Many people are purchasing firearms for home defense, but they’re not just selecting the more typical shotguns or AR-15s. Handguns can be an effective addition to the mix … or at least a solid starting point. But there are important factors to keep in mind when choosing a home-defense pistol.

Budget Accordingly for Your Home-Defense Pistol

Not everyone has a large budget set aside for a home-defense handgun. Luckily, high prices don’t always equal high quality. Some of the most popular and most reliable options can be found in the mid-to-low price range. Of course, you’ll want to opt for something reasonable and dependable. So don’t just go for the least expensive option. Your life — and possibly the life of a loved one — may depend on this tool, so be sure to invest wisely.

Choose a Home Protection Caliber

The 9mm round is one of the most common calibers for home defense guns, due to its usability, availability and affordability. It offers a good balance between stopping power and recoil, making it more manageable for a wide range of shooters and, thus, a top choice for both personal and home defense. However, others will stand by their larger .40 or .45 calibers. And still others are perfectly satisfied with a .22 or .32. Ultimately, it’s a personal choice, with the goal being able to confidently and competently use that firearm to stop a threat.

Factor in Your Home

Not only can the size and the location of your home be a factor when choosing a home-defense handgun, but so will the layout and the makeup. Be sure to think about who lives there and who visits. Also, think about the blueprint and the construction of your dwelling. Do you live alone? Are you in an apartment? Are there neighbors close by? These details may help narrow down caliber and type of ammunition as well as help determine the accessible but hidden places to safely store and/or stage a firearm. Understanding how to make a home-defense plan can also be crucial to ensuring your safety and preparedness.

Think About Size and Heft

If you don’t need to worry about carrying the firearm on body or concealing it (except perhaps in a safe), then a full-size handgun is likely your best option for home defense. A bigger handgun can be easier to shoot (due to less felt recoil) and likely holds more ammo. In fact, most full-size semi-automatic pistol magazines hold around 17 rounds. Also, while you may not think weight is an important consideration for a home-defense weapon, make sure to select a gun that you can effectively manipulate and fire under duress and safely use with a single hand. You never know when you might need the other hand to close a door, hold a flashlight or shield a loved one.

Consider Maintenance

The best pistol for home defense needs to be durable and reliable and ready to go at a moment’s notice, perhaps even after a period of neglect. I am not suggesting you should leave a gun staged for years without shooting it or cleaning it, but you should choose a gun that you can depend on, no matter the circumstances — whether hot, humid, foggy, freezing or dark.

Decide on Features for Home Defense

Don’t forget to determine any additional features for your home-defense gun. For instance, you may need to decide if you require a manual safety. While a safety may be useful to thwart unauthorized users who may be unfamiliar with the gun, you may neglect to disengage the safety during a stressful encounter. It’s an extra step, so you will have to train and practice. Also, consider if you want to use a red dot optic or add a weapon-mounted light. These features can potentially provide a little extra assistance and confidence in low-light conditions and stressful situations.

Popular Handgun Choices for Home Defense

A few popular handgun choices for home defense include the following models. But be sure to do your research and get in some testing first before you decide which gun is best for you and your home.

  • Glock 17 or 19: The 9mm G17 or G19 are fan favorites and some of Glock’s flagship handguns because of their durable, reliable and utilitarian design. With a 49-inch barrel and 17-round capacity and a 4.02-inch barrel and 15-round capacity, respectively, either handgun can be a great option for home defense. Look for the MOS (modular optic system) configuration (or the nearly identical G47) if you plan to mount optical sights.
  • SIG Sauer P320: This well-balanced, full-size striker-fired model has a 4.7-inch barrel and 17-round capacity. It features one of the best out-of-the-box triggers and SIGLITE Night Sights, which are excellent for picking up the sights in low light/no light situations. The P320 is also optics ready and modular, which is a big selling point for many gun owners who might like to change backstraps, frames or even calibers.
  • Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0: The popular, smooth shooting M&P features a 17-round magazine, a 4.25-inch barrel and low barrel bore axis, which helps to reduce muzzle rise and allows for effective aim recovery. The 2.0 comes optics-ready and includes various grip inserts to customize to the user’s hand size and trigger reach. You can also look for this M&P in various calibers, with some models featuring a thumb safety or a threaded barrel.
  • HK VP9: Heckler & Koch’s reliable, polymer-framed VP9 chambered in 9mm is available with multiple grip configurations and features a 4.09-inch barrel and a 10, 15 or 17-round magazine capacity. Competition shooters have been favoriting the Match version of this ergonomic, optics-ready pistol for a while. And if you are not a fan of the European-style paddle for the magazine release, look for the VP9-B model, which features the more standard, push-button release.

Consider these factors and do thorough research to find the best home defense pistol that suits your needs and provides peace of mind.