Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Recommendation on Hand Cannons

I had a buddy contact me and another mutual friend by email asking for some advice about what to select for a home defense weapon.  I've rewritten some of it and my response to preserve identities (although, a lot of you probably know who I am).

My buddy wrote:

"I racked my brain for my favorite firearm enthusiasts and I came up with you two patriots. If I were looking for a pistol for home use (equal parts protection and shooting range fun), what would be some good options? Ideally, I'm interested in something that would be good for both my huge man paws and the wife's baby hands. Also, something that can use ammo that is widely available and affordable. I'm open to both revolvers or semi autos and would be interested in your opinions of each for the uses I've mentioned above. Go nuts, fellas."

I responded:

"This is probably going to be long, sorry.

I will come at this from a self defense standpoint vs. plinking, but will try and include some notes as it relates to range time.  My line of thinking surrounding home defense weapons goes something like this:

Rifles are superior to pistols for almost all home defense scenarios (save one: having to scoop up your children to get to your "safe room/area" where you would hole up and call 911, generally need a free hand to do so) and contrary to popular belief do not over penetrate walls any more (and sometimes less) than buckshot or pistol calibers.  Rifles are easier to shoot, "hit harder" and have greater capacity especially in the case of an AR.  Since you asked about pistols, then I'll stick to those, but just keep that in mind.


If this is a defensive pistol first and foremost, then you're going to want reliability to be your number one priority.  That means revolvers and a select few semi-auto's.  Revolver's have the reputation of going bang every time.  Semi-auto's such as Glock and Smith and Wesson's M&P series of pistols are dead nuts reliable and are on par with the reliability of revolvers in my humble opinion. 

There is one advantage of revolvers that fall into this category.  If, God forbid, you're in a close range fight (i.e. the bastard is on top of you) and you tried to use a semi-auto for a contact shot, then you will probably end up causing it to malfunction due to the slide not being able to move freely though the firing cycle.  There's no such concern with revolvers due to the way they operate.

In my opinion, for pure reliability it is a tie between a revolver and a quality Glock or M&P (not including the contact shot scenario).

Nothing to really say in regards to "fun" shooting except that either one shouldn't crap out on you in the middle of a session.  If it does, it's usually a magazine or ammo issue.


The tie breaker between the two, in my mind, is capacity.  Full size Glocks and M&Ps have two to three times the capacity that revolvers have.  

Capacity goes to semi-auto's.

Less reloading at the range as well!


Reloading is a lot easier too with semi-auto's vs. revolvers.  Drop the magazine, slam another home, and rack the slide.  Boom, back in business.  They do make speed loaders for revolvers, but I have no experience with them and there just seems to be more "movement" involved to reload.  Not good in a crisis situation.

Also, you may want a weapon light (weapon mounted flashlight) on your home defense weapon.  Most semi-auto's come with "rails" to mount these lights.  There are revolvers out there as well, but not as many come with a way to mount a light.  A good light will allow you to operate the controls with your support hand so that your trigger finger is free to do what it needs to do.

Other Considerations

Since this is a home defense pistol, go as big as you can without sacrificing your ability to manipulate the handgun (i.e. your grip should not change when hitting the magazine release, slide release, etc) and being able to make quick follow up shots (about 1 second or less in between shots).  For example, when I talk about the size of the gun, I am talking about a full size duty weapon that the police would use.  Glock makes several 9 mm version handguns.  The full size is the Glock 17.  Glock also makes a compact Glock 19 and sub compact Glock 26 both in 9 mm as well.  If your wife is the limiting factor due to her hand size, then just be aware that you both may have a hard time controlling a smaller weapon due to the reduced weight of the gun i.e. recoil is more pronounced.  That may require you to go down to a smaller round.  My wife and I both have our own handguns because of this.

My Recommendation

Can you guess what I am going to recommend? 

Go with two separate pistols if possible.  If you're not wanting to do that right away, then you'll have to figure out something that works for both of you.  You'll probably end up sacrificing some capacity and gaining some more recoil in order to accommodate your wife being able to manipulate the pistol with a good firing grip.

If you're down for an arsenal (two guns is considered an arsenal on the West Coast, right?), then I would say that you would do fine with a full size Glock or M&P.  I suggest 9 mm because ammunition tech in the past few years has grown leaps and bounds and having the capacity of a 9 vs. 40 or 45 trumps any slight advantage of wounding capability.  The caliber wars will rage on, but that's my take.

For the Missus, since she probably has the same sized hands as my lady, I would suggest something like the M&P Shield.  It is a compact single stack 9 mm.  This means that it is smaller AND slimmer than most compact semi-auto's which are double stacked magazines.  However, this comes at a cost of capacity.  I believe the Shield can hold 7 in a standard magazine and 8 in an extended magazine.  An additional round can be in the chamber so I believe that means the max you could get with an extended mag would be 9 rounds.

How's that for an answer?  Let me know if you have any follow up questions."

So, what did I miss?  Comment and let me know.


  1. Nicely done. Simplified a big subject, and straight to the point.

    If you want, and if your friend is ok with reading a lot, feel free to send along a piece I wrote for my blog a while back- it's more like a general purpose buyers guide, that will back up and expound a little on some of the stuff you already mentioned.
    Not that I'm an expert, but it's there already so someone may as well get some use out of it... lol

    1. I think he sometimes reads this blog, but I'll pass along the link!

  2. Given that, especially in a 'one gun' scenario the house gun can get pressed into carry duty when needed a 'compact' model is an excellent answer. Specifically a Glock 19. The full sized 17 is excellent too but for most impractical to conceal in anything less than a baggy sweatshirt.

    Put a good light on the gun. The Streamlight TLR-1 is a reliable duty grade light and reasonably priced.

    While I am a Glock guy the M&P is a fine weapon. I prefer 9mm due to round capacity and low cost for training but .40 and .45 are fine too. A compact or full sized Glock/ M&P in 9/.40/.45 is a fine option.

    Do note that 'pool' guns have to be sized to the smallest individual. 'Tiny' can shoot a Glock 19 or an M&P Shield but his 5'2" wife probably cannot shoot a big Glock 20 10mm or .454.

    1. Great advice. I'm not sure if my buddy plans on carrying outside the home, but your points regarding that are very valid if he thinks it may ever be an option.

  3. Good advice. Glad to see someone post a cogent response to this oft asked question.