Choosing the perfect handgun for personal or self-defense can be intimidating, especially if you're unfamiliar with all the available options.
After all, most people get nervous their first time trying anything new, and the same holds true for guns — it's a natural thing we all go through.
So what can we do to mitigate that anxiety and ensure the buying process goes smoothly?
The answer is quite simple, we do our homework! Plenty of resources are available for first-time shooters, including articles like this.
To help kickstart your gun owners' journey, we've curated a list of the 5 best handguns for new shooters. Each pistol prioritizes safety, ease of use, and accuracy, ensuring an enjoyable and fulfilling experience for beginners.
Whether you're seeking a handgun for self-defense, home defense, or recreational shooting, our handpicked choices will provide a solid foundation to help you pick the pistol that best fits your needs.
Here are our picks for the top five guns for first-time shooters.
#5 Glock 44 .22LR
A good introduction to shooting and the Glock ecosystem, the Glock 44 is a polymer-framed pistol that's a fantastic introduction to modern shooting.
Don't be intimidated by the name; the Glock 44 isn't a big gun or one that shoots .44 magnum rounds. The number actually has nothing to do with the caliber of round that it fires; Glock just has an odd model numbering system. The Glock 44 is actually a .22 caliber gun.
The .22 caliber is perhaps the best way to ease into shooting. The smallest round to shoot, it has almost no recoil and is not extremely loud. The round is fantastic for target shooting and, if necessary, can still kill small game or unwanted varmints.
A great thing about starting with the Glock 44 is that it lets you try one of the most popular brands in the world. Despite being a .22, it still has the same look, feel, and shape of other Glocks, so it lets new shooters see if they like the ergonomics and operation of the Glock without committing to larger calibers.
Plus, the polymer design and small size of the .22 round means it's a very lightweight gun. It truly is an all-around fun gun and a great entry-level firearm for the first-time shooter.
Glock 44 Technical Data
#4 Walther PPK/S .22LR
As with all Walther pistols, the PPK/s .22 also has a lifetime warranty to put your mind at ease while on the range all day - How could you possibly go wrong with that?
Timelessness inspires true greatness and the Walther PPK/S is no expection. The PPK/S is a metal-framed gun, which gives it more weight to absorb recoil. When that's combined with the low recoil of the .22, it becomes a dream to shoot.
Imagine being a first-time shooter and getting to tell people you were shooting same gun as James Bond; that kind of introduction to shooting virtually guarantees a lasting impression.
Walther PPK/S Technical Data
#3 Sig Sauer P238 .380 ACP
The first gun in something larger than .22 on the list, this is a perfect introduction to what could be considered a legitimate concealed carry option.
When introducing someone to shooting a gun that could be carried defensively, why not break them in with a small gun, a small caliber, and a solid metal frame construction?
The Sig Sauer P238 meets all those criteria. It's a 1911-style gun, so it's got a metal frame to help reduce the impact of felt recoil.
In addition, it isn't a scary looking gun due to its size. It's actually a fairly small firearm, clocking in with a six-shot magazine capacity and only a 2.7-inch barrel. Add that to the fact that it's chambered in .380 ACP and you have a recipe for success.
No large booming fire, no fierce recoil, and a beaver-tail grip to protect from accidental slide bite combine for a safe, non-intimidating way to introduce somebody to shooting.
Regardless of whether you're a first-time shooter purchasing your first gun for personal protection or just trying shooting for the first time, the Sig Sauer P238 is an excellent choice.
Sig Sauer P238 Technical Data
#2 Beretta 92FS 9mm
The first "real" full-size pistol on the list, the Beretta 92 is an iconic gun.
It was famously wielded by Bruce Willis in the blockbuster Die Hard; it was a weapon of choice for the U.S. Navy's original Seal Team Six; and was adopted by the U.S. Army to replace the venerated 1911.
On top of that, the Beretta 92 is another steel-framed gun, but in a full-size pistol package.
The weight of a steel framed gun of that size makes it a bit on the heavy side, but that weight effectively mitigates the minimal recoil from the 9mm round it fires.
Being chambered in 9mm has its advantages, too, because it's a legitimate carry round. This is a plus for first-time shooters, because it gives them an opportunity to shoot a genuine duty gun used by both police and military.
Since it's a full-size gun chambered in what is arguably the most popular round in the world, it also enhances the feeling of excitement at shooting a "real" gun.
This can really go a long way to solidify the experience as a positive one.
Beretta 92FS Technical Data
#1 Smith & Wesson M&P 9 2.0 9mm
The M&P line from Smith & Wesson is an outstanding line of polymer framed handguns designed with military and police in mind.
That's actually what the M&P in the name stands for. Designed to fill the needs of those specific jobs, the Smith & Wesson M&P 9 2.0 is the second iteration of the brand's full-size 9mm pistol.
As with the Beretta, this is a full-size gun chambered in 9mm, but this gun has a polymer frame rather than a steel one.
This drastically reduces weight, making for a less fatiguing shooting experience. However, despite this weight reduction, the recoil is not much worse than the Beretta.
Polymer pistols such as the Smith & Wesson M&P 9 2.0 are the current standard in handguns. For a first-time shooter, this is a great way to ease into the more modern style found in many competition and carry guns.
The M&P has a noticeably smaller grip than some of the other polymer guns on the market, and this helps people with small hands get a better grip and not feel overwhelmed by the gun.
Those with large hands enjoy the size of the M&P because they're able to better wrap their hands around the gun and feel more in control. To assist in this, the M&P 9 2.0 also has various grip additions that help to fit the gun to your hand.
The beauty of this gun is that it could also be a fantastic home defense or EDC firearm. These things altogether make for a fantastic experience for the first-time shooter.
Smith & Wesson M&P9 2.0 Technical Data
Sharing your passion and introducing a new shooter to different guns is almost as much fun as shooting them yourself.
The same holds true if you're the new shooter looking for advice on what to try. The discovery is part of the fun.
Whether you're looking for ideas to share or suggestions for yourself, getting the first time right helps increase your long-term enjoyment of firearms.