The Best Handguns for Home Defense and First Time Buyers

The gun salesman at Cabela’s isn’t your best friend. A recent trip to the store showed me they’re just trying to get through customers. There’s a numbering system so you wait your turn. The gun counter salesman has his own biases. He’ll steer you towards what he wants. Not what you need.

Times have been crazy – in 2020 we had the riots in cities like Portland and even perhaps your home town. We researched the best handguns for home defense and first time buyers. By far the Glock G19 Gen5 takes the cake for a buyer’s first handgun. Read on for our other recommendations so you can protect your family.

What is the best handgun for home defense and beginner handgun shooters?

  1. Glock G19 G5 – Editors Choice
  2. S & W M&P9 SHIELD EZ M2.0 with Range Kit – Dependable and Low Cost
  3. Hi-Point Model C-9 Yeet Cannon – Value Choice
  4. Shadow Systems XR920 CBT BK/BZ – Tacticool Option

#1. Glock G19 G5

Check Current Price | Editor’s Choice

Best handgun. for home defense

Pros and Cons

Pro’s

  • Compact semi automatic pistol design for easier to conceal firearm versus standard sized version
  • Plenty of rounds for a home defense gun
  • Trigger safety
  • In our opinion, the best hand gun for beginners
  • Many 3rd party accessory options
  • Trusted by law enforcement and militaries around the world
  • Some models come standard with night sights – keep an eye out for these models

Con’s

  • Still might be too large for some shooters (women or men with smaller hands)
  • Might be too small for shooters with larger hands
  • Longer barrel length than other compact pistols
  • Less capacity than its bigger brother the Glock G17 Gen5

Our experience with the Glock G19 G5

As a beginner shooter or someone protecting themselves and their family, the Glock G19 Gen5 tops the list in the “most easy to conceal” firearms category. That is, without reducing shooting ability with a smaller pistol grip.

The Glock G19 Gen5 is a striker fired pistol with an out of the box capacity of 15+1 rounds. Glock pistols may be imported from Austria or manufactured in the United States. They’re known throughout the world for their quality and reliability – so it shouldn’t be a concern whether manufactured in the USA or overseas.

Perfect as a concealed carry firearm with Capacity

This is our everyday carry pistol. We use the Glock G19 Gen5 and the Glock G45 Gen5. The major difference between the two is the pistol grip zone. It’s the same length as the Glock G17. This was done for law enforcement and military personnel that liked the shorter barrel length of the G19 but wanted a more solid grip in holding the weapon.

In a sudden self defense situation, the gun feels like it’ll draw quickly, fire without malfunctions, and (with practice) will defend you in any situation. We rank it at the top of our list for the best handgun for home defense and easy to conceal firearms.

Some things we wished we had with this model was the finger grooves that Gen3 Glocks had. This isn’t as popular anymore, so I understand why most handguns do not heave this feature anymore.

We also wish it had a higher magazine capacity. With more rounds though, you’ll need a longer magazine – and the whole reason for a G19 is for the reduced footprint for concealed carry. If this is a major concern, you might look at the Glock G45 Gen5. G17 magazines will fit the G19. If you already own a G19, this might be a good option for you.

Many people the .45 versus 9mm caliber. Arguing stopping power differences between the 9mm and .45. If you’re a fanboy (or fangirl) of the .45, this might not be the pistol for you.

How easy is it to use the Glock 19? According to a Wikipedia article, New York City police officers trains its new recruits to use the Glock G19 Gen4 or Glock G17 Gen 4.

Check Current Price

#2. S&W M&P9 SHIELD EZ M2.0 with Range Kit

Check Current Price | Dependable and Low Cost

S&W M&P9 Shield EZ M2.0 with Range Kit

Pros and Cons

Pro’s

  • If you’re anti-Glock, this is a good alternative
  • Includes range gear that beginner shooters may not have
  • Plano pistol case included
  • 3.67″ barrel length
  • Smaller than the G19
  • Adjustable rear sights

Con’s

  • Not the most popular brand for polymer style pistol
  • Limited accessories by 3rd party manufacturers
  • 8+1 capacity

Our experience with the S&W M&P9 SHIELD EZ M2.0 with Range Kit

If you read our post about the best AR-15 rifles, you’ll know I hope they reserved a special place in hell for S&W for my first pistol I bought – the Sigma. I won’t hold it against them here though. The S&W M&P9 Shield is our choice for best handgun in the dependable and low cost category.

One of our contributors has an M&P and we took it for a spin. It’s a great gun, seems to perform as it should.

Magazine issues?

When our contributor wanted to buy magazines for it, we had a hard time finding OEM or 3rd party magazines. We finally found a see-through version that still costed north of $20 per magazine. Compare that to MAGPUL magazines for the Glock averaging around $15.

The pistol comes as a range kit, including eyewear, hearing protection, and additional magazines. It also comes with a Plano heavy duty storage case.

Capacity Issues? Or a Preference Only?

The bummer about this pistol however is its 8+1 capacity. While other 9mm M&P pistols have higher capacities – it’s still a low capacity as compared to other pistols in its class.

Compared to the G19, its shorter barrel length and overall smaller footprint I feel makes it a true compact pistol. It’s tough to judge what the best handguns are when the best one has a bigger profile than others with a lower capacity.

We feel this is a good option if you’re not a fan of Glocks or want to totally ignore the industry standard for law enforcement and military.

Once again going back to New York City Police Officers as an example – the NYPD allows officers to carry the M&P9 as their off-duty carry pistol.

#3. Hi-Point Model C-9 Yeet Cannon

Check Current Price | Value Choice

Hi-Point C-9 Yeet Cannon G1 9mm Semi-Auto Pistol

Pros and Cons

Pro’s

  • 3.5″ barrel length
  • Cheap – lowest cost of this list

Con’s

  • Cheap – lowest quality of this list
  • 8+1 capacity
  • It’s a Hi-Point – not known for their durability or quality

Our experience with the Hi-Point Model C-9 Yeet Cannon

Listen – there will be people out there who don’t care about quality, reliability, or anything else. they want their gun to mimic their Call of Duty sidearm. Or to show off cool colors or sayings from the side of their gun. We added it to the list of best handgun models because some people are going to buy it just for aesthetics on a budge. And that’s why its here.

For this type of user, we suggest you get a Hi-Point Yeet Cannon. Why? Where else will you buy a gun off the shelf that says “Yeet” on it?

Its 8+1 capacity and barrel length is the same as the M&P. To be completely honest – buy it for the “Yeet” marked on the side, or go with another firearm.

Garand Thumb did a great video comparison of the Hi-Point vs Glock G19:

Despite Garand Thumb’s test results, Hi-Point stands behind their products. Hi-Point’s warranty from their website states:

Damage, age, and plain old wear and tear: it just happens. When it does, however, our customers learn quickly that we are different from the rest. At Hi-Point®, lifetime means just that. We proudly provide repairs for the life of the gun, whether you are the first owner or the third.

Try getting your Glock or Sig Sauer serviced or even replaced due to damage, age, or wear and tear.

#4. Shadow Systems XR920 CBT BK/BZ

Check Current Price | Tactical Choice

Shadow Systems XR920 Combat 9mm Semi-Auto Pistol

Pros and Cons

Pro’s

  • Optics ready
  • Compatible with G19 magazines
  • Available in black and FDE
  • Serrated slide at both front and rear

Con’s

  • Overkill for the beginner shooter
  • More expensive than similar options with less bells and whistles

Our experience with the Shadow Systems XR920 CBT BK/BZ

You could get really special ops or tactical with a Sig Sauer P226 with Navy etchings on the side. Or you could go with something at a lower cost, some great upgrades, and fully customizable. The Shadow Systems XR920 CBT BK/BZ rounds out our best handguns list as the best tactical home defense gun.

Shooters might choose this early on in their shooting career or as an upgrade from their standard G17 or G19. A nice feature of the XR920 is it accepts G19 magazines. Keeping this in mind, you have a wide array of 3rd party magazines you could use with this as well.

RMR Ready?

The slide is optic ready, with serrations at the front and back of the slide. This will aid in racking the slide back and checking if it’s loaded.

We don’t feel this is a great match for the beginner shooter. Striker fired pistols are the best handgun for someone upgrading their collection but still keeping their accessories relevant.

The price on this is almost double than the G19. If you’re sure you’re going to add an optic, need front and rear serrations, and enhanced features, this might be for you. If you can get by with a stock Glock, we suggest you with the G19.

Stopping power, differences in calibers, and bullet types

So you’ve found the best handgun for your situation. That being, the best handgun for the beginning shooter or the best handgun for home defense. What did we miss?

Revolvers and Double/Single Action Pistols

Why didn’t our list include revolvers or double/single action pistols? We feel revolvers and 1911 or double/single action might require additional training for beginners choosing the best handguns for home defense or beginner shooters.

In a self defense situation, training matters. We didn’t want to recommend a revolver or double action firearm without suggesting shooters get training.

9mm or .40 or .45?

There are three common calibers for pistol ammunition. They are the 9mm, .40, and .45. Many argue that the size of the caliber is what defines the best home defense pistol pistol. There’s some good ideas behind this though – people argue the stopping power of a larger caliber bullet (the .45) will make the difference between life and death in a self defense scenario.

While we argue that any of these guns would make a fine home defense pistol, we’re only discussing the best handgun for self defense. Not which caliber is best. You can find plenty of articles describing ballistics and stopping power.

9mm

The 9mm pistol round is going to be your cheapest when compared to other common self defense pistol calibers. Right now, you can buy this for around $0.40/round.

.40

.40 caliber ammunition used to be associated with law enforcement. While many departments call it the best handgun caliber for police departments, many companies are switching to the 9mm pistol. You’re also seeing this within the United States Armed Forces.

US Marines in MARSOC were initially issued .45 caliber 1911 pistols by Colt, named the M45A1. Now they’re issued Glock 45’s or Glock 19’s. It just goes to show that while the .40 caliber was once the common law enforcement caliber round, it has been dropped by many departments for less costly alternatives.

This is your mid-tier price range per round.

.45

I’ve heard many people refer to this caliber as “God’s caliber” or the caliber God would conceal carry. Of the three calibers, you’ll find this one the most expensive. It’s common in 1911 style pistols.

The size of the round makes it difficult to carry many rounds or conceal with enough rounds for a longer firefight or self defense situation. If I’m using a handgun for home defense and I keep ammunition near me during a firefight – I might choose this caliber.

Practicing with it will be more costly than 9mm rounds. But, the .45 will be cheaper than training with .223/5.56 rifle rounds.

Hollow point or full metal jacket?

The choice between hollow point and full metal jacket is best explained by this:

Hollow point:

  • Hollowed out center of bullet
  • Preferred by hunters and shooters in a sudden self defense situation
  • More expensive than full metal jacket

Full metal jacket

  • A soft metal core (lead) and a harder outer core
  • This is the standard ammunition type for the military
  • Less expensive than hollow point

AmmoBoard.come has a great write up on the differences.

When choosing which ammunition to shoot in a self defense pistol or a beginner pistol – it’s important to practice with it at the range.

For example – the home defense shooter should buy a couple boxes of hollow point and practice shooting the first box. Ask these questions:

  • Does it cycle through the gun correctly?
  • How loud is it (just to train yourself on how it’ll sound – it’ll be louder indoors)?
  • What considerations should I make relating to recoil management for that brand and round type?

Can I use a handgun for home defense and also use full metal jacket? The answer is yes – the projectile will still travel fast to its intended target. It’ll still penetrate the skin. It’ll hurt and potentially kill the target.

Ammunition cost differences

The cost between hollow point and full metal jacket can sometimes be $0.20 per round. Keep this in mind – you’re not target practicing with hollow points. You’re checking its ability to get on target, your recoil management, and if it cycles through your gun properly (no stoppages).

Special considerations in purchasing your first home defense handgun

Below are the biggest considerations we feel home defense and concealed carry shooters should consider before making their purchase.

Home defense gun considers

When choosing a handgun for home defense, you’ll need to consider where you’ll store it. Especially if you have children in your home or visiting.

Since you’re not carrying this gun, it might not be necessary to have a compact pistol. You could get a full-sized Glock G17 and put a red dot on it. There shouldn’t be any conceivability issues since it’s your house.

Handguns for home defense have this luxury – the options for the gun are limitless – assuming you can safely store it.

Also, will you use a holster? If something goes bump in the night, will you get a holster, put it on your waistband and sweep the house? Will you be in your underwear or wearing jeans? When is an attack likely to occur? All great questions to consider when purchasing a home defense pistol.

Concealed carry gun considerations

For concealed carry, you’re probably not going to choose a full sized pistol. At the least, you should choose a compact pistol. We discussed earlier that compact means something different for each brand.

Compare the G19 to the Hi-Point. Both are called compact but the barrel length for each gun is different.

Don’t buy the gun before looking at your holster options. Tucking the gun in the small of your back isn’t a great way to conceal carry. I’ve made the mistake of buying a gun, thinking it would be great for concealed carry, and only to find that there aren’t holsters for that type of carry.

Also, consider the amount of rounds you’re able to concealed carry. Will you carry one magazine? How many rounds will it hold? There are concealed carry options with pistol magazine carriers.

Using a handgun better for home defense versus an AR-15 or shotgun

Depending on which gun expert you choose to follow (or take pieces from many experts), you’ll find that some advocate for an AR-15 as an effective home defense weapon.

Clint Smith advocates an AR-15 for as the most effective home defense weapon. He considers the pistol as a backup when an immediate threat appears and the rifle is out of battery (out of ammunition, malfunction, etc).

If you listen to Joe Biden when he was vice-president during the Obama administration – he advocated for shotguns in home defense scenarios. These will work too.

The AR-15 and Shotgun though are longer weapons so manuevering inside the house could be tricky. Training can help you overcome these challenges.

Which is better? It’s a matter of practice.

Which brands do military and law enforcement use or trust?

Below is a best guess lest of each branches’ military service pistol. These change every few years (or if you’re the Marine Corps, every 10). We will update these when we hear of official changes. There’s always a lot of speculation out there – this helps brands sells more pistols.

Current military service pistols

USMC – Sig Sauer M18

Army – Sig Sauer M17 and M18

Air Force – Sig Sauer M17 and M18

Special Operations – Glock G19

It seems the special operations community is starting to move towards the Glock G19. MARSOC initially had the Colt M45A1 but felt Marines weren’t capable of shooting the 1911 .45 caliber pistol effectively.

The Navy has also started to move away from the P228 and P226 towards the Glock G19 as well.

It makes sense though – Glock has become the standard weapon for law enforcement and shooting enthusiasts. This brand is a great start for any beginner.

What handguns does law enforcement use?

In a 2018 article by Tactical Life, it listed the most common pistols used by law enforcement in the 10 largest metroplexes in the country:

  • Chicago – Sig Sauer P226
  • New York City – Glock G19
  • Los Angeles – Glock G22
  • Philadelphia – Glock G17

And many more cities carrying Glocks!

Accessories we recommend looking into

Our editors choice recommended handgun for home defense and the beginning shooter is the Glock 19. This is recommended not only because we like the Glock reliability, but we also like the accessories and aftermarket parts available for it.

Magazines

Amend2 and MAGPUL both make aftermarket magazines for the Glock 19. These magazines have colored followers that are very attractive feature when you’re out of ammunition. They both have durable springs inside them and last a long time.

Triggers

Aftermarket triggers are available with lighter trigger weights. Check out your local gun store for available options.

Barrels

Some variants of firearms will have upgraded barrels on them. Be sure to do your research before:

  1. Purchasing a firearm – does it have an upgraded barrel? Is it higher priced because of it? Are you getting a better deal by purchasing with an upgraded barrel already installed?
  2. Purchasing a new barrel – Does the weapon already have a higher quality/more precise barrel in it?

Why is it hard to find guns right now?

The gun industry has seen is a huge uptick in firearm purchases for self defense over the past few years. Add in the devastating school shootings and you get a big spike in demand. A lot of the demand has been for handguns. But are you buying the right handgun for your specific need? Are you a beginner shooter? Is this for home defense? Introduction – Sigma, tell what the best handgun for home defense is.

What criteria do we use to compare?

We used the following criteria to compare:

  • Availability of firearms
  • MAP (minimum approved price)
  • Perceived difficulty in shooting the firearm from a new shooter’s point of view
  • Use by law enforcement
  • Reviews, articles, and videos made by knowledgable firearm content creators

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