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The 7 Best Handguns For The New Shooter



Feature | Gun Revolver Firing | The Best Handguns for the New Shooter

Whether it's for law enforcement or civilian self-defense pistol, these bad boys are the best handguns in the business.

Your First Self-Defense Pistol | 7 Best Handguns for the New Shooter

Built for Beginners

There are several firearms available today that I could list as one of the 7 best handguns for the new shooter. To make the list, a firearm has to meet the following: have some type of safety feature, is known for accuracy, is easy to clean, is reliable and is available in 9mm pistol.

Note, however, that the compatibility between gun and shooter depends upon the shooter. It depends how big their hands are, what they're looking for in a gun and what they need it to do.

Here is a list of the 7 best handguns for the new shooter.


1. Springfield XD

Man Holding XD-S Gun | The Best Handguns for the New Shooter

Xd-S Mod.2® Single Stack Series Photo by Springfield Armory

After I got out of the military, the full-size XD9 was the first pistol I purchased—and I actually still own it. The XD line is an excellent striker fired, polymer pistol.

They tend to come in 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45ACP and are available in a plethora of different sizes. One model is even available in the venerable .357 Sig cartridge.

These firearms are about as safe as you can get, without actually having a manual safety that you have to flip off. Finally, they are also easy to field strip and clean.

2. Smith & Wesson M&P

Smith & Wesson M&P 45 Auto | The Best Handguns for the New Shooter

Smith & Wesson M&P Photo by Smith Wesson

Smith & Wesson's M&P line of handguns is an excellent option in the striker fired, polymer framed self-defense pistol category. The M&Ps meet all our requirements for a safe weapon because they can be purchased with a manual safety feature.

They do have other safety features as well if you're like me and don't want mechanical safety. These handguns are comfortable to hold, are reliable and are available in different sizes.

Projectiles range from .22 up to .45, to make sure you can feel comfortable behind the trigger.

3. Ruger LCR9

This list of guns wouldn't be complete without at least one revolver. Revolvers are great because they are simple, point-and-shoot firearms.

A decent self-defense handgun with remarkable stopping power. There is literally almost no room for error.

Just don't miss your target five times, or you'll be in trouble. The safety feature on this handgun is the incredibly long double action only (DAO) trigger, which you have to intend to pull.

Recoil on these little snubs can be intense for newer shooters. So make sure you're ready for it and understand proper shooting mechanics, first.


4. Glock 19

It pains me to put a Glock on my list because I'm not a fanboy. There are other pro-shooters out there who swear by them, and who am I to argue with the pros?

I listed the 19 because it is chambered in 9mm, which is an excellent choice for self-defense. It's polymer frame, although lightweight, aids in absorbing the recoil making it one of the best handguns for newbies.

And, it does have the trigger safety to help reduce negligent discharges. Furthermore, Glocks are arguably the most reliable handgun in the world, so there's also that.

RELATED: The Best Handguns For Home Defense

5. Beretta PX4 Storm

The PX4 is an uber-safe, comfortable and reliable handgun that some people overlook, simply because it isn't as popular as the others on this list. Having a manual safety/de-cocker that needs to be disengaged before it can be fired is positive in the minds of some new shooters.

Plus, once you disengage the safety, you'll have a long double action trigger, unless you pull the hammer back. It is available in 9mm, .40S&W, and .45 auto colt pistol.

6. Walther CCP

This is a bit of an oddball to be on this list because it is a different type of handgun. Yet, it does have a manual safety, and is a perfect firearm for someone with weaker hands, because of Walther's “Softcoil” gas-delayed blowback system.

It is also ideal for shooters who have a hard time pulling the slide back to send a round into the chamber.


Not only are they reliable and accurate self-defense handguns, but the craftsmanship is also striking with its carbon fiber finish. And even after several hundreds of rounds, the KAHR CW9 will still fire. All these qualities and more make it one of the best handguns for newbies they can carry without any reservations.

Now that you know the 7 best handguns for the new shooter, check out this video from fmgpubs to know how to clean and maintain your guns:

I would like to state here that having a mechanical safety feature doesn't mean the firearm won't “go off” unintended. Then again, it is one more step you need to take in a self-defense scenario.

We always recommend practicing as much as you can. That way you get used to flipping it to the “fire” position whenever needed.

Are your favorite handguns on the list? Tell us about it in the comments section below! 

Up Next: Concealed Carry and Open Carry Come with Own Pros and Cons 

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The 7 Best Handguns For The New Shooter |

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 2, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy

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  1. Wallace Moseley

    November 2, 2023 at 11:54 AM

    I suggest you try what I believe to be the Best 9MM handgun of all times and that is the CZ Model that I have. Three If three voreign countrys copy the CZ nine mm Hanggun it has to have a great record and it never fails to shoot.

  2. Pingback: The 7 Best Handguns for the New Shooter | Guns & Ammo Buying Tips… – Gun Association Online

  3. Daniel Cotton

    February 9, 2018 at 12:42 PM

    ruger 9e simple basic but safety minded and reliable.easy to break down easy to clean and hey 17 rounds to boot.

  4. haringpinas

    February 1, 2018 at 1:48 PM

    … lol … no one mentions the Beretta Nano 9mm … that is the smoothest shooting one,,, heavy trigger but helps a lot when your adrenalin is pushing you … solid trigger and shooter though have to get used to the trigger !!!

  5. kevin patton

    January 28, 2018 at 8:50 PM

    I love my Glock 22 40 cal. It is the best hand gun I’ve ever owned. Easy to break down and clean. Powerful and reliable. What can I say, it is the most popular gun around.

  6. Doc Kamakazi

    January 28, 2018 at 7:12 PM

    Joshua & Keith. Years ago, we started with the 38’s, loved my Smith J, but the bullets (like today’s 380’s) would bounce off a windsheild, and just didn’t have knockdown power. The Navy insisted we needed 45’s, but they are heavy. I’m glad the 9mm became popular. I have Glocks because they always work, no matter what, dirty, clean, good ammo, crappy ammo, and it took over 9000 rounds continous automatic rapid fire to melt one down (yes, we like to torture guns). Only thing, they’re not really priced to tempt new shooters into buying one.

    Therefore… I have discovered a great alternative. We’re still in the first year of torture, but the “Canik” 9mm semi-auto is looking like an almost perfect alternative. Rugged, dependable, well made, good size & weight, 18 round capacity, and unbelievably accurate (they seem to bullseye any target automatically, from 25 feet to 50 yards!). They run about half the cost of a Glock. We picked up several, at different gun stores, for around $250 each.

  7. Doc Kamakazi

    January 28, 2018 at 6:36 PM

    New shooters, pay attention, Odie makes good points. BUT… please don’t go out and buy a cheap .22LR to learn on, you will be disappointed with the failures-to-fire, jams, and your inability to even hit the target. Be cautious of used guns that are no longer being manufactured… they’re sitting on the shelf at the gun store at a low price for a reason. Example: Siig Sauer “Mosquito” 22LR, good brand name, originally about $350-$400. 1) They don’t make them any more, 2) You’ll see them going for $125, $150, $200 max. Guess why… you’ll be flustrated and pissed off with this gun in less than 30 days.

    After teaching my 3 kids, the Cub Scouts, then the Boy Scouts to shoot with 22LR’s, I would only recommend newbies to start with the Ruger 22LR for about $350, and buy quality ammo with copper jacket. I’ve never met a Remington bullet that wouldn’t jam ANY gun, and they’ll generally leave your gun dirty. My opinion, CCI is probably the best, even “varmit” class CCI, also kinda pricey, MagTech and Aguila are affordable middle of the road, and Federal or Winchester would be my lowest cost choice. There are others, so after a couple hundred rounds of each, you’ll learn what your gun likes, and what it doesn’t want to shoot.

  8. Jennifer Herron

    January 25, 2018 at 10:53 PM

    Taurus Millennium G2! Great gun for around $215.00! Please take a look Very similar to the Glock 19. People ended up eating a lot of crow on this one.

  9. Troy Petrillo

    January 18, 2018 at 7:34 PM

    Sig P320

  10. Wayne Potter

    January 18, 2018 at 3:40 PM

    The Sig P938 is possibly the safest carry gun ever with the semi 1911 style that allows you to chamber a round, lower the hammer then put the safety on. I regularly recommend them to ladies who want to carry in their purse because of that “double’ level of safety and because all you have to do to get it into action is lower the safety, an easy one step drop, then pull the hammer back and begin firing. No slide to rack! In the purse, it is impossible to accidentally have it go off or to “accidentally” fire it since you have to choose to go through the steps to fire. I have practiced with it and you can get it into operation in about 1 second or less. Pretty good. And they are reliable and all steel that shoots very accurately! It’s a great little carry gun and deserves to be high on your list, if not No. 1 on your list, of course, in my opinion.

  11. Jim Brown

    January 18, 2018 at 12:10 PM

    Yes Sir- M&P — Been using a Duty Size M&P9 and .45 autos for years — well balanced,fits hand well and Point of Aim is Dead On —- I work as both a Uniformed Armed Protection Officer and a Close Protection Specialist (Armed Escort/Bodyguard) and feel very confident in wearing and “using” the M&P’s — STAY SAFE-STAY ALERT-STAY ALIVE-WATCH YOUR 6 — SHOOT SMART-SHOOT STRAIGHT-DOESN’T COUNT IF YOU “MISS”

    Jim Brown – Director of Operations – TKJ Protective Services – Florida

  12. Joseph Morgan sr

    January 18, 2018 at 11:41 AM

    Why is it most reviews do not include the BERSA 380 Thunder. My experience, have been one of the best and reliable gins I have owned. It is solid, no plastic parts and has more advanced safety features than more expensive guns.

  13. Randy Jensen

    January 18, 2018 at 10:44 AM

    Glock has a .22lr conversion kit!!!

  14. Johnny Nightrider

    January 13, 2018 at 8:50 AM

    I’ve owned some nice revolvers like the Smith and Wesson 686 plus. A .357 magnum stainless on the L frame with a 7 shot capacity.Very accurate.The Ruger Sp101 with the 3.1 inch barrel in .357 Magnum.I’ve owned some nice pistols.The Smith and Wesson M&P in .45 acp. with a 4.5 inch barrel.The 686 plus had a 4 inch barrel.The Sig Sauer P226 9mm.You can’t go wrong with the accuracy of this pistol.I’ve owned .22 pistols.The Browning Buckmark Standard with a 5.5 inch slab sided bull barrel.Though I sold all my revolvers and Pistols and stayed with one firearm that I bought multiple magazines and Stainless steel aftermarket barrels and a different recoil spring/titanium recoil rod and it’s great if just left stock.Easy to clean.Has never failed me.Always fires if kept clean or dirty.I prefer cleaned and lubed.Fires every kind of Ammo I put in it.The Glock 19 Gen 3 in 9mm of coarse.Taken it to Defensive handgun classes where I was too tired the next day to clean it and it kept going like a champ.Most people in the class had either a Glock 17 or 19.A couple of Sig Sauers in 9mm.The best shot in the class and the one that won the shootoff and was offered a job as a instructor used a Glock 19.4 day Defensive Handgun class in Nye,Nevada at Front Sight training Institute.

  15. GUY M

    January 8, 2018 at 12:51 PM

    Loving my Kahr PM45. Needed breaking in (as stated in Kahr’s literature), but after the obligatory 200 rounds this pistols offers so much. Fits in the palm of my hand, 6+1 rounds of your favorite 45 ACP, and the smoothest DAO trigger one could ask for. I have the optional Trijon nights sites and picked it up off Buds online for a hundred under msrp. Great quality too, as you expect from Kahr.

  16. George H Cox

    November 1, 2017 at 5:55 PM

    Glock 26 or 27 if you are planning to entrust your life…..

  17. TJ

    October 29, 2017 at 9:16 AM

    M&P. ’nuff said.

  18. SeventySeven

    July 9, 2017 at 8:01 PM

    Ruger SR9C. It’s just nice.

  19. Custom gun

    June 7, 2017 at 7:03 PM

    One handgun I find lacking on a lot of lists is the Bersa Thunder .380. It’s a very accurate copy of the Walther PPK, is a single action, with a double action first trigger pull. It’s light weight, accurate and relative inexpensive. I’ve owned one for many years and have had zero issues with failure to feed, including any hollow point ammo I want to feed it. I’ve put hundreds, if not thousands of rounds through and can attest to it’s reliability and accuracy.

  20. JB Faulconer

    May 28, 2017 at 5:54 PM

    You have to put the new CZ P10C on this list. It’s a better first time shooter than the Glock 19!

  21. Edward N. Barnes

    December 30, 2016 at 8:53 AM

    My EDC is the Kahr PM9, which I have had almost since its introduction. Kahr recommends a 200-round break-in, and I did that, having FTF issues on rounds # 49 and #51. Since then, no hiccups whatever. This is a double-action, striker-fired gun that requires no safety because the long smooth trigger pull provides that function. It has polygonal rifling, which I assume accounts for the price difference between it and the land-and groove rifling of the CM9. The CM9, introduced after the PM9, would probably have served about as well because that is the only significant difference I can tell.

    Another good gun is the SIG P238, which resembles a 1911 and is chambered in .380. I initially had some problems, later found to be with the magazines. The 238 is a knockoff of the Colt Mustang and uses mags that appear very similar. When I first bought the gun there were no additional magazines available at that time, so I stocked up on Colt Mustang mags. I found out the hard way that, as similar as they looked the Colt Mustang mags were not reliable in the P238. SIG soon offered a package of magazines for the P238, which I bought and have never had a FTF using the SIG magazines. One other “glitch” is the SIG laser sight. The switch is a push-on and push-off switch and does NOT time out. Therefore, you need to make sure it is off when you are finished shooting for the day or be prepared to change batteries the next day. I think CTC makes a laser sight for this gun and that is what I’d have gotten knowing what I do now. (SIG does seem to make great guns but not-so-great accessories).

  22. odie11

    December 29, 2016 at 2:37 AM

    I see these articles all the time, and I never agree with them because for new shooters, the realities are all the same. You need a gun that is easy to shoot and will help you hone the skills that you need to be competent.

    Given that reality, the answers are the same for every new shooter–purchase a gun that is chambered for the 22 lr.

    You can purchase either a revolver or a semi auto. To develop skills, I would choose a small J frame IF you are interested in A) Concealed carry, B) combat shooting.

    IF you have skills in shooting a J frame long double action trigger, you can shoot anything. The negative for these guns is that they are so pricey. Going for well over $600.00 for a good set of sights. The positive however is that you can use this gun for pretty much anything, and it is cheap to shoot compared to centerfire guns. That means that you will be able to more than make up for the higher cost in savings on bullets alone.

    If you are determined that you only want to learn only with the semi auto, then two of the best guns out there are the Ruger SR 22 and its sister design, the excellent Walther P-22s. The advantage of the Walther is that it is about $100.00 cheaper than the Ruger, but the advantage of the Ruger is that it has a few more features. Both are excellent beginner guns, and both will give you the skills that you need to become proficient.

    Another advantage to these small guns is that they can be used for concealed carry.

    Pretty much all gun experts agree that the key to learning to be a competent shooter is to practice. That means your first gun should be a gun that is relatively inexpensive, easy to shoot and doesn’t break the bank in purchasing cartridges for training purposes. It doesn’t hurt that in a pinch, they are small enough and light enough to conceal carry.

  23. Tom

    December 27, 2016 at 2:08 PM

    I have a .38 Special Colt Commander Revolver for HD. If I can’t take out my target with 6 rounds, I’m probably a goner already.

    • Lizzy

      September 4, 2017 at 11:03 AM

      I’m looking at getting a gun for home defense, and leaning towards a revolver, but I’m concerned about the limited number of rounds they hold. What would you do if there were more than one target? How about if they were shooting back?

      • TJ

        October 29, 2017 at 9:17 AM

        Speed loaders. Simple and quick. I am a wheel gun fan myself.

  24. KUETSA

    August 7, 2016 at 7:49 PM

    A 1911 chambered in 9mm?

  25. Doug

    August 7, 2016 at 11:15 AM

    Taurus PT709 Slim, love the trigger and you hardly know your carrying. Plus a great price for a 9mm @$199.00

  26. Charles Records

    August 7, 2016 at 8:29 AM

    My current carry weapon is the Sig p938.
    A very easy to carry weapon with great night sights.
    Very easy to conceal.

  27. Paul J Moragne

    August 7, 2016 at 8:06 AM

    How about the CZ 75 RAMI? Very accurate and reliable. The slide rides on the inside of the frame. It has an ambidextrous safety and is very concealable. Not too big & not too small

  28. Bill

    June 8, 2016 at 9:50 AM

    The Governor. I think is a good choice.

  29. J Jaroz

    April 27, 2016 at 4:00 PM

    Ruger SP 101 Can do 38 special or 357. 5 shot to keep weight down. Well balanced Stainless Steel so it can lay around for long periods without maintenance.

  30. Sam

    April 25, 2016 at 9:40 AM

    Ruger SR9 or SR40 are good choices as well. I carry my SR40 every day.

    • Kirk Bakken

      August 7, 2016 at 7:39 AM

      SR9c also

  31. Tom Long

    April 25, 2016 at 7:48 AM

    I suggest the Ruger LC9s Pro be added to the list. It’s size, weight, integrated trigger safety and optional 9+1 extended magazine make it a winner with me. However, it’s very smooth trigger pull really sold me. I toyed with the idea of the integrated laser which might be fine for short distance target practice but I don’t see the need for it for personal defense. If the “bad guy” is close enough to be a real threat, I don’t see the need to “paint him” with a laser and it’s likely one would not be looking for a dot in such a situation.

  32. Howard

    April 20, 2016 at 7:56 AM

    You also forgot the SCCY CPX2 9mm

  33. Trapper

    April 19, 2016 at 1:07 PM

    I read your bio and you claim to be unbiased, yet your comments on Glock are extremely biased. half the guns on your list actually originated with the Glock concept, polymer frame and striker fired. Roughly 90% of the police departments in the US use the Glock. Our Army is seriously considering using the G19. And yet you struggle with putting it on the list? What an ego. I fully agree with other commenters about the lack of revolvers as well. For beginners a revolver is much less intimidating and easier to understand. I have both and enjoy both. Given a newcomer stepping up to 9mm or 38 I would take them to the range and let them try both. Renting at a range is another option. Many with weaker hands have trouble with the strong spring in slides.My big gripe is your biiased comments against Glock. Simply adding it to the list without sniping at it would have been fine Trapper

    • Joshua Gillem

      April 20, 2016 at 8:41 AM

      I appreciate your comment. Glock did make the list, and I admit that I should have put more revolvers on it, as well. I am not a fan of Glock, and believe that I’m entitled to my opinion, as are you. Again, even though I’m not a fan, I still put one on the list because their reliability cannot be matched. Furthermore, while Glock’s contribution to the evolution of the polymer framed, striker fired pistol is important, they also were not the first. It is a common misconception that Glock championed the design. Rather, the HK VP70 is the grandfather to all polymer/striker pistols. It was developed back in 1970, and was an 18+1, 9mm striker fired, polymer framed pistol.

      Though an important piece of history, it was, however, a piece of junk with a horrible trigger. Glock took that design to the next step, and came up with the beginning of what we see today. Again, thank you for the comment, and next time I’ll remember to put more revolvers on my list.

  34. Keith Rockefeller

    April 19, 2016 at 11:03 AM

    I can appreciate Joshua’s expertise in this area, but sometimes experts forget what it was like to be a novice. They don’t have the novice mindset, so they don’t know how to direct the novice into the next steps. Semiautomatic pistols intimidate novice or occasional shooters with all the bells and whistles on them. It would have been much better if Joshua would have included a Taurus 85, Heritage Rough Rider, Ruger SP101, or any of the other good revolvers in .38 Special/357 Magnum in his list. The Glocks, Kel Tecs, and Bersa’s would all be good semaiautos to have and keep in the list, because they are reasonably simple to operate and are not that intimidating to the new shooter. When talking to novices, you have to think like a novice, and I can’t say that Joshua did that in this article.

    • Joshua Gillem

      April 19, 2016 at 12:52 PM

      I appreciate your comment. I agree that I should put more revolvers on the list, and maybe will make another list at some point in the near future. Thanks again.

  35. Earl

    April 19, 2016 at 11:00 AM

    HEY, U forgot something like the Taurus Judge. U can load a variety of 410 & defender 2-1/2″ or 3″ shot gun shells so a rushed shot requires much less accuracy and missed buck or pellets shouldn’t kill an innocent over 200 feet away. My loaded Judges’ 5th shot is a 45 semi jacketed long if I have to shoot thru a fence an ass hole is using for cover. My first two shots have over 60 pellets going for a criminals face! – bucks would be next if needed.

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