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.
My dad was military. My grandfather was a cop. They served their country well. But I don’t like taking orders. I’m taking matters into my own hands so I’m not just preparing, I’m going to a friggin’ war to provide you the best of the best survival and preparedness content out there.
12 thoughts on “Top 5 Best Pistols for Home Defense and SHTF”
I’m surprised that the Sig Sauer P226 was not one of your selections. Its natural point of aim far surpasses the Glock not to mention the fiber optic night sights, increased capacity ( Tac-Ops 20 round magazines) and Short reset trigger. This model has been field tested by the US Navy Seals in addition to LEO throughout the nation. I personally would rate it far above those mentioned in this article.
Maybe p226 is not so popular compare to Glocks and M&Ps.
I preface my comment with the statement that all of the above named pistols are fine pistols, I have shot most of them, and I would be happy to be found with any of them in either a SHTF or home defense scenario…
That said this article is full of holes.
First of a semi-auto and a revolver are two types of pistols, the word pistol does not denote a semi-auto.
That said, ignoring the benefits of a revolver is silly. Revolvers are EASY to load and shoot, they are “utterly reliable”, and in a high stress situation a malfunction of a semiauto’s much more complicated action could cost you your life. If you are not regular shooter (like the people who read top five gun articles), you in fact should consider a revolver as a first gun.
Also while 9, .40, and .45 are great calibers to stick with, revolvers often are able to shoot multiple calibers. My .357 shoots .38 also, and a 45 revolver can shoot .45 LC, .45 ACP, and .410 gauge shotgun shells. And as recent runs on ammo demonstrated, the popular wisdom about the availability of these calibers is a two edged sword. During the last big run I had no problem finding .357 magnum and 45 long colt rounds… 9mm and 45 ACP, not so much. And the chances of finding one of two or three types of less in demand ammo is much greater than finding one type of round that is in high demand. Sure if you are looting houses you are more likely to find these big three, but in a SHTF these three will be the first to disappear, and of course ammo availibility is a non-issue in a home defense scenario. The one clear benefit of these three, and particularly 9mm when its is available, is price… and price makes it easier to practice with your gun… always a good thing!
Next I gotta take issue with the full size only, “avoid pocket pistols at all cost”, and double stack mag criteria. Any self defense expert will tell you that the best weapon is the one you actually have… If you were advising the best guns to take into battle, then ABSOLUTELY, double stack and full sized is the way to go, but that is not the title of this article. If you are going into battle you hopefully are trained with your weapon, you are wearing a gun belt, you have practiced malfunction drills, and so a semi-auto with great capacity is probably the way to go. That said, in a SHTF or home invasion one of the difficulties is that unlike a battle you are not expecting a battle, and event. Carrying a full size gun 24-7 is impracticable for most people… so your home gets invaded and your nice full size is upstairs on your bed table… what good is it going to do you there? A full size is hard to conceal potentially causing you problems with others and reducing the tactical advantage of a far more concealable gun, and although 4lbs may not seem a lot, carrying it on your hip all day, in all sorts of weather, makes a heavier gun less likely to be with you when you need it. I don’t care if you have a .22LR pistol, if you carry it 24-7 it is more useful than the gun you don’t. Personally I carry the M&P Shield which is perfectly sized for a “pocket gun”. I used to carry a full sized when I first started shooting… I am a big guy and can handle the weight… but I found myself getting lazy because of the discomfort of that extra 5lbs pulliing down my pants, or not carrying because of a fear of “printing” and being discovered carrying in places where doing s might be frowned upon!
Also in terms of accuracy… some shooters may be better served by rounds smaller than 9mm because of the greater accuracy that novice shooters have with small, quieter, less forceful rounds.
As far as the double stack mag, this is a anti-gun argument. It has been demonstrated that so-called high capacity mags provide no real advantage over low capacity mags. The benefit is the total number of rounds you have, not the number of rounds per mag: 2 x 15 round mags, provide an insignificant advantage over 3 x 10 round mags or 6 x 5 round mags. That is said, it is easier to carry 30 rounds in two mags, than in 6, but as above, if those two mags are upstairs on your night table because you get tired of carrying them, then one mag of 5 serves you better if you have it when you actually need it.
Like I said… I love all of the guns you list… if the SHTF… I plan to trade in my every day carry gun for one of the guns you recommend… but at the moment of a home invasion or SHTF the best gun to have is going to be the one a carry pretty much 24-7 and so have when I need it.
semi auto’s are great if you want to fill the air with lead…well placed shot from a large caliber pistol should pretty much end the issue.. I prefer my Ruger Super Blackhawk in .44…I’m comfortable with it and it’s easy to maintain..I would carry it exclusively in a SHTF scenario.. ammo is fairly easy to get, although not as cheap as I would like.
Personally I don’t see the value of having a mid to full-size pistol in a SHTF scenario any more than regular peacetime. If the SHTF, you want a rifle. Period, and all other concealed carry protocols still apply in my opinion. In fact, if I could only have one Glock, I don’t quote the Glock 19 like everyone and his brother. The Glock 26 is now clearly the way to go in my opinion. People have won competitions with the Glock 26 up against the Glock 34. Even Massad Ayoob did a comparison between the two pistols and beat the G34 with the G26. Now that the Streamlight TLR-6 is available along with match grade/threaded/convertible barrels are available along with X-Grips, Concealable Control floorplates, and virtually any other accessory you can think of in a package that is more concealable than virtually any other double stack, I’d say the Glock 26, 27, and 33 are hard to beat.
Been a gun owner since childhood, got everything from a single shot .22 pistol to a 1911 .45 auto and a .357 Magnum Dan Wesson. A Ruger Minnie-14 with 30 round magazine, a 12 gaqe Mossberg and a sporterized 1903 30-06. But if the SHITF and I had to bug out or defend-in-place, and only had one weapon, my choice – bolt action, tube feed, 22 rifle. Reason, accuracy, reliability, and portability of ammunition – I can carry 50 rounds in my shirt pocket. If you’re not sure you can’t bring down an intruder or hunt game with a .22, you probably shouldn’t be messing with firearms anyway.
I agree with the choice of having the old and reliable .22 rifle , be it bolt action ,pump , lever or semi auto . The .22 has killed more game than any caliber and it will kill a person too ! You can carry more ammo on your person all day long with very little effort . I have a love for this caliber that can do so much for it’s size and weight , a well placed shot with this caliber will be just as effective as a larger caliber . Shot placement is the key to any survival situation ,be it for hunting for food or self defense situation . Not to mention that you can fashion a device to shoot this caliber ( .22 ) easier than any other caliber out there . A .22 has very little felt recoil if any , so follow up shots are quicker even with a bolt action , thus better the odds of accuracy . Remember that every person is different and has their own particular wants and needs , and what will work for one will not all ways work for another , but I can make do with a .22 ! And I will prevail !
I have owned the Beretta 92 and the CZ-75 and I will (have) bet my life on the CZ as my sidearm. The slim frame is nice for concealment. I don’t worry about racking it as I carry one in the chamber. I also like the 16 rd mags. Never no when you might want that extra bullet, and it is accurate as hell. Out shot a few Sigs in it’s time.!!!
You don’t know much about guns, do you?
Good article. Here’s a response to some of the comments:
Fast forward a few years and the SEAL teams, Rangers, Raiders and most SF have adopted the Glock 19, for good reason.
Great size handgun, lightweight, dead nuts reliable, concealable and it allows 15, 17 and 30 round factory mags. Magpul also makes various capacity mags.
Revolvers weigh 2 to 3 times as much as a Glock 19 with far less capacity and are simply not as reliable in really shitty conditions. Not to mention revolver reloads vs a mag fed pistol and no, you’re not Jerry Miculek and never will be. Also, LE and any other potential forces in this scenario will decidedly not be carrying a common revolver caliber so you forfeit a potential common source of ammo in a WROL scenario. Not smart.
Regardless of what I think, take a 3lb Super Redhawk on a 10-15 mile ruck with all 40-50 lb of your other patrol gear and let me know how that works out. Hell, take a revolver out on your carbine/pistol training course and see how it goes. You will be patrolling during a WROL scenario and training beforehand correct?!
Revolvers would be a great option if it were 1981 or earlier but the firearm tech has moved far, far beyond since then.
Lastly, as another person mentioned, your sidearm is secondary to your rifle so most of this doesn’t really matter unless you’re arguing 3lbs of weight on your hip is preferable to 1lb.
I feel like a lot of these arguments for certain weapons are void of any actual realistic field work or have never been flushed out in training. It’s all just fantasy and speculation.
I dont agree. Once the longarms come out, the pistol wont amount to a hill of beans. So dont wast much space or bulk on it Make it a single stack sub-compant, in a front pants pocket holster, where it’s out of the way of the pack harnsss and the rifle, out of sight, out of the elements, but accessible. I dont praactice much with mine, cause they aint that durable. I keep the wear and fouling on a very similar belt gun, which will just have to be cached shtf. The P32 will have to be switched from my wife to our 11 year old daughter, and my pocket 9mm will go to my wife, to complement her silenced Marlin Papoose .22lr Marlin autorifle. I will have to just get by with the silenced M21 Beretta as my pistol. If something happens to me, the AR and its silencer, scope, ammo, 22lr unit will have to be cached, and the M21 will go to my wife. If and when she or my daughter find a compentend and decent man, he can be shown where the goodies are buried.
So what is the best handgun? After 20 plus years of military special operations experience, 15 years in the gun industry. I’ve been involved in multiple government testing and law enforcement protocols for weapons selection, (handguns, carbines, long guns). Most folks think that just because it’s carried by a select few, it meets a standard that should be adopted by everyone. WRONG SOOOOOO WRONG. When Sgt Billy Bob and his team are executing their daily task of protecting and serving LE or MIL they don’t have the same considerations the average citizen or home owner has. Read thru the BS people. A military unit is required to live and die in places that most folks will never operate. Do you swim to work? Do you need to shoot through a barrier? Do you need sustainability of your weapon systems and ammunition with NATO countries or other folks in your neighborhood? So really what is the best weapon or caliber? Stop and think. YOU ARE THE TRUE WEAPON the gun in your hand or the caliber you carry is not a solution for the threat you may one day face. Train Train Train, the best gun is the one that you know how to use and the one you have at that moment. My recommendation is that you don’t listen to gun company’s. They are driven by marketing folks (most of whom have never even been close to a conflict of any kind with a gun in their hand, or one on their hip.) they prey on consumer stupidity, fantasy and ego. Compare it to the Entertainment Industry, it is, what it is. So now go ask yourself. What are your real needs? Be realistic and ask yourself what’s important. Here is an easy start point. In order for me to be proficient and competent with carrying or handling a weapon of any kind, what should I subject myself too? How many rounds constitutes proficiency. So George buys a handgun in 9mm he pays .30 cents per bullet. Each magazine he shoots will cost him 3.00 dollars (10 rd mag) He shoots ten magazines at a cost of 30.00 dollars. If we estimated it takes 3,000 reps to find that memory and instinct we all like to talk about, it just cost 900.00 dollars to produce a result that can worked upon. So now let’s place George on the range and start training. 3000 rounds or 3000 reps to achieve an instinctive no BS response. Wait! we have only focused on basic marksmanship at this point. Now let’ work from a concealed carry position, malfunctions and reloads, which in a self protection defense situation is sadly overrated. Toss in moving and shooting, confined space weapons defense and we will easily exceed my basic math calculations. We are at 9,000 rounds or 9,000 reps. 2,700.00 dollars to obtain mediocrity. Now toss in the cost of the weapon, holster, range fees a t-shirt, those high speed glowing sights that every comp shooter loves because I only know to use my sights. We just covered down on a cost of 4K. That’s conservative when you take into consideration current fuel cost. Now consider all that work you’ve done, all the money you have spent. What you think you are done. Oh no you are not. Now let’s turn up the heat just a bit and do it again with extra stressors in your training. Realistically you have not even scratched the surface. Like the guy said earlier, you would be much better off financially with a .22 caliber. I can probably train your entire family for the same amount of money and get everyone their own weapon in .22 caliber or rifle. Then you would not have to worry so much about protecting your loved ones and they can actually be an asset to you versus a liability in that time of need. Just Spit Balling here.