We can see why picking your first home defense pistol is challenging – there are just too many options. If you’ve been researching the market for semi-auto pistols for some time, you might already know about Glocks and Sigs. These two brands are the best-selling in the USA, and if you want home defense picks, these are the Glock 17 and the Sig Sauer P320, the current military sidearm.
Many users consider these two models the best pistols for reliability and accuracy. However, you need a handgun that is best for you personally. And if you articulate it that way, the more diverse options you have, the better your pick will be.
Before we touch on the main subject, let’s consider what exactly makes a good home defense pistol in general.
How to Choose a Good Home Defense Pistol
Choosing a home defense handgun is a whole different story than choosing one for concealed carry because you can throw all kinds of accessories on your gun, and the weight of it isn’t an issue at all. So your final setup can be as beefy as you wish as long as it doesn’t affect your performance.
Actually, the more mass your pistol has, the better you control it. High recoil force can become a real problem for some users since it may not only sabotage control but also cause flinching. Flinching (nervous movements due to the anticipation of recoil and report) dramatically decreases your accuracy. Unlike what people with no shooting experience assume about the relationship between the weight of a gun and recoil, more mass absorbs more recoil. So you’ll be a slightly more accurate and faster shooter with a heavy handgun.
However, more weight usually means a bigger gun. People with small hands may be uncomfortable manipulating a full-size pistol because of constant grip readjustment and overall misfit. If this is your case, look for a compact pistol. Though compacts do have less capacity, reduced sight radius, and a bit more recoil, they match their full-size counterparts very closely.
Another consideration is caliber. When choosing a home defense pistol, in most cases, you’ll be choosing between the .45 ACP and 9mm Luger. These are both great cartridges doing an excellent job at stopping a treat. So it’s really down to your preferences. The 9mm is an all-purpose cartridge providing higher magazine capacity and higher velocity bullets. However, many shooters prefer a .45 ACP pistol because it travels slower and penetrates shallower, which is a good thing for home defense because, with expanding ammunition, you don’t worry about overpenetration. With 9mm, you should balance bullet velocity and barrel length. Remember that the longer the barrel, the more energy the bullet accumulates.
Also, it will be nice if your pistol has night sights and a Picatinny rail for mounting a light, since most home defense situations take place in low-light conditions.
Many shooters consider an AR pistol the best gun for home defense due to its higher capacity, milder recoil, and longer sight radius. However, our article is about handguns, so we won’t be cheating and provide only traditional-looking pistols.
Best Handguns for Home Defense
HK VP9L OR
The VP9L OR is a full-size polymer-framed striker-fired 9mm pistol manufactured by the German company Heckler & Koch. The VP series contains handguns for every task, from the sub-compact VP9SK to compact VP40 in .40 S&W. However, we consider the VP9L OR the best handgun for home defense for the reasons we’ve mentioned above.
Chambered for the medium-sized 9mm Luger, the model boasts a decent capacity of 20 rounds (10 rounds for the California-compliant variant). The slide has optics cuts for mounting a red-dot pistol sight – the OR abbreviation actually stands for Optics Ready. Also, the model is shipped with a pair of night sights. The front one is luminescent and is quickly picked up in low-light conditions. A 5-inch slide has lightning cuts and a Pic rail for your light.
Now, what special features does the HK VP9L OR have? First of all, the European paddle-style magazine release. Some shooters may find it a bit uncomfortable to hit, but with a little practice, you may find it even better than our standard push-button mag release. The paddle is truly ambidextrous and considerably minimizes the risk of accidental activation. Other features include grip panels for custom fit and a crisp trigger.
S&W M&P9 M2.0 Performance Center edition
The M&P is another prominent series of pistols from long-established Smith & Wesson. What we have here is the 9mm polymer-frame striker-fired handgun with a 4.25-inch barrel. So it’s a compact pistol, meaning it best suits shooters with smaller hands. The overall compactness and superior ergonomics provide the best handling experience.
Unlike the VP9L OR shipped with an extended magazine, the M&P9 M2.0 holds 17 rounds in its mag plus 1 in the chamber. The slide and barrel are ported to reduce muzzle flip and improve control.
The best thing about this pistol is its adjustable fiber-optic night sights, which are not as cool as luminescent ones but still far easier to pick up than standard white dots.
ZEV OZ9 Combat
The OZ9 Combat is often called a Glock clone. However, it’s unfair to call it that because ZEV didn’t just copy the Glock design but improved it and added some great features original Glocks miss.
It’s a polymer-frame striker-fired 9mm handgun with a modular frame that allows you to go from a CCW to a competition gun without breaking a sweat.
The first thing that catches the eye is the trigger. ZEV started as a manufacturer of Glock parts and accessories that are better than the stock ones. The OZ9 trigger is fantastic, especially compared to the Glock trigger, which sucks, according to many users. It has a short take-up with just a notch of creep, a crisp break, and a positive reset.
By the way, the OZ9 accepts Glock magazines. So you can fit it with a 33-round Glock mag and be good to go.
Another great thing about the OZ9 Combat is its steel receiver, which runs the length of the polymer frame and includes extended rails that provide more contact area to the slide and an integrated locking block. All this plus a steeper 1911-like grip together make a build that minimizes recoil and muzzle flip and improves balance.
Canik METE SFX
If you’re looking for an affordable pistol, have a closer look at the Canik METE SFX. It’s a nicely-balanced polymer striker-fired handgun in 9mm. Regardless of its full-sized design, it’s very grippy, even in small hands. So if you’re searching for the best pistol for women, Canik is definitely worth consideration.
The SFX has a 5.25-inch slide ported for less muzzle flip. On the slide, you see the 3-dot system of white dot night sights co-witnessing the reflex sight that you can fit your SFX with thanks to the optics cuts. The grip offers superior ergonomics and great lateral and front texturing.
The Canik trigger used in the SFX is among the best stock triggers. It’s light and has a very shallow reset. It will take some getting used to, but the feel is superb. Finally, the underguard trigger guard and beavertail provide superior comfort and control over the pistol.
Depending on the magazine, the capacity is 18+1 or 20+1 rounds.
FN FNX-45 Tactical
If you want to shoot slower bullets, the FNX-45 is considered the best home defense pistol in .45 ACP. Pay attention that shooters with small hands may have issues taking a comfortable and firm grip over it. .45 ACP rounds are larger than 9mm, and this pistol accepts 15 of them! That’s very impressive for this caliber, but, at the same time, it makes the pistol grip fat.
The FNX-45 trigger is DA/SA, which is the hardest master but also serves as an additional safety mechanism that gives you more time to consider the situation.
The 5.3-inch slide has optics cuts and is fitted with raised 3-dot Trijicon green tritium illuminating night sights. The cold hammer-forged stainless steel barrel is threaded to accept a sound suppressor. Inherently subsonic .45 ACP bullets are suppressed very nicely, making a handgun almost silent.