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Best Handguns for Home Defense

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When shopping around for a new home defense gun, there are a lot of options to consider. Although enthusiasts most often opt for an AR-15 or a shotgun, handguns can be a solid contender. Even so, the sheer number of home defense handguns makes shopping around for one a challenge.   

Below, we’re going in-depth into the world of home defense handguns, breaking down what to consider before buying, as well as our recommendations of the popular makes and models available on the market.  

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Understanding Handgun Types 

Primarily, there are two types of handguns: semi-auto pistols and revolvers. Semi-automatic pistols are what you’re likely familiar with. They have reciprocating slides, detachable magazines, and are usually chambered in common pistol cartridges like 9mm and .45 ACP, for example.  

In contrast, revolvers use a revolving cylinder to store and chamber ammunition. Due to this, they can use larger calibers like .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum, albeit at the cost of capacity, as they usually hold just 5 to 8 rounds.  

While revolvers can be effective in personal defense, semi-auto models are, in most cases, the better choice. They’re quicker to reload, carry more ammo, and are far more customizable, with more options for accessories like weapon lights and pistol red dot sights. Our guide on how to aim with a pistol red dot sight breaks down all the advantages of such optics as well as everything you’ll need to know when using one.  

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Factors to Consider for Home Defense 

The main factors you’ll want to consider before buying a personal defense gun are size, magazine capacity, and reliability.  


A pistol’s size is more important than you may think. Generally, larger pistols have larger grip sizes. Bigger grips have more surface area to hold on to, allowing you to get a better grip on the firearm. The additional weight also means reduced recoil, making it easier to stay on target with rapid courses of fire. Of course, if the handgun is too large, you may not be able to get a comfortable grip on it, leading to poor control. Fortunately, pistols come in all shapes and sizes, so there is sure to be a comfortable choice for you.  

Since this pistol’s main purpose is going to be for home defense, we don’t recommend going for the smallest handgun you can find. While subcompacts are great for concealed carry, they come with the caveat of having small more recoil and lower magazine capacities. Instead, you should favor full-size pistols, if possible. 

Magazine Capacity 

More ammo is always better. As we said, larger pistols usually have greater magazine capacities. Take 9mm handguns, for example; compact pistols usually have anywhere from 13- to 15-round capacities, while carry and full-size pistols offer 17 rounds or more.  

Ideally, it’s best to have as many rounds as possible in your pistol. For home defense scenarios, we recommend having at least a 15-round magazine if you’re shooting something like 9mm. For larger calibers, like .45 ACP, 12-13 rounds would also be appropriate. 


Out of the many calibers, 9mm is the most common choice for a home defense handgun. As it is the most popular pistol cartridge in America, 9mm is commonly accessible with many different defensive loads available. Its compact size also supports greater capacities than other, larger pistol calibers.  

Still, there are some other great calibers available. Other options include .45ACP and 10mm. The classic .45 ACP is much larger than 9mm and packs more of a punch down range, while 10mm is only slightly larger but with way higher pressure ratings. The result is a much higher muzzle velocity than 9mm or .45, leading to 10mm’s reputation as a particularly powerful semi-auto pistol cartridge.  

As a trade-off, both .45ACP and 10mm have substantially higher recoil and lower capacities compared to 9mm pistols of the same size. Also, ammo often costs more—especially when it comes to 10mm, which remains a relatively uncommon cartridge. 

If it’s your first time owning a handgun, you may be tempted to opt for a rimfire pistol, but we don’t recommend them. While easier to shoot, the inconsistencies in ammo quality and weak ballistic energy make them a less-than-ideal choice.  

Top Home-Defense Pistol Brands 

We hinted at it before, but there are tons of solid pistol manufacturers that each make high-quality options that could easily be considered by some as the best handgun for self-defense. Below are some hand-picked brands that are renowned for creating some of the most reliable pistols available: 

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One of the most well-known and highly regarded handgun manufacturers around, GLOCK makes many fantastic options if you’re looking for a high-quality home defense pistol. GLOCK pistols are well known for their reliability and utilitarian designs. As such, they’ve garnered a dedicated fandom and are often some of the first pistols new enthusiasts are introduced to. Amidst their lineup are popular options like the GLOCK 19, GLOCK 17, and GLOCK 19x/45. All three are 9mm pistols with varying frame sizes.  

The GLOCK 19 is a compact pistol with a 4.02-inch barrel and 15-round standard capacity. A step up in size, the GLOCK 17 is GLOCK’s flagship full-size pistol, featuring a 4.5-inch barrel and 17-round capacity. The GLOCK 19x/45 is essentially a blend of the 19 and 17. It has the same grip size and capacity as the GLOCK 17 but retains the GLOCK 19’s slide and barrel length to form a carry-size pistol.  

Each one of these pistols is equipped with accessory rails for lights. Additionally, each model, except the GLOCK 17 is available in a configuration with GLOCK’s MOS (modular optic system) slide for mounting optics. Although GLOCK isn’t producing the GLOCK 17 MOS anymore, they are producing the GLOCK 47 MOS, which is the same size and has the same capacity as the GLOCK 17.  

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SIG Sauer 

Another solid home defense handgun manufacturer is none other than SIG Sauer. SIG Sauer produces a wide assortment of handguns, with some of the best home defense options being the P320 and P365 XMacro.  

The P320 is SIG Sauer’s flagship pistol model. It’s most commonly chambered in 9mm and is available in assorted sizes including compact, carry, and full-size models. The P320 Compact features a 3.9-inch barrel and a 15-round standard capacity, while the full-size model has a 4.7-inch barrel and 17-round capacity. Lastly, like the GLOCK 19x/45, the P320 Carry keeps the full-size grip but with a compact slide and barrel length. Regardless of which one you go with; they each come optic-ready from the factory and have an accessory rail for lights.  

Another key contender from SIG is the P365X Macro. It’s part of SIG’s P365 line of ultra-compact pistols. Even though we said earlier that micro/sub-compact pistols aren’t always the best options for home defense, the P365X Macro is a special case. It has a 3.7-inch barrel and despite being thinner than the P320 Compact, it has a magazine capacity of 17 rounds. Like the other models, it comes standard with an optic-ready slide and has an accessory rail.  


Heckler and Koch 

Another well-regarded manufacturer is none other than Heckler and Koch, or as they are better known amongst enthusiasts, HK. HK produces a wide range of pistols, with their flagship and most popular choice being the VP9.  

The HK VP9 is a polymer-framed pistol chambered in 9mm that’s available in multiple configurations. The standard VP9 is the most popular, coming standard with a 17-round capacity and a 4.1-inch barrel. You could also opt for the VP9 L, which features the same grip and magazine capacity, but comes with a longer 5-inch barrel and added extended 20-round magazines. There are also more options available for each, giving you the option to have optic-ready slides, and upgraded sights.  

Additionally, there’s a compact variant of the VP9, the VP9SK, that comes with a shorter 3.7-inch barrel and a 15-round magazine. Like the other models, it too can come in configurations that include the same upgrades.  

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FN America 

FN America is known for producing some of the world’s most advanced and popular firearms on the market, with this same degree of quality applying to their pistols. With many pistols to their name, one of the best home-defense models is the FN 509. 

The FN 509 is available in multiple variations that include different frame sizes and upgrade packages. Currently, there are four frame sizes offered by FN, with the full-size, standard being the most popular. The 509 Fullsize is the largest 509 variant, boasting a 4.5-inch barrel and 17-round magazine capacity. Retaining the frame size and capacity of the Fullsize, the standard has a shorter 4-inch barrel, and is one of the more popular options. 

Each one is an excellent consideration for a home-defense pistol, and depending on the model, they can come equipped with upgraded sights and optic-ready slides for an extra layer of versatility. 

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One of the oldest firearms manufacturers in the world, Beretta is a maker of exceptional pistols. Their flagship pistol, the M9, has been a favorite amongst many for decades and has seen many updates, with the M9A4 being the most recent iteration to their lineup.  

The M9A4 is an aluminum frame, hammer-fired pistol. Coming with a 4.9-inch barrel, it has a standard capacity of 17-rounds and comes with an accessory rail for mounting lights. Optionally, it can come with an optic-ready slide, upgraded grip panels, and a flared magwell for easier reloads.  

If you’re looking for something that’s more akin to other pistols in this list, the Beretta APX line of pistols is definitely worth considering. The APX A1 is available in multiple frame sizes and barrel lengths, with the full-size and compact being the most popular. The APX A1 Full-Size features a 4.25-inch barrel and a 17-round magazine capacity, while the compact is smaller, having a 3.7-inch barrel and 15-round capacity. Regardless of which one you look at, they both come standard with an accessory rail and optic-ready slide.  

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Smith & Wesson 

Another titan in the firearm industry, Smith & Wesson has a huge selection of best-selling handguns. For home defense, their M&P9 is likely the most popular semi-automatic. 

Since its inception, the M&P9 has been used by various law enforcement groups and has been a favorite amongst enthusiasts. Like other models in its class, the M&P9 2.0 is available in assorted sizes, with the most popular being the compact and full-size models. The compact is like the other compact pistols we’ve mentioned, coming with 3.6- or 4-inch barrel and 15-round capacity. The same applies to the full-size model, as it comes standard with a 4.25-inch barrel and a 17-round magazine. Regardless of which size you choose, they’re all great options with upgraded models available that come with optic ready slides, upgraded sights, and even ported barrels.  

For those interested in a smaller choice, the M&P Shield Plus is the way to go. Like SIG’s P365X Macro, the Shield Plus is a micro-compact pistol with a greater than average magazine capacity. Its slim frame is reminiscent of single-stack handguns, but its use of double-stack magazines gives it an impressive 10- to 13-round capacity. Depending on the model, it can also come with a 3.1- or 4-inch barrel. Like the M&P9, it too can come with upgraded sights and optic-ready slides.  

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Springfield Armory 

Springfield Armory offers an extensive lineup of handguns, among which are popular home-defense options like the Echelon and Hellcat.  

The Echelon is one of Springfield’s latest pistol offerings and is one of the most modular firearms they offer. Like SIG’s P320, the frame isn’t the serialized part of the pistol. Instead, it’s the Echelon’s central operating group, allowing for easy customization of different frames and slides. The pistol comes standard with a 4.5-inch barrel and a 17-round magazine capacity. Additionally, it comes standard with Springfield’s new Variable Interface System that allows you to directly mount multiple different optics.  

Lastly, the Hellcat is a micro-compact pistol with a surprisingly large magazine capacity. Like the P365X Macro and Shield Plus, the Hellcat uses a small frame and double-stack magazines. Coming in two sizes, the OSP and PRO, they’re both excellent choices for a compact home defense gun. The OSP comes standard with a 3-inch barrel and an 11- or 13-round capacity depending on the choice. The PRO is larger, coming with a 3.7-inch and a 15-round capacity. Both options have incredibly high capacities comparative to their size, and they each come with optic-ready slides.  

Considerations for Women 

There’s a good chance that when shopping around for a home defense handgun, you’ve likely seen multiple models labelled as “for women”. The truth is, any of the handguns we’ve mentioned can be great handgun choices for women. Outside of a few select cases, the models labeled “for women” are just given a coat of paint and a price increase, though some do have reduced power recoil springs to make the pistol slightly easier to operate if you have less arm and grip strength. 

Realistically, you can choose any quality pistol; if you’ve taken your needs into consideration before buying, you’ll be good to go.  

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Other Home Defense Options 

By now, it’s well recognized that a handgun is one of the best options for home defense. That said, shotguns and rifles can be a better option for some. Our guide on guns for self-defense goes in-depth on this topic, but there are a lot of options you can use. Rifles and shotguns are easier to aim and deliver more energy, but navigating hallways and controlling your long arm will take additional training. Before you commit to one platform, it’s worth looking into all your options before buying.  


When it comes to home defense, handguns can be an incredibly capable tool in the right hands. Though not as easy to control as a carbine, their smaller form-factor makes them easy to maneuver and stow away when not in use.  

Each of the brands and models mentioned above are well-renowned and high-quality options to consider, but we highly encourage you to continue researching everything that’s available. The firearm industry is a large one, and chances are, you could find a handgun that’s perfect for you that wasn’t mentioned above. It may be worth a trip to the local gun shop to see how different pistols will feel in your hand, so you can narrow your search on size and ergonomics. 

Once you’ve found the right pistol for you, it’s a promising idea to spend time getting trained in how to use it effectively. Check out our guide on the basic pistol shooting stances to start reinforcing good fundamentals when you’re practicing at the range.