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Best Handgun For Self Defense - Budget-Friendly And Reliable Options

Discover the best handgun for self-defense, tailored to your needs. Explore factors like reliability, caliber, concealability, and more to find the perfect fit. From 9mm to .45 ACP and beyond, make an informed choice for your personal safety.

Author:James Pierce
Reviewer:Dexter Cooke
Nov 14, 2023
When considering personal safety, the selection of an ideal handgun for self-defense stands as a crucial decision. It involves a careful evaluation of multiple factors, including reliability, caliber, comfort, and concealability. In an ever-changing landscape where security is paramount, choosing the best handgun for self defenseis not just about the firearm itself, but a blend of individual preferences, practicality, and effectiveness in critical situations.
Don't know what to buy? Find out the size, sights, caliber (9mm), and safety features are best for you. Plus, get hands-on with the best handgun for self defense list.
Selecting a handgun for self-defense is a critical decision that requires thoughtful consideration of various factors. Personal preferences, ergonomics, reliability, caliber, and effectiveness in high-stress situations are among the primary elements one should carefully weigh before making a choice.
The "best" handgun for self-defense is the one that aligns with your personal comfort, proficiency, and ability to ensure personal safety when it matters most. Each individual may have different needs, preferences, and shooting abilities, which should be considered when making a choice.

Glock 17 9mm - A Self-Defense Powerhouse

The Glock 17, chambered in 9mm, stands as a cornerstone in the world of handguns for self-defense. Developed by Gaston Glock, this pistol epitomizes reliability, performance, and widespread adoption among civilians and law enforcement agencies globally.
Even after undergoing incredibly torturous tests, this handgun continues to operate dependably and fire accurately. These tests include being dropped from helicopters at 1,500 feet, dipped in saltwater for hours on end, frozen in solid blocks of ice, exposed for an extended period of time to temperatures above 100 degrees Celsius, having 10,000 rounds pass through it without being cleaned, and so forth. It has been observed that service life can surpass 250,000 cycles!
The Glock 17 is a full-sized, polymer-framed handgun known for its simplicity and ruggedness. It boasts a 17+1 capacity, delivering a respectable round count. Its lightweight polymer frame combined with a consistent trigger pull and low recoil makes it easily manageable for shooters of various experience levels.
Chambered in 9x19mm Parabellum, the 9mm Glock 17 offers a balanced mix of manageable recoil and ample stopping power. The 9mm caliber is renowned for its effectiveness in self-defense scenarios, providing a good balance between stopping capability and controllability, allowing for quicker follow-up shots.
Glock's reputation for reliability is renowned. The Glock 17 is famed for its ability to function in adverse conditions without faltering. Its straightforward design, combined with fewer components, minimizes the likelihood of malfunctions. This reliability factor is crucial in self-defense situations, ensuring the handgun fires when needed without hiccups.
The ergonomics of the Glock 17 cater to a wide range of hand sizes. Its grip angle and texturing provide a comfortable and secure hold. The controls are straightforward and intuitive, making it a user-friendly choice for both seasoned shooters and those new to handguns.
One of the Glock's significant advantages is its extensive aftermarket support. This includes a vast array of accessories, including sights, triggers, holsters, and more. Customizing the Glock 17 to fit individual preferences is relatively easy due to the wide availability of aftermarket parts.
Glock 17 9mm gun
Glock 17 9mm gun

Glock 21SF .45 ACP - A Powerhouse In .45 Caliber For Defense

The Glock 21SF, chambered in .45 ACP, offers a robust and larger-caliber option for individuals seeking a handgun with increased stopping power and the reliability associated with Glock's design.
The Glock 21SF (Short Frame) is a full-sized, semi-automatic pistol, much like the Glock 17, built on a polymer frame. It provides a 13+1 capacity, offering fewer rounds compared to the Glock 17 but compensating with the larger .45 ACP caliber.
Chambered in .45 ACP, the Glock 21SF delivers considerable stopping power. The larger, heavier .45 ACP rounds have a reputation for their impact on targets, making them an attractive choice for those prioritizing caliber size and stopping potential in a self-defense scenario.
True to Glock's heritage, the 21SF embodies the brand's hallmark reliability. Its robust build and fewer components contribute to its resilience in adverse conditions. This is crucial in a self-defense weapon, ensuring it operates flawlessly when needed the most.
Similar to other Glocks, the 21SF offers a comfortable grip and user-friendly controls. While slightly larger to accommodate the .45 ACP round, the pistol remains ergonomically sound. Additionally, it benefits from Glock's extensive aftermarket support, allowing for customization to suit individual preferences.
Glock 21SF .45 ACP gun
Glock 21SF .45 ACP gun

Beretta 92FS AKA M9 - A Classic Choice For Self-Defense

The Beretta 92FS, also known as the M9 in its military designation, has a rich legacy in the world of firearms, recognized for its sleek design, reliability, and adoption by various armed forces and law enforcement agencies worldwide.
The contentious Beretta, the handgun that became the standard issue weapon of the United States Armed Forces when the storied M1911.45 ACP was retired. Despite all the debate, it held that same official position for 33 years until the SIG P320, also known as the M17/M18, took its place.
The Beretta 92FS is a full-sized, semi-automatic pistol that boasts a double-action/single-action firing system. It features a 15+1 round capacity and a slide-mounted safety/decocker, enhancing safety and usability.
Chambered in 9x19mm Parabellum, the 92FS offers a balance of stopping power and manageable recoil. The 9mm caliber allows for comfortable shooting and quick follow-up shots, essential in self-defense scenarios.
Renowned for its exceptional reliability, the Beretta 92FS has a robust build and a reputation for functioning even in adverse conditions. Its open-top slide design minimizes the chances of jamming, contributing to its reliability, a crucial factor in self-defense situations.
The Beretta 92FS features a comfortable grip and a design that accommodates a variety of hand sizes. It provides a user-friendly experience with its controls and boasts a plethora of aftermarket support, enabling customization to suit individual preferences.
The M9, a variant of the Beretta 92FS, was adopted by the U.S. military, serving as its primary sidearm for many years. This endorsement underlines the pistol's trustworthiness, functionality, and robust performance in diverse and demanding situations.
Beretta 92FS AKA M9 gun
Beretta 92FS AKA M9 gun

Ruger GP-100 .357 Magnum - A Revolver For Self-Defense Power

The Ruger GP-100 in .357 Magnum stands as a testament to the enduring popularity of revolvers in the realm of self-defense firearms. Renowned for its durability and potent .357 Magnum chambering, it offers a different approach to personal protection.
Double-action revolvers had to be on the list, right? Without a doubt, this people's favorite un is the Ruger GP-100. Because of its triple-locking cylinder and investment-casting construction, the Ruger GP-100 is the Timex of revolvers, if the Glock 17 is the Timex of semiautomatic pistols.
The Ruger GP-100 is a robust, medium-framed revolver designed for durability and reliability. Its six-round capacity in .357 Magnum offers a balance between firepower and manageable recoil. Additionally, its double-action design makes it suitable for quick firing in critical moments.
Chambered in .357 Magnum, the GP-100 delivers substantial stopping power. The .357 Magnum round is well-regarded for its impact on targets, making it an attractive choice for those seeking higher-caliber options for self-defense.
Ruger firearms are synonymous with ruggedness and reliability, and the GP-100 is no exception. Its solid steel construction and simple, time-tested mechanism contribute to its resilience in adverse conditions, making it a dependable option for self-defense.
The GP-100 provides a comfortable grip and a simple, user-friendly design. Although revolvers generally have fewer customization options compared to semi-automatic pistols, the GP-100 still offers some aftermarket support for sights, grips, and more.
Ruger GP-100 .357 Magnum gun
Ruger GP-100 .357 Magnum gun

Springfield Armory Mil-Spec M1911-A1 .45 ACP - A Timeless Icon For Self-Defense

The Springfield Armory Mil-Spec M1911-A1, chambered in .45 ACP, pays homage to the classic design of the iconic 1911, renowned for its historical significance, reliability, and widespread popularity among gun enthusiasts and self-defense practitioners.
The Mil-Spec M1911-A1 is a faithful rendition of the original 1911 design, featuring a single-action trigger and a grip safety. This all-steel, full-sized handgun exudes a sense of ruggedness and classic aesthetics. Its seven-round magazine capacity in .45 ACP delivers stopping power and pays tribute to its historical roots.
Chambered in .45 ACP, the M1911-A1 offers significant stopping power. The .45 caliber round has a storied history of effective use in combat and self-defense scenarios, renowned for its stopping capability and impact on targets.
The 1911 platform has a reputation for reliability and durability. The robust steel construction and fewer moving parts contribute to its renowned dependability. The Mil-Spec M1911-A1 continues this tradition, ensuring a reliable performance crucial for self-defense situations.
The 1911 design offers a comfortable grip angle and user-friendly controls. Its popularity has led to an extensive aftermarket support system, providing various customization options, including grips, triggers, sights, and more, allowing users to tailor the firearm to their preferences.
The 1911 design, steeped in historical significance and service in multiple conflicts, including both World Wars, accentuates the pistol's legacy and reputation. The Springfield Armory rendition of the M1911-A1 keeps the spirit of the original design alive while integrating modern manufacturing techniques.
Springfield Armory Mil-Spec M1911-A1 .45 ACP gun
Springfield Armory Mil-Spec M1911-A1 .45 ACP gun

SIG Sauer P365X - Compact Precision For Modern Self-Defense

The SIG Sauer P365X represents a new era in concealed carry and self-defense handguns, blending compactness with a high round count, offering a modern solution for individuals seeking a concealable yet powerful firearm.
This Sig features a barrel length of 3.1 inches and a magazine capacity of 10 or 12 rounds. It is an improved model of the P365, a well-liked sub-compact 9mm handgun. The P365X fits well and improves handling because it lacks the longer beavertail that the P365 has.
The unique X-series flat-profile trigger lowers the shooter for a more steady pull and breaks at a 90-degree angle. The P365X also has a plate assembly that is compatible with Sig Sauer ROMEOZero reflex sights and a Nitron slide with night sights.
The P365X is a compact, polymer-framed handgun designed for concealed carry. It features striker-fired action and offers a 12+1 capacity of 9mm, a remarkable round count for a gun of its size. Its lightweight construction and smaller dimensions make it an ideal choice for everyday carry.
Chambered in 9mm, the P365X provides a good balance between manageable recoil and effective stopping power. The 9mm caliber allows for quick follow-up shots, essential in self-defense situations.
SIG Sauer has a strong reputation for producing reliable firearms. The P365X, with its durable construction and attention to detail, continues this tradition. Its design incorporates features to mitigate recoil and ensure better control, allowing for more accurate shooting.
The P365X offers a comfortable grip and intuitive controls. Despite its compact size, the gun's ergonomics cater to a variety of hand sizes. Additionally, SIG Sauer provides some customization options, including accessory rail and sight upgrades.
SIG Sauer P365X gun
SIG Sauer P365X gun

Best Handgun For Self-Defense FAQs

What Is The Best Handgun For Self-defense?

The "best" handgun for self-defense varies based on individual preferences, but some popular choices include the Glock 19, Smith & Wesson M&P Shield, Sig Sauer P365, and the Springfield Armory XD-S.

What Caliber Is Best For A Self-defense Handgun?

Common calibers for self-defense handguns include 9mm, .45 ACP, and .40 S&W. Among these, 9mm is popular due to its manageable recoil and ample stopping power.

Are Smaller Handguns Better For Self-defense Due To Concealability?

Smaller handguns can be more easily concealed, but they may sacrifice capacity and may be more challenging to shoot accurately due to their compact size. The balance between concealability and shootability is crucial.

What Features Should I Consider In A Self-defense Handgun?

Essential features to consider in a self-defense handgun include reliability, caliber, concealability, comfort, sights, capacity, and aftermarket support for accessories.

Is The Choice Of A Self-defense Handgun A Personal Preference?

Absolutely, the choice of a self-defense handgun is highly personal. What works best for one individual may not work as well for another, based on comfort, shooting proficiency, and personal preferences.

Are There Specific Handguns Better For First-time Gun Owners For Self-defense?

Yes, several handguns are recommended for first-time gun owners due to their simplicity, ease of use, and reliability. The Glock 19, Smith & Wesson M&P Shield, and Ruger LCP II are good options to consider.


Selecting the best handgun for self-defense is a highly personal decision that necessitates a balance between various essential elements such as reliability, caliber, ergonomics, and concealability. The ideal choice hinges on individual needs and preferences, emphasizing the importance of thorough research, hands-on experience, and potentially seeking expert guidance. Ultimately, the best handgun for self-defense is the one that aligns with your comfort, proficiency, and ability to ensure personal safety when it matters most.
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James Pierce

James Pierce

James Pierce, a Finance and Crypto expert, brings over 15 years of experience to his writing. With a Master's degree in Finance from Harvard University, James's insightful articles and research papers have earned him recognition in the industry. His expertise spans financial markets and digital currencies, making him a trusted source for analysis and commentary. James seamlessly integrates his passion for travel into his work, providing readers with a unique perspective on global finance and the digital economy. Outside of writing, James enjoys photography, hiking, and exploring local cuisines during his travels.
Dexter Cooke

Dexter Cooke

Dexter Cooke is an economist, marketing strategist, and orthopedic surgeon with over 20 years of experience crafting compelling narratives that resonate worldwide. He holds a Journalism degree from Columbia University, an Economics background from Yale University, and a medical degree with a postdoctoral fellowship in orthopedic medicine from the Medical University of South Carolina. Dexter’s insights into media, economics, and marketing shine through his prolific contributions to respected publications and advisory roles for influential organizations. As an orthopedic surgeon specializing in minimally invasive knee replacement surgery and laparoscopic procedures, Dexter prioritizes patient care above all. Outside his professional pursuits, Dexter enjoys collecting vintage watches, studying ancient civilizations, learning about astronomy, and participating in charity runs.
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