Top 5 Worst Self-Defense Guns

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Top 5 Worst Self-Defense Guns

USA – -( If you buy essential oils on the lower rungs of the quality ladder, the worst thing that can happen is that you’ll be out a few bucks and feel a bit slimy. Oh, and your friends will think you weird for investing in magic oil in the first place. If you buy a self-defense gun that doesn’t rank above the midpoint of the Gunsumer Reports Annual Ballistics issue, it might cost you your life. And for cheaping out on so important a decision, your friends might arrange for Cardi B to lip-sync the Baby Shark song at your funeral.

I got to thinking about guns we’ve seen come and go over the past few years that earned a place on the worst self-defense guns list. To be fair, some of these have perfectly good uses for other things; I just wouldn’t want to bet my life on them when better choices are readily available.

Taurus Model 85 View

This tiny .38 Special revolver had minutes of engineering invested designed to make it as light and concealable as possible. Unfortunately, the resulting product looked very much like a gun from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The proportions were… caricature-ish.

The cylinder could only get so small as it has to fit five rounds of .38 Special. Engineers created the “bulk” reduction by doing torso removal surgery on the grip and amputating the barrel. Seriously, the grip is about the size of two .38 cartridges duct-taped together. I’m not exaggerating much. The overall result looked something like a 55-gallon oil drum with a grip taped to one end. Sound extreme? So was shooting this abomination.

Taurus Model 85
Taurus Model 85

And therein lies the real reason the Taurus View makes the Worst Self-Defense Gun list. It’s dang-near un-shootable. And I mean that in all ways. Recoil? Painful. Shot control? Nope. Practical accuracy under stress? About on par with throwing tequila salt over your left shoulder 19 shots into a raging Cinco de Mayo party. If anyone out there can hit the broad side of a barn with one, I’d like to give them my Justin Bieber Challenge Coin.

One more thing. For no discernible reason other than being different, the side plate was made of transparent plastic so you could see the trigger action operate. Right.

.410 Revolvers

I always try to be a nice guy, and I rarely, if ever, troll the internet just for the fun of it. And I’m not trolling here, really. Even still, I suspect there may be plenty of folks who disagree with me about these revolvers named after government officials being appropriate for self-defense.

I don’t think they’re the absolute worst self-defense option; I just don’t get the appeal. At all. Yes, you can fire .45 Colt and other traditional cartridges through them as they have rifled barrels, but they’re not particularly good at that. Not nearly as effective as purpose-built centerfire cartridge revolver.

.410 Revolvers: These are a lot of fun, just not my pick for self-defense.
.410 Revolvers: These are a lot of fun, just not my pick for self-defense.

The marketing appeal is that it can shoot both .410 shells and standard cartridges. You can even load them in the same cylinder. On paper, that sounds kind of neat. For self-defense use, it just doesn’t add up for me.

While I’m not volunteering to be shot by a .410 bird, buck, or slug load, they’re not known as deep penetrators with sufficient mass to stop a large mammal target, like a crazed human being or a Yeti. Will it make a mess? Yes. Is it lethal? I’m sure it is. Will it stop a determined attacker as effectively as a quality hollow-point centerfire offering? Maybe. Maybe not. If you made me bet, I’d side with the reams of data supporting the performance of revolver cartridges like .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .44 Special, and the like.

Now, in fairness, would I want one? I actually had one at one point, but I sold it. It seemed to have potential as a field or snake gun, but other than that, the compromises just didn’t do it for me as a self-defense option. Trying to be all things, I just found it didn’t do any of them particularly well.

Taurus Curve

A few years ago, I think Taurus did a Fear and Loathing at the Shooting Range ride-along with Hunter S. Thompson. Clearly, the outing involved copious amounts of LSD. Don’t get me wrong we love the Taurus brand, but yes, they make the list once again with the Curve.

At first glance, you might mistake the Curve for the Kimber Pepper Blaster spicy goo launcher. It’s a globular design with a marketing twist, or curve, that redefined the term “pointless gimmick.” The frame was curved—the idea being that the grip area would better wrap around your body and conceal more effectively. If you were right-handed, I suppose that might work in theory. Lefties got the benefit of extra printing and gun exposure.

Taurus Curve
Taurus Curve: I apologize in advance for hurting your eyes.

Sticking to its minimalist design aesthetic, the company ditched sights—altogether. In fairness, they painted crossed lines on the back of the slide and included an integral laser.

When I saw the release on this one, I bleached my eyeballs and retired from the shooting industry for six months. It didn’t do anything better than a million other pistols except be bent.

Pocket .22 Revolvers

One of the fist gun “stores” I used to frequent was more of a storage unit. It was legal, and duly authorized and approved by the BATFE, but it was located in an industrial park mostly filled with rows of rental spaces populated by auto body shops, countertop fabricators, and the like. You know, working businesses, not retail stores or places with showrooms.

Anyway, this place was a Class III dealer stocked with some of the most interesting surplus rifles, pistols, ammo, and automatic battlefield pickups you can imagine. The interior in no way resembled a shop. No counters. No glass cases. No counters. No cash register. Few if any shelves now that I think about it. Just a bunch of stuff piled on the floor and hung on the walls. It looked more like a neglected self-storage unit before the auction. Yes, it was glorious. There had to be a few hundred-grand worths of firearms and ammo in there at any given time.

Pocket .22 Revolvers
Pocket .22 Revolvers: I actually do like these and appreciate their utility, just not as a primary concealed carry firearm.

The owner was a big guy. While large, and not so mobile anymore, he had that tough biker gang look so most people wouldn’t have wanted to mess with him. He was extraordinarily friendly, and one day while chatting about the new shipment of hollow-projectile 7.62x54R training ammo, I asked how he protected himself and his business. I figured he had some beefy pistol or machine gun hidden away that I hadn’t noticed. With a big smile, he pulled out one of those microscopic single-action .22LR revolvers from his shirt pocket and said, “This.”

I was a bit stunned, to say the least. Here’s a guy sitting in the biggest gangland robbery target in the city, day in and day out, in an invisible location, protecting the premises with a 5-shot mini-revolver with a whopping one-inch barrel. The strategy seemed to be on par with popping Orange Tic-Tacs for birth control, but what do I know?

Don’t get me wrong; I love those tiny wheel guns. They’re well-made, infinitely concealable, and lots of fun. I just can’t imagine using one for primary self-defense. Backup? Sure. They’re perfect for that role.

As far as I know, his puny revolver never failed him. Then again, he never faced an armed robbery attempt.

Flat Derringers

If having leftover ammo after surviving a self-defense encounter disturbs you, then perhaps a two-shot handgun solution makes sense. If you’re willing to run the risk of being stuck with unused ammo, there are plenty of better options out there.

These flat derringers made a big splash a few years ago, both for their brick-like design, thin profile, and legal battles over whose idea the concept was. The pistols were available in a variety of calibers. As I recall, you could even get one chambered in 7.62x39mm. Yes, the standard AK-47 round.

There’s nothing inherently dysfunctional about these derringers. They work. They’ll fire two shots with ease. Depending on the model, there are a couple of spare rounds stowed away in the base of the grip. If you’re in the middle of a fight for your life, it’s doubtful you’ll have the opportunity to unload, access those, and reload. At least you can bequeath those leftover rounds to your children should your initial two rounds not prevent your demise.

I guess my problem with these is that they egg on the very dangerous false sense of security. “Hey, I have one shot to stop a threat and one as a spare in case there are two attackers!” That’s optimistic at best and doesn’t account for misses, failures to incapacitate on the first shot, and a zillion other potential outcomes that are far more likely.

Fun and Games

So, I may have had a little fun making jabs against some of the more non-traditional defensive firearms, but the underlying reasons are legit. If you’re going to rely on a firearm to help save your life in a worst-scenario encounter, don’t fall for gimmicks. It’s not worth the risk. Think about things like ease of shooting effectively under stress. Ability of the designated weapon caliber to inflict fight stopping damage—quickly.

And last, but certainly not least, carrying enough of that ammo to ensure getting the job done.


Tom McHale is the author of the Practical Guides book series that guides new and experienced shooters alike in a fun, approachable, and practical way. His books are available in print and eBook format on Amazon. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

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The Taurus 85 is a great little snub nose revolver. Similar in size and feel to a j frame Smith. The gun you described was the view, which as the article stated is a strange little gun with no real purpose. Pease update the heading on that section with the correct model name.


OldSchool32 is 100% correct on this…


Thanks for the article. Help me out here Gents, the Taurus View is a Taurus 85 is it not? Taurus 85 View?
Thanks in advance,


The view was a special edition of the model 85 with a tiny grip, clear plastic side plate and a minuscule barrel. That gun deserves it’s place on this list.


The only “essential oils” I have all begin with the word “gun”.


The “tiny wheel guns” are indeed excellent backup, but certainly not primary. The flash-bang from the .22 Magnum version, however, is enough to route all but the most steadfast intruder in a confined space…


EVERY person I have seen fire them ends up with powder residue on the firing hand, some with burns. GREAT guns for GSR checks !

Ej harbet

At contact range I think it’d be devastating


This is a great article. I chuckled all the way through which, I’m guessing, was its intent.


Well, I suppose they are better than no gun at all.


Disagree! A gun that is junk or in the hands of the unskilled is a danger to the individual carrying it. Buy a top of the line gun, take training and practice, practice and practice on a regular basis. Accessing it, as well as, hitting what is aimed at!


In defense of the derringer: I carry either a Ruger SP101 .357 or Beretta NANO 9mm as defense, BUT I also have a 4″ Bond 410/45LC tucked IWB. Reason: the 410 won’t carry blocks down the street and clobber some innocent walking their dog, or penetrate a house wall accidentally. My intent is to give a carjacker or assaulter a face full of shot which may not put him down, but “his view of life” will certainly change Of course, the 410 is also right for snakes or other small animal life threatening nearby – I carry #5 shot top… Read more »


My raging judge has defended my family twice without having to be fired. Just the look of the thing has been enough to put the fear into grown men. It’s perfect for short range and the bigger pistol rounds follow up the buckshot to guarantee your target won’t get up.

Pastor Roy

What kind of recoil can I expect from the 410? I’ve got a Ruger LCR9mm and compared to my two 9mm semi-autos, that little revolver is rough!

Ej harbet

4inch 44mag 240gr jhp level’ll sting more than a lcr9mm


I fired the 410 buckshot out of it and it wasn’t any worse then a few 9 mm I have fired, however, I had a hard time hitting a card board box on the ground at about 20 feet. I never did figure out where the rounds were going and the other three people watching couldn’t either. I am a good shooter so don’t even go there.


I like my Taurus Magnum Judge. The .410 is fine since I live in a mobile home where distance, and even accuracy, is less a problem and the thing will hurt you badly.

Pastor Roy

What do you mean by “the thing will hurt you badly”?

Ej harbet

Shoot to stop not hurt.sometimes the hurt ain’t hurt enough to keep from hurting you.

Pastor Roy

I own the Taurus Curve. Got it because my son was working in a convenience store which, of course, didn’t allow him to be armed. He needed a gun that was virtually impossible to print and wouldn’t show if his pant leg rode up on the 9mm in his ankle holster or his .40 in his IWB. But he didn’t like the Curve at all, mostly because he couldn’t hit the side of a barn with it (though an armed robber would be a lot closer than a barn). So I gave it to my wife who carried it in… Read more »


If your son couldn’t hit the side of a barn with it and your wife couldn’t make it shoot accurately why in the world would you trust your life and potentially the lives of your parishioners, with it? Surely your life and theirs means more to you than ditching a cheap gun for one that you can shoot accurately at any number of distances that might occur when the crap hits the proverbial fan?


Have to agree on all counts. There are so many 9mm compacts and even subcompacts available that no one should have to carry something that is clearly sub-par for an EDC.

Ej harbet

And ammo keeps improving! Our highway patrol even quit 40s,after decades. G22 for gen5 g17s

Graham Baates

I’ve got one of the pocket shotguns in .410 and have awarded it the most painful handgun I’ve ever used. While trying to review it my range assistant quit after just three shots; she wanted nothing more to do with it. The design flaw in my opinion was the inclusion of what could be described as a ball-peen hammer just above the tang. As the gun recoiled that “hammer” rocked into the web of the hand. I never did figure out why the design included that, it wasn’t necessary for a break-action…


I have the Cobray side by side .410/.45LC, one of the hardest kicking, hardest to hold on pistols I own. It was a compulsive, low cost purchase to tinker with. Harder to hide in a pocket due to the width but both barrels are the same low bore height, not one even higher than the lowest.

Ej harbet

I thought about getting a long barrel cobray
Double.I’d have a friend reshape that horrible grip frame to accommodate a gp100 hogue grip.might make it nice to shoot and the 11 inch barrel easier for recoil and more power.
If you gotta use .410 for defense get the federal 4 pellet 000 buck 2.5 inch round! It patterns and penetrates the best.

Xaun Loc

I have to wonder where he got the gun in the photo at the top of the article. The gun he claims is a Taurus 85 – I have a Taurus 85 — in the original Ultralight version (not the later Ti version which I think is slightly lighter still). Yes, it’s a handful to shoot with hot loads like the Corbon +P that my late wife carried (and our grand-daughter still carries), but its actually quite pleasant with regular .38 target loads. The grip was never as small as the author claims (although mine has had crimson trace lasergrips… Read more »


I have the NAA .22 Win Mag, and agree wholeheartedly. It’s easy to carry however, and beats heavier options left at home. It’s my “better than carrying nothing at all” option…

I bought a Taurus Judge back early 2000’s, and the cylinder fell off of the gun before I ever got it to the range -much less, fired a shot.


I also have a NAA .22 win mag. The muzzle flash and noise will disorient anyone long enough to get off a second or third shot. Not my primary CC but a great add on for backup..


The very first firearm I purchased was one of those little .22 revolvers, ordered it from a cabelas catalogue. It’s a cool little paperweight and yup, it’s black powder.


@Stuck – picture looked like NAA mini-revolver, which can be found in 22LR or 22win-mag (or both). Toyed with the idea until hearing how hard they are to load and unload – friend-of-a-friend had ND because there is no safe, no trigger guard, and you have to basically disassemble the gun and remove cylinder to unload/load/switch between 22LR & 22mag – pull trigger back and hold it over a live round while using your other two hands to disassemble! All with a gun so small you may have to use tweezers… OTOH – I picked up an LCR and decided… Read more »

Ej harbet

If a lcr is too small you got giant hands!
My reload time on a mini master 4inch 22lr is 30seconds from empty to first hits torso to 25yd making it better than a 1inch.
Aguila interceptor 40gr will break 1200fps from it.


Sure wish I lived near you and you are a gambling man!


I have recommed the Judge to a friend. She lives in a condo complex so she has to be cognisant of her neighbors. I was not thinking this would be a CCW, more of home defense. I talked to a range officer and, like you, was luke warm; I explained that her bedroom is on a second floor and anyone coming up the stairs, 5-steps, would be between walls — 3 feet across. He said it would work in this situation. The shot may not kill them, but the fall backward down the steel steps might.


I suggested that for a blind friend. It makes sense.


That model of Taurus was called the 85VTA, also called the “View.” It was discontinued from production in 2014, as it was a commercial flop. The current 85 has been updated to the model 856 and looks nothing like it, and has more of a S & W Model 36/60 appearance, although with a 3″ barrel rather than the 1.875″. The 85VTA and the Chiappa revolvers do have that “Roger Rabbit” cartoon gun look (why I can never bring myself to seriously consider a Chiappa, in spite of it’s rave reviews). As for the standard model 85, it shoots just… Read more »

Paul Valone

I can add only what I generally say when I encounter acquaintances carrying such failures of creation: “That’s interesting, but why don’t you buy a real gun?”


Since this is about self-defense handguns, let me state, in my opinion, that “intimidation value” and concealability (as important as caliber) should be the top two features in selection. The 410/.45LC pistols described, have plenty of the first and little of the last. The rest of the pistols in the article can perhaps be backups, but not for me. I cannot emphasize enough that whomever is staring at the business end of any gun, must know that what he’s looking at is a deadly weapon, not a toy. Anything besides, is just a detail.


I live in a trailer so the Taurus Judge loaded with 410 is just fine.


i once shot a taurus 9mm model ‘rattle rattle’. I thought the durn thing would fall apart.I shot a couple rds,& gave it back to owner. S&W, Ruger built well enough for me. The Colt series 70, 1911 45acp, S&W 45 LC my favorites. That 45LC JHP, got my deer last season w/1 shot. A fine article, Thank you !


Amen, Tom!!!


I’ve had some fun reading these responses and find some valuable and others not so much. I do have a state approved concealed carry permit and through the more than 10 years I’ve had the permit I have carried concealed I have gone full sized to micro with a variety of handguns. Right now my EDC is a SIG P365 with 12 round mag & 15 round reload. I also carry appendix in an Alien gear holster designed for the purpose. If I am about to venture into known trouble my main carry will be my Ruger MPR with at… Read more »


After reading several comments I noticed that this article was posted time ago, and looks all agreed with the list. Fortunately, I don’t have any of these guns in the list but I am curious about the Taurus 85 View: If the main problem is the grip, Can the grip be changed to a standard size? I own a derivative of that gun which is the 856 Ultra-Lite and overall it’s a very balanced revolver, obviously have a different anatomy, and along with my Taurus G2C, are on my CCW rotation list. Just asking to see your answer. Thanks a… Read more »


two shots will get the job done. The Mossad ( Israels CIA) uses “two taps to the heart” to assassinate. They use 22s because they make less noise than center fire calibers. However for what the derringer makers want for their tiny guns…$300-400 I would rather buy a small 38 special or 9mm….altho my gun of choice is a 45 acp…..full size 1911….5″ barrel. Obviously a full size 1911 is not a concealment gun…but I prefer the gun and caliber over tiny guns. When I had my permit and my handguns I had a 9mm ,357manum and a 45 acp.… Read more »




Absolutely right, 2 shots to the heart will do the job. If you can get the armed criminal to stop shooting at you and hold still so you can put those 2 shots where they need to go. 2 shots should be all you’ll need. I’m not near a good enough shot that I can hit a heart sized moving target that’s shooting back at me under the stress and pure adrenaline of someone trying to kill me at a unknown distance. In a unknown environment. With unknown lighting. I’m no where near that good and I practice and train… Read more »


Do two shots to the legs count? Asking for Biden.


Joe (my favorite Tug Benson impersonator) just recommends a shotgun blast through the closed door at about leg height (for civilians – LEO’s have to aim). I don’t think Joe has offered adjustment advice if it’s a midget. Otherwise, he’s suggested going out on the balcony and firing a birdshot shell into the air (probably hasn’t considered if you’re surrounded by multi-story buildings – amongst other things).

Last edited 2 years ago by AggregatVier

I thought we were supposed to go out to the front step and shoot in the air?


Wondered if there was an article here ever discussing Charter Arms self-defense handguns. They appear to have a wide array of calibers in 2 and 4 inch wheel-guns. I was considering a smaller wheel gun for concealed carry in a caliber that I already use. Charter makes them in .22, .357 and .45 as well as .38 and .44 special. .45ACP Pitbull looks like a winner to me for self-defense.

Ej harbet

Agree with the 1st and third taurus.mostly agree the judge/governor isn’t ideal,guns like that to me are only good with the 2.5″ federal 4 pellet buck round which will stay on a torso to 50feet.with minis the 1inch is made improved with the holster grip and will stay torso to 30feet.the black widow is superior with the 2.5″barrel and better grip.other than Kurt kjelbergs ideal conceal cell phone Derringer I have no use for them.but other folks feel differently or bond arms and a few other companies wouldn’t be doing well.good educational article.


I had a tiny chrome Jennings J22 that was almost completely worthless. No extra mags available and extremely easy to jam. It was good for a laugh as a “pimp gun” and it would go BANG, so it did have a benefit.

Xaun Loc

This article has to be among the worst drivel that I have ever seen posted on AmmoLand (a site infamous for copied/pasted press releases and mindless drivel). I don’t doubt that most of the list are poor choices for EDC self-defense guns. But whether any of them are among the “worst” I wouldn’t venture a guess. I would say that I doubt Tom McHale has ever fired any of the guns on this list, although one of his descriptions reminds me of NY Daily News reporter Gersh Kuntzman laughable report on firing the AR15. (By the way, for a more… Read more »


I couldn’t disagree with anything that he said. Having recently written up points to consider in selecting a defensive handgun, certainly none of these would come near being my own choice! (Except as a BUG (backup gun), as the author has already allowed.)


Xuan Loc . . . Get a life, Sonny! Been in two firefights with a modified Glock 30 and am still standing! I would NEVER attempt to use ANY of the firearms in this article as a primary carry choice and you, or anyone, should not either unless you want to have dirt thrown on your coffin three days later!!!


As I read the article, he has shot them and even owned one , he admitted to. Ive shot a couple he listed& agree w/him. All are cheap. That alone, raises a red flag. But,if its all one haves, it`s better than a pocket full of rocks.


Which has everything to do with the subject at hand, no doubt???


What it has to do with the subject at hand is that it is the person not the gun that is the most important part of the “defensive gun” equation. When you have stupid people carrying guns you get stupid results. Therefore, “There are plenty of stupid people out there carrying guns.”, which is represented by the story in the article I posted. Do you get it now?