Self Defense Gun Picks: Handguns
Bob McNally 06.02.15
In our present era of terrorism and general insecurity, law-abiding citizens across the United States are taking up arms in unprecedented numbers to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their property. Because I’m an outdoors writer, I get asked often about the best types of firearms for self defense. It’s not an easy question to answer, because even for people who already own guns for hunting and target shooting, choosing just the right firearm for protection takes careful, well-planned thought.
Walk into any firearms dealer and you’ll quickly become dazzled by the hundreds of models, makes, sizes, shapes, colors, and weights of guns. There are handguns, shotguns and rifles, sizes tiny to huge. There are semi-automatic guns, pumps, lever-actions, bolt, and single-shot firearms. They have different metals and finishes, some are imported and pricey, others inexpensive and domestic-made.
So where should a person seeking simple self-protection begin?
Perhaps it’s best to break down defense firearms into three basic categories: handguns, shotguns, and rifles. Each type of gun satisfies a specific self-protection need.
Handguns, for example, are most portable and easiest to store in a bedroom night stand or in an automobile glove compartment. Rifles are great for longer-range defense, especially when fitted with a telescopic sight, but they can be devastating close-quarters battle (CQB) weapons, as well. And then there are shotguns, with their multi-projectile shells that can make first-time shooters capable of hitting almost anything the barrel swings across.
In this series I’ll break down self-defense guns down into the three most basic categories (handgun, rifle, shotgun), and I’ll give five of my favorite models in each category selected for their ease of use, reliability, and accuracy.
First up is the handgun, which is probably the most popular defensive weapon in the US, especially for new shooters.
North American Arms, Black Widow, .22 Magnum
Weighing just over 6 ounces, measuring under 5 1/2-inches from stem to stern and under 1-inch wide, the “Black Widow” is one of the most secretive, yet reliable self-defense weapons. The 5-shot mini-revolver offers a rosewood laminated grip, half-cock safety, all stainless steel metal and adjustable sights.
The Black Widow is a potent pistol considering it’s a hard-hitting .22 magnum, and it has a reliable revolver action.
Taurus Model PT-25, .25 ACP Caliber
The Taurus PT-25 is a powerhouse semi-automatic that’s lightweight, easy to use and shoot, and is an ideal home-defense weapon.
While the .25 caliber bullet is small, don’t sell it short, especially since the PT-25 has a large 9 round cartridge capacity. The low recoil of the .25 caliber make for fast, accurate follow-up shots.
Measuring only 5.25 inches overall and weighing a mere 12.3 ounces, the Taurus PT-25 can be easily stowed wherever needed. The gun has fixed sights and is available in a blued or stainless steel metal finish. It has a fast-release clip mechanism, so additional magazines can be snapped quickly into place for additional firepower.
Walther PPK, .380 ACP Caliber
You can be like James Bond and own the famed Walther PPK.
This small, lightweight semi-automatic handgun has several things going for it as a self-defense powerhouse. First, it’s extremely accurate for a gun of such small size (6.25 inches overall, 21-ounces). It also handles the popular .380 cartridge, which packs plenty of wallop and can be purchased almost anywhere handgun ammunition is sold.
While the PPK only holds six rounds in its magazine, the mag pops out quickly so additional mags holding more ammunition can be easily snapped into fast action.
The Walther is a safe semi-auto, with an ingenious internal safety that blocks the hammer from accidental striking of the firing pin. The PPK is available in a blued or stainless steel finish.
Smith & Wesson 5900, 9mm Parabellum
Few semi-automatic handguns offer the awesome firepower that the 5900 does, and with upgrades it’s one of the best self-defense firearms on the market. This gun has a generous capacity of 15 rounds, using the popular and readily obtainable 9mm cartridge.
The 5900 weighs just over 2 pounds, hefty but not bad for the cartridge payload, and a bit of weight aids in taming recoil and helps accuracy. The stainless steel version 5900 equipped with adjustable sights is a rugged personal protection companion. The gun also can be had with tritium night sights, which glow in the dark and make unwelcome p.m. guests nervous just thinking about what might happen.
Ruger SP101, .357 Magnum Caliber
Ruger revolvers are among the best-made in the handgun world. Accurate, reliable, and in heavy calibers like the .357, they make a crushing impact on any target.
The SP101 was introduced in 1988. It has a 5 shot capacity, has fixed sights, and weighs only 25 ounces. The gun has a short, compact 2.25-inch barrel, but special custom Ruger grips absorb recoil and enable a shooter to keep the handgun on target. This gun is made tough to handle .357 heavy loads but also can shoot .38 Special cartridges (both easy to locate throughout North America). The gun has an oversize frame, plus front and rear cylinder locking mechanisms for proper alignment.