The best first handgun for anyone doesn't have to be military-grade, super-expensive, or highly feature-packed. Instead, it has to fit your current needs, hand size, skill, budget and personal preference. Learn what makes a good first gun by checking out some of the best beginner handguns we've painstakingly researched, compared and tested for various needs such as the models we covered in our concealed carry gun reviews and those for home defense. We included best of the best from various categories in our lineup suitable for novice shooters and gun owners. If you find single-action easier, we have single action revolvers reviews, as well.
What to Look For in Your First Handgun
Even the firearm experts you look up to now used to be a beginner overwhelmed at the choices before them. As with anything new, understanding the terms of handguns and firearms in general can be downright confusing. Even conducting research today could lead you into an information-overload black hole that would do more harm than good.
On this comprehensive post, I'll keep it simple, easy to understand, and informative. Plus watch out for my recommended beginner handguns at the end.
Even Starter Guns Require Gun Handling Fundamentals
It doesn't matter if you're looking for the best first handgun for a man or a woman, but every gun owner goes through gun handling fundamentals. For example, your grip and stance could be totally debatable (and subjective), but they can be simplified with these basics:
- Grip - Your hand's grip on the gun should be comparable to a firm handshake, nothing too light that the firearm becomes unstable, or nothing too tight that would make it difficult to fire.
- Stance - All gun owners will have their own idea about proper stance, but experts recommend that the most important thing is balance and stability. As long as you fire the gun standing up without falling over, then your stance is considered ideal.
What Is the Best Caliber Bullet for a Handgun?
The best handguns are always paired by the best kind of bullet. If you're in search of the best handgun for the first time buyer, go with 9mm rounds because they are affordable, available anywhere, and are generally much easier to use due to less recoil.
In fact, police and military personnel use 9mm guns on a regular basis.
Best First Handgun Reviews
- Ball-Detent Lock-Up
- Two-piece barrel
- Full-length extractor rod
- 5-shot cylinder
- First Smith & Wesson L-Frame in .44 Magnum®
- Comes with lifetime service warranty
Smith & Wesson 69 Combat Magnum Double-Action Revolver Specifications
Smith & Wesson
screw-adjustable rear sight and red ramp front sight
The Smith & Wesson® 69 Combat Magnum® Double-Action Revolver can definitely be the best first time handgun if you're becoming a legit firearms enthusiast. It's also the best 44 mag revolver to date.
The company has been manufacturing dozens of handguns for over a century, so expect some hits and misses, but the Smith & Wesson 69 Combat Magnum revolver is definitely a hit.
Based on the Model 69 (released in 2014), the newer 69 Combat Magnum features two-piece stainless steel barrel and standard 1.56-inch-wide L-frame cylinder designed to comfortably hold five rounds of .44. These combined features translate into a super-durable and long-lasting handgun that members of law enforcement enjoy for enabling them continuous Magnum usage.
This revolver from Smith & Wesson features a stainless steel frame and black all-black synthetic grip with unique fish-scale texturing. The grip seems hard, but is actually soft to touch.
69 Combat Magnum has a spring-powered ball bearing in the frame that locks in place in the crane of the revolver. This system makes it durable enough to withstand even the heaviest .44 loads without it getting damaged.
The "double action" in the name of this revolver means you can use the 69 Combat Magnum in either single or double action, making it versatile for different shooting scenarios. It offers a 3.5 lbs trigger pull for single action and approximately 11 lbs for double action, ensuring you're well-prepared for various trigger pull ratios.
With its adjustable blade rear sight and red ramp front sight, the 69 Combat Magnum provides enhanced accuracy when aiming. While its 2.75-inch barrel limits its hunting capability, this disadvantage is compensated by its suitability as a concealed-carry revolver for personal defense.
The comments from gun enthusiasts further reinforce its appeal, with individuals appreciating its unique features and suitability for specific purposes such as bear defense and outdoor use.
While it may not be the ideal choice for home or street defense, the 69 Combat Magnum excels in wilderness protection. So, if you're in search of a reliable, short-barrel revolver, this beauty from Smith & Wesson might be the perfect choice.
- Highly concealable, affordable handgun
- Single-action trigger
- Locked-breech system
- Glass-filled nylon frame with hardened steel slide
- Auto slide, hold-open latch
- 6-round magazine
Semi-Auto Ruger LCP II Specifications
.380 Automatic Colt Pistol
Larger, serrated sights
Black textured grip
Black Polymer Grip/Frame
If you consider the best beginner gun to be small and highly concealable, then check out Ruger's semi-automatic LCP II. Design-wise, the sharp edges found on the original LCP were replaced by smoother, round edges to improve concealment and prevent wear on the user's clothes.
Ideal for those buying first handgun, the Ruger® LCP® II .380 ACP Pistol is designed with alloy steel slide and barrel, textured-finish glass-filled nylon grip frame and easy-to-rack slide. It features a single-action trigger pull with an internal hammer, so expect virtually no snagging when drawing the gun.
Ruger made LCP II with larger and serrated sights to enhance visibility, and backstrap redesigned for better and more textured hold. It makes a good first pistol thanks to its lightweight, but highly durable built and faster-reloading auto slide hold-open feature.
Many of the best small and semi-automatic handguns come with blowback action, but the LCP II stands out with its locked-breech system. This unique feature makes loading easier, as users no longer need to exert excessive force while sliding back, resulting in reduced recoil.
The model comes with a 6-round magazine, a pocket holster, and a customizable design, allowing users to choose their preferred holster.
Personally, I love my LCP II; it's perfect for situations where carrying a larger gun is inconvenient or when concealability is crucial. It serves as an excellent backup for my Sig P938, and its slim design ensures it goes unnoticed. In fact, these handguns are even smaller and lighter than the old .25s and .32s.
With a reliable performance even at distances over 30 yards and no malfunctions after firing around 200 rounds, I couldn't be happier with my concealed carry companion. I've even enhanced its usability by painting the sights, which significantly improved my shooting accuracy.
- Open slide design for maximum jam prevention
- Semi-automatic double and single action
- 3-dot system (single dot front sight and 2-dot rear sight)
- Safety system in place
- Internal firing pin block system
- External loaded chamber indicator
Beretta 92FS 9mm Pistol Specifications
15 + 1
Lightweight aluminum alloy
The Beretta 92FS isn't just the best beginner 9mm handgun, it is also one of the most widely used and duty proven semi-auto pistols in the industry. The 92FS has been the US military's official sidearm (designated M9) since the 1980s and has been proven to be accurate, reliable and solidly built for years.
If you're aiming to have only the best first pistol, then the 92FS must be it since not only did this pistol meet all U.S. military requirements, this particular make and model actually made history and completely rewritten the testing guidelines.
The Beretta 92FS is a remarkable pistol that offers a range of features designed to enhance safety and user experience. Equipped with a de-cocking system, positive thumb safety, ambidextrous safety lever, and reversible magazine release, the 92FS ensures ease of use and accessibility.
The 4.9" Beretta 92FS is designed with black matte, highly durable Bruniton™ non-reflective black finish, which provides corrosion resistance and additional grip to users.
Safety-wise, Beretta 92FS has an open-slide design to prevent jamming when loading the cartridge and an internal firing pin block system that only moves when the trigger is pulled. It is also made with a quick and easy disassembly latch, making it easy to field stripping when conducting maintenance and preventing accidental drops or loss.
Additionally, the pistol includes a red indicator, detectable even in the dark, which signals when the chamber is loaded, further enhancing safety precautions. With its external hammer design, the 92FS provides users with a clear visual indication and reliable energy for the firing pin, minimizing the risk of misfires due to light primer.
As someone who purchased their first firearm years ago, I can confidently say that the Beretta pistol made it easier for beginners like me to feel comfortable handling, aiming, firing, and maintaining a gun. It is truly one of my all-time favorite pistols, a classic that stands the test of time.
Numerous firearm enthusiasts share my sentiment, praising the 92FS for its reliability and performance. Many have put their pistols to the test, firing an impressive number of rounds without experiencing any major issues.
Others appreciate the smoothness and quality of craftsmanship exhibited by the Beretta 92. Personally, I have owned my 92FS since around 2000 and have never encountered any mishaps. This excellent weapon has served me faithfully for over two decades, a testament to its durability and reliability.
- Double action
- Drift adjustable, stainless steel front and rear sights
- Stainless-steel barrel and slide
- Centerfire pistol
- Thumb safety
- Comes with 2 magazines and a nylon case
Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard 380 Semi-Auto Pistol Specifications
Smith & Wesson
.380 Automatic Colt Pistol
6 + 1
Stainless steel, drift-adjustable front and rear sight
Stainless-steel barrel and slide with fish-scale serrations on the rear of the slide
If the best beginner pistol you have in mind is highly concealable, then you better check out Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard. However, most experts would recommend comprehensive training first before actually making this your main pocket handgun.
The Bodyguard 380 is a 6+1 capacity, double-action-only semi-automatic gun. It is designed with a polymer frame, stainless steel barrel & slide, manual thumb safety, slide stop, external takedown lever and loaded chamber indicator.
Although the Bodyguard 380 has a smaller magazine capacity compared to its larger counterpart, the M&P 2.0, its trigger pull remains crisp with a significantly quicker recovery time. Being one of the top pistols in its small-sized category, the smaller round leads to reduced recoil, resulting in improved shooting accuracy.
The reason why the Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard 380 is a famous, all-around small handgun is because it is much more affordable than most 9mm handguns in the market today. Other plus points include the relatively lightweight feel of the gun and low recoil.
Personally owning an M&P Bodyguard .380 for quite some time, I've found that its disassembly and reassembly processes are much easier and faster. I had been searching for a pocket pistol for a while and found the Bodyguard to be perfect for summertime carry, not intended for a gunfight but gets the job done.
I recently purchased this gun as a backup to my holster gun, complementing my carry of knives. It just made more sense to me. It's great for light dressing during hot weather or engaging in physical activities while on the go without the bulkiness of a larger handgun.
I absolutely love it! It's the perfect size for me, and the recoil is especially friendly to my arthritic wrists. I experienced no pain whatsoever after firing the first 50 rounds, and I consistently hit the target.
- Traditional western style
- Designed for 44 magnum cartridge
- Ultra durable coil springs results to maximum reliability
- Transfer bar ignition system
- Super Blackhawk hammer spur
- Patridge-type front and click-adjustable rear sight
Ruger Super Blackhawk Single-Action Revolver Specifications
Designed specifically for the 44 magnum cartridge
Ramp front sight & adjustable rear sight
Those looking for the best beginner revolver may find what they're in search for with the Ruger Super Blackhawk Single-Action Revolver. It's a gorgeous-looking, Traditional Western-style revolver with an all-steel, grip frame that adds a significant weight and in turn, provides balance to the sidearm.
The Super Blackhawk is Ruger's oldest design, but has remained in the company's line-up until today because it is such a well-built gorgeously-handcrafted gun. Many Ruger SBH gun owners would attest to how comfortable and exceptionally fitted the grip is thanks to the natural pointing grip pattern that's unique to Ruger revolvers.
Instead of leaf springs, the Ruger SBH Revolver also incorporates coil springs throughout its mechanism. One notable feature is its patented transfer bar ignition system, which ensures reliable security against accidental discharge even when all 6 chambers are fully loaded.
Another standout aspect of the Ruger Super Blackhawk Single-Action Revolver is its well-designed sights: the front Patridge-type sight offers an excellent sight picture, while the rear click-adjustable sight allows for elevation adjustments.
The Ruger SBH Revolver is made with a premium steel, solid cylinder frame and specifically designed to handle the recoil of powerful 44 magnum cartridges and pressures of the chamber. The trigger and hammer are both finished shiny silver, which is a smart move as the shine contrasts quite nicely to the tinge of blue metal finish and wood.
This sight configuration makes drawing the revolver from holsters effortless. Today, I purchased this pistol, and I am delighted with its feel and appearance, especially when paired with my old leather holster. It has proven to be a reliable and compact firearm, earning its legendary status.
I also added a set of nice oversized wood grips, enhancing both aesthetics and comfort. With its impressive durability and performance, I can shoot this revolver all day long and simply have fun. After firing thousands and thousands of rounds, it remains remarkably solid.
My .357 model with a 4 5/8" barrel stands out as one of the most accurate and easy-to-use sidearms I've ever owned. Shooting these revolvers is an absolute pleasure, particularly in the 45lc caliber. Mine features a 5 1/2" barrel, with one version having a conversion and the other without.
They truly resemble tanks in their durability and reliability. In fact, this revolver sparked my interest in reloading. I began reloading 300-grain bullets and found that mine particularly favored the heavier rounds for improved accuracy.
- Folding adjustable sights
- 30-round capacity
- Cold Hammer forged barrel
- Black-finish, carbon fiber-reinforced polymer frame
- Relatively affordable compared to its direct competition
CZ BREN 2 MS Specifications
Black finish,Carbon Fiber-Reinforced Polymer
If you're reading up on handgun reviews, the CZ BREN 2 MS is understandably not the go-to recommendation for best beginner handgun for home defense. This is simply because the CZ Bren 2 MS looks and feels like an AR due to its mostly AR-style controls, which is why many new gun owners wouldn't dare come close to it.
But if you do choose the CZ BREN 2 MS over any other "handier" and beginner-friendly types of pistols, I have a feeling you wouldn't turn back. The semi-auto CZ BREN 2 MS is a much lighter pistol with a clean-sheet design, modular forend and AR-style bolt catch/release system.
When in pistol form, the Bren 2 Ms features a flush rear plate with the capability of attaching an AR-style buffer tube, allowing you to install an arm brace, cheek rest, or other types of pistol-stabilizing accessories.
The Bren 2 Ms Pistol offers six variations with different barrel lengths, ranging from 8.26 to 14.17 inches, and comes in two calibers, 7.62x39MM or 223/5.56NATO. Many enthusiasts adore this firearm, praising its compactness and versatility. Some even add accessories like the SBA3 brace with a folding adapter, making it a solid option as a backpack gun.
Unlike the original Bren 2 design for the Czech military, the CZ-USA Bren 2 MS Pistol is substantially lighter and easier to carry thanks to the carbon fiber-reinforced polymer and aluminum receiver. This new model also made the charging handle non-reciprocating, but swappable from side to side. Its pistol grip has a small sealed storage compartment.
With its impressive performance and reliable grip, the Bren 2 Ms has garnered high praise, surpassing the experience of any other rifle previously owned or shot by some enthusiasts.
Additionally, its compatibility with different lowers provides the opportunity to customize the appearance and functionality further. Users highly recommend Dan Haga's aluminum lowers, which accept AR parts and enhance the overall aesthetic appeal when paired with the aluminum upper.
Another noteworthy aspect of the Bren 2 is its surprisingly minimal recoil, as reported by a user who compared it to the 9mm Scorpion.
Overall, the Bren 2 Ms stands out as a remarkable firearm with an impressive array of features and positive user experiences.
- Exquisitely designed tactical handgun
- Shoots 10mm cartridge
- MOS (Modular Optic System)
- Ready-to-mount reflex sights
- Hexagonal rifle grooves
- Comes with hard case, 3 magazines, MOS adapter and several other tools
7. GLOCK G40 Gen4 MOS Semi-Auto Pistol Specifications
3 high-cap mags
White-dot front sight and adjustable white outline rear sight
Rough Texture, Multiple Back Strap System
Rough Texture grip frame
The GLOCK G40 Gen4 MOS Semi-Auto Pistol can be the best pistol for beginner and experienced gun owners alike. This all-black, handsome handgun is designed for tactical uses and serious hunting. Its minimalist design has been a trademark of Glock pistols for decades and it continues to wow even for the GLOCK 40 Gen4 in MOS Configuration.
Plus, the G40 Gen4 in MOS Configuration makes it easy, even for beginners, to mount a reflex sight on the pistol's slide without the need for a new slide or separate mounting system.
The Glock G40 Gen4 is somewhat customizable because it:
- Accommodates any hand size - This is the "handy work" of the modular back strap design and reversible magazine catch, which both allow you to customize the grip to fit any hand size.
- Has four grip-adapter options - Glock took most of its time working on how well this handgun will fit its users that it included four grip-adapter options for this model. This gun comes with a tool to let you use any of the adapters.
While it may be a bit on the heavy side, it's a fantastic choice for those looking to use it at the range or in competitions, especially in the powerful 10mm caliber. As an avid fan of the 10mm for self-defense, I can attest to the reliability and effectiveness of the Glock 20 and 40, both of which I regularly carry.
In fact, I plan on using my Glock 40 as a backup while boar hunting in 2020. The transition from Smith & Wesson to Glock was made effortless by this pistol, with its intuitive design and user-friendly features.
The extended barrel length not only enhances accuracy but also provides a greater impact with each shot, thanks to the extra velocity and penetration it offers. However, it's worth noting that the longer barrel does slow down the draw speed slightly, as more of it needs to clear the holster.
Who Should Consider Our Handgun Recommendations?
But if you're part of law enforcement, military or a seasoned gun owner, this may not be the best guide for you.
Our recommendations are aimed at someone looking for the best handgun for first time owner, but have very little or zero knowledge about gun functionality, ergonomics, proper handling, size and design, caliber and ammo.
We also have detailed reviews of the best handgun for women to date.
It doesn't matter if this is your first gun to buy, the second or third. As long as you feel confused by the options given to buy at your local gun store, you have to read on to get some clarity.
How to Choose the Best Starter Handgun for You
Focus on several factors when picking out the best first gun to buy:
Size and Fit
Out of all the factors to consider when buying your first gun, the size, fit and ergonomics of a gun is one of the most important. When you hold and shoot any handgun or starter pistol, the first thing you'll notice is how solidly it feels in your hands (or not).
The best first handgun for you should be appropriate to the size of your hand. Note that the more secured a gun feels in your hand, the better you'll be able to practice and handle it more confidently.
Of course there are grip inserts and other accessories that could help improve a handgun's fit on your hand. While this is fine for advanced gun owners, beginners should find that the reliability of their gun's grip will definitely improve user-friendliness and this can only be achieved by buying a proper fit.
Safe gun handling is important regardless of skill, so whether you're a beginner or an expert, safety should always be a huge factor. One thing you'll face at the start of your handgun journey is the question: "does a good first handgun require external safety or no external safety?"
Obviously, this is a hot topic and debated about by both beginner and expert gun owners. But here's what you should know:
Manual safety prevents accidental or negligent discharge
Having external safety gives gun owners peace of mind because of the thought that the gun is "physically locked"
If you do not want to use a holster, having external safety will increase your protection when carrying the gun in pockets
If you're after the best first handgun for home defense, it is recommended to go with night sights. This is based on data, since gun use usually occurs at night (robbers/intruders rarely come into the house in the morning).
The most reliable handgun usually has night sight features for front and rear sights. However, if the one you're eyeing doesn't have one, you have an option of adding aftermarket accessories.
The trigger action, defined as 'the method by which the handgun works,' is also important. This could vary from Single Shot Actions or Repeating actions, with a ton of different subcategories including AR guns. But many experts recommend striker-fired handguns for their consistency and reliability during firing.