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Throwback Thursday: Best Home Defense Pistols

SIG P226 with light on table with sunglasses, magazine and ammo

One of the most popular firearms for home defense is a pistol. With so many pistols on the market, it’s hard to know what to look for when choosing a home defense pistol. Common questions include what caliber, size, or type of pistol should I choose? Well, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but there are some great options I can suggest.

Before I continue, it is important to note that there are a lot of great options that could have easily made this list, but I selected the pistols I prefer. Now, let’s take a look at the best home defense pistols on the market today!

1. SIG Sauer P226

The SIG Sauer P226 is my top choice for a home defense pistol. There are a ton of variations of this pistol, and all are great options. I prefer the P226 Stainless Elite (now discontinued), but the MK25, Legion, and standard Nitron models are solid contenders. These double-action/single-action hammer-fired pistols are known for their legendary reliability and durability. They come from the factory with great night sights and dependable magazines.

In 9mm Luger, the SIG P226 accepts 15-round, 18-round, and 20-round magazines. Extended magazines are also available. It is also available in .40 S&W and .357 SIG, each featuring a reduced capacity to accommodate the larger cartridge.

If you’d like a DA/SA alloy-frame pistol in a different platform, the Beretta 92fs has served well for decades. You will get comparable features with the addition of a manual thumb safety, and the open-top slide design helps prevent malfunctions.

SIG P226 Legion

2. S&W M&P 2.0 Full-Size

It is no secret that modern shooters have turned toward polymer-frame striker-fired pistols. They are lighter weight, have a consistent trigger pull, and are easily cleaned. There are tons of quality striker-fired pistols on the market today, but I have selected the Smith and Wesson M&P 2.0 full-size.

I prefer the 9mm Luger model, but it is also available in .40 S&W and .45 ACP. With a steel-reinforced polymer frame, accessory rail, and interchangeable grip panels, the M&P 2.0 is ready for business. Additionally, there are a ton of aftermarket options for parts and accessories for the M&P, so you can customize this pistol to your liking.

The M&P could easily be supplemented with options from Glock, H&K, Glock, Canik, and others, but I think S&W provides plenty of features and quality for a reasonable price.

Smith and Wesson M&P 2.0

3. Springfield Loaded Operator 1911 With Rail

This could be swapped for any 1911 pistol with a rail, but I think Springfield Armory provides a quality option with the Loaded Operator. Dan Wesson, SIG Sauer, and Rock Island Armory all make great alternatives at different price points.

The Loaded Operator features a Picatinny rail for mounting lights and lasers. It also incorporates front and rear slide serrations to help you rack the pistol for loading and clearing malfunctions. The Loaded Operator also has frontstrap checkering and an ambidextrous thumb safety.

When choosing a 1911 pistol, I prefer models chambered in .45 ACP. They tend to be more reliable, while retaining a similar capacity to 1911s in other calibers. However, you can also find great options in 9mm Luger and 10mm Auto.

Springfield Loaded Operator 1911

4. CZ SP-01

Nothing shoots or absorbs recoil quite like a steel-frame 9mm pistol. This is further improved by the low bore axis of the CZ SP-01. Additionally, the slide rides inside the frame, so there is less reciprocating mass as the slide cycles, decreasing felt recoil. That’s probably why this pattern of firearm is incredibly popular among competition shooters.

The full-length dust cover of the CZ 75 SP-01 variant adds weight to the front to help prevent muzzle rise. This allows you to shoot faster and more accurately. The SP-01 also provides users with a rail to mount lights and lasers. With a crisp double-action/single-action trigger, thin profile, and excellent grip angle, the SP-01 is an absolute pleasure to shoot. The full-size grip accommodates larger hands, and the extended beavertail allows you to get a high grip for more control and protects your hand from slide bite.

CZ SP-01

5. Brugger & Thomet APC9

The B&T APC9 is a Swiss offering chambered in 9mm Luger. It utilizes a recoil-reduced closed-bolt blowback operation that is incredibly reliable and soft-shooting. This recoil reduction is further amplified by a hydraulic buffer. There are models that accept proprietary B&T magazines, as well as versions that use Glock-pattern 9mm mags.

The APC9 is completely optics-ready and incorporates folding backup iron sights. If you like the idea of the B&T APC9, but are looking for something a little different, the CZ Scorpion and SIG MPX are two solid alternatives. They all accept higher capacity magazines and a pistol stabilizing brace (or stock if you choose to file as an SBR).

B&T APC9 home defense pistols

Honorable Mention: AR Pistol

Though not a traditional pistol, an AR pistol makes for an excellent home defense firearm, especially for those who live on a larger property. With the development of different pistol stabilizing braces, these have become incredibly popular. They allow you to have three points of contact while shooting, improving your accuracy and handling.

From factory options to custom builds, there are tons of AR-15 pistols on the market in a number of calibers, like 5.56 NATO, .300 AAC Blackout, and 9mm Luger. Ruger, Springfield Armory, and Daniel Defense make great options in different price ranges.

Daniel Defense M4 V7 AR-15 home defense pistols

Additional Accessories

There are accessories I find to be important when selecting a home defense pistol. I believe having the ability to mount a weapon light is paramount. You need to be able to identify your target and determine whether or not it is a threat to your life. Having a light attached to your pistol allows you to do this without having to fumble with light switches or worry about power outages. My favorite light is the Streamlight TLR-1 HL, but if you prefer a light/laser combination, the Streamlight TLR-2 is available.

Another important feature is a good set of night sights. Night sights allow you to get a proper sight picture in all lighting conditions. Tritium options are the best, because you aren’t relying on prior light exposure to make the sights glow. My favorite sights are Trijicon HDs because I can get a great sight picture day or night. They are easy to acquire, and the front sight is highlighted orange or yellow to quickly draw your attention.

One final accessory you may want to consider is a red dot sight. There are a lot of personal preferences that go into choosing a red dot sight for your pistol, but Holosun and Trijicon make some of the best on the market. Whether you go with the Holosun 507, 508 series, or Trijicon RMR or SRO series, you are sure to have a high-quality, dependable and rugged optic. It is important to note that some pistols come from the factory ready to accept an optic, while others will need to be taken to a gunsmith.

Streamlight TLR-1 HL for home defense pistols

Conclusion: Home Defense Pistols

When choosing a pistol for home defense, it’s important to take a number of factors into consideration to ensure you get the firearm that is right for you. Features such as night sights and a light rail are important. You may want to consider an optics-ready pistol, so you can mount a red dot sight. It is important to select a caliber that you are able to shoot accurately and is suitable for your environment. No matter what home defense pistol you choose, if you select an option from this list, you’re sure to have an excellent firearm.

What do you think are the best home defense pistols? Let us know in the comment section.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August of 2021. It has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and clarity.

About the Author:

Alex Cole

Alex is a younger firearms enthusiast who’s been shooting since he was a kid. He loves consuming all information related to guns and is constantly trying to enhance his knowledge, understanding, and use of firearms. Not a day goes by where he doesn’t do something firearms-related and he tries to visit the range at least a couple of times a month to maintain and improve his shooting skills.

His primary focus is on handguns, but he loves all types of firearms. He enjoys disassembling and reassembling firearms to see how they work and installs most of the upgrades to his firearms himself, taking it as a chance to learn. He’s not only interested in modern handguns and rifles, he appreciates the classics for both historical value and real-world use.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (25)

  1. A Ruger GP-100 Match Champion .357 mag with a 4″ barrel is beside my easy chair, along with a 9mm Sig P-365 with a laser for evening walks. My nightstand holds a Sig P-320 in 9mm with a laser. I hope I never have to use any of them. Be prepared.

  2. I concur with others, no revolvers? My nightstand gun is a S&W 28 highway patrol 357 with a 6” barrel. Its a joy to shoot, accurate, nice trigger and always goes bang. Even with the hottest off the shelf defense rounds recoil is very manageable.

  3. Good choices all listed.

    Don’t want any court trials, so for home defense we go with Mossberg 500 16″ Pistol Grip to stop the threats.

  4. Simply put, the best handgun for self-defense is the one you are comfortable and proficient with, emphasis on proficiency. Anyone who has been through a stress shoot knows your skills degrade under pressure, no matter your training and talent. Choose a gun *you* like and practice, practice, practice, and then practice some more. Snap caps exist for this reason. Happy shooting, y’all.

  5. A lot of good guns listed in the comments. My fav’s for around the house are:

    pistol grip Moossberg 500 12 gage,
    .45 ACP Colt Combat Commander,
    Taurus Pt92 in 9mm, and
    Taurus 856 in .38

  6. You say in home defense! Why you need a clip that holds a whole box of bullets? My choice is the Taurus Judge. Load two 410 shotgun shells and follow with 3 .45 Colt. Anyone that breaks into my house goes out in a body bag!

  7. I can’t logically dispute any of the points Mr. Cole shared in his article. The only firearm I’m not personally familiar with is the Brugger & Thomet APC9. Bottom line: Get the firearms that best suit the jobs at hand (Get In Where You FIT IN)!

  8. I find it somewhat short-sighted that no revolvers were included. Granted, you did say the list is comprised of weapons you like. However, for simple reliability, short of a knife or stick, no magazine-fed handgun is likely to be more reliable than a revolver, in my opinion. For one, there is no spring to rely on which is a concern if a full magazine has kept that spring fully compressed for weeks, months or longer. Second, grips on handguns, short of those hand cannons, are generally more ergonomic and likely to be more easily handled by a smaller hand. Third, even with only five or six rounds, the objective of home defense is not to engage in protracted gun fight but to either disable or dissuade a would be intruder or at least hold them at risk until the Calvary comes or you can get to more formidable resources, get clear of the confrontation or secure in a safe and protected room.
    Regardless of the weapon(s) of choice, practice and become as familiar with it/them as you are with your home environment and layout. Know them both in the dark and be able to safely, quickly and accurately use and navigate them both under stress.

  9. Any discussion of “top” home defense pistols that includes a 1911 and not a Glock is a waste of time or just trying to generate controversy.

  10. One thing to consider is ammo choice, over penetration wasn’t mentioned… every home is differnt so caliber choice could play a big roll in a home defense situation. An AR pistol might be a little over kill pun intended. I keep a rock island 3.5in 1911 .45acp in my drop down safe mounted on the head board. Came with fiber optic night sights and a rail mount for a tac light.

  11. Must go with the Taurus Judge. Loaded with .410 00 buckshot loads that’s 15 projectiles down range with 5 trigger pulls. Short range in home and no possible bullet travel to next room/house.

  12. Well it is not about what I recommend it is just what I have and I am comfortable with it in my current ready mode.

    Magnum 357 Charter Arms Mag Pug .. loaded and ready… as they say “5 for sure”.

    Wife has a S&W Ladysmith 38 spl ready JIC. Yes have spots and flashlights available. But if it comes to home invasion it would be fast..alarm going off dogs barking and I want some that is simple ready to go in my drawer…that will “light it up” in a CQC situation. If there is more time I have other options…driveway alarm someone snooping around that arouse the dogs… 12 Guage Winchester Defender with six 00 in the stock sleeve….
    Anyway if it comes fast – I want simple and power…so 357 mag suits me just fine in a 5 shot snub nose configuration. I have other options after that…
    Again just what I am comfortable with in HD situation… used to rely on my 1911…which is good option… but now just keep it as plan B or C and the the Mag Pug is on the ready.
    That is my 2 cents worth..

  13. I have two off your list and love them both! My favorite home defense ‘pistol’ is my 18” Mossberg 500 12ga….

  14. I sell firearms at a military exchange. Price is important to buyers as much as quality. Most people I have come in contact with want simple. Simple function, the firearm to be easy to handle, rack, load the cylinder or magazine. Most ladies need easy racking firearms. M&P EZ’s are one of our best sellers with 9mm being the most requested. AR pistol, what kind of home are you defending? We have .380, 9mm, .45 and a pistol grip 12ga pump. All simple, easy to use.

  15. Although it is not a large caliber, the Beretta 85FS works well as a home defense handgun. The .380ACP round is effective enough to allow a home owner the time and firepower to make it to a available shotgun or rifle. It is not overly heavy and yet, durable. It is a proven design, easy to take down, clean and reassemble like it’s big brother, the Beretta M9 or 92FS. This handgun is easy to conceal around the home or outside while doing lawn work, too.

  16. I’m a fan of the Taurus judge for home defense. I can have anything from 410 rat shot to .45 colt all easily accessible. That all thrown into a compact and dependable weapon made it an easy decision.

  17. How about any handgun, semi-auto or revolver, of respectable caliber, that you have trained with and can put a round on target every time you pull the trigger.

  18. I have owned a M25 226 for a long time now and agree that it is an outstanding home defense gun. I have had mine on my nightstand for years with light/laser and night sights. I do agree with the DA/SA comment. I have shot many rounds through my 226 and hate the first shot DA feature. I have been manually cocking the hammer to be able to have all the shots SA and it works for me. I am considering a 229 legion in SA only as a replacement in the near future but will always keep my M25.

  19. Not a single revolver? My nightstand gun is my Taurus 856 or my S&W 686. My wife keeps her S&W 60 in her nightstand

  20. I feel that any discussion of a good, reliable and simple defensive handgun is woefully short of accurate without any mention of any Glock. As a former Police Officer and SWAT Officer, I have used the Glock both at work and at Home. Simple and effective. If you have to reach for a weapon in defense of your home and family…perhaps waking from a deep sleep… I do not want to mess around with a safety. I understand that not everyone would feel that way. Just my opinion. No Glock?

  21. The old addage of ‘dance with the one that brung ya’ applies here: my first serious self defense handgun is the XDS 3.3 mod 2 in 45acp from Springfield Arms. Striker fired polymer, this rugged shooter is accessorized with a crimson trace green laser and xenon flash strobe.
    That combination is a real threat eliminator.
    It qould continue life as my EDC if I could only find a decent leather IWB pancake holster that will accommodate the light.

  22. I’m definitely in agreement with the light, and a good set of night sights. Though I prefer the TFO (tritium fiber optics) as they work very well both day and night. If you train enough with them a micro red dot is also an extremely viable option. I use a Walther Q5Pro Steel Frame for home defense. Optics ready, flashlight ready, high capacity, great trigger all in one. I use the Surefire X300U with the Trijicon red dot on top. One thing I disagree with however, is using DA/SA trigger pistols for self defense, or anything for that matter. Consistency is key to accurate shooting, and having a different trigger pull from shot to shot is not a good thing. The two most missed shots, the first one (now with added difficulty due to long and heavy trigger pull), and the first shot after a reload.

  23. I would say the Smith & Wesson model 10 in 38 special or pretty much any good 38/357 double action revolver would be a great option. Easy to use reliable and accurate

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