Comparative Review: 5 Popular Home Defense Handguns

Though handguns are not the most ideal tool for home defense, they’re certainly the most popular as they’re affordable, relatively quick handling, and easy to maneuver and control. Today, we’re going to take a look at five handguns that would make wise choices for defensive use around the home. I’m going to try to hit various bases here: Large and small, inexpensive and not-so-inexpensive. So, without further ado, let’s dive in.

The Candidates

1. Glock 19X

I’ll kick the comparison off with my favorite home defense handgun, pulling out all the stops right off the bat. Why is the 19X my favorite? Because it holds a lot of rounds (19+1) and easily accepts weapon lights and lasers. Also, the 19X is extremely reliable and has fed every type of ammunition I’ve ever run through it.

Glock’s 19X was their submission for military pistol trials a few years back when the US Military was selecting a new pistol to issue. Although the military chose another pistol over the Glock, it’s still a quite capable pistol. It is a crossover, with the handle being the same length as the Glock 17, and the slide being the same length as a Glock 19.

The longer handle allows shooters to get a full grip on the pistol, which helps with controllability and capacity. The shorter slide allows it to clear leather faster when drawing from a holster and helps the pistol index more quickly onto the target. This concept is not a new one, having been applied to the Colt Combat Commander decades ago. Nevertheless, it works as well today as it did then.

Glock 19X with weapon light.
Glock’s 19X with NightStick TWM-30F weapon light makes a potent package for home defense, with its 19+1 capacity. Photo: Jim Davis.

Some people might wonder why I’d choose a large pistol that’s not easy to conceal for the home. I won’t be concerned about concealment or weight, because it’s going to be sitting on a nightstand or other accessible area. I don’t care how much it weighs, or how bulky it is.

I’ve attached a Nightstick TWM-30 to my 19X, which works quite well for lighting up the area with 1,200 lumens should bad actors come knocking.

Speaking of weight, the 19X weighs 22.05 ounces and has a barrel length of 4.02 inches. It accepts 17, 19, 24, and 33-round magazines. Any mags that fit the Glock 17 will fit the 19X.

If asked to pick one handgun with which to fight if I were forced to, the 19X would be at the top of my list. It’s large and in charge, handles the recoil of the 9mm very well, carries plenty of ammo onboard, and is supremely accurate. One cannot ask for more. The fact that it comes from the factory with night sights just puts the cherry on top of the sundae. It also comes in a Flat Dark Earth (FDE) finish for added coolness.

2. S&W 642 .38 Special Revolver

We’ll shift gears in a drastic way and go to a revolver. For very close range, such as those involved in houses, a snubby revolver can work okay. The action is extremely simple, and this particular revolver has an internal hammer, so there’s nothing on the outside to snag.

The .38 Special round has a tried and true track record that spans many decades.

One nice aspect is that revolvers do not have magazines to contend with. The bullets can sit in the cylinder for many years and there are no springs to weaken; they just sit there, ready to go.

S&W 642 with hollow points.
Smith & Wesson’s 642 in .38 Special can be a viable option for home defense. It’s compact and we don’t have to worry about a magazine. It’s seen here with Speer’s Gold Dot Hollow Point ammunition that is specifically designed for short-barreled revolvers. Photo: Jim Davis.

Another reason why I mentioned the revolver is because so many people already have them on hand, so they’re plentiful. And honestly, it doesn’t have to be the S&W model that I mentioned here; there are dozens of acceptable platforms out there to choose from. I selected this particular model because I have one on hand and it’s representative of the breed. Larger, heavier revolvers would certainly work as well.

This revolver is light and small, which makes it easily stored.

Granted, five rounds of .38 SPL is not a lot of bullets, but we’re likely to have other weapons in the house to fight our way to, so five rounds might suffice for the intended purpose.

3. Taurus G3

Some folks will turn up their nose at Taurus firearms. However, a buddy of mine and I had the opportunity to shoot the hell out of a Taurus G3 not long ago, and we came away very impressed.

The pistol comes with two 17-round magazines, offering very respectable firepower. On top of the firepower, the reliability was 100%, even after several hundred rounds went through the pistol without cleaning.

Taurus G3 with spare magazines.
The Taurus G3 offers reliability with 17 rounds of 9mm in the magazine. No, it’s not super tacti-cool, but it does the job at a very modest price point. Photo: Jim Davis.

The grip was quite comfortable and the sights were not bad at all. The model we reviewed also had a manual safety, for those who are attracted to such devices.

It’s not a tiny pistol, but then we mentioned that this really is not a factor for home defense. The G3 has a Picatinny rail under the dust cover, so lights and lasers will easily be affixed, enhancing the pistol’s defensive potential.

One huge advantage for those who don’t have money to burn is that this pistol can be bought retail new for under $300, making it an extraordinary buy. And let’s face it, we’re not all made of money. This one would appeal to someone who’s not necessarily a “gun person”, but who wants a tool for home defense.

4. Springfield Armory Hellcat Pro

Remember when I said the Glock 19X was my favorite, go-to handgun for home defense? Well, the Hellcat Pro virtually ties with the Glock 19X. Why? Because the Hellcat Pro carries nearly as many rounds and will also readily accept a weapon light. On top of that, it’s more compact than the Glock and has a more comfortable grip.

The Adaptive Grip Texture really locks that grip into your hand, almost as if the grip is covered in sandpaper. The Hellcat Pro will readily accept optics, as well, making it even more versatile.

Springfield Hellcat and Hellcat Pro.
Springfield’s Hellcat (Left) and Hellcat Pro (Right) offer serious firepower and versatility. Either one can carry 17-round magazines. Photo: Jim Davis.

My Hellcat Pro has been 100% reliable, as expected. The price isn’t outrageous, especially given the quality of this pistol, which has what I consider to be the best iron sights of any pistol on the market (the front sight is a night sight). The rear sight has a U-Notch outlined in white that just jumps out at the shooter and is incredibly easy to pick up. They’re really slick.

The trigger on the Pro is also outstanding, with smooth take-up and a crisp break.

The Hellcat Pro can be had with either 15 or 17-round magazines, giving it plenty of firepower.

I’ll also go on record and say that the standard Springfield Armory Hellcat would make a good home defense pistol, as it embodies many of the features that the Hellcat Pro has, and it can also use the Pro’s magazines, giving it substantial firepower.

5. H&K USP Compact

Introduced in 1996, the H&K USP Compact pistol in 9mm is no spring chick. It’s been around the block a time or three. The fact that it’s still in production says quite a bit about this pistol and its following.

It’s unique among the semi-autos mentioned here today, in that it has an external hammer. The safety also acts as a de-cocker, so it can be stored hammer down with the safety either on or off (user’s choice). However, should the owner want to carry it cocked and locked like a 1911, that can be done too. So we can say this is the most versatile pistol as far as action options are concerned.

This pistol came with a very nice set of tritium night sights, which is a good idea, given that many “social” encounters take place in dim light.

H&K USP Compact.
Heckler & Koch’s USP Compact has always been an outstanding pistol and would serve well for home defense. It can even be carried cocked and locked should you desire. Photo: Jim Davis.

The USP Compact is not a small, thin pistol as its name might imply; rather, it’s a chunky monkey that’s on the thick side. But as we mentioned for home defense purposes, that really doesn’t matter.

What it does bring to the table is legendary reliability. And, if we were to liken it to a sports car, it would probably be a Porsche. I can’t explain it, but you have to pick this pistol up and fire it to experience the feel. It is simply at the top rung of the ladder in terms of luxury. The action is super smooth and seems to glide as if it were on ball bearings.

The USP Compact does have an accessory rail, but it’s proprietary, so finding lights/lasers to fit this one will take a little homework. Holsters for this pistol aren’t super plentiful, but neither are they impossible to find. I found a DeSantis Minimalist holster that is IWB and works well enough.

Magazines for the USP Compact come in 13 rounds, which isn’t too bad. Sure, some pistols these days carry more, but it is what it is.

Final Thoughts

Well, there you have it. I realize I left out dozens of viable pistols, and if yours wasn’t included here, don’t sharpen up your pitchfork and hunt me with torches. There just wasn’t enough room to include them all, and there are dozens of great prospects on the market.

I did my best to represent everything from inexpensive to expensive for a well-rounded list. The handguns here will pretty much accomplish the mission as well as most. So how about it – what’s your favorite home defense handgun?

Jim Davis served in the PA Dept. of Corrections for 16 ½ years as a corrections officer in the State Correctional Institute at Graterford and later at SCI Phoenix. He served on the Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT), several of those years as a sniper, and also the Fire Emergency Response Team (FERT). For 25 years, he was a professional instructor, teaching topics including Defensive Tactics, Riot Control and Tactical Operations, Immediate Responder, and cognitive programs as an adjunct instructor at the DOC Training Academy. He was then promoted to the title of corrections counselor, where he ran a caseload and facilitated cognitive therapy classes to inmates. His total service time was close to 29 years. He was involved in many violent encounters on duty, including incidents of fatalities. He is a dedicated Christian and attributes any skills that he has to the glory of God.

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