You want to protect your home and be able to defend you and your’s, but you don’t have much experience with firearms? Maybe you don’t know where to start when buying your first gun?
Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. As a (decently) skilled marksman and lifelong gun aficionado, I can readily recall how vulnerable I felt when I was getting my first gun and learning how to shoot.
Here I’ll cover the important factors that should be considered before deciding on a handgun or pistol. They include caliber, size, ergonomics, ammo, price and, of course, safety. I’ll then give you a detailed overview of my top picks for beginners.
For all the gals out there who want to know what handguns work best for women, here are some recommendations.
Table of Contents
What Caliber Is Best?
There are a range of popular caliber sizes from .45 ACP cartridges to .40 Smith and Wesson rounds. But 9mm is often considered the gold standard, particularly for beginners, and with good reason.
The 9mm is ideal for first-time gunners by virtue of its mild recoil. It also has a higher capacity magazine with fifteen plus rounds which makes it good for practice and training purposes. You won’t have to constantly reload.
The 9mm is used by the vast majority of police forces and FBI agents because it is easier to control than other caliber sizes by female field officers, a fact which reaffirms its value as a caliber for beginners who aren’t used to harsh recoil.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a handgun for home defense, you may want to go with a different caliber size. The larger bullet diameter, weight and velocity generally makes for stronger cartridge power and effectiveness.
In other words, the 9mm is not likely to be as powerful as .40 S & W, just as the .40 doesn’t pack as much punch as the .45 ACP. But with that said, I usually recommend first-timers dip their toes into the water with the nine milli before graduating to a larger caliber.
The 9mm is simply the lightest, least intense caliber size for beginner purposes. Remember, without practice and training, you will likely prove to be ineffectual in a home defense situation. Like most things, using a handgun for the first time requires taking baby steps.
I always tell my friends who are gun neophytes that they should start with a full size handgun when gunning for the first time. In my experience, a gun with a 4-5-inch barrel is the perfect tool for the newbie because it’s easier to handle and can be fired with ease due to the recoil being absorbed by the gun’s mass.
A full size handgun can be good for beginners because it has a larger area of grip and a wider sight radius from front to rear sight.
When I first got my hands on one, I was blown away by the ergonomics of the pistol and the controlled recoil. However, the G19 (nor the 17) aren’t necessarily the ideal choice for beginners. I recommend the Glock 43, which we’ll get to later.
Back in the day, when I fired a pistol for the first time, I ended up getting bruises on the webbing between my thumb and forefinger. My first gun was a Beretta and the blowback was unwieldy, to say the least.
One thing that first-timers should consider picking up is a good set of recoil pads. I got myself some some Buffer Technologies’ Glock Recoil Buffers and I couldn’t be happier with the results. The package promised enhanced muzzle control and reduction of felt recoil and really delivered on both points.
Handgun accessories can be expensive, but I looked on Brownells and found Glock recoil buffers for as little as $9.95.
The good news is, there isn’t really much needed for purchasing accessories when it comes to the Glock 17 because it kind of comes with all the bells and whistles built in. It comes with a modular back strap that enables the user to customize the gun’s grip to fit their hand size. It can also be fitted with a red dot sight.
Ammo is another important factor for first-time shooters. I always recommend hollow point bullets for their sheer stopping power. For newbies who aren’t in the know, stopping power refers to a firearm’s ability to cause a sufficient amount of trauma to a target to incapacitate it at once.
This is why hollow points may be the best bullets for neutralizing an intruder in a home defense situation. The bullets are doing the bulk of the work for you.
Some of my top picks for best beginner ammo brands are Federal Hydrashok and Speer Gold Dot. Both are high performance ammos with tested reliability and high ranking among consumers. I like the Federal Hydrashok because of their center-post design which seems to make them capable of penetrating damn near anything you fire them at.
To learn more about different ammo and bullet calibers you can check our basic bullets guide.
Top 5 Contenders for Beginner Handgun
As I said before, the Glock 17 is number one with a bullet (pun very much intended) in my opinion. It’s lightweight, it’s sturdy and it’s dependable. I’ve never had a problem with my Glock and it’s easily concealable.
Here are my top five handgun picks for beginners, all of which are comparable to the Glock 17 in unique ways:
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|Product||Rating||Price||Where To Buy|
|Springfield Xdm (9mm)||9.7||$$|
|Smith & Wesson M & P 9||9.5||$$|
|Kahr CW9 (9mm)||9.2||$|
|Glock 43 (9mm Luger)||9.1||$$|
- Springfield Xdm (9mm)
- Smith & Wesson M & P 9
- Ruger LCR9
- Kahr CW9 (9mm)
- Glock 43 (9mm Luger)
The Springfield Xdm is an easy to use starter pistol with major grasp slide serrations and interchangeable back straps that can be tailored to fit your hand size.
It has a lot of cool features like its striker status indicator and its loaded chamber indicator. This makes it ideal for the first-time shooter who isn’t used to the rules of handling and maintaining a handgun.
I’m a big fan of this one because of these features as well as its triple safety guards. When I take my kids (my boys are thirteen and eleven) target shooting, I feel safest when they’re brandishing a Springfield 9mm.
The first thing that attracted me to this handgun was its ambidextrous controls. My wife is left-handed whereas I am a righty. When we go shooting together, I want her to feel comfortable with the handgun she uses and this one was a dream when it came to that.
The M&P 9 is also good for beginners because lightweight, durable and has a smooth, ergonomic design. Users can rest assured that it is both safe and accurate as it is designed with law enforcement military personnel in mind.
3. Ruger LCR9
This double-action revolver is a classic! A lightweight snubnose, the Ruger LCR9 is loaded with moon clips which are tiny pieces of metal that clip into the base of 9mm rounds. This is kind of a con in some people’s opinions because they don’t like the hassle of having to fuss around with it.But on the upside, the Ruger LCR9 only holds five rounds which makes it a viable option for beginners who need some practice when it comes to loading a firearm. It’s also got a shorter range than other handguns which means it’s better for novices who haven’t graduated to marksman abilities.
The Kahr CW9 lands on every list of top favorites I write because it’s an easy to conceal striker-fired pistol and striker-fire pistols are at the top of the heap when it comes to training.
This one has a reputation for never jamming. I’ve personally fired a hundred flawless rounds through it with absolutely no problems whatsoever. It’s also got a firm grip that makes it satisfying to handle and the mechanics are very user friendly.
This semi-automatic single stack pistol has a beaver tail textured grip and a reversible release button on its detachable magazine. It holds six rounds at a time which, again, is appropriate for most first-time shooters. Less is more, after all.
I’m a big fan of this one because you can take it apart and clean it without requiring any clunky tools. Like the Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm, the Glock 43 has an ambidextrous grip for all you lefties out there.
All of these options are fairly similar in nature, each of them is compact and easy to use.
Of the handguns I would recommend for beginners, the price points are all virtually identical. The Glock 17 retails for $550 whereas the Ruger LCR9 can be purchased online for $511 over at Bud’s Gun Shop.
The Springfield XDM is available for $499.99 online while the Smith & Wesson M & P 9 goes for around $550 to $580, depending on who you get it from.
All of these are fairly affordable options in my experience, especially for a first-time user who wants a dependable pistol that will stand the test of time.
To be fair, I haven’t had a whole lot of hands-on experience with the Ruger LCR9. A friend owns one and I’ve used it out on the shooting range, but I can’t speak to its upkeep. However, of the options listed above, I can tell you that the Glock 17 is easy to clean and maintain.
I found this handy video on YouTube that delves deeper into how easy it is to clean your Glock 17.
When it comes to beginners, it is best to avoid an external safety. I know that movies and television have conditioned us to believe that a gun should always have the safety on, but in the real world, I strongly believe that the mind is the best tool for safety.
The simple fact is, first-timers are unseasoned and untested. As such, they may very well forget to take the safety off their pistol when confronted by a home invasion. For this reason, it is best to disengage any external safety when getting started with your brand new handgun.
As I mentioned earlier, the design of a gun can make a huge difference in terms of first-time experience. You want the gun to feel comfortable in your hand and you want to feel as strong as your weapon.
Many believe that the force of pulling the trigger requires the same amount of weight as the handgun itself. As such, you should select a pistol that is easy to grip and easy to hold. Think of it as being much like selecting a bowling ball. In order to be accurate, you must be able to handle it with minimal effort.
The handguns listed above can be customized to make them even more ergonomic than they are already engineered to be.
First-time users should go for a 9mm handgun as they are ideal for home defense situations and are easy to handle. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably go with the Glock to become a crack shot.