The best defensive handguns in the world

1.  Glock 23. .40 cal.
2.  Caracal C .40 cal.
3.  S&W M&P .40 Sub Compact.
4.  Springfield XDM 3.8 Compact .40 cal.
5.  Glock 19. 9mm.
6.  S&W M&P Sub Compact 9mm.
7.  Caracal C 9mm.
8.  Glock 29 10mm.
9.  Glock 30 .45 Auto.
10.  Springfield XDM 3.8 Compact 9mm.

This list is going raise a few eyebrows. There are many popular guns that are absent. But this isn’t my tipping the hat to the popular. If I was to do that, then this list would have SIG’s, 1911’s, H&K… You know… the guns that are out dated, with cult like followings, premium pricing, and shortcomings for defensive use.
I’m looking at the best options for today and tomorrow. Feel free to disagree.
You’ll notice that I favor .40 cal over 9mm. I also favor the midsized options.

56 thoughts on “The best defensive handguns in the world”

  1. Best defensive handguns in the world

    1) The one that your are the best with
    2) The one you have when you need it
    3-10) See above

  2. I will admit the Glock is a top 3 fighting handgun in the world, but the Caracal is a new gun and really hasn’t been proven under fire. I don’t understand why a USP or even the P30 isn’t included anywhere if you are factoring reliability as it even outlasted the Glock in torture testing (93, 000+ rds). What is this list based on?

    1. I own a P30. I love to shoot it, and shot it well in competitions. It’s even the only gun I own that I could run almost as well when my left hand was in a cast. But have you tried to find replacement parts for one?

      A big part of why my competition and carry guns are Glocks right now is that I dont’ have to wait 6 months for a recoil spring.

    1. Because with 180 grain loads, which I prefer, I am not giving up much over a .45, and it’s a big jump over common 9mm. With Winchester PDX1, it’s a fantastic load.

      1. Fair enough. I am a believer in “most handgun calibers suck equally” however, and have yet to see much difference between similar premium 9×19, .40 S&W and .45 ACP loads. I like the PDX1, I even carry it. However, I have noticed in Winchester’s sales brochure that all three of those calibers penetrate within tenths of an inch of each other, and expand to within thousandths of an inch of each other. I do not think that there is any real ballistic advantage of one of those three calibers using similar components over the other.

        1. There is more to it than just Gel Test Results. Especially if you try knocking over steel plates in a match. With 9mm, sometimes they just don’t fall down. With .45 sometimes you have an extra mag change you wouldn’t have had with a 9mm. The .40 gives me a nice fat capacity and I don’t have to tag a plate twice to knock it down.
          This translates to barrier penetration. The 9mm has deflected off targets that .45 penetrated. This was witnessed by yours truly against a windshield. The .40, using the 180 grain loads is very close to the 185 grain .45 loads that I saw smoke through that windshield like it was butter.

          1. I can see how that would inspire confidence, or a lack thereof. I do not have your experience, only the funny charts that companies provide trying to sell me ammo and some independent research available from the interwebs.

  3. Respecfully keep all of the polimers, I trust a Colt 1911a1, a Berretta 92 FS, or a Colt Python 357 Mag and have done so for decades

    1. Oh, I love my 1911 and Beretta 92FS as well. But I consider them to be outdated and outclassed.

      1. I don’t want to chance the long term possibility of polimers getting brittle with age and exposure to improper solvents,then having a critical failure at the worst time. 92FS #1 was placed in semi retirement after aprox 35,000 and replaced with 92FS #2. I also agree with the USMC who are going back to an updated version of the 1911 from Colt. The only plus side to the polimers is in the ones with magazine disconect and different grip availibilitys. Am also considering a lightweight hammerless 357 snub nose. Once again ,Respectfully

        1. We have seen Glocks and other poly guns outlast metal framed guns. Getting brittle with age hasnt been an issue.

          1. Even the old Bakelite bits from the soviets has been going strong for well past 50 years. And that’s “space age!” tech.

            If you are worried about the modern polymers failing after half a century, you may be worrying just a hair too much. At that point, buy a new gun.

  4. Aside from the S&W’s, I’ll never buy any of those. I have a Glock 17, but it’s the clunkiest, sloppiest, most uncomfortable, and unreliable POS in my collection. It makes my Ruger P90DC feel svelte, and P90DC can shoot circles around the 17. Furthermore, it doesn’t turn into a jam-O-matic when the weather starts going below freezing.

    The XD’s are ok, but it feels like the bore is 4″ above the trigger, and the grip safety is a completely unnecessary “feature”.

    1. No, you can shoot the Ruger better than the Glock because of you. The Glock is no less accurate.

    2. Funny how Bob Vogel can dominate a sport with a brand of gun that so many claim is utter junk.

      Just imagine if he used a “real” gun. [/sarcasm]

  5. Guess I’ve got nothing to complain about since my G29 made your list. I’ve thought it to be the best defensive handgun for some time now.

  6. What about the Glock 32? Midsized, more stopping power than the 9mm and if the Air Marshall’s trust the .357sig shouldn’t we all?

  7. I’d dump one of the springfields and throw in a CZ 75, dump a caracal for the Walther PPQ.

  8. Meh, the price of effective commercial ammo is pushing a lot of people and agencies into the 9mm Luger. The price of domestic firearms is pushing a lot into polymer or imports. The way things are going my next pistol will be a polymer import. I’d almost cough it up for an Armscor .22 TCM only they are using a widebody 1911 frame and I want standard with thin grips. Sorry just venting over the price of everything these days.
    I’m also looking at the Lee Hand Press with the breech lock die adapters. I could hide that setup in this apartment fairly easy.

  9. I don’t have a problem with the list even though I have don’t own any of them. Don’t know anything about the Caracal but willing to look. The key is that they are mostly midsize guns and therefore are more likely to be found with you when needed, satisfying the first comment. That’s my definition of defensive anyway. It needs to be on you. If you’re at home, you’re not going for a handgun. And sorry fella’s, all you guys carrying hand cannons are larger than my safe and are wearing tents for pants – so you can hide it anywhere… 🙂
    I’m not skinny, but my goal is to carry almost everywhere, wearing anything. So mid size and smaller is the only option for comfort. On the polymer / steel thing – how many of us only have one handgun? Most can afford to buy a new handgun every 5 – 10 years if you are buying $20 – $35,000 trucks and cars in the same time period. Unless polymers are proven to break down in time of need (haven’t), then durability should not be a consideration imho.

    1. I carry a Springfield widebody all day, every day. Wearing normal pants. Good leather is the key.

  10. I like the list even though I do not own one gun on it. I am looking at a G29, to go with my G 20. As I carry for four legged critters, primarily, that require deep penetration I prefer the .45 ACP hard cast lead bullets. Or the higher velocities of the 10mm. I find that with the newish Glock SF models that the fit smaller hands good. I have not had a chance to try any of the Gen 4s so don’t know how they stack up. I want to try the XDM’s and M&P’s in .45 but have not had a chance to get my hands on any of them.

  11. Ogre, I was looking for the Sig P229 on your list. The XDM 3.8 is about the same size, but has a very high bore axis. The Caracal has low bore axis and positive reports, but were (are?) extremely hard to find and had a recall. The Glocks are out, due to bad fit, though a G29 would’ve made a decent wilderness defense gun. That leaves the M&P’s, which I wouldn’t take off the list.

    So are all metal pistols outdated now George?

    1. That’s a good question, Rich. I’m not saying they are, but probably. See, you know I love the 229. Accurate gun. Solid. Reliable. But it’s thick and heavy. The advantage that these guns I’ve named have over the 229 is that they are nice and small and light, and can be run using full sized gun magazines for greater ammo capacity when needed. I’m talking regular mags, not extended 30 rounders or what not.
      And come on, you can’t complain about the XDM’s high bore axis when advocating the SIG. This SIG is just as tall, if not more so.

      1. Thanks for your comments. So perhaps my perception was off on the bore axis situation. So if Glocks were to fit my hand comfortably, there’s a chance I’d have one today. That brings up a couple of writing topic requests. First, would you write more in depth details about Glock grip plastic surgery (modification)?. Gundoc indicated the bump is thin and can’t be ground on. 2nd idea, shake folks up again and give a list on radically low cost BUG’s, say <$325. I'd guess Kel-Tec and NAA would make your list, but what else?

        1. Those are both topics I’m already planning on hitting. The first via Video Post.

  12. This isn’t really a Top 10. It’s a Top 2.

    1 – .40 polymer stryker-fired double stack
    2 – 9mm polymer stryker-fired double stack

    I like warhawke223’s answer: The best defensive handgun in the world is the one you have one you when you it.

  13. Any list that puts an XDm in .40 as “better” than a Glock 19 is objectively wrong. There’s nothing you can do defensively with a .40 that you can’t do better with a 9mm, and get more bullets as a bonus.

    1. I’m biased to the .40. And I do like the XDM 3.8 Compact. It’s a great pistol.

  14. Great list. Except if you live in MA and are subject to the MA compliant trigger for the S&W. It’s horrendous at best. I carry a sub-compact Ruger LC9 with the above mentioned Winchester Defenders, which are 9mm +P and 124 grains. Crossbreed horse hide IWB holster and I can forget I’m wearing it. The problem I have is that my chest to waste size is +11 (most men are 6-8) so I have to get all of my shirts darted in at the waste or I’ll look foolish. Glocks and Springfields are too blocky, and after I spend 170 bucks on a trigger kit for the S&Ws I’m into an M&P for 750-800 dollars… no thanks! This list is great in that you have embraced 21st century handgun technology.

  15. Ahhh, what’s better than clicking on the Ogre’s Top 10 List and seeing the first gun I bought at the top of the list. I can’t take credit – that goes to the good man behind the counter at Southern Police Equipment in Midlothian, VA. Thanks Bro!

  16. No double action guns on the list? Umm the ATF lists the Glock (all models) as a double action only gun…acouple of the others would make this class as well if memory serves. As to ammo types, the .40 is dominate on the west coast and the 9mm is only allowed for those that can’t handle the .40’s….at least in LE shops.

    1. The ATF calls it a DAO because Glock, while calling the action a Safe Action, pushed the ATF to give it the DAO Classification so some specific Law Enforcement Agencies could adopt it. It was a political move on Glock’s part.
      By calling it a DAO, Chicago and New York, I believe are the ones that were then green lighted to buy the Glock Pistols in quantity.
      This Safe Action is mostly cocked all the way and only needs the striker to be pulled back a fraction more before it can be fired. Same with the M&P. As such, it’s not a tradition long stroke DAO regardless of what the ATF says.
      You are talking about the same guys that confiscated Airsoft guns because according to them, they could be made into Machine Guns. You are talking about the same guys who questioned our Rifle Stock with a plastic dowel on top to hold a Scope so customers could see what the scope looked like on a representation of a gun. Hogue Stock… Plastic rod on top… Scope clamped to the plastic rod. The ATF Agent about lost his shit on that. And that’s the Agency you look to for clarification?
      The XD’s on this list is fully a Single Action, unlike the M&P’s and Glocks… They do have good triggers. Potentially the best on this list.

  17. I am developing a urge for a Glock 30 sf (Short Frame) the only thing holding me back, is finances and the front bumps do not fit my fingers and I suspect my rude street gesture finger might get mauled betwixt the bottom of the trigger guard and the first bump. Do any of the Glockenspielers have a grinding fixture for making the front of the grip straight?
    Geoff
    Who likes .45 ACP, but tends toward small flat 9mms and is heading for high cap 9mms, due to Zimmerman conditions here in Florida.

    1. You have to grind by eye and feel. This isn’t as hard as it sounds. Just take your time.

  18. Luckily I’ve never been in a defensive gun use situation (and pray I never will), so I can only go by reports of other people’s experience. That being said, it really seems capacity (and personal skill) tends to trump caliber when it comes to self-defense use. The odds are that if attackers are coming after you and your family, such as a typical home invasion, you don’t need to worry about shooting through windshields or drywall. If you do you’ve gone from a defensive to an offensive situation. I’m not saying that a defensive situation can’t justifiably be turned into an offensive situation, just that it would be outside the norm. This is why I personally own 9mm for defensive carry.

    P.S. I also fall into the category that pistol calibers are not the ideal for defensive use, but are much better than my fist or a pocket knife. At home I have a preference for 12g with my handgun as my back-up.

    1. Yes, but when you combine Capacity and Skill and Greater Caliber… it’s better than Capacity and Skill and Lesser Caliber. Look at it like a Math Equation. All three factors are important… But when the values of all three are greater, the Sum Total is greater.

  19. Looking to ATF….hardly. But how you define a thing is less important in reality then what it really is. You say patato I say potato it’s still a ground grown tuberous vegetable not an aardvark. I was merely pointing out that YOUR definition of double action may not be the only one and yours may be in dispute. I am well aware of the why some jurisdictions went with Glock’s but the reasoning they used to get there is now global in its implications whether you like it or not.

  20. Sorry the Sig 226 is the top gun as far as I am concerned followed by the CZ-85. Both in 40 if possible. If my budget could afford it the list would include the SIG 210 and Sphinx 9mm.

  21. excellent list my edc is a springfield xd9 subcompact, imo the extra capacity 13+1 over glock’s 26 10+1 is a deal breaker, and maybe a life saver.

  22. Great post – sure to draw lots of opinions. Like others, I would have liked to see a Sig somewhere in the list. I agree about the ‘blockiness’ with the compact 228 and 229s. However, the 226 is a battle proven design to put it mildly. I’d stake my life on it. All in all, love your site and respect the work you do. Keep it up!!

  23. Ya’all are not just talking to other ‘high-rollers’ out here…
    I have my Glock 17 with 147 gr sjhp’s.
    I also just acquired a “Rock Island Armory” 1911A1.
    My pattern is far superior with my all steel .45, but seven rounds (8 with 1 in the hole) is not quite as comforting as seventeen 9mm (18 with one in the hole) for extended shooting.
    I traded my Kel-Tec P11 (9mm) and kind of miss that looong heavy trigger pull…
    May the holiday season treat you all well… roger

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