Guns & Ammo Network

Collapse bottom bar
Personal Defense

8 Most Underrated Personal Defense Handguns

by B. Gil Horman   |  September 25th, 2012 36

When looking at the diverse selection of defensive handguns available on the market today, shooters tend to divide the playing field into “good” guns and “bad” guns. The good ones are reliable, shoot well and fill the buyer’s needs. The bad ones are inaccurate, dysfunctional or just don’t fit the shooter’s requirements. But in between these sweeping categorizations we find a variety of handguns that, while often rejected by the masses or shooting experts, have managed to earn a loyal following. These guns may be stars that lost their shine, chambered in controversial calibers or just plain weird to look at, but for one reason or another, the folks that own them would never give them up without a fight. Take a look and see which one of these underdogs you have tucked away in your safe.

  • Mark Lewis

    I love my hi power.

    • Bill Albertson

      Shame on you, I trhink the Walter PPK-S is the best.


      • ou812

        then you dont shoot much or know much. i have one id never even consider it for a carry pistol sorry. just sayin? not accurate at all and they dont like alot of ammo. they jam. and the round itself has no stoping power.

      • Ross

        Bill, do you really use the Walther? I find it an expensive paper weight. My brother bought one for his wife, but she could not rack the slide. We took the gun out for target practice, but the trigger pull was so heavy we could not hit what was a bulls eye target only a few feet away. Add to that the anemic .380 caliber and you have a very poor self-defense carry gun, in my not-so-humble opinion.

      • Kent Garrett

        I have over the years owned a PPK and a PPKS and found them extremely difficult to shoot accurately and the PPKS very uncomfortable to shoot especially in .380 due to the sharp corners.

  • Tom Honeycutt

    You missed the Glock Model 36 – .45 ACP power in a 9 mm frame. Thin, concealable, powerful, functional, reliable.

    • TPD 122R

      I carry a Glock 36 also in their "Plastic" $12.00 holster and have been since I retired from the department in 1998. Also have been qualifing with it for my HR 218 since then. Great pistol.

    • Jimmy Stark

      Glock 30 with 10rds.

  • MichiganWalt

    I'll give up my .357 snubnose revolver when they pry it out of my cold dead fingers.

    • George Pandoff

      What is it that prompts people to repeat stupid cliches when they have nothing intelligent to add to a conversation?

  • Starky

    No matter what weapon and caliber is chosen the most important thing is practice, practice, paractice. And when practising add in stress. Shoot from different positions. Run reload and clearing drills. Today far to many people get a handgun, buy a couple boxes of ammo, (if a couple) shoot 50 to 60 rounds and call it good. Saving the rest for the magazines. I am all for the right to carry, but in to many states there is no proficiency test required to obtain a concealed weapon permitt. As we all know we are accountable for every round fired. Choose a quality weapon practice like hell and hope you never have to use it.

  • Jim Twork

    Some good UNDERRATED guns on this list, definitely a good article.

  • Jim Vann

    The Browning Hi-Power is in my safe, too. The Charter Arms .44 Special Bulldog (old or new models) should get an honorable mention. The Bersa Thunder models would make my list, too – reliable and "lot's of bang for the buck."

    • jim brooks

      i agree jim i really like my bersa 380,dead on target and it has never jamed on me ….good gun

  • Robert Johnston

    The NAA Mini-Revolver should be #1 in this article…but I can also see the logic of the Bond Derringer (the .410 bore model is illegal to own here in California, as are the S&W and Taurus .410/.45 Colt revolver hybrids) at the #1 spot as well.

    The Browning Hi-Power also owes it's place on the list because of the "Gunshop Commandos" of the ".45 ACP uber alles (I do so hate that I cannot spell this properly, since I cannot put the umlaut over "uber")" persuasion constantly raising a stink about it not being chambered, in their not-so-humble opinion, "the only defensive cartridge that matters."

    (FYI–Jack Ryan, aka: "Tom Clancy's 'Everyman,'" carried-and-used the Browning High Power, starting with the novel "Patriot Games." It also appeared in the James Bond film "For Your Eyes Only," though not as 007's issue sidearm.)

    I also prefer it because of the steel frame…less felt recoil than your typical "Wondernine" because of the frame's heft.

    And as for the .22 family NOT being a good choice for "the personal weapon of last resort"?
    Before you shrug it off, consider:

    1) .22 LR and .22 WMR ammo is still pretty cheap and plentiful.

    2) At typical handgun combat distances (7 yards to skin-touch), the .22 LR and the .22 WMR (when loaded with hollowpoints, such as the .22 LR CCI Mini-Mag V I used in my Charter Arms-made AR-7), are PLENTY deadly!

    3) The .22 LR and .22 WMR are good training rounds, plus a Godsend for recoil-sensitive folks who cannot handle a .38 Special.

    4) Most small-frame ".22 family" handguns are not only among the easiest to conceal, but also pack more-than-enough ammo to resolve the situation at hand.

    5) Just ask any old-time "LCN Button Man" which weapon he preferred. It was often a .22LR in a 4" barreled double-action revolver. If he was ordered to "rub out" a victim, the bullet would not exit the skull of his target, but would slash up the "grey matter" faster than Freddy Krueger in a killing frenzy (most LCN kills were head-shots, btw).

    So, for those of us who need to watch our pennies…the .22 LR or .22 WMR is a choice worth considering.


    • FEFIT

      Nice reply RJ

      Ü can be achieved by holding down ALT then entering 0220

    • John Tremblay

      Wow, if James Bond and Jack Ryan carried one, that cinches it for me. I’m going to sell my .45 and get Hi-Power in 9mm. What greater testament to the efficacy of a combat pistol can there be?

      I’m just joshing you, I’m really not going to sell my .45 auto.

      You do know that Guns & Ammo has been stirring the cartridge debate pot for at least 30 years, right? .357 vs 9mm, .45 vs 9mm, .380 vs 9mm, .25 auto vs .22LR, ,30-06 vs .270…. ad nauseum.
      If the only gun you can carry and use effectively is a .22, then more power to you.
      My thoughts are to carry the most powerful handgun that you can use effectively and efficiently. For most people, that cartridge would fall into one of the common defense chamberings.
      To each his own.

  • jeepers Creepers

    very good article about a different type of handguns not used by the masses. Good reading. I'm one of the people that like the so called odd ball guns to use for self defense. I really enjoy mine. Keep up the good articles.

  • Charles

    keltec P11. 10+1 of 9mm in a sub compact.

    • Rico

      Hahahaha, KelTec is worse than a Charter Arms…and that is saying something as Charter Arms is a 50% /50% shot.. KT had the worst customer service after I ended up owning a CRACKED P3AT frame. Never buy one again & as many people I can talk out of buying one will help my concious rest.

      • billybob

        I love my little P3AT It goes bang when I pull the loud switch and hits what I aim at. Hey someone liked it so much they copied it!

  • Lee Arthur

    In replay about 22s. I have a 45acp, 40, 357 and a Walther P22 great little gun. I, depending on the mood I carry them all. The 22 is not a bad gun to carry. I know it will kill a person at 300 yards. I Have seen deer, hogs and other wild animals killes with 22s and I know of two people killed by 22s. The gun to carry is what fits you best.

    • John Tremblay

      Being killed is not the same as being incapacitated.
      I’ll give you an example; Leroy decides to mug Linda at the ATM. She produces a little .22 and shoots Leroy three times in the chest. Leroy crushes her skull with a crowbar and walks home, calls 911 and waits for the ambulance. Leroy arrives at the hospital and after an hour of surgery dies on the operating table.
      Well, he’s dead, right? Good job, Linda… except for the fact that Leroy killed her with that crowbar. Bummer.
      Shot placement matters, but so does cartridge efficiency. IF IT CAN”T REACH THE VITALS THEN IT MAY NOT INCAPACITATE THE TARGET.
      Read one of the internet articles on the Miami Shootout and you’ll see where I’m coming from.
      Head shooting pigs or deer is not the same as using a tiny little handgun on a human that’s trying to smash your skull.
      If you want to bet your life on a soft 40-grain lead slug, then go for it.
      We all have to make choices and if a .22 is best for you, then more power to you.

      • John

        Ain’t it weird how many hit men prefer 22 caliber?

        • John Tremblay

          They do? Source? Play Station III or X Box?
          Regardless of what “hit men” may or may not prefer, the point remains that the .22LR is not a cartridge that YOU should prefer to use to defend your life with. If that’s all you have or can handle, then so be it. Better to have something, than nothing.
          What I find truly “weird” is how few people can grasp that murdering someone is different than incapacitating them in a self-defense situation.
          Tony the “hit man” putting a bullet in the back of Guido’s head doesn’t make the .22 LR a fantastic self-defense round. Will it kill? Absolutely! So does cancer.

  • John Tremblay

    Something that needs to be pointed out is that .22LR ammo (and all other rimfire ammo) tends to have significantly more reliability issues than centerfire cartridges. The rimfire priming mixture doesn’t always get evenly distributed around the rim. That’s why you tend to have far more misfires with rimfire ammo than centerfire. Also the outside lubricated bullets pick up lint and debris.
    .22 LR bullets tend to be soft lead with a light copper plate. Yes, they will do much damage as they deflect inside the body, but getting to the vitals is critical for physical incapacitation.

  • petru sova

    Browning High Power underrated? Its has been used by over 50 countries since 1935. What strange planet do gun writers live on?

  • petru sova

    The real truth about the .45acp. In 1945 the U.S. Army finally got around to testing the .45 ACP 35 years after they adopted it. It failed to penetrate a helmet at a scant 35 yards (see the book “The Englis Diamond” and recently gun writer called “The Duke” (Mike Venturo) had it fail at 25 yards when shooting into a helmet. Pistolero Magazine in the 1980’s shot barn yard pigs in Mexico and found no difference in killing power what-so-every between the .45 acp and the 9mm. Bullet diameter is meaningless, its shot placement that counts as Agnes Herbert stated in the year 1900. She also stated that the gun writers of the time did not know what they were talking about especially when they were telling people to only use big calibers and shoot with one eye closed. Not much if anything has changed with gun writers since.

    • Richard

      I hate to sound rude, but any comment that quotes “The Duke” (I’m using the quotes as a sarcastic device) for anything other than the best snacks to take to a firing range instantly loses my respect and I stop reading it. If “The Duke” thinks a firearm is good, then it’s probably the worst possible gun for the situation.

  • Steve Baker

    CZ 82 FTW.

  • survival

    self defense is the best preventing measure when we alone or in critical situation.
    Self Defense

  • Oso Pardo

    They are underrated because they are in the same average price of the popular picks of the gun owners, a Steyr or Makarov are in same price range is a Glock or Beretta 92, witch you going to pick? the Browning Hi power with a $1000 retail gun and for same money you can buy a H&K 45 or maybe a little less. The Walther’s P99 and PPQ are underrated to and they are much better guns than Glocks but Glock has a earned reputation, it is the favorite of millions out there and it is what it is.

    • Jimmy Stark

      The Steyr dosen’t the aftermarket to back it up like Glock. I could order a barrel and have it by friday.

  • Paul Keats

    I love my Browning HP and my Walther PPK. But if I were permitted to carry a defensive firearm in Maryland ( I am not) I would choose a Smith & Wesson 642. Light and potent,

  • maddog

    YOLO protect yourself you morons doesnt matter what kind of GUN

  • Paul Carlson

    The one gun in this group that really stands out as being missed by the majority of defensive handgunners and actually deserves consideration as something other than a last ditch or niche defensive handgun is the Steyr M9-A1. This pistol is a solid performer. Despite the odd sights, (Willhelm Bubitz loves odd sights,) this gun works the way a defensive handgun should.

back to top