The 5 worst guns for self-defense

Everyone has an inherent, human right to self-defense. Here in America at least, that right is obviously frequently exercised with the use of firearms. In the gun community, we always say “the first rule of gunfighting is have a gun” – and while that’s all well and good, we should also discourage people from picking guns that are terrible for self-defense. Because let’s be honest, some guns are not good choices for self-defense. Maybe they’re poorly made, maybe they’re a gimmick, but guns like this really shouldn’t be carried as primary defensive weapons.

5. Semi-auto rimfire pistols

taurus 22 LR pistol

When was the last time you heard someone say “man, that .22 is super reliable” and they weren’t talking about a Ruger? That’s the big problem with pocket-sized .22 LR autos. First off, they’re just not that reliable. They tend to malfunction, sometimes because of ammo issues, sometimes because of feeding issues. The ammo reliability is really an issue, because rimfire ammo has less reliable ignition characteristics than centerfire rounds.

Option: pocket sized .25 ACP pistols. From a 2 inch barrel, the terminal ballistics are basically the same between .25s and .22s, but small, pocketable .25 ACP pistols are going to be a lot more reliable.

4. Derringers

cobra derringer

I like derringers, and I even think they have a role in self-defense. Just not as a primary. I think that two shots of .38 or .45 or whatever you’ve got plugged into your derringer is a decent option as a last ditch. But as a primary? Hard pass. Derringers are tough to shoot well, most are single action, they recoil a ton, and they don’t hold any ammo. They have all the drawbacks of a j-frame and none of the benefits. But again, as a last ditch option? Not so bad. If you must, get one from Bond Arms, because Bond Arms makes legit good guns. If your derringer isn’t a Bond, it’s probably crap.

Option: honestly, a j-frame would be a preferable choice. It still doesn’t hold much ammo, and it’s still tough to shoot, but it makes a better choice as a primary than a derringer.

3. Gimmick guns

Monica Belluci COP derringer

What’s a gimmick gun, you ask? It’s a gun that’s designed around features that don’t make it better to shoot, easier to reload, or any actual feature that you’d want to have in a defensive pistol. I don’t want to bet my life on “cool engineering,” you know?

Options: Buy a Glock or an M&P, don’t be a special snowflake.

2. Single-action revolvers

Ruger Vaquero with Winchester PDX

I love single action revolvers, and like derringers I think that they do have a purpose in self-defense. Just not as a primary gun for the average dude. Because remember, the average guy lives in the suburbs and drives a crossover or a pickup truck, and probably doesn’t need to shoot a bear or a mountain lion in his backyard. If you do need to shoot a bear or a lion or something, a single action revolver makes a lot of sense. However, for every day self-defense for Average Gun Bro? Not really. There’s a pretty steep learning curve on SA revolvers, from loading to firing and unloading that makes them a poor choice as a primary defensive tool.

Options: Uh, a DA revolver? If you want a wheelgun, get a big DA wheelgun. You can even shoot it SA if you’re a bad person, but they’re easier to load, unload, and shoot than an SA gun.

1. Eastern Europe milsurp (other than Makarovs)
Let’s get real here for a second. If you’re buying your CCW piece with your C&R license, you need to fix yourself. The big problem with a lot of these former Combloc guns is that they weren’t designed for anything other than capping a dissident in the back of the skull at contact distances. Sure, they’re cool collector items and they’re fun to take to the range, but as a serious self-defense tool? No. Just no. Especially since a CZ-52 is pushing $300 these days, for that price if you shop smart you can get a used Glock 23, which is literally better in every possible sense of being better.

Options: Buy a Glock or an M&P, don’t be a special snowflake.

There you have it, some simple recommendations. If you think I missed one, or you think I’m off my rocker, let me know in the comments!

48 thoughts on “The 5 worst guns for self-defense”

  1. A revolver chambered for a shotgun cartridge. If one thinks that spraying a lethal threat with tiny lead shot that penetrates less a good marinade… No. Buy an M&P or Glock…

    1. I have a Bond Arms Derringer.45lc/.410ga which when loaded with critical defense ammo fires 10 balls and 3 discs about the size of hearing aid batteries. The effect is devastating.
      I also have several Makarov caliber guns including a CZ82 which will stack up against any of the modern 380s.
      These are not my go-to choices but they are certainly viable and would spoil any bad guys day

    1. I have a Taurus PT111 G2 that’s every bit as reliable as my Sig P220 or CZ P-07. It’s very well built and accurate too.

      1. All that means is that you are one of the lucky owners of a Taurus firearm that left the factory with no quality control issues. While your PT111 G2 does have a better reliability track record that most Taurus products, unless that’s the only pistol you own or can afford, why risk carrying a pistol from a manufacturer that’s synonymous with poor design and reliability? Hope your luck holds out.

      2. I have Taurus in .22mag, 38 spec, 357 mag and 45ACP. I will swear by the P 145 millenium pro.
        However, the .22 mag began failing to index at the same location. Obviously, the indexing lug on the cylinder was worn. I sent it to the factory for repair. they replaced the hammer spring. Obviously the problem persisted. I returned it to the factory with a letter explaining all the above. AGAIN they replaced the hammer spring. The revolver now rests at the rear of a bottom shelf. Based solely on factory response to my problem I will never purchase another Taurus AND I never carry Taurus.

  2. “Options: Buy a Glock or an M&P, don’t be a special snowflake.”

    I feel a great disturbance in the Internet, as if millions of fedora-wearing gun hipsters suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.

    1. I agree, PG. That was a flaky comment, eh? I carry SIG or Smith and am confident trusting my life with either.

  3. Those Taurus PT22’s also have no extractor. The empty has to blow out when the slide cycles. If you have a misfire, you have a complicated time making it run again. Single action Rugers are a valid choice for a farm gun, but a Redhawk is my nighttime gun around the house.

  4. What’s your thoughts on the CZ-82/83? More modern design, but the 82 is C&R. They’ve always struck me as nice, well built, reasonably high capacity compact guns.

      1. The CZ-82s are really nice, other than the finish. It’s usually a chipped paint finish. I bought one for $222 after shipping and transfer, when they were cheap, and it shoots like a dream. They aren’t that cheap anymore and the ammo isn’t, either. It was about $9 before the huge ammo scare in ’13, but now it’s closer to $20. I actually carried mine on occasion, like the NRA AM this year, because I had stupidly gotten rid of my Glock 19 for a S&W 66 that I didn’t like very much.

  5. Have you tried the P64? Aside from the horrendous DA pull, I’ve found it to be a great small carry gun in the ppk vein. It was only $165 when I bought it, but I still feel that at current prices you’re going to have a hard time finding anything that will go bang as reliably

    1. The P64 comes in under the *Makarov exception. The *Makarov is better than a High-Point (smaller and sturdier) in the “Under $200-$250” class- or most other cheap guns. Buuut, you get tiny military sights, a horrific DA pull, a heel release, and possible difficulty in finding mags or HP ammo.

      *Generic Com Block blow-back pistol in 9×18

  6. #1 The one you won’t carry #2 The one that is not reliable #3 The one you cannot shoot well #4 The one you’ve never practiced with #5 The one they no longer make ammo for

  7. M&P yes,glock,no. You can tell when an article was written by a glock fanboi,I think glock pays them to infiltrate any gun article and make glock your first choice,they also make a point of bashing any firearm that may be a threat to their awesome glock. I’ve owned several glocks and was never that impressed,I also won’t wear a hat,shirt,pants,underwear,socks,or shoes that bear the mark of the beast,the dreaded nike checkmark,especially at the same time.The ultimate glock would be one with a nike checkmark……………….PRAISE THE LORD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. I’m glad the kids are here to read the above, because that is a perfect example of Internet Gun Derp.
      Notice the characteristic lack of grammar, or even the ability to make a simple coherent point.
      The classic “Skim Until Offended” is also prominently displayed.
      It is also worth noting that his scattered and random approach to punctuation and capitalization is only matched by the scattered and random holes on his and his neighbors targets* during range trips.
      But dozens of flawless rounds, amiright?

      *Not to mention the range’s roof, walls, tables, & shooting stations

    1. You could slot in the “Too Big for a Proper .45, Too Small for a Proper Shotgun” Judge under #3- Gimmick Guns.
      Deagles likewise.

      1. I like Deagles but does anyone CC them? They’re the size of a cinderblock.

        That said, one of them with the .44 magnum barrel might be a good house gun

  8. I carry a GP100 everyday concealed. Can’t go wrong with the power of a 125g 357 Mag. My night time gun is a Smith SD40VE.

  9. Did you honestly recommend .25 acp? No thank you, especially when kel tec makes a .32 that works, hits harder and is essentially weightless

  10. I know I’m going to catch flak for this,but I used to carry many years ago a Jennings J-22.Never had a feed or misfire issue with it using CCI mini mags.As long as the gun was cleaned every 150 rounds.

    1. I get that reading is hard. What I recommended was that if someone is carrying a .22 LR pocket pistol, they’d be better off switching to a .25 ACP, because the recoil will be the same and the gun will be more reliable.

      Also, when you’re dealing with micro-ass pocket guns, the difference between a .32 ACP or a .25 is pretty marginal.

      1. OK. I will play your silly game. I get it, facts often interfere with your strongly held but ill-informed opinions .1) I have never heard of any .25s being models of reliability. 2) the .32 acp has nearly exactly twice the energy of the .25. 3) Please tell me about all of the gunfights and gunshot wounds you have seen first hand. I can tell you a .25 is the only gunshot I have ever seen where the victim drove himself to the hospital. Its cool. Don’t let facts or experience mess with your world.

        1. So because you saw unimpressive results once that means they apply to all .25s? Have you ever heard of the term, “Statistically insignificant data pool?”

          A few months ago in a jearby town a dude got shot with a 9mm hollopoint. Drove himself to the hospital, too. Or at least tried. He died on the way.

          The real point, though, is that the 9mm stopped the fight instantly, even if it was just mental stop. Sounds like that puny .25 probably did, too.

        2. Just for the sake of being argumentative…

          I have a reliable-as-dirt .25. It’s an ancient Baby Browning, with all the rifling shot out (yes, shot out, it’s smoothbore now). Accuracy sucks, and I don’t carry it, but it’s as reliable as falling down when you trip.

          I also know someone who was up and walking around after a .45 to the leg, with nothing worse than two bleeding holes and a charlie horse from the impact.. There ain’t no magical handgun caliber, which is why it’s a good idea to shoot twice.

          Caleb ain’t saying “carry a .25.” He’s saying “.25 is better than .22, in an autoloader.” If you’ve got a revolver, might as well carry .22, the ammo’s (still) cheaper.

          1. Kermit- no doubt. But the three people I have seen shot with 9mm were either dead as hell (2 of em) or thought they were dying (center mass shot, he lived). I get that there are no magic handgun calibers, I have seen it as well. However, he did say there wasn’t much difference between .25 and .32 in his response. .32 hits 100% harder. For sure, the old Brownings are cool guns, I am glad you found one that works good. I do offer up that reliability and the .25 are seldom seen in the same weapon. It ain’t the way to bet. I am not advocating .25 or. 22. My point was this. .NEITHER. The Kel Tec .32 made either one a pointless choice. I have had two of them over the years and my wife has one as well. All three 100% reliable.

          2. john –
            I ain’t saying “carry a .25” either. In fact, I don’t say “carry a .32” or even “carry a .380.” I carry a 9mm, that’s not -that- much bigger than the Keltec .32.
            I’m just playing internet argument. πŸ˜›

  11. I don’t think you really missed a Type of firearm but definitely worth a mention is “don’t buy a hi-point”.
    Btw I blame Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man for people believing a single action revolver is a fighting gun.

    That being said I wouldn’t mind a Ruger Super Blackhawk with a 454 Casull conversion. Not for carry but just for nostalgic reasons and it’s another revolver. Do so love my wheelguns.

  12. The worst defense weapons are those still locked in the safe back home
    What ever you got is no good unless you carry it

  13. So I bought a Rouger 380. I am pretty please with it. It is safe to say it a decent gun since not mentioned?

    1. I like the little Ruger .380s just fine. Wouldn’t be my first choice because they’re a little difficult to shoot well, but I like them.

      1. Personally, I favor revolvers. My first carry gun was a Ruger SP-101 in .357 Mag. It was tricked out by a local, and highly respected, gunsmith. It has a “jet nozzled” barrel that makes second shot target acquisition very easy. I also carry a S&W Model 38 Airweight. It is one of my favorite carry guns. I have reluctantly added a S&W 40 Shield to the mix. All are carried strong side in a small of the back holster which rests just to the rear of my hip bone. Like my handguns used for self defense in my home and vehicles, they all wear Crimson Trace laser sights and depending on if it is a cold or hot season, they are loaded with either Federal Hydra-Shok or Hornady Critical Defense or Critical Duty ammunition. If you feel that you need a high capacity carry gun, and don’t mind the extra weight, that’s fine. What ever you carry, you MUST PRACTICE with it using hand & eye coordination on a regular basis. The mileage of others may vary.

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