carry models that shoot this round. Springfield, Heckler & Koch, Glock, CZ, and Berretta just to name a few. Stay away from brands you have never heard of or strange and unusual combinations like a semi-auto that shoots a rimmed cartridge. I personally stay away from Glock because I dislike their signature trigger safety mechanism but that’s personal preference. A sub-compact design would probably do best because its big enough for a man to handle and not big enough for a woman to have any difficulties handling. A full size frame, I think, is too clumsey. The next step is to go to a gun store and look at a few pistols. Ask a sales person to show them to you. A good gun store will patiently answer all your questions and take their time with you. You should not be rushed. Your life or the lives of your loved ones may depend on your decision. When you see the gun, pick it up. Have them show you how to properly release the slide if you are not sure how to do it and you are looking at semi-automatic pistols. Don’t dry fire the pistol but point it at the wall and aim. Move your hand around it. Look at the functionality. Does the trigger feel good? Do the mechanisms for safety and magazine release make sense? Finally, pull back on the slide. Does it go back smooth? Open the cyclinder in the revolver and turn it. Everything should feel solid. Thank the sales person and see a few other guns. Don’t buy anything your first visit and if they have an indoor shooting range, rent a pistol and try it out. Do check out prices on the guns and the ammunition. Remember that there are different types of ammo to pick from as well. Cheap ammunition is great for practice and yes, you can even use it in the home for defense but the more expensive rounds of which some may even have hollow points are the ones you want to have available to shoot to defend yourself. Gun shows are great places to check out pistols as well. Get a chance to handle other models and guns. On your second visit, ask the see the pistols you saw last time. Are your impressions the same? If you are happy with it, then its time to start thinking about purchasing it.
Consider a shotgun. Its not a pistol and may be a little heavier but when you load it with buckshot you have a very high chance of hitting someone. The ammo is very cheap. A great example would be the Remington M870 12-gauge shotgun.
Anyway, all these things I mention in this post is simply my opinion and its all up to the individual to do research and make the decisions on what to get. Once you have a firearm keep in clean and store it safely. And remember, the best thing you can do is practice, practice, and then practice some more.
Check out the ballistics info chart too. The muzzle energy and velocity are both important but keep in mind that most home defense situations happen within 20 feet. I guess if I were forced to hand out a recommendation I would get a sub-compact .40 S&W Springfield or CZ.