About 40 years ago I took an oath to protect and defend the people of the United States of America as a police officer on the streets of this country's cities and rural areas. After skills training and subsequently becoming a sworn officer, one of the obvious skills that I had acquired was weapons training. For the very first day I arrived in those firearms skills classes as well as hands on live fire training I owned and carried some type of Smith & Wesson firearm as my selected duty gun. Why the Smith family of handguns? Because they are well built, function well in terms of functional reliability, and in effect something I trusted my life to more often than once.

The question being posed in this review is when making a choice in the best of the best handgun for home defense which way would I go in the selection process? The truth here is simply this. Because of several major factors in the selection process here there is not a single choice, but trimming the subject down to its bare bones at least three weapons need to be considered in this case. These three weapons in my estimation are Smith & Wesson products as applied to two different handguns, and Taurus built weapons systems as applied to gun number three. Each gun has very specific differences, and depending on the individual using the gun success or failure can stands up right at the forefront of the subject.

Facts to consider when selecting a home defense handgun.

Training is required

First of all handguns as defensive weapons in the home are a good choice if several elements in terms of training have been undertaken. While at times the use of a handgun by a totally untrained individual turns out to be successful, in all cases that is not the final outcome desired by the home owner. Therefore, what I will review here in terms of my weapons selection also demands that the owner of such a weapon get training as soon as possible.

Over the years I have been involved with this area of firearms, and I have seen so called gun fighters turn to a pile of soft clay when the pressure is put on them in training to perform well. As an instructor during my police training officer years I could not even come close to putting enough pressure on the trainee shooter to simulate a real gun fight or home defensive undertaking. That stress level goes off the charts in the real world. The new to the craft home defensive shooter must quickly understand that you fight like you train, and you must train like you fight. The bottom line here is simply this. No training leads to a fast death under the right conditions in a gun fight. Fact number one here is always assume the bad guy coming through your front door is armed. Factor number two is that a gun battle will last three seconds, and 2.5 rounds will be dispatched in most cases, therefor you want to be the winner. What that means is time on task is a major consideration here, and you don’t have much of it to get into a defensive posture. Third accuracy counts, and again training comes directly into play. Accurate shooters train, and “blam blam” shooters send out a lot of wasted lead and often get killed in the process.

Weapons secure placement

Of a major note here is making a decision as to exactly where to place a home defense gun. If children are present this is very critical in the area of gun safety. Lock box with you retaining the key at ALL times is one solution that seems to work. What you do not want to do is go so deep with the weapon in a safe location that recovery takes more time then you have. Solving that problem another element is taking the time to consider where your hard points are for cover if required. Retaining portable lighting for total dark coverage, and doing some actual walk through training after dark while considering coverage of the entry points in your home is always a good idea. If an issue was ever to come up and you were faced with the real possibility of using that handgun you would not want it to be the first run through in your training schedule.

The Actual gun

Wheel guns considered

If your a female, and I am not be a chauvinist here, to consider a wheel gun (revolver) is a solid choice. Here is why you many think this is a good idea. My choice is the Smith & Wesson Model 60, Taurus Model 605, or any of the several other “J frame” revolvers that are built in the small frame five shot 357 Magnum, or 38 Special variants.

The Model 60 J frame size is built with a short snub nose barrel (2.125 inches), or in the case of the Taurus revolver 3 inches, and both retain a tough all metal ramp front sight, and a slotted frame or partridge style as a rear sight. Also they are double action, meaning they can be used with the use of the trigger, or pull back the hammer for less trigger pressure regarding a well-aimed shot (head shots.)

The J frame wheel gun rules as compact and effective.

The 60 and 605 series are very compact and light weight even in the stainless steel models, and the Smith & Wesson is available in ultra-light Air-weight models as well, and are chambered in the softer shooting 38 Special cartridges.

The handguns length is 6.56 inches, in the Smith, and 7 ½ inches in the Taurus, which makes them very carry friendly or as packed away in a safe storage location in the home. Being a wheel gun, the left frame side retains an easy to use thumb latch that opens the revolver crane and cylinder which allows a quick and safe check regarding a loaded weapon. Five rounds are observed with ease and are very easy to load or unload. If I am having my weapon checked ( police style) I will hang the gun from my trigger finger with the muzzle pointed at the ground. Flip the thumb release with my left hand and allow the cylinder to flop open indicated that the weapon is hot or cleared. Easy, safe, and effective. This in my mind is a very safe handgun option to select from.

In terms of the new Taurus five shot design that gun makes use of a unique front sight that retains a red glow dot in the day light, and after dark turns to a white hot dot for shooting in total darkness.

Moving toward the autoloaders.

Because wheel guns do not require strain as in the operation of the weapons magazine system or slide, getting the weapon into action or even keeping it running is less of a consideration if things get hot. By example, and addressing the ladies or older shooters Ruger has just released the new “Lite rack”, LCP in a 22 LR, which is a soft pull back when moving the slide to the rear of the receiver to bring a cartridge up into the chamber from the magazine. I have watched ladies and older folks at the gun counter totally freeze up when trying to open an autoloaders slide. The crazy thing is I have also seen the same individuals buy the gun? Go figure on that deal?

Again as an old street cop I have always carried the Model 60 J frame even after we as a department made the transition to automatics. Why? Great secondary weapons for backup when in service, and wheel guns don’t jam!

Today some 21 years removed from police service the Model 60 Smith & Wesson and at times the Taurus 560 goes on my person right hip with my belt and pants every morning during the summer months when clothing is light weight, and carry guns are visible.

Remember this fact. Having a gun is not an automatic get out of jail free card if you use it. In fact the results if not following the law in a gun fight could be quite the opposite In most cases just the presence of a gun is more than enough to diffuse a situation. I have been involved in clearly four shoot don’t shoot situations where the gun just being there saved my life.


Smith & Wesson M&P Shield

As I previous indicated there are three guns in this review because in the right hands this second and third option is a class act. Currently there are at least 40 different automatic handguns on the market that look much like the Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm semi-automatic. Just today while writing this review still another 9mm as offered by Taurus in their new G3XL 9mm automatic has been introduced to the general public.

In most gun shops there are a lineup of polymer frame steel slide semi-automatics In fact far more of them than wheel guns. Why? Because wheel guns take hand worked skill to manufacture and the autos for the most part can be turned out like general dash board auto parts. The basic auto is a molded frame, a few lock parts, and a steel slide/ barrel package. The weapons are cheap to produce and everyone wants to be a cowboy with a high capacity fast shooting weapon that will most likely jam and get the shooter in real trouble sooner or later. This is the center of the issue surrounding the autoloading handgun, and the shooter had better be trained and strong enough in the arms and hands to clear a “ stove pipe” round ,half chambered round, or take on complete slide failure.

In professional training it is “tap, rack, bang”, drill. That means bang the side of the slide hard, re charge the slide with a fresh round, and pull the trigger regarding the intended target. I can say for a fact that 89% of the people that have this type of weapon in the hove have never trained, or done this drill at all. I had my chief of police live through a gun fight because the Beretta 92F he was staring down as he pulled off his shot jammed.

The shooter just looked like he had seen a ghost and froze in his tracks. Another example of why I always carried the Smith & Wesson Model 60 “belly” gun as a backup after we transitioned to autoloaders. In all fairness however I must say that the Smith & Wesson 5906 9mm hi-cap I did carried in service never jammed once, being training or in the field. That weapon was carried for over 10 years on the job.

The Smith & Wesson M&P Shield is a cop’s gun, and as such can be a solid home defense weapon as well in the right hands. This gun is small, carries seven rounds with a shorter mag for pocket carry, and a longer mag for general use. The sights are simple and fixed with the weapon mounts a short barrel in the compact model and is designed for in your face self-defense.

Models of the Shield are offered with safety's as well as no safety latch. In this area I came from a safety latch system being the 5906 Smith, or the Model 1911 45 ACP, and find it very difficult to understand why anyone would want a gun with no external safety. Some shooters have told me that they feel they could mess up if they had to disengage a safety latch before firing. If that’s the case buy and bow and arrow because your no shooter in my book, and you should stay way from guns before you get hurt. I know this will upset Glock and other internal trigger engaged system weapons owners, but I can tell you many more than a few cops got shot by their own guns because of this lack of an external safety feature. In the home the whole deal goes double. This is just one extra barrier that works against unintentional discharging of a firearm in the home. The results of that are obvious.

Finish on the Smith Shield is outstanding. I have carried one every day in a full leather molded paddle hip holster and the weapon to this day still has no holster ware what so ever. Can’t say that for almost every other field service weapon I own that is not bright stainless steel.

Keep the auto running.

General maintenance of an auto is higher than the wheel gun, and needs to be address on a regular basis. Dirt, dust, and grit, can stop one of these weapons in its tracks. I have had good luck with the Smith & Wesson in this area, but I do pay attention to its ability to function as well.

Well, there you have it my friends. The choices are three weapons types in my book, and in general each of them will fit a wide number of other offerings as to additional firearms brands that cover the same general area of handgun use. Again, I selected the previous reviewed handguns because these are my go to carry and bed side choices depending on the time of year.

Author: LP Brezny
Owner of Ballistics Research & Development and Metro Gun Systems TM.
Passionate writer, researcher and photographer.

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