The defensive handgun is a specific type of weapon for a specific purpose.  It does not have to abide by the restrictions that other weapons have to.  It doesn’t have to be easy to conceal, compact, or lightweight, as it is not likely to be carried with us everyday.  This gives a huge variety of pistols to choose from, but which should we choose?  Keep reading to discover what factors are critical to a tactical defensive handgun, and which firearm we’ve chosen for this roll.  


Before we discuss the details of the pistol we have chosen, we need to first consider which factors are most relevant for this type of weapon.  First, it needs to be reliable.  I don’t care if you have a death laser that allows you to make automatic head shots, if it doesn’t work all the time, it’s pretty much worthless.  I’ve heard it said that a gun is like a parachute, when you need one, you really need it to work, and I must say that the XDm has proven to be 100% reliable so far.

Springfield XDm 9mm with Surefire x300 ultra light

Ease of Use

Secondly it needs to be easy to manipulate and safe.  I prefer weapons that do not require you to actively manipulate a safety, and I also prefer a weapon that has more than one.  A Glock, for example, has the trigger safety, which is good feature.  The XDm; however, has a trigger safety, and a beaver tail safety that must be depressed with your hand to fire the weapon. Both of these safeties require no conscious manipulation, and are very effective.

Accuracy and Capacity

Lastly it needs to be accurate and hold enough rounds for a realistic engagement.  The XDm, in 9mm, holds 19 rounds in the magazine, and one in the chamber bringing the total to 20 rounds.  This is more than adequate, in fact, it is the equivalent of almost three 1911 magazines.  I know, I know, 45 acp and knock down power.  Well you should read this article on ballistic myths to learn why there is no difference between 9mm and 45 acp in terms of killing ability.  Even if there were some differences in the 45 acp and the 9mm, which there is not, I’d still take the 20 rounds in the XDm.  You know what they say, the fastest reload is one you don’t have to make.

The Pistol 

The Springfield XDm has been around for approximately 10 years, and since then, it has garnered many accolades from it’s owners and from the industry itself.  It won the coveted handgun of the year award in 2009, and since then, Springfield Armory has continued to release new versions with further tweaks.

Springfield XDm in 9mm with a 4.5 inch barrel

I’ve owned mine for several years and have been a big fan of it’s reliability and ergonomic design.  As was stated above it meets all my criteria for a good tactical defensive pistol.  It’s reliable, in fact, I’ve never had any type of malfunction. It has multiple intuitive safeties, including the trigger safety and the beaver tail grip safety.  I’ve also found it to be very pleasant to shoot with excellent accuracy.

The Setup

I generally do not like to modify pistols that I plan to use for self defense.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  One, I do not believe that I’m as smart as the engineers who designed the weapon, nor do I feel that many aftermarket companies have the same level of engineering that the manufacturer does.  Sure there are some very good aftermarket manufacturers, but I still prefer the known quantity that is the factor weapon.

I feel like they designed the the components the way they did for a reason.  Now that’s not to say that I don’t think any weapon should be modified.  If you have a competition gun that you want to modify, have at it, but if you talk to those who have gone down this path, you’ll find that it is very easy to modify them into unreliability.


I also feel like modifications are a crutch for many people.  Yes, you will probably shoot more accurately and quicker with a $3000 race gun than you will with a stock anything, but your stock weapon will work in the mud, snow, and adverse conditions you can expect to find in a gun fight.  There is also another path to shooting better, it’s called practicing the fundamentals.  So before you drop huge money on a pistol, you might try this training plan to help you shoot any pistol better.


The Light 

Since a huge majority of engagements occur during conditions of reduced light, some estimates run from 60-80%, I always like to attach a light to a weapon if I can.  This is critical for target acquisition.

Often times it is not practical to carry a concealed weapon with a huge honking light, but remember in this, we do not have to worry about that since we are not likely to be concealing this weapon.

XDm sideview

I’ve always been partial to Surefire products, and in this case I’ve chosen the X300 Ultra.  They are expensive, but in my opinion they are the most reliable.  I’ve always felt that having a weapon light that was as reliable as the gun it self was just plain good sense.

Surefire X300 Ultra


It is also important to consider the switching mechanism of the light.  Most pistol mounted lights have an up/down toggle switch that can be activated by a finger or, more commonly, a forward thumb on the weak hand.  Now this can work well when you shoot with both hands, but a lot of folks that have been in gunfights, report that they were forced to shoot with one hand at some point during the engagement.  So this we must consider a way to activate the light with a different mechanism.  Surefire has thought about this and has the DG switch which is a pressure activated switch that runs under the trigger guard, leaving no exposed wires.

If you would like to give the light a try for yourself, try this affiliate link to purchase from  If you’d like to give the switch a try use this affiliate link.  We appreciate your support, and hope you like the gear.

Dg Switch


Alright we’ve got a good reliable weapon with a nice light setup, we are good to go right? Wrong!  This is the most common pitfall for those selecting a tactical defensive pistol.  You need to train with the setup to find out how it affects your abilities.  I will give you the perfect example.  The switch on the light requires you to apply pressure rearward with your dominant hand.  This pressure is a little more than you normally use to hold the weapon and that can induce some shake into the sights if you do not practice.

Even more importantly, the rearward squeezing of the middle finger, used to activate the switch, will also cause your trigger finger to squeeze.  If you do not practice activating the light without moving your trigger finger, then I promise you will have a negligent discharge.  Remember we do not walk around looking for bad guys with our light on all the time, so you need to become proficient in using the switch.

The majority of this training can be accomplished wth simple dry fire drills, but you should also shoot live fire, to make sure your setup will work exactly how you expect it too.

Closing Thoughts

This article covers the selection of a pistol for defensive purposes.  It does not cover techniques used in a gunfight.  There will be upcoming articles on this subject, but to be honest you are more likely to absorb this info by taking a course.  So get out there, put your defensive setup together, and start training.