The Best Self Defense Pistol for You
If you’re expecting to read about the ultimate end-all be-all self defense pistol, you can stop reading now. However, if you understand that the perfect self-defense weapon comes in different forms to different people, then this article is meant to help you find out what that weapon might be for you.
First and foremost, your EDC (everyday carry) pistol of choice must be something you want to use. If you cringe in disgust every time you pick up your firearm, then it’s highly unlikely that you’ll pick up your gun to train at the range, which is the single most important thing you can do to turn your range toy into a true self-defense weapon.
The shooting range is where you test your pistol’s reliability. If you find your pistol consistently jamming, try troubleshooting it yourself at first instead of immediately swapping it out for a brand new weapon. Jams could be caused by things such as magazines with weak springs, a lack of cleaning, or even your own grip. For example, someone shooting a Springfield XD might position his thumbs on the weapon’s slide lock, unintentionally “forcing” a jam after the first round is fired.
Aside from reliability, a self-defense pistol has to be accurate – but not overly so. It has to be trusted to hit at least “minute of man,” that is, anywhere in the center mass of a target, at 25 yards. At shorter distances of 5 – 10 yards, your weapon must be able to make a kill shot in either the femoral triangle located around the groin area or the triangle of death around the face. (See diagram below)
Credit: Niko Williams
You shouldn’t obsess about being so accurate that you’re able to hit your target through the eye. You will not be able to replicate range accuracy in a combat situation.
The best ammunition is what you’re comfortable shooting. The 9mm is affordable, accurate, and allows for higher capacity magazines. It also has much less recoil than larger calibers like the .40 and .45, allowing it to be fired quicker. However, there are numerous incidents of police officers mag dumping 9mm rounds into an assailant’s chest without any immediate effect.
A .45 has more stopping power, while also having the benefit of a century’s worth of proven combat effectiveness. First fielded against drug-addled Moro rebels in the Philippines, the 1911 and its .45 ACP round have proven their worth through two world wars, Korea, and Vietnam. Not only is it powerful, but it can also be proven to be extremely accurate. America’s favorite Marine, Chesty Puller, once pulled off a headshot while running at a dead sprint on a man in a moving canoe with a Colt M1911 chambered in .45 ACP. The bullet went straight into the man’s ear hole.
However, it should be noted that you should pick the largest caliber you can reasonably control. Since shot placement is more important than stopping power, you don’t want a pistol chambered in .44 magnum if you have noodle arms.
If you’re having trouble shooting, get a laser. No, your laser isn’t going to help you be pinpoint accurate, but it will give you a very good idea of where your shots will land. Do NOT chase that dot.
You should also be comfortable with carrying your pistol. Your EDC should have a comfortable holster, be as heavy as you can tolerate for everyday wear and be free of any annoying sharp edges that poke at your skin. This is especially troubling for those who have extra love around the waist. Large, heavy “full-sized” pistols are also impractical for everyday carry.
If you want to accessorize, only accessorize with the intention of giving your self-defense pistol an extra tactical ability. Flashlights are good for giving you nighttime visibility, lasers are good for hip firing (not accuracy). If you want to switch out your trigger for a hairpin or get a tungsten barrel, you have to remember that you’re not going for competition accuracy. All your shots are just meant to stop the threat. A dead man will not care about your grouping.
1911s, Browning Hi-Powers, and other hammer-fired pistols have more sensitive triggers than striker-fired pistols like Glocks and M&P Shields, but this is ultimately up to personal preference. Training is the best guarantee of accuracy. The amount of money you spend on your EDC is not commensurate with its lethality or dependability. Keep this in mind: a well-trained cop with a simple Glock is more lethal than an untrained sicario with a zinc-coated full size 1911 with a hairpin trigger, 20-round high capacity magazine, 4x scope, muzzle break and built-in GPS system.