Best New Self Defense Handguns: SHOT Show 2020
Any of these pistols and revolvers make an excellent carry gun or home defense firearm.
Handguns intended for defensive use always make a strong showing at SHOT Show, and 2020 was no exception. This year saw introductions at every price point, from bargain basement to penthouse. We’re seeing some different chamberings than the typical offerings, which is good news for those trying to diversify their time at the range. Some old favorites got reworked, and some new classics were born:
The Patriot Ordnance Factory turns out some high quality arms, so when they jumped into the polymer pistol game it was bound to make some waves. POF bills the P19 as a “Gentlemen’s Pistol,” and all outward appearances certainly make it seem like a next-level Glock.
Compatible with many parts from the iconic Austrian maker, the P19 has POF’s Nitride match grade barrel, machined 17-4 stainless slide, and upgraded internals. The frame features an intense stippling job, flared magwell, contoured grip, interchangeable backstraps, enhanced mag release, slide stop guard, extended beaver tail, enlarged trigger guard, and forward thumb ledges for improved ergonomics. The slide wears a fiber optic front sight with blacked-out rear, and is cut for a Trijicon RMR. $1,100, pof-usa.com
Consumers have been asking Heckler & Koch for an easy way to mount optics to their VP9s for a while now, but the German giant ignored those calls—until now. At SHOT 2020, H&K unveiled the optics-ready SFP9 OR that features a milled slide that will accept their proprietary mounting plates so you can attach your favorite electro-optic.
These plates are symptomatic of H&K’s tendency to overbuild things, and feature a recoil lug to keep them in place no matter how much recoil your defensive rounds dish out. To keep costs down, H&K isn’t including these plates with purchase of the VP9; instead, they will be available from the factory for about $20 each.
Plates initially offered will work with optics from Meopta, Eotech, Noblex, Trijicon, Holosun, C-More STS2, Leupold, Docter, Burris, and more. A new spring in the magazine allows fro a bit more capacity, and the new VP9 mags will now hold 17 rounds in the same footprint that used to hold 15. $799
As soon as Colt brought back the Cobra, fans of the brand have been begging for more of the historic snake guns to be resurrected. In January 2020, Colt brought back what may the most famous of all—the Python.
Rick Grimes fans the Internet over rejoiced as the Colt delivered an improved Python. Trigger pull issues plagued the original version; likely a result of the less refined manufacturing processes used at the time. Early rumors indicated some of these gremlins may have cropped up again, but my time at the range proved this to be one of the smoothest double-action triggers I’ve ever had the pleasure of pulling.
A recessed target crown, interchangeable front sight, and walnut grip wearing the iconic Colt medallion round out the package. The stainless steel six-shooter is chambered in .357 Magnum, but .38 Special also works well. Barrel choices include 4.25- and 6-inches. $1,499.
In case you’re not familiar, the 5.7x28mm cartridge is a high velocity round that looks like it belongs in a rifle, thanks to the bottleneck that helps develop all that speed. This loading has impressive ballistics and little recoil, resulting in little to no muzzle flip despite moving at about 2,350 feet per second.
There were only a few firearms chambered for the hot round prior to Ruger’s introduction of the 57, the FN P90 bullpup and FN FiveseveN pistol. Unlike the latter two, the Ruger-57 is reasonably priced, even if the ammo isn’t.
The full-size 57 has a grip similar to the one found on the Security-9, but larger. A hardened billet slide features lightening cuts and wears a fiber optic front sight and adjustable rear. Adapter plates for optics are available, and attach to pre-tapped holes in the slide. The 1911-style ambidextrous manual safety is familiar. A robust slide release and reversible magazine latch add to the list of creature comforts.
The steel mags hold 20 rounds, making it a good choice for carry duty. While ammo is expensive now, the introduction of more firearms chambered in 5.7x28mm will lead to more people shooting it; and more people shooting it will lead to lower prices. $799.
The Walther CCP M2 already had a pretty solid following in the concealed carry community, but shooters with smaller hands found the slide difficult to manipulate and were a bit put off by the recoil 9mm presented in the diminutive semi. To offset these characteristics, the engineers at Walther built a .380 version of the M2.
The caliber change made the slide easier rack, and produces even less felt recoil. Press checks can be accomplished via the front or rear slide serrations, and a reversible magazine release works for both right- and left-hand dominant shooters. Fans of external safeties will like the easily accessible one on the M2. Maintenance is easy, with a fixed barrel and tool-less takedown. $469.
Stoeger unveiled their first pistol, the STR-9, to the delight of concealed carriers last year. The budget priced striker-fired 9mm was heralded for its better than average ergonomics and reliability. This year, Stoeger machined an area atop the rear slide to create a new optics-ready version of the STR-9.
Four included mounting plates let you easily affix the sighting system of your choice, and enter the world of RMR-equipped handguns at a reasonable price. The fore- and aft slide serrations make chambering a round with a red dot mounted a breeze. Three different backstrap options allow shooters to get a custom fit; a feature usually reserved for pistols costing twice as much. An integrated rail, internal safety, reversible magazine release, optimized, three-dot sight system add to the appeal for those that carry daily.
Stoeger also recognized the wave of magazine size restrictions sweeping the country, so the STR-9 can now be had with lower-capacity 10-round magazines. $399.
Springfield adds the new META trigger to their popular XD line to create the XD-M Elite. The flat-faced trigger breaks crisply, and is as reminiscent of a competition gun that the Match Enhanced Trigger Assembly (META) moniker would indicate. Over travel is nil, thanks to a stop.
Keeping with the everyday carry theme, the grip safety has been extended to better work with gloves for those that live in northern climes. The slide release is now ambidextrous, so you can easily operate it no matter which is your strong side. Speaking of carry, the XD-M holds a lot of ammo. The incredible 20+1 (or 22+1, depending on model) round capacity is nearly double what many competing pistols can hold.
There are four pistols in the series, but the two most likely to find their way into concealed holsters are the ones fitted with 3.8- and 4.5-inch match-grade barrels. $559 and up.
If you’re looking to defend yourself from predators with two, four, or no legs, look no further than the Bond Arms Grizzly. Texas-based Bond Arms has been making double-barreled derringers with as much pizzazz as function in a variety of calibers since 1995. To keep costs down on the Roughneck series, Bond omitted the lengthy polishing process they use on their more finely finished models in favor of bead blasting.
They took this approach with the new Grizzly, a stainless derringer with the rebounding hammer, retracting firing pins, and cross-bolt safety found on all Bond Arms. To take the look up a notch from the Roughneck series, they added rosewood grips with an engraved bear motif and included an embossed leather sheath that works on a belt or stuffed in a pocket.
Chambered in .45 LC/.410, the Grizzly is an excellent choice as a last line of defense in snake country stuffed with rat shot, or larger predators with any of the defensive loadings. $377.
Mossberg entered the handgun world in a big way after a 100-year hiatus with the introduction of the subcompact MC1sc at last year’s SHOT Show. The budget handgun sold like gangbusters, so Mossberg decided to give shooters a slightly larger version for 2020.
The MC2c gains a longer barrel and larger grip over its predecessor, with increased magazine capacity along with it. Despite the larger frame, the MC2c conceals well enough to be a viable candidate for everyday carry, and the longer barrel helps prevent levering if you favor appendix carry.
The new pistol also retains the easy takedown of the MC1sc, allowing users to take t apart in the field without tools—or needing to pull the trigger. The flat-faced trigger offers admirable take up and reset, and is way better than you’d expect in a carry gun in this price range. The MC2c ships with both a flush fitting 13-round mag and an extended 15 rounder, which offers more grip surface. $490.
Palmetto State Armory is known for their low-priced AR and AK parts, but they hope to make inroads into the polymer pistol market with their new 9mm Glock clone, the PS9 DAGR. Palmetto State ripped pages out of Gaston’s playbook to build the PS9, so many factory Glock Gen 3 parts can interchange with the DAGR including the trigger group and magazine.
They did make some improvements; notably, they opted for metal sights instead of the plastic ones on the original. The stippling on the grip provides more purchase than the Austrian, and the PS9 has striations on the front of the slide. An undercut trigger guard gives your hands more real estate, and allows for a higher grip.
The price is very friendly, with base models starting at only $300. Adding a slide cut for an optic, a threaded barrel and suppressor-height sights only bumps the price up $50. The PS9 will work with Gen 3 Glock 19 holsters, so there’s plenty of support should you decide it will be your next carry gun. MSRP: $299.
1911 fans will rejoice at the newest carry gun from Wilson Combat, the Experior. The top-tier 1911 maestro updated the century-old design with modern ergonomics and enhancements aimed at improving the reliability of the classic pistol.
The heart of the Experior is Wilson’s hand-fitted match-grade slide, frame and barrel. The single-stack models feature the company’s “WAVE” slide cuts, which reduce friction and provide a way for grit to work its way out without causing a stoppage. To provide a solid grasp, Wilson developed an asymmetric, flattop checkering pattern that offers an exceptional, non-abrasive grip that won’t snag on cover garments they call TRAK.
Quality comes at a price; and these beauties are probably worth more than my truck. $3,850 in 9mm, $3,750 in .45 ACP.
This single-shot offering from Altor is so weird that I felt compelled to share it with you. This striker-fired single shot bears more than a passing resemblance to the Deer pistol distributed to our allies by the CIA during the Vietnam conflict, but has an updated firing mechanism. I’m hard pressed to find any meaningful self-defense uses for the unique Altor, but it could prove useful in a survival situation.
The price is low enough that you can stash a couple in your go bag just in case the need arises, and the inner workings are simple enough that they can be completely rebuilt with a Leatherman if necessary. Two calibers are currently available, .380 ACP and 9mm Luger. MSRP $119 in .380, $129 in 9mm.
Designed for concealed carry and home defense, the new M&P9 Shield EZ pistol is the latest addition to the M&P M2.0™ family and the successor to the Shield EZ in .380 ACP.
This new 9mm version features an 8+1 capacity and ships with two mags that feature a load assist tab for quick, easy loading. The compact pistol sports a 3.675-inch barrel above a Picatinny accessory rail. A unique aspect to the EZ pistols is an 18-degree grip angle for a natural point of aim and a 1911-style grip safety. White-dot front and adjustable white-dot rear sights complete the package, along with a light, crisp trigger.
As the name denotes, the slide is designed to be easy to rack for pretty much anyone and the gun has a tactile loaded chamber indicator and a reversible magazine release along with a durable, corrosion resistant Armornite finish. It is available with or without a manual thumb safety. MSRP: $479. —Dave Maccar