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Do You Need A Handgun for Home Defense?

handgun for home defense

A handgun for home defense is generally less effective than a shotgun as their projectiles have less energy. Aim and accuracy become critical to successfully defending yourself because you can no rely on shotgun spray. however, they do have the benefit of being easier to maneuver with their smaller size. This is key in cramped quarters, such as smaller houses and apartments. They also have less recoil and for some women, are less intimidating to use. Another benefit is easy and discreet storage. The emergence of .410 revolvers such as the Taurus Judge which can shoot .410 shot the gap. Handgun bullets will generally penetrate exterior walls more than shotguns. For this reason your environment must be considered in making the decision of a handgun for home defense.
To own a gun for self defense the first thing you need to do is ask your self if you are ready for this commitment. My article Do I Need a Gun  will help you determine if you are ready.


There are two options for a home defense handguns, revolvers or semi-automatic pistols.

Pistols and revolvers each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Here is a brief overview of which one is best for a woman: What Kind of Gun for a woman.

I have included a special section on the Taurus Judge, this revolver is really a blend of handgun and shotgun and is fast becoming the firearm of choice for many women, including me. It is the gun on my nightstand!

Which Type of Handgun is The Best Home Defense Gun?

Semi-Automatic Handguns

A semi-automatic handgun has a magazine that holds the ammunition held into the grip of the gun. Some of the energy from firing the gun then ejects the spent cartridge and loads a fresh one. When considering which handgun is best for home defense there are some benefits to the semi-automatic. They have magazines that hold a larger number of rounds than a revolver, typically only holding 5 or 6 rounds. Handguns typically have a lighter trigger pull, the ability to shoot multiple rounds quickly and are slimmer and more compact.

However, they are not as mechanically simple as revolvers. Their semi-automatic action is dependent on the first round firing successfully to insure the next round cycles into the chamber. This means that revolvers may be better suited for home and self defense for people who don’t take meticulous care of their guns. That said, the reliability of modern pistols is exceptionally high. See below for full caliber descriptions


Revolvers have a cylinder with multiple chambers, each chamber holds a round, usually 5 or 6. Pulling the trigger rotates the cylinder and aligns the loaded chamber with the barrel and the gun then fires. A revolver is a very simple machine so there is little that can go wrong with the firing process. This means a revolver may be a good choice for self defense. Although all firearms should be thoroughly cleaned regularly, the simplicity of a revolver is less dependent on meticulous cleaning. Revolvers; are bulkier and heavier than semi-automatics and tend to hold fewer rounds. It also takes greater finger strength to pull a revolver trigger. The other serious thing to consider is that revolvers do not have many of these safety features.

Once that decision is made the choice of which caliber to use is next.


taurus judge

The Taurus Judge shoots either .410 shotgun shells or .45 Colt ammunition, making it ideal for the short distance shooting that most commonly occurs in self-defense and home defense situations. It received its name because a significant number of judges carry this revolver into the courtroom for their protection. Because this revolver offers superior accuracy and short-range shooting performance, it can be an ideal handgun for home defense or protection in a car. Due to the gun’s ultra-light design and unique shotgun/revolver combination, is has become a very popular choice.

Benefits and advantages that make the Taurus Judge revolver an ideal personal and home defense  gun include:

  • A long cylinder, which allows individuals the capability to shoot either .45 long colt ammo or .410 shotgun shells
  • A durable but lightweight carbon or stainless steel frame construction
  • Fixed rear sight and easy to see, fiber optic front sight for quick and easy target acquisition
  • Soft rubber ribber grip that conforms to the grip of any hand and secures the revolver while absorbing recoil
  • Long rifled barrel that offers wide disperse pattern when shooting .410 rifle ammo and guides a .45 caliber bullet to the target, making the revolver perfect for close range shooting
  • Taurus Security System which allows users to securely lock the firearm using an inconspicuous key-lock system

Because the popularity the Taurus Judge has seen, there are now a wide variety of models available. Each of the Taurus Judge versions include all of the expected features such as .45 and .410 shooting capabilities as well as additional features that make these revolvers unique.

Best Calibers for Home Defense

Any gun, chambered for any caliber of round, is better than none if you find yourself in a situation being confronted by someone wanting to hurt you. That said, smaller, less effective calibers may not protect against an aggressive, violent and most likely larger person. It may not provide the stopping power necessary. There are many more calibers than what is represented here. As the focus of this article is home defense, I list calibers that are effective for home defense. If you are looking for ammunition recommended for self defense please read this article: Which Round For Self Defense.

.38 Special Caliber

Many experts consider this cartridge to be the minimum caliber necessary for adequate personal protection.  .38 Special ammunition is loaded to two pressure levels: standard pressure and +P. Standard pressure loads may be used in any .38 Special revolver, but +P loads should be fired only in steel-frame .38 Special revolvers.

.357 Magnum Caliber

This caliber round has more stopping power than any other handgun round, however .357 Magnums have a lot of blast and kick. If you are not comfortable with such powerful recoil and kick I would suggest that you use a lower caliber round. The ability to effectively control your firearm is important, and you will be able to fire lower-recoil rounds more rapidly and accurately. Another benefit is that the .357 Magnum and the .44 Magnum revolvers will also fire the .38 Special and the .44 Special, respectively. This versatility allows you to fire the less expensive special ammunition for practice and the more expensive magnum ammunition for defense.

9MM Caliber

The 9mm caliber round is fast, straight shooting, light kicking, easy to find and inexpensive to shoot. It can be found in full-size guns and in small concealed-carry ones.  Modern law enforcement agencies and militia (including ours) worldwide commonly use this ammunition for these reasons. It is more than powerful enough for self-defense.

The 9x19MM Parabellum cartridge, like the .45 ACP, has been around since before World War I. Millimeters describe the size, rather than fractions of an inch, because of its European origin and creation for the Luger pistol. The bullet diameter is the equivalent to .35 caliber.

.40 S&W Caliber

The .40 S&W cartridge offers heavy rounds with a lot of velocity, while remaining comfortable for most to fire. It’s diameter is .05 inches smaller than .45 ACP. and has higher velocities then the .45 ACP. These speeds with the use of hollow point bullets makes for a very good combination. The higher speed ensures that the hollow point expand in the target as they are designed to. The recoil and kick is slightly greater than a .45 ACP but not overwhelming.

.45 ACP Caliber

The .45 ACP is an excellent cartridge for self defense. Big, loud and powerful and is nearly half an inch in diameter! Because of its blast and recoil, the .45 ACP is a round that is best handled by the experienced shooter. This does not exclude women! My Kimber .45 Tactical Ultra Carry is overall my favorite gun, hands down! The .45 ACP’s relatively large mass bullet and slower travel, means there is less chance of over penetration. Using a hollow point bullet reduces this risk even further as all of the bullet’s kinetic energy transfers to its target. Stopping power is obviously a big key factor here, the .45 is an effective caliber. This caliber ammunition is more expensive, but this is going to be one of those things that may be worth the extra money.

The choice of which caliber to use for home defense; of course is a personal one. Your size, sensitivity to recoil, your home environment and preference for a revolver or pistol are all important to consider in making these choices.

Using a Gun Mounted Light

mounted gun light

A light mounted to your home defense handgun can be very helpful when there is dim or no light. I have done some training with a hand held flashlight as well as with a light mounted on the firearm. I must say it was a real challenge to coordinating and shooting straight while dealing with a handheld light. Of course practice is key and training yourself to position and use it effectively is key. Using a firearm mounted light in practice clearing a dark home was much more effective. I could move with ease and know I could put the light where I wanted it, when I wanted it without fumbling. I also leaves the second hand totally available for better grip or perhaps maneuvering, opening doors or even shielding a family member. Here is a great article on using firearm mounted lights by Shooting Illustrated. How to Properly Use Weapon Mounted Lights

I am certainly no ballistics expert and have based all of the above on research, my personal experience and those of other fellow female shooters.


The most important thing when making the decision on which is the best gun for home defense is to get a gun that you like, feels good in your hand, is comfortable to shoot and one you want to shoot. For more about finding the best gun for you, read The Best Gun for Women. An inexperienced shooter, with any caliber, will not be anywhere near as able to defend themselves as an experienced shooter with even a less-than-desirable caliber. So, practice and lots of it is not only fun, but necessary to confidently and successfully defend yourself and your home with your gun.

Want to learn more about how these guns work? My article, Let’s Learn About Guns will help guide you through it.

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2 thoughts on “Do You Need A Handgun for Home Defense?

  1. Franklin White says:

    I found it interesting how you said that a 9mm caliber has more than enough power for self-defense. My wife has been really scared lately about our neighbors and thinks they are going to rob us or harm us. She knows how to shoot a gun, so I’ll go buy a 9mm pistol so that she can feel safe with it when she’s home alone with our kids.

  2. Tyler Johnson says:

    That’s good to know that a higher caliber gun might be better for a home invasion. I would think that would stop pretty much anyone or anything. I’ll have to consider getting something bigger than a .22 if I get a gun.

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