How to Pick a Home Defense Handgun

Which handgun is right for your home defense? It depends. But there are some common traits to look for when choosing one.

Choosing which gun to buy is a very personal decision. Ask ten people what they like, get ten different opinions. And that’s okay. Each person has different needs and wants, which is why gun manufacturers make so many models and variations within models.

But while there are many great brands and models out there today, each with its plusses and minuses, the best home defense guns have several characteristics in common. So let’s take a look at some features of a home defense gun that pretty much everyone can agree on.


Unlike a concealed carry gun, where the size of the gun can be a bit of a challenge due to the need to hide it, a home defense gun has no such restrictions. It can be as big as you want. Bigger guns are easier to shoot because of basic physics: more mass means less recoil because the equal and opposite reaction pushes against a heavier object. Therefore, the bigger the gun, the less it kicks.

Larger pistols also tend to have larger grips, making them easier to hold and hold onto when the trigger is pulled.

A bigger grip is also easier to grab at the moment when lives are at stake, and you need your gun to work right now! So when you go to pull the gun out of the safe underneath your bed, you have plenty to grab onto.


The last thing I would ever want in a real gunfight with a bad guy who broke into my house is to die in my living room because I ran out of ammo. With a good defensive gun, that shouldn’t happen.

A huge benefit of a bigger gun is bigger magazines that hold more rounds, allowing you a tactical advantage. And if the factory mags aren’t big enough, get larger mags or add an extension that holds a few extra. You don’t need to worry about concealing it, so load it up!


Want to fancy up your home defense gun with a red dot, weapon-mounted light, and other helpful accessories? You have a lot more latitude than with a concealed carry gun because you’re not worried about fitting it into a limited selection of holsters.

A home defense gun is a great application for a red dot. Just point the single red dot at your target and pull the trigger. There are no sights to line up and hold steady, a particularly difficult challenge in the dark when most home break-ins happen. While red dots are becoming popular on small guns, they’ve been around on larger pistols for decades, so finding a red dot and slide combo for your home defense gun isn’t hard.

Home defense guns are also a great place to add a weapon-mounted light because of the same nighttime likelihood. You need to see your target before deciding if you need to shoot. What if the bump in the night is the family dog or one of your kids?


It’s an age-old question: What caliber is best for home defense? This argument has been going on for a very long time. And the answer is…whichever one you like best.

While .22LR is probably the only common caliber definitely not on the list of best options because it’s too slow and too small, just about any larger pistol caliber – 9mm, 10mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, etc. – will work fine for stopping bad guys who just climbed through the living room window.

It boils down to what you feel the most comfortable shooting. Can you manage the recoil? Are you accurate with the gun? Can you shoot it without hurting yourself in the process? Can you find ammunition for it? Do you train with it regularly?


Choosing a home defense handgun is much easier than picking one for concealed carry because you have more flexibility and choices. Whatever you choose, be sure to train with it. Buying a gun and throwing it in a drawer where it collects dust won’t help you if someone breaks into your home. You need to know how to work the gun and be comfortable shooting it. Take classes. Shoot targets at your local range. Train, train, train, and train some more. Your life depends on it.


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David Workman is an avid gun guy and a contributing writer to several major gun publications. As an NRA-certified instructor, David trains new shooters on basic handgun skills and CCW requirements and is a strong advocate for training as much as possible. “Real-life shootouts don’t happen at a box range.”




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1 thought on “How to Pick a Home Defense Handgun”

  1. Thanks for explaining how larger guns have less kick and bigger grips, which make them easier to use. My older brother wants to buy a gun to keep in his house for defense purposes to protect his family. He plans to buy one in the next month, so I’ll help him look for a gun that will be easier for him to hold.

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