One of the most important firearms to own as part of your preparations for SHTF will be the handgun. This is because your handgun is the gun that’s always on your person and that you can access the quickest in an emergency.
While it may not have the range or power of a rifle, as the old saying goes, your handgun is the gun you use to fight your way to your rifle. Another advantage to owning a handgun is, of course, that you can conceal it.
You have two obvious choices for what basic type of handgun: a semi-automatic pistol or a revolver.
While both have their pros and cons, the pistol is the more critical to own than the revolver. A double-stack pistol with 2-3 magazines gives you a lot more ammunition and quicker reload times than a revolver.
In this article, we will outline and discuss the qualities you need to look for in an SHTF pistol. We’ll also talk about five specific pistols on the market that fully meet each of those qualities.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN AN PISTOL
Here are the qualities you need to look for in an SHTF pistol:
- It Should Be Mid to Full Sized Fighting Pistol
- Avoid pocket pistols at all costs. Your pistol needs to be big enough to adequately fight with it should you have to. This means it should be a mid to full sized pistol; a good rule of thumb to follow is that it should be the size of a Glock 19 or larger.
- It Should Be Chambered in 9mm, .40 S&W, or .45 ACP
- Yes, there are plenty of high performing pistol rounds out there. But what makes the 9mm, .40, and .45 (also known as the ‘Big 3’ of pistol calibers) stand out from the rest is how plentiful they are. This means that not only will be the ammunition be easier and cheaper to find now, but it will also be easier to find in a long term grid down disaster as well. I’m a big fan of the performance of other calibers such as the .357 SIG, for example, but they simply are not as common as the Big 3.
- It Should Have a Double Stacked Magazine
- Yes, this means the gun is thicker (which may be a problem if you’re a smaller statured person), but it also means more ammunition in the magazine and less frequent reloading. The average gunfight lasts only 2-3 rounds fired from both parties. In a WROL situation, you could be up against angry mobs and mass rioters. A pistol that carries as many rounds as possible, in addition to the spare magazine(s) on your person and less frequent reloading could be life-saving. While having a double stacked magazine automatically disqualifies several popular pistols, such as the beloved 1911, I believe it’s a necessary feature for a SHTF
- It Must Be Utterly Reliable
- The only way to know if a pistol will go BANG every single time is its track record. Your pistol of choice should display a minimum of five years of service either in military or law enforcement units, during which it should have built up a reputation for reliability and durability in adverse conditions. If your pistol is not reliable, it means you can’t trust your life with it. If you can’t trust your life with that pistol, it doesn’t deserve to be your SHTF sidearm.
- It Must Be Accurate
- Obviously, any pistol is going have less range than a rifle, but your pistol still needs to be very accurate at distances of 30 yards or less.
- It Must Be a Common Make and Model
- The reason for this is simply that common pistols have more accessories available on the market. More available accessories mean that finding spare magazines or holsters will be easier in both your everyday life and in a SHTF Besides, having a pistol that’s popular should say a lot about its overall quality and reliable.
Now that we know what to look for in an SHTF pistol, let’s closely examine five specific pistols that check the box for each of those qualifications:
The Beretta 92 is the biggest pistol on this list. It also may be the most controversial. Its open-slide design and slide mounted external safety are both loved and hated.
Nonetheless, the Beretta 92 (and its many variations) has a proven track record. It’s served as the official U.S military sidearm since 1985, during which it has been fielded by soldiers in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan. While some soldiers have expressed their dislike for the 9mm chambering (though .40-caliber variations are available as the 96 model), there have been far fewer complaints about its reliability.
If you desire an all-steel 9mm or .40-calibe pistol, the Beretta 92/96 is worthy of your serious consideration. It features an open slide design that reduces the chance of a stovepipe jam. Magazines and accessories can be found in great abundance across the United States.
Another great feature about the Beretta 92 is its fixed-barrel design that results in natural accuracy. This, coupled with the all-steel design that reduces recoil, means your shots are faster and follow up shots more accurate in comparison to other pistols on this list.
If there’s something to be concerned about the Beretta 92, it’s the slide-mounted safety. If you’ve trained yourself to rack the slide on your pistol during a reload, there’s a chance you could accidentally flip the safety on. While you can train yourself to avoid hitting the safety, it’s still something to be worried about (note: the incredibly similar Taurus PT92 has the safety located on the frame like a 1911 rather than the slide).
There are some who consider the CZ-75 to be the greatest pistol ever made. It’s a traditional all-metal, DA/SA semi-automatic handgun that now has countless different models and variants available for sale. Magazines and accessories are also fairly common.
The CZ-75 is one of the most popular pistols of all time as well. It has sold over a million units worldwide to military, law enforcement units and civilians alike. It is one of the most common pistols in Europe and has been gaining in popularity in the U.S.
The CZ is also available in 9mm and .40 S&W, as well as the .45 ACP (as the CZ-97). Polymer framed models also now exist, which reduces the overall weight of the pistol and may be preferable to certain people. Other companies such as Sphinx and Tanfoglio have produced high-quality copies of the pistol as well.
If there’s a criticism of the CZ-75, it’s more of a preference issue. The slide is noticeably smaller than other handguns, which may make racking the slide less pleasurable.
Nonetheless, the CZ-75 is still a high quality and timeless pistol. It’s established itself as one of the most successful handgun designs in history, and it effortlessly meets if not exceeds the criteria of factors to look for in an SHTF pistol.
You probably expected to see the Glock on this list. It’s the most common law enforcement pistol in the United States, as well as one of the most common guns for civilians. It’s the gun that paved the way for the polymer framed, striker fired handgun. It is the gun that all other pistols in its class are compared to.
Any of the mid to full-size Glocks in 9mm, .40 S&W or .45 ACP will serve as an excellent SHTF sidearm. Specifically, this includes the G17, G19, G21, G22, and the G23. Magazines and accessories for each of these models are in great abundance, and reliability is unquestioned.
As a polymer framed pistol, the Glock will be much lighter than all-steel guns such as the 1911 or the Beretta 92. The pistol is designed to fire with the same length of trigger pull for each shot. It’s not the more traditional DA/SA design as we’ve seen with the Beretta or the CZ.
Another serious advantage to the Glock and other pistols in its class is the polymer frame construction. The polymer is more durable than steel because it can more easily resist damage that would crack or dent steel.
But perhaps the biggest appeal of the Glock and the reason it became so popular is its simplicity. Shooting a Glock is much like shooting a revolver. You just pick it up and shoot. There are no external safeties, long trigger pulls, decocking levels, or anything. The only ‘external safety’ on the pistol is a blade on the front of the trigger that must be pulled for the gun to fire.
While the Glock may not be the most visually appealing pistol ever made, it is what it is. A simple and yet effective tool made specifically for the purpose of self-defense.
SMITH & WESSON M&P-SERIES
Smith & Wesson’s answer to Glock, is the M&P. It is another successful and high-quality pistol that has found favor with both law enforcement and civilians. The M&P is available in 9mm, .40, and .45 ACP in full-size and compact models.
You might wonder why you should consider the M&P over the Glock, which has the longer track record. The answer is because many find the M&P to be more ergonomic. The grip is shaped to fit better in hand than the Glock (though it largely comes down to personal preference). It also features a small beavertail on the back of the frame that reduces slide bite.
As the M&P has been enormously successful, finding spare parts and accessories should be no problem to you. Reliability and accuracy are also on par with Glock. The M&P is also available with or without an external frame mounted safety, so you have a choice between the two.
Whether you like the M&P or the Glock more largely comes down to personal preference. Both are essentially identical in their operation and on the same level as far as build quality is concerned.
The Springfield XD is yet another so-called ‘Glock-clone,’ though like the M&P it has features that set it apart. The XD began its life as the Croatian-made HS2000 when in the early 2000’s Springfield Armory licensed and distributed the weapon in the United States.
A unique feature of the Springfield XD is how it incorporates a 1911-style external grip safety. This means the gun can only be fired once that grip safety has been depressed. This safety also locks the slide. So, if you need to clear a jam, this safety must be depressed as well. This feature will either be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on your preference.
Like the Glock and M&P, the XD is polymer framed and striker-fired, with a paddle on the front of the trigger that must also be pulled for the trigger to function.
Successful with civilians and law enforcement, spare parts and accessories for the XD and its many variations are plentiful. It comes in a variety of different sizes and calibers, including the Big 3 of 9mm, .40, and .45 ACP.
A final unique aspect of the XD is how Springfield will sell it in the box with three magazines (rather than the standard two), a free holster, and a free double magazine carrier. You’ll essentially receive an entire pistol kit right out of the box.
Any one of the five pistols I have gone over will be a dependable choice for an SHTF pistol. They are all reliable, accurate, chambered for one or more of the big three pistol calibers, and have plenty of accessories available on the market. Your final selection will come down to what you enjoy shooting or holding the most.