Top 5 Defensive Handguns

These choices are from actual experience with these guns. The number 1 choice is a gun I would not part with under any circumstance.

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At the end of February, I described my top five all-time favorite defensive rifles, and promised I would follow-up with my top five all-time favorite defensive handguns.

The handguns listed are all handguns I have carried or continue to carry as a law enforcement officer both on and off-duty over the past 36 years. One is only available on the used gun market. My number one handgun is the one I will likely never part with.

Remember that my list is not meant to be agreed with by all or any of you. While it is my opinion, feel free to talk it out amongst yourselves, and try and come up with a list of your own. You will likely also find that it won't be as easy as you first thought. You may also find it hard to keep your choices to only five total.

Which Handguns and Why?

    1911 Pistol
  1. The 1911-The 1911 is the generic term for all variants of John Moses Browning's timeless 1911/1911 A1 .45 automatic pistol. The 1911 served as our military service pistol for roughly 74 years, and for much of its history of commercial manufacture was primarily built by Colt. Today, there are likely as many manufacturers of 1911 pistols as there are of AR15 rifles. Its original .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) chambering has a fearsome (and justified) reputation as a fight stopper. I have personally seen its intimidation effect on bad guys. I've found its lightweight single action trigger assists in the placement of accurate shots, and is easily managed by most shooters. I carried a lightweight compact variant of the 1911-the long out of production Spanish Star PD-while working undercover narcotics. After all the variants I've tried, my favorite is still the original full size 1911A1 in basic GI format, with a curved backstrap and the original GI thumb safety-no bells and whistles required.
  2. Glock 27
  3. The Glock 27-During my 20 year stint at Union County Sheriff's Office, I carried quite a few different Glock pistols both on and off-duty. The 9mm Glock 17 and 19, the full size .357 Glock 31, compact Glock 32, and the "mini" Glock 33, the single stack .45 ACP Glock 36, and the .40 caliber "mini" Glock 27. Every Glock carried has been accurate, rugged, and highly reliable. Of all of these, my favorite has been the Glock 27. The .40 caliber is highly versatile in terms of capability as a defensive pistol for use at home, on the street, or on the trail. The compact size of the Glock 27 makes it easily concealable yet it holds 10 rounds (9+1) when loaded with standard magazines. It also accepts higher capacity magazines from the Glock 22 and 23. Accuracy is nothing short of amazing from a pistol this size, much better than one would expect. The Glock 27 has been imitated by other makers, but in my book the original is still the best.
  4. Colt Agent 38 Special Revolver
  5. The Colt Agent .38 Special Snubnose Revolver-It was a sad day some 20 years ago when Colt decided to stop manufacturing their exquisite defensive revolvers. Slightly larger than the Smith and Wesson J-frame series, the Colt snubs carried six, rather than five rounds of powerful .38 Special ammo. The lightweight Colt Agent revolvers were also the first aluminum frame .38 snubs that were able to take +P ammo. Originally very finely finished with deep bluing, Colt decided in the 1980's to cut production costs and make the Agent more affordable by offering a "bargain basement" finished Agent variant. With a rust resistant Parkerized finish, the new Agent had less attention paid to its exterior finish while its interior lockwork was just as smooth and finely finished as that on any other Colt snub. It had un-checkered walnut grips with a gold medallion. The Agent was one of three different handguns that I carried while working undercover narcotics. It carried easily, and did not need the maintenance attention required of a blued Agent. This is probably the gun that I kick myself most often for having traded away. If you are into revolvers and can find a blued or Parkerized Agent, grab onto it. They are accurate and have a cylinder lockup tighter than any revolver I've ever owned. A true classic, and an example of the best of 20th Century gunmakers art.
  6. Smith and Wesson Model 642 Airweight
  7. Smith and Wesson Model 642 Airweight .38 Special Snubnose Revolver-Although limited to five shots in its .38 Special chambering, its smaller size was deemed an adequate trade-off for one less round than the Colt Agent carried. Highly concealable, the Model 642 features an aluminum frame and stainless steel cylinder and barrel, making it rust resistant. It is also very affordable. The hammer is concealed within the frame, thus allowing the 642 to be fired from within a coat pocket without jamming. The .38 Special chambering is powerful enough to get the job done, and is reasonably controllable. This is my most often carried off-duty gun. It is too convenient not to have along, and can be adapted to nearly any carry mode.
  8. Beretta Model 92
  9. Beretta 92-I became enamored with the Beretta 92 a decade ago when we adopted it as the official pistol of the 727 Counter-Terror Training Unit. A relatively large 9mm pistol that holds 16 rounds, the Beretta 92 (M9 and M9A1) was adopted by the U.S. Military in 1985, and has provided reliable service for 31 years. With a traditional Double Action/Single action operation, the Beretta 92 is without a doubt the most reliable semi-automatic pistol I have ever carried, and the M9A1 is the version I carry as my duty pistol in the Village of Baltimore. Before the Glock series of pistols arrived on the scene in the late 1980's, the Beretta 92 was taking the place of the .38 Special revolver as THE law enforcement duty pistol, with LAPD being its most famous user. Simpler operation of the Glock pistol quickly pushed Beretta into the background. I love the Beretta's glass smooth slide operation and its manual safety that can be engaged if necessary. This is the one pistol I will never give up.

There it is, my top five. Think about what your choices would be. Hopefully your choices will be easier to come up with than mine were.