The best defensive handgun is something that is debated endlessly on the Internet. The argument is mostly propelled by either Glock or 1911 fan boys who cannot accept any alternative to the handgun they own. By virtue of my profession and previous time in the military and law enforcement, I’ve been exposed to a wide variety of handguns — enough experience to feel confortable in making a proclamation about which one is the best.

When it comes to the best defensive handgun, the truth is there are a lot of them. You need to find one you can afford and that works best for you.

The best defensive handgun is one that is unfailingly reliable. Truth is, that handgun probably doesn’t exist. Shoot any handgun enough, with enough different ammunitions, and it will puke, either because it’s dirty or due to some ammo/gun incompatibility. But, here is the thing: You should be able to find a suitable defensive load that most defensive handguns can reliably digest. If your handgun won’t fire at least 100 rounds of defensive ammo without a stoppage, get another gun!

Reliability with defensive ammo is the prime requirement for any handgun you intend to rely on for protection.

The best defensive handgun is one that you can completely conceal. A model 29 Smith & Wesson like Dirty Harry carried will cause a wound unlike just about any other. It’s also about as hard to conceal as a sawed-off shotgun. For a handgun to qualify as “best,” it needs to be easily concealed.

A defensive handgun needs to be concealable.

The best defensive handgun is one that you can carry comfortably. If you can’t carry it comfortably, you won’t. And, a handgun you don’t have with you is about as useless as a Britney Spears tattoo. In addition to carrying comfort, the best defensive handgun will also be comfortable to shoot. For example, even though I carried a Glock for 13 years as a cop, the trigger guard chewed on the first knuckle of my middle finger. For me, Glocks aren’t comfortable to shoot.

If you don’t have your defensive handgun with you when you need it, it is pointless.

Jeff Cooper postulated that the key to defensive handgun shooting was a balance of accuracy, power and speed. In Latin this translates to Diligentia, Vis, Celeritas, maybe better known as DVC, the acronym Cooper popularized. The best defensive handgun is one that allows you to shoot fast and accurately, while delivering the most power to the target you can reasonably control. This balance will be different for everyone, and it’s one of the reasons we have so many different defensive handguns from which to choose.

It’s all about finding balance; a handgun that best allows you to balance speed, power and accuracy.

Which handgun is best? Well, that is for you to decide. As long as it meets the four criteria outlined above, it should serve you just fine. Find yours and learn to shoot it.

A pistol such as this Nighthawk with a reflex sight might be “best” for some but not for others. Find what works for you.

Images by Richard Mann

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