Selecting an ideal Handgun for Self-Defense

1. Gun Size As a general rule, I recommend compact-sized handguns, but if a full-size handgun feels better just do what works for you. I would choose a compact handgun for carrying, and a full-sized handgun for home defense. I think beginners should probably stay away from subcompact handguns. The small size can seem less intimidating to the inexperienced, but the smaller the gun, the more felt recoil, so smaller guns are actually more difficult to handle.  On the other hand, larger-framed guns have less recoil and take less effort to realign your sights between shots.


2. Gun Features I recommend beginners opt for a handgun without external safety. External safeties require extra manipulation in a defensive situation, manipulation that will slow you down or worse may be forgotten entirely. I know this is a bit counter-intuitive, but that extra step is just one more thing that goes wrong when your life is already on the line in a self-defense scenario.  That doesn’t mean you have to go without safety entirely, though. Many manufacturers, like Glock, include internal safeties in their firearms to prevent accidental discharge.  In addition, you’ll want night sights on any defensive weapon you want. Night sights will allow you to protect yourself even in dim lighting. You don’t have to get a gun with them, though. You can get aftermarket night sights for most guns, so you can also opt to get a set of these and have a gunsmith replace your handgun’s sights for you. While we’re talking about features, let’s talk about cost, too. A cheap gun may be satisfactory for just plinking, but you probably don’t want to trust it with your life. Now you don’t have to spend a ton of money for a defensive handgun with all kinds of extra features, but you do want to make sure you’re getting a good quality piece that won’t fail when you need it most.


3. Gun Caliber .9mm and .45 ACP are the most often recommended calibers for a defensive handgun, and both are also common calibers for use by law enforcement.  .45 ACP fires a larger projectile than the .9mm, but also greater recoil. For most people, 9mm might be the best option. 9mm offers greater capacity, less recoil, and has a better velocity to get through barriers. Modern hollowpoint technology has gotten more than good enough to close the “stopping power” gap between 9mm and .45, so there’s really no reason to choose .45 ACP unless you just feel more comfortable with it. If you prefer a revolver to a pistol, .38 Special is generally the go-to caliber. It has manageable recoil and was a popular choice for law enforcement revolvers back when wheelguns were the go-to.  I recommend getting one that can handle +P ammo, and maybe one chambered in .357 Magnum just to give you a little more versatility.  


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