It’s been awhile since I wrote any sort of Top 5 Firearms list, so I’ve been assigned to write an article on the 5 Best Guns for Home Defense.
That’s admittedly a pretty broad topic, so to narrow it down a little bit, I am splitting it up into five separate categories: handgun (semiautomatic pistol), handgun (double-action revolver), shotgun, rimfire rifle, and centerfire rifle.
Best Handgun (Semiautomatic Pistol): Glock 17 9mm
As much sentimental love as I have for the Beretta 92F/M9, as a pragmatist I have to give my nod to a competing brand of Wonder Nine, the 9mm Glock 17.
The striker-fired “Safe Action” is a simpler trigger mechanism — as in, consistent trigger pull from the first shot to the last — than the traditional double-action/single action of the Beretta. The simplicity of the weapon almost matches that of a revolver thanks to the absence of any manual safety or decocking lever. Ergonomics are quite pleasant for a double-stack magazine, practical and mechanical accuracy are both excellent, and the gun’s reputation for endurance, durability, and reliability is simply unparalleled.
Though the G17 doesn’t quite hold my affection like the Beretta does, I’ve made it abundantly clear that I’m quite fond of the Austrian polymer-framed handgun.
Best Handgun (DA Revolver): Ruger GP-100 .357 Magnum
Those of you who have been following my writings since I joined the 19FortyFive staff 11 months ago won’t be the least surprised that I chose the Ruger GP-100 for the DA Revolver Category. Not only is it my personal favorite wheelgun (with all due sentimental love and respect for the Colt King Cobra, which is also a .357 Magnum), it is to revolvers what the Glock 17 is to autopistols: the Timex of its category. When you see reloading manuals that say “For Ruger Guns Only,” that should tell you something about the brand’s strength and durability. This Herculean level of strength is largely due to the investment casting method of construction.
The factory rubber grips (with wood inserts for the sake aesthetics) do a superb job of taking a lot of the bite out of the recoil of full-house Magnum loads, making the gun far more pleasant to shoot than the hand-punishing all-wood factory grips on many competing revolvers from Smith & Wesson. Though the factory DA trigger on the Ruger isn’t quite as smooth as those of the Smiths or, say, the Colt Python, it is still plenty smooth, and the SA trigger is top-notch. This promotes excellent practical accuracy with Magnum and .38 Special loads alike. And the push-button style of cylinder release latch is more user-friendly than the push-forward style latch of the Smiths or the pull-backward style latch of the Colts.
The manufacturer’s official info page lists a current MSRP of $979.00.
Best Shotgun: Remington 870 12-Gauge Pump-Action
There are many fine self-defense shotguns out there to choose from, but based on my personal experience as a shooter and gun owner, as well as its reputation among fellow professionals, the Remington 870 is my top choice. My 19FortyFive colleague Steve Balestrieri sums it up best: ““The Remington 870 is an iconic and arguably…the most popular pump-action shotgun. It is well made, dependable, accurate, and functional. It uses a steel receiver, which while increasing its durability, also increases the weight somewhat. It is also very affordable, coming in at about $450 to $500.”
Back in 2008, I purchased the Model 870 Synthetic Tactical version, which features a single front bead sight, non-glare matte finish, and 5-shot capacity.
Best Rimfire Rifle: Ruger 10/22 .22LR
The 22 Long Rifle is hardly an ideal self-defense round (though with a sound suppressor it can be quite an effective stealthy killing tool), but there’s that truism that “a hit with a .22 beats a miss with a .44 Magnum,” and thanks to the accuracy, reliability, relative compactness, and superb handling skills of the enduringly popular Ruger 10/22, multiple effective hits can be delivered on a bad guy — or bad guys — in a short space of time. Though I haven’t fired it in awhile, I purchased one with a combination of stainless steel finish and synthetic stock back in 2008 and never had any problems with it whatsoever.
Best Centerfire Rifle: M4 .223 Remington/5.56mm
Back in the day, centerfire rifles weren’t usually recommended for home defense usage. They are generally considered proactive as opposed to reactive weapons. They are more difficult to wield in close-quarter, indoor situations than a handgun due to their extra length and bulk (although in fairness, the same could be said for a shotgun). Finally, the calibers were too excessively penetrative, especially for densely packed living areas such as apartment complexes. However, while concern #1 will always remain true, concern #2 has been more or less addressed by the delightfully compact M4 variant of the M16/AR-15, and concern #3 has been largely addressed with developments in frangible ammunition.
Colt’s basic edition of the M4 carries an MSRP of $1,099.
Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.