The Best Defensive Firearms of SHOT 2024

— Travis PikeCADRE Dispatch

Every year, SHOT Show brings us dozens and dozens of new guns. We’re introduced to guns both big and small, some are designed for hunting, others for sport, and plenty are designed for defensive applications. We scoured the miles of aisles at SHOT to bring you the five best new defensive firearms for 2024. 

The MAT-9 Close Combat Carbine 

The MAT-9 Close Combat carbine is a rather interesting take on the PCC/subgun genre of firearms. These guns are quasi-AR-like but most certainly a bit more novel in their approach.

The MAT-9 series ditches the receiver extension for an internal buffer contained in the upper receiver. The lower controls come from the AR world and incorporate a fully ambidextrous design. 

The MAT-9 comes in both eight and 5-inch long barrel variations, and these guns are sold as large-format pistols. The rear of these guns features a 1913 Picatinny rail for attaching braces or stocks, depending on your tax stamp status. They also take Glock magazines, which only come in 9mm at the time of this writing. 

Matadaro mat-9 at SHOT Show
The MAT-9 is AR-like and uses Glock mags but delivers its own twist to the defensive subgun.

Matador designed the MAT-9 to be lightweight and easy to use. The compact nature of the gun is well-suited for indoor use, making it a great defensive option. While it’s still just throwing a pistol-caliber round, it’s much shorter than most 5.56 rifles, and the gun lacks the concussion and muzzle flash of a short 5.56 rifle. 

The accessory and optics rails make adding optics, lights, and more plenty easy. All you need is a red dot, a light, and a sling, and you’re ready to rock and roll. The MAT-9’s short and sweet design, paired with some awesome ergonomics, makes it a solid choice as a defensive firearm. 

Beretta 1301 Mod. 2 Tactical 

The shotgun reigns supreme as one of the best close-quarters defensive firearms out there. When you need chunks removed from something, the shotgun gets it done.

The current king of combat shotguns is the Beretta 1301, and at SHOT 2024, Beretta released the Mod. 2 Tactical model. This new variant retains all the excellent features of the 1301, with a few additions to ensure its supremacy. 

At the gun’s core, the gas-operated semi-auto shotgun uses Beretta’s BLINK system. This self-regulating system is Beretta’s claim to fame, and according to Beretta, the 1301 cycles 36% faster than the competition. Faster cycling means fast follow-ups, but man, you have to be a skilled shotgunner to take advantage of that extra speed. Regardless of the speed, what’s most important is the reliability, which you’ll have no complaints about. 

Beretta Chisel Machining stock
The Chisel Machining stock is brand new for the 1301.

The Beretta 1301 Mod. 2 Tactical’s changes include a very aggressive forend design, and that same forend now utilizes three M-LOK slots for accessories. The trigger is semi-flat and one of the best triggers on a shotgun, ever. The Pro-Lifter makes reloading easy and pain-free. The new models also have the option of an all-metal Chisel Machining stock. 

This stock comes in both folding and collapsible configurations, which is quite nice. The Chisel Machining stock even integrates a red dot mount that even witnesses with the 1301’s iron sights. These small improvements to the 1301 have ensured it remains the king and rules the roost. 

Taurus 605 Executive 

Taurus has had a major revival in the last few years, and a big part of that was the Executive Grade series. The first Executive Grade gun we saw was the Taurus 856. The 856 and 605 are basically brothers, and whatever the 856 does, the 605 will follow. This year, that includes becoming a member of the vaunted Executive lineup.

The Taurus 605 Executive isn’t just a replica of its older brother. It’s a competent defensive revolver. 

The biggest difference comes down to the chambering of the .357 Magnum cartridge. With the magnum chambering, we lose one round of cylinder capacity and have a five-shooter instead of a six-gun.

Another interesting difference is the fact the hammer isn’t trimmed. The spurred hammer allows for an easy to cock design for those sweet single-action shots. 

Taurus 605 executive grade in hand
It’s slick, it’s shiny, and it’s very effective.

In terms of looks, the 605 gives you a stainless finish and beautiful grips. It certainly scores high in the looks department, but it’s more than a pretty face. The 605 Executive grade features a slicked-up trigger, a high visibility gold bead sight, compact frame, and a three-inch barrel.

That three-inch barrel makes the .357 Magnum plenty easy to shoot. It’s still compact enough to carry but cuts down on some of the noise, concussion, and recoil from the mighty Magnum. This makes it a great choice for concealed carry, and trust me, it’s much easier to handle than the standard snub nose .357 Magnum. 

Zenith ZF 56 

One of the big themes of SHOT 2024 was modern defensive rifles. The AR has long been the ultimate defensive rifle, but there has been a serious uptick in alternative options. The Zenith ZF 56 is one such option.

Zenith is well known for its MP5 clones, so they stuck to the roller-delayed formula with the ZF-56. The ZF-56 isn’t just a clone of the HK 33 but a modern defensive rifle option that’s perfect for home defense.

The ZF 56 is a 5.56 caliber rifle that wisely takes some cues from the AR market. This includes utilizing the AR-15 ergonomics for the lower receiver. At this point, it’s proven to work, but ZF 56 did take the ambidextrous route. They also leaned into the HK-style safety, which is easily manipulated by a quick flick of the thumb.

Up top, we get an optics rail and M-LOK handguard for all the accessories you could ever want. 

ZF 56 at SHOT Show
The Zenith SF 56 provides a roller-delayed defensive rifle to home defenders.

Since it’s a roller-delayed system, there is no need for a receiver extension, so a folding stock is entirely possible. The roller-delayed system also gives us very low recoil and a very reliable operating system. The gun runs quite smoothly and is also very accurate. 

The ZF 56 uses an older operating system, but it’s a very proven and reliable design. It’s updated, modernized, and slapped into a modern platform for modern shooters. 

Kahr X9 

Kahr has lost a little relevance by sticking to the single-stack magazine for so long, and I think a lot of people glossed over the Kahr X9, as they seemed to barely mention it!

At SHOT Show 2024 Kahr entered the world of microcompacts with the X9 series. Kahr even made use of the P365 magazine to provide shooters with an on-hand option with capacities ranging from 10 to 17 rounds. 

Kahr X9 in hand
The little Kahr X9 uses P365 magazines!

The Kahr X9 comes out of the gate swinging in its attempt to be your next defensive firearm for concealed carry. It’s optics-ready and features a rail for lights and accessories.

The X9 series features Kahr’s famous rolling trigger design, but according to the fellas at Kahr, a more standard trigger will be available as well. 

I don’t hate rolling trigger by any means, and I think it’s a benefit to the gun. With that said, I can see why shooters used to a particular trigger style would prefer a standard striker-fired trigger.

The little gun seems easy to carry, and it’s quite light. While the realm of micro-compacts has been flooded in recent years, the X9 seems to be a viable competitor. It offers a lot of awesome from-the-factory features with a modest price point of $550. 

On the Defensive 

It’s clear the defensive market is only going to keep growing, and who can say that’s a bad thing? Competition breeds innovation and gives us the best guns for the best price.

This year, SHOT showed us plenty of new defensive firearms, and it was arguably tough to pick just five, but I think we found five new options that each offer unique strengths. I don’t think we ever need to worry about being underserved when it comes to concealed carry. 

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