Home Defense Full-Size Pistols: Considerations, Characteristics & Examples

Home Defense Full-Size Pistols: Considerations, Characteristics, & Examples

The on-going debate is what gun makes the best home defense gun. A shotgun, rifle, and handgun each has advantages and disadvantages. Some choose one primary type with a different type as a backup. Most accept that a shotgun with appropriate ammo is usually the best primary choice, but even that is hotly debated. The same hot debate exists between a pistol and a revolver as best for home defense. And between 9mm, .40, .45, and 10mm calibers for home defense or 00 Buckshot or Birdshot, etc. There are a lot of critical personal considerations, in addition to the gun’s specifications and features and the ammo used, in deciding which gun for home defense. Out of the very many considerations (and training opportunities), below are just a few for you. Don’t forget consideration number 13.

Some considerations in making your home defense gun decision:

  1. who in the household might be using the gun,
  2. the familiarities and capabilities of those using the particular gun,
  3. the abilities for handling the recoil and muzzle flip for those possibly using it,
  4. the individual abilities and plans for reloading under stress,
  5. the abilities for using the gun with one hand (when holding child or flashlight, etc.),
  6. the location, easy storage, and retrieval of the gun (especially at nighttime),
  7. the cost of the gun & type of ammo (9mm has proven to be more controllable for our family),
  8. the type and grain/weight of ammo (strongly suggest HOLLOW POINT ammo- better expansion & less penetration properties), and necessary accessories,
  9. the design, levels, and layout of the home,
  10. the thickness and material of the home’s walls,
  11. the size of hallways and overall home and room sizes for maneuvering,
  12. the closeness of neighbors (for penetration and travel distance issues), and
  13. one hundred other important and personal preferences and factors.

Since there are so many personal factors, you must make your own decision based on your family members, home features, gun options, budget, and other key, specific variables. I want this article to stir your thoughts about this important matter, spur you to make some home defense gun decisions, and help you, by understanding some of my considerations and factors. Remember, whichever gun you choose, proper and SAFE training and practice with it in your home and environment are important, including an unloaded “dry run” of “what if” scenarios in your particular residence. Generally, handguns are the least powerful of rifle, shotgun, and handgun options. This can be a plus and/or a minus in home defense. Also, handguns usually require the most training, practice, and proficiency to use effectively inside the home. Practice. Practice. Practice.

Really, just about any compact or full-size pistol or revolver might be used effectively for home defense with modern contemporary ammo. Certainly, Night Sights are required for home defense and Sierra Hotel Tango Foxtrot encounters at nighttime. Also, Mini Reflex Red Dot sights and laser sights can work for effective home defense, IF (and a big IF) potential users of the gun are trained, familiar with them, and practice with them… and have some spare batteries on hand. IF you will do your part. Since I regularly practice, train, and teach handgun essentials as an instructor (and compete some) with realistic hands-on experience, I know that I have the foundation for using a pistol effectively for almost all intruder situations.

Reliability, accuracy, and familiarity with the chosen home defense pistol are key. That involves BOTH the human personal factor and the gun’s attributes. It is important to recognize that others in the household probably will also be involved in intruder situations and using the home defense gun, e.g. your spouse. Given our many unique considerations, my wife and I selected a full-size, semi-automatic pistol in 9mm for our home defense gun. (Note: In addition, one of us has a mild, felt recoil 20- gauge pump shotgun with a youth-size barrel for maneuverability loaded with #00 buckshot readily available.)

I am not prescribing these guns for your home defense, but given our shooting profiles, skills, preferences, medical conditions, home design, etc. these work best for us. Something for you to think about and determine for yourself. Maybe you prefer a revolver over a pistol, or a .45 caliber over the 9mm, or your EDC (Every Day Carry) compact carry pistol for home defense over a separate dedicated home defense pistol.

Your considerations and call!

In my article appearing here on January 23, 2014 titled “Handgun Attributes to Help Improve Accuracy,” I mention several physical characteristics that I look for in a home defense gun or any gun to help accuracy. I believe that there is a natural relationship between inherent accuracy and physical attributes of a gun, in addition to an individual’s contributions to accuracy. (Some debate this. But, for example, I believe that extra barrel length gives the bullet more twist in the barrel to build higher velocities before it exits. Also, that gun weight helps with muzzle flip and felt recoil.) I included them below in my definition of a home defense pistol, in addition to some other things.

For this article I am defining a home defense gun FOR US, my wife and me. Below, I have identified 7 physical characteristics present in our home defense pistol. These characteristics are summarized and drawn from my top 20 home defense 9mm pistol options which are below these characteristics. So our home defense 9mm pistol has these 7 CHARACTERISTICS:

  1. is FULL-SIZE with about a 5-inch barrel average (at least a 4.5″ barrel with a long sight radius);
  2. has a LARGE FRAME and OVERALL LENGTH of about 8.40 inches average (at least 7.70″ for longer Sight Radius);
  3. is a HEAVY-WEIGHT pistol (weighs on average about 32 ounces), lighter guns usually have more muzzle flip & felt recoil- which affects movement;
  4. has a CAPACITY of at least 9 rounds (for multiple intruders; having a large amount of ammo allows you to deal with a threat for a longer time before you must reload; etc.);
  5. has a short and soft TRIGGER PRESS (4 to 6.5 pounds);
  6. with a short and very identifiable RESET POINT & Travel Distance; and
  7. with 9mm CALIBER rounds that allow manageable FELT RECOIL with minimal movement.

Selected Dimensions of My 20 Home Defense Full-Size 9mm Pistols

Here are some statistics for the 20 full-size 9mm pistols considered for my home defense. Note that 18 of my favorite 20 home defense 9mm large pistols shown below have an overall length of 8 inches or more. Several are used in competition and for good reasons… reliability and accuracy, etc. The average overall length is 8.40 inches. Also, 15 of my favorite 20 home defense full-size 9mm pistols shown below have a barrel length of 5 inches or more. The average barrel length is 5.04 inches. More bullet time in barrel for velocity effects. And 14 of the 20 have an unloaded weight of 28 ounces or more, with 12 pistols weighing 30 ounces or more. The average weight of the heavy 20 home defense pistols is 32.3 ounces. Further, 15 of the 20 have a capacity of at least 15 rounds. Below are my favorite full-size home defense 9mm pistols. I own 16 of the 20 pistols. What are your home defense favorites?  Do you have one go-to home defense pistol? Or one home defense rifle or shotgun? Why did you select it? What is it?

Home Defense PISTOLS-20


I hope my opinions about my 13 home defense gun considerations, my 7 selected comparison dimensions, and my favorite 20 full-size home defense 9mm pistols have helped you with your decision about your home defense gun. It makes little difference if you agree or disagree with me about these variables and my opinions and conclusions, just that you take time to decide for yourself what is best for your circumstances and situations. “Food” for (serious) thought! Success and Be Safe!

Photo by Author. 

* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever. 

© 2017 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at ColBFF@gmail.com.

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"Col Ben" is retired with 30 years service in the U.S. Air Force, with joint services Special Ops duty and training, and is Air Force qualified as "Expert" in small arms. He is a Vietnam-era Veteran. Ben is an experienced NRA-Certified Pistol Instructor, NRA Range Safety Officer, and FL Concealed Carry License Instructor. Ben recently wrote the book "Concealed Carry and Handgun Essentials for Personal Protection" (second printing) with 57 comprehensive Chapters about concealed carry and handgun principles, techniques, and tips for both experienced and new shooters. His reference book is endorsed by several organizations and is available on his website at FloridaHandgunsTraining.com. Contact him at ColBFF@gmail.com.
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Jim Lagnese

Here’s an idea for a follow up article on this subject. Where do you keep our home defense gun? One isn’t going to carry it all the time. What about at night? Is the night stand/table good enough? There are even holsters I’ve seen that strap to the bed. Some people keep pistols stashed throughout the house in furniture specifically made for hiding guns. If you’re married/live with someone, do both of you have house guns and are they are the ready at night? Who goes first if there is a threat? Stuff like that would be interesting.

Col Ben

Hey Jim, yes a good article suggestion about proper storage options for HD handgun for quick access… and for unauthorized access protection, children safety, theft deterrence, etc. I’ll check to see if there is interest. Thanks for suggestion my friend. Best always!


Great suggestion. To piggyback on your idea, what lighting solutions do you pair with the storage/location of your home defense pistol? Pistol mounted laser/light, separate flash light, night vision, wrist restraint, back up cell, etc.

Jim Lagnese

Wrist restraint and night vision? When I wake up to a threat in the middle of the night, I am not thinking about getting geared up like a swat team member or tactitard. It’s a lot simpler and OG.

Col Ben

Maybe a good topic would be pistol-mounted light vs. handheld light- pros and cons? Any interest?

Jim Lagnese

Always interested in your writing colonel ben. That’s the practical side. A greater part is, how do we prepare for such an encounter? Waking up to a disturbance in the wee hours can leave someone in a lurch for a short time while focusing on what’s going on, so how do we prepare so we have a clear mind? Tools wise, I have open ears for some practical ideas.