Best Beginner Handguns (2021) – Reviewed

Best Beginner Handguns

Everyone has the right to defend themselves and their loved ones, especially considering the rise of crime rates in the U.S. However, not many people have experience with firearms and may often struggle to find the right choices.

With so many handguns advertised as the best for home defense and self-defense, we understand that it can be tough to figure out which is the best one for someone new to the field.

Fortunately, in today’s guide, we will be covering several important factors that one should consider before deciding on your first home defense handgun or pistol as well as a detailed overview of the best picks for novices.

HandgunsNameEditor’s CommentRatingGet The Best Deal
Smith and Wesson M&P380 Shield EZ 2.0

Most Recommended Option

1. Two 8-round magazines can be easily installed and set up
2. Reversible magazine release
3. Great safety features and good blowback system for first-time shooters

Glock G19X G5 (9mm)1. Works in all weather
2. Bright coyote tan finish
3. Large ammo capacity
9.5/10SHOP NOW
Glock G431. Ultra-concealable
2. Durable and good accuracy
3. Great grip with beaver-tail design
9.5/10SHOP NOW
Springfield Armory XD MOD 2 Service 4” 45 ACP1. Fixed rear sight acts as a convenient guide
2. Add and remove magazines easily
3. Lightweight even when fully loaded
9.0/10Currently unavailable
Beretta PX4 Storm1. Polymer construction offers a lightweight surface
2. Rounded trigger guard
8.5/10Currently unavailable
Kahr Arms CW9 (9mm)1. Good starter pistol
2. Simple magazine installation
3. Fewer moving parts
8.5/10Currently unavailable
Ruger LCR91. Long trigger pull meaning less likely for accidental discharge
2. Incredible stopping force
3. Compact dimensions suitable for concealed carry purposes
8.0/10Currently unavailable
Sig Sauer P320 (9mm)1. Lightweight and durable polymer frame
2. Shoots easily
3. Ambidextrous operations
8.0/10Currently unavailable

Buying Guide for the Best Handguns for Beginners

Before we get into the top handguns someone new to the industry can consider, let’s first go through several factors and aspects that you need to take into consideration while out shopping at the gun store for a new first handgun. 

Cartridge Type

The caliber or cartridge of your handgun refers to the kind of bullet it fires and this should be the first thing you notice in a handgun. Generally measured based on diameter, a larger caliber round produces a more powerful shot along with a larger amount of kickback. With that in mind, a 9mm handgun may be easier to shoot due to the relatively lack of recoil, it does not work as well as the .40 or .45 calibers if you want something with a little more kick. However, the .40 and .45 cartridges do produce a lot of recoils that may be tough for some to operate.

For home defense applications, we recommend getting hollowpoint bullets for their ability to stop in the drywall as well as their stopping power. In any case, the most popular ammunition is Speer Gold Dot and Federal Hydrashok. 

Shooting Style

Other than the caliber type, you’ll also need to look into the kind of shooting style the gun uses to fire off a round. Semi-automatic guns use the gas pressure produced after a cartridge is fired to cycle the loading function. However, a downside to this convenience is that you should remember how many rounds are left inside a semi-auto gun so you won’t try to shoot when the gun has run out. 

A revolver will require you to load individual bullets into each chamber in its cylinder. Although this method can be powerful and easy to set up, it does take a longer time to get ready compared to a semi-automatic.

Ergonomics & Trigger

How a handgun feels in your hand is incredibly important. Some with bigger hands may prefer a chunkier and different grip angle compared to women with smaller hands. A good feature that several models have is removable grip inserts that can customize the ergonomics even more. 

Triggers on the other hand may feel slightly different too. We recommend trying out the guns for yourself at the gun range before making the final decision. 

Magazine Capacity

You should also be aware of the handgun’s magazine capacity which includes the number of rounds it can hold. The capacity is normally written with a number and then a +1 marking to indicate that one bullet is in the barrel while the others are in the cartridge.

Cleaning Process

The process of cleaning and maintaining a handgun is vital for beginners. A handgun needs to be cleaned out regularly to reduce the risk of misfires. While some models only require a small brush that goes into the muzzle, several other guns can be taken apart and washed off. 

Top 8 Best Handguns for Beginners in the Market

1. Springfield Armory XD MOD 2 Service 4” 45 ACP

Best Overall First Handgun for Beginners

First on our list is a model from Springfield Armory, a popular manufacturer in the firearms industry. The XD MOD 2 service model is a .45 ACP automatic firearm and is the newest version of the Springfield XD lineup. 

Featuring two 13-round magazines that are easy to add and remove, the handgun also has a plain muzzle that produces a simple body to handle the .45 projectile. 

The striker-fired Springfield XD MOD 2 45 ACP has a curved handle to provide a comfortable grip that works well with both left or right hand. However, considering it takes on the .45 caliber, you might just have an easier time controlling it with two hands if needed. Easy to handle, comfortable grip and reliable shooting performance are what makes this the best handgun for beginners shooting for the first time. 


  • Fixed rear sight acts as a convenient guide
  • Add and remove magazines easily
  • Lightweight even when fully loaded


  • Requires extensive cleaning and maintenance
  • Tough to get the safety features set up
  • Produces heavy recoil after each shot

2. Smith and Wesson M&P380 Shield EZ 2.0

Best Semi-Auto Handgun for Beginners


If you’re out shopping, it is likely that you’ve come across S&W’s M&P line of pistols. Designed as an entry-level choice, the Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0 is certainly easy to handle making it a great choice for those stepping into the firearms world for the first time. 

An impressive feature of this Smith and Wesson striker-fired handgun that makes it easy to shoot is that it does not produce a heavy recoil or blowback compared to other models out there. It even has a few small cuts around the rear part as well as an 18-degree angle to provide shooters with a much better grip on top of a more realistic and useful aim. 

S&W even includes 3 white dot sights on their M&P Shield handgun to make it easy for new gun owners to aim. Other than that, the beginner handgun also features a Picatinny under-frame rail to let you mount a separate light or laser sight of your choosing. 

The M&P Shield has been a staple for military police forces for years and the 2.0 is largely unchanged in terms of dimensions, meaning your holsters, handgun accessories, and even magazines may work with them. 

The Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0 can even be disassembled quickly for safety and cleaning. It only takes a few moments to take the Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0 gun apart to clear out the barrel without risking anything going off inside the gun. Each to clean and shoot, this is definitely a good first gun choice and starting point for a beginner shooter. 


  • Two 8-round magazines can be easily installed and set up
  • Reversible magazine release
  • Lightweight build 
  • Great safety features and good blowback system for first-time shooters


  • Magazines not as large as other handguns
  • Does not have a thumb safety feature


3. Glock G19X G5 (9mm)

Best Handgun for Beginner Home Defense


Everyone has definitely heard of this firearm brand as it’s a big name in the world of handguns. The Glock 19 is a 9mm Luger that features an extended 17-round magazine, perfect for lasting you a whole day at the shooting range. It is also the most widely used law enforcement pistol in the world thanks to its reliability and effectiveness. 

The G19X Gen 5 is the manufacturer’s first “crossover” pistol that features a slide from the compact Glock 19X platform with a frame from the full-size Glock 17. This means more control over the pistol in all conditions while still allowing for each concealment. 

The 9mm handgun even includes a night sight right under the barrel to provide you with good aim under dark conditions. The laser light also gives new shooters a better idea of where they are aiming at for a cleaner shot. 

In addition to that, the Glock 19 9mm handgun also has a small series of rising grooves on all sides of the handgrip of the home defense gun as well as the trigger guard to ensure a better grip. Overall, the G19 X G5 Glock provides large ammo capacity and good night sights to make it one of the best handguns for beginners. 


  • Works in all weather
  • Bright coyote tan finish
  • Large ammo capacity
  • 1.5-pound weight offers a simple grip
  • Full-size frame from Glock 17 allows longer sight radius


  • Takes a bit of effort to remove the ammo
  • Requires frequent cleaning
  • No finger grooves


4. Glock G43

Best Concealed Carry Handgun for Beginners


Beginner shooters looking for a handy concealed carry gun should pay a closer look at the Glock 43. The G43 is a subcompact pistol that is smaller than the Glock 17 and virtually disappears into a holster and can even appear innocuous if carried under your clothes. 

Despite the smaller handgun size and ability to go unnoticed, it still packs the same power and performance as the other larger models. The only things that you may be sacrificing with the G43 are its ammo capacity and grip size. In any case, the model still offers a pretty decent grip for a subcompact gun. 

The G43 features a single-stack ammo clip and remains at just over an inch wide, making this one of the easiest and most comfortable guns to carry. It also comes with an easy-to-grasp frame to help ease the minds of new shooters who may be intimidated by the larger models. 

Other than that, the Glock 43 has an aggressively built grip in a beavertail design that allows a high and tight hold onto the weapon, ensuring its small and compact size does not impact handling. Additionally, the grip itself is also designed with a unique texture that helps prevent the chances of the gun falling or slipping from the shooter’s hand, even during rainy conditions. 

Like the other Glock products, the G43 is outfitted with the renowned Glock Safe Action system which loads no pre-charged energy until the gun owner pulls the trigger. Just as tough as any other Glocks but smaller and easier to operate, the G43 is an excellent striker-fired pistol for any new shooter. 


  • Ultra-concealable
  • Durable and good accuracy
  • Great grip with beaver-tail design


  • Single stack low ammo capacity


5. Beretta PX4 Storm

The PX4 Storm offers ten rounds of 40 S&W cartridges at a time with a stainless steel barrel to keep the ammunition moving out smoothly while ensuring the gun is easy to clean out and wash. 

While the three-dot white light setup provided is useful, we believe an additional laser might be a good idea for easier firing. Fortunately, the Beretta handgun features a Picatinny accessory rail for new shooters to add their favorite sight or light. 

With an ambidextrous polymer body design, the PX4 Storm model is suitable for use by left and right-handed shooters alike. The gun even weighs less than two pounds when fully loaded to ensure a much better grip that will not wear you out after a long day of shooting. 

Note that you can also use the PX4 Storm firearm as either a single-action or double-action type, whichever works best for you. 


  • Polymer construction offers a lightweight surface
  • Rounded trigger guard 


  • Decocker takes a bit of getting used to
  • Smaller mag capacity

6. Kahr Arms CW9 (9mm)

Another good first pistol to consider is this Kahr Arms 9mm Luger unit. The CW9 handgun features a striking stainless steel finish and weighs right around a full pound only. This lightweight build produces a better handle that only takes a few moments to fire off another shot. 

The Kahr CW9 model uses a metal-injection-molded slide stop lever instead of a machined one so that the pistol stays in one form with much less visible moving parts. This is a useful functionality for many beginners as it means the gun only requires a basic load and fire approach. 

Although the Kahr CW9 only has 7-rounds in its magazine, the removable magazine and good muzzle design allow the bullets to move through the muzzle in just a matter of moments for quick shots off. 


  • Good starter pistol
  • Simple magazine installation
  • Easy to use for the first time
  • Fewer moving parts


  • Cannot support extra sights or lights
  • Smaller ammunition capacity

7. Ruger LCR9

No list of best handguns for beginners would be complete without a revolver and this is where the Ruger LCR9 shines best. With a barrel length of only 1.87 inches and 4.6-inch height, the LCR9 is one of the better options for concealed carry purposes. Not only that, but revolvers are also very easy to operate. All you need to do is point and shoot. 

However, one thing to note is that a snub-nosed revolver like the Ruger LCR9 does come with a significant recoil despite the model already incorporating some technology to reduce the perceived recoil. However, a few rounds of target shooting at the target range will ensure you get used to it in no time. 

The Ruger LCR9 also has a double-action-only (DAO) trigger that requires a long pull, meaning that it’s unlikely for you to accidentally discharge the firearm. Add this to the revolver’s incredible stopping power and you’ve got yourself a weapon that would make a great choice for new shooters. 


  • Compact dimensions suitable for concealed carry purposes 
  • Long trigger pull meaning less likely for accidental discharge
  • Incredible stopping force
  • Smooth operation


  • Heavy recoil

8. Sig Sauer P320 (9mm)

The Sig P320 is the manufacturer’s early venture into the world of striker-fired pistols and they’ve certainly excelled in it. It’s so reliable and effective that even the U.S. Army has chosen this model as a new sidearm for their soldiers. 

On top of that, the Sig Sauer P320 polymer handgun comes with interchangeable components to let shooters customize it according to their hand size. Featuring top-notch build, fantastic stock trigger & mag capacity all packed in a light package makes it an ideal option for novices who are still trying to figure out which size grips work best for them. 

The P320 model also does not come with any decocking lever or external safety, which means you are unlikely to snag the weapon while drawing. Another advantage of the P320 is that users don’t have to pull the trigger to take apart the weapon. This way, you won’t have to worry about misfires when trying to clean or maintain your weapon. 

At an agile and sturdy 4-inch barrel length coupled with 1.6 lb of weight, this is a remarkable performance handgun. Overall, the Sig Sauer P320 9mm pistols are a reliable striker-fired pistol that is not only small enough for concealed carry, but it’s 9mm rounds make for a great first handgun for beginners. 


  • Lightweight and durable polymer frame
  • Shoots easily
  • Ambidextrous operations
  • Light trigger pull
  • Customizable to different hand sizes


  • No manual safety


Getting a good quality firearm may mean the difference between life and death, especially in a self-defense situation or even home defense situations. While some may feel that picking the cheapest or coolest looking gun as a first handgun is a wise choice, the fact is that these may not be the best options for self-protection. A gun that looks cool might not have enough stopping power while the cheaper options may have persistent issues such as jamming and lack of trigger safety. 

Hence, it is strongly advisable for you to consider the weapons listed in our recommendation list today as your best first handgun purchase. Not only are they reliable, accurate, and easy to control, but they offer everything newbies need. If you choose any of these pistols, you can rest comfortably knowing that you have a good level of self-protection ability. 

Hopefully, today’s article has given you enough information and recommendations as well as a few criteria to check out before making that investment for a new beginner handgun to keep yourself and family members safe. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: Is the .38 Special more powerful than 9mm?

No, 9mm calibers are more powerful than the .38 Special. The standard pressure 9mm can produce is 365 foot-pounds of force while the 38 Special can only produce 264 foot-pounds of force. 

Q: What handgun is used by Navy SEALs?

Navy SEALs often use 9mm handguns such as the SIG Sauer P226. 

Q: What handgun is most popular with law enforcement?

The Glock 22 is the most popular handgun with law enforcement in America. 

Q: What handgun does the FBI use?

FBI agents use a Glock 17 9mm handgun or an M1911A1 Springfield .45 ACP pistol while on duty. 

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