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Defensive Handguns

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What Handguns We DO NOT ALLOW

  • A handgun with a trigger press weight of less than 4 lbs.
    • For Double Action (DA) pistols, this refers to the initial trigger press (hammer forward/decocked)
    • Double Action/Single Action pistols need to have a decocker! Manually dropping the hammer will NOT be allowed (i.e. pistols similar to some models of CZs that are DA, but have no decocker.)
    • If you have a CZ or similar pistol that is DA/SA that does NOT have a decocker, it must be run 'cocked-and-locked' (hammer back; Safety on). The trigger press weight on the Single Action (SA) trigger press must be a minimum of 4 lbs!
    • If you have a DA/SA such as a H&K USP or something similar that has both a combination Decocker and Safety lever, it can either be run as a DA/SA, and decocked, or it can be run 'cocked-and-locked' using the Safety lever. The SA trigger press in this case would need to be at least 4 lbs.
  • Handguns that have modified or after-market triggers that can render the weapon unsafe
    • Due to numerous reports of dangerous malfunctions with Pyramid Triggers, including, but not limited to:
      • Unexpected full-auto fire
      • Firing in the holster
      • Firing on trigger reset
      • Trigger Safety malfunctioning
    • Any handgun that is equipped with one will not be used on our ranges. You will either need to re-install the stock trigger, use a different gun with an allowed trigger, or rent one of our guns. See our Armorers for assistance!
  • Handguns with Safety devices that are disconnected, pinned, or otherwise rendered inoperable or no trigger guard
  • For handguns equipped with external Safeties: Safety must be operable by the firing side thumb. If it is not, the weapon is not allowed. No exceptions.
  • Single action revolvers
  • “Pocket Pistols” such as very small weapons (smaller than a Glock 26)
    • Anything chambered in .25 or .32 calibers
    • .22 and .380 caliber handguns are allowed in some circumstances if they are full size handguns. Note that you will not be able to get anything higher than a Certificate of Achievement on a Skills Test if you are shooting a .22 or .380 caliber handgun.
  • Some examples of “Pocket Pistols”:
    • Glock 43 (43X is OK)
    • Kel-Tec P11, PF9 or P40
    • Kahr Micro (.380 or 9mm)
    • Ruger LC9
    • S&W Bodyguard
    • S&W M&P Shield 2.0
    • Sig Sauer P238
    • Sig Sauer P365
    • Taurus Millennium or Slim 709
    • Walther PPS
    • Similar types of pistols


Defensive Handgun Recommendations 

What weapon should you train with?

  • If you don’t own a weapon and are going to rent one of ours, then there is really no decision.  We will equip you with an appropriate, mainstream weapon which we know is a proper choice for your course.
  • If you only own one weapon that meets our minimum standards and want to train with it, bring it!  Throughout your course, you will learn all the strengths and weaknesses of that particular weapon.  In the end, that weapon may be perfect for you or you may want to go shopping.  Either way, the place to learn about your weapon is at PraireFire NV, not on the street in a time of need.
  • If you have been issued a weapon by your department, bring it.  We will train you to exceedingly high levels with whatever you have been issued.
  • If you are trying to decide from the dozens of weapons you already own or you are going to purchase a new weapon, then the following discussion is for you.

While it is true that “any gun will do if you will do”, there are definitely some choices which are more appropriate than others.  Below are a few things to consider when selecting a weapon.


Defensive Handgun

There are a couple of fundamental questions which need answering before we can recommend a proper “defensive handgun”.  First, what is the purpose of the defensive handgun?  At PrairieFire NV, we believe the role of a defensive handgun is to stop a fight that someone else starts.  Thus, a defensive handgun is not necessarily a competition gun, or a hunting gun, or a recreational plinking gun.  Certainly, there are lots of overlapping characteristics in all those weapons.  However, we are focused strictly on stopping the fight that someone else starts.

Secondly, where are you going to place or carry this weapon?  If you are going to carry it concealed on your body, you will obviously need a weapon of appropriate size.  If, however, you plan to carry this weapon in a briefcase, or a purse, or simply leave it on the nightstand, then the selection criteria are slightly different.

The following are some factors to consider when contemplating the purchase of a defensive handgun:

  • Reliability:  This weapon must be 100% reliable.  Remember, we are not talking about shooting paper targets here.  There are serious consequences to a malfunctioning weapon.
  • Quality:  Pick a quality weapon you will trust in a fight.
  • Size:  Appropriate to your needs (concealment vs. “house gun”).  Should fit your hand reasonably well.  No weapon is going to fit your hand perfectly; that’s where training comes in.
  • Weight: 
    • Heavy enough to be controllable under recoil.
    • Light enough to carry all day if needed.
    • Super-light guns may not be the right choice due to extreme recoil.
  • Sights:  Need good sights to get good hits.  Robust, steel, fixed, with tritium inserts are your best choice.
  • Trigger and Other Controls:
    • Easily usable.
    • Trigger press weight should be 4 lbs. or more.
    • Simple (defensive shooting is hard enough without the gun being hard to use).
  • Comfort:
    • No sharp edges or corners.
    • Guns with sharp edges don’t get carried or practiced with.
  • Caliber:
    • Bigger is generally better, within reason!
    • Any reasonable caliber will do (9mm, 40 S&W, 10mm, 45 ACP).
    • None will do very well compared to a shotgun or rifle.
  • Cost:
    • Expect to spend $450-$1,000 minimum.
  • Accessories:
    • Magazines.  Stick with factory magazines.  High-capacity magazines are the best choice if they are legal in your area.
    • Flashlight.  A flashlight is mandatory for a defensive handgun and it can either be attached to the weapon or separate.
    • Carry device.  The usual carry mechanism is a firing-side belt holster and a support-side magazine pouch, both of which is required for your course at PrairieFire NV.  Although not allowed for PrairieFire NV training, fanny packs, purses, shoulder holsters, thigh holsters, and briefcases are also popular.
  • What We Recommend for Home Defense
    • By “Home Defense” we mean you are going to place this weapon on the nightstand or someplace similar and use it only if there is a disturbance at home.  It does not need to be small and concealable.
    • We recommend a full-size, semi-auto, chambered in the largest caliber you can shoot well.
    • Good choices are the Glock 22, Glock 21, 1911 Government Model, and Springfield XD.
    • Fixed tritium sights, as discussed above.
    • Attached flashlight; remember, big and bulky is not a problem here.
    • High capacity magazine.  You may not have the luxury of a spare magazine when someone breaks in, so the magazine in the weapon should be high capacity.
  • What We Recommend for Concealed Carry
    • “Concealed” means you don’t want anyone to see it.  Therefore, this is a smaller weapon than described above in “Home Defense”.  Certainly, one weapon could be pressed into service under both categories.  If you are going to purchase only one weapon and use it for concealment and home defense, go with the smaller version.
    • We recommend a mid-size (compact) semi-auto, chambered in the largest caliber you can shoot well.
    • Good choices are the Glock 23, 1911 Officers Model, and Springfield XD compact.
    • Fixed tritium sights, as discussed above.
    • Separate flashlight.  Carry a flashlight, by all means.  However, carry the light separate from the gun to keep the overall weapon size to a minimum.
    • Spare magazine.  If you can successfully conceal a handgun and a separate flashlight, you can find room for a spare magazine!
    • Holster.  We require that you train with a firing side, belt holster which securely holds the weapon and fully covers the trigger.  If your method of carry will eventually be purse, fanny pack, etc., we will give you some advice on those items during your course.
  • What Gear is Required for a Defensive Handgun Course
    • You should bring a full-sized (e.g. Glock 17) or compact (e.g. Glock 19) pistol chambered in 9mm/.38 caliber or larger with the trigger guard intact.
    • It is highly recommended that you bring a back-up handgun similar to your primary weapon (at least the same caliber).
    • No single-action revolvers are allowed.
    • Don’t bring a “Pocket Pistol” which is a very small handgun usually in .25, .32, or .380 calibers.  Their small size and complexity will greatly increase the difficulty level of learning new techniques and could cause increased frustration on the part of the student.
    • A holster is required.  The holster must secure the weapon, cover the trigger guard and be worn on a waist belt.

correct holster


    • Two spare magazines for auto-loading pistols with magazine holders worn on the waist belt or two speed loaders for revolvers with appropriate holders are required.
    • A light jacket, sweater, or shirt is required in the 4-Day Defensive Handgun, 2-Day Handgun Skill Builder, 2-Day Advanced Tactical Handgun, and 4-Day Advanced Integrated Handgun courses as there is training from concealed carry.
    • Holster Recommendations:
      • Firing side, outside waistband (OWB) belt holsters are recommended for all handgun classes. Inside the waistband (IWB) holsters, depending on style, are permitted for all classes, but are not recommended.  IWB holsters should not be worn forward or past the firing side hip for range use.
    • Holsters must have full trigger guard coverage.
    • Holsters should have a vertical cant.
    • FBI cant holsters are allowed, but discouraged.
    • Holsters with a cant greater than 15 degrees are not allowed.
    • Thumb-break straps must be taped out of the way.
    • Blackhawk Serpa or similar holsters requiring trigger finger release mechanisms are not allowed.
    • ABSOLUTELY NO THIGH HOLSTERS, even for advanced handgun students
    • Fobus holsters, while most styles are usable in our courses, are specifically NOT recommended due to retention and fit issues.
    • Leather holsters are acceptable provided they are rigid enough to remain open when the gun is withdrawn and their thumb-break straps can be taped out of the way.

In general, we recommend Kydex or injection molded polymer holsters when possible and either two single magazine pouches or one double magazine pouch. There are some good manufacturers out there, such as Blade-Tech, Alien Gear, Safariland, etc. A simple internet search will turn up products and reviews on a multitude of holsters and magazine pouches. Factory supplied Springfield Armory XD/XDM holsters are not recommended.  They are not designed for the frequency of use we demand of them.


If you have a question regarding the usability of a specific holster, please email us at or call 702-837-7433.