Why would you choose a handgun for home defense as opposed to a long gun like a carbine or a shotgun? After all, most find handguns more difficult to shoot. On the other side of the coin, the handgun is compact, simpler to store in a secure, accessible location like a small safe, and easier to handle, carry and use with one hand. But do these handgun attributes change when you’re defending a rural home instead of one in a more urban setting?

At the most basic level, the answer is no. A defensive handgun should be completely reliable and as powerful as anyone who might use it can control. This applies regardless of how a handgun may be used in a defensive setting. Simply put, you cannot count on pointing a gun at a bad guy to stop him, so a handgun that doesn’t work or can’t be controlled is about as useful as a getaway car with a manual transmission is to a gangbanger who can’t drive a stick shift.

If we dig a bit deeper into the plausible defense scenarios that rural or urban dwellers might face, we can make a few distinctions among the best handguns. But first, let’s consider one of the most often presented arguments: overpenetration.


Some hypothesize that, in an urban setting, overpenetration is a much more imminent concern. For example, if you live in an apartment building, you are likely to have neighbors one wall away, above, below and on each side of your apartment. If you have to shoot in defense of your life and miss your attacker, your bullet could pass through one of these walls and potentially hit an innocent person. It’s even possible to have a pass-through if you hit your attacker. The answer to overpenetration is ammunition—not handgun—selection. Regardless of the handgun you chose, there are ammunition options that will lessen the potential for overpenetration.

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Walther P.38 9mm Legacy

Why would you choose a handgun for home defense as opposed to a long…