Everyone has the right to defend themselves and the ones they love, but many people have little to no experience with firearms. If you fall into this category, your first priority should be tracking down the best first handgun for beginners. Some pistols are easier on novices than others, so making the correct choice on your first purchase can better prepare you for personal defense.
There are many things to consider when buying your first handgun. From choosing a good gun holster (e.g. KYDEX material) to knowing where you can carry (e.g. check state gun laws), owning a firearm is a privilege and a responsibility. Before any of this comes into play, though, you should check out these handguns to see what works best for you.
1. Springfield XD Mod 2 (Service Model)
Springfield is one of the most recognized firearm manufacturers on the market, so it’s no surprise that they produce weapons geared towards individuals of all skill levels. When it comes to the best first handgun, their XD Mod 2 (Service Model) isn’t a bad choice. It’s a striker-fired pistol – meaning there’s no hammer – so you’re unlikely to snag your belt while removing it from the concealed holster.
The fact that this is the Service Model also helps gun novices. It provides the benefit of a full grip – making the handgun easier to control – but the advantage of a compact barrel for easy concealment. The grip and trigger safeties also ensure that you’re not fumbling for a safety button when your adrenaline is rushing.
Additionally the aggressive texturing on the weapon reduces the chance that it will slip from your hands or move in any way that’s not purposeful on your part. It features a 30% improved Grip Zone™ over the previous model. All these features mean this is one of the best first handgun purchases if you’re just starting out.
2. Ruger LCR9 (9mm)
No list of best firearms for beginners would be complete without at least one revolver, and one of the obvious choices is the Ruger LCR9. With a height of 4.5" and a barrel length of only 1.87", it’s going to be one of your better options for concealed carry. Additionally, revolvers are simple. You point and shoot – the end.
While the characteristics of Ruger handguns make them popular among consumers, it’s important to note that snub-nosed revolvers like this can pack a recoil. Even though the LCR9 has the technology to reduce perceived recoil, you should still be prepared for this.
The double-action-only (DAO) trigger also requires a long pull, so you’re unlikely to accidentally discharge the firearm. Add this to the LCR9’s incredible stopping power, and you’ve got a weapon that should land on every best first handgun list.
3. Sig Sauer P320 (9mm)
The P320 is Sig Sauer’s early venture into the world of striker-fired pistols. If you’re wondering just how effective and reliable this would be as your best first handgun, it’s worth noting that the U.S. Army chose this model as the new sidearm for soldiers. You can’t get much better than that.
This model has interchangeable components that allow you to customize it to your hand size. This makes the pistol ideal for beginners who are probably still trying to figure out which size grips work best for them. You’re also unlikely to snag the weapon on the draw since there’s no decocking lever or external safety.
Another strong argument that this might be your best first handgun is the fact you don’t have to pull the trigger to take apart the weapon. Pistols that require a trigger pull simply present an added danger for novices. There are many versions of this firearm, so pick the one that's right for you. As you can see from the size of the weapon and its P320 Compact holster, though, smaller is ideal for concealed carry.
4. Glock G19X G5
Glock is another popular manufacturer in the world of firearms. Even people who have no intention of ever firing a weapon have heard of it. The Glock G19X G5 is the company’s first “crossover” pistol. This means the slide is part of the compact Glock 19 platform while the frame is from the full-size Glock 17.
Much like the Springfield XD Mod 2, this means more control over the pistol while still allowing for easy concealment and use in all conditions. It also has a lanyard loop, so even if you’re still a bit awkward or clumsy holding this Glock, you don’t have to worry about it hitting the ground.
You’ll additionally find the handle’s rising grooves to be an effective feature for helping you maintain your grip. And with a 17-round magazine, this might just be the best first handgun for getting the most practice between reloads.
5. Smith and Wesson M&P 380 Shield EZ 2.0
Smith and Wesson (S&W) is another powerhouse in the firearm industry, and their M&P 380 Shield EX 2.0 model is a great addition for anyone seeking their best first handgun purchase. The rear grip has small cuts that make for easier control, and this is imperative for beginners.
This pistol also disassembles without the need to pull the trigger. This and an audible trigger reset make great safety features for those who are just starting out. On top of this, the angle of the grip and white dot sights make aiming fairly simple.
Maybe the best endorsement of this firearm as the best first handgun is the fact that S&W designed it with entry-level shooters in mind. If you’re a beginner, it was literally made for you.
6. Beretta PX4 Storm
The Beretta PX4 Storm might not be your first choice if buying a firearm as a gift, but if the gift is for a beginner, it should be. The 3-dot sight system makes aiming far easier for those who aren’t yet experienced firing a pistol, and interchangeable backstraps make is possible to customize the grip until it’s perfect.
Maybe the greatest feature that makes this perfect as a best first handgun, though, is the automatic firing pin block. When the pistol is holstered or otherwise not in use, it blocks the firing pin automatically. This greatly reduces the chance of accidental discharge, and since that can happen to even the most experienced shooters, it serves as an ideal safety measure for novices.
Note that you can also use the firearm as a single-action or double-action to see what works best for you. You can also get a good idea of the sizes, grips, and concealability by checking out the photos of the gun with PX4 Storm holsters.
7. Kahr CW9 (9mm)
Striker fired pistols are ideal for training, and that’s why so many – including the Kahr CW9 – are on this list. The CW9 is well-known for rarely jamming, and this is a particular benefit for novices who may not know how to quickly remove a jam in an escalating situation.
The CW9 is also often considered one of the best first handguns to buy simply for its weight and concealability. Coming in at under 1 pound, beginners will find it very easy to hold. And while it’s small enough to fit into your pocket, there are some disadvantages to pocket carry that you should research.
Additionally, there are fewer visible moving parts on the CW9. It’s a simple, basic and reliable firearm to use. Beginners can start learning fast thanks to its easy load-and-fire design.
8. Heckler and Koch VP9
At just over 1.5 pounds and with a magazine capacity of 15+1, the Heckler and Koch VP9 is an easy-to-handle firearm that requires fewer reloads. Each of these features is ideal for beginners who need plenty of practice and the ability to easily operate and maneuver their pistol.
One of the most popular features of the VP9 – a definite bump to its status of potentially being your best first handgun – is the glow-in-the-dark 3-dot sights. Most armed robberies happen at night, and combining an inexperienced shooter with a lack of vision can be detrimental.
What's really great about the VP9 is the interchangeable grip panels for the backstrap, left, and right grip sides. This means the pistol can be fully customized to fit the shape of your hand.
9. S&W 686+
Thanks to Smith and Wesson, there’s a second revolver on this list to consider as your best first handgun purchase. The plus sign (+) after the name means this firearm can hold seven rounds instead of six or the five held by the LCR9. Some would say that seven bullets is more than necessary, but for a beginner, it could completely change the outcome of a dangerous situation.
The 4" barrel prevents too much recoil from occurring, but it's not long enough to be unwieldy like other revolvers. On top of this, it can fire both .375 and .38 Special rounds. As a beginner, you should start out with the .38 Special rounds. They produce less recoil for those who are training and individuals who simply hate it.
Like most revolvers, the S&W 686+ provides reliability and a decreased chance for mechanical failure. When this is combined with its unique features, the 686+ is undoubtedly perfect as a beginner revolver.
10. Glock 43 (9mm Luger)
The single stack Glock 43 has a 6+1 round capacity, and even when fully loaded, it only weighs about 1.25 lbs. The maneuverability granted by this weight along with the ultra-concealability offered by a 3.41” barrel make this a perfect contender for the best first handgun by anyone focused on personal defense.
The ambidextrous grip is also ideal for beginners who are left-handed. After all, there’s no need to make things more difficult than they have to be when starting out. Additionally, the unique beaver tail design allows for a higher and tighter grip. For those who don’t have years of experience under their belts, this is a great way to train and ensure proper handling.
Best First Handguns: Choose Wisely
Understanding your firearm could mean the difference between life and death. While it may seem sufficient to pick the cheapest or ‘coolest looking’ gun in the case, the fact is that these may not be your best options for personal protection. A gun that looks cool might not have much-stopping power, and low-cost options can have persistent issues such as jamming.
In either of these situations, it could be the other guy who ends up keeping the peace. This is why you should strongly consider these firearms as your best first handgun purchase. They’re reliable, accurate, easy to control and everything that a new gun owner needs. If you choose any of these pistols, you can rest comfortably knowing your self-defense ability is at a new level.