The Best Handguns for Beginners

Purchasing your first handgun can be very exciting and stressful at the same time. It is hard to know what to decide on when you’re just starting. You can ask a hundred people the same question and get a hundred different answers and opinions. Don’t worry. In this article, I will list five handguns that are best suited for beginners.

best handguns for beginners

It is important to note a few things before getting started. Beginner handguns for competition shooting will be different from beginner handguns for home defense and personal protection. This article will cover the latter. Additionally, it is important to cover the five crucial decision points when deciding on a handgun.

Caliber: Bigger is Not Always Better

The 9mm is my preferred caliber size for home and self-defense because of the lack of recoil and price-point. The .40 S&W, 45 ACP and 10mm are excluded from this list due to their massive recoil.

Follow Up Shots for Personal Defense

The larger the caliber the more recoil you will have to control. New-time shooters will have a difficult time with accurate follow-up shots on target.

Stopping Power

Additionally, the .380 and .22LR are also left out because of their lack of stopping power. Both calibers are effective at stopping a threat. Just not as effective as the 9mm.


Finally, the 9mm is affordable when it comes to buying defense rounds (hollow points) or range ammo (FMJ).

Handgun Size

Remember how I stated that bigger is not always better earlier? It does not apply here.

Contrary to what most people believe, the larger the gun the less recoil. This is because smaller handguns have less mass to absorb recoil and a smaller grip area.

You will often hear that subcompact handguns tend to be “snappier” when fired. This is why full-size and compact handguns are best for beginners. These handguns have ample area to grasp a firm grip.

Additionally, the sight radius is larger in both full size and compact size compared to subcompact handguns.

Striker vs. Hammer-fired Handguns

The easiest way to tell if a handgun is striker-fired is by looking at the back of the slide. If it is smooth, it is striker-fired (handgun on the right). If the hammer is exposed, then it is hammer-fired (handgun on the left). A striker-fired handgun is ideal for novice shooters. The weight of the trigger pull is similar each time compared to a double-action, hammer-fired handgun.


All handguns have a form of safety. The 1911 has an external safety, which means you have to manually flip a switch to fire the handgun.

Handguns similar to Glock do not have this. Instead, they have a “trigger safety”. This trigger safety is a stopper on the trigger itself that must be pressed down to fire the handgun. Without going too far down the rabbit hole, I prefer handguns without manual safeties for home and self-defense. There are fewer things to worry about in the event your fine motor skills begin to fail in a stressful situation.

Ergonomics and Grip

You do not want to start with a handgun that does not fit properly in your hand. You should be able to grip the handgun comfortably while getting as high up on the frame as possible.

Don’t Go With a Revolver to Start

Finally, revolvers were excluded from this list as well because of their low round capacity. Five or six rounds fail in comparison to a handgun that holds a standard of 15 or 17 rounds in the magazine.

5 of the Best Beginner Handguns

Glock 19 Gen5 (Compact)

Caliber: 9mm Standard Mag. Capacity: 15
MSRP: $560.00 Action: Striker

The Glock 19 should be of no surprise to be on this list. This firearm is the workhorse of the handgun world. It is why most law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, use it as their duty weapon.

The Glock 19 is also one of the most reliable handguns on the market. It has gone through hundreds of “torture tests” and still came on functionally sound. The frame is constructed of durable polymer with metal internals and a metal slide.

A brand new Glock fresh out of the box will come with three magazines and a variety of back straps to change the size of the grip. The take-down for cleaning the handgun is extremely easy as well. After verifying the handgun is empty, pull the slide back a fraction of an inch and press down on the two tabs on either side of the frame. Pull the slide forward off the frame and remove the barrel and recoil spring. It takes seconds and is extremely easy for beginners who are learning to clean their handgun for the first time.

The only gripe about this gun is the stock iron sights. Finding replacement sights will be easy with the massive amount of aftermarket support that Glock receives. We recommend getting night sights for Glock.

Sig Sauer P320 (Compact)

Caliber: 9mm Standard Mag. Capacity: 15
MSRP: $599.99 Action: Striker

The Sig P320 Compact offers a crisp and clean trigger break to make even the novice shooter more intuitive and accurate. It features a three-point takedown to make cleaning and general maintenance a breeze on this handgun.

After running a safety check on your handgun, lock the slide to the rear. Then rotate the lever on the slide of the frame straight down. After this press the slide lock and pull the slide off of the frame. Removing the recoil spring and barrel is straightforward after this point.

Unlike the stock Glock sights, the sights on the Sig P320 are very easy to get accustomed to.

The only downside to this handgun is its ergonomics. If you have medium to smaller size hands, they’re going to be great. Unfortunately, if you have large hands, expect to have a hard time finding enough room to get a proper grip.

Smith &Wesson M&P9 M2.0 (Full-Size)

Caliber: 9mm Standard Mag. Capacity: 17
MSRP: $610.00 Action: Striker

The Smith and Wesson M&P 2.0 is yet another great handgun for beginners. This full-sized handgun provides a large amount of grip space to wrench down on and controls the recoil. Additionally, the aggressive grip texture on the frame is perfect for those of us who tend to get sweaty/clammy palms. Usually, you would have to go out and pay for a stippling job to acquire a texture like this.

This handgun offers adjustable back straps as well in case you have larger or smaller hands. Furthermore, it has a reversible mag release to accommodate both left and right-handed shooters. The only drawback to this handgun is the price.

CZ P-10c (Compact)

Caliber: 9mm Standard Mag. Capacity: 15
MSRP: $525.00 Action: Striker

The P-10c is CZ’s version of the striker-fired handgun. CZ designed this pistol to be easy to use, even for a novice shooter. The P-10c is designed to be comfortable, reliable, and durable.

When you pick it up, the first thing you will notice is how it molds to your palm. The grip angle allows for a natural point of aim. The addition of the deep beavertail and three interchangeable backstraps allows you to get as close as possible to a firearm made specifically for you.

The trigger guard with a deep undercut was designed for military shooters wearing gloves; however, they also allow a beginner to get high on the frame and lockdown for recoil control.

Finally, the takedown is extremely easy and similar to the Glock. First, verify that the handgun is empty and safe. Then press down on the “take-down” tabs located on the frame of the pistol after pulling the slide back a fraction of an inch. Then push the slide forward and off of the frame.

Taurus G3 (Full-size)

Caliber: 9mm Standard Mag. Capacity: 17
MSRP: $280.00 Action: Striker

I’m going to label this the “tight budget” option. I do not believe this handgun compares in quality, reliability, or durability to the other handguns listed above.

I will say this handgun is going to be one of the most reliable and user-friendly options on the market. The Taurus G3 Pistol is designed to offer a comfortable, secure hold. This handgun features an ergonomic palm swell to allow for improved control. Unfortunately, the grip texture on this handgun is not the best. You can add grip tape, however, to help improve it. This handgun comes with manual safety. It is not the worst feature out there for a beginner shooter looking at home defense.

Final Thoughts

For a beginner shooter with a tight budget and in need of a handgun for home defense or just target shooting, I believe this is your best option. It is the most affordable out there while maintaining some reliability. If you compare this handgun to others at its price point it will exceed them in just about every test. However, if possible, I strongly recommend waiting to save an extra two to three hundred dollars and buying one of the other handguns mentioned above.