Look, we’re all individuals with different lives and different circumstances, budgets etc. My top choices will probably not be your top choices; in many cases they can’t be because some of these guns are one-of-a-kind. This is mostly just a mental exercise peculiar to me, but it can be food for thought for you. One thing we do have in common regardless of our experience, skill and budget: the absolute, number-one consideration is reliability. If anyone going to bet on a gun it needs to work first and foremost. So here’s my choices:
#1 AR-Based 9mm
This is a Franken-gun, and a compromise with my budget. Aero Precision EPCC lower, Foxtrot Mike 9mm upper, Timney trigger, Magpul grip etc. Yes, that’s a Bushnell TRS25; it’s outdated but it’s a robust and reliable optic. As budget allows it will be replaced by a more capable unit with better features, but it will do the job.
The reasons why this is my first choice (with reliability as a given) is that shoulder arms are easier to fire quickly and accurately, and more stable with multiple points of contact. It’s also small enough to maneuver easily in close-quarters. With a 30-round magazine I’m unlikely to survive any situation that requires a reload. The fact that it’s visually intimidating is definitely not irrelevant.
#2 CZ P-01 Omega
Excellent track record, hyper-reliable, 15-round magazines. It’s a time-proven design, and with the full CJW trigger set-up it’s a delight to shoot. I’ve never had so much as an ammunition-related malfunction with it. The double-action first shot gives a bit more of a feeling of security.
With the improved trigger, excellent recoil management and ergonomics this gun is super-easy for me to rapid-fire accurately, and that’s important; the ability to put rounds on-target fast and accurately is paramount in a home-defense scenario.
#3 Custom Tisas 1911a1
This gun got edged-out by the CZ for two reasons: Capacity and reliability. Magazines hold 10 rounds, and it does not like underpowered 115gr. range ammo. It also had issues with some Sig magazines, but that’s on them, not the gun.
This gun was purpose-built to shoot rapidly and accurately before I got the CZ, and in that regard it holds a small but noticeable edge over the CZ. Not enough to offset the CZs almost supernatural reliability and 50% greater capacity though.
#4 Custom S&W M&P .38 Special
Dropping even further in capacity we come to this. 3″ barrel, custom grips, fantastic trigger, bobbed hammer and other custom features. The Wonderstight adjustable sight is another plus. This gun is a serious shooter.
The last time I had this at the range the RO heard me doing rapid-fire strings, looked up to see what I was shooting and was shocked to see it was a revolver. He was even more shocked when he looked at the target- a 2-1/2″ group centered on the bullseye at seven yards.
While it’s not my first choice (obviously) it’s utter reliability and superb accuracy win it a place on the list.
#5 Custom 1911a1 .45 with Ported Barrel
I really dithered over this one. It’s another Franken-gun, but this time designed for competition. It took 5th place because it has less capacity than the other autos and importantly less test-firing. Mind you the only reliability issues were ammo-related (cheap re-manufactured range ammo failing to ignite and some after-midnight reloads I screwed up)
The barrel porting makes it as fast on-target as the 9mms and it’s a great gun, but I just don’t have the confidence I do in the guns higher on the list yet. Maybe next year this will edge one of them out.
Again, this list is very specific to me, and your mileage will definitely vary.
JC Higgins (High Standard) 12-gauge pump shotgun. This is the slickest pump-shotgun I’ve ever handled, and would be a great choice for home-defense but I just haven’t practiced with it enough.
Detonics Mk.1 Combat Master .45. This gun is ultra-reliable and shockingly good at close-range rapid-fire but the 6+1 capacity and compact format make it a less-good choice than those that made the list.
Custom S&W hand-ejector converted to .45 ACP. Fantastic shooter, very fast to reload… but I’m not as fast or accurate with it as the M&P.
I wouldn’t feel under-gunned with any of the choices or runners-up, but objectively some guns are just better tools for some jobs. Of the guns I have I think I made the right choices. There were a lot of other options, but these guns meet the criteria for reliability, capability and how well I shoot them. As trifectas go that’s pretty hard to beat. No doubt with an unlimited budget I would make some different choices but living in my world doesn’t include financial security, let along massive disposable income.
The take-away? Reliability first, your capability with the weapon second and the weapon’s capability, while not inconsequential, is firmly in last place.
Stay safe and take care,
Michael Tinker Pearce, 13 November 2022