What Is The Best Survival Handgun?

by Michael K

What Is The Best Survival Handgun?

AHHH…The age old question. One would think that anyone reading this, is of course interested in their families and their own personal survival and protection. We hope our worst fears are never realized, but we all know that, it certainly could happen, HERE! It seems that the volume of bad news concerning our future well-being is coming at a unstopable and ever-increasing pace.

With the financial/debt crisis, environmental disasters, hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires and earthquakes seemingly happening on an almost on a daily basis, I dare say the domino’s are falling at a more rapid pace. Our futures are, at best, in doubt. We all know, that in order to have any sort of chance to survive any future calamity depends on our preparedness, determination and our own wits.

I am sad and ashamed to say, I do not believe that the American people will exhibit the same level of calm and civility that the Japanese have in face of the recent earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.It will be many years, if ever, they get that area back to normal. My heart goes out to them.

In the event of an American national or even local catastrophe, we may get lucky and survive the initial shock wave, but what’s next? The strongest instinct humans have is the will to survive. In the event of a disaster, those not prepared will quickly resort to any means necessary to survive. Therefore we have no choice and must prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

With that being said, the potential need for personal defense becomes more important than ever before. So, which handgun should I get, or, what handgun do I need? Which one is best? The truth is, there is no such thing, however, your choice should depend on a number of factors, such as, what model or type can I shoot the best?

The answer is simple.

The best handgun is one which you can HIT the best with. Any hit is better than no hit at all. However, if one does not or cannot HIT the target, does it really matter? No one has ever been subdued with a loud noise, which is what a complete miss actually is. A miss with a .44 magnum is worthless, a hit in the eye socket with a .22 rimfire is golden.

Equally important, given that the target is hit, in the right place (center of mass), is that the target is hit with enough power to stop or prevent your adversary from continuing to do whatever it was that caused you to shoot in the first place. A hit with an inadequately powerful round will not immediately solve the issue and will most likely only serve to enrage your adversary.

Equally, a hit must be accomplished quickly enough for you to keep from becoming a victim yourself, in other words, do unto him before he does unto you, because, if you don’t, he will. Simply put, it is about accuracy, power and speed. A balance of the three has proven to be the most effective defense strategy.

Even more important, one must be willing to do whatever is necessary to protect one’s own life or their family’s. Guns are inanimate objects, they do not kill by themselves, they require a humans’, express direction and manipulation to do that. If you are not willing to pull the trigger when it becomes vitally necessary, you WILL become a victim. Therefore,

ATTEMPTING to use a firearm for self-defense is really, after all, a moot point, one MUST do, or die. One must have the WILL to survive and be willing to do whatever becomes necessary to save ones life should the moment of truth present itself. You have to be able to actually pull the trigger if it becomes a matter of life or death.

OK, I see the need, now, what handgun should I get? Just a minute there pilgrim….. you ain’t there yet. The closest we can come to determining what is the best handgun choice for any given individual, is, what will best for THEM, everyone is different, we have different size hands, skill levels, perceived needs and, for most of us, there is a cost factor to consider.

We are very fortunate that today, our current choices are vast and varied. Handguns come in all shapes, sizes, cost and power levels. By definition, handguns are defensive in nature, purpose designed tools for defense. They truly are a “last-ditch” defensive. There are much better choices for any type of “offensive” use or hunting (though some do hunt with handguns).

Being relatively small and light, they are highly portable, quickly employed and are, of course, even concealable, hence their close range superiority for personal defense.
Ok,OK… I get it. So, what should I buy? Well, to put it simply, one that you can hit well with, quickly and has enough power to get the job done.

What works for one person may not work well for another. First and most important to consider, is reliability. The weapon MUST be absolutely reliable, function properly, all the time, every time, without fail. There is nothing worse than a weapon that fails just when you need it the most, Murphy’s Law. “Fit” is very important.

A grip surface area that is too large for your hand affects controllability and shootability. Too small a grip is just as bad as it increases the perceived recoil impulse, also adversely affecting controlability. Any handgun must fit you comfortably in order for you to effectively employ it. High visibility sights are very important as well. Sights are the steering mechanism of any firearm.

If the sights are not visible, not aligned properly with the target, you will never hit anything. Fiber optic sights are highly visible, even in poor light, but are not very durable. Lasers are NOT a good idea in my opinion. Should there be any dust or smoke in the air, such as from firing your weapon, the laser beam can be seen and traced back to its origin. NOT a good thing when someone is trying to do you bodily harm.

In a hurry up, do or die situation, I do not want to waste time looking for some little red or green dot on the target. With just a little practice, normal iron sights are MUCH quicker to see, find, and align. Any sort of optic on a fighting handgun is simply impractical. Also, anything that is electronic is failure prone and requires a power source, another negative one might not be able to deal with long-term in a survival situation.

A quality trigger is a must for good shooting. A long, heavy, gritty, creepy trigger is NOT conducive to accuracy. A 3 to 3-1/2 pound trigger pull weight is ideal, if you are skilled enough to use it. More on that later.

More verbage has been written regarding which cartridge/caliber is best for defensive use than you can shake a bunch of sticks at. The debate rages to this day. Everyone, knowledgable (or not) on the subject has his or her opinion as to what does, could or should work best.

I think it is safe to say this: ANY bullet that instantaneously interrupts the central nervous system is going to end the confrontation, instantaneously. Unfortunately, this is a hit or miss situation, no pun intended.

Very few people are good enough, accurate enough, quick enough, or are presented the opportunity to do so in street scenarios to be able to hit the CNS, reliably, on a moving, live target and make a one shot stop. Variables, variables!!! There is no pat answer.

The only thing we can say is to use the handgun that you can shoot well with, that has the most power you can direct multiple shots quickly with and PRACTICE. Practice makes perfect, ok, that’s a lie, but it does make you a MUCH better marksman and GREATLY increases your chances of survival.

Studying this subject for over 40 years, having had to employ a handgun in combat and competing in practical pistol competition for many years has taught me a thing or two. First rule of a gunfight, “Bring a gun”, ” There are NO second place winners”, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the ONLY thing.” “Use enough gun”. None of these axioms can I claim, they were all said by people more knowledgeable than I, some of you may recognize who said these words of wisdom, nevertheless, they are all true and are very good advise. We would all do well to take heed.

No one can tell you which handgun for defensive purposes is best for you. We can make recommendations but the final decision is yours. I will tell you my personal favorite. If I were to have only one handgun for defensive use, it would be a 1911 pattern .45 Automatic Colt Pistol.

I can hear all the cries and groans of protest already, everyone has their favorite. I realize I have just opened a VERY big can of worms here. However, the problem with all objections with my choice pretty much boils down to this. The John Browning designed Model 1911, IS, the premier fighting pistol ever designed.

It’s reliability, ergonomic excellence, power and sheer shootability in a close range social encounter simply can not be beaten. Proof? OK, how about the fact that EVERY single practical pistol match of any consequence since about 1975 has been won using a 1911 or clone or extrapolation of this design. There may be an exception here and there, but these are very rare, can be counted on one hand and was a function of the winners skill rather than a function of the basic design.

It has been in constant production for 100 years and is currently being copied by at least a dozen manufacturers. There really isn’t much left to discuss. When it comes to the raw ability to put rounds on target, reliably, quickly, accurately, and powerfully, nothing surpasses the combined excellence of the 1911 and the .45 ACP cartridge. Nothing is perfect, but as an instrument for self-defense, the 1911 seems to come pretty close.

One last thing before I go down in history as the world’s bigest blowhard. Get the very best quality handgun that you can afford, one you feel very comfortable and confident with, make sure it works every time, maintain it properly and learn safe handling (THE one safety rule that will always keep you out of serious trouble is this: “NEVER point a weapon at anything you are not willing to destroy”).

Most important of all, practice with it until shooting and hitting becomes second nature. Your personal handgun is nothing more than a tool, it is a poor craftsman who blames his tool for failure. A weapon can be considered as only an insurance policy, it cannot prevent social discourse or prevent someone trying to harm you and yours, that is totally up to you.

One other word of advice, once you have chosen your piece, seek professional instruction and practice as much as you can afford. Only then will you have an even chance of surviving when SHTF.

What do you think? Which handgun is best for you? Let us know in the comments below…


  1. There is a reason that the military still uses the 1911 design for many of their combat handguns – they work dependably and they kill dependably. That being said – as you have indicated – shot placement is more important that caliber. My personal opinion, however, is that more is better. Why limit yoruself to one gun? I prefer a 1911 for a combat pistol, and a 9mm for a conceal and backup. While it does mean extra ammo in two calibers, it does provide some diversity and flexibility. Another key element that people need to consider is familiarity with the proper breakdown and cleaning of their chosen firearm.

    • NC Mike says:

      Actually very few military units use the 1911. It was phased out over 2 decades ago (1985 to be exact) by the M9 Beretta 9mm. Some organizations that have more latitude to select their own mission specific weapons (like the folks that took out Bin Laden) still use the 1911 but outside of that it is merely a “decorative” piece that is issue to personnel that make the rank of General Officer.

      • axelsteve says:

        I remem ber when they phased out the 1911. I asked my friend who was active reserve marine if they put your dog tags on gold chains since they started using the 9mm crunchintinker. He picked up on my sarcasm and agreed with me. I converted him from a 5.56 man to a 30/06 man earlier. Steve

    • Actually, most military units are using the beretta 92 fs and have been for about at least the last twenty years. There are exceptions, some (very few) special units still use a 1911 or a hk MK23. One could safely say that since semi auto’s were invented, the 1911 has enjoyed the longest tie as a service pistol than any other (although on could argue that this is because it was the first semi auto pistol). Personally, I have shot many 1911’s and most where reliable and accurate. I personally use a hk usp .45 acp as my duty weapon and have put over 17000 rounds through it, it goes bang accurately every time. I also own a glock 17 (9mm) that I got for about half the price as my usp, it too goes bang accurately every time.

  2. templar knight says:

    Yay yay! And that’s the reason I have 4 pistols in .45ACP, with 3 of them patterned after the 1911. I also have a Glock 36. I really can’t argue with the reasoning in this post, but I also have a Glock 19 in 9mm, and I consider myself well-armed when I carry it with me. I do think a high-capacity firearm gives an advantage if one is forced to engage multiple attackers. Just my 2 cents. YMMV.

  3. I think the best survival handgun is actually a shot gun.

    -You can use it for hunting.
    -You don’t need a permit.
    -There is nothing scarier for a criminal than the sound of you cocking a shot gun.
    -Perfect aim isn’t as big of a deal.
    -Damage from a shotgun is going to leave you with more than a limp.

    • gary in bama says:

      my pick is the taurus judge 45/410 5 shot. 2 of buckshot 2 slug or 45 then a round of 6 shot . hard to miss with the buckshot then you have the slugs . whats the old saying a pistal is for fighting your way to your rifle .A judge just increases the odds of hitting a target that is shooting at you. on paper target it its less dramatic

    • A shotgun is generally a bit hard to carry with you, and in many states a loaded shotgun in a vehicle is forbidden by law. A good tactical shotgun is however a very good choice for home defense in certain settings, and should always be part of your survival battery.

    • Austin you are echoing my husband’s sentiments! I have often laughed at him over these points because he builds specialty long-distance rifles and shoots competitively. But he swears that ole shotgun sound puts more fear in a criminal than the sound of a tripped alarm!

    • js mccrary says:

      It IS hard to get into a concealment holster, tho…..

  4. The best handgun is the one you have with you. For day to day concealed carry, a little 380 Ruger LCP is a good one. Since I’m likely to actually have it with me, it’s better than my large caliber handgun in its box at home.

    Now if it’s a situation where having a visible gun to show people you’re armed and mean business, then by all means, lug the big gun around.

    • My problem with open carry is that it identifies you to the bad guy and tells him, “Shoot me first”. Concealed almost always makes the most sense to me.

      • GAdixiedarlin says:

        I agree OP. Several years ago I went to get my concealed permit and they screwed up my fingerprints. When I was relaying this to a friend of mine who also happened to be a chief deputy with the local sheriffs office his response was “why do you need a permit to carry a concealed weapon…it will only matter if you kill someone with it”. So, I never went back to be refingerprinted and never got my permit…but have carried one everywhere since then except when I am required to go through a metal detector. Then I leave it at home………….

        • js mccrary says:

          Don’t you think that is going to make you look more ‘criminal’ IF your Do have to defend yourself with it?
          Not all LE feel the same way – the law says unless you have a permit you are breaking the law. Need a one year vactaion?
          What if you are stopped by LE in the early days of SHTF and it is confiscated, or worse, you are locked up when your family needs you? Jus’ sayin’…

        • GAdixiedarlin,
          I guess it depends on the state in which you live. If your state requires a carry license and you’re stopped and searched for any reason, you could have some ‘splainin’ to do, Lucy. It could mean the loss of the firearm and maybe some time in jail and a fat lawyer’s fee. Better in my opinion to get the license. You might ask your chief deputy friend if he will pay your legal fees and fines should you ever be stopped.
          OTOH, if you live in states like AL or AZ, then you can drop one in your pocket or strap it on your side, and go about your business without the license. Both states also offer a license which is a good thing to get if you travel, and need the reciprocity to carry in other states.

  5. idahobob says:

    Excellent post. You have brought up ALL of the major points that need to be addressed.

    With that said, I, of course, have my personal preferences. I like both wheel guns and semi-autos.

    My preference to carry when in Grizzly Bear country, SW Model 29, 4 inch barrel. For those that do not know, the model 29 is a .44mag.

    My daily carry piece is a Glock 21 (.45 ACP). As I have owned and carried many semi-autos over the years, I have gone over to the Glock darkside! LOL!

    As for me, I believe that any handgun, whose caliber does not begin with a 4, is inefficient at stopping the zombies that roam the streets.

    And let us remember that a handgun is NOT a main battle weapon, it just helps get us to our main battle weapon, the rifle!


    • Bob
      The .357 has the best one shot shop record in actual shootings of amy other caliber.


  6. I agree with everything the writer has said. A weapon that feels right for one’s hand will be more easily manipulated, with practice, to target whatever the threat. I have big hands and a 1911 fits well as does my Glock 21. I like to carry a smaller, lighter gun but the grips are a issue…although the ever necessary element of practice, practice, and practice enters into any choice one makes.

  7. Guns are a wonderful thing.
    They are the ultimate personal protection.
    The 1911 45 cal. is great for the young and strong. Old women would play heck pulling the slide back. The grip is nice for even smaller hands and the weight is not so bad. Love the dot sights, someone with poor vision (not blind) can aim with sureness and be assured they are aiming at that big lump out in front of them.
    9mm is universal but you would have to unload the whole clip and some to bring anyone down unless you were truly an expert. The only plus is the ammo is cheap and plentiful.
    Don’t know much about the 40 cal weapon. Haven’t handled one. But the bullet will sure put a stop to a target.
    The 22 is a great starter gun and for rabbit hunting. If it is a pistol guess you could practice up close and personal gangster type shootings.
    I plan on getting more familiar with guns. Don’t want to waste money on practice. Ammo is getting dear. But there is a lot of things you can get familiar with just on dry runs and handling a gun. Figure the person that has the guns should know them. Hand them off to me and let me tell you, I will not hesitate to use it.
    Don’t get me wrong. This is not what I want to do. But I will. I am just as important as the next guy.
    Well this is all an old poot knows. Maybe this could classify me as dangerous. Yahoo!!!!! Hope so.

    • Off topic:
      Just found out on the West Coast Comcast version of TV reception ,that the History Channel is showing “After Armeggdon” at 8AM and 2PM today.
      So if you like it you can tune in.

      • It’s followed by “Day After Disaster” which is another in the genre, and a Modern Marvels on the subject of “Doomsaday Tech”.

    • Well shows I don’t know crap. XD is good.

    • Don’t tell my 66 year old wife she can’t handle a M1911 in .45 ACP. She has two, one 3″ and another 4″. Loves them and by the time she has run through our self defense exercises at the range she has gone through 75 to 100 rounds.

      Training and practice, training and practice.

      I notice further down that Jeff’s wife is quite accomplished with the 1911 also.

      • Well that is a good thing that your wife is able to manage the gun.
        I was horribly sick 12 years back and lost from 198 to 118, it ate into my muscles and strength.
        But I am so thankful that I had the tonage on me, as if I hadn’t had the fat I would probably be dead.
        My late dear mother always said, “you need to keep a few pounds on you cause you may end up needing them.
        But also I wasn’t to bright this morning. I was thinking of the Dx when I was discribeing the 1911. The Dx is really good, but the slide is really tight and I can’t do it. The DX is a beautiful gun. And like I say it would be fantastic for me if I could manage the slide. The weight and grip and dot sights are wonderful.

    • gartersnk says:

      Wasting money on practice i certainly not a waste, all the dry fire exercises etc don’t replace live fire practice – that’s where a 22 should be a part of anyones plan. You can even get one that has the same controls, weight, etc as your primary defensive gun. BTW plenty have people have died from 22 shots. As an earlier poster stated bring a gun to a gunfight. Knowing your gun like the back of your hand, and shooting it accurately far outweight the power factor. Most gun fights involving handguns are at very close range (check the statistics) multiple hits with a 22 will be devastating if placed accurately and in a vital area. None of this can be done with PRACTICE , practice breeds familarity – the most important skill – using your gun must be instinctual Just my 2 cents worth

      • gartersnk says:

        sorry should have edited better before posting please excuse the bad grammar

    • js mccrary says:

      Ellen, check out the PDX1 9mm 124 +P, excellent round and retained 95% weight in trials while producing inpressive damage.
      Why not just double tap every time?
      For those .45 lovers, Rugers 10/45 .22 pistol w/ bull barrel is set up with all contrtols same as 1911 and was designed to allow .45 devotees to practice much more cheaply but get same muscle memory as a 1911. You can get one for 2/3 the cost of a case of ammo and will save you major $$ over time, if you are so inclined. Excellent bug-out gun , too, if you accept .22 autos in that capacity.

      • js mccrary,
        You stated, “Why not just double tap every time?”
        I for one can think of no good reason – LOL. Double taps as a minimum are how we train folks, and training that way is the only way to have real control of the firearm and learn the cadence you need for successive hits on target.

        • js mccrary says:

          I have been told that many train that way. I can;t remember the phrase right now, but they say that it is getting popular to start teaching double tap to body mass and follow up to the head, just in case of body armour. Sometimes waiting to see if the first two shots have any effect can be deadly – even with body armor there will be SOME reaction, but if allit mans is stepping back and THEN returning your fire can be a deadly pause for effect. People see the films/tv and see people running between incoming rounds without damage, dropping bad guys left and right, when in reality that is seldom the case. Even when in body armor taking a round HURTS, and will cause a lull in action – but tha doesn;t mean it is over. Keep shooting until you are sure is a good rule of thumb, but I wouldn;t empty the mag unless you can defend it n court. Unfortuantely it is a part of life now that even in a perfectly self-defense situation, you have to answer to the system for you actions. Still, judged by 12 is better that carried by 6….

  8. Jeffrey29584 says:

    Ruger Single-Six, cause I don’t miss with it!!!! Ever!!!

  9. David Nelson says:

    I think the best gun for home defense would be the Spring field armory XD 45. You get quality and versatility all in one gun. With this gun you can shoot 45 ACP. It holds the most 45’s of any hand gun. More than glock etc. With this gun you can shoot it dirty so you do not have to clean it every time you shoot. They put this gun through severe torture and it did not skip a beat “jam”. ie. Testers through it down a mountain, put it in sand, froze it in water and “BOOM” every time. I did alot of research and shot a lot of hand guns before purchasing my XD. It holds 13+1. Also I have small hands and most 45’s have a big and bulky grip. This is practically a single stack!! Very slim! I love this gun! .45 is an all around great caliber. You have great stopping power!! You can see the tests they did on the gun by goggling XD torture test.

  10. Spook45 says:

    Lots of good answers to this question. My favorite is the 1911, it is the gold standard for a survival type combat oriented weapon if you look at it from that prospective. My second choice, which is also a good first is the glock 22, 40 cal. The reasoning behind this is not only the reliability and accuracy of the weapon, but also that situatinal logisitcs. IT is a very common gun and a very common caliber. The other options are based on the other prospective of the survival issue which is less combat oriented more along the lines of taking game etc. My choice here would be any bull barreled 22. auto pistol. I prefer the Ruger series due to commonalitiy and reliability. However, this is one where they are all good. The browning series(buckmark, nomad, etc.) are all great pistols, the Colt woodsman and its relitives are alos fine pistols. Any of these high functioning highly accurate and hi cap 22 pistols would be fine for taking game, and even self defense in a pinch. Ammo availability is good and they are all a great choice realy just comes down to which prospective you follow and which one you like.

  11. The round matters a great deal to me. Not only the actual caliber, but JHP vs wad-cutter etc…

    My current favorite is an inexpensive High-Point .40 with Winchester 180gr JHP. The weight and size of the firearm are a good fit for me.

    My wife’s current favorite is her Kimber .45 (1911 model) with 230gr JHP. She was top marksman in her PD (retired now) several years running with that handgun.

    I completely agree that it will vary from person to person, and if you can only shoot straight with a .22, it will hurt a lot more than a miss with a .357.

    I wouldn’t bother with a 9mm though (we are down to 1 now, and ammo is cheap so it’s a nice plinker), unless of course that’s just what the shooter can hit targets with.

    • Spook45 says:

      I have a friend who got a Hi point. Half way thru a mag of 9mm walmart ammo it started slinging parts and the slide bisected itself. they are junk. Tape a nickel to it and throw it, who ever finds it will have a nice shiney nickel. Those things are death traps they are more dangerous to the shooter than the target. spend the money and buy a glock, you will be much happier in the long haul.

      • There are lemons in every maker, though. My son shot several thousands of rounds thru a C-9 Hi Point without a problem. As to owning one, when you need it, any weapon is better than none, even if it is considered ‘cheap’.
        Reading the replies, lots of people have spent a lot of money of Colt .45s… the ‘gold standard’… which requires a lot of gold some people just don’t have. Get what you can afford and work up to a better weapon.

  12. axelsteve says:

    Well for me it would be iether a good 45 auto or a 357 revolver. A kimber 45 auto pro carry being a well made pistol with a smooth trigger and good sights.Or maybe a average 45 that you were able to tune up and accurize.Nothing too tight just something servicable that you are familiar with. The 357 revolver beacus it is hard to argue with a 357 mag.Personaly I am not into cowboy patterned guns but if they fit you fine.My hand just does not like the curve of the cowboy type pistols.And for me practice practice practice.It does not matter if it is shooting or baseball you need to practice.Some people gravitate to the 9mm or 40 caliber beacus of them being such universal calibers however I think that is a tad overrated idea.In America the 45 acp and 357 mag is common enough to easily aquire just like the 30/30. Steve

    • I have a S&W 357 revolver that is a great weapon. I replaced the stock grips with some Hogue’s and it fits my hand much better. It’s durable and very reliable.

      However, I do think that 357 ammo may be more difficult to find in the future. The military rounds will likely be the most commonly available.

      • js mccrary says:

        That is my one of my favorite things about the 9mm – next to the .22 there are more of them around to be had (following teotwawki) than any other, and if you are hoofing it you cna carry 2-1 over the .45…..no matter how good a round is if you have run out it ain;t gonna do the job…….

  13. Some other best criteria:

    Outside of practise, the one that stays in the holster because it was not needed.

    The one you have plentiful ammunition for.
    The 22lr is too unreliable. It is my understanding that European hit men (who used near assassination methods) went with the .25 centerfire because of that. I would think that .25 might be hard to get in the U.S. , so you are probably looking at a .32 or 380 as the smallest weapon type practical.

    I like the .40 S&W (Glock 22) because of the larger ammo capacity. But it, and the .45 acp is a bit much to handle for a lot of people. As you said, the best gun is one you can hit with.

  14. Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

    Michael K. thank you for writing an essay worthy of debate. I must first take exception to a couple of things you’ve asserted.
    1) LOVE is the most powerful human instinct there is. A mother (or father) will rush into a burning building to save a child’s life. A stranger will risk death in order to rescue victim from a fiery car crash. These acts of selfless heroism in the face of life-threatening events is much stronger than the will to self-preserve.
    2)Loud noice will kill someone, the military has been experimenting with noise as a weapon for several decades.

    OK, now that we got the trivia out of the way, on to the heart of your message.

    I live in California so it is unlawful for me to own or even possess a Tauras Judge. If that were not the law, I would have one because any handgun that can shoot .45 AND .410 interchangeably is high up on my gotta-try-it-list. For home invasions, a couple rounds with the .410 could slow the perp down enough to finish the job with a round of .45. And that way nobody in another room or in another house will become “collateral damage.” The handgun is heavy, so this wouldn’t work well for most ladies or youngsters, but I think it would work OK for a bedside gun.

    As for putting more lead downrange, I think I’d go with the 1911 or a Glock.

    All things considered, a handgun is not my first choice when it comes to protecting myself and others. For that, I’d like an Uzi. Ah, if only I lived in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Instead, I live in the land of fruits and nuts.

    • gary in bama says:

      the judge isnt that heavy and myS&W357 has a much harder kick. My wife likes shooting the judge over any gun i have so its our home defender [ i think she likes the was the buckshot shreds her targets].

    • Iowa Oscar says:

      Sorry to hear your dilemma. I can tell you the Judge is definitely a fun gun to shoot. Recoil surprised me as I expected a little more kick. Only downside is the 5 shot capacity. It’s nice to have around for home defense, hope I never have to use it for serious stuff.

  15. Caliber has nothing to do with the ability to take an individual down, it has everything to do with accuracy and shot placement. Everyone is talking about .45acp this and .44 mag that. If you can not accurately place a shot with a 9mm then you sure as hell better not try it wit a .45acp. I have a lifetime’s worth of experience with handguns and a career of dealing with them as a special forces weapons Sargent. Its all about accuracy and shot placement. Having the correct knowledge and ability to shoot the weapon you have is the key. You can drop someone just as fast and as effectively with a 9mm as you can with the.45 acp.

    • “Fast is fine but accuracy is final” Wyatt Earp

      Well said.

    • AZ rookie prepper says:

      I’ld say bvdd said it correctly. Shot placement is key. I too have many years experience with handguns, everything from a .22 wheelgun to a .44 mag, but my all time two favorites are the 1911 and the Berretta 9mm. My ccw is a .380 Bersa with hp bullets. I can put all my rounds into a coffee cup at 15 meters, with that sweet pistol. I agree with a previous comment, the open carry person is the one thats gonna be targeted first by the bad guys…but if all are armed openly…just sayin. An armed society is a polite society.

      • Let me be the one who disagrees here. I openly carry daily in NM and AZ, and conceal carry in TX (CHL Holder). Although I can concealed carry in NM and AZ, I open carry on purpose. It would actually makes most bad guys think twice about approaching me since I have fangs. It is also incredibly liberating. I have found myself providing assistance at night to stranded motorists or people wondering around and have little concern for my safety. When I am not armed, I will not.
        Once, I saw a guy near a gas station with a sign asking for fuel for his truck. Since I keep a 5 Gl can in my truck, I stopped and put it in his tank. It is incredible how nervous he became once he saw I was armed. I had completely forgotten I was carrying. I have no clue if he had bad intent, I just know he was not going to try anything.
        I have also gotten in great conversations in the supermarket and local Wally world with very nice folks that did not know they could openly carry.
        The only negative feedback was from a Border Patrol Agent. He actually tried the Johnny Law bit with me. I answered his questions in a very generic way and then asked him to go back to his superiors and learn the local law, bid him a good day and walked away.

    • axelsteve says:

      I like what a friend of mine states to customers in his gun shop.9mm is fine for cheap shooting however if what you want to defend yourself from something with claws or big teeth.A 45 or at least 357 magnum,9mm does not have enough stopping power for dangerous critters no matter what bullet placement. He is also x military and early retired leo. Steve

      • Retired military and current leo. I have seen many gangsters stopped with 9 mil, 380. More people in the world are killed with .22 cal than any other round, likely because it is so prolific. I have seen 45 acp do a lap under the skin without penetrating the skull, and 9 mil and 38 do the same thing. Shot placement, angle of strike, all these things factor, but shot placement and accuracy factors the most. Especially for humans. I have seen people drop big boars with 9mm. what kind of ammo are you loading, what wound cavity will it leave, this can determine how fast someone bleeds out. Just saying

  16. j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

    Pretty good write up – thanks for the article. I’d add that if you work with large cattle that can quickly put the hurt on you (i.e. cows, horses, pigs, etc.) a magnum handgun to incapacitate or kill them should also be thrown in the mix. The least expensive but high quality choice I would pick would be an old vintage Ruger Blackhawk, in at least .357 and up bore. Short barrelled too, for compact belt or undershoulder carry.

    Again, good topic.

  17. I have two 9mm pistols , yes I could have gotten something heavier but I like the 9mm . Better ammo capacity ,,lighter weight , etc . Hollow point self defense rounds and regular ball is where I have my ammo split . Great article and good points on being accurate .

  18. Matthew says:

    Ruger GP100 is my go to gun for SHTF.

    • Im a ruger fan as well , mini 30 for me as a general purpose shtf gun .

    • Love my Police Security Six- best handgun I’ve ever owned as far as I’m concerned, and my weapon of choice when backed into a corner.
      Which brings to mind the question, “Why don’t I carry it instead of the XD?”
      Shy III

    • As I recently wrote over on my site, my personal favorite for an everyday carry is the Ruger LCP chambered for the .380. It’s compact, lightweight, accurate, and has been quite dependable.


  19. I agree with the artical, for me I use a 9mm, ammo is cheap, stopping power is above par and with a hollow point you can really do some damage. I also have one of those 45 lc & 410 pistols on the nightstand, it’s only a single shot but with its 10 inch barrel and removable choke, it has a paperplate size spread at 30 yards with regular birdshot, plenty to take out whatever is walking thru my door or climbing thru my window. Whatever you have make sure you get plenty of range time with it.

  20. As far as survival goes , a handgun would not be my first choice for feeding myself . Handguns were and are designed for 1 purpose and 1 purpose only , to shoot another person ….. other than that they are worthless except for personal defense . If I were to crash-land in the sticks and be forced to walk out , I would want a high power pistol to protect my person and a high power pellet gun to get food , the hell with the .22 , some of the pellet guns are just as powerful and make less noise . Ammo is easier to carry .

  21. Ramathorn says:

    Good article, its a tough subject to address!

    I went with a Glock 22 (.40 cal) because its a common caliber & gun among friends and neighbors. Between us we have plenty of ammo and parts in case SHTF. I’d hate to be the guy with the odd ammo that runs out and has to resort to using his expensive firearm as a club or throwing object. Also i have found the Glock to be very simple and reliable… not a bad choice for the price.

    .40 cal ammo is also not quite as costly as .45 so i like saving a couple bucks when i load up. Here’s a good tip with ammo, always buy in bulk! Its cheaper and you’ll end up using it eventually.

    • Ramathorn says:

      Oh yeah, i also picked up a cheap .22lr pistol for plinking. Its not my gun to run to in an emergency but the ammo is beyond cheap for plinking or small game hunting and I figure its a good pistol for the wife since she has very little experience and the noise and recoil wont make her poo her pants. Its a good gun to practice with too because you save money not using the larger rounds as often.

      The selling point on this item was the word CHEAP. Gun was cheap and ammo is cheap.

  22. Well….a .22 caliber would not be my first choice. This woman had to shoot an intruder/would be rapist 9 times before he ran out of the house and then died on her lawn.

    Watch this heart wrenching video.


    This story, btw, is why I have a have a carry permit. I also have a gun in the bedroom. Hopefully I never have to use them.

    • gartersnk says:

      Point is 9 shots with a 22 doesn’t take long AND the intruder stopped, left and died (YEAH) no gun – the outcome would have been much different – whatever you can use in a bad situation – this woman obviously knew her gun as in a moment of intense stress – she found it and used it effectively – if someone can do that with a larger caliber great but 22s do work and for many are all they can afford to buy and shoot – an expensive large caliber gun that you can’t use without thinking is useless.

      just my 2 cents

  23. Very good article. The 1911 is a fantastic gun, without a doubt. But in a home defense application, there’s one drawback not mentioned in this article. The 1911 must be cocked for the first shot. From my perspective, the stress and anxiety of being in a defense situation makes a double action revolver or a Glock a better choice. With a double action, you simply pick it up and pull. My fav: Ruger 357.

  24. phr3dly says:

    If I had to have just one, an 8-shot S&W .357/.38. See the S&W TR8 for example.

    Reliable as heck. .38 is easy to shoot, and generally plenty for self-protection. .357 if things get really hairy for some reason. If I had to pick just one chambering, this would be it.

    For a semi-auto, I’d have to go with .45. My Glock 21 is quite controllable, and for concealed carry, the Glock 30 does quite nicely.

  25. Patriot Farmer says:

    Another great posting and it is one that always raises the ire of disagreement. But the posting is right the best handgun for SHTF is one you can fire accurately and has stopping power. For me the XDm 9mm, 1911 45acp(full size and compact), and S&W 686, are my choices. I carry concealed with all of them from time to time and occasionally I carry my 3inch 357 Vaquero.

  26. Been lurking on the site for a while, this is a great topic. I think 45acp is king and carry an XD. Another pistol that has merrit is the 5.7 FN. I carry it along in my “get back home bag” as I travel alot. It is fast round, like a cut down .223 rifle round. Holds 30 rounds. I keep 180 rounds in my bag in mags, and all togather it is as light as my XD with two mag. You can also hit man size targets out to 100 yards, neat gun. The down side is that it is not cheap, ammo not to bad.
    I’m a combat vet and have a lot of friends in the black ops community. When this subject comes up, the respect for the 22 is very high. Ask most SF guys and they will tell you the same thing, they have lost more guys to the 22 than any other caliber. Just something to keep in mind

  27. I am one of the odd balls. I use a S&W 44 magnum for open carry. I have owned and carried three different ones over the last 32 years. My first was a Ruger Blackhawk. I replaced it with a Redhawk after they came out for the double action. The Redhawk was the gun in my hands when I was false charged by a griz twice. Both Rugers had 71/2 inch barrels. After I lost the muscle mass in my left shoulder, I could not carry the Redhawk in a shoulder holster and went with a Smith with a four inch barrel. I have complete confidence in my ability to end a conflict with this weapon. For cc I carry an ultralight 38 special. I do not have as many rounds to expend as an automatic, but I don’t feel intimidated because of it. I know it will shoot the first time and every time I pull the trigger. I am proficient with it also.

    Inside the house I have my shotgun with buckshot and the two revolvers. I download the 44 magnum rounds to avoid shooting through my wall and my neighbors when it is at home. The keys are comfort with your weapon, confidence in your weapon, and accuracy with your weapon. Great article.

  28. SrvivlSally says:

    A good read regarding guns. You gave some good, sound information and advice. I absolutely agree that it takes practice, practice and more practice. As long as a gun is not too heavy, any gun will do when there is an intruder or other deviant anxious to get their grubby little hands on me, my family, or anything that I might want to eat tomorrow. Actually, I prefer 22s but a good double barrel shot gun or heavy duty rifle are also my friends. If it weren’t for the weight of ammo, I would haul around my rifle and an old time 8-shooter. If given the choice, I would take the 8-shooter. What is especially nice about it is that it does not have to be locked because it will never fire another round until the correct parts have been engaged. A plain old gun will do just fine. And it has the ability to kill big and small without worry.

  29. MustangGal says:

    I’ll give you an AMEN for the .45 ACP. I carry a Colt Officer’s Model in SS w/ 2.5# trigger, night sights from Wilson Combat and they tweaked it a bit too.

    I have fairly small hands and the Officer’s Model is a perfect fit. It gives me a really nice double tap.

  30. “The best handgun is one which you can HIT the best with. Any hit is better than no hit at all. However, if one does not or cannot HIT the target, does it really matter? No one has ever been subdued with a loud noise, which is what a complete miss actually is. A miss with a .44 magnum is worthless, a hit in the eye socket with a .22 rimfire is golden.”


  31. I’ll take my Glock 19 with good HP’s all day/everyday over the rest. It is reliable, accurate, manageable recoil, fits my hand well and I can afford to practice with it. With good ammo, it’s a true man stopper.

  32. (Chuckling again.)
    “What is the best survival handgun?” is the post.
    Again, someone comes up with the shotgun being their ‘best defensive handgun’… and then there’s, ‘nothing scarier for a criminal than the sound of a cocking shotgun’ mantra. (Again, I ask- ‘Why isn’t there already a round in the chamber?’) LOL.
    I will admit that shotguns are fine weapons. So is a sword at three feet. But when push comes to shove and you gotta have something on your person when the need arises, both shotguns and swords are not in the game.
    True, the .410/45 Judge is a small package and a proven tool- and there’s no sound of cocking to make a criminal fill his pants, which is a goodness thing. No sense shorting yourself one round.
    As to perfect aim not such a big deal- my only comment to that is that perfect aim should be a big deal. Lots of people- good and bad- have survived shotgun blasts, even at close range. Just because there are nine or 16 or 20 pellets going downrange is no excuse to not have perfect aim. Which leads to a comment about sights…
    The author is dead set against optical sights, yet the people who make a living going into harm’s way are opting for optics on their handguns- and companies are doing good business making them available.
    Too, the author is adamant about using the sights for every shot… which leads people to think the sights must always be used- very bad thinking.
    Sights are a very goodness thing, for sure- but at two feet, or even farther- sights are not always necessary. When speed is of the essence, Point and Shoot is often the only viable tactic. So practice it.
    Another mantra, ‘A handgun is what you use to fight your way to your Battle Rifle…’ always gets a chuckle from me, too. How far away is your BR when you’re at the grocery store/bank/dentists/wherever? By the time you discover a need for a BR, you’ve left the AO and have no need of either weapon.
    Speaking of running for your BR– I hope you’re all practicing your handgun techniques from a moving platform, i.e.: scooting and shooting, aka getting off the X. In your self defense scenario, your first thought should be ‘MOVE!’, then go for your hawgleg. It’s all part of the OODA loop we all need to practice.
    Speaking of ‘practice’- don’t be thinking that just because you practice that you’ll be better than the gang banger who- in your imagination- does not practice. Are you willing to bet your life they don’t practice? How many of those gang bangers have returned from Iraq, A-stan, or other combat zones, with trigger time under their list of accomplishments- and then returned to their ghetto and taught others? Don’t be relying on them not knowing how to shoot.
    To answer the author’s question- the best handgun is the one you have in your hand when the need arises. Caliber and style is immaterial if you don’t carry it. There are times when a small frame .22 is your only option- it’s better than a pencil though a .45 might be more desireable. How we carry it is important in the speed factor- the debate about open carry and concealed carry is interesting to me, mainly because I often carry ‘open’, yet it’s concealed. There’s nothing I want less at 20 below than to be digging under all my clothes to find my pistol if I need it, so it’s on my belt, under my jacket/coat- concealed by the garment. Even a suit coat covers it. When I’m not wearing a lot of clothing, I’m wearing an IWB inside my pants- usually above my groin but sometimes at my spine- depends on the shirt cover I have on. A note on spine position: it’s in the IWB holster, and because it’s a ‘right hand’ holster, at the spine it becomes a ‘left hand’ draw.
    Which brings another topic up: practice with both hands, shooting one handed and with both hands supporting the weapon. Think shooting around a corner and exposing as little of yourself as possible.
    Oh, right- almost forgot… which is best for me?
    I carry a full size XD9 daily. (I’m not very large in size, yet a full size conceals very well on my person.) A .45 would be nice, but I bought the Nine cuzza ammo cost and I shoot a lot of steel and IDPA competition and wanted to keep costs down.
    But if I could have only one gun, it’d be the Ruger Security in .357 that sits in my GHB.
    A couple of sites the ladies here should be reading are Cornered Cat and Brigid Home on The Range if they want to learn from a lady’s perspective.
    Shy III

  33. One other piece of advice that made sense to me when I heard it is this:
    Don’t stop firing when you think he is dead, quite firing when HE thinks he is dead.

  34. Steve Cover says:

    A very well thought out discussion.
    Actual first rule of a gun fight is “Don’t Be There”.
    Second rule if you can’t avoid is to “Have a Gun”.
    Training and practice!!!!
    There is much more to self defense with a firearm than just shooting.
    If you have a gun and have not been properly trained, you are just a victim with a gun.
    You do under pressure what you have trained to do.
    Without training and structured practice the possibility of fumbling around when you should be shooting is a seroius possibility.
    All in all, an enjoyable and informative read.

  35. richard muszynski says:

    i have not noticed anyone on the comments make any mention of the safety on the 1911 gov. issue Colt. for a person with small hands it is near impossible to depress the safety at the rear of the grip with enough force to allow the weapon to fire. if you are going to spend a mint on a 1911 you would be well advised to try to dry fire one to see if you have enough grip power to overcome the safety features. many small handed men and most women cannot depress the safety and hold it down and pull the trigger at the same time. granted that there are some women with big hands and strong ones. but not any women i know, women tend to be delicate in bone and muscle. not super strong grip nor strong and well muscled wrists. one of the reason that the 1911 Colt ACP was favored for home defense in the old days is a child cannot squeeze the grip with enough force to make it into fire condition. plus as was mentioned pulling the slide back to chamber the first round is not a exercise of muscles that you would use for much else in ordinary life. note also that the 1911s that are mentioned as so accurate are that way because mainly they have been reworked by a good pistolsmith to take the crudeness out of their action and trigger. so a accurate 1911 gets up into the price range for the pistol plus the pistolsmith work to over a thousand dollars in no time at all. note also the accurate 1911-A1’s are not the rugged pistol the military issued that could be fired after dipped in mud or loaded with sand. they are very delicate primadonnas that need extreme care in feeding and maintanence. not a knock about pistol as the government issue was. of course only my opinion. others will see it different but if they don’t find out if they can squeeze hard enough to overcome the grip safety then they have a handy club in their hand rather then a deadly pistol

    • axelsteve says:

      good point Richard. Before spending allot of money on a handgun maybe go to a range where you can rent one .People usally test drive a car before buying.They even test drive a car before buying to make sure they like that car even if they know the make and model. Steve

  36. Texas Gun Slinger says:

    Well now, I’ve been carrying a .45 for so many years that I can’t count them anymore. When I was gainfully employed by the Federal government, I knew many agents who although were issued .357s and .38s had them for their supervisors but carried their model 1911s at all times and they knew how to use them. The majority of all the special operation units at the time, even thou the government went to that other brand, carried many versions of the model 1911 such as the Springfield Armory model, the Kimber and others. In fact, at the time, the Springfield Armory unit was approved for purchase by OMB in limited numbers for special use only. Military units as well as some Department of Justice units.

    When I worked as a civilian police officer in Idaho, my carry was a Model 1911 Match Grade and modified by Pachmeyer (sp) in a combat 3 mode. Hmmm- – – used Milt Sparks adjustable tension leather. (his proto-type) Ah yes, those were the days!! Milt Sparks was light years ahead of the other glorified holster makers.

    Anyway, when I taught firearms for civilians, I was often asked what was the best defensive weapon for home use by women. I considered that the majority of Idaho women hunted, so I replied it was the shotgun in what-ever guage they had available. I have heard from more than one felon that the most terrifying sound was that of a Remington being racked. Food for thought. I still think it’s the best home defense for those who cannot handle a handgun.

    So for now, I carry a Sig P-220 .45. or my Tarus Millemium Pro in .45.
    After 30+ years of combat shooting, (use your imagination) I’m very confortable with my weapons. Keep’em locked and loaded!

  37. For me it is the springfield armory xd-9 loaded with 115 grain corbon +p (yes it’s a 9mm). You may find this http://www.firearmstactical.com/hwfe.htm FBI reposrt interesting.

  38. thatAway says:

    I think it has all been said and all the options are valid .
    And thank God that we can voice em (still).
    I know we are supposed to pick one weapon. So I will
    Now if is out of my stash of hand guns, that is a hard call.

    I have and older 357/38 special S&W model is 586 frame with a 6” barrel..
    I had very little work done to it because it shot Great out of the box ( not that common)
    and fit ME fine. It was not manufactured on a monday that is fer sure!!
    It is like my part of my right hand.
    I have had it for 20 plus years it has 2 different holsters. The gun holsters, wore marks in the bluing from carrying it and use it . You can hunt dear in Ohio with a handgun.
    I think, I still do????? Aint easy.. If it is not I suppose I am breaking the law sorry!

    Practice Really works & Reloading helps the cost of ammo.
    Well I do not know how many round have been through it, tons.. But is is my best friend.
    I can make nice patterns from the hip western style Or Clint style from a shoulder holster. Plenty of speed loaders, only six shots but I think it helped me to be a better shooter.
    Accuracy Practice and the well Placed shot. And that will do the trick.

    •I have a 1911 colt gold cup love it.
    •Old Ruger 9m. 15 round clips cannot rember the model.
    •An old Early 1960’s Rossi 5 shot revolver. shoots 38’s nothing else.
    •And a few more semi auto but I really like em all.
    •But I think all said I would go to my old S.W it just just
    like an extension of my hand…
    I may be set in my way.
    Do not get me wrong , I love my semi auto also..
    Just enjoy you weapons everybody fun fun stuff and listing!

    Later All!!! Heading

  39. A poster on another site once said ” at the very least , have a good pistol and a good rifle ” Many good pistols out there , even the ” cheapy ” brands that gun enthusiasts look down on can be good reliable weapons . A buddy of mine has a Taurus PT92 and loves it , we took it shooting and it had a very good feel , well balanced , shot very well and accurate , after about 100 rounds , no jams or negatives . came with two magazines and he paid a lot less for it than most people spend for a similar 9mm . Shop around on whatever cal you want and get what feels best for you . As long as you have one , how heavy it is , is a personal choice . Pro’s and Con’s for all of them . For a birding shotgun , I prefer a 410 , In Arizona , not much bigger than quail anyway .others would go for the 12 gauge , I just dont like my shoulder being pounded on every-time i shoot . Self defense ? 12 gauge all the way . again personal choice .

  40. 2 issues with the article
    First it isnt about survival its about defense. MAJOR difference! This is an issue that bugs the hell out of me every time I see it and I feel the need to address it. A true survival firearm’s primary role is initial food procurement, until other means can be developed. NO hunting is not an ideal option but initally it can be the ONLY one. Globally, with few exceptions small game is the primary source of protien. So a survival hand gun will necessarily be a small caliber firearm, generally .22 lr or magnum. The Magnum is the better suited of the two. This allows some medium game choice but is VERY limited as it is still a handgun.
    Now a DEFENSIVE firearm is in a different catagory and many people need a quick smack up side the head to remind them that DEFENSE and SURVIVAL do not always mean the same thing, just because they run a parallel course. So what caliber? here is where 99.995% of all reccomendations are WRONG! First we must analyze the needs of the round. First off it must stop the agressor. we cant make assumptions on psychological deterrent, so thinking that just scaring or wounding will work is out and out STUPID. The only option we have on this is to induce death as rapidly as possible. Now this brings me to my second complaint on the article. NO handgun round will shut down the central nervous system instantaniously on it’s own unless it’s a head shot that liquifies the brain completely… and that is a medical FACT. SO we have to do one of two things: Stop the heart or stop the lungs. This means the round must be powerful enough to destroy the lungs, the heart or major arteries so the agressor dies due to exsanguination (bleeds out). The heart and arterial damage are easy to inflict but take take time to cause death, is the threat still coming? Are you still shooting? how many others do you need to deal with? Outta time? your dead… The Lungs are the single biggest target but need to be ripped to shreds to stop their owner… a 9 mm generally wont do that… AAARRRGGGHHH the 9mm argument just came up!! OK. Plain english and any DEER HUNTER (who has actually killed deer cleanly) can tell you that you need POWER more than diamerter to do the job. BUT power is a function of velocity AND mass, not simply diameter. The heavier and larger diameter projectile will do a better job than a smaller lighter projo for any given velocity. But there is more to this. the larger the diameter and the heavier the bullet, the more recoil and muzzle clime you will experience. can you control it for a second shot? NEVER use just one round when a double tap is needed. And a double tap is always needed because bullets are cheaper than your own funeral. So let me distill this all. The correct caliber for YOU is the most powerful one that YOU can handle, while being able to rapidly and accurately deliver a second shot with. IF it is only a 9mm then you need to be extremely accurate with it because you do not have the option of that shredded lung taking the attacker out. The center of body mass gives you heart/artery/ lung combinations in case there is not a good hit. The greater the power of the round the more forgiving the target region is. BUT make no mistake bullet placement is still the key. However all the arm chair rambos out there have never been in a real firefight with multiple shooters on their asses. It just isnt as easy as they think. The caliber choice is the first step to a REAL survival situation in a defensive shooting. And it HAS to be based on YOUR ability to handle the caliber, not some Jonney Rambos wet dreams.

    • Scott,
      I wish I had read your post before I posted my rant, LOL.
      I pretty much concur, but will add that there is a sure way to stop most attackers, if you have enough skill to hit a small moving target. Mechanical failure of a joint like the knee doesn’t have to induce shock or excessive bleeding to disable an attacker. Lack of mechanical support and gravity will do most of the work, although this may only buy you some time, as the attacker may still be able to present a threat from a distance if also armed with a firearm.

  41. In answering the question, “What Is the Best Survival Handgun?” I have to wonder what is meant by survival. It seems to me that the author didn’t really answer his own question, or perhaps phrased the question incorrectly, immediately jumping to a conclusion that the firearm was for personal defense. By chance I’m teaching an Ohio CHL (Concealed Handgun License) class this weekend which is based on the NRA Basic Pistol curriculum, so Assuming I will only have a “single” survival handgun, I would begin by answering the question we ask all of our students; “what is the intended purpose of the firearm?” From my perspective, a “Survival handgun” would need to be as versatile as possible, allowing for use in defensive situations against zombies and other bipedal species, as well as having the ability to take game from deer to birds, rabbits, and squirrels. For me, the only firearm and cartridge collection that would meet all of these criteria is a good quality double-action .357 Magnum revolver, with a 5-6 inch barrel, along with a boatload of compatible speed loaders. As for the brand, there are many good ones, so I will let those religious wars be fought by someone else.
    I think the effectiveness of the .357 cartridge as a personal defense solution is undeniably one of the best, and for game such as White Tail Deer and perhaps even small Elk, the cartridge is more than adequate. I’ve handgun hunted deer with .357 for more than a decade, and in Ohio where modern cartridge rifles are prohibited; there are thousands who choose the handgun as their hunting tool. Additionally, the gun will readily fire the 38 Special, which can still be lethal in many instances (like coyotes, and groundhogs), and allows practice without beating up the gun or the shooter. Finally, there are various shot shell combinations that can be used to take small game such as squirrels and rabbits, and even some birds with stealth and practice.
    While a handgun is a specialized tool that takes more practice than say, a shotgun, practice can make one skilled at its use, and the size means you can never leave home without it. While practice does not make perfect; “Perfect practice does make perfect”, and proper training and practice can make this tools simply an extension of your being.
    I would agree that a laser or any sort of optic on a fighting handgun is not a good practice, but then again, if it’s a true fighting handgun, iron sights are also generally useless. When encountering an attacker quickly moving in your direction (Google Tueller Drill) or multiple targets, one simply does not have the time to bring the sights to bear on the situation. Instinctive, natural point of aim, aka Point shoulder shooting, could be all that bails you out in that situation. In a low light environment (& yes I’ve practiced these) any sights that are not lighted (e.g., tritium) become quickly useless. Here again, proficiency with the tool takes lots of practice, and hitting a target should become as natural as pointing your finger.
    As I stated earlier I think that open carry often only tells a potential bad guy, “Shoot me first”. Concealment makes them wonder, and often that alone is enough to dissuade an attack.
    As for a specific defensive carry handgun, the .357 revolver is not the first or even second choice for my concealed carry needs, but as an overall survival handgun, I think it fits the bill well.

  42. The German army killed A LOT of people in WW2 with a 9mm , and is a standard for the US Army today as well ….. must be a reason . Just sayin .

    • T.R.,

      One of the reasons most people discount the 9mm is “stopping power” or their perceived lack of it. But, in reality when loaded with premium self-defense ammo the 9mm is an effective man stopper – I like Corbon 115 grain +p. According to Evan Marshall, the best 9mm ammo is about as effective as the best .45. And 9mm ammo is cheaper, the pistols are generally smaller and lighter weight (easier to carry), the 9mm offers lower recoil and generally has a higher magazine capacity.

      • Thats just it … who is the guy kiddin ? getting hit with a 9mm is no small matter . Just ask the guy that took a hit by a Luger or MP40 . Its no joke . Modern rounds have come a long way as you said , Corbon is pricey but well worth it . Not to mention the 9mm Baretta is a standard issue side arm for our troops now .

  43. Charlie says:

    Besides the hand gun, you need to consider the load and projectile. The .45 ACP one stop percentages range from 68% to 96% whereas the .40 S&W ranges from 86% to 96% as does the .357 magnum. I’ve got a Glock for the .40 S&W a Ruger GP 100 for the .357 magnum just to cover my bases. The .44 magnum does not really improve you odds for one stop shots especially if you have trouble handling it. True it is better in grizzly country, but I would carry a rifle if I lived there. Apparently many of us have different guns for different purposes. The Ruger .380 LCP has a 75% one stop rate with the correct load and is extremely easy to carry concealed and therefore more handy that the big one in the glove box or in the house. That’s the one I carry every where I go. There are many pocket pistols in .380 and an every increasing number of smaller concealable 9mm as well. A Corbon +P will give it a 91% one shot stop. Not bad for a concealable. I have a Kel-Tec P-11 for that purpose. And just to round things out, I have a full size 9mm, .40 S&W and .45ACP along with a military surplus Tokarev (7.62×25) and 9×18 Makarov (basically another .380). I did not purchase any of these with survival in mind, but I’m sure they could come in handy if necessary. Chuck Hawks has published and edited (but not written) a fairly complete guideline regarding the better ammunition to use in whatever defensive handgun or rifle you have. These loads are for self defense and not hunting. And bigger is not always better.

  44. 454 Casul under my left armpit
    220 SIG under my right armpit
    250 SIG in 9 on right hip
    232 SIG on my calf
    22mag NAA in my pocket

    and only 2 hands
    decisions , decisions…….

  45. axelsteve says:

    I would hate to see spud slip when crossing a creek. he will probably drown packing all that iron.We are talking survival not walking across a shopping mall.That is another thing to consider. ex military and leo is fine but I am a career civilian and perfect ammo and perfect shot placement may all be b.s. in a survival situation where thier may not be perfect anything. That is why I discount the crunchinticker and 40 cals and gravitate to the 357 and 45. Steve

  46. Browning designed a better gun. He learned from his 1911 mistakes and created the Hi-Power. Millions of soldiers in dozens of countries agree. I love my Colt and my high-cap Para but, the Hi-Power is an ergonomic masterpiece. My MBR was an FN. My SAW was an FN. My service pistol was an FN. I did bet my life on them.

    The Hi-Power has been updated. If you want the accuracy of a 1911, the capacity of a 9mm, and the dirt-simple maintainability of a Sig, and the reliability of an HK, check out the FNP-45 with the high-capacity mag. You at least owe yourself the opportunity to look at and handle one.

    I get almost twice the capacity of most 1911s in one weapon without needing to re-load. That means I can carry almost a whole box of ammo in the pistol plus 2 extra mags.

    • Bill,
      I agree that FNH makes great guns. The FNP-9 is one of my preferred carry firearms. Great gun, simple to maintain, and it comes with three (16 round) magazines.

  47. The Best Survival Handgun or Best Defensive Handgun? The 45 caliber pistol, especially in a single action semi auto is an excellent defensive firearm but falls short as a weapon for survival. The survivalist would be much better served with a revolver chambered in 357/38. The weapon can fire two separate calibers without changing cylinders, it can more reliably fire shot shells, and when configured in barrel lengths of 6 inches and longer can extend its range for big game to 75 meters with iron sights. The advantage of two cartridges could really be appreciated during a long-term collapse when additional cartridges are no longer manufactured and you happen upon the last box of 38 wadcutters on the planet. Be careful naming the best “survival” handgun but considering survival only in terms of gunfights.

  48. For my personal needs the Ruger GP-100 and SP-101 in .357 Magnum gets the nod.

    Why so? It’s versatility in a strong and perfected platform. The gun can stay loaded indefinetly with no springs being stressed when at rest. Unlike the 1911 that has it’s hammer in the cocked position and the mag springs like in any automatic design that can take set if left loaded for long periods of time. This can lead to loading problems at the time of need.

    The GP-100 5″ barrel for open carry when a show of force is needed even though it’s still in the sitting in the holster. It’s also legal to hunt deer with in Ohio.

    The SP-101 3″ barrel is for Concealed carry.

    The guns can use a variety of different power level loads with no modification including .38 Short Colt, .38 Long Colt, .38 Special and ofcourse .357 Magnum. The neat part of this set up is if you have only one gun on you and need to shoot small game like a rabbit you can do so with the light loads so as to have a meal left after the fireworks are over.

    It can also shoot bullet styles that would cause 99.5% of most auto loaders to puke. Shot shells, round ball, “Squared” shouldered full wad cutters , semi-wadcutters, and Keith style wad cutters ect will work in a revolver.

    If your willing to invest in some modification, the guns can be modified to take 54 different calibers in the 9mm/.38 / .357 family. When the modification is done the revolver is fitted to accept moon clips for all calibers rimmed and unrimmed. It done in such a way so as to still allow for the use of rimmed rounds without the moon clips and still allow the use of speedloaders . So no matter what you’ll be able to find some ammo to shoot somewhere on this planet!!!

    Another great part to me is that that the .357 Magnum makes for a good medium performance rifle cartridge out of a carbine. When loaded to original 1935 velocities it gets a 60% velocity and energy gain, where as the 9mm,.40 cal and .45 ACP only get 30% energy gain at best. The best a 9mm will do energy wise out of a 16″ barrel is that of a 6″ barreled .357 magnum revolver. On the other hand .357 Magnum will have the power of the early day .30-30 loads. Now that’s versetility!

    Other calibers of worth mention are the .44 Magnum and .45 LC (.454 Casull) revolver calibers. If you live in a dangerous game territory where large bear, hog, or moose can be a threat, a bigger bullet is better. There also versital power wise,and their is the valid argument that a 9 mm/ .38 might expand but a .44/45 will never shrink.

  49. Not really, but it is always one of those. I do like my SIGS…

  50. axelsteve says:

    Amen rifleman! I got some 38 and 357 cases if you would like them.Free just reimburse me for shipping.I also have a bit of 30/30 brass. Let me know if you want them. Steve

  51. I agree with some others on this sight that a good 9mm would be the best bet for a home defense gun, and I agree with Mr. Creekmore that the Springfield Armory XD9 appears to be about the best choice available in terms of brand and model for a defensive gun as long as it fits your hand. I have tried one as my buddy has one, and for me, personally, it fits my hand well and it is a natural pointer. To add to that, it is reliable and accurate, it has manageable recoil, it’s affordable, the trigger resets very quickly, it has a great warranty, and it holds a lot of rounds. And with 115 grain corbon +p, it is quite formidable. For home defense, although the tactical model with the 5″ match barrel would be nice, I think the duty size 4″ makes more sense because it is more versatile and would be easier to carry and conceal, etc. Now, again, I like the 9mm XD because with a premium cartridge it has plenty of stopping power and can provide a lot of quick follow-up shots. I can practice with it with ammo that is cheaper than either a .45 ACP or .40 S&W (which is vital), the muzzle flash will be substantially less than the larger calibers when nighttime unwanted visitors appear, and it doesn’t go through walls and penetrate as eagerly as the larger calibers/and or FMJ rounds. And, as a carry pistol loaded with the quality hollow points, it has less chance of hitting others with ricochet or continued flight as it passes straight through the target, and it has a grip safety like the 1911.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love the Glock 19 with its 4″ barrel (or even the 23), and if it had a smaller grip (maybe with the Gen 4 that I have not tried yet) and with some kind of additional safety, it certainly would be a consideration. But, I feel that the grip safety on the XD makes it much safer as a carry gun when holstering, etc.. For an all-out battle, I would probably prefer the XD40 over the XD9 with its increased stopping power and ammunition flexibility and its still quite good round capacity and its slightly less recoil than the .45 ACP version. If I lived in a state that had a 10-round limited and I wasn’t worried about what was on the other side of walls, etc. I would certainly consider the .40 over the 9mm. Or, if I was invested in the .45 ACP cartridge and had a lot stockpiled and used it for other things like a 1911, etc. then I might get the .45 to keep my ammunition stocks simpler. Because I live in NJ, I am not sure if I can get an aftermarket magazine that holds 15 rounds and I can certainly not get it for the XDM (for the 9mm). If I didn’t have other avenues going, I feel strongly that I would like to get a duty-size XD9.

    That being said, from a survival prospective, I have two guns that I currently use. Usually, I have my Beretta 92FS w/ 15-round magazines that I keep in my night stand. I got plenty of factory magazines cheaply for it and I had night sights installed on it. If I could purchase it again, and if the compact can take the standard magazines, then I would have opted for the compact. For a tactical/carry that I can only practice with in my anti-constitutional somewhat police state, I have a used Glock 23 (.40 S&W) gen 4 that I picked up for $300.00. I had new night sights installed on it for $120. It came with (2) 13-round factory magazines. I bought (8) South Korean magazines that were for the G22 (15-rounders) and they work perfectly although they stick out the bottom. I think I paid $11.00 each for them and when I ordered them I bought (6) G19 magazines (9mm). They were $11.00 each as well. So, for $170 (shipping was about $15 for all of them), I have (14) magazines plus the original (2) and have a capacity of 146 .40s and 90 9mms. Next, I bought a 9mm conversion barrel and it works just fine with the G23 magazines. The only thing is that it doesn’t work that well with the 115 grain bullets, and hence I use the 92FS for the night stand gun in 9mm. This setup would be almost perfect for me, except, in truth I wish it had a better safety mechanism if the opportunity/necessity ever required/allowed me to carry it daily. If it had a thumb or backstrap safety option (which would not need to be used unless wanted), and if the grip was slightly smaller (Gen 4?), I think I would prefer the Glock over the XD, especially for aftermarket and available parts and because it is a Glock and reliable and durable. But, if I could do it all over again, and I could get 15-round magazines for the XD, I would get an XD9 Duty w/ plenty of magazines, or maybe the XD40 just to be safe, and additionally, I think I would like to get the new Taurus snubby .40 cal revolver Model 405 as a concealed carry 5-shot and backup, or an XD compact.

    Others that I would whole-heartedly consider are the Stoeger 8000 (9mm), 8040 (.40), or the 8045 (.45 ACP). I could almost have gotten two of the 9s for the price of my 92FS and that would have been nice… One for each hand ! I would also be relatively comfortable with a .38/.357 revolver for home defense if I could get one with night sights at a reasonable price, and if a reasonable budget wasn’t important, I might be very happy with the Springfield Armory 9mm 1911.

  52. Bear Patriot says:

    My choice:

    Taurus Stainless Model 66 w/ a 4″ barrel (.357/.38)
    Taurus Stainless Revolver Model 651 w/ 2″ barrel (.357/.38)
    Taurus Tracker 992 (22LR/22WMR)
    Springfield Armory Mil. Spec. 1911A1 (.45 ACP)

    I have complemented these w/ the following:
    Marlin 70PSS take-down 22LR w/ a scope
    Ruger 10/22 stainless, synthetic. I have a scope, but it is not installed
    Taurus Thunderbolt (.45 Colt)
    Savage 24 (.223 LR/12 ga./410 ga. insert)
    Saiga 223 20″ rifle (.223)
    Saiga 223 16″ rifle (.223)
    Mossberg 500 Combo barrel (12 ga.)
    Savage bolt (.30/06)

    Now, I am just getting the Ammo I need, and I am considering adding a Glock 19 and a .308 bolt gun.

  53. Bear Patriot says:

    I forgot one more I want to get…

    S&W 625 (.45 ACP)

  54. Bear1911 says:

    I left off one of my main guns with my recent post and I didn’t include others that I want to get. This is my 3rd and final post… Please remove the others. Thanks!

    My handguns, and my choice:
    Taurus Judge (.410 ga./45 Colt)
    Taurus Stainless Model 66 w/ a 4″ barrel (.357/.38)
    Taurus Stainless Revolver Model 651 w/ 2″ barrel (.357/.38)
    Taurus Tracker 992 (22LR/22WMR)
    Springfield Armory Mil. Spec. 1911A1 (.45 ACP)

    I have complemented these w/ the following:
    Marlin 70PSS take-down 22LR w/ a scope
    Ruger 10/22 stainless, synthetic. I have a scope, but it is not installed
    Taurus Thunderbolt (.45 Colt)
    Savage 24 (.223 LR/12 ga./410 ga. insert)
    Saiga 223 20″ rifle (.223)
    Saiga 223 16″ rifle (.223)
    Mossberg 500 Combo barrel (12 ga.)
    Savage bolt (.30/06)

    Now, I am just getting the Ammo I need, and I am considering adding a Glock 19, another .30/06, a .308 bolt gun, and a S&W Model 625

  55. Assuming you have trained with it, The best handgun, IMHO, when you need one, is the one in your hand. Caliber is a non-issue as the trigger can be pulled more then once.

  56. The Best survival handgun is the one in your hand. That being said, I have put some thought into it and have no final conclusions. I do note that my S&W 22A is a fine survival handgun, it puts 22LR rounds right where you want them. On the other hand my DanWesson puts a much more powerful 38 special or 357 Mag round right where you want it. On still an other hand (how many hands can I get to in this discussion) my Browning HP carries much better than the 22A but doesn’t hit as hard as the Dan Wesson with 357 mags and it isn’t quite as accurate; but, it carries 12 rounds of any 9mm round I want to use. On Still an other hand (I’m up to 4 now) my Springer 45ACP is easy to carry, hits harder than the 9mm but not quite as hard as the Dan Wesson and is more accurated than all but the Dan Wesson.

    From What I’ve gleaned (from only 4 hands), any gun I have in my hand when the SHTF is going to be the best survival handgun.

  57. I started out with a Glock 17 as I was advised it didn’t require as much break in or as much maintenance as a 1911. I practiced with it, shot IDPA with it; in short I became proficient with it. Since then I’ve purchased and practiced with two different 1911 pattern guns. One (a name brand) would fail to feed about 2% of the time. I sent it to the manufacturer, took it to gun smiths, etc. and we were never able to break it of this habit. The second one was a Taurus 1911 that was serviceable.

    The long and the short was that even with much practice I was never happy carrying it (I never carried the first one it was to undependable). In the first place I never got quite as good with a 1911 as I was with my Glock. In the second place, I just wasn’t comfortable with 8+1 rounds vs 17+1 rounds. I ended up selling both of my 1911 pattern pistols.

    I sold the first one and used the money to buy a Springfield XD 45 Tactical (I wanted the full length barrel). I find that while I don’t shoot this quite as well as the Glock, I shoot it well enough. The big positive though is of course 13+1 rounds of .45. Depending on things I’ll carry the XD but I must say I tend to carry the one I have the most hours on, the Glock 17.

  58. Here’s my ticket:
    GP100 Stainless w/ adjustable sights, 4″ barrel and night sights installed (night stand)
    Glock 19 w/ night sights and 4″ barrel (night stand)
    Glock 23 w/ 9mm conversion barrel (duty, carry)
    New* Ruger SR40C (duty, carry)
    (2) Ruger 10/22 (hunting)
    Ruger Single 6, stainless w/ 6 1/2 barrel (hunting)
    Saiga .223 (assault)
    Mossberg 500 (close range defense, hunting) combo barrels
    Savage 10 .308 (hunting, long range defense
    Remingon 7 (.223)

  59. Sara Smile says:

    I have enjoyed reading this post and all the comments. Thank you all for the ideas. It has been a real challenge trying to find the right survival guns. I have decided from a survival standpoint that it would be good to have two calibers as well as a 22LR. The two I have chosen are the 9mm and .357. If I lived in brown bear country, I would probably want at least a .45 Colt.

    Currently, I have a Ruger GP100 w/ adjustable sights that I bought used, but which my father gave me when I moved out of the house. I keep it next to my bed and I would like to get night sights for it and I have considered laser grips.

    I have tried an FNP9, A Glock 17 and 19, a Beretta 92, an XD9, an M&P 9, an SR9 and a Beretta PX4. I would like to try a Cougar 9, a Bersa 9, and a CZ 9, but the local range doesn’t have them for rent. Out of the ones that I have tried, I like the Ruger SR9 the best, especially since it has a safety.

    I have also fired my father’s Ruger Mark II and like it a lot and think it would be a good survival gun as well, especially for hunting and when ammo is scarce.

    If I could only have one handgun, it would have to be a Glock 19, but

    Based on what I have experienced, I think this is what I will shoot for:

    Ruger GP100
    Ruger SR9
    Ruger Mark III

    And, at a later date, I would like to add the following two items for versatility:

    Glock 19 (or Glock 23 and a 9mm conversion barrel for versatility)
    Ruger Blackhawk revolver combo in 9mm and .357

    And to go all out on versatility, I would want these two additional items and another pistol or revolver in 22LR:

    Ruger SR1911 .45 ACP
    Ruger SR9C or a Charter Arms CARR 9mm snubby (if it becomes available)

    • Just my $0.02 worth of bias. Go with a Mark II if you can find one. The Mark III has some interesting features like a more standard magazine release button; however, it has a magazine disconnect making it useless if the magazine is lost or bent.
      Also, if you can find a Ruger Blackhawk revolver combo in 9mm and .357 I’d like to hear about it and where and how much? I’ve had the .357 model for nearly 40 years, and I had the understanding that the 9mm cylinder was no longer available. I contacted Ruger some time ago and was told that no retrofit was available for my gun, and quite honestly, would love to have that combo myself.

  60. Cavemandan88 says:

    Great advice and very well written. I have a Springfield .45 but for SHTF I prefer wheel guns and my Glock with high caps. My preference. Still his points were on the money. I linked here from a Creekmore article in which Mister Creekmore wrote that people should get the basics down when they can hit a six inch target consistently at 25yds! While I can do that consistently with all but my snubbies, that is not at all a realistic goal for the relative novice. I trust that Mister Creekmore has some expertise and surely he meant 25 feet. Novices, do not get discouraged by the 6″ target at 25 yds. That had to be a typo. Just keep practicing.

    • With a handgun, if you can keep a 9-inch pattern at 21 feet, then you are doing what is adequate for most close quarter encounters with a handgun. Beyond the 21 foot distance (Look up Tueller Drill) you may have a problem convincing the legal system that you were in fear for your life, pre-SHF; and post SHF, distances beyond that would be better served with a long gun.

  61. cavemandan88 says:

    I do believe everyone should be able to hit at 25 yd. But I know a lot of deputies who cannot hit consistently (w/handgun) at 25 yd during the yearly re-qualification. Sad but true. Can’t imagine the typical novice shooter accomplishing that feat without a lot of practice and dedication. Meant that typo comment with no sarcasm and all due respect to Mister Creekmore who’s articles I have found informative and exhibiting a great depth of knowledge on survival matters.

  62. Its all subjective . I like the .45 but dont own one . One thing that wasn’t discussed much is that with todays ammunition , a 9mm is every bit as effective as a .45 . Ammunition has come a very long way from 20 years ago , and powerful specialty rounds are made by many more manufacturers now than ever .

  63. js mccrary says:

    I agree w/ many of the things you put forth but disagree strongly with you opionion on lasers for defense handguns. Simply putting a laser on you handgun doesn’t mean that suddenly you no longer have metal sights. I have been carrying, and using, Crimson Trace products on all of my defnse sidearms daily since prior to Y2K, and there is nothing any better for acquiring a target quickly and accurately than lasers. Handguns are designed to be used at close range, so there is no ‘hunting for a small red or green dot’ invovled. In order to hit your target you are going to be looking at it already and your eye automatically finds the dot produced by the laser. Most people who speak as you have not spent any time training with lasers. Train equally with lasers AND metal sights and they will serve you well. In 14 years they have not failed me once. As for the ‘Fog issue’ it is common practice to shroud the laser with your trigger finger (with CTC products, the natural finger position beside the slide does just that) until ready to fire, and is not revealed until firing. Specualtion is no match for actual testing…do not limit yourself, be open and experiment – just remember to practice with both types of sights equally. Respectfully,
    Stewart Mac

Before commenting, please read my Comments Policy - thanks!