Whether you’re living on your own, in your first apartment or have settled down with a house and a family, safety is a priority. Locking your doors and windows is a good habit, but unfortunately, it may not always be enough to protect you.
Burglaries and breaking and entering crimes are more common than you may think. When compared to commercial businesses, about 72% of burglaries occur in residences, many of which involve some method of forced entry. It’s also significant that approximately 27.6% of the time, someone is home during a burglary. If you’re caught in this situation, having a handgun may prevent theft or an attack.
When it comes to buying a home defense handgun, there are many factors to think about in order to make a well-educated decision. This guide will show you what to consider before committing to a purchase.
THE BENEFITS OF A HOME DEFENSE HANDGUN
Having a handgun in your home is not only comforting but also useful in the case of an emergency. It’s the tool you hope you’ll never need, but if the occasion arises that you do, you’ll be glad to have it.
There are several benefits to keeping a defense firearm in your home, including:
- Stopping power: While stashing a baseball bat or a knife in a strategic location may seem like enough, neither can compare to the stopping power of a handgun. Burglars who see you holding a firearm may turn tail at the sight of it. For those who aren’t scared off by the visual threat, a well-placed shot can quickly incapacitate them and prevent an attack. Distance will work in your favor. A handgun will allow you to keep a safe amount of space between you and the intruder, where other defensive weapons require closer proximity to be effective.
- Confidence: As long as you keep your handgun in an easily accessible place and have practiced operating it, you’ll have more confidence dealing with an emergency situation. If an intruder realizes you’re present or that they’ve been caught in the act, they’ll likely run regardless of whether or not you have a weapon. Investigating suspicious noises in your home can be nervewracking, though, especially if you don’t have a way to defend yourself in the event the disturbance is a hostile intruder. A handgun can help you feel more mentally prepared to approach the situation.
- Protection: A handgun is a very effective tool for protection. It will give you and your family a better chance of staying safe than smaller, close-combat weapons. The more intimidating your choice is to an intruder, the less likely it is that you’ll have to actually use it. If you do end up needing it, though, you’ll be glad to have a firearm on your side.
If you’re looking for a great way to feel safer and more prepared, stashing a handgun in your home will ensure you have what it takes to defend you and your family. When it comes to choosing a model, you’ll need the right prior knowledge to make the best decision for your needs.
LEARN YOUR PREFERENCES FIRST
Before you decide to purchase a specific model of handgun, you should take into account your personal preferences. It’s hard to know what you prefer if you haven’t spent time learning about each of your options.
The first thing you should do is review different models and makers. If there’s a specific manufacturer you are more familiar with, that may be a good place to start. In terms of caliber, different varieties will determine the gun’s level of recoil and how powerful each shot is. The higher the caliber, the more kick the weapon will have, and the more destruction the bullet will do.
In general, 9mm handguns are ideal for home defense. They have power and low recoil, which makes them great for new and experienced shooters alike. You’ll also have a lot of options in the 9mm range, including lightweight and concealable models. As an added benefit, the rounds are relatively inexpensive to purchase, so you can practice consistently without breaking the bank.
To accurately compare how models perform, you’ll need to visit a shooting range. Ranges often have a variety of handgun rentals you can use to try out different models, weights and calibers firsthand. You should find a gun that fits well in your hand, is easy to lift and has manageable recoil.
Once you’ve narrowed down your options, spend some time practicing and learning how to operate each gun. Chances are, you’ll start to get a feel for what traits suit you best. Keep in mind that you may need to manage your weapon in the dark, so confidence is key.
No one can tell you what handgun is best for home defense. Ultimately, you should choose what feels the most comfortable, as every person has their ideal fit.
DETAILS TO CONSIDER
Once you’ve narrowed the selection pool, you can start to focus on more specific information and make informed comparisons. Even if several handguns seem similar, there may be one or two differences that could sway your decision. Before making a decision, you should consider:
- Price range: Not everyone has a large budget to spend on a handgun. Luckily, price doesn’t necessarily equate with quality. Some of the most reliable options are in the mid-to-low price range. Ultimately, you want to opt for something reasonable and dependable. You certainly don’t want it to jam in an emergency, but you also don’t need to spend over $1,000.
- Home size: The size and location of your home also matter when choosing a handgun. Location and home size are important safety considerations, as bullets can over-travel and pierce through walls. Higher-caliber guns can be dangerous in close spaces like apartments, as the risk for over-traveling is higher. Living in a house with no close neighbors lowers your risk, but you should still consider your family’s safety.
- Size and weight: The more compact your handgun is, the easier it is to conceal in your home. Keeping your firearm somewhere accessible but hidden is crucial to your safety. Weight is less of an issue for home defense weapons than it is with a concealed carry. However, there are advantages to being able to raise and fire your gun with a single hand. It allows you a free arm to open doors, carry a flashlight or help your family.
- Security systems: Having a gun with security features is necessary if you frequently have visitors or children in your home. Accidents are more likely to occur when home defense weapons lack these features. Look for models that have manual, grip or drop safeties, transfer bars, hammer blocks and decockers.
- Round count: Handgun models will vary in round capacity. Revolvers limit you to five to seven rounds — most of them hold six. Semi-automatic handguns tend to have a broader range, depending on the caliber and how the rounds stack in the magazine. A higher round count may be a better choice for newer or less practiced shooters.
- Stopping power: While this is a highly debated detail, the bottom line is you should be able to incapacitate a threat. Accuracy, caliber and round capacity all play a part in doing that. Most handguns will do the trick, but less experienced shooters may want to find a model that is easier to aim and holds more rounds.
Each of these details will help you find the best option for your needs and make a decision. There are many different choices on the market, so narrowing them down takes patience, research and careful consideration.
REVOLVERS VS. SEMI-AUTOMATIC PISTOLS
The question of whether a revolver or semi-automatic pistol is the best gun for home defense is controversial. In fact, it’s one of the biggest debates surrounding choosing a defensive weapon. Many experts agree, however, that it depends mostly on your skill level and preferences. Either will probably fulfill your needs, but the fine details are what tend to make one type more suitable than the other.
Comparing the basic features of revolvers and semi-automatic pistols may help you further narrow your choices. While some specific aspects will depend more on the manufacturer and model, here is what you can generally expect from each:
Revolvers, also sometimes referred to as wheelguns, are known for being easy to operate. They’ve been around for almost 200 years, and the modern models continue to improve upon the classic design.
You can operate many revolvers in either single- or double-action mode. In double-action mode, a trigger pull cocks the hammer and releases it in succession. Single-action requires you to cock the hammer first, which won’t allow you to fire as fast but will provide a smoother trigger pull.
The frames of modern revolvers are either aluminum or steel, which puts them on the heavier side. You can expect a revolver to weigh more than the average semi-automatic, which can make a revolver more challenging to maneuver, but the weight does help absorb recoil.
Typically, a home-defense revolver will be either a .38 Special or .357 Magnum caliber, the second of which can fire either caliber bullet. Revolver cylinders have the capacity for five to seven rounds, but most hold six. For some, this may seem like an insufficient amount of shots, but your accuracy will matter more than the round count.
One downside of the rotating cylinder is that it takes longer to reload than a semi-automatic. You have to individually insert the rounds once you run out, whereas you can carry full magazines for semi-automatic handguns. Under high stress, this could make for a more difficult situation.
However, revolvers are much more straightforward in terms of operation. All you have to do is open the cylinder, fill it with rounds, close the cylinder and you’re ready to fire. This can be very helpful in an emergency, as you’re likely to be under pressure, and there is less room for error or jamming.
Semi-automatic handguns don’t have the same history as revolvers, but they have been popular for over 100 years. They are generally far more technical in terms of operation. However, there is a broad variety of models to consider, all with differing features, weights and calibers. This means you’ll have far more options.
Most pistols are automatically double-action weapons, although some models are single-action capable. The frame material varies as well — some semi-automatic handguns are entirely steel, but many newer models use lighter polymer frames.
Generally, the majority of modern pistols are 9mm, .40 Smith & Wesson or .45 ACP calibers and have the capacity for 17 rounds. However, the capacity does change based on magazine size and caliber, so there are many models that hold more or less than that. Regardless, a substantial majority of pistols hold more rounds than revolvers can.
Since semi-automatics use magazines, you can load them very quickly if you keep a few full mags at the ready. All you have to do is eject the empty clip and push the full one in — you hardly even have to look. This makes reloading easier in high-stress situations. Semi-automatics also often have Picatinny rails for accessories, which can be an advantage if you choose to add any attachments.
However, pistols also have their downsides. For one, you need to remember to rack the slide to chamber the first round. Unless you have years of experience and this comes as first nature to you, fear may cause you to forget.
You could keep your pistol loaded, cocked and with the safety engaged, but this is risky, especially in a house with young children. Many modern semi-automatics don’t even have a manual safety. It’s best to store it unloaded alongside a few full mags.
<h2id=”top”>TOP CHOICES FOR A HOME DEFENSE HANDGUN
Between pricing, preferences and the varying opinions of people with authority, there is plenty of debate over what should be considered the best home defense handgun. If you get too wrapped up in finding the top model, you might start to overlook what’s actually best for your needs.
There is a long list of handguns that work well in home defense scenarios, and almost any modern pistol or revolver will get the job done. However, there are a few models that experienced shooters will usually agree on, and they’re not necessarily the most expensive ones.
Here are three mid-range options, in no particular order, that consistently make it onto top-ten lists:
1) Sig Sauer P226 MK25
The Navy SEALs use this handgun as a sidearm, so it’s clearly reliable. The Sig Sauer P226 is a hefty handgun with a snug grip. With a 15+1 round capacity for the 9mm model, this gun has low recoil and enough shots to make up for a few misses. However, you can also find it in the .40 S&W version, which has a 10-round capacity.
The P226 features an anodized aluminum frame, a stainless steel slide that’s Nitron-coated, a comfortable one-piece grip and an accessory rail for attachments. Since it’s a Navy staple, the model comes with built-in night sights.
There are several variations of the P226, but all of them are relatively similar. The 9mm is probably the best option for home use. It goes for about $1,000 to $1,400, which may be steep for some, but it’s worth the price. It’s hard to go wrong with the Sig Sauer P226.
2) Walther PPQ M2
Walther is a name synonymous with high-quality, reliable handguns. They rarely have issues with misfiring and are relatively lightweight, which makes them excellent for new and experienced shooters alike.
Of all the Walther models, the PPQ M2 may be their best handgun for home safety. It’s available with a four- or five-inch barrel, has a comfortable grip and potentially the smoothest trigger pull you’ll ever find in a pistol. This makes it an excellent option for anyone with little experience.
The PPQ is a 9mm caliber gun with a round capacity of 15+1. It features three automatic safeties, three sculpted-grip backstraps to interchange and a Picatinny equipment rail for accessories.
In terms of price range, 9mm Walther PPQ M2s run from about $550 to $650, so they can offer you all the protection you need without breaking the bank.
3) Ruger 1707 GP100
If you prefer a revolver, the Ruger GP100 is widely loved in the world of six-shooters. The 1707 model boasts a six-inch barrel and a beautiful stainless steel finish.
The heavy weight and monogrip help reduce the amount of recoil. Combine that with the simple operation of a classic revolver, and this handgun makes an excellent choice for beginners.
It also features a smooth-cycling, triple-locking cylinder with a transfer bar to prevent accidental discharge. If you have children at home, this is an ideal handgun for safety.
The GP100 holds only six rounds, but the .357 Magnum caliber certainly makes up for it. It also comes at a reasonable price of around $700 to $800. If you want one of the top revolvers for home defense, this Ruger will not disappoint.
While the Sig Sauer P226 MK25, Walther PPQ M2 and Ruger 1707 GP100 are some of the most frequently suggested handguns, many others could also suit your needs. A few honorable mentions include the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield, Glock 19 and Taurus Judge.
Certain handgun models come with the capacity for useful add-ons and attachments. If you choose a model with a rail, there are a few accessories you may want to consider.
A rail will allow you to use:
- Flashlight: Flashlight attachments are helpful for investigating a dark house. There is some debate about whether it’s better to have the attachment and a free hand or a handheld flashlight you can point independently of the gun. With the rail accessory, you have the benefit of directly illuminating the area you’re shooting. On the other hand, anywhere you direct the flashlight, you are also pointing the muzzle. Ultimately, it depends on your preferences and confidence.
- Laser dot sight: Laser dot sights will help you improve your aim and accuracy by marking your target with a visible dot. This can be very helpful in a high-stress situation, where you may naturally lose accuracy.
- Universal mount: If your handgun has a lower Picatinny equipment rail, you can attach a universal mount. This will allow you to connect laser and flashlight accessories while enabling you to also add a scope or other optics. It may make your handgun much larger and more unwieldy, but the optics can help improve accuracy and vision.
Besides the rail accessories, many handguns have replaceable grips. If you want a particular handgun model but aren’t quite comfortable holding it, check to see if you can customize it with different grips. Your aim and accuracy depend on how well you can hold the handgun, so be sure to find what feels right for your hand size and strength.
TEST, PRACTICE AND BUY AT KEYSTONE SHOOTING CENTER
If you are looking to try a few rental models, purchase a home defense handgun or put in some practice time, Keystone Shooting Center is Pittsburgh’s premier shooting destination. We offer more than 100 rental firearms and 500 new or pre-owned guns for sale. With 24 climate-controlled indoor lanes, you can refine your skills in comfort.
Our facilities are veteran-owned, so you’re sure to have the advice of professionals whenever you need it. At Keystone Shooting Center, every staff member is an advocate for safe practices and education. If you need help, our experts will be there for you, whether you’re a walk-in or a member.
Come and see what makes us one of the top ranges in the country — call or visit us for more information.
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