SHTF blog – Modern Survival

How to Pick the Best Personal Protection Firearm

gun_store_choosingPicking the best personal protection firearm is a huge question. Just for a little background, I am a firearms instructor and teach four to six classes a month on Basic and Concealed Carry/Defensive shooting.  I work at a reputable “big box” store in the firearms department, and I give lectures frequently on personal protection techniques and tools. That is just small snapshot of my background to give you some insight.

By Dan C., a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache

In each of those scenarios, I am frequently asked what is the best personal protection gun, and the people that ask that question, usually say they’ve already gotten some information from various sources. Such as, “My friend who is a cop said I should buy this one” or “I read about this one; it looks like a good one.” or “I wanted something small I can carry in my purse or pocket” or one of the best ones: “I want a 45 because I want knock down power.” Naturally, all these have some validity, but none have any real substance.

Yes, there are lots of magazines that you can read about personal protection handguns. And there are at least a hundred websites you can read about the same topic. Many are written by well trained and highly experienced professionals, while some clearly are not. So you are presented with a dilemma. Who and what is right? Because every week the websites you read tell you about the BEST handgun on the market today, and every month the cover of your favorite gun magazine has an article about the BEST personal protection handgun on the market. This just complicates your decision making.

So let’s go back to basics. But I must say one thing before I do that with you–yes, I do have MY favorite handgun that I feel is the BEST personal protection weapon. But I feel it may be helpful for you to review the basics of choosing your personal protection handgun.  Here are the characteristics I feel you should consider when choosing your next personal protection handgun. These characteristics should be researched and evaluated in this order.


army_handgun_trainingOne of the most important aspects of buying a handgun for personal protection is the manufacturer of your firearm. Here are my reasons why I feel this way. First and foremost, you want the best quality you can afford. This is a tool that you are buying for a time when your life or someone else’s life is in danger. You want something that is going to be very dependable, reliable, and has a reputation for high quality. If you are truly buying this weapon for personal protection, that means you are going to be shooting it frequently as you practice your shooting skills. Thus, it needs to be a firearm that can stand up to lots of shooting.

I personally look for manufacturers that have a longstanding reputation for providing handguns to the military or large government agencies. Why? Because in most cases, they do the most extensive and critical evaluations of the weapons and follow very strict rules about quality control. Secondly, in most cases, these handguns are used often and in a wide range of environments, so they know if they work when you need them or not.


warranty_gunsThis a very important aspect of buying your firearm that is related to the characteristics mentioned above. If the manufacturer is of high quality, they will most likely offer a very good warranty on their handguns. Some manufacturers offer lifetime warranties so you know they stand behind their product. Others offer warranties only for a limited time. You also want to know what modifications or ammo you that will void your warranty. Such as, will polishing the trigger void the warranty or will shooting +P ammo void the warranty? These are important factors you need to take into consideration.

Semi Auto/Revolver

revolver_vs_handgunThis is most likely one of the most common areas of disagreement. Many like a revolver because they say it is “simple” and “easy” to use. I personally am not a fan of revolvers for two reasons. First, if something bad should happen, I want a gun I can shoot well and LOTS of bullets, and a revolver does not meet that requirement. Secondly, most revolvers have a very long and hard trigger pull. That makes it more likely you will be inaccurate with the weapon.

Read Also: The Katrina Pistol

I prefer semi-automatics for two reasons. First, in most cases, they allow you to have more bullets–two or three times as many rounds as a revolver. To me, that is very important. Secondly and equally importantly, I like the trigger pull on semiautomatics. We will go more into this below. But, having lots of bullets and being able to easily pull the trigger are two factors I find very valuable in a personal protection firearm.


This is the key physical factor of buying your personal protection handgun. I cannot stress how important this factor plays into your ability to hold, shoot and control your handgun. There are three factors in gripping a handgun– technique, weight, and size.

The first part of determining your grip on a handgun is to know HOW to grip a handgun. IF you do not know how to properly grip a handgun, you will most likely make a huge error when buying your weapon. I watch daily as people looking to buy their hand gun grip it incorrectly. I am amazed at how many salespeople do not try to help or correct the customer. Thus, LOTS of people buy a handgun without ever properly gripping it. Then they wonder why they do not like shooting their handgun and why they are not accurate with it. It all comes back to grip.

The next two components of gripping can be considered as one. Weight and size. Both play a critical role in managing a handgun, thus are very important.

glock_19_katrina_pistol_trijicon_streamlight_tlr2_surefire_light_onFirst is the visual aspect of the handgun. Most people look at a handgun and on looks alone determine if it is too big. Without even holding the firearm they have already determine it is too big. Thus, they rule out very acceptable handguns on looks alone. Secondly, they want something small and light so it is easy to carry and hold. But they do not understand that the weight of the handgun correlates to the recoil, thus the lighter the weapon the more recoil; conversely, a heavier weapon reduces recoil. You want to find a handgun that might feel a little heavy in your hand at first but is very easy to grip. You should look for a gun whose grip is slim enough to allow your hand to encircle it easily, with a reasonable reach forward to the trigger while the gun is in alignment with your wrist and forearm. A gun with a short grip frame may not allow your pinky finger to get a grip on the gun, and this will make the weapon less controllable, although it may be easier to carry concealed it will be hard to shoot accurately.

The best way to address these issues is to handle numerous firearms and to understand that small is not necessarily good and slightly heavy is not necessarily bad. Once most people have the opportunity to grip numerous firearms and really get a feel for a proper grip, they soon realize that weight and size make a big difference.

I have seen so many people walk into the range or store with one concept of what they were going to buy and walk out with something totally different. These individuals then come back and say they were so glad they did not buy what they originally thought they wanted. I feel strongly this is where a good knowledgeable sales person comes into play. So when you buy you first firearms or if you are a novice buyer, make sure you ask what the sales person’s background is before you listen to their pitch. And make sure they give you a comparison of firearms to evaluate.

Trigger Control

beretta-pico-3Trigger control is essential to accuracy. Trigger pulls can be hard, up to 15 lbs, staged, and hard to reach with your finger. Thus, it is essential that you choose a handgun with a trigger you can easily reach and comfortably pull. The harder the trigger is to reach or pull the less accurate you will be. Thus, when evaluating a handgun for personal protection, it is imperative that you have the opportunity to hold the handgun and place your finger on the trigger. Then whenever possible, you should be allowed to dry fire the weapon. That is the ONLY way to fully appreciate and evaluate the trigger pull.

What you want in a trigger pull is the following features, one that is within your fingers reach when you finger is correctly on the trigger, smooth pull with no roughness, easy, relatively short trigger stroke back, and a short trigger reset. A Short Trigger Reset (STR) means you only need to allow the trigger to release a short distance after it has fired the weapon before you are able to pull it again and fire your next shot.


9_19_parabellum_fmjBullets have gone through tremendous improvements over the last twenty years. The weights, velocity, materials and aerodynamics of bullets are incredibly better today than they were even ten years ago. Thus, the choice of caliber is not that critical today, and calibers that were considered marginal a generation ago are often considered excellent performers with the best modern loads.

Related: Prepper Guns on a Budget

In making the choice of what caliber to buy, beware of a number of common misconceptions. First is in the area of knock down power. This term in highly misunderstood and misused. There is the misconception that a bigger bullet results in more knock down power. Recent studies have demonstrated that this term is widely incorrect.

When  humans are shot with traditional bullets used for personal protection, they do not go flying through the saloon doors nor get knocked back like you see in the movies. If a human is hit in a vital area they just collapse. There are numerous videos on the internet of humans being shot and when hit with a lethal shot they just collapse. So knock down power is way over used in relation to its actual impact.

Another misconception is penetration. Most think that bigger bullets penetrate deeper and cause more damage. In actuality smaller 9mm bullets have greater penetration ability than 45 caliber bullets. Based on substantial research, the FBI has reverted back to 9mm bullets for their agents for three very important reasons. One, they penetrated further thus doing more damage. Secondly, the agents that shot 9mm weapons were more accurate than those shooting 40 and 45’s. Finally, the lethality of the shots were the same, provided that a vital area on the suspect was hit.

There are strong arguments that the 9mm cartridge (AKA 9mm Luger, 9mm Parabellum, or 9×19 mm) is the top logistical choice for a defensive handgun for most people:

  1. It is the least expensive of all personal protection ammo so you are more likely to practice more.
  2. More handguns are made in 9mm than any other caliber, so you are more likely to find a 9mm handgun that fits your hand.
  3. Most 9mm handguns allow for high capacity magazines, so you have lots of bullets when you need them, and many 9mm magazines even hold more ammo than the smaller 380 pistols’ magazines.
  4. The recoil of 9mm is easily manageable.
  5. The lethality is the same as larger bullets when a vital area is hit.
  6. More people carry 9mm that any other caliber; thus you could share ammo, if needed.

Ammunition capacity

As mentioned a few times in this article, I feel strongly that I want to have as many cartridges in my gun as I can, should something go wrong. No matter how well you are trained, if a bad event occurs and you need to fire your weapon while you are running, taking cover, hiding, or avoiding getting shot, you will miss a lot.

glock_19_katrina_pistol_trijicon_streamlight_tlr2_surefire_ammo_pileNumerous times a day I have novice shooters tell me that they only need a gun with five or six bullets because they will hit the target in the first one or two shots. Clearly, they have not watched any videos of our heroic men and women in law enforcement in shoot-outs, nor have they watched our brave American military heroes in firefights. As good as these well trained professionals are, they still miss a lot. Not because they are unskilled– they are exceptional marksmen (and women) by any standard of training and testing. But it is exceedingly hard to hit a moving target when you are being shot at, beat up, or mugged.

So the more bullets the better. A semi-auto that uses a magazine with a staggered or double-column row of ammunition might hold 13-17 rounds of 9mm. That’s my recommendation. The brand, warranty, action style, trigger pull, grip, ammo capacity, and caliber are all the features and characteristic you want in your personal protection handgun. Each has its own importance and value in helping you chose the correct handgun for your personal use. Not all handguns are meant for everyone. You need one that fits you.

Here are some handguns that I find meet the above criteria; they are my choices in order of preference.

Sig P320

Manufacturer – Sig Sauer has produced handguns for many of our elite fighting forces and government agencies for a long time including but not limited to: SEALS, Secret Service, Air Marshals and numerous law enforcement agencies.

Warranty – Lifetime

Grip – Very nice and comfortable stippling, ergonomically and anatomically correct, and a great weight that allows for reduced recoil and easy handling.

Trigger Control – Excellent trigger, one of the hallmarks of this handgun, very short smooth trigger reset.

Caliber – 9mm, but the 320 is modular. The trigger and firing assembly is easily removed from the gun and barrels and frames in 380, 357 Sig and 40 can be purchased from Sig. so you get multiple caliber capability with this handgun.

Bullet Capacity: comes with two 15 rounds mags, can take 17 round mags.

Ruger SR9C

Manufacturer – Ruger high quality firearms made since 1949

Warranty – Lifetime

Grip – Very ergonomic grip, nice stippling. Very good weight

Trigger Control – Good but can be a little rough

Caliber – 9mm

Bullet Capacity – Comes with two 15 rounds mags

Walther CCP

Manufacturer — Walther is a German firearms maker that dates back to 1886. It has an excellent reputation, and its handguns have always been popular in both military and police use worldwide through the 20th century.

Warranty — Lifetime, transferable to subsequent purchasers, but only so long as that model firearm is still being produced and serviced, and is not a discontinued model.

Grip —  Comfortable grip, no bigger than it has to be to allow all your fingers to fit on it, with stippling for better control and an undercut area at the base of the trigger guard.

Trigger Control — A short trigger stroke of just over a quarter-inch, with only 5.5 lbs. of pressure.

Caliber — 9mm.

Bullet Capacity —  8 rounds in the magazine (with one in the chamber, that’s 9 total)

Glock 19

Manufacturer – Glock was the first to make polymer-framed striker-fired guns, and it has held its place in that market for a long time. Glock has produced handguns for many military branches, elite forces, FBI, and numerous law enforcement agencies.

Warranty – Limited to one year, and with several situations where Glock disclaims any warranty responsibility. But in practice, they have been more helpful than the terms of their written warranty would require.

Grip – Nice grip good stippling, light weight.  

Trigger Control – Nice trigger, my experience is that a lot people push the handgun when shooting it by not getting their finger on top of the trigger safety.  

Caliber – 9mm

Bullet Capacity – Comes with two 15 round mags. Your spare magazines could be larger to hold even more, such as 17 or even 33 rounds.

Photos Courtesy of:

Sean Savage
The US Army
David Trawin

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48 thoughts on “How to Pick the Best Personal Protection Firearm

  1. I carried a 1911 in 45acp from the time I left the Army in 1982. In 2015 I put my Colt up in cosmolene and started carrying a CZ 75 compact in 9mm. Reasons are : defensive ammo is more effective now, possibility of multiple opponent’s and possible failure to stop. I made the choice that eight rounds & then a mag change was unacceptable. I do agree with you 100% that the tool must match the user and the intended purpose. Well done !

  2. In general a well researched and written article. I would like to expand on one topic, penetration. The objective is to put energy on the target. The formula for energy is E=M*C2, so we can increase energy by increasing mass (projectile weight), velocity or both.

    Penetration can be a problem as exhibited by over-penetration where a projectile exits the target before or without expanding. The problem of over-penetration is solved by good hollow point ammunition and proper expansion. This is why the military uses Full Metal Jacket. In their view a wounded soldier is better that a dead one because the enemy uses more of their resources caring for wounded.

    However, the best ammunition is no substitute for marksmanship. I can recall many instances where FBI statistics have recorded an officer being killed by a wounded subject who has not yet expired. This used to be common with 9mm weapons.

    Manufacturers have offered solutions to this problem in this caliber, as well as others, by offering +P ammunition that increases the muzzle velocity and therefore the energy of a round. Unfortunately this usually increases recoil and can affect accuracy.

    This is why the FBI moved to .40 S&W. It fires a heavier projectile at or near the same muzzle velocity of a 9MM delivering more energy at or near similar recoil. (Recoil is caused by the exhaust of spent powder and is generally independent of projectile weight though larger projectiles offer more surface against the bore and can require more powder to reach a given muzzle velocity.)

    What all this means is that choosing a firearm requires the consideration of a number of factors including, height/weight, hand size, purpose (Duty Weapon vs. CCW or Open Carry, Self Defense or Target Shooting, etc.).

    My personal pistol is a Sig Sauer P226. It’s steel slide on a metal alloy frame and is heavier and larger that a similar Glock 22. The Glock is popular with law enforcement because it is slightly smaller and lighter making it much easier to get in and out of a vehicle with as well as reliable. The P226 was chosen by the Navy for Seal Teams because it is indestructible and superbly reliable.

    1. I believe you mean F=MA where force is a function of mass times acceleration.

      Using Einstein’s equation of E=MC^2 would require bullets traveling at the speed of light. Something even Glocks cannot yet do.

    2. I’ve found that everyone knows E=M*C2 and it get’s attention. For all you physicists out there, thank you for playing our game.

    3. Fifth, you make some very good points and thank you for your kind compliment. The FBI most recently has decided to go back to the 9mm for the reasons mentioned in the article. Many agencies going back to the 9mm for the same reason and due to cost. The 40 caliber is much more costly. Your choice of weapons is a good one, a little big for most to carry though.

    4. The FBI is already replacing all of their .40S&W Glock, with the Glock 17 or the Glock 19 so that agents can have a higher hit probability and due to the excessive wear on the pistols from the .40 cartridge itself.
      The FBI regional SWAT team agents, still will retain their issued 1911 .45 ACP pistols.

  3. I quit reading when I read the comment that you want lot’s of bullets. Having a lot of bullets does you no good. Now if you have rounds of ammunition you’re in good shape. Use the correct terminology if you want people to take you seriously.

    1. Is this article written only for experienced shooters and gun-savvy survivalists? What about people just getting into the prep lifestyle, or whose “survivalist” efforts to date have NOT involved firearms, but involved food, water, shelter, medicine, etc? Regular people on the street call rounds of ammunition “bullets.” It’s pretty much universal for people who are not cops, not military, and have never been NRA members. So Dan’s using the vocabulary of a layperson in this article that is intended to be read by persons who are not gun-savvy.

  4. With 30 years of annual firearms qualification behind me (and a female) I don’t agree with you on your recommendation of pistols. They easily jam, are picky about brand of ammo, require maintenance, and, unless you carry “1 in the chamber” you have to pull the slide back before you can fire. Most slides take some muscle to pull back and if your hands are sweaty, good luck. When some of my fellow deputies all bought the 1st Glocks, 3 of them shot themselves in the thigh in the 1st 6 months. Revolvers are SO reliable, all the time, under 99% of circumstances. And if you can’t either hit or scare off an attacker with 5 or 6 shots, maybe you need more time at the range.

    1. I just threw my Glock and my S&W 686 against a cement wall. The Glock works fine, but the Smith doesn’t.

      Revolvers are so reliable…until they aren’t.

    2. “Glock Leg”, IS a “training issue”, and a safe handling issue, NOT the fault of anyone other then the nimrod who manages to shoot him/herself. I started out in law enforcement in California in 1977, and honorably retired 27 years later.
      I’ve seen people make “assumptions” about the tools in their toolbox, that were flat out wrong, incorrect and dangerous.
      A handgun is merely a tool and nothing else.
      I started out carrying a .357 magnum revolver, and saw officers and deputies foolishly mishandling those, fortunately, none of their actions were fatal to themselves or others, all were painful.
      I’ve also witnessed poor firearms handling with pistols from alleged “professionals”, that did result in fatalities to other LEOs.
      This IS a training and disciplinary issue more than anything else.
      While our professional experiences very greatly, blaming the tool on our tool belt, rather than the person wielding the tool irresponsibly and recklessly, obviates personal responsibility and accountability.
      As an LEO professional, I am surprised you took that “approach”.
      While I personally shoot a bit better with my revolvers, I still do well with my pistols, BOTH, have their places on the tool belt.
      I also have two adult daughters, one cannot hit the side of our house with a pistol, so her primary EDC! is a S&W Model 19′ the other, hates revolvers and can outshoot the majority of males with her Glock 19″ and neither has ever had Glock Leg nor a negligent discharge.

    3. Greetings Jan and thank you for your comments as well. Semi-autos do not jam as much as they did a long time ago, due to better manufacturing and improved ammunition. Well made handguns are not as picky about ammo as you may think. Most will shoot any good ammo and you should always use very good ammo for personal protection. In my opinion, carrying one in the chamber is the BEST to carry your weapon. It takes a very highly trained person to be able to rack the slide and load one when something bad is happening. And pulling the slide back is more about technique than strength. I am very sorry to hear about your colleagues, but that sounds like a training issue to me. The choice of handgun you choose for personal protection is strictly up to you and if a revolver works best for you, then that is a good thing.

    4. Jan, as a law officer and experienced firearms instructor, don’t you always recommend that people keep their guns chamber-loaded when they’re being carried or stored in a quick-accessible location so they can be used to fight off a home invader? I wouldn’t recommend any other condition than chamber-loaded, even if that rules-out certain makes and models of weapons whose safety features I don’t trust enough to go with “one in the pipe” all the time.

  5. The actual formula for the energy of a moving projectile is F=MV2 or Force equals the mass of the object times the velocity squared. The projectile starts loosing acceleration the second it exits the barrel and begins decelerating due to friction. So the weight of the bullet affects the energy (force) delivered, but velocity affects if more since it is the square (V x V) of the velocity

    1. Outside of quantum mechanics and with sub-light speed bullets force and energy are nearly interchangeable. Energy can do something but force produces the result as the two bodies interact.

      W=∫F⃗ ⋅dx⃗ will deliver your actual answer but by digressing this far into the weeds we might as well discuss 9mm vs .40

  6. I agree with you on the Sig P320C (one of my personal EDC choices) or the Glock 19 – the other two are iffy in my book. I might have erred towards the Walther PPQ and the S&W M&P series of guns instead. I don’t think I’ve liked a Ruger-made handgun since the Mark II .22.

    I also personally don’t believe in the “needing lots of ammo” being the overriding need in a handgun. If you like and shoot a .40 or .45 better and it only holds 7 or 8 rounds, by all means, you should use that instead of the 17-round Wonder Tupperware. Confidence beats capacity. I feel more confident with my Sig P220 in .45 with just eight rounds than I do any other pistol – I just carry more mags with me and practice, practice, practice reloads.

    Likewise, if the shooter can handle a revolver better – many older shooters do, especially if they can’t rack a slide – by all means, run it. It all boils down to confidence. 6 sure hits with a revolver are better than 15 misses and a couple marginal hits with an auto.

    Overall, though – nitpicky comments above aside – very good article. Thank you!

    1. Greetings Drew, You are very correct practice is the key to everything when something bad happens. WE are on the same page about the Sig 320. i do not know your background, but i will stand by my point that, if something bad happens and i need my firearm, I want lots of ammo in the gun. If I do not have too, i do not want to carry lots of extra mags, nor have to do reloads, if I do not have too. But your point is well taken, that, that is a choice and if that is your choice then practicing reloading skills is imperative.

  7. There is only one correct answer to this question and the article fails miserably to address it. The answer to the question of “how to pick the best personal defense gun” is IT DEPENDS! The author automatically rules out revolvers and ASSUMES (you know what that means) that the buyer will be getting lots of practice with their new gun. If the buyer is simply wanting something they can throw in their night stand and forget about until the time comes that they need it a revolver is a perfect choice. No real “training” needed. No safeties. Just pull the trigger. Everything issue that he stated is valid (long trigger pull, less rounds, etc.) but that doesn’t mean it’s not the best gun for some situations. Again, the answer is always IT DEPENDS.

  8. In any “fight”, you ARE going to go, with whatever tool/s you have on your person at the time.
    Better to have one that FITS YOU, then one that you are not comfortable with.
    Test drive what fits YOU best prior to purchase, the rental fees on the range are worth far more in the long run, than the regret and dissatisfaction of a bad purchase decision.

  9. About 30 years ago while walking my 90lb Lab one night in Richmond, VA, I was robbed at gun point by a guy that I’d guess was about 16 or 17 years old with a .25 cal piece O’ crap Saturday night special, and yes I got a very close look at it. Typically, I would be carrying a 1911 on my right rear hip, but not this night, thankfully. I had walked this area 2-3 times a day for years, so I knew it well.
    My assailant was hiding in some bushes near the side walk and my dog was off leash about 40-50 feet behind me. I didn’t know I had a problem until I heard him charge from the right rear and before I could turn my head, his hand was on my shoulder, the gun was in my face and he was pushing me into a boxed position between a large tree and a parked car. He had planned well and I was tactically beat. He jammed the pistol into my cheek and pried my mouth open with the barrel. By this time my dog was involved growling and he told me he would shoot me and the dog. I had $18 and credit cards and really, really didn’t want to take a round through the side of my face.
    This kid was in a video game. He didn’t believe I was real and had no rational connection to the possible consequences for him or me. I spent all of my energy trying to calm him down and make him believe there was no threat worth shooting. I made the dog sit down and handed him my wallet and he took it and ran. Thank God!!!
    As you might imagine I relived the event about a million times and here is what I learned through my analysis of the event:
    1) I could not overcome the instinctive need to put my right hand on him to not only try to regain some space between me and the threat, but to also keep my balance. The instinct was so strong that the idea that I could deploy my weapon with my right hand is ludicrous.

    2) Since my right hand was tied up, had I had my 1911 on my right hip, the only one deploying it would likely be my attacker.

    3) If you can’t use the right, that leaves the left. The problem here is that means I would be using my weak side, one handed, while being pushed and stumbling over tree roots , under extreme duress, wrestling and potentially tangled up in clothing. In other words, the likelihood of deploying any auto loader and getting into action and not limp wristing it that would cause a jam is extremely unlikely. Under the best of circumstances it would be a one shot gun. Yes even with a Glock. Remember, I have to sweep the gun out of my face with my right hand while deploying my weapon with my right.

    4) So, what’s not going to jam when I shoot under duress with my weak side? That’s right a revolver.

    5) I learned this from the experience: Some pistols are better for defense and some are better for offense. I chose a S&W model 38 air weight body guard with a shrouded hammer and learned to carry it and shoot it with the left. I don’t need accuracy. I need to be able to hit a dinner plate from hugging distance. If you are not physically engaged with the attacker, freaking run. I don’t need a lot of rounds. I need probably 2 placed in the center of mass with the muzzle in contact with the target. Those 2 rounds out of a .38 snubby will create enough shock and trauma that the attacker will let go of me (at which point I will run until I am no longer threatened). And by the way, who the hell cares about trigger pull? We’re not a range. This isn’t target shooting. This is life or death not a damned game.

    6) Here is something I learned in the Army: the best way to ensure survival in a fire fight is to not get in one. The idea that you need to put a lot of rounds down range in defense is fire fight mentality and not real world defensive carry. And if you are going some place that you might need a lot of rounds – DON’T GO THERE. If you think you’re not going to be taken by surprise and you’re going to pivot and draw your high capacity auto loader and meet the threat on your terms, brother you are delusional. Your attacker will “own” the ground on which he attacks you. It may seem random to you, but let me assure you that your attacker will have totally scoped out the ground and tactics and ALL of the odds will be against you. It will not be his first rodeo. The chances are it will be your first rodeo and hopefully not your last.

    You need to be able to deploy and shoot with your weak side because your strong side will be engaged. That means a revolver. Now I know that some of you will say “I could meet the threat head on”, “I could pivot”, “I train and I could do it”. Well maybe…. But this old US Army Ranger with a 90 lb dog couldn’t do it.

    Good Luck!

    1. Thank you for sharing your story, so glad it turned out well and your were not injured. There is a lot to learn from your story.

      One important one… you said ” And if you are going some place that you might need a lot of rounds – DON’T GO THERE.” Well you learned that bad things can happen anywhere, no matter where you are. So you must be prepared at all times and you do not know how many shoots it might take to protect yourself. And I am not delusional 🙂

      1. So Dan, Have you ever been attacked by someone with a weapon? or attacked where the circumstances justified use of deadly force? I have and in my fortunately limited experience, it happened lightening fast and violently. I’m an auto loader guy, but there is no way I could have been successful with a semi auto pistol on my weak side let alone my strong side.

        I categorize threats in 2 basic groups ( lately there has emerged a third category , but I’ll talk about that down the page).

        Group 1 – Street crime/fast attack ambush – this is what happened to me. The victim in this scenario has little or no warning and is essentially trying to defend while in the grasp of the attacker. This is where I choose a revolver in my weak hand.

        Group 2 – Piercing the perimeter – This is where you are in a secure location and an attacker is coming in. Here you get some warning as they crash through the perimeter a la home invasion. If its at night and I’m in bed asleep, I will take a revolver. If I’m not asleep, my first choice is a 12ga shoty and then an auto loader.

        Group 3 – The new and inexcusable phenomenon of jihad – You got me in this one – autoloader all the way. Truthfully, I carried a Glock 21 with an extra mag to Christmas eve worship service for the last 2 years and I was not alone. All of the ushers had peculiar familiar bulges on their right sides. I would have preferred an AR, but it would have distracted from the reason we were there and its not that bad – yet


        1. Greetings Cam,
          Yes I have been attacked… and no I have never been robbed by a armed criminal.

          But I have been all over the world in some very dangerous places. I attribute my not being attacked to three things, God was watching out for me, Luck and I have very good situational awareness. All three of those keep my from having bad things happen. Or at least I was prepared to address them.

          I also am a strong believer that your hands are you first line of defense in many cases, and being well trained in a self defense technique is invaluable. I prefer Krav Maga. I try not to define threats to three categories, I try to asses threats at all times. All the best.

        2. Dan,
          Well said!! The “Armor of God” is totally where its at and is the only reason I don’t have nasty scars on both sides of my face.

          I too have been in some very dangerous places/situations on 4 continents and like you when off my home turf, I was “on”.

          This is where I frankly, screwed up. Your point about situational awareness is totally spot-on. I was 200 – 300 yards from my house and was not situationaly aware. That’s why I got ambushed – plain and simple. I was in cruise mode not really considering the possibility of a threat that close to home. What are the chances of getting attacked and robbed that close to your house with a 90lb dog in a nice section of town? Well, in this case the chances were 100%.

          Situational awareness is probably the single most important factor in staying safe.

        3. Cam, like you, I often carry a S&W .38 snubby with a shrouded / bobbed/ concealed hammer.
          Yeah, it’s only 5 shots, but it’s 5 RELIABLE shots.

          However, I’m not really happy with that choice. I choose such a gun for ease of carry and concealment, not because of the small margin of better reliability it has over a particular semi-auto that’s tried and true.

          Certainly, not all semi-autos are reliable. Some brands and particular models are prone to problems. Some are fussy about ammo. But if I have owned a particular gun for years, and shot it hundreds of rounds, both with FMJ range ammo AND a good bit of the defensive hollowpoint rounds that I’ll be carrying in it, and it doesn’t jam, even when shooting one-handed with my WEAK hand only, I’ll consider it to be reliable enough.
          And I’ll take comfort in the fact that this gun puts 12-16 rounds in my hand, compared to just 5 for the J-frame Smith.
          But, like so many other people, I compromise. I give up firepower for comfort. If you don’t like that, and maximum firepower is a priority for you, I have to agree that a semi-auto 9mm or .40 that uses a staggered-column magazine is the way to go. Just pick a good brand, a very popular and well-respected model, use only factory mags, test it often, and carry premium ammo that you’ve also tested quite a bit (even though that premium ammo may cost nearly a dollar a shot).

  10. If you need more than five shots you need to go to the range more. My 50+ year old model 36 is as good a weapon as has ever been made. I don’t trust the QC in most handguns made in the last twenty years anyway. Y’all want combat Tupperware go for it. I think that I’ll stick with wood and steel. The current meme that I somehow “need” 15+ rounds to “defend” myself is just BS. It is a political and sales tactic to legitimize and sell 500$ limited lifespan semi-auto firearms that are in NO WAY “better” than the weapons carried 100 years ago. In fact they are in may ways inferior. I want to spend my hard earned ONCE and carry the same weapon for the rest of my life, just like my father, grand father and great grand fathers did. Plastic and alloy can NEVER fill that bill.

    1. I suppose you still drive the same car as your grandfather. And use the same phone that will surely last another hundred years. And of course there are all his power tools.

      Sounds like you are more of an antique collector than a potential operator. I applaud your appreciation of the old gear, but I’ll trade a shorter product life for a massive increase in performance any day. Oh, and I don’t use any of my grandfather’s guns. They are either broken or unreliable or inaccurate. But they sure look nice hanging on the wall.

      1. “Operator” tells me right there that “tacticool Timmy” just stood up. Magazine capacity and plastic frames in NO WAY improve performance. The .357 magnum is in every way superior to the 9mm,.40, and .45 ACP. Or the rounds fired by almost every “carry gun” beloved of the “combat Tupperware” crowd. So You obviously have no idea what you are going on about. I don’t want to be an “operator”. I want a self defense weapon. AND: Damn right I would like to drive the same car for life. In fact I still own and drive the first one I ever put in my name, and yes; I would love to have pops 56 Ford Fairlane or better still Gandpa’s 28 Humpmobile. I’d maintain and drive them too. I am one of those people who could have anything I really want. I don’t own a glock because I don’t want one. I don’t own an AR-15 because…….. I don’t want one. You like your gun choices? Well fine! That’s your right as a human. I have probably been shooting longer than you have been alive ,and I have given a great deal of time and energy into deciding what I like. I DON’T like plastic and alloy in my firearms, water in my drinks, and silicone in women. My choice, and I don’t expect others to agree.

      2. I had a friend giving me greif about getting rid of all my old and heirloom firearms, im not a collector and i prefer modern high capacity higher output or incredibly higher accuracy weapons, they arent going to blow up on me, he then tried to use the but they werent registered lines, just told him, brother, if they are confiscating guns i dont want to be fighting with an M1 carbine and 99 year old handgun, will take my LWRC REPR and Para 1911 thanks

    2. Ray – Pretty much spot on! Your reasoning is why I carry a “J” frame Smith and my experience (detailed above) is why I bought one. The other factor that would support your philosophy is that the average armed law abiding citizen is a way better shot and way better trained with his particular weapon than the average armed criminal.

      I would offer that I’ve had zero QC problems with any modern autoloaders. All of mine function as they should.

      However, what I think is happening here is that there is a tendency for people to “prepare for a fire fight” rather than the real world personal defense scenario. If you look at the stats on defense with a fire arm (terrorist attack excluded), they happen and end very fast and it is typically “one and done”. They attack, are shot, then fall down or flee. It is highly unusual to be trading shots with an attacker. No one attacks someone they know is armed. So the tactical situation involves “turning surprise back on to the attacker”. They attack the victim by surprise; the victim surprises the attacker by pulling a gun and bestowing an extra hole in the attacker and the attack ends.

      It will not be Hollywood. You will not be able to fire from cover. You will not be able to defend from enough distance that you will have anything approaching freedom of movement. You are unlikely to be able to get two hands on your weapon. In all likelihood you will be “in the grasp”.

      Carrying a 15 round autoloader my make you feel safer, but I believe that you have chosen the wrong tool for probably 97% of real defensive scenarios. But, if you are preparing for a firefight, you might consider that a pistol of any kind is an unacceptable substitute for a rifle or shotgun in combat.

      Just sayin

      1. I am sorry Cam, but most personal protection and professional shootings are rarely “one and done”. Typically numerous shots are fired and typically many miss their mark. Just as one fact.. the NYPD published a study in 2007 that illustrated that more than one shot was fired in 76% of defensive shooting incidents. I did not do the math but my guess was that the average was 8 shots fired.

        1. Good point DanC.

          I bet the 8 shot average is from those carrying 8 shot mags. And those with 10 shot mags would report an average of 10 shots. And those with 6 shot revolvers reported in that they averaged six shots. And those with single-shot Contenders said they used approximately one shot.

        2. Penknife…the study actually said that those that were carrying revolvers actually emptied their weapon almost 90% of the time and those that were carrying semi automatics did so at a far less frequency…

        3. could that discrepancy in emptying the gun be due to jamming of the semiauto before the mag ran dry?

        4. Wow, that’s a lot of lead flying around. I think my opinion has been colored by the fact that I was attacked by a single individual. I can see that the circumstances could be dramatically different if I was attacked by a team of two or more.
          Now that I think about it, in a planned ambush/robbery, facing a single assailant is probably somewhat rare.
          An 8 round average would empty a 1911 or any of the newer high capacity S&W revolvers. To tell the truth, I hate 2 way gun ranges and I’ve been in more than a couple. But I don’t hate them any where near as much as I hate the idea of being at the wrong end of a one way range.
          Dan, thanks for shaking up my preconceptions. I need to reevaluate my carry strategy.

        5. Cam and Ray, one of my problems with carrying a revolver that only holds 5 or 6 rounds is that I could easily empty all of those shots in one rapid-fire string at one opponent in about 1.5 seconds.

          Yeah, that should put that one opponent out of action.

          But, then what? What if there are two or three adversaries? What if the “getaway driver” waiting outside hears me gun down his partner in the store, and then he comes in to see what’s up. I don’t want to be standing there with an empty revolver in my hand over the body of his brother / fellow gang member/ childhood pal when he comes into the liquor store.

          If you tell me that I should have the discipline to only take single shots, or double taps, or controlled pairs, and NOT fire all 5 or 6 rounds on one adversary, great. If I don’t panic, that’s good advice. But the best battle plans rarely go as planned once the enemy starts shooting.

  11. Ray,
    Each of us, is responsible for our OWN protection(salvation), in reality.
    Personal choice is always a good thing, and there is NO “best” handgun to use, other than the one that fits YOU personally.
    I enjoy shooting and carrying my revolvers, as well as my auto pistols.
    For me, my choice depends upon the location and population density of where I am going(have) to be.
    You get to have whatever choices you personally choose for your own needs. Far be it from me, and anyone else, to tell you what you “must” have or use.
    There is no “average” number of shots fired in law enforcement shootings, as every Officer-involved Shooting, is completely different than all others.
    “Statistics” should never be used to make assumptions about one’s personal defense options. The FBI learned that lesson(or should have) in the infamous Miami Shootout.

  12. My carry pistol is a Glock 22. Reasons: when you pull the trigger, it goes bang every time regardless of conditions, high capacity, change out a barrel and a mag and you go from 40 to 9mm in a few minutes. Two very popular and effective rounds so regardless of how bad things may get, spare ammo will be around. Very affordable.
    To each his own for what ever reason. Just what works for me.

  13. Recently a friend asked me which firearm(s) he should get so he would be ready for ANYTHING. No matter what happened, which guns would be the best for all situations. I thought for a long moment and said: “You already have your favorite weapons, now buy a truckload of ammo for each one. Next, you should purchase five weapons if you don’t have them already. Buy a .40 pistol, a 12 gauge, a 9mm pistol, an AR-15, and an AK-47. The local police use .40 and the 12 gauge, the US military uses 9mm pistols and AR-15’s, and the enemies of the US use the AK-47 or a similar weapon that fires the same ammo. No matter what happens, from pandemic to martial law to communist attack—the police, the military, and the foreign invaders are going to have ammo. Get the guns that shoot their ammo, and then you’re ready for anything.”

  14. I have seen this same issue debated over and over for the last 40 years and I suspect it will be in debate even after I assume room temperature. My personal opinion is carry the biggest baddest round you can shoot accurately and can control. As technology has improved and made the 9mm more formadible so has this improvement happened with the bigger calibers also. If you can’t afford a dependable gun you have a real problem, if your buying the 9mm because of the price of the ammo, you have a real problem. I never want to be shot by any firearm but if 3 were laying there (9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP) and I were forced to choose the one that was going to shoot me, I’d choose the 9mm every time and I bet you would to. Think about that last statement when you choose a handgun to carry!

  15. The best personal protection / defense pistol?
    A loaded one. After that we are arguing ‘bullet points’ and semantics.

    Am I any less well protected if I were to choose an old .41 Magnum wheelgun? I’d bet I was the last lawman in NE Colorado to carry a revolver on duty. Granted it was only one day, but we had gotten a bad batch of ammo and everything was jamming/failing during qualifications. Glock 21? Fail. 1911? Fail. AR? Fail.
    30+ year old wheel gun? Chewed the targets up and kept asking for more.
    The auto loaders were cleaned, more ammunition gathered and tested the next day, back to 100% and being carried.

    I am certainly not saying the revolvers are superior. Just another tool in the toolbox, and a highly effective one in experienced hands. Just practice your reloads, a lot.

    9 vs .40 vs .45? They all have positive and negative attributes, find one you like and start putting ammo back. And just because “X” chooses one particular firearm or cartridge doesn’t make it better or superior, it just means that combination fits their needs at that time.

    And one small point, the Glock wasn’t the first polymer framed striker fired pistol.

    The HK VP-70z was. Predating the Glock by more than a decade. Brought out in 1970 it was revolutionary, reliable, accurate and held 18 rounds long before the capacity wars of the ’80’s and ’90’s.
    And in production from 1970-1989, it was hardly a flash in the pan.

    Me, I use them all, 9 through .45.
    Glock, 1911, HK P7, and more. I just choose the appropriate tool for the job. There is no ‘one’ tool.

  16. There is only one thing to do when confronted face to face by an armed robber…PUT YOUR HANDS UP.

    BUT….When I raise my hands they each hold a steel wire. Those steel wires are connected to a pair of claymore mines that I keep glued to my chest.


    I have used this method three times.

    I recommend you use a bra to help support the Claymore mines. I even go in full drag so as not to look conspicuous.

    Nothing is to extreme when it comes to survival.

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