Best Self Defense Handgun

The Best Self Defense Handgun of 2024

Publushed by:

Mathew R Reed

Last updated:

Winner: Walther P22 California

Short summary

Walther is a reliable name in firearms and our pick for the best self defense handgun.

The P22 California ticks so many boxes including a light 16oz weight, 10 round capacity, and .22 LR caliber ammunition.

The P22 comes with a double-action and single-action trigger, as well as an adjustable rear sight for absolute accuracy.

The P22 comes with a double-action and single-action trigger, as well as an adjustable rear sight for absolute accuracy.

According to happy customers, the best thing about the P22 California is its comfort and size, for both concealed carry and use.

The width of the gun is quite small at just 1.1 inches so you can get a good grip on it with both hands.

You can easily reach all parts, including the magazine, trigger, and slide, without having to reach too far or fumble.

This rimfire pistol has a low recoil rate so it’s a dream to operate and gentle for those who might not feel as confident with a firearm.

In a self-defense situation, you want everything to be as easy to use as possible so that all you have to focus on is hitting your target, and the P22 California from Walther assures that.

Another bonus of the P22 is its appearance, easily ranking as the most visually appealing 22 LR out there. It comes in a range of colors, has a black polymer frame, and is small enough to be cradled in both of your hands.

The looks and size combined earn it a place on the best handgun for women’s self-defense lists all the time.

The magazines included with the P22 aren’t that impressive, and although they’re made of metal, these appear to be paper-thin.

Anyone planning on using this weapon a lot, either for self defense or training, will want to upgrade. Thankfully, replacing the mags on this weapon won’t set you back too much.

Some consider this gun to be for recreational shooting or target practice, so it’s easy to overlook it for self-defense.

The .22lr isn’t always considered the best self-defense handgun caliber and if you want something more powerful or with a bigger projectile, you’re probably better off upgrading.

For those who prefer to keep it compact, you’ll appreciate the caliber size and overall feel of the gun, so it depends on the individual.

This is one of the only handguns out there with warranty coverage that’s this impressive and this one is covered specifically by the Walther Legendary Lifetime Warranty, solidifying its solid reputation.

The P22 California from Walther is our favorite find for a self-defense handgun and one of the easiest to handle and control.

Quick Facts

  • Caliber: .22 LR
  • Capacity: 10
  • Weight: 16oz


  • Adjustable rear sight
  • Low recoil rate
  • Good for women


  • Small caliber

Runner Up: Ruger 57

Short summary

The Ruger 57 is another fan favorite when it comes to self defense although it’s only been in production since the end of 2019. This firearm offers 21 rounds, a mid-sized weight of 24.5oz and 5.7x28mm caliber, and is considered the first semi-automatically pistol in this traditional style to be chambered for this specific cartridge.

What people love most about the Ruger 57 as a self-defense handgun is how safe it is to use, which means less chance of something going wrong.

This firearm has an ambidextrous manual safety, lightweight firing pin, and integrated trigger safety.

There’s no chance it’ll go off unless you want it to thanks to the hammer catch that stops it from touching the firing pin without the trigger being pulled.

The 5.7mm round used in the Ruger has some advantages over others that are on show in this gun.

Firstly, this ammunition is known for being better over long-range and you can fit more into the firearm.

This one specifically has a round capacity of 20+1 so there’s no need to second guess whether you’re packing enough for an emergency.

Those who have held this gun before can vouch for how comfortable it is in their hands which means you’ll have an easier time handling it.

Although it’s a slightly larger gun with a 4.94-inch barrel length and bigger than most cartridges, it looks sleek and will fit easily in male and female shooter’s hands.

Ergonomically speaking, it appears Ruger has put a lot of effort into making this work.

The Ruger-57 is a good long-range weapon which means some might question its ability to work up close and personal.

Considering most self-defense scenarios involve someone being fairly near to you, this could be seen as a downside.

Again, it’s up to the individual to think about where and how they’ll be using their gun to determine whether it’s a good fit.

Another potential downside is that you need a steady hand to fire this weapon and the accuracy is harder to master, which might be hard to do in a self-defense scenario.

If you’re choosing a firearm like this, you have to dedicate to target practice and training with it, otherwise, it could have the opposite effect when you’re trying to use it to defend yourself.

The Ruger 57 is perfectly sized with enough rounds to deal with anything, provided you can put in the extra effort to master it.

If you prefer a gun with a longer range than most pistols and the reliability and durability that the Ruger brand is known for, the 57 Centerfire Pistol should be at the top of your list.

Quick Facts

  • Caliber: 5.7mm
  • Capacity: 20+1
  • Weight: 24.5oz


  • High capacity
  • Good safety features
  • Long range accurate


  • Strong recoil

Springfield Armory XD-S Mod 2

Short summary

If cute and compact is your style when looking for a firearm and you want to be sure nobody spots your concealed carry, why not invest in the Springfield Armory XD-S Mod 2? 

This pint sized 9mm pistol measures less than an inch in width and carries 10 rounds of 9mm ammunition inside so it’s the perfect self defense tool.

What customers loved most about the XD-S was its size and how easy it made to carry it with them.

If you want something made for concealed carry but with enough power to rely on, this gun can deliver.

The overall length is just 6.3 inches and it weighs around 21oz, so no matter the position or placement you want to keep it in, you won’t feel a thing.

The XD-S Mod 2 is an upgraded version and you can tell that Springfield Armory has spent a lot of time perfecting the grip and ergonomics of the weapon.

The svelte gun sits nicely in your hands and it feels natural to grasp it. There’s no awkward positioning or textures throwing you off with this gun which means you can put all of your concentration into firing the weapon accurately.

As a single stack pistol and one of this size, people found it was pretty accurate.

Of course, there’s a learning curve and you’ll need to spend some time mastering the gun and how its subcompact size impacts firing, but once you’ve done that, you’ll be shocked at what it can muster for something so small.

One disappointing thing about this gun is the lack of rounds it has compared to others. While it’s understandable that something of this size carrying 9mm ammo wouldn’t be able to fit that much, you may feel as if you’re not adequately protected.

There are two sizes of the 7+1 and 9+1 and neither of these is a standout in ammo capacity.

Another drawback of the Springfield Armory XD-S Mod 2 was the trigger, which takes some getting used to.

As this gun features a high bore axis compared to others, be prepared to deal with a lot of muzzle flip which can throw you off your game.

However, with some additional practice, you may be able to counteract this when you’re firing in the heat of the moment.

The Springfield Armory XD-S Mod 2 is a petite pistol that still packs a punch and if you’re willing to put in the time to master its aim, it’ll reward you for years to come.

This is the perfect choice for concealed carry and gun owners who don’t want a lot of bulk when they’re out in public, so consider this single-stack pistol for your self defense strategy.

Quick Facts

  • Caliber: 9mm
  • Capacity: 9+1 and 7+1
  • Weight: 21oz


  • Good for concealed carry
  • Accurate
  • Compact


  • Akward trigger

Alternative: Bond Arms Rowdy

Short summary

A biometric gun safe is the modern way to store your weapons and if you want to save some money getting one, the KZKR Gun Cabinet is the way to go. This cabinet is made specifically for guns, featuring dimensions of 52 x 9.85 x 8.66 inches and 1.73 cubic feet inside.

By far the best thing about this gun is how it looks, and although we shouldn’t be judging a firearm’s worth on aesthetics alone, it’s hard not to talk about them.

The Bond Arms Rowdy has a stainless steel frame, barrel, and receiver, and looks like it walked straight out of the Wild West. If you want to feel like a real-life cowboy holding your self-defense gun, the Bond Arms Rowdy is the way to do it.

Another great thing about this pistol is its price and how it performs just as well as the competition without costing anywhere near as much.

You’ll pay half the price of most of the other handguns on our list and without losing any major features or functionality. If you’re after a budget-friendly self-defense weapon and want something dependable to boot, the Rowdy can deliver.

Although it measures five inches in total, the Bond Arms weigh around 20 ounces which can be deceiving.

Having this much weight in such a small package can take some getting used to and according to a few customers, they’ve found it to be a little bulky and awkward to handle.

If this is the gun you want, you should dedicate some extra hours to mastering its unique shape and size.

The trigger is another major complaint of this firearm and it’s another area that takes some getting used to. According to others who’ve tested the gun, they found the trigger far too stiff which can distract you from firing as accurately as you’d like to.

If you prefer a stiff trigger pull then this will be an obvious plus but for most of us, it’s more of a hindrance.

Finally, the Rowdy is lacking in round capacity being the type of firearm that it is, so there’s only room for two cartridges on board.

If you plan on needing more than one shot to take down an attacker, this simply won’t do, and it might leave some people feeling a little uneasy about the tool they’re working with.

For those unsure of their aim, upgrading to a larger capacity firearm is a smart move.

The Rowdy is compact in size and price, and if you don’t need any bells and whistles in your ideal self-defense handgun, it’ll keep you covered.

Although some features could do with an upgrade, it’s a reliable and durable piece, and compact enough to store it just about anywhere on your person so you’re ready for action.

Quick Facts

  • Caliber: 45 Lon Colt/410 Ga
  • Capacity: 2
  • Weight: 20oz


  • Automatic casing extractor
  • Compact
  • Unique looks


  • Small capacity

Alternative: Heritage Barkeep Revolver

Short summary

The Heritage Barkeep is a revolver designed for self defense, but with the right amount of Wild West in its design. The .22 LR caliber firearm comes with an American flag design on a wooden grip, alloy frame, and a cylinder and barrel that have a cool blue finish, so it wins prizes for looks as well as portability.

What makes this such a popular gun is how easy it is to fire and handle. Even if you’ve never had a handgun before and want something entry-level for self-defense, it won’t take you long to pick it up.

With a single action fire, all you have to do is cock the hammer and press the trigger. Having something this simple to defend yourself in a serious situation could mean the difference between life and death.

Another bonus of the Barkeep is its cost, and if you’re hoping to scrape by for under $200 and still walk away with a quality and reliable gun, you can do it here.

Most people hope never to have to use their weapon in a real-life situation but you still want to know that the piece you have is dependable enough if you do, and that’s where the Heritage Rough Rider Barkeep lands.

The Heritage Barkeep Revolver has an overall length of 7.95 inches and although it’s considered compact, it’s not that impressive in ammo capacity.

You’ll get just six rounds of .22 LR in this firearm which might not be enough to get the job done. Depending on your target and how accurate your aim is, you may be wishing you had something higher caliber or more bullets to spare.

Another downside of this revolver is its range, so don’t expect to accurately hit anything further away than 10 yards if you haven’t put in the practice.

While this doesn’t matter so much in a self-defense situation where you’re close to an attacker, if you’re trying to take down someone from far away, you may struggle.

As a single action trigger, though, you do save some time from a lengthy reload and firing cycle.

The Heritage Barkeep performs well for its price but it’s not the most accurate firearm either. In testing, it showed to be a little off-center and it may require some practice to figure out its complexities.

Although overall it’s considered a good entry-level gun that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get a feel for it, and figure out where you have to make up the difference when firing it.

Heritage is known for its unique range of firearms and the .22 LR Barkeep is no exception.

This gun is affordable for all, easy enough to fire even if you’re a beginner, but a little light on the round capacity. As a backup self-defense gun, though, it ticks all of our boxes and it’ll give you the peace of mind that you need.

Quick Facts

  • Caliber: .22 LR
  • Capacity: 6
  • Weight: 24.8 oz


  • Wooden grip,
  • Easy to handle
  • Good design


  • Poor range

Self Defense Handgun FAQs

A self defense handgun needs to be right for its owner, and whether you’re looking for a concealed carry weapon or something to keep at home, there’s a lot to think about. To help you find the best fitting firearm, we’ve got some FAQs and expert answers that can give you a push in the right direction.

Should I Carry A 45 Or 9mm?

The answer to this question depends on what the individual prioritizes when choosing a suitable handgun.

If you want a bigger caliber bullet with more power, the .45 is the best, however, if you prefer more rounds in your magazine, a 9mm is the way to go.

Is 9mm Enough For Self Defense?

9mm is an adequate caliber for a self defense weapon as these types of ammunition have the ability to penetrate skin and bone in an instant, even if they’re not the most commonly used.

However, some people prefer to use a .45 caliber firearm instead, giving you more power and a larger size that could make you feel at ease.

Will A 9mm Kill A Bear?

A 9mm is not a recommended bear defense weapon and you should upgrade to a larger caliber if you want to take one down.

Although a 9mm can penetrate skin and bone, it might not be powerful enough to stop a bear in its tracks which will only anger it further.

Is FMJ Bad For Your Gun?

FMJ or full metal jacket projectiles can be safe to use in your gun provided you have the right type and are firing them in responsible conditions.

This type of ammunition is not recommended in a self defense situation, though, as they’re not as reliable at meeting their target.

The Unfailing Way to Defend Yourself

There’s nothing like the peace of mind that a fully loaded handgun can offer in a self defense situation but trying to narrow down the pack and find the right one can be a challenge.

 Whatever the specifics you need for a pistol, you’ll feel a lot safer knowing you have a reliable one like the guns we’ve found on standby and the skills to use it effectively.


Walther P22 California

Adjustable rear sight
Low recoil rate
Good for women

Mathew R Reed

Mathew R Reed is a professional gun seller who runs a dedicated gun store in the suburbs of Oakland, CA. A hardcore hunting enthusiast since childhood, Reed has ample experience with guns and accessories. He is the founder of and creates some of the most helpful gun-buying guides and explainers. If not in the gun shop, you can find him on the nearest hiking trail or nearby hunting spot.